Update of our most recent gaming session (last night). This is probably going to be a really big post, sorry.

So kiddies, what happens when you die in the presence of D&D brand adventurers? Anyone who answered "All of your worldly possessions now belong to them" can go home. Everyone else needs to meet me after class.

The first topic that came up at the start of our game (as brought up by the Swashbuckler) was the legal status of the small sailing ship we'd just brought back into port. Ships aren't incredibly easy to come by. They're not something that can't be found, but you don't usually just stumble into a deserted ship walking to the market in the morning.

We decided we'd get back to that after verifying a few other things.

Our first course of action on land was to update the local authorities (particularly the captain of the guard) on what had happened, including the fact that Therin & Co had casually slaughtered the entire ships worth of crew. The guard captain was notably unsettled by everything, and began contemplating loopholes in the island charter concerning extra-continental crimes. He was trying to think of a way to send a small 'military' force with us while we tried to try to track down Therin (he didn't seem concerned about the Drifter. He hadn't met the Drifter).

Unfortunately, he couldn't come up with anything relevant. He had to settle for using us as off-the-books mercenaries. He wasn't too thrilled about it, mostly because he wanted to send a larger force to capture and execute Therin. He was more pleased when he found our exact intention involved bringing a larger force of mercenary arms in the future.

Which is when we brought up the issue of the ship. Most notably, that the ships captain had been among the crew when they were slaughtered.

Being the salty-dogs they were, none of them really had anything resembling a will. The standard course of action in this type of situation was to sell the ship and use the profit for any necessary burial costs, and then to give the leftovers to next of kin or closest living relative (after a hefty tax, obviously).
But the ships logs were a ridiculous maze of port listings, crew lists, passenger lists, destinations diverted to or from... This ship spent most of its time on the sea itself, it had no identifiable home port. There seemed like only one logical thing for any adventuring party to do in this situation. Perch on the deck of the ship like the greedy vultures we are. Even the Neutral Good Dragonborn, Servitor of Bahamut and Gold Dragon Worshipper, was fine with it. "Ship has no captain. A ship's supposed to have a captain."

So, we inquired as to whether or not we could, maybe, say, pay the funeral costs of the crew and take on the ship ourselves. The guard captain wasn't strictly opposed to the idea, but he wasn't too interested in circumventing local traditions in order to LOSE possible profit. Our kobold factotum actually fielded that one, leaning out from between two of us and saying "We are taking a huge personal risk here. One that will be mutually beneficial if we succeed. We're not asking you to break the law or anything, just to look the other way while we take care of this mess, and not poke a formal nose into things".

So, we now own a sailing ship.

It needs a minimum crew of 5 on top of us for a realistic minimum. The four of us could do it alone SOMETIMES, but intense fatigue would be an immediate issue if we tried to sail that ship around solo. Fortunately, the guard captain managed to keep it quiet that the ships previous crew had been RELENTLESSLY BUTCHERED ON THE DECK OF THAT VERY SHIP, WHILE UNDER OUR THEORETICALLY WATCHFUL EYES, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to find anyone. As it was, rumors spreading gave us a hard enough time adopting a reasonable collection of workers.

We had enough coin left over from buying the ship itself, that we could actually just hire a crew straight up. It was nice to not have to jump through hoops finding cheap hirelings. We even managed to find a few reasonably combat-ready fighters to come help us drop a train on whichever one of the Drifters crew we found first. We sparred them a little to make sure they weren't one-hit wonders (and to establish a bit of "We're the bigger dogs" in our crew members).

We found time to buy two bottles of wine and christen the ship (we called her the S. S. Ironman. At first I thought it was stupid, but it's evocative enough in a fantasy setting that I started liking it). We also tossed an uncorked bottle off on our first voyage for the gods of the sea.

We also tucked into Macguillers shop. He didn't really have any information for us about the bugs, but when we mentioned that we'd run into a few stronger ones (with access to heavier spells), he seemed concerned. When we showed him that our own healing bug had molted, grown, and that the patterns on its back had changed, he seemed VERY concerned. Since his own collection (he'd grown four more, though two were dead for experimentation) had remained static, he made an initial hypothesis that something we'd encountered had produced the effect. Either the Ziggurat itself, or something one of the Drifters crew had done/had... We had no way of knowing.

Macguiller also started questioning his idea of selling the bugs to nobles as useful pets. Since they were likely linked to something beyond our understanding, and since they were BORN with traces of clockwork mechanisms, they might be more dangerous than originally assumed, healing or no. His previously heightened curiosity also became a lot stronger at the news. He gave us a discount on some critical necessities, and tossed in a free communicative magical item. Just an enchanted seal (the kind you stamp wax on a letter with), that transferred its writing to a blank page affixed with a related seal. He kept a clean and sealed piece of parchment on the desk in case we had anything urgent to send to him or the guard captain.

And so, with our friends and allies updated, and our scurvy crew at the ready, we set off. As previously mentioned, there were five possible destinations. (and as a brief aside, our DM had the travel time between ports set up, so which ones we could hit consecutively the fastest played into things).

One was actually headed towards the arctic continent. Now, it was possible that this was the truth, but one of our shipmates clued us in to the 'trick' of listing the arctic as the destination whenever you were going somewhere "off the books". Since there were no official ports or kingdoms there, you could just sail anywhere complaining of the cold and your entire journey would have been outside any watchful eyes. We ruled that one out as our first destination based on that bit of insight.

- One was actually on the opposite side of the Egyptian continent containing the ziggurat. We weren't sure how fast word spread throughout a desert land like that, but we weren't tempted to press our chances by sailing directly back into the SAME kingdom with the SAME ship we'd just sailed off after slaughtering around 30 people and stirring up a bunch of trouble. Other side of the landmass or not.

We ruled that out due to our overwhelming cowardice.

One was on the temperate climate containing the worlds largest kingdom. Picture the British empire at its peak (only in D&D and run by an elven royal family). The benefit of going there was that the central island we were using as a major base was one of the colonies of this world spanning kingdom. If we DID run into trouble, one of their own men back on the island could potentially verify that we, if nothing else, had good intentions.

- Two of the destinations were actually on different ports of this worlds "Dark Continent". A jungle land with no real central ruling body, mainly due to being filled with too many deadly creatures and venomous vermin for any great sense of stability. This is the lawless land, where the docks are barely maintained and only really there for officiating travel.

After debating between the last three, we decided to go to the temperate climate with the great kingdom. Aside from being a civilized local, it was our best chance at getting any kind of official help should things get ugly.

And we're off!

A Man Named Priest


So on to the "Empire" as we took to calling it.

As a side note, our DM used to be perpetually horrified that we never remembered the details of world geography, kingdom names, NPC names, and so on and so forth. Until he traded places at the table and tried playing. Now he agrees that it's a lot easier to remember descriptive detail than formal detail.

Which is why even our DM usually describes people we're meeting as "Beardy Drunk Dwarf" and kingdoms as "Psuedo-British Empire". He has real names for when we ask, and sometimes we remember (easier with arch villains of course).

Anyway. Back to it.

Our seafaring trip was more or less uneventful. We had a run in with one of the empires military vessels, but our papers all checked out and we didn't say anything too stupid, so we were on our merry way.

Once we got to the docks, we realized how COLD the trail had grown. Six weeks of sailing to the island a as a detour, plus a few days of recruiting, when the enemy had only needed four weeks (give or take) to go straight between the two ports. We were two weeks behind whatever the heck was going on.

Since I was the only High CHA human face in the party (and because I had Beguiling Influence as my third warlock invocation, making me better at bluffing and diplomacy and such), I put on my best forced sunday smile and talk to some of the local port authorities about ships that would have arrived two to three weeks ago. I played up the "We were separated from a friend" angle as best I could, but I failed a bluff check and they weren't buying it because none of the ships that had docked had mentioned anything about lost crewmates. So I tried an intimidate check, rattle-hissing that maybe they hadn't thought it important enough to tell a random dock worker. Intimidate check passed, only four ships had come in during that time period, only two were from the egyptian continent. One had been nothing but cargo being dropped off, no departure of crew or passengers, and nothing unusual had been delivered. The other had listed a few departures of both passengers, but no cargo. The most notable of the passengers was a man called "Priest". Not a title, that was actually his name.

Something told us that was the guy.

I tossed the nervous dock worker a few coins and went back to being friendly, thanking him for helping us and mentioning how excited we'd all be to group back together. It was another bluff check, and I didn't know if I'd failed or passed, but we had to at least try to avoid arousing suspicion.

So we went into the city proper, and tucked into the first pub we saw. Four weeks at sea, one of your earliest desires is for good food and drink, right? We tuck into the joint, order some drinks to gain a bit of favor, and the Swashbuckler leans to one of the barmaids and starts asking questions about a man named priest.

She pauses, and says she doesn't know anything about no man named Priest.

Failed bluff check.

So he gets a little more verbally assertive. Except a burly and grouchy looking drunk a table away overhears, and barks at the Swashbuckler that "We don't come here to ask questions. We don't come here to think. We come here to STOP thinkin. So shut your mouth or I'll make sure it's the last time you ever open it."

The swashbuckler said, "Are you stupid enough to have a one on one fight in mind, or do you have a small army tucked in your pocket?"

So... almost the whole bar turns to glare at us.

Swashies only response to the trouble he just stirred up? "Good, I was starting to think this town was nothing but talk! Roll initiative"

So the drunk wings a glass mug at our table. Misses the swashbuckler and it goes right for the (hooded) Dragonborn. Since he's sitting with his back to a wall at a bar table, our DM calls this a reflex save. Which is the Dragonborns weakest save, so he fails horribly. The mug smashes right against his face, knocking his hood back in the process. He screams out in anger and flips our table. The kobold ducks under the table and makes a hide check. I spiderclimb up to the ceiling out of melee reach and shout "non-lethal damage! non-lethal damage! for the love of god non-lethal damage!"
We JUST got here. Are we really going to call down the hammer on ourselves?

The whole room is freaking out, because not only is there a barfight going on, but there's a bar fight going on with some kind of dragon monster, some kind of 3 foot tall lizard, and some crazy girl who can crawl across the ceiling. Some of them ran screaming into the streets, the angrier ones attacked us outright. Fortunately the group realized how bad of an idea slaughtering an entire room full of drunks would actually be, and didn't draw any lethal weapons. The fight was slightly harder as a result, but in the middle of things when a mass of city guards ran in weapons drawn screaming at everyone to stop, we were a lot happier that we weren't soaked in blood. I dropped from the ceiling, we all threw up our hands and surrendered.

The guards arrested everyone in the building. We weren't in our holding cell for very long though. When they questioned the bartender and barmaid as to what happened, they did mentioned that we were attacked first. They elected to let us go with a warning about stirring up trouble (and we couldn't help but notice that our coin purses seemed a little lighter when they gave us back our gear).

While we were thinking of what to do next, the barmaid approached us on the street and asked to speak with us somewhere a little more private. We all ducked into an alley. She kept glancing around nervously, as if she was looking out for someone, and said that she knew who we'd been asking about. This Priest character (she gave us a pretty good description, apparently he tends to dress a little over-the-top, even by mid-victorian noble standards) seemed really, really off. His smiles seemed too big, his stares lasted too long, his speech was close, but off in enough tiny ways that the whole picture became wrong. She wasn't the only one who'd felt that way, but he'd been accepted by the blue-bloods and the clergy outright, so people were afraid to say anything.

She told us where he'd gone. To a city further inland, along with several of the local church members, his own team of men, and some paid workers with dig equipment. He hadn't really advertised what he was leaving for, at least not to commoners, and she thought she rather preferred it that way. She wanted nothing more to do with any of it.

We gave her 10 gold for her troubles, and as thanks for the information, went back to our ship, grabbed all but two of our own men. We told the two we left behind guarding the ship to swallow their pride and SCREAM, and scream LOUD, for help if ANYTHING shady started happening. With the rumors about what had happened to the ships previous crew, and the unexplained bloodstains on the deck, they agreed with us eagerly.

The Deception


And we set off for the next city. It was only a few days by foot, so we didn't bother to get mounts or a carriage or anything. Along the way, we did have a few run ins. An "unofficial" toll on the path (aka, bandits). We paid in steel, so, they're dead now. We also had a recurring problem with wild wolves anytime we camped for the night, but with watching in shifts we had no real problem. They didn't seem to be supernatural, it seemed to just be a whole mess of wolves in the immediate area.

So, we got to our destination. It was a more run down city, more of a waypoint between the larger coastal city and the capital cities further inland. Since it was in a bit of a valley, we had a pretty good visual layout of things, and we could see right away that there was some kind of recent dig site off to the west border of the town. It was directly near an old and obviously abandoned church (roof caving in, dingy and dirty, but the stained glass windows WERE still intact, probably out of respect from the locals), and the digging itself seemed to form a giant star pattern around the building.

Dragon Shaman: "There's NO WAY that's a good thing."

So, that was obviously our first stop. We tell our merc-thugs to stay back and just keep their eyes peeled for trouble, and wander onto the church grounds. There are what looks to be very very old headstones being unearthed. The writing on them is not in any modern language, and they have random runes and symbols carved throughout them in bas-relief. And directing the digging, is a man in a ridiculously elaborate and expensive looking suit. Clearly, this is the man named Priest.

We approach him, and when he turns to address us, we realize that he does indeed have a mile-long stare and an uncomfortable rictus grin. He seems as if he's trying to be cordial, but trying way way too hard. He addresses us in the same way, overly polite and paced slightly off from normal speech patterns. "Hello there folk, is there anything I can help you with to-" His last word cuts off, and his rictus grin drops into a flat tight lipped line. "Oh. You. How odd."

The swashbuckler nods and calmly responds "Yes. Us. Speaking of odd, could we inquire as to what exactly is going on here?"

Priest: “I don't believe I am under any obligation to detail the activities of myself on my church's own holy grounds--”

Dragon Shaman: “Some holy grounds. Do you normally let your holy grounds fall into such disrepair?”

Priest: “NOR am I responsible for the lack of dedication of various smaller sects throughout the land. Please leave.”

Dragon Shaman: “We really just have a few questions *Intimidate check*”
Priest: “And they are questions I have no intention of answering *failed*”

The pastor that had accompanied Priest and his men came and asked us politely to leave the church grounds. That they're in the middle of preparations for a ritual, and that when they're done the town, and the entire world, will benefit from the wisdom they gain. Priest glares at the back of his head when he mentions preparations and rituals, but immediately returns to his forced rictus grin and once again starts surveying the dig teams.

We left, not really in the mood to pick a fight with a group of questionably mixed intentions. We instead made some Gather Information checks in the town. All we got was more of the same. The clergy was preparing for some kind of ritual that they promised would be of immense benefit to everyone involved. We did pick up that it was Priest who'd come into town with the documents elaborating on the location of the stones they were unearthing, and the details of the ritual.

Which was really all we needed. We waited for nightfall and sent in the kobold to find these documents and figure out what was up. He found that it was some kind of summoning ritual, that it had to be performed at dawn, and that it looked like they were almost ready. Nothing detailed WHAT, exactly, was getting summoned. We smelled demon. Or worse. But we had no proof, and no one was willing to talk.

It seemed like our only two options were to try to sabotage the ritual beforehand, or to stay nearby while it was being performed to interrupt/intervene/study as the situation warranted. Even with the men we'd brought, the entire town seemed happy about what the clergy had planned, so anything we did would be calling down a giant mob of angry pitchfork bearing commoners. This seemed like something we would want to avoid. We opted for option two.

So, every night, an hour before dawn, we'd do the same thing. The swashbuckler and dragon shaman would hide in the darker areas around the church with our men. The kobold would cling to my back while I spiderclimbed up to the collapsing ceiling, I would perch where I could see the area below, and the kobold would dash across the roof (he barely weighs anything, of course) to the pinnacle at the front, and wait for my signal if we should charge.

After the third night, one of the men turns to our swashbuckler and says "Working for you is very boring, by the way". The swashbuckler laughs, asks if he'd rather be in constant life threatening danger. The guy says "Well YEAH. That's why I became a mercenary in the first place.". The swashbuckler just tells him to hang tight, and that things will probably get real ugly real soon.

The next night. They start the ritual. Just before dawn, they begin lighting candles, heating oils, mixing arcane ingredients, laying powders, chanting... Everyone present except for Priest and the nameless pastor had on blank masks with crosses painted on the front. Your classic SpookyStuff ritual. And just before light begins to break, the area inside the church brightens as if it was the middle of day, sunlight streaming OUT through the stained glass windows and casting colored patterns across the unearthed grounds. The light flashes brilliantly, and the shadows from the windows burn themselves into the ground surrounding the building, completing the pattern they had drawn across the floor on the inside. And suddenly, where there had been nothing, on a stone pedestal in the middle of the church, stood an angel.

An angel?

Yeah, that wasn't what we expected either. But she stood there, with all the overwhelming perfection of a divine entity. Completely nude, eyes pools of glistening silver, hair just strands of solid white gold, wings tucked serenely against her back. She turned her head calmly to the left and right, surveying the area while everyone inside, Priest included, stood in shocked awe of her divinity. She knelt, and beckoned for the pastor that had been working with Priest to come to her. She cradled his jawline from above him, on her pedestal, and began to weep. Her words were a whisper, but they rung throughout everyone present with perfect clarity and an unbearable sadness.

"Thou hast made a grievous mistake child." She kissed the clergyman on the forehead in an act of forgiveness, took his wrists and placed his hands over his own ears, and SHRIEKED. The entire building, Priest included, fell to their knees clutching their ears. The stained glass exploded outwards in delicate shards. Priest gestured at the angel, and several pained looking men began to attack her with some kind of black leather loops, trying to bind and silence her.

I made the signal and jumped in through the hole in the roof, sticking to rafters and chandeliers on the way down to break my fall. The kobold lit one of the light gems we had and threw it to the ground out front, before jumping in after me (and making a very high tumble roll to negate the damage when he hit ground).

The Swashbuckler, Dragon Shaman, and our men outside began charging in towards the building, kicking in the front door and climbing through the broken windows.

The masked men inside began attacking us with ridiculous fervor, just as two of the men succeeded in gagging the angel with a leather strap and catching one of her wrists in another. She wasn't really fighting, she seemed unable to ATTACK outright. She just flailed around in an effort to make things difficult for them.

Me and the swashbuckler went straight for priest. The dragon shaman tried to do some crowd control with his fire-breath. The factotum jumped on one of the guys with leather straps for a vicious sneak attack and took him down with one hit. The angel caressed his head for that, but gestured for him to run. Being an adventurer, he instead took out another dagger and went to swing at another one of the men holding the straps. Which means he had to make a spot check to notice that the corpse he'd attacked burned up in black fire... and that an identical body climbed out of the ashes. At that, he shouted to the rest of us that we were in BIG trouble.

The Dragon Shaman had come to that realization too, after three of the guys he'd burned simply got back up and began attacking him from behind.

Out of character: “Anyone run to run some knowledge checks to see what the heck is going on here? Maybe Religion or Planar checks or something?”


Two of Priests immediate guards start to move in on me, but he tells them I can't hurt him and to get the swashbuckler instead. The swashbuckler gets bullrushed, but also scores a critical hit and takes one of them down. Not that seems to help matters.

I fire an eldritch blast at the priest, but it curves away from his face and into the smoky glass orb he's holding in his left hand.

Well? Crap.

Priest just keeps smiling at me in his creepy rictus grin and says "Suffer not the witch to live," before dashing and giving me a good stiff kick in the face for way more damage than I was hoping to take, and knocking me completely prone. The dark orb he's got pulses, and I feel a bunch of magic rush out of me (he dismissed my spiderclimb invocation. As a warlock I can just cast it again, but it's not under effect anymore).

The factotum is having a hard time trying to save the angel, and she still can't seem to actually fight back. She seems to be pleading with her eyes for him to escape, as if there's nothing that can be done. He, mournfully, accepts her urging and goes to help us in the main fight, while the men strap more and more of the black (obviously enchanted) leather straps on her and start dragging her off.

Two of our mercs die off, which means the fight is starting to tip further against us, and we don't really have any idea how to stop these things from coming back (whatever they are, no passed knowledge checks on the subject).

The swashbuckler and dragon shaman are able to knock out a few at a time, but they'll just get back up on their turn. Priest lurches over me, cackling about how my witchcraft won't help me against him. Realizing he's right, I pull out a poison coated dagger and sink it into the guys shoulder. His rictus grin doesn't change, but his eyes betray his pain and concern. Instead of carrying on the fight, he instead grabs a bunch of his 'men' as guards and follows his crew dragging off the angel.

Not really having a solid plan, we kept fighting. We told our remaining crew to retreat from the fight, and try to avoid getting slaughtered. After killing a few dozen of these...things, they all at once cocked their heads to the side and then took off running out the front door. We followed in hot pursuit, as they all started jumping and clinging to the side of a black carriage. We could hear the angel let out a cry from inside it. Priest was urging the horses on. The last of his crew managed to climb on/in the carriage and they sped off into the night.

We tried to give chase, but even the kobold wasn't fast enough to keep up with horses at full sprint. I fired off an eldritch blast, but it just arced through the sky and into Priests hand. I hate that stupid dark orb.

So we went back to the church to try to quickly piece things together before getting a move on back to the docks. We found the pastor, still clutching his ears, weeping to himself. We bottled some samples of the black ashes those things had kept crawling out of, noting that the floor underneath it was charred solid black. No light seemed to cast on the spots, even the new breaking sunlight coming through the gutted windows.

While we weren't paying attention, the pastor crawled over to a dagger, mumbled "please forgive me" and drove it into his own neck. We tried healing him, but he was gone. Which sucked, because we REALLY wanted to have him verify our story with the authorities if it came to that. Instead we quickly and quietly buried him in the church grounds, and tried to make it look like part of the normal dig patterns. Hopefully they would just cover it up and not notice, so there would be no explaining to do.

We went through the church building. Found a few minor magical items. A silver holy symbol, a prayerbook with some spells in it that we might be able to sell or UMD as scrolls, some powdered gold, holy water... you know the drill. We're adventurers. If it looks valuable, we stuff it in a bag and call it ours.

So. To wrap up the session, we sprint back to the docks as fast we can, hoping to be able to tail Priest and Co as hotly as possible. Fortunately, when we get back, the dockmaster was so thoroughly creeped out by Priest, his masked men, and the fact that they bothered to load an entire carriage onto their ship ("Just straight up the ramp and onto the deck!") that he was compliant with our inquiries regarding information.

Priest went sailing back to the egyptian continent. The one where we're wanted murderers. And A bipedal dragon, a three foot tall talking lizard, a strung out looking witch, and an obvious swashbuckling pirate don't exactly blend in. So we're debating whether or not we're going to pursue him directly, or try our luck at another port. The other port on this continent is pretty close, so we might see what the other villainous monsters are up to before pressing our luck back in the desert.

We're really worried about the angel though. So it's a toss up at the moment.

At least most of our crew survived this time.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions


Okay, I'm going to try to be a bit more concise this time, so it's not a giant wall of text like last time, but a lot happened in this session. We leveled twice, for instance. It was a rather lengthy night

I'll spoiler things for more convenience.

As a group we faced some inter-party conflict to start things off. Me and the factotum thought that we should head to another port and see if we could learn more about the Drifters allies. They took the angel alive for a reason, and we can't really bring the force necessary to save her right now. Also, I'm a little worried about running into Priest in a one on one situation.
The Dragon Shaman wants to persue Priest and try to free the captured angel. The Swashbuckler is on the fence. We convinced him that it was in our best interests to avoid the desert continent for a while longer, either to lay low, or to wait until other options of travel are available to us. He agreed in the end, and by vote of 3 to 1, we reluctantly selected a new port to sail to.


So we take off for one of the ports on the Jungle continent. It's fairly close, only a week of sailing away, so we're probably not going to fall so far behind we can't catch up with whatever is going on.

The closer we get to the port, the rougher the weather seems to be. Torrential downpours and massive waves, broken up by periods of the sea being dark, grey, and calm. When we actually make it to port, we have to sail in through a cloud of fog so thick we had difficulty safely docking. There should have been a lighthouse active, and we could make it out (barely, through the fog), but it was dark and inactive.

What's more, the docks here are completely empty. Deserted, abandoned, still, silent. There are other ships in port, but no one on them. No one on land. No officials sealing arrival and departure sheets, no one checking shipping logs, no one unloading anything... not a soul to be found.

We take a few of our crew with us, and leave the rest guarding the ship, since we're not sure exactly what to expect. The kobold thinks to use an inspiration point and roll a high Survival check on the docks, trying to track any oddities or anomalies. He comes up with nothing.

So it's off to the empty lighthouse we go.

What strikes us as odd about the situation is how perfectly normal everything seems to be. There are no signs of life, but there are also no signs of struggle or theft. Nothing is broken or missing. Until we march up the spiral stairs to the top of the lighthouse, and see a body sitting in a chair facing out the window.

The swashbuckler approaches with caution, and sees that the lighthouse keepers throat was slice ear to ear. The blood is pooled and congealed down his front and on the floor, so he clearly didn't see it coming or have time to put up much of a struggle.

Not liking how that bodes for the rest of the port town, we look out the window, tho we can't make out much. It's just a fog that would put londons thickest to shame. We think we can see dark figures moving through the city streets, but failed spot checks mean we aren't sure if it's a trick of our eyes or not.

So we start heading back to our ship to check back in and then go explore the port town...

...And find our boat being overrun by a massive hoarde of zombies! about 30 to be precise. Which is probably a good fifth of the population of this dingy little port town, but still. Our deckhands are screaming in fear and trying to shove the zombies shuffling up the ramp with ten foot poles, so we sprint over to join in the fight. Actually, most of the crew we were WITH stayed back due to cowardice, refusing to rush into a shambling mess of rotting flesh and broken teeth for some reason.

The fight was more or less a mop-up. The Dragon Shaman could take out two or three with his fire breath, and another one per turn while his breath recharged. Our Swashbucklers INT to damage doesn't work against the undead, but fortunately he had a backup plan for situations like this. He sheathed his rapier, and pulled out the longsword strapped to his back, two-handing it and power-attacking to make up the difference in damage. He could also Cleave, so he was mostly taking them out two per turn. The Factotum plunked them from range with a small crossbow, while I spiderclimbed up a nearby wall and fired Eldritch Blasts into the fray. Then we re-boarded our ship to address our crew. But before anyone could say anything, we heard screaming from back on the docks. The four men we were with got overrun by a smaller group of zombies crawling out of the water. They were already dying, nothing we could do to save them except kill the zombies from range.

After that, we went to address our remaining crew members, only to discover that they no longer considered themselves our crew. "We've lost six men in two weeks! We're not following you anymore, we signed up to sail and fight, not to get slaughtered by monsters and walking corpses! This isn't right!" We tried some diplomacy, but... they were having none of it. They grabbed their belongings and some supplies, unloaded them from the Ironman, and loaded them up on one of the quicker looking abandoned ships, and sailed off into the mist. Swashbuckler recomended executing them for insubordination, but the dragon shaman just glared at him and let them go, saying they were right, we'd been hemmoraging hirlings since we first set sail.

We had no clue what to do about a crew, but we figured we'd worry about that later. We checked our gear, the Factotum elected to use his first level spell slot to put an 'alarm' on the deck of our ship (and we took down the ramp for the time being), and we got ready to set out into the fog.

We stopped when our DM informed us that we just reached level 5 :p. So we spent the next ten minutes updating our sheets.

We all stayed single-classed for another level, except for the swashbuckler. He took a level in SORCERER of all things. The reason? "True Strike 3 times per day, punks!". He plans on using True Strike, then power-attacking for as much as his BAB will allow. Our DM also elected to make "Chitter", his healing bug pet, become his familiar. So Chitters stats received a significant boost since he's now directly tied to the swashbuckler.

My blast became stronger, the factotum can now heal a little per day, and the dragon shamans auras are double in strength.

Anyway, back to the story.


We started sneaking through the town. It was indeed full of the walking dead, but with their slow move rate, we just kept up a steady pace and snuck between buildings. We only drew attention from a few of them at a time, and they couldn't keep up with us, so we just stayed ahead of them. This did turn out to be a mild tactical mistake.

When we got to the edge of the town, we found a shop that had been boarded up pretty thoroughly. Surrounding the shop were around three dozen zombies, beating at the walls and doors and moaning loudly. Obviously, something relevant was in there, but in stopping to fight this huge group of zombies, we allowed the zombies that had been chasing us through the streets to catch up, meaning we were surrounded. I had the worst of it. Low hitpoints, low AC, my attack strategy kind of relied on being able to move out of range or poison things that got too close. Being surrounded meant I was taking a pretty harsh beating. The Factotum was almost untouchable, since he has the highest AC, but the few hits he did take were bad with his small hitpoint total. If it wasn't for the dragon shamans healing aura, I would have been toast, and the factotum wouldn't have lasted too long. As it was, we managed to slug our way through the last of them without hitting negatives, then took some time to catch our breath and heal up.

We approached the boarded up door, and politely knocked. Our Swashbuckler shouted out, asking if anyone was inside. A small dwarf woman leaned out of one of the windows on the second floor in absolute shock, looking slightly off center (mentally, that is). She asked us if she was imagining this, before scrambling back from the window, dashing down the stairs, and tearing a few planks from the door so we could crawl through before replacing them.

"You're alive! I haven't seen a living face in two weeks!" She hugged the swashbucklers legs and cried happily. She was talking too fast, babbling, almost nonsensical. "How did you get here? It doesn't matter, you're here, oh god, all hell broke loose, but you're here, we can leave. Let's leave. How did you get here, we can leave that way?"

Dragon Shaman explained that we came by ship, but that we couldn't leave just yet. We were missing a crew and we had to figure out what happened here.

"Oh I can tell you what happened here, hell broke loose here. The devil came and hell followed. There's no reason to stay really, no reason at all, we should leave."

She was obviously a little shaken up by spending the past few weeks listening to the zombies trying to break their way into her tiny little sanctuary.

We asked her who, exactly, the devil was, and what, EXACTLY, had happened.

She just shook her head no ferociously. "She came in on a boat and everyone started dying. One by one, people just disappeared. She never made a sound. Not a sound, just walked through the streets wearing our skins and killing us one by one. Then after she killed almost everyone she found where the miners stay and killed all of them. Then everyone she killed started standing up, and she took the miners to the caves with her. I saw her leaving with them, wearing someone else's skin. The devil wanted the caves, we should let her have them, we should leave and let her have them."

We felt bad for the tiny little dwarf woman, but we couldn't just up and leave after THAT, right? She seemed fine with us going too. Said she would just stay where she was cause it was safe but that she wouldn't go to the caves cause if we went to the caves she would just wear our skin and kill us all too and she had to stay here where it's safe and, ect, ect, ect.

We told her we'd come back for her and climbed out one of the second story windows. There weren't many zombies left after our wholesale massacre of them, but there were still enough that it would be trouble if they congregated around the building again, so we had to leave it boarded up.

And, naturally, we set off towards these caves.


The cave mouth was set up near the top of an overgrown cliff face. It wasn't unclimbable, but it was tricky. Once we got to the top and caught our breath, our dragon shaman picked up a stone and threw it into the pitch black mouth of the cave. In response, a swarm of bats came shrieking out past us.

Now, me and the kobold can both see in the dark (me with an invocation, him naturally). The dragon shaman and swashbuckler, cannot. We debated how to address this issue. Using a light source would potentially ruin our element of surprise, or worse, give the element of surprise to the enemy. The Swashbuckler can now CAST light as a cantrip, so what we opted to do was use the buddy system. I took the dragon shaman by the hand, and the kobold took the swashbuckler, and we both led them down into the dark with the swashbuckler ready to cast Light if need be.

We led them down through a few twists and turns and paths, when we started seeing traces of reflective black stones on the ground and walls. A quick peak (and prying one out with a dagger) revealed it to be Black Onyx. Which, if not an explenation for the zombies, at least shows a relevance to what's going on. Of course, we all started pocketing the stuff left and right, because, hey, free black onyx.

Which is when we started hearing a lot of intense fluttering all around us. Looking up? Bats. Lots of bats. Some of them the size of small dogs. Some of them larger than us.

Kobold: "Light, light, lightlightlight now!"

The swashbuckler casts light just in time for them to see the huge flurry of bats attacking us from all sides. The giant dire bats were making dive attacks that were knocking us prone, the smaller bats were just a swarm of tiny needle-like teeth and claws shredding us from every angle.

Once again, the Dragon Shaman turned out to be our bail-out here. His fire-breath was the only thing that was keeping the swarm from shredding us like we were stuck in a flying blender, giving the rest of us a chance to fight the (turned out to be five) dire bats beating on us. The bats put up a good fight, but in the end, we stood victorious amidst a giant pile of lightly fried corpses.

We pressed deeper into the caves, content that the ruckus we had made probably ruined our chance at surprise anyway, so we just hustled with the light spell active. Eventually, we came to a metal doorway with mine carts and digging equipment. The door was locked pretty strongly, the kobold using an inspiration point only barely managed to open it. When we popped the door, expecting more tunnels, we were taken aback when it actually opened into a huge, brightly lit cavern. A huge brightly lit cavern filled with a few dozen humanoid skeletons, hammering at the walls with picks, rummaging through the piles of broken stone, picking out the black onyx, and piling it into crates. It looked like this had been going on for a while, as there were crates and crates full of onyx gemstones.

And in the middle of this macabre sight, dancing around in exaggerated steps like a lunatic with a huge grin, was...a woman with no face. Well, she had a face, but it was just pale, grey, and smooth, with eyes and a mouth. A simple knowledge check revealed her to be an obvious example of a changeling, a race that's basically doppleganger-lite.

When she noticed us standing in the doorway to her chamber, she stopped in mid-stride and stood slack-jawed. Her face cycled through a few random male and female looking forms, before she finally picked one to settle on with a surprise expression. She pointed at us as a look of exaggerated recognition spread over her, and she nodded in understanding. We survived the encounter at the ziggurat, and now here we were. She didn't say a single word though.

Instead the skeletons all stopped where they were and turned in our direction, huge nasty looking picks at the ready. The changeling woman held out her hands on either side, as if she were a scale, weighing her decision visibly. Then she apparently reached a conclusion, because she waved her hand, the skeletons all got back to work, and she sprinted down one of the tunnels leading deeper into the caves, looking quite concerned about our presence.

We, of course, sprinted after her.

The swashbuckler asked if we should stop and kill the skeletons, but we considered her a higher priority and pursued.

She, to her credit, moved like a damn leopard. The dwarf was right, she never made a single sound. The only way we could follow her was by keeping her in visual range, and trying to assess which turn she'd made by traces she left on the floor and walls. The Factotum was our godsend here, as without him making Survival checks to track, we would have gotten lost in the mazelike tunnels.

Eventually, we came to another, smaller, darker chamber. The changeling woman was backing up to a wall at our right, when we heard a shuffle come from our left. A very, very large troll zombie came staggering at us, while the changeling gestured at us frantically before climbing up into a nook and sliding down a stone path further into the dark. The Swashbuckler told me and the kobold to follow the changeling, while they handled the troll. I wasn't positive they could take it solo, but they were right. If we lost the changeling in the dark, we'd never find her, and we were the only two that could see in the lightless caves.

So we tucked and dove into the same nook she had, while the swashbuckler and dragon shaman took the fight to the lumbering mass


The troll lost the initiative roll, obviously, so my teammates had the first strike. The dragon shaman opened with a fire breath at the thing, which took a big chunk of its hitpoints down. The swashbuckler opened with a full two-handed power attack with his longsword, but rolled low on the attack and his blow didn't do any real damage. Since he was closer, the troll slammed the swashbuckler and caught him good. The Dragon shaman charged the troll and nailed him hard. The Swashbuckler took another swing, and this one connected cleanly. The troll slashed at the swashbuckler with another claw attack, and with the damage he'd taken earlier, that was enough to knock him into low single-digit hitpoints.

The Dragon Shaman opted to swing at the troll again, clearly roughing it up badly, but the swashbuckler (in an unusual show of self-preservation) decided to move back a few paces. The troll turned its attention to the dragon shaman, and they traded blows (while the swashbuckler chucked a rock at the back of the trolls head only to realize it had no effect :p). Ultimately, the dragon shaman wound up in single digits too, and back away, but not before his breath weapon charged up again, and he popped the troll with it again.

Crossing his fingers and hoping the troll was close to dying, the Swashbuckler charged it with another full power attack. He connected and sliced the things head off with one clean motion.

The two of them collapsed together and caught their breath while the dragon shamans healing aura brought them back up to half hitpoints. Then they both down a healing potion and came charging after us.