Crow's Point

The Holy and the Lowly

Session 17

Still standing in the doorway of a ransacked, abandoned building, Cham and Swashy can hear the cries of numerous other demons echo throughout the city of Gatetown, and they realize their time is likely short before an overwhelming supply of reinforcements arrive. Cham takes a moment to bestow some of Pharsma’s healing magic on himself and his invisible companion, then the two head through the building, looking for a back entrance. They find one, but duck back inside when they see a group of demons making their way around the building.

After the demons pass, Cham and Swashy creep out onto the darkened street. They are surprised to spot a small group of three survivors, who motion the adventurers to follow them. They huddle with the strangers in another dark, abandoned building and introduce themselves. The group is surprised, but impressed, when the invisible Swashy speaks up.

The group is led by a half-elf named Ja’apel with a colorful accent. He says he is from the nation of Aarya, over the mountains to the west, and that he chose a poor time to visit Gatetown. The half-elf is accompanied by a dark, brooding human named Graasly, and a third pudgy man who looks severely wounded. Ja’apel introduces him as Exter, and the man groans while holding a bloody arm to his chest. Ja’apel explains that they were part of a much larger group that had been hiding out in the basement of a building until a pack of demons found them. Most of the group was killed or captured, and Exter was severely wounded, but the three of them were able to escape.

Ja’apel explains that he is part of a thieves’ guild in Aarya, and was sent here to gather intelligence on another thieves’ guild based in Gatetown, Marin’s Lifters. Ja’apel had tracked the guild’s hideout to somewhere in the sewers beneath the city, though he has yet to locate exactly where it is. He hopes to head into the sewers and finally find the entrance to the guild, as it could possibly be a well-concealed safe haven from the demons. Without any other ideas, Swashy and Cham tell Ja’apel to lead the way into the sewers.

The group plunges into the pitch black of the sewers under the city, and Ja’apel lights a torch to guide their way. As they walk, they ask Ja’apel how the demons came to overrun the city. He says everything started a couple of weeks ago. First, the high wizard Sattrex, advisor to the ruler of Gatetown, Lord Ralthus, disappeared, then over the next week, many of the high priests in town disappeared as well. About a week ago, Lord Ralthus called a meeting of his military council to address the disappearances, but the meeting was ambushed by a large group of demons. Rumor has it that few, if any, survived. The next night the demons sprung on the city in a wave, taking the choke points of the city first – the gates, the city walls, and Gala’s Lift. The city guard tried to organize a resistance, but many of the demons come back to life if killed or are immune to normal weapons. Swashy and Cham recognize descriptions of some of the demons they have been fighting – the regenerating lemures and the slaad, who can only be injured by magical weapons. Faced with an enemy that was impossible to kill, the resistance was broken, and the survivors left in the city took to hiding from the demons as best they could. There are many still alive, but the demons have been scouring the city for the past several days, finishing off or capturing anyone they find.

Ja’apel abruptly stops his tale as the group hears some noise nearby in the sewers. They recognize the sound of the clawed footsteps of demons, and break into a run. They try to lose the creatures in the twists and turns of the sewers, but end up in a long tunnel with demons closing in from both sides. Cham drinks a Potion of Ventriloquism, and manages to throw forth a sound of running footsteps to lead one of the packs of demons away. The party rushes forward and finally reaches a steep ramp that leads to the lower tunnels where Ja’apel suspects the entrance to the theives’ guild is.

They carefully make their way down the ramp, but Exter collapses and rolls forward, clutching his chest. When he lands, his stomach bursts open as a baby slaad claws its way out of his body in gruesome fashion. The tiny demon lets out a croaking sound, just as effective as those emitted by adult slaad, but fortunately everyone in the group other than Graasly is able to resist the magical attack. Cham unsheathes his khopesh and chops the baby slaad in two. The cleric looks grimly on at the fate that apparently awaits him if he cannot get the demon egg out of his own body.

While trying to shake Graasly out of his stupor, a pack of demons catches up to the group. Swashy hurls down a card from the Deck of Illusions and a spinagon backs off as a fire giant suddenly lumbers in between it and the party. A few other demons aren’t fooled by the illusion, but Swashy, who is still invisible from the Dust of Disappearance, is able to catch most of them by surprise with her sabre, and the demons are quickly dispatched. With their pursuit eliminated, the group presses further down into the sewers.

They eventually pass a section of wall that catches Swashy’s eye as she recognizes a cleverly concealed symbol on a stone brick. She investigates and finds a secret door. The thief quickly searches for traps, but finds none. As she confidently tries to open the door, a number of poison darts shoot out at the group. Fortunately, only Ja’apel is hit, and he falls unconscious. Swashy finds the door is locked, but her lockpicking skills finally come through for her as she gets it open. The group files into a narrow tunnel, with Cham and Graasly carrying the unconscious Ja’apel.

They come to another heavy door, and this time Swashy spots a magical trap on it. She believes she recognizes the inscriptions of a Fire Trap spell, but, what’s even more devilish, the group notices that the floor in front of the door is covered in close to an inch of lamp oil, ready to engulf the tunnel in flame if the trap is set off. They back away and Cham casts a Dispel Magic, which removes the Fire Trap enchantment. The group continues on, eventually reaching the thieves’ guild hideout, though Swashy is dumped into a pit trap just in front of the hideout’s entrance.

Nonetheless, the guild is receptive when the group arrives, and the leader, a halfling named Marin, welcomes the party to the meager accommodations Marin’s Lifters have to offer – a large, poorly lit room packed with at least 20 human survivors and numerous well-armed thieves. Cham and Swashy thank Marin for taking them in, and they find some open floor space to settle in for the night.

Meanwhile, Barlongren and Myx are still sitting in a cell in what seems to be the town’s jailhouse. They are guarded by a small pack of dretches, one of which awkwardly wears a human belt with a hefty ring of keys on it. After a while, a man comes into the jailhouse, demanding the demons bring a prisoner to his keep. Barlongren and Myx recognize the man from their journey through the dreamscape – he is Gwillivin’s brother, Tirinil. Although, he now appears to have a few strange tattoos protruding up his neck and face.

The demons seem dismissive of Tirinil’s orders at first, asking if he needs the prisoner for ‘more summons’. Tirinil explodes in a fit of rage, incinerating a dretch with some kind of eldritch blast of magical energy. He shouts at the demons, "You insolent trash! It doesn’t matter what I need them for! You had best start obeying me, or I will refuse to summon anymore of you here! Do you understand me? I brought you here, and I am your master, not Zarastra! And I say I need a prisoner! Now!!”

One of the other dretches rushes forward and claws at the man, but a rune lights up around Tirinil’s neck and the demon recoils in pain. Myx recognizes that Tirinil has made himself into a warlock by practicing blood magic. Perhaps the darkest path to magical power, blood magic involves sacrificing innocents in twisted rituals and painting symbols onto one’s skin with their blood to gain the use of magic. Most demented of all, legend holds that the closer the sacrifices are to the warlock, the more power he gains, meaning warlocks often sacrifice their family and closest friends for the sake of their magic.

The demons are eventually cowed, and Tirinil walks out with a human prisoner, escorted by several dretches. A spinagon and a lemure come into the jailhouse to stand guard with the remaining dretch. Sometime later, an old, crumpled shirt crawls out of Myx’s pack, slowly creeping across the floor. A dretch curiously walks over and picks up the shirt to reveal Tortette underneath. The dretch stares at the tortle confusedly, when Tortette suddenly leaps up and grabs the ring of keys off of the dretch’s belt, bolting towards the cell holding Barlongren and Myx. The dretch grabs the tortle before she makes it there, but Tortette hurls the keys towards the cell, and Myx snatches them out of the air.

The wizard quickly gets the cell open, and runs towards the back of the room, where the party’s possessions lay piled up. Barlongren steps out and meets the spinagon head on with nothing but his bare fists. The lack of weaponry barely slows down the barbarian at all, as he unleashes his anger on the winged demon, pummeling it to a bloody pulp. With the help of a former city guard amongst the prisoners, Barlongren and Myx make quick work of the remaining dretch and the lemure. They know the lemure won’t stay dead without holy water, so they throw it into the cell once the prisoners scramble out.

One of the prisoners mentions that before being captured and thrown in jail, they recently saw the temple of Heironeous in town appeared to still be fighting off the demons. Barlongren and Myx shudder at the thought of seeking out refuge with a temple to the stringent god, but figure it’s their best shot. Myx uses an illusion spell to craft a pack of imaginary demons to ‘escort’ the prisoners through the streets. They make their way to the temple, quickly disposing of a meddlesome spinagon who flies down to question the caravan of prisoners. They find the temple surrounded by demons, but not currently under assault. A slaad posted outside the main gates of the temple provides a difficult obstacle, paralyzing Barlongren with its croak, but Myx sends the demon running with a Spook spell. The elf instructs some of the other prisoners to carry Barlongren along, and the group manages to rush to the temple entrance and make it inside.

They discover the small group of survivors inside includes several city guards and is led by a priest of Heironeous, Brother Gondith. The priest is using his divine magic to maintain powerful wards on all of the temple’s entrances, preventing the demons from getting inside. Barlongren and Myx welcome a good night’s rest inside the safety of the temple.

The next morning, down in the sewers, Cham prepares a Remove Curse spell, which, thankfully, expels the slaad egg from his body. He then casts a Divination spell, asking Pharsma for guidance on how to find his friends. Cham hears the powerful voice of the god in his mind, “The Temple of Heironeous stands as a last bastion of defense”. Cham and Swashy try to convince Marin and his guild to leave their hideout behind and join them in their dash for the temple, but the halfling insists he’d rather take his chances hiding out in the sewers. Graasly concurs, but Ja’apel decides his best odds are in sticking with the powerful adventurers.

Swashy, Cham, and Ja’apel three make a mad dash through the streets of the city, chased by demons. Fortunately, Cham casts a powerful Protection from Evil spell, that hedges out the pursuing creatures. The cleric casts a Silence spell on the slaad outside the temple of Heironeous, preventing it from using its devastating croak, and the group is able to rush by and make it inside the temple to rejoin their friends.

Cham spends the day creating a batch of holy water in the consecrated font of the temple, so that the guardsmen in the temple will be able to fight back against the unkillable lemures. Between the prisoners Barlongren and Myx freed, and the survivors already in the temple, the church is quite cramped with over 50 occupants. Myx asks around about her old friend Kevven, who retired to Gatetown some time ago. Someone recognizes him as the owner of the Silver Dragon Inn, known more for Kevven’s long-winded stories of his past adventures than for its fine accommodations. Unfortunately, no one knows what became of him after the demons attacked. The party rests another night, and Cham spreads around his healing magic, fully healing all of the party’s wounds.

In the gray light of dawn, Swashy is awakened by Ja’apel, who tells the rogue he has discovered something she should see. He leads her upstairs to a small supply closet, where the dead body of Brother Gondith is crammed inside, his throat slit. He appears to have been dead for only a few hours. They head back downstairs, and Swashy informs the rest of the party of the situation. Someone who looks exactly like Brother Gondith is still wandering around the bottom floor of the temple, apparently going through the motions to maintain the magical wards on the structure’s entrances. However, Myx notes that the gestures the priest goes through don’t look quite right for the spells he is supposedly casting.

Barlongren heads upstairs and brings down the body of the real Brother Gondith, and the party grabs the impostor, demanding answers to who he really is. He tries to defend himself at first, claiming the dead body is a fake, but the party, and the rest of the survivors, don’t buy it. He eventually professes to having been a prisoner of the demons, like so many others. He offered his services as a magic-user for his life. He says ‘Zarastra’ enlisted him to infiltrate the temple and kill the priest inside, so that the magical wards could no longer be maintained and the demons could get inside. He insists he only did what he ‘had to’ to survive, and Cham shows him how wrong he was about that by planting his khopesh in his chest. As the man falls to the ground dead, he reverts to his true form, a human wizard the party doesn’t recognize. Myx gleefully pilfers the man’s spellbook, but finds Alter Self is the only new spell she can add to her repertoire.

The party eyes the temple’s entrances nervously. Cham informs the party that the wards on the temple were commonplace spells made extraordinarily powerful because they were cast by a priest of Heironeous in a consecrated temple to Heironeous. As Cham is a priest of Pharsma, he cannot recreate the wards as Brother Gondith did. It is only a matter of time, perhaps a few hours at most, before the temple’s magical defenses fall and the demons can enter.

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