Monday, February 27, 2017

"The Wrath of Baphomet" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 42

Zilna Oakshadow, the only female spy of the Lord's Alliance to accompany the expedition, huddled with her companions along the wall as the demon-lord Baphomet appeared in the chamber of the Maze Engine.  Of the two other spies, Feral was unconscious and bleeding and Hilvius was barely conscious.

The sight of the bestial monstrosity that was Baphomet struck fear into her soul. The beast was over twenty feet tall and covered in reddish black shaggy fur. Its head was like a goat and adorned with a rack of massive metallic growths that could be horns or could be antlers. A brilliant ball of flame magically burned just above the top of its head. Its eyes glowed like embers. Glowing yellow drool hung from its tusks. It carried in its massive clawed hands a mighty glaive. 

Despite her best effots, Zilna could not help but scream in terror at the sight of the hideous demon!

Baphomet turned its head away from the Maze Engine and glared at the three spies. 

Zilna stood over her fallen comrade Feral, shielding his body. Hilvius managed to drag himself to a standing position. Both spies took aim at the demon lord with their crossbows.

Baphomet brought the glaive Heartcleaver down upon Hilvius, killing the bookish spy instantly. Baphomet let go of his glaive with one hand and grabbed Zilna. He picked her up, bit off her head, and threw her body into the lake of fire at the bottom of the cavern.

Feral lay on the ground, his breathing becoming shallower, shallower. With his last ounce of strength, Feral managed to open his eyes. Baphomet glowered at the dying human. With his last breath Feral hissed, "Pass...." 

Feral went limp and died. 

Baphomet turned and charged the Maze Engine. 


Five heroes scour the Underdark
in order to find the ingredients
of an arcane ritual
that will banish the Demon-Lords
back to the Abyss
from which they escaped.

Thus far the expedition has managed to acquire
all the components save for the tinmask mushrooms
from the footsteps of a demon.

Before that, they must activate 
the Maze Engine, an ancient modron device
before it is found and destroyed
by the Demon-Lord Baphomet

Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC, human paladin 11, male) Defender and champion of the old gods of nature, commander of the forces from the Order of the Gauntlet.
Willow - (PC, human wizard 11, female) "the solution is always fireball!"
Ront - (PC, half-orc barbarian 11, male) Savage orc of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
Pain Grille' - (PC, halfling rogue 11, male) Wily street urchin from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better, commander of the Lord's Alliance forces.
Cordon - (PC, human cleric 11, male) Morninglord, Holy Radiant of Lathandor the Sun God, on a holy quest to activate the Maze Engine.

Thora Nabal - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Sylrien Havennor - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Elias Drako - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Tamryn Tharke - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet) Gravelly voiced amazon with the hots for Feral.
Olaf Renghyi - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Feral Killmander - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance) Raspy-voiced killer with a hare-lip. Killed by Vrocks.
Zilna Oakshadow- (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance) Killed by Baphomet.
Hilvius Haever  - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance) Bookish spy with an off-putting voice and manner. Killed by Baphomet.
The Shield Guardian - (NPC, shield guardian) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
Phwee-toop - (NPC, owl) Willow's familiar.

DM Note - Pain and Cordon were absent this week. 

Willow, Pain, and Ront had taken shelter on the far side of the Maze Engine and watched in horror as Baphomet killed the spies cowering by the entrance. Pain had fainted from fright at the sight of the Baphomet teleporting into the room. Willow asked Ront how he was doing. 

"Ront knows not fear!" was his defiant reply.

Willow grabbed the unconscious Pain by the arm and mounted her magical flying broom. She carried the halfling down towards the side tunnel Slaughtertusk had used to escape located thirty feet below the Maze Engine. The Shield Guardian retreated past the machine and was climbing down the side of the sinkhole in search of the escape tunnel.

Ront started pulling levers and pushing buttons in an attempt to operate the Maze Engine.  Despite his lack of training in the arcane arts, his random actions caused the device to begin to spin. Suddenly, a purple shockwave flashed from the device, buffeting Ront. Ront managed to hold on and nearly collapsed. He fell to one knee and took a deep panting breath.

DM Note - Ront took 10d6+40 force damage! If the damage reduced the character to zero hit points, the character is distegrated. Altough Ront was reduced to zero hit points, being a half-orc barbarian, he was instead reduced to one hit point! 

Willow reached the tunnel and found, to her amazement, Valerius and the mercenaries from the Order of the Gauntlet, "How did you get here?"

"We were trying to follow your clues and got lost. Are we close to the Maze Engine?"

"It's right there," she yelled, pointing up out of the tunnel's exit, "But we've got to go! Baphomet's here! Can you help Ront?"

Valerius moved to the tunnel's exit and saw Ront up above. The paladin of nature disappeared in a puff of silver fog and immediately reappeared next to Ront. He laid his hands upon the orc and reinvorated the barbarian's will to live.

Baphomet charged the Maze Engine, slamming into it and knocking it from its precarious perch at the top of the hour-glass shaped sinkhole that fell away into a lake of lava. The entire device, wedged between both walls, began sliding slowly down towards the fiery lake.

Ront lost his footing on the device and began to fall. Valerius dropped his shield and managed to grab the falling orc but the paladin lost his own footing and the two plummeted into the lake of lava a hundred feet below. 

Baphomet stood on the edge of the sinkhole and watched the device slide slowly down towards the lake of lava. It was out of his reach but he knew its fate was sealed. The Maze Engine would be destroyed soon enough.

The two warriors hit the viscous lava. The pudding-like consistency of the lava cushioned their fall but their lightweight bodies failed to break the surface tension of the lava's skin. Ronts unconscious body began to burn. Valerius screamed in pain as he, too, caught fire. He heroically grabbed his companion and cast a spell of healing. The spell triggered the chaotic faerzress and teleported Valerius and Ront out of the lava. Valerius quickly grabbed Ront and held onto the side of the rock wall, dangling twenty feet over the lava lake. 

Willow flew down on her broom and took Ront from Valerius. The Maze Engine continued its slide down the sinkhole. Valerius prayed for the spirits of nature for aid but to no avail. The faerzress, however, once again teleported him. Valerius found himself standing in the mouth of the escape tunnel waiting for Willow and Ront to join him.

Willow carried Ront into the tunnel and all three watched as the Maze Engine continued its descent, eventually sinking into the lava with a hissing popping mechanical explosion of screws, cogs, gears, pistons, and compressed gases. 

Baphomet released a howl of victory that shook the chamber and echoed for many minutes through the many tunnels of the Labyrinth. 

Baphomet had won. The Maze Engine was destroyed.

Having completed what he came to do, Baphomet beat his chest a few times and left the chamber, returning to the maze of the Labyrinth.

The party waited below in the escape tunnel. Once they were confident the demon-lord had left, Willow hopped on her flying broom and explored what was left of the cavern of the Maze Engine. She retrieved what was left of the bodies of Feral, Hilvius, and Zilna, as well as the remains of the modrons. Their bodies were ceremoniously cremated in the lava below.

Willow retrieved the wand that was summoned forth by the Maze Engine. She later determined it was a Wand of Fear.

Once they were done, the party retreated to the camp where Valerius had left Cordon. He explained that Cordon had come down with crypt cough and needed to rest so he left Cordon and the pack lizards in a safe defensible location.

The party rested. Ront had reached the limit of his physical endurance.

While he rested, Ront received a vision. He was standing in a massive cavern filled with softly glowing moss and fungi. He saw Sovereign Basidia, leader of the myconid renegades that had fled Neverlight Grove. Ront had no body, he was not really there.

Sovereign Basidia had established a long-range rapport with Ront, Kettle, and Angolwen, the only surviving members of the party that helped the renegades escape Neverlight Grove.

Basidia explained that the demon-queen Zuggtmoy had left Neverlight Grove and was making her way to the center of the sleeping kingdon-sized fungal entity known as Auromycos. She was planning to join herself to Auromycos in a demonic "wedding" ritual. If she were to do so, she would be able to turn the entire world into a land of fungus and decay.

Basidia needed their help. The myconid needed them to journey to Auromycos and rapport with the entity themselves before Zuggtmoy did. If they could awaken Auromycos, they might be able to convince it to resist Zuggtmoy.

Ront agreed to help. Kettle and Angolwen would have helped but they were too far away.

Basidia thanked Ront and implanted within the orc's mind the location of their next meeting. Ront had to hurry. Zuggtmoy was already en route.

The journey from the Maze Engine to the heart of Auromycos comprised a distance of about 360 miles. The tablet of Garmin provided some assistance and allowed the party to cover about twelve miles before needing to rest.

A quarter into their journey, they left the straight mine shafts of the Labyrinth and entered the more natural lava tubes, dry riverbeds, caverns, and grottos of the natural Underdark. A short while later they began to notice yellow slime dripping from the walls. Soon after they they could tell that the walls and floors of the passages were carpeted in lichens, molds, and fungi. The surfaces were covered in mushrooms and fungal growths of all sorts. Valerius felt the presence of an immense life form. Every mushroom and fungus they saw was an extension of a single entity - Auromycos!

Soon after entering Auromycos' domain Ront, who was scouting ahead, returned to report that he had seen a quivering mass of air ahead - a gelatinous cube was blocking the passage before them. It was moving away from them.

They followed the cube for several hours. Like most gelatinous cubes, it moved very slowly. They hoped the cube would take an alternate route. To their dismay, they noticed that it was taking the exact same route as they.

Willow rolled her eyes and cast a fireball spell at the transparent mass. It exploded within the creature causing bubbles of hot gases to boil out of it. It turned and advanced on Ront. Ront slashed at the creature but was able to avoid its attacks. Willow threw small attack spells at the creature and it eventually dissolved into goo.

They advanced and found another gelatinous cube behind it. They sighed and proceeded to destroy the second cube. This continued five more times. It was unprecedented to see seven gelatinous cubes in so tight a formation and curious that they all seemed to be traveling towards a common goal - in the same direction as their destination.

Just over halfway to their destination, the expedition's rest was interrupted by the approach of three hook horrors. Each of the hook horrors shambled slowly. Mushrooms sprouted from their brains. Behind them were a contingent of dancing myconids and sprouts. The myconids offered to share the gift of the Lady with the expedition. They politely refused. The myconids continued on their way.

After resting, the expedition came across three black puddings feeding on Auromycos. The cavern was stripped bare, exposing the naked rock. The party carefully avoided disturbing the puddings.

A few rests later, they encountered a myconid camp, this time accompanied by drow spore servants. The party pretended to be spore servants, shambling and swaying to unheard music. Only Ront failed to convince the myconids of his infection. One of the myconids sprayed its spores onto Ront. Ront sputtered but moved on with the others. Ront was relieved to later learn that he had not contracted the myconid brain spores. 

After a long journey over hundreds of miles, the expedition arrived at the location indicated by Basidia. There they found Basidia waiting for them. Next to Basidia stood old friends Stool and Rumpadump.

Basidia reiterated the plan. The myconid said that the heart of Auromycos was near, less than a two leagues away. But Zuggtmoy had arrived also and was preparing her ritual. They would have to hurry. Basidia would spray them with his special rapport spores, allowing them to communicate telepathically with the sleeping Auromycos. They had to wake the entity and warn it of Zuggtmoy's treachery. Basidia warned them, however, that while he slept Auromycos was protected by guardians. They would have to be wary!

Before they could continue, the expedition was suddenly attacked by four black puddings! 

Ront charged left, cleaving a pudding into two smaller puddings. Valerius followed him and cut the second pudding into two. 

The other two puddings converged onto Willow. She cast an attack spell, blasting them with a cone of cold and ice, but with no effect. Once Ront and Valerius finished chopping their puddings into tiny bits, they ran to help Willow. 

Soon all the puddings were destroyed.  Basidia commented on the strangeness of so many puddings so close to Auromycos. Valerius told the myconid sovereign of their earlier encounters. The paladin believed that the same demon-lord that created the Pudding King in Blingdenstone was at work here, perhaps in an effort to disrupt the coming union. 

With no time left to lose, the expedition rushed headlong towards Auromycos. 

They entered into a large cavern, larger than the greatest coliseum or arena. The cavern was filled with mushrooms of all sizes and dominated by a great forest of zurkhwoods ahead of them.

They were in the chamber of Auromycos!

Before they could act, tentacles fungal monsters arose out of the spongy floor. They were the guardians of Auromycos that protected him while he slept. 


Monday, February 20, 2017

"The Maze Engine" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 41

The expedition continued on their trek through the ancient network of duergar mines known as the Labyrinth.

Ser Valerius Adeques, Master of the Eight Angels, addressed his traveling companion Cordon, Morninglord and Holy Radiant of Lathandor, "So, remind me, what are we searching for?"

"It is called the Maze Engine. Those modron things call it an Orderer."

"What does it do?" inquired the paladin.

"I don't know," said the priest with a shrug, "All I know is that supposed to be able to banish a demon lord or something. I was sent to find it."

"So you know where it is?"

"Sort of. It's in the heart of the Labyrinth. That's what my hierarchs told me."

"Great. How big is it? Can we transport it to Menzobarranzan?"

The cleric once again shrugged and made a sound that made it clear he had no clue.

The Paladin rolled his eyes, "Got it."

They walked on in silence for several minutes.

"Oh! I almost forgot! I need to find it before whats-his-name does. Uh, Baphomet, I think! He's looking for it too. He wants to destroy it!"

"Of course," sighed Valerius.

A minute or so later, Valerius held up his hand and ordered his coterie to stop. He looked around confused.

"What is it?" whispered Cordon.

Valerius looked concerned, "Where are the others?"


Five heroes scour the Underdark
in order to find the ingredients
of an arcane ritual
that will banish the Demon-Lords
back to the Abyss
from which they escaped.

Thus far the expedition has managed to acquire
the egg of a purple worm
and the central eye of a dread beholder.
Now they seek the Labyrinth
in search of six wings from six different angels
and the fabled Maze Engine
which could destroy a Demon Lord...

Willow the Not-Witch and Phwee-Toop
Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC, human paladin 11, male) Defender and champion of the old gods of nature, commander of the forces from the Order of the Gauntlet.
Willow - (PC, human wizard 11, female) "the solution is always fireball!"
Ront - (PC, half-orc barbarian 11, male) Savage orc of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
Pain Grille' - (PC, halfling rogue 11, male) Wily street urchin from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better, commander of the Lord's Alliance forces.
Cordon - (PC, human cleric 11, male) Morninglord, Holy Radiant of Lathandor the Sun God, on a holy quest to activate the Maze Engine.

Thora Nabal - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Sylrien Havennor - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Elias Drako - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Tamryn Tharke - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet), gravelly voiced amazon with the hots for Feral.
Olaf Renghyi - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Feral Killmander - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance), raspy-voiced killer with a hare-lip
Zilna Oakshadow- (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance)
Hilvius Haever  - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance)
The Shield Guardian - (NPC, shield guardian) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
Phwee-toop - (NPC, owl) Willow's familiar.

DM Note - Valerius and Cordon were absent this week. 

Pain and Feral were on point, scouting ahead of the rest of the expedition including Ront, Willow, Zila, Hilvius, Willow's shield guardian, thirteen modron monodrones, a modron duodrone, and a modron tridrone. They had stopped to rest twice since they left the Gallery of Angels.

Willow looked around, taking notice of the increasing amount of glowing crystals sprouting from the walls and ceiling - an indication of growing Faerzress as they neared the Maze Engine. Her spells would become increasingly erratic.

She then took notice of another development, "Where are Cordon, Valerius, and the Order of the Gauntlet?"

Ront, too, suddenly noticed their absence, "They must got separated! Should we look for them?"

Willow considered the problem, "No. We could get lost here. We better leave a trail for them. They don't have the modrons to lead them to the Maze Engine."

Suddenly, Pain came silently running back. The halfling signalled everyone to stop.

"There's a four-way intersection up ahead. There are three big demon looking things tearing apart an ore cart up."

Ront's eyes bulged, "An ORC HEART?"

"What? No!" Pain sighed and anunciated,  "An ORE CART!"

Ront gripped his greatsword, "We fight!"

Pain held up his hands to delay the orc, "No. They're not paying attention to anything around them. We can probably sneak past. Willow, please tell the modrons to stop stomping and try to march quietly."

Thus the expedition attempted to sneak past three hezrous, demons resembling giant bipedal horned toads, ripping apart an old mining cart. The plan failed when a monodrone got confused and tried walking into a nearby wall. The tridrone had to instruct the duodrone to assist. In addition, Ront stood firm in the middle of the intersection, out in the open, hoping the demons would notice him. Feral stood next to Ront, imploring the orc to move on with a silent glare.

The commotion caused the hezrous to look up. They saw Ront standing in the center of the intersection.

The hezrous attacked! Pain quickly ran back and engaged the demons. The demons turned their attention to the little one, ganging up on Pain and causing him to retreat. Willow blasted them with a spell that created a cone of icy cold. The hezrous took little notice of her magic. Ront waded into their midst, hacking left and right. Feral peppered them with crossbow bolts.Willow began zapping individual hezrous with fire bolts but their resistance to magic continued to protect them.

Eventually all three hezrous were defeated but Pain was grieviously wounded.

Ront inspected the mining cart and, to his surprise, found the dried remains of an orc heart. He took it as a souvenier.

A few hours later, the expedition came across a group of flumphs emerging from a side passage. The flumphs seemed agitated.

"Whoah! Whoah! Slow down there! What's the matter?" inquired Pain in an attempt to calm them.

One of the flumphs answered, "So much hatred! So much evil!"

The flumph explained that they had encountered a being of unfathomable malevolence, a creature that devoured minds! It was an alien thing from a much deeper region of the Underdark. It was accompanied by a group of white furred quaggoths. The flumph paused and sensed the positive emotions emanating from the expedition. It seemed refreshed by the good intentions.

Ront offered to let the flumph feed on his friendship. The flumph happily attached itself to Ront's head and drew nourishment from Ront's good will. The rest of the party allowed a flumph to feed off them, all except Feral who held up his hand and said, "Pass..."

Once sated, the flumphs continued on their way.

The expedition discussed their options and decided to avoid the danger altogether.

After another rest, still with no sign of the others, the party continued following the modrons towards the Maze Engine.

Pain and Feral once again held up the party to report on a danger ahead. A massive behir lay resting ahead. Their path led directly through its resting place and there was no way around it.

No one had fought a behir and, without the priest or paladin to provide prayers of healing, there was no desire for an unneccesary fight.

Pain decided to go forth alone. He entered the cavern with his palms up in a sign of peace. The sleepy behir, a massive blue serpentine reptile with a dozen legs, was curled around a stalagmite. It lifted its head and regarded the halfling with annoyance.

Pain explained in Undercommon that the expedition sought only to pass in peace. They meant no harm.

The behir, not comphrending the language, tilted its head at the halfling in curiosity.

DM Notes- Pain had to make his Persuasion skill checks at DC 20 with disadvantage. Luckily, this is one of Pain's strengths.

The modrons marched through the center of the cavern. The behir's countenance turned to anger. Electricity arced from its eyes.

Pain redoubled his efforts, explaining again, this time in Common, and apologizing for the disturbance.

The rest of the party moved through. The behir began to uncurl itself from the stalagmite.

Pain made his final plea in the only other language he knew: Halfling.

The behir continued to cock its head like a confused dog but held its wrath.

Pain scurried out of the cavern, apologizing obsequiously for the intrustion.

DM Note - despite rolling with Disadvantage. I don't think Pain rolled less than a 10 on the d20 for all three checks.

The trek to the Maze Engine took another four rests.

During their journey, the expedition encountered a series of ambushes and encounters:
  1. a grell ambush
  2. another grell ambush
  3. more hezrous
  4. a pack of pitiful manes 
  5. a band of minotaur hunters
  6. another band of minotaur hunters

DM Note - It was already 9:30pm and I wanted to get to the main event of the evening - the Maze Engine. So I skipped all of the above random encounters, except for the manes. That was creepy and sad. I described them as a bunch of naked fat men with open sores shambling like zombies and crying. The players felt actually kind of bad for them. One fireball put them all out of their misery.

The expedition followed the modron march leading them to the Maze Engine. The modrons turned down a long straight section of wide corridor that stretched for nearly a thousand feet. The corridor ended in a large natural cavern lit by a warm red glow.

The cavern was hour-glass shaped. The floor of the cavern dropped away into a one hundred foot deep sinkhole. A lake of magma bubbled and belched at the bottom of the sinkhole.  The natural ceiling arched forty feet overhead. A narrow ledge, ten to fifteen feet wide, clung to the edge of the chamber.

At the narrowest point in the hourglass rested a large machine. The machine consisted of a metal sphere roughly thirty five feet in diameter. Multiple smaller spheres were connected the large central sphere by articulated connecting rods. A mechanical ring surrounded the sphere. The ring was composed of smaller disks connected to mechanical wheels, cogs, and gears. The entire contraption made of brass, steel, iron, and other more exotic metals and was mounted on a metal framework attached to a disc-shaped mechanical base. Control levers and panels containing switches, dials, and knobs could be seen arrayed around the ring. The thing looked overly complicated and was definitely constructed by modrons.

The Maze Engine was perched precariously between the two ledges. The floor beneath it has fallen away into the magma lake and the contraption looked like it could soon fall as well.

The monodrones stopped marching. The duodrone stood to one side and made a sweeping gesture towards the device as if presenting it to the tridrone. The tridrone followed suit, standing to one side and making a sweeping gesture as if presenting it to Willow.

In previous telepathic communication with the tridrone, Willow learned that the modrons knew how to operate the machine but were prevented from doing so. No modron of less than pentadrone rank could manipulate the device. Willow had pointed out that she was no modron of less than pentadrone rank. The logic was sufficient for the tridrone, so it agreed that it would show Willow how to use the machine when the time came.

The time had come.

There was but one problem. Standing against Maze Engine was a large demon. The demon resembled a bipedal warthog with tiny wings. The prophecy of the angels had warned them that a nalfeshnee named Slaughtertusk awaited them at the Maze Engine.

The nalfeshnee looked like it was sitting around waiting and bored. It was checking its claws and picking its teeth. It looked like it wanted to be anywhere else but here.

Slaughtertusk looked up and saw the expedition standing in the entryway. It jumped to attention and prepared for battle.

It bellowed at the intruders in the common language, "Intruders! My master warned me that others were searching for the Maze Engine. But you are too late! I found it first! And I have already summoned my master! His arrival is imminent and you shall meet your doom!"

Slaughtertusk exitedly pointed down the long corridor, "OBSERVE! HE IMPENDS!"

A massive creature, twenty feet tall, entered the far end of the long straight corridor. It was a great bull-headed beast with a crown of metal protrusions halfway between long horns and antlers. A globe of fire burned over its head, illuminating all around it in flickering light. Its eyes burned with glowing hatred. It carried a gargantuan glaive. It was Baphomet!

Baphomet began charging down the hallway towards the room!

Willow shouted to the others, "Hurry, I calculate that we have just over a minute before Baphomet arrives!"

They turned to see that Slaughtertusk had used the distraction to summon four more demons. These demons resembled vrocks but instead of demonic vultures, these resembled hideous demonic parrots covered in long spikes.

DM Note- I actually got out my official vrock miniatures plus some home-made ones I created years ago out of plastic parrot toys modified with Warhammer demon and ghoul bits. The players loved the homemade ones and demanded I use them exclusively. They named them Polly, Pretty Bird, Cockatiel, and Beak-and-Talon.

Two of the parrot-vrocks covered the left flank, one covered the right flank, and one accompanied Slaughtertusk next to Maze Engine.

Pain and Ront charged the right flank. Willow blasted the vrocks with a cone-shaped blast of ice and frost but with little effect other than a chaotic side effect that caused Willow to grow a long beard made of feathers. The other vrocks took flight and harassed Willow and her shield guardian.

Slaughtertusk flew over the magma pit to attack Pain. Willow tried to polymorph the demon but Slaughtertusk overpowered her spell.

Willow then turned herself and the tridrone invisible. The faerzress, unfortunately, caused her to become afraid of the tridrone. She panicked and used her flying broom to fly across the cavern.

Meanwhile, Ront and Pain managed to fight their way past the vrocks and their battle with Slaughtertusk had taken them to the outer ring of the Maze Engine.

Willow overcame her fear and was able to locate the invisible tridrone. She grabbed it, picked it up by one of its many wrists, and flew across the sink hole to the Maze Engine.

Baphomet was halfway down the corridor!

Slaughtertusk turned his attention to Pain, causing the halfling grievous injury!
Ront grabbed Slaughtertusk by the tusks, holding on and preventing the nalfeshnee from moving, while Pain moved to the other side of the sphere to drink a healing potion. To Ront's horror, the demon simply teleported out of his grasp and reappered next to Pain. Pain nearly choked as he was guzzling his potion.

Willow, still invisible, asked the tridrone, also invisible, how to activate the Maze Engine. The tridrone replied with a series of blurps and whistles and clanks in its native language accompanied by wild gesticulations and helpful pointers. Despite being able to see the invisible tridrone's gestures thanks to her magical Robe of Eyes, Willow was still unable to understand the tridrone's modron language.

Willow gave up and gave it her best shot on her own, turning knobs and dials, pulling levers, and pressing buttons.

DM Note- Operating the Maze Entine required a DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) skill check or automatic if demonstrated by an adjacent visible tridrone that you could understand (Willow gave up on that and just opted for the Arcana check). A success provided one random effect from the table in the book. In addition, the engine would rotate 1d6 spaces. I didn't actually rotate the prop. I merely moved the figures around. Being moved away from an opponent did not provoke an attack of opportunity. Willow was trying to roll the magic number that would banish the demons. 

They had twelve rounds from the start of the battle until Baphomet arrived. They squandered the first six rounds battling the vrocks and working out a plan. Willow now had only six tries left!

The Maze Engine came to life with a jittering bang! The entire central sphere began to rotate. Each smaller outer sphere began spinning and rotating. The outer ring began to counter-rotate. The machine began a complicated dance of mechanical motion to the sound of blaring calliope music!

DM Note- I started a playlist of calliope music on my iPad. I let that play for the entire next round! It was fun at first but became tiresome really quick.

Willow, Ront, and Pain began to rotate around the central sphere on the counter-rotating outer ring. The spinning ring moved Pain away from Slaughtertusk and moved Ront back into hand-to-hand combat.

Willow tried again, hoping to activate the machine's demon-baninshing functions. Instead, she Ront, Pain, and the tridrone were bathed in purple light. Afterwards, Willow felt smarter, Ront felt toughter, and Pain felt quicker! Nobody knew how the tridrone felt.

DM Note- the players eyes bulged! +2 to any one stat of your choice to a maximum of 24? Seriously?? Yes, please! Willow and Pain were now super-human (super-halfling?) in their prime abilities!

Meanwhile, Feral, Hilvius, and Zilna were fighting a vrock by the entrance. The vrock had managed to wipe out most of the monodrones and Hilvius had fallen. Zilna dragged him away from the fight and tried to stabilize him.

While she was by the entrance, Zilna took a glance down the corrdor and saw Baphomet charging. The demon lord was less than two hundred feet away! She screamed and broke down into tears at the hopelessness of their situation.

Pain took a moment to leap off the Maze Engine to go help Feral finish off the remaining vrock.

Back on the Maze Engine, things had gotten more dangerous as the machine itself began to spin wildly, its outer ring oscillating up and down, forcing those standing atop it to hold on or be thrown.

Willow, by this time no longer invisible, lost her grip and almost fell. She used her flying broom to pull herself back up.

Ront and Pain had defeated the last two vrocks and had struck a serious blow to Slaughtertusk. The demon squealed in pain and fled, flying under the Maze Engine and disappearing through a hidden escape passage.

Those on the Maze Engine had a brief respite before they noticed that Baphomet was nearly upon them. Suddenly, the magma lake exploded sending lumps of molten rock throughout the chamber. Many of the lumps clung to the ceiling and formed humanoid shapes made of lava. Two dropped down and landed on the rotating platform.

Pain seethed, "Magma mephits!"

Every time Ront would destroy one, it would explode into hot magma, burning everyone around it. Ront and Pain soon found themselves having to keep the outer ring clear of magma mephits so that Willow could concentrate on operating the Maze Engine. Additional mephits were climbing up the walls from the lava lake below.

DM Note- Two new mephits were added to the ring every turn. Each new mephit would appear 1d6 spaces to the left and 1d6 spaces to the right of Ront on the ring.

Baphomet was nearly upon them. Willow took a moment to cast a magic spell to create an invisible force wall over the entrance to the cavern. Willow hoped it might slow Baphomet down. Doing so caused everyone around her to become invisible! Baphomet tried to dispell the wall but the magic held.

The invisibility quickly wore off as Ront continued battling mephits. He was soon rejoined by Pain who climbed back onto the machine while it had temporarily stopped moving.

Willow turned back to the machine and it once more began to rotate and shudder. She threw the lever and a flash of light revealed a glowing magical wand slowly descending to land on the far end of the cavern.

Willow shouted at the others, "Make a note of that! We've got to get that before we leave!"

Ront rolled his eyes and continued fighting mephits.

Suddenly the machine began bucking more violently. Ront was thrown off but held on with his fingers. Willow was thrown clear but grabbed by Pain before she fell.

As they climbed back onto the machine, Ront yelled, "There he is!"

Baphomet slammed into the force wall. His huge bestial face snorted as he tested the perimeter of the magic wall. He looked into the room and made eye contact with the heroes.

The heroes quailed and moved to the far side of the Maze Engine.

Willow tried the Maze Engine one more time. Arcs of electricity danced over the surface, then bolts of lightning struck at everyone standing within thirty feet. Willow swooned but recovered. The modron tridrone was vaporized.

Pain ordered Feral and Zilna to move Hilvius (who was alive and unconscious but now stable) back away from the entrance. The shield guardian followed them.

Pain put the situation to the rest of the team, "What's the plan? Are we going to try to hold off Baphomet while you get this going or are we going to give up and try to make it out of here alive?"

Willow assured him, "Not even Baphomet can break through or dispell that wall. I say we keep trying!"

Baphomet closed his eyes and disappeared.

Ront cried, "What?"

Baphomet instantly reappeared inside the cavern. He had used his demonic magic to teleport into the room!

Ront, Willow, and Pain simultaneously exclaimed their favorite expletives.


DM Notes - Wow, what a place for a cliff-hanger, right? 

My players all said that the Maze Engine was the best encounter so far of the campaign. They loved it! They all felt like it was a tension-filled action movie climax. They could visuallize the rocking machine, the burning magma, the little glowing embers everywhere, the mephits exploding out of the magma and dropping onto the machine, the mephits climbing the wall, hanging on for dear life, the intricate set-piece I constructed, the home-made vrock minis, the warthog toy serving as Slaughtertusk, everything! 

I made some modifications to the encounter as-written of course. In the original encounter, the Maze Engine is wedged halfway down the sinkhole, requires only one roll to activate, and begins to descend once activated. The players then get twelve turns before it hits magma and is destroyed. There is, of course, no Baphomet in the original encounter.

I had foreshadowed Baphomet for several sessions, saying he was searching for the Maze Engine so he could destroy it. What better way to cap off a race to activate the macguffin than to have a LITERAL race to activate the macguffin! So I added the long corridor so the PCs could see Baphomet coming. I didn't tell them exactly how many rounds they had, I said between 10 and 15, so they only had his progress through the passage as a guide.

I'm just really sad that Cordon's player missed this session due to family commitments. This entire quest was his quest! 

Next week- will they stay and keep trying to banish Baphomet (and maybe Yeenoghu) or will they cut and run, leaving Baphomet to destroy the Maze Engine?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"The Gallery of Angels" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 40

Grisha approached the strangers resting in a private corner of the Filthriddens. Grisha had shown hospitality to the newcomers, going so far as offering an invitation to them to join the "Pack" not once but twice. Both times they refused his invitation. Did they not realize the benefits of Yeenoghu's immortality?

Grisha was worried. The newcomers would not understand the coming "Exultation". They would react with fear and violence. They must leave.

Grisha, accompanied with four of his pack acolytes, approached the sleeping group of newcomers. The orc was on watch. Grisha rolled his yellow eyes.

"I am very sorry. I am forced to rescind my hospitality. You must leave this place at once! You are no longer welcome!"

The orc stood up, clenched his fists, and said, "Make us!"

Grisha tightened his grip on his flail.

The orc suddenly began to shudder. The eyes in its head rolled back. Its lips bared its teeth and tusks. The orc fell to the ground unconscious and twitching.

The orc's companions rose from their slumber to investigate the commotion.

Grisha, horrified, staggered back a step.

"I didn't do anything! Is.. is he okay?"


Five heroes scour the Underdark
in order to find the ingredients
of an arcane ritual
that will banish the Demon-Lords
back to the Abyss
from which they escaped.

Thus far the expedition has managed to acquire
the egg of a purple worm
and the central eye of a dread beholder.
Now they seek the Labyrinth
in search of six wings from six different angels
and the fabled Maze Engine
which could destroy a Demon Lord...

Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC, human paladin 11, male) Defender and champion of the old gods of nature, commander of the forces from the Order of the Gauntlet.
Willow - (PC, human wizard 11, female) "the solution is always fireball!"
Ront - (PC, half-orc barbarian 11, male) Savage orc of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
Pain Grille' - (PC, halfling rogue 11, male) Wily street urchin from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better, commander of the Lord's Alliance forces.
Cordon - (PC, human cleric 11, male) Morninglord, Holy Radiant of Lathandor the Sun God, on a holy quest to activate the Maze Engine.

Thora Nabal - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Sylrien Havennor - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Elias Drako - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Tamryn Tharke - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet), gravelly voiced amazon with the hots for Feral.
Olaf Renghyi - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Feral Killmander - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance), raspy-voiced killer with a hare-lip
Zilna Oakshadow- (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance)
Hilvius Haever  - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance)
The Shield Guardian - (NPC, shield guardian) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
Phwee-toop - (NPC, owl) Willow's familiar.

Ser Valerius drew forth Dawnbringer, its blade of sunlight blazing. Grisha shielded his face from the glare with his hand.

Pain checked on Ront. Ront was unconscious but otherwise fine. He had suffered some kind of seizure. Grisha looked on, confused and worried.

"He just started doing that," exclaimed the human!

DM Note - Ront's player was out sick this week, so he suffered CAVERN SICKNESS!

Pain nodded and approached Grisha, "What's this about us having to leave?"

"Uh, yes," Grisha recovered his composure, "You should leave. Immediately."

"Hmm.. Why?" inquired the halfling.

"I have given you multiple opportunities to accept the gift of immortality and join the Pack. You have refused. I can tell you have no interest in our offer. So I must ask you to leave."

Pain put on his friendliest smile, "Look, we have no desire to stay, and we'll leave very soon. But we're all very tired. Can't we stay just a little bit longer? We'll leave as soon as we're rested."

DM Note - Pain used his Rogue-ish powers of persuasion and was able to change Grisha's mind.

Grisha thought about it, "If you must. But know this, the next few hours will not be pleasant for you. Do not say I did not warn you!"

"That's all we ask. Thank you."

Grisha and his acolytes left without further incident, passing through a heavy iron door guarded by other acolytes.

Pain turned back to Valerius and Willow with a cocky grin and a shrug.

A short while later their rest was again interrupted by an echoing cacophony of horrible screeches and howls. The sounds came from behind the heavy iron door. Ser Valerius, now on watch, maintained a wary eye but took no other action. For now, their need for rest overcame their curiosity towards the wailing.

Once they felt rested enough to travel, the expedition donned their armor and packs and loaded their pack lizards. The hall was now silent and Grisha was nowhere to be seen. Pain checked the Tablet of Garmin for the directions to the Gallery of Angels and the expedition bade a silent and awkward farewell to the chamber known as the Filthriddens.

Gash, the poor abused gnoll, bade his farewell. He was going to stay in the Filthriddens. He was revered by Grisha and the others and felt at home so he decided to join the Pack. Grisha welcomed him.

As they left, they could feel eyes peering at them from hidden locations. Grisha and his acolytes stood watch atop a ramshackle structure on the other side of the hall.

Only a few leagues out of the Filthridden, Pain and Feral, serving as the expedition's scouts, heard the sound of a platoon of marching boots ahead. They found a small group of creatures that resembled round automatons with mechanical arms and legs and two vestigial wings. Each of the creatures sported a single large biological eye and mouth in the center of its body. They were modrons! The twelve modrons were being led by another more complicated creature with a pyramid for a body and five arms and legs.

They motioned towards the complicated pyramid modron and got its attention.

The pyramid shaped modron, whom they assumed was a tridrone, began speaking in a complicated series of clucks and bonks. They called the rest of the party forward and had Willow cast a spell of telepathic communication.

The tridrone seemed to be more intelligent than the other modrons thus encountered. It spoke and thought with a greater more exact vocabulary. It explained that it and its companions had become separated from the Great March and that it had been searching for its brethren for some time.

"Confidentially," whispered the tridrone conspiratorially, "Don't tell the monodrones but it's coming up on 200 years."

The task was made difficult when the group lost its duodrones. Tridrones and monodrones do not speak the same language. Normally a tridrone would communicate through a duodrone intermediary. The tridrone had been forced to ineffectually follow the aimless monodrones, occasionally physically herding them as a dog would a flock of sheep.

Luckily, one of the missing duodrones accompanied the expedition, having been rescued from Karazikar's slavery in the Vast Oblivium. The duodrone, as well as the long monodrone encountered wandering the Labyrinth, assumed its position within the modron hierarchy and order was reestablished.

The reformed unit prepared to continue its march but was interrupted by Ser Valerius, who inquired where they were going.

"Confidentially," whispered the tridrone, "don't tell the monodrones, but I have no idea!"

It explained that the malfunctioning Orderer was playing havoc with its ability to navigate back to the Great March.

When it was asked about the location of the Orderer, the tridrone pointed in the precise direction and provided the precise distance. This action was immediately followed by the duodrone then all thirteen monodrones.

Ser Valerius asked if the tridrone could lead them to this Orderer. The tridrone apologetically said that it would be happy to help but that the same interference prevents it from leading them to the Orderer.

Cordon suggested, "We could use them to triangulate the location, narrowing in as we get closer."

Ser Valerius replied, "We're in a LABYRINTH! That would take forever!"

There was a brief argument before everyone gave up the idea as hopeless.

Cordon thought for a moment, "I have an idea. It's a long shot but it might work. I'll ask my god, Lathander, to send someone to help!"

Cordon began a prayer ritual, asking Lathander, the god of the sun, to send a servant to assist them.

Upon completion of the prayer, a point near Cordon began to glow with sunlight. The light grew in intensity until it became too bright to look upon. There was a popping flash like an explosion and a shower of twinkling glitter.

Standing there in the middle of the passage was a shining unicorn.

Pain's eyes grew wide, "It's MAGNIFICIENT!"

The unicorn looked down upon the halfling with a wink and loudly declared, "THAT'S RIGHT! I AM MAGNIFICIENT! MAGNIFICIENT THE UNICORN AT YOUR SERVICE, SIR!"

DM Note - Cordon case "Planar Ally". I had Cordon's player go through the MM and choose a Celestial-type creature that was not an angel. That pretty much left Coatl, Pegasus, and Unicorn. He chose Unicorn. 


Cordon beseeched the unicorn to guide them to the Maze Engine. Magnificient looked quizzically at the priest and replied that he knew not what that was nor how to lead them there.

He did, however, recognize the chaos emanating from the center of the Labyrinth and that it was causing the the modrons to have difficulty navigating. He offered instead to counter the effect of the chaos. The price for this task would be the expenditure of two gemstones worth 100 gp each. Cordon agreed and supplied the stones from the party treasury.

Magnificient performed the ritual and bid his fond farewells.

DM Note - Cordon's player didn't really understand the limitations of Planar Ally. It doesn't summon a genie that can cast wishes. Nor are all celestial creatures omniscient and all-knowing. However, I gave him a little something to reward him for thinking outside the box. I removed the "curse" I had imposed upon the modrons, which wasn't really in the book to begin with anyway.

The expedition carried on led by the march of a platoon of modrons. The way was made difficult by many switchbacks, dead ends, and false routes, despite the help of the tablet of Garmin. They had decided to travel to the Gallery of Angels before searching for the Maze Engine because its location was known to the tablet and it was closer.

After a few hours of travel they began to hear the sounds of yipping and cackling echoing through the mine passages. Gnolls were about. The sounds continued, farther, closer, farther, for over an hour. The tablet of Garmin indicated a narrow passage. The passage continued to narrow until it was less than five feet wide. The pack lizards had to squeeze to fit and the shield guardian had to travel on its hands and knees.

The sound of many gnolls could be heard ahead. Pain and Feral went forward to scout the way. The passage opened onto a small ledge overlooking a large cavern. The cavern was filled with yipping gnolls. The gnolls were observing a brutal battle between a gargantuan demon lord and another horned demon. The two titans fought in a shallow lake that occupied the center of the chamber. Water and blood sprayed and splashed.

They had come across a battle between Yeenoghu, demon lord of the gnolls, and a goristro, servant of Baphomet! Yeenoghu resembled a giant hunch-backed gnoll wielding a massive three-headed flail.

They watched in silence from their perch as Yeenoghu threw the giant goristro to the ground. The dozens of gnolls squealed with glee!

Yeenoghu straddled the demon, pinning it to the ground. The demon lord dropped its flail into the water. The demon thrashed wildly as Yeenoghu grabbed the demon's horns and twisted its head, breaking its neck!

Yeenoghu roared in triumph. The goristro fell limp into the shallow water.

Hyenas approached the dead goristro and began lapping the blood from its many wounds. As they did so, the hyenas were magically transformed into new gnolls! They were immediately met by the brethren and given weapons and primitive armor.

The demon lord was injured and bleeding, its blood boiling away as it hit the water. Yeenoghu retrieved its flail and barked orders to his gnoll army. He turned and led half of them out of the cavern and into a large passage. They continued their hunt for the demon lord Baphomet, the Horned God!

Pain stared on in horror and was only broken out of his fear-induced trance when Feral tapped him on the shoulder. The two made their way back and reported on what they had witnessed.

A few moments later, Ser Valerius, Willow, and Cordon crawled through the narrow passage amd rose to stand on the ledge to survey the chamber. The cavern was now occupied by a handful of hyenas, twelve or so gnolls, and a massive winged gnoll - no doubt their leader.

Cordon looked at Willow and Willow looked at Cordon. The two nodded in agreement, the answer was clear. Cordon prayed for a holy fireball which he directed towards the right flank of the room, blasting the winged leader and those around him. Willow simultaneously launched a magical fireball towards the left flank, where the majority of the gnolls and hyenas stood. She shielded the goristro form her attack, however, for fear of ruining its heart. Both fireballs completely wiped out all the hyenas and all the gnolls save one.

The sole surviving gnoll turned and fled down the passage after its demonic lord!

Pain made his way down the ledge and attacked the winged gnoll. The leader responded by flying towards the casters on the ledge. Ser Valerius interposed himself and defended the casters. Pain, meanwhile, activated his magic boots and sprinted up the sheer cavern wall towards the ledge where he caught up with and killed the gnoll leader. Pain missed his hold and almost fell back down but he was caught by Cordon and pulled to safety.

Afterwards, the party was able to make their way into the cavern. The pond's surface was now burning in small patches and the stench of burned gnoll was terrible. They were able to butcher the goristro and retrieve its heart, one of the components of Vizerian's ritual. In addition, they were able to retrieve some of Yeenoghu's blood from the goristro's horns, another component!


The tablet of Garmin, with a few glitches, eventually directed the expedition to a cleft in the side of the mine passage. Through the cleft they found a narrow winding passage that spiraled upward before opening into a natural cavern. The cavern was filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and other natural cave formations. Scattered among the formations were eight humanoid statues made of stone - the petrified remains of fallen angels curse to spend eternity in a prison of perpetual immobility.

The party, wary of such creatures as medusae or basilisks, approached with caution, keeping Cordon out of the room in case he needed to un-petrify anyone unlucky enough to catch the gaze of such a creature.

The room, however, was uninhabited.

Willow recognized the angels for what they were, "They're alive. They're just, trapped."

Ser Valerius asked Willow, "Will their feathers still count for the ritual?"

"I think so," she replied.

They needed six feathers from six different angels. Ser Valerius took it upon himself to break off a feather from each of the angels.

The first angel Valerius approached bore a face forever frozen in anger. The moment Valerius touched the statue to break off a feather, he was overcome by a severe migraine headache. He staggered and caught himself but recovered quickly, feather in hand. To his amazement, the stone feather had reverted to a normal natural feather.

Willow was concerned, "Do you need help?"

Valerius took a deep breath and regained his composure, "No. I will do this. I want to henceforth be known as Ser Valerius, Master of the Eight Angels."

The second angel reached out in offering. Upon breaking off a feather, Ser Valerius was overcome with the urge to slay the other members of his party. He stood, turned, and leveled his sun sword at Willow. He struck at the wizard but a shield spell caused him to miss. Willow screamed at Ser Valerius. The paladin was shaken out of his violent trance. He apologized and moved on to the next angel.

The third angel pointed to a spot on the wall. When Valerius broke off a feather, he was overcome with horrific screaming and madness, little more than a flash of the eternal torment endured by the fallen angel. Valerius staggered and began laughing uncontrollably. Spittle drooled down his chin. He began breathing heavy. He soon calmed himself and regained his composure. He closed his eyes and centered his being, seeking communion with nature.

The fourth angel stood resolute, feet spread and head cast downward. Upon touching the angel Valerius was overcome with one message, "Do not lose hope!" The message buoyed his spirits and improved his confidence.

The fifth angel hid its face in its hands. As Valerius broke off a stone feather, it spoke directly to its mind, "Kill me!"

Valerius, still weakened by the madness of the fourth angel, immediately sliced the angelic statue with Dawnbringer, shattering it into rubble. Valerius staggered back in horror at his lack of control.

Thus it was with caution that he approached the sixth angel. The angel was covering its eyes with its arm and smiling. Valerius broke off a feather and was beset  by a horrific feeling of loneliness and regret. The feeling soon went away and Valerius moved to the next angel.

The seventh angel knelt upon the floor with its face hidden. Valerius touched it and a message flashed into his mind, "What would you know and I will answer?" Valerius asked a question about the Maze Engine but the response was nothing more than another vision of madness. Valerius staggered backwards, grunting and howling. Cordon was rushed forward and was instructed to say a prayer of restoration that cured Valerius of his madness.

Valerius thanked the priest and proceeded to the eighth and final angel.

The eighth angel was frozen in the act of clawing its eyes out. Valerius touched a feather and was immediately in contact with the angel Zarod, floating in an astral nothingness. Zarod instructed Valerius to ask a single question regarding a specific goal to be accomplished in the next seven days. Valerius asked what danger awaited them at the Maze Engine. Zaron answered, "Slaughtertusk the Nalfeshnee. He awaits you."

The vision vanished and Valerius was back in the gallery. He had successfully acquired eight feathers from eight different angels, meaning they had two to spare.

Ser Valerius turned to the others, "We're done here. How far is it to the Maze Engine?"


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"The Spiral of the Horned King" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 39

Hilvius Haever was never a popular boy.

Hilvius was born into books. As the son of a scribe and a librarian he was always surrounded by tomes, scrolls, manuscripts, ink, parchment, and vellum. He was a voracious reader as a child and was put to work at a young age checking the quality of his father's transcriptions. He never spent much time around other children, preferring instead to read and write.

His favorite books were the sagas. He would spend hours each day reading about the exploits of mythic heroes and evil villains. In his free time he would create his own stories and sagas. His favorite hobby was illuminating the margins of his own manuscripts.

Young Hilvius wanted more than anything to one day become a powerful wizard. He hoped to one day write his own magical grimoires and master arcane energies. As he matured he read everything he could on magic and witchcraft. He followed with great interest the exploits and adventures of all the most powerful mages of the Realms.

When he came of age he enrolled at the Neverwinter Academy with the intent of becoming a mage. Unfortunately, Hilvius showed no aptitude for actual thaumaturgy and was never able to cast even the simplest of spells. He simply lacked the knack for it. He was expelled from the academy of wizardry after only two semesters.

His instructors, however, were impressed at his knowledge and mental recall and made arrangements at the other less well known departments of the academy to continue his education.

The next day Hilvius was approached by a woman named Ketta. Ketta was an instructor in the Academy of Secrets, a hidden school within the Academy that trains spies and assassins for the Lords' Alliance.

There Hilvius received an education in stealth, assassination, and observation. His impressive memory and recall served him well in his studies.

Hilvius was an unlikely recruit for the Academy of Secrets. He was skinny and awkward with poor vision. He as bookish and talked too much. His abrasive personality drove others away. His greasy hair, hawk-like nose, and buck teeth made him the butt of many jokes, and he was never popular with the ladies.

However, his keen memory was his strength. His ability to remember and transcribe, even illustrate, all that he had seen, in addition to his bookish and unassuming appearance, were invaluable assets in his profession.

Upon graduation, Hilvius was recruited by the Lord's Alliance to serve as a spy. He often infiltrated bookkeeping houses, thieves' guilds, and merchant companies by posing as a simple clerk or scribe.

His current mission was unlike any of the others. He has been assigned to an expedition into the depths of Faerun. Their mission is to find a way to save the world from the Demon Lords that roam free through the fathomless bowels of the Underdark.

Unfortunately, Hilvius' skills as a spy have been in short demand on this expedition. There has thus far been little need for military reconnaissance or intelligence gathering and few opportunities to practice his assassination skills. On top of that, he was apparently kidnapped and held prisoner as a mind-controlled slave by an evil beholder and its wizard henchman. It was there that the image of a large eye was tattooed on the center of his forehead. He has been defaced with an identifying mark that has ruined his chances of being assigned future missions.

At least he has the company of his one true friend, Feral Killmander. Feral is the only other spy from the Lord's Alliance that Hilvius feels comfortable speaking to, even though Feral doesn't really talk back. Or seem to listen to or even acknowledge Hilvius at all, really. There's also Zilna, obviously, but she's a girl and, well, that's just, well, you know, she's an, ah, that is to say, a girl. Ahem.


Five heroes scour the Underdark
in order to find the ingredients
of an arcane ritual
that will banish the Demon-Lords
back to the Abyss
from which they escaped.

Thus far the expedition has managed to acquire
the egg of a purple worm
and the central eye of a dread beholder.
Now they seek the Labyrinth
in search of the wing of an angel
and the fabled Maze Engine
which could destroy a Demon Lord...

Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC, human paladin 11, male) Defender and champion of the old gods of nature, commander of the forces from the Order of the Gauntlet.
Willow - (PC, human wizard 11, female) "the solution is always fireball!"
Ront - (PC, half-orc barbarian 11, male) Savage orc of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
Pain Grille' - (PC, halfling rogue 11, male) Wily street urchin from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better, commander of the Lord's Alliance forces.
Cordon - (PC, human cleric 11, male) Morninglord, Holy Radiant of Lathandor the Sun God, on a holy quest to activate the Maze Engine.

Thora Nabal - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Sylrien Havennor - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Elias Drako - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Tamryn Tharke - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet), gravelly voiced amazon with the hots for Feral.
Olaf Renghyi - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Feral Killmander - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance), raspy-voiced killer with a hare-lip
Zilna Oakshadow- (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance)
Hilvius Haever  - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance)
The Shield Guardian - (NPC, shield guardian) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
Phwee-toop - (NPC, owl) Willow's familiar.

Willow, Ser Valerius, and Ront stood staring at the metal tower. Each of them held their chin in their hands in deep contemplation. Ser Valerius was certain that the tower was an important magical artifact of some kind. Ront wanted to bash the door in. Ser Valerius didn't think it would be possible. Willow was certain that doing so would probably permanently damage the tower. Willow said that she could cast an identification spell on the tower and divulge its secrets. When Ser Valerius asked why this hadn't been done, she replied that such a spell required a pearl, and she had none. Ront chuckled that he had some "cave pearls" for her use. Willow wrinkled her nose in disgust.

Pain the halfling peeked out from behind Ront's kilt and asked if anyone had tried to pick the lock. Ser Valerius explained that the door had no lock.

After a moment of silent introspection, Willow shouted, "Pain! Where did you come from?"

Pain explained that he had been in Blingdenstone with the two human spies, Zila Oakshadow and Hilvius Haever, where they helped free his old companions Angolwen and Kettle from a mind flayer prison.  Angolwen and Kettle continued on their mission to locate the remaining descendants and heirs of King Schnicktick to restore the royal family of the Deep Gnomes. Pain and his henchlings followed the trail the party left and eventually caught up to them.

With no way to enter the tower, the party decided to abandon it and explore the depths of the large sinkhole behind it. Willow descended on her magical flying broom while Pain and Ront climbed down.

Ront and Pain reached the bottom of the sinkhole only to find that it opened into the ceiling of a larger chamber below. The chamber was massive and Willow had to lower each of them to the floor far below using her broom.

The chamber floor was crisscrossed with iron rails and covered with large piles of chat and tailings - the remnants of a long abandoned mine. The rails led up a gentle slope towards several exit tunnels and converged towards a central mine entrance. The entrance to the mine was decorated in cyclopean duergar carvings. Huge stone blocks were haphazardly stacked in the tunnel entrance, forming a winding obstacle course.

To either side of the mine entrance were two piles of severed heads. The heads were mostly gnolls with a few duergar, drow, and deep gnomes. The stacked blocks were covered in spirals and abyssal sigils crudely painted in dried blood. A foul smell emanated from within.

"Minotaurs," breathed Ront.


As they examined the piles of heads, Pain heard pathetic whining from behind the stone obstructions. He called out and placed food in front of the entrance in an attempt to draw out whatever was hiding within.

To their surprise there emerged a gnoll! The gnoll looked beaten and starved. The left side of its hyena-like face was a scarred mess. Its fur was matted and covered in blood. The creature looked pathetic and sad.

They made contact with the gnoll. His name was Gash.

Gash cowered and flinched at every movement. The gnoll had obviously been abused and had escaped its tormentors.

Ront offered to kill the wretch but Willow stayed the orc's sword. Gash thanked Willow and offered to lead the party through what it called the "Spiral of the Horned King" as a guide.

The party accepted his offer.

Willow flew back up to the top and, by casting multiple flight spells, arranged the transfer of the rest of the group from the campsite in front of the tower to the new campsite outside the entrance to the Labyrinth.

The Adamantine Tower would have to keep its secrets a little while longer.

The expedition once again unpacked and finally rested. During the rest, while Valerius and Ront were on watch, a trio of flumphs emerged from the darkness. Upon spotting them, the flumphs flew in a frenzied line at Valerius and Ront. The flumphs appeared agitated and resisted all efforts at communication. The two heroes were forced to defend themselves. The flumphs were suicidal and exploded, covering the heroes in a foul stench that persisted for hours. Ser Valerius concluded that the flumphs had gone mad from exposure to demonic influence.

After resting the expedition packed their lizards, donned their weapons and armor, and followed Gash through the entrance and into the Labyrinth.

Within they found that what was once Duergar mine shafts and tunnels had been crudely expanded and sometimes walled and blocked off. The minotaurs had turned the mine entrance into a maze of their own design.

Gash led them through twists and turns. He would sometimes double back and take an alternate route. They started to get the feeling he didn't know where he was going.

After a short while navigating thus they came across the sound of hideous laughing. It was a small group of gnoll scouts. Gash suddenly became very afraid and rushed, terrified, towards the rear of the formation. Gash had nothing to fear for the gnolls were quickly dispatched.

If anyone thought it was odd to find gnolls in a minotaur maze, no one mentioned it.

A little time later the formation entered a four-way intersection. The suppressed whispered giggles of gnolls hiding in ambush could he heard around the corners.

Ser Valerius rode his celestial lion mount into the center of the intersection and held his gleaming sword Dawnbringer aloft. The blade, composed of pure sunlight, radiated sunshine all around.

Ser Valerius shouted, "Ront, stand by my side so that the light may protect you!"

Ront charged forward.

"Ront! RONT! Wait.. ugh!" said Valerius exasperatedly as Ront ran off to the right and disappeared around the corner.

There were screams as Ront destroyed the three gnolls in a brutal massacre that painted the walls in a slurry of entrails and blood!

The left flank was soon destroyed by fiery spells and prayers from Cordon and Willow.

The expedition continued, led by the haphazard navigation of the maze by Gash. As they explored they came across a half-eaten body of a gnoll. A little later they found a group of humanoid bones scattered about.

As they journeyed on, Gash became increasingly hesitant and indecisive. He seemed as if he were trying to make a decision regarding his charges. Willow and Pain showed him empathy and friendship, offering him food and kindness. Gash stared at them longingly but seemed resigned to the task that lay ahead. He reluctantly told them that the exit lay through a portal in the direction that he pointed. Willow and Pain refused. Gash begged them to enter. When they continued to hesitate, Gash burst into tears and ran through the portal, sobbing.

They cautiously advanced after him and entered an ancient duergar chamber that had been converted into a smaller maze with makeshift walls made of stacked stones. Many of the walls had fallen over revealing breaches into other rooms and corridors. Several massive columns lay broken and scattered about. A large brass statue of Baphomet stood on a pedestal in the center of the room.

Pain, Ser Valerius, and Ront climbed over the rocks to enter the large breach in the rear corner of the room. Down a halway they encountered a massive green humanoid figure with the massive head of a horned bull! The minotaur wore battle axe blades strapped to his meaty fists like brass knuckles.

The minotaur charged Ront but the orc simply danced aside. The hulking brute was soon cut down by the deadly trio.

A second minotaur suddenly appeared through another breach in the wall and bellowed at the henchmen. The modron duodrone drew javelins from its body and threw them at the beast while the others took cover behind a column.

Willow threw a fireball at the creature while Cordon called down holy fire upon the creature. The minotaur howled in pain and disappeared into the corridor beyond the breach.

Valerius and Pain quickly crossed the room and gave chase only to see the minotaur escape through a hidden door. Ront suddenly found a third minotaur in a corner chamber. Valerius rushed to help Ront slay the beast as Pain took a hidden position in a chamber near the secret door.

A moment later the secret door burst open and a large fourth minotaur with a heavy mechanical arm charged down the hall at Cordon, missing Pain's ambush entirely.

Luckily for Pain the wounded second minotaur soon appeared and charged down the hallway towards Ront and Valerius who were busy dispatching the third minotaur in the corner. Pain struck like a viper from his hiding place and slaughtered the second minotaur as he ran past.

The fourth minotaur with the mechanical arm engaged Cordon in deadly combat! Ser Valerius and Pain soon had the minotaur flanked. Cordon called upon a flaming wall of holy sunshine. The minotaur burst into flames and died in agony.

After the battle, the heroes found Gash in the minotaur's den behind the secret door. The gnoll was whimpering and tears streamed down its hyena-like face. The wretch apologized for his duplicity but the team understood that the gnoll had been tortured and brainwashed. Gash offered to lead to the real exit to repay them for their kindness.

The way out of the area known as the Spiral of the Horned King was uneventful and the expedition continued into the abandoned duergar mines known as the Labyrinth.

They navigated the labyrinth using the magical tablet of Garmin. Unfortunately, the magical device begain revising directions and updating routes. It was as if magic item began encountering interference.

On the first tridon they came across a lone modron monodrone. The monodrone could not speak but it immediately recognized the duodrone. Duodrone explained that Monodrone had, like him, became separated from the Great March of the monodrones. Witht he monodrone's help the pair detected the presence of other modrons in labyrinth. Duodrone expressed a desire to reunite with its brethren. The pair of modrons began marching in synchronized step.

A few tridons later the expedition encountered the sound of people screaming in terror. They rushed around the corner only to discover a patch of Shrieker mushrooms. The shrieking had been triggered by the recent passing of a band of quaggoths. The quaggoths turned and saw the newcomers and immediately attacked. Willow cast a fireball spell into their midst and Ront and Valerius waded through them in a bloodbath of gore and white fur. One quaggoth used some kind of mental power - an ability hitherto unknown for a quaggoth - to heat Valerius' armor and cause serious burns. Valerius quickly dispatched the creature and the effect faded. Soon the quaggoths were defeated and the expedition continued on its way.

On the third tridon within the Labyrinth the expedition came across chamber containing a ramshackle village. The village appeared abandoned save for a robed figure offering a sacrifice at a makeshift altar under the watchful eye of two other robed observers. Gash became distressed and hid behind the expedition, whimpering.

The robed figure interrupted the ritual, removed his hood, and greeted the newcomers. He was a human, though gaunt and pale from unknown years spent in the Underdark. He introduced himself as Grisha, a former drow slave that escaped captivity and found his way to the Filthriddens. He showed friendly hospitality to the expedition and offered them the chance to rest. When he smiled he displayed rotten teeth that were filed to points.

As the expedition unpacked to rest, Grisha explained that the Filthriddens was a haven for exiles and escaped slaves. There was a source of drinkable water here and fungus could be harvested from nearby caves.

He explained that there were once over a dozen people that lived in the village. He said that all but a few were killed in a recent attack by minotaur raiders, followers of the Horned God. The minotaurs would have killed everyone were it not for the intervention of the Lord of the Pack.

Grisha said that the Lord of the Pack was hunting for the Horned God within the Labyrinth and that his followers were at war with the minotaurs.

Grisha was so impressed by the Lord of the Pack that he devoted his life to the worship of the powerful warrior-god. In exchange, the Lord of the Pack offered the gift of immortality to those slain by the minotaurs.

Grisha extended an invitation to the guests to join "the Pack" so that they too might enjoy the gift of immortality. The heroes politely refused. Grisha said he understood and allowed them to rest.

During the rest, Grisha offered once more the gift of immortality if they joined Grisha's Pack. Again they refused. Grisha made a final offer a few hours later and again he was refused.

Before end of rest, Grisha apprached the newcomers. He seemed angry and out of patience. He apologized and ordered them to leave at once. They were no longer welcome.

Ront stood up, clenched his fists, and said, "Make us!"