When we last left our Heroes, they returned to the dungeon to recover the Mage, Carter Wilroar. Carter attacks the Heroes and tells them to run for their lives. The Heroes, if they want to get to the Mage, must break through a wall of Essence. The Ranger tries to convince the Mage to take his own life but is unsuccessful. Jeric and Sigfried decide to further explore the dungeon in hopes to find another way around. The two are successful, however there is another wall of Essence blocking the back door to the room. The Ranger finally unsheathes the mystical magical sword he acquired (but doesn’t want to share with anyone), but it has no effect on the Essence wall. The two keep searching while Alex thinks of “useful” ideas to hurt the Mage. Santos and Darious begin burial rights on the scattered corpses whether they be bugbear or not. Santos also asks Carter if he would like to repent. The Mage replies, “The Gods have no love for those who challenged them.”
Meanwhile, Jeric and Sigfried discover a room with a small pool filled with Good Essence. Sigfried tries to put his mystic blade into the pool but he cannot unsheathe it for some reason. Jeric dips his dagger into the pool and pulls out….the same dagger! Sigfried pulls the drain on the pool of Essence and the two book it back to the door encased in an Essence wall. The Cleric and Wizard remain in the first room. Santos still tries to talk religion with the Mage to no avail while Alex leafs through his scrolls to try to find a useful tactic against the wall of Essence and Mage.
The Ranger and Jeric come upon a previously visited room and reexamine a mural of the God of Light pointing downward. The room itself is very cold but it seems to be radiating a sense of calm and kindness. Jeric and Sigfried pull a cracked flagstone off of the floor where the mural of Light was pointing revealing a burlap sack. The Ranger grabs what appears to be an ornately carved ivory staff. Simultaneously, the rest of the group decide whether they should go look for Sigfried and Jeric, leaving Darious behind to keep an eye on the Mage.
Santos, Alex, and Taran begin to search for the duo. They find the room with the drained Essence pool. Alex triggers the lever in the pool with his quarter staff and the pool fills again with Good Essence. Jeric and Sigfried enter and show the Cleric and Wizard the ivory staff. Neither are able to glean anything more from it. The Ranger drains the pool again while Santos and Jeric privately share their concerns about Sigfried’s new sword.
The Heroes continue to search, trying to find some way into the Mage’s room (or at least something useful). During an attempt to open a door, Jeric saves Alex from a poison needle trap. Alex decides that is no fun and hits the door anyway. Thankfully, the darts harmlessly shoot out and the hallway beyond leads to an iron door. The Heroes open the door revealing another Essence pool. Santos brazenly sticks his hand in the Essence to operate the lever that may or may not be in the pool…Then this happened:
A tendril shoots out of the Essence to attack Santos. The attack accidentally drains the pool. The creature within is a gibbering mouther. The Heroes begin the battle with Jeric swinging his chain and slashing at the beast. Alex utilizes a spell to bull rush the creature back into the pit. The mouther falls down the drain and the Heroes are free of the beast. Santos goes to help Taran who was deeply affected by the monster’s horrific gibbering sounds. When Santos tries to reassure him, Taran says he will kill Archbishop Ruger the first chance he gets. The Cleric and Ranger get into a heated pushing contest as well.
The Heroes come to another door which slams a scythe trap into Jeric. Alex is able to heal him back up though. Taran tries disarming the trap but gets hit by the blade. The Cleric heals him and smashes the mechanism to open the door, revealing another pool of Essence. Jeric stops the Cleric in case he thinks of trying to drain the pool again. The Ranger fires an arrow into the pool and it hits successfully, accomplishing nothing. Alex tries to drain the pool with his quarter staff but it will take more strength to move the lever. The pool drains when, suddenly, the Ranger hears the screams of Darious. He is left behind, and like a flash, the Heroes run to his assistance.
As they burst into the room, they see the Essence wall has dropped. Draining the last pool must have had some effect. Santos, Taran, and Sigfried decide to go to the back door to create a pincer strike. The Heroes at the back door burst in to find the Mage and two bugbear archers. There are four titan-esque statues in the room. Two of them contain pools of good Essence at their feet. Darious quickly moves into the room trying to get a good foot hold. Sigfried swings away but is unable to hit the closest bugbear. Taran runs in, and in true Taran fashion, drops his sword. Let’s all take a moment to reflect on what kind of warrior Taran is…ok? Sad huh? Moving on.
The Mage hits Sigfried and Santos with a blast of Essence, damaging Santos pretty badly. Alex summons a celestial hippogryph. Black tendrils reach up and try to surround the Ranger but he shakes it off. Santos recognizes the power as a divine spell. Jeric rushes into the room while the bugbears rip into Sigfried. A third bugbear surprises Darius and digs an ax into him. Santos fires back at the Mage with searing light from the Gods, putting the Mage in incredible pain. Sigfried and Taran get revenge on the bugbear but he still stands.
The Mage is able, by some unseen force, to be healed and recovers from his wounds. The Heroes continue to wail on their own opponents when Darious is delivered a fatal blow. Crying out for the Light, he hits the ground in a pool of blood. Taran and Sigfried dig into their bugbear while black Santos summons a black lion. The hippogryph latches onto the Mage, ripping him as best as it can. Alex creates multiple copies of himself and Jeric wails on the bugbear in front of him. The lion swings away without much damage but Santos is able to blind the bugbear next to Jeric. Taran and Sigfried still try to destroy their very stubborn bugbear and are finally able to end his life. The Mage is once again magically healed despite being mauled by a hippogryph. The celestial decides more damage is necessary and continues to rake the Mage. Unfortunately, while the Heroes are trying to heal themselves, the Mage heals himself… yet again. The blinded Bugbear swings wildly, the live bugbear hits Santos hard and the rest of the party begins to open up on the Mage as Santos brings Darious back from the brink of death.
The Mage, to no one’s surprise, is healed again. The Heroes continue to slowly chop away at the bugbears. But they are trained fighters and don’t go down without a fight. The Mage then stuns Taran causing the former samurai to drop his weapons. The Heroes don’t see much of a difference and believe Taran is not paralyzed at all. Once he loosens his bowels it is then the party realizes something is wrong. Alex hastes the group allowing Jeric to finish off the blind bugbear in front of him. Sigfried lands some called shots in the Mage’s open wound. However the Mage is healed… once again. One of the fantastically acted apes grabs the Mage to baby-shake him. Jeric saunters over and does what he does best with his shock and grasp, killing the Mage. Taran snaps out of his state only to run over to Santos and experience this:
A void of greasy darkness begins to invade the area infecting everyone except Sigfried and Jeric. Taran does such a great job of getting sick that he starts to vomit and then is vomited on by the apes. The apes then climb onto two of the statues and promptly shit on them. Jeric attempts to heal the Mage by pouring a potion down his throat. Suddenly, Jeric feels an excruciating pain on the back of his neck. Darious and Santos tie up a bugbear who surrendered while the Mage is also shocked by some unseen force. The Heroes try to get the bugbear and Mage out when darkness quickly envelopes the room. Santos immediately dispels it with his divine power and the Ranger asks the bugbear where his unseen master is.
Alex, realizing what is happening, takes out a vile of ink. The Wizard throws it at and area where he believes the Darkbringer might be. Instantly, the bugbear Cleric can be seen (albeit barely). Jeric dimension hops the Darkbringer in front of Sigfried and books it out of the room with the Mage in tow. Santos follows suit and casts detect magic, making the Darkbringer’s items glow. Now much easier to hit, Darious swings and connects with the invisible Cleric. Taran runs up and… yes, holy shit are you kidding me? It’s sad. I’m not even going to dignify this with writing it. Taran sits in the corner and cries – that would be a better use of his time.
So anyway. The Darkbringer swings at Alex who jaunts away. Darious gets hit and then swings back slashing into the Darkbringer hard. Sigfried finally lands a blow with his Sword of I’s and flays his foe, bringing him to his knees.
OK, everyone stops. So it’s Taran’s turn. And yes, just out of character a bit now, he rolls another 1. That is easily 8 times today, which has in some ways stopped being funny and just kind of sad (but it’s still pretty funny). Good god, I can’t go on. Wow…OK. Let’s get going again.
The Darkbringer responds by cracking Sigfried upside the head with his morning star. Alex casts grease beneath the Darkbringer while Santos heals the Ranger who surprisingly says, “Thank the Light.” Darious is inspired by the change in Sigfried. The Fighter lunges forward to plunge his bastard sword into the Darkbringer, finishing him off.
The Heroes rush out to find Jeric and the Mage. The Mage elaborates to Alex that he cared for his sister very much. She moved on to Purion where magic is outlawed. Alex asks for a pedant. The conversation is intimate, but not quite gay. Jeric and Sigfried also have a heart-to-heart about Sigfried’s mysterious behavior.
During one of the Heroes’ rest periods the bugbear they took prisoner was able to sneak out; although he didn’t take anything or hurt anyone.
The Heroes arrive at Valencia with huge fanfares welcoming them home. The City of Gold celebrates their heroes, the Golden Saviors. The Mage pleads with the them not to take him back to the city but the Heroes insist he must pay for the crimes of his people. Through the throng of the crowd, a woman approaches Jeric and suddenly stabs him. The redheaded woman runs away as Santos, Darious and Sigfried rush over to help. Santos tries his hardest to heal the Duskblade, unable to help. The guards say they need to take Jeric to the Shadowtheists. Santos, Taran and Darious stay with the Mage and escort him to the Council of Elders. Alex and Sigfried take Jeric to the Shadowtheists. Two Shadowtheist acolytes take the Mage away leaving Santos, Taran and Darious alone. At the Library, Edim Deepshadow expertly heals the Duskblade (taking all the energy from the Shadowtheist). They bring Jeric back to the West Spire and the group is once again together. Jeric, particularly, is unsure about the treatment of the Mage. He is concerned about Carter’s impending future. The Speaker of the Council addresses each of the Heroes, stating why they do what they do.
The Speaker begins to relate that the Council knows about the basement of the Barge Right Inn. He holds the death of the mind-controlled City Watch over the Heroes’ heads, blackmailing them in a sense. The Speaker then asks Taran about things the Heroes do not know, but Taran seems to understand. Santos makes a list of demands. Sigfried approaches The Speaker and draws Redemption to show it to him. The Speaker seizes up and states the weapon is the sword of Lord Cathist. The sword must strike down three liches to be purified. Jeric asks about his family. The Speaker tells him some of them are closer than he thinks, while others are very far away. He also mentions, “The Major General is at home.” The Wizard asks about his sister and The Speaker says she makes her way south to Magehelm.
Gerald Radcliffe is revealed to be one the liches needed to purify Redemption. He will lead Sigfried to the others. The Speaker tells Jeric the ivory staff is the artifact-locating Staff of Ancients. He also informs Santos the Divine Augmenter is s fake and Ralg the Necromancer stole the real one. The Speaker also mentions a bond between Jeric and Santos. A celestial entity surrounds Santos and it cares deeply for Jeric’s well being. The Speaker makes one final, mysterious comment: “Big things come in small packages, especially when the small thing’s life is on the line.” When the Heroes finally leave the chamber, Ralen Mayswire hands Taran a scroll and the Ronin smiles a vengeful grin.