Written from the perspective of Emma Reld
The mission is looking like it’s going to fail before it even starts. Rushing to the top of the tower, might not have been the best of ideas. At least I was ready to flee.
In my animal form I was clearly away when the others returned to inform me of the events that happened with the Demons, I was not impressed with the conclusion, but at least we had some time.
The Priest Halthus the Flayer stood in front of the demons looking like he wanted to wet himself babbling on in Abyssal, I really need to learn that language, while the demons stopped attacking, they looked no less intimidating, and slowly approached the cowering ex-torturer.
They dealt with the apparent ‘High Priest’, informing him that he needed to prove that he is the high priest by either eliminating the current high priest or gathering all 3 eyes of Vetri-Kali as beseeching their names on the tags around their necks was obviously not enough. We were to have till sundown each day to provide what they wanted or one of us would die.
With only hours left in the current day, we were not going to find anything else before the beasts hunted us down. The Ninth Knot did make an attempt though; Lillith and Zack proceeded down to the Boggards level to explore more there.
They discovered nothing of great use, some fake treasure, crystals, and the boggards themselves, but nothing that would lead us higher in the keep. Valencia and I attempted to move into the 3rd level. During the time, Val confided in me that she was on the path to becoming a Vampire. I had my suspicions, but she confirmed it, attempting to convince me that her new senses had alerted her to the space we needed. She was wrong. I wasted one of my spells on entering the second level.
With very little time left, I could have flown up with one of my wild shapes, but the risk was not worth it, as we needed to be prepared for the fight to come against the demons, as we would not sacrifice ourselves to these beasts.
We found a place to camp for the night in the lower levels. I cast an illusion that prevented anyone outside from finding our site and posted watches. Our hope was that the demons could not leave their posts, or the keep and the lower levels would be safe. We were wrong. One of the demons entered our cavern, but it was not able to see through my illusion, I did create another shelter of webs in the attempt to convince the demons that we had entered the cavern and left, it seemed to have worked, the demon passed by.
After resting, we were set with the spells needed to hopefully combat against these beasts. However, before we went to encounter them, there was 1 cavern that Lillith could not enter as the entrance was too small.
It was even too small for me, but not for my wild shapes. So I took on a tiny form and entered, prepared to flee just in-case. Within the carven were a corpse, a book, and the second eye of Vetri-Kali. The book was in Abyssal, again I need to learn that language. I took the book and the eye, outside Ulric confirmed that the book was the Dirges of Apollyon, and contained the ritual that would release Vetri-Kali.
However, before we had a chance to read more, the demons found us and attacked. We made a brief attempt to convince them we were on track and needed just some more time. They did not care.
So we attacked back.
Ulric and Timeon were the stars of this combat I am not proud to say, our spells seemed to do nothing to them. Even Valencia’s boasting about her powerful spells were useless. However, Val did pull off the only thing that really did matter in the battle, she had a scroll of Dispel Magic that released Ulric from the Hold monster spell that he fell victim to once again.
Freed though, he was a monster himself, slicing deeply into one of the demons. We focused fire on one of them, till Zack appeared to make an attempt to assassinate the other demon, he failed and was shortly after sliced to ribbons. I attempted to avenge him, inflicting wounds to the demon, but with their bargain completed they fled!
Halthus had also fled during the battle; the uselessness of this creature had angered the Knot, knowing full well that we needed Zack more than him. In our rage we killed him. I plunged the second eye into his heart to activate it and discovered that it could be used as a crystal ball and is able to scry on anyone in the horn. I immediately attempted to scry the High Priest and failed. I also scried the demons, they were not pleased with the wounds they took, but were sedated.
The knot was determined to kill the demons now; we rested and healed once more, preparing to take them out. During the rest, I got Ulric to teach me Abyssal and I read the Dirge with him. The ritual requires 3 sacrifices. The third was one of the people that were part of the attack that set up the seal; the second was a Mitian, the first… I could have killed someone once we read it… was a worshipper of Vetri-Kali… the Priest we just killed was needed!
Still, I had saved his head and Zacks, ready to be used on my Golem, I could reincarnate Halthus and still use him as the sacrifice, but we would need supplies and money, as the Dirge also indicated that the ritual was going to take 222 days to complete. I know the forests; this place would not be ‘safe’ for that long. Plus the forces of good would be notified somehow… this was not a safe place and we needed funds to repair it.
After the rest, we prepared to hunt the demons this time. Instead of preparing damaging spells, I prepared buffing spells and applied them to Timeon and Ulric and we rushed to where I scried the demons… we arrived and they were not there! I scried them again and found they had teleported away. We chased, again they teleported. We knew we would not catch them, and proceeded to explore. If we could find the high priest that was the fight we wanted to take part in.
We scaled the tower now with the demons no longer guarding the stairs to arrive at the top of the horn to find a huge lightning elemental waiting for us.
This was not the fight we wanted, and I knew that thing would kill Timeon or Ulric, as they are attracted to metal, and those two are walking tin cans.
Timeon took some damage as we fled.
With little time left, I took to the skies and found the entrance to the 3rd level. I quickly explored the entire area looking for the high priest, 3rd eye, or something that would stop the demons. There was nothing! I did find a teleport word, while there was no throne on this level, the room was the teleporter and I used that to get the others up to the 3rd level.
The chapel that was there was the most interesting place, and Lillith proved to have keener eyes than I did for once. She found a secret entrance the mechanism to open the door though was left to me to find, as it was the eyes of the motif of Vertri-Kali. For whatever reason, Ulric and Valencia were horrified of the illusion that was being projected from the display, while I was not concerned with images of the dead; they were after all only destined to be my minions.
Upon pushing the 3 eyes, the door opened to a storage room with nothing of value in it… but there was also a key on the motif that had me thinking that it must be the key to a door. Inscribed on the key were the words ‘Hail Vetri-Kali’. While the boys were investigating the store room, I intoned the hail. Nothing happened.
I attempted the words in different rooms, thinking that it was not this room it was meant for. Nothing.
Finally, once the boys had finished their search, I thought that I was meant to intone the hail at the same time as I opened the secret door.
That did the trick. A light shone as the door opened this time, to reveal a secret vault filled with treasure. However, before we could collect it, 5 wraiths attacked. 4 of them were obviously minions of the 5th that actually talked with us, declaring us invaders. Lillith and I deduced that this was the high priest and we attempted to talk him down, declaring that we were there to complete his job in summoning Vetri-Kali.
Better to talk with a creature that you cannot hurt, so that you can hurt it later when it does not expect it!
However, we were too slow to stop the wraiths from hitting Ulric and Timeom. Ulric returned the blow. After, they did stand down and we discussed the situation with the High Priest. He informed us that the demons tags were within the vault along with the 3rd eye. Val, in her stupidity and greed, went straight for the eye. I knew she would, and am glad the other 2 are attuned to me, but the eyes were not my concern, the magic items were.
We found a ring of mind protection that I will claim for myself, a small box, a rod of lesser Acid elemental damage, belt of giant strength, a lens of investigation and some potions that would heal us.
Lillith found the tags for the demons, after reading the names, Val formed to plan that we all shout the combinations of the names of the demons when we next encountered them. Once again, that woman thought of the most dangerous way and once again the others would not listen to me.
So I asked Lillith to create me a scroll of message, and used the scrying gem to see the demons, with the scroll I intoned the combinations of their names till I found the correct ones ‘Hexoraticus and Vexorandian’. After hearing their names, they returned to their guard posts. I approached them and commanded their service. They agreed to the original pact, which has them there to defend the upper part of the horn.
I attempted to criticise them for letting the elemental in and coerce them to deal with it. They refused, but I was not in the mood to countermand them. Demons after all, are not my thing, and Val took no interest in the demons. I ensured that they would allow the members of the Knot to pass and that they would do no harm to us. They were disappointed, so I threw them a bone and let them harass Ulric if they wished, but they were still not to harm him.
The horn was ours… finally…
The next order of business was to convince the Treant to join and assist us. I went out with the others to talk with him. The conversation seemed to go well, but the others detected something was amiss. Val started the attack with Lillith not far behind. Ulric finished the job. The tree fell before I could stop them. Enraged, I dismissed them all so that I could mourn the loss. But all was not lost, as the Treant was still intact and I could grant this mighty creation its proper place in the cycle of life, and raise it as a Zombie. I even infused it with a plague. My zombie Treant would follow my commands without thought now.
With treasure to use, but no way to carry it all, we needed to return to Farhold. We gathered what we could without looking like we were prime targets for bandits and returned to Farhold.
We sold what we could and brought a bag of holding for the rest of the treasure and that night went to the Barons abode to discuss our findings.
Val discovered that Elise had been staying with the Baron and seemed enraged. She got it into her head to kill Elise. While I was indifferent to the idea, the others did not want her to take action. Still she was entrenched in her idea to kill her.
I did not join them at the barony. As Val’s hunger for blood had convinced me that I would better serve if I was there in secret. Maybe Val’s vampirism was kicking in before her death; it is concerning how out of control she is getting. Knowing the guards would confiscate weapons, I convinced the party to give me their weapons and I would sneak in.
I was later to learn that during the dinner, Lillith informed the White Hamsters that the ritual would take a long time. Thankfully she did not indicate where the horn was. The Baron also attempted to appeal to our greed, and informed us of another site that we could get more treasure from. Val was convinced it was Elise that gave him that piece of information, and that she was attempting to kill us through indirect means.
The thought was madness, but I was going to have to use that thought in an argument to keep the Knot alive, as Val ‘threw another head out the window’ and attacked Elise while she was alone in the Barons home.
I just happened to be there at the time so I assisted, against my better judgement. Val attempted some spells, one was a necromantic spell… she has no skill with those, and it failed to stop Elise. She erected a wall of ice and fled before we could break through it.
I hope I had remained hidden from Elise, she was distracted after all, but I have a plan to now deal with her. Val will have to be the bait, I have no problem with that, but Elise will have to die. I am glad the others did not reveal the real location to the Horn to them.
Val convinced the Baron that Elise had attacked her. I am not sure about this Baron. If it was Val in Elise’s shoes, she would have made sure the Baron was under her thumb before she moved in. We might have to kill him too.
This leads me back to how we could talk our way out of this mess. The idea struck me in the following days while the others were shopping and Val was attempting to find Elise, if we can convince Throne that the 7th knot was attempting to delay us and subvert our authority, killing us through indirect means and attempting to get all the glory for themselves, then he should understand that we had no choice but to defend ourselves and, more importantly, the mission.
I am still not sure why Val is asking around at every inn for Elise, once again, she is attempting to do things the hard and dangerous way… she could just ask me to scry for Elise but I suppose with her arrogant self-centered high opinion of herself and the contempt she shows on her apparent lessors, she would not waste her time knowing how powerful I am becoming.
Still I will have to assist her as we need to kill the White Ravens, and all those that follow them!
side note; upon returning to Farhold, I made contact with Poker and convinced him to follow me. I asked him to secure the sacred texts and talk to the rest of the cult as Mannon’s time was short. I will set that peon up for a fall, as any information he has about the Horn is useless! I am still undecided what I am going to do with him, as I no longer need his brain.