The Smoke Shack Sessions

Unwelcome return.
Hoot's noot's

Loth, stood before us in her true form the largest Drider I had ever seen. She radiated magic; the webs around her were alive with activity. Small spiders crawled all around her. Loth’s appearance was terrifying, her face and upper torso were of a beautiful Drow elf, with large bare breasts, her waist attached to a giant spider body. That was where her beauty ended. As she stood atop the central dais Her gaze fell on Kef. This was the moment I feared. For a long moment they had each other’s gaze.
It was obvious that they were communicating telepathically. Kef finally spoke aloud. “I graciously decline your offer for I serve no one.”
This enraged the Spider queen she finally spoke aloud “You use my gifts, but don’t want to pay the price. Foolish mortal I shall take them back!” with a wave of her hand Kef began to ooze from every pore and orifice he had a thick green ooze that smelled of death. Then The Queen of the Drow marched down the web back to her abyssal lair.
In seconds Kef was dead. As if that wasn’t enough of a shock. Heskans new found sword spoke again. “ I hate that Bitch.” We all heard it and jumped from the surprise. “Her gifts always carry a heavy price.”
Lanny went over to Kefs remains she was visibly shaken. “He is a mess.. I hope we can help.” Kefs body had been reduced to a large blob that was soaked into the web of the dais we stood on.
The sword spoke again. “I can help him Plunge me into his remains.” Heskan held his sword up his eyes were curious.
“Ok sword, I am your new master. I know you are called Mychydow. What is your purpose?”Heskans scales were bristling almost like when the hair stands on my neck.
“My Original Purpose was to serve Zitheran doing Orcus’s bidding. In your hands I would like to declare my new purpose… To kill Orcus.”
“I think I like this guy.” I put in “Give him a chance. He shares our fate now.”
Heskan cut the blob that was Kef, with Mychydow. In a flash Kef was standing there, he blinked at us. There was something wrong. I could sense Undeath around him. Then he went bizerk charging strait at Heskan. “We need him more alive than this! Mychydow?”
The sword replied “That is not in my power to bestow.”
Kef was in full battle rage striking at Heskan with deadly swings from his spear.
“If we don’t act fast were going to have two dead friends.” Maulin put in.
“Kill him again then we will take him from this cursed place to raise him.” I didn’t like the words coming out of my mouth neither did my friends, but there was little else we could do. So Maulin and Heskan managed to grapple him down enough for me to get a shot at his head with my hammer. The little bastard is just as tough in undead form it took four direct blows from my hammer to turn out the lights.
So there lay Kef dead again, this time his body looked more like himself. Excluding the crushed skull and wounds covering his body from Maulin and Heskan’s blows. We gathered up his body and made for the exit as quick as we could.
Lanny went to work on the spell to raise our beloved friend. The time it would take to bring him back crawled by. Then Lanny looked up at me with tears in her eyes. “I can’t reach him! He is too far gone.” The tears streamed down her face.
The sorrow that washed over me turned to anger. “You’re not getting out that easily you grumpy old dwarf! Lanny get me twice the components. We’re not done yet!” I fell over him and uttered a Prayer to Pelor. Then meticulously went about the ritual. Paying attention to every nuance. I felt the realm of the dead all around me. Then there he was his spirit lingering at some gate. I called to him and he came.
Kef sat up to cheers. We all hugged him ignoring his protests. “Would you all give me some air? What happened and why do I have a splitting headache?” We all exploded with laughter.
“its better you don’t know.” Maulin patted the dwarf on the back.
We were in the Temple of the false Priestess, and had lingered there long enough saving our friend. It was time to go face the Matron. It was an uneventful trek back to the doors of her lair. There we knocked and waited for a time.
“The Matron might be displeased that Kef didn’t accept her queen’s gift’s.” I warned Lanny agreed
“We need to be ready for anything.” She lowered her voice as the doors finally opened.
We were led back through the torture chamber to her main audience hall. She was there along with a whole host of Drow. Standing next to the stone dais where Matron Ulveran brooded was an enormous Devil. He looked at us with Hungry eyes. The meeting was short, she went on about how we had insulted her Goddess, and that there would be no trade. While she prattled on our group used our battle signs to let each other know that we were about to fight.
I don’t know who threw the first blow, but I know who threw the last. With the help of Kef and Heskan we killed the Devil then I smashed in the face of the Matron. I think her queen underestimated our power and our purpose. Too bad for her. The rest was just clean up there were a few more drow who had managed to take down Maulin. He lay unconscious for only a short time until I came and got him to his feet. Lanny searched the area for more threats but it appeared that in the heat of battle we had killed every one in the Matron’s lair Including the Ogre guards and all of the jailers. We spent a week checking the rest of the enclave there were a few more skirmishes. We even had to slay some young drow who would not flee. The smart ones fled. When we were done we had our fill of treasure 90000 in coin and gem and the Mask of the Matriarch.

The End is Neigh’est Part III
Hoot.(There Playing our song)

When the Bole was Up we didn’t feel rested at all a bit of fatigue had set in. We were in a short hallway that opened up into a large living area, (or in this case Dyeing area)with beautiful lanterns that light up the room attached to Eight large pillars running in two rows parallel to each other, splitting the room into thirds. The lights seemed to change color every few seconds. In the middle of the room was a large tomb with the visage of Orcus carved on the top piece. In front of the Tomb was a statue of some demonic dragon. It looked a little to real. Out of a shadow we are discovered, an Abyssal Ghoul poked his head from the darkness behind one of the pillars in the room near the tomb. “EEEEyack!!!” it screeched In seconds there were two bone claw impellers In the room. A electric sound came from the center of the room Exploding into existence was Zitheran. He was floating above his tomb, arms stretched wide. He was wearing the black Leather of the Drow. In his right hand was an incredible sword that radiated a deadly aura. The expression on his face was that of pure joy, or pure madness. His eyes were wide, his smile covered his whole face. “I see you may very well be worthy Opponents! A gift from my Lord Orcus, NOW I WILL BE EXARCH!” The room exploded with necrotic energy. We all felt weakened by the negative energy in the room.
“Orcus has fed you lies!” Maulin roared
Heskan followed “Now prepare to die!”
Maulin is the first to act springing into action with an acrobatic somersault he landed on top of the tomb ready to strike then Poof he was gone. “Pelors Mercy!” I pleaded, If anyone could get out of a trap it was Maulin. Kef charged one of the bone claw boys. Heskan was being accosted by the Abyssal ghoul. Lanny cast a spell to protect us from the damage we were doing from the Necrotic aura. I went full feral Wolf form. Howled then charged close enough to hit all of them with Pelors might. It was a success All of them were hit. Not bad but first blood was ours.
Zitheran called out to the air “Immolith get out here!” Appearing right next to me was an undead wizard. The Lich reached out and touched me. A chill went through my soul. “Your all going to die today!” Zitheran sang out as if he were preparing for a party. His fangs were long and terrifying with his white hair, and drow features, he was every bit a white devil.
“Did I miss the party?” Maulin came rushing back in from another room through a hallway. Kef had already destroyed one of the bone claws and was trying to hesken with the abyssal ghoul when the Dead Bone claw Exploded.( Forgot about bone claw boom.) We all took minor damage but held our ground. The melee went on for a few minutes both of us pressing a temporary advantage. Zitheran called to his sword for aid and the sword responded “Let Me taste blood.” It had the chance a few times fortunately the only tastes it got were sips. After the minions were destroyed we focused on Zitheran. Even when the dragon statue came to life we focused on Zitheran. I think it is what won the day. He had less and less to say as we whittled him down to vampire scraps. Finally Poof he was gone Floating back into his coffin in the tomb. The lich held out a little longer but in the end the all fell before us. Harlow got the final blow on it, when it went down the statue stopped attacking. We all hurried to the Tomb forcing the lid back. I got the honors of staking Zitheran. It was something I didn’t take lightly. On his chest was the sword that the keeper had told us about. Heskan took up the blade and began to examine it. When a giant eye and hand appeared floating in the chamber.
“GIVE ME THE SWORD!” it was Orcus’es voice. Heskan didn’t hesitate he plunged it in the giant eyeball.”AAAHGH!!!”
“You got something in your eye there Orcus.” Heskan roared “How are those ties to my god now!”
Then there was a flash and were back in the ashy desert of Deadhold . The keeper was standing before us. “Success Zitheran is gone. I will keep my word.” In the distance I could see two figures come out of the sea of zombies they fell to the ground their soul’s remained for a brief moment. I could see my brother and Percy as they were before they were taken from us. Then they were gone, but the feeling that they had found rest washed over Maulin and me. We were exhausted all of our strength was given in battle, so we asked the Keeper if we could rest where we were. He didn’t object, but when we awoke we were in the middle plane where we had fought The Priestess Lauriene. Standing on the middle webbed covered dias was the Demon web Queen herself, Loth!

The end is Neigh’er Part II
Hoots notes

I sat down beside Kef who was dividing some platinum we had found in the room with the arrow slots that belonged to Al’ahz and Lord Carivan. We were all looking at a large black gate. It was impossible to determine what this one was made of. It seemed to be made of shadows as the black seemed to move and swirl in hypnotic patterns. There were no handles on the door though it was lined in onyx black carvings of undead. At the top of the Gate was the Head and upper torso of Orcus with his arms stretched around the frame his hands beckoning those to enter his domain.
“It’s a powerful Portal to somewhere in the Abyss..” Lanny said from behind me. “I have a Bad feeling about this gate.” I replied.
We all took a brief rest before we planned to enter the Shadow Portal. As we stood in a single file line, parallel to the portal, we all took a collective breath.”Ready GO!” Lanny called out. Then we all entered it side by side, Stepping through the shadow at the same time to face the unknown.
Then I was alone…
It was Black, I mean Pitch Black…When I Lit up, still black. Was I falling? No I was floating. There’s something out there!!! Its not friendly I can feal its unholy aura. “Maulin!?!.. Kef?!.. Lanny?..Heskan….” Nothing But the Black, and It. It zoomed by me, or through Me, I could not tell. It was trying to take something from me ..My soul.. This time he makes his grab. “AWAY FIEND!” The creature of the Black tore at My soul. My Light could make out it’s shadowy hand reaching through my body. I Screamed out to it “I will not die here today Fiend! My destiny lies far beyond your grasp!” It was Gone… Then slowly the darkness started to fade to grey. I fealt a surface under my feet.. I was standing again, but not on any kind of ground. It gave a little like it might not hold my weight, but it did! It was a kind of a fleshy membranous vapor. Then I was with My friends. This seemed so much like a dream. “Is every one ok? I just had a pretty uncomfortable Ride down here.” “I still have my soul if that’s what you mean.” Heskan was the first to respond.
Then a figure came floating down towards us it wore Blood Red robes and carried a Bone wand, and a Large Tome. Its hands were skeletal but we could not see its face. We heard it call out to us in a haunting tone. “All that Lives dies all that dies… Wait You are not dead.. The aura of life surrounds you still.” His tone was curious with a hint of surprise. “How did you come to this place.” We all looked at each other for guidance. Lanny gave us the go along with her look. “Maybe I will send you back. Until you die then you come here.”
“My Lord we are dead. We are just constructs of the Deadhold sent to serve our lord.” The robed figure stared at us for a long moment.
“For you to be His you must have died some time.. Tell me of your deaths. Then I will know” The robed figure listened to us each recount a time when we had been struck down in battle the stories seemed to entertain him. He would ask probing questions; still we managed to outsmart the Page of the Damned.
“Ok I have spent too much time with you already! Sign your name here.” As he opened the book the pages came to life. It was The Book of the Dead. We all took turns signing our names with a large quill pen that wrote in blood.
After our names were written in the Book of the Dead the Page vanished, and the world around us turned to black again. This time for only a moment and I could sense the others were there with me. Them a bright red light exploded in front of us. Immediately forming in front of us was A mountain of bones Atop the mountain was a giant winged figure Demonic in his visage, with Legs goat like as thick as tree trunks. He carried a jeweled Rod that had a Gem the shape of a human skull. His body radieated necrotic energy. From all around him Undead skeletons of all races pushed themselves out of the ashy landscape.
I spoke his name though I was afraid. “Orcus!” The others didn’t hear. My words echoed in my own head. I struggled to keep my feet.
He looked straight at us pointing in our direction. The Undead audience all looked at us hundreds of them staring at us with their dead eyes. As he spoke we could all hear his voice echo in our minds. There were no other sounds.
I could tell that he was carrying on other conversations with my friends. What was he saying to them. “YOU SHOULD BE MORE CONCERNED WITH YOUR OWN FATE PRIEST!” Orcus said as if he had read my mind. “BEG FOR MERCY AND MAYBE I WILL BE LEANIENT! ABANDON YOUR QUEST IT IS HOPELESS YOU WILL BE MINE JUST LIKE YOUR MOTHER!”
At the mention of my mother I felt my courage return. My purpose came to me like a wave. “I look forward to seeing her. Tell her I love Her, and that I am coming for her soon as I can.”
“DON’T PATRONIZE ME SHIFTER! DOWN HERE YOU ARE NOTHING!” I felt a wave of his rage wash over me it pained my very soul. The fear gripped me again. The others were dealing with Orcus in their own private hells. “DOWN HERE YOU WILL CURSE PELOR. DOWN HERE YOU WILL BEG FOR DEATH FOR ALL ETERNITY. NOW I WILL HEAR YOUR PETITION FOR LIENIENCY.”
I said nothing, just made myself look at him.
All I could think of was my Beautiful Mother Anet Moonstar. I brought a wonderful memory of her to mind, filling my soul with the memory of her love. I screamed as loud as I could. “Mother I am coming don’t give up!”
“GET OUT OF MY PRESENCE!” Orcus demanded and with a wave of His arm I was back in the Black.
When the darkness faded we were in the Heart of the Deadhold the stone and lighting was the same as when we were brought here by Zitheran. All of us were weak exhausted from what we had just gone through. Lanny didn’t even ask she opened her ritual book and spent the third to last Solace Bole spell components we had. The Bole was dark and unstable in the heart of the Deadhold we could not rest. Maulin came to me while we tried to sleep. “Orcus tried to tempt me with power I’m certain he did the same to the others.” I looked at my friend
“What did he say?”
“That if I killed all of you after the battle with Zitheran he would make me the new exarch.” Maulin was staring at me as if to say he didn’t take the deal.
“ It’s a good thing we don’t have Ivan with us anymore.” I tried to joke Maulin was not in the mod for laughter.
“Lets get this done and be rid of this place we don’t belong here. I nodded and patted him on the shoulder.
“We will my friend.”

The End is Neigh. Part I

After our rest in the Twisted Bole, and more of Kefs “spider Climbing.”The Dwarf seemed to want to try and walk on every surface he could find. He was very pleased with his new found ability. We returned to the small shack behind the meat locker. The Hollow Tree faded replaced with the ashen wastes that smelled of death. I retched at my first breath. Then my body remembered the taste of death and I was fine.
“If I start spouting spider legs or shooting web out of my ass we could have problems.” Kef belched out as he tried out the surface of the Keep that protected Zitheran from the desolance that was the Dead Hold. He ran all the way to the top, disappearing over the edge. I backed up as much as I could to see him come back over the edge and run strait back down the wall. “Nothing on the roof.” He reported.
“Pretty fast for a dwarf.” Maulin teased “I would pay a thousand gold to see web shoot out your ass, as long as you don’t start growing fangs.” We all laughed. It was nice to laugh it sounded so strange in this forsaken place. Then we made our way around the back of the keep. The Blood Moat was writhing with the undead only thirty feet away as we walked along the back wall. An unnerving sight even for us. Then we reached the west wall . Kef had already peaked over the edge and gave the all clear. As we turned north walking parallel with the west wall the Moat was behind us. There was rubble here from some old buildings long since forgotten, dilapidated into hulks of broken stone. We searched them briefly then made our way to the front of the Keep, and too “The Heart of Dead Hold.”
We had turned full circle right back where we had killed the Poison cloud Demon with the whip. The Blood on the ground from our fight was the only evidence anything had ever happened there. The doors to the court yard in front of the Keep were massive twenty feet high five feet wide Iron gates. There was no way to peer through the gate it was reinforced with steal plates between the bars. Kef ran up the side of the wall peaked over the top into the courtyard. It was obvious he had seen something as he made his way back down the wall. “Mummy…” He spoke in a very measured tone. “ She’s not going to help you here.” Heskan tried his hand at the comedy. “NO… Mummy” Kef barked as if he didn’t know the dragon borne was joking. Heskan only nodded his head real fast as to say I know I know.
“This is probably the place from my vision. Remember if we charge in here we face certain ambush.” Everyone nodded it seemed logical. “In my vision there were two mummies so be ready. Maulin open the gates.” Maulin was still giggling from the quip Heskan had made about Kef’s Mother when he pulled out his skeleton key then fell face first into the Gate! It came open with the screech of metal on metal Old rusty metal. It made my hair stand on end. “Bet they know were here.” Lanny said quietly. I looked past the gate, and sure as the sun we were under attack. Running around an old stone building came one of the Mummies and the Undead Knight from my vision advancing for attack Behind them a giant statue of Orcus.
“Their coming I think the Knight is pissed that we didn’t knock.” No one laughed at my boast at humor. My feelings were almost hurt. Then they were on us.
“Who dares trespass on the ground Lord Carivan Protects? Ah, fools full of folly. Here you will meet your end. Then we shall feast on your entrails.” Heskan was first to face the Dread Knight. As their steal met Lord Carivan laughed loud and low booming out a challenge.”Your ties to your god are weak!” he was leaning into his attack so as to get right into Heskans face. Maulin and Kef had rolled up on the mummy preparing to send him to hell when his twin appeared escorting a Mage.” Come Al’ahz’ahmin we shall dine on top dwellers to break our fast How delightful!”
The Wizard had a wry smile on his face as he charged towards me He was looking at me. As he got near Kef and Maulin he took control of Maulin and forced him to attack Kef. I Never saw the hit coming one minuete im preparing a spell the next I’m trying to ward off attcks coming in on me from the Dread knight. He had broken off of Heskan and was advancing on me. What skill with a sword! I was no match for his swings. He landed a hard blow to my shoulder I went numb. The blood ran from a deep gash at the base of my neck. Then POW the mage mind blasted me before I could do anything but stand there. I was thinking, wasn’t I the one who knew what was going to happen? Didn’t I get the portent that allowed us to know the best option to take? Regardless I was out for a while. When I came too I was proud to see that everyone was still up, and the fight continued. The mummies were still up but one looked bad. Kef and Maulin had been fighting them. As I summoned a prayer to heal me and smite my foes I shifted to wolf form. Al’ahz Pointed and yelled at me “Kill the sun dog!” He had some hold over Heskan so I used my Power to remove his affliction His eyes blinked with knowing freedom “Thanks Hoot.”He roared in dragon breath on the wizard who had just discovered his control over the Dragon kin was lost. Good I looked up just in time to see maulin Drop the Knight Cut his head clean off his body. Then he vaulted over to Al’ahz’ahmin, taking a hard attack from the spell caster as he came at him. Kef was fighting the second mummy He looked Bad How could he do it. I swear I could see the dwarfs entrails hanging from his left side. Still he was pressing the attack the Mummy was coming unraveled the other was down its legs gone still it tried to make its way to Kef from behind. I ran up and Healed my friend then smashed the stuff out of the crawling mummy it took one more hit for it to lie still. After I healed Kef He smiled and said “Be right back.” Charging headlong into the Mummy Ignoring the beating the mummy was delivering from above Kef just kept ramming his spear through the monster until there wasn’t enough of him left to hold himself together. Kef was black and blue, and grinning from ear to ear. “Save some of that mage for me he yelled and went to join the others in their fight, but it was already over Lanny, Maulin and Heskan had dispatched the mage rather effectively. I went to the shield that was attached to the dread Knights arm it looked familiar to me when he was bashing it in my face. Hundreds of small skulls were engraved into this kite shield It was magnificent. I knew it from a dream It was magic I knew.
“I believe I will carry this for a while.” I smiled at every one. “It suits you. Skulls always have. Pelors Little Skull Crusher.” Kef teased. “Were getting pretty good at this.” He finished
“What does it do Hoot?” Lanny wanted a closer look. I just gave her the look that said you tell me>. She stepped closer to examine the glyphs and runes hidden in the mosaic of the shield. “When you are flanked the shield will reveal its purpose.” She said cryptically.
I took the liberty of destroying the giant statue of Orcus it is the only fun I have down here. I like to imagine it is the Demon Prince himself. Every time I smash a idol, statue, or replica of the Fiend! “It’s good therapy for a shifter with Death wish. Pelor Be Praised!”

Continuing the Nightmare
Hoot speaks:

We wound up standing in front of a horrible sight there many heads on pikes they were hideous. Some of them look at us with blank dead stares that seemed to peer into our souls. There were four statues of Orcus surrounding us. A ugly Witch was standing atop a alter in the center of the Heads. She spoke.
“Welcome to the Plaza of the Howling skulls. Where is your offering for the great Blood god Orcus?”
I threw the head of the demon we had just slain in front of her. “Here is our offering vile Bitch!”
My actions didn’t even faze her. “Impressive offering but Orcus requires a fresh sacrifice.” She held out her hands at the party since we were the only thing that was alive around.
“Well I guess you will have to do!” Maulin yelled out and charged in . I managed to get off a spell to help defend us against her. Then the heads started howling… Big surprise since the place was called Plaza of Howling skulls. Then a Night Walker and a sword wraith appear.
The fight was short but hard things down here seem hopeless. The farther we go the more it seems that our quest seems soo out of reach. The heads hurt us badly but after the battle we finished all of them and destroyed the statues of Orcus. Then we took a brief rest to prepare for the next encounter that most certainly must be right around the corner.
Around the corner was what could only be described as Zombie pens. Thousands of undead writhing around in their misery trapped in what looked like several large pig pens. In the middle of the pens was a shack with a large stone table at the opening. Atop of the table were all sorts of tools and knives as well as an assortment of alchemical items. On the walls of the shack were all sorts of body parts (This was where the sausage was made and it was sure not pretty.) From around the shack came a large minotaur looking demon with a giant axe. Then from inside the shack came a hag with a Vulture like face. She had knives in her hands and blood all over her. She seemed hard at work making Orcus’es army.
“My name is Gyldra my friend is Goristo, What can we interest you in?” she spoke in a bird like squeak.
I thought quick. “The answer to a riddle?” Was all I could come up with.
“An answer I might have but it might not be the one you seek.” She smiled I think.” It will cost you 4200 gold to hear my prophecy.
I wanted to know how to destroy the hole dead hold but I was beginning to see that might be too large a task for us to accomplish so I agreed to the prise and breathed in some smoke from some strange incense. When I did a strange vision came to me.
A courtyard two large mummies, a large statue of Orcus. Then the building behind them came into focus. There were arrow slots set in the walls. He vision took me through one of the slots. Standing there was an undead warrior battle worn and ready for anything he was peering through the arrow slot and looking over at a Oddly dressed human who was not dead or undead. This one seemed to have some sort of power within him.
Then the vision is gone. I looked up at my friends they looked startled wondering what I had just gone through. I told them of my vision.
This aroused Kef’s curiosity “Do you serve Orcus here in the dead hold?”
She replied “We serve ourselves. I have a good arrangement with the people who run the place.”
Lanny didn’t like her candor. “Look we are trying to decide if we need to kill you.” I looked at lanolin; she was being very strait with this one. I hope there isn’t anything left to learn from this hag if she takes lanny wrong.
“You have no quarrel with us you would be smart to consider leaving.” She was looking at me the whole time talking to lanny as if she were invisible. Then I felt her trying to get in my head.
“Bad move Bitch now you will end today!” I shouted at her and raised my hammer. She and her demon were quick they were ready for the choice we made. The demon minotaur was big and strong they made a good pair a strong fighting duo unfortunately for them we were a Fighting five that were strong enough. The fight had a lot of highlights. Kef got teleported into one of the pens of undead the demon almost stomped the life out of Kef and Heskan even when Kef knocked the fiend flat out and almost chopped off his head the monstrosity got back up and kept fighting. Maulin performed his killing skills to perfection as I fought with the hag he scrambled over and ended her corporeal existence. When the fight was over we had to take a long rest.

We all sat and rested after the fight with the vulture witch and her Minotaur demon. Kef had just explained that he might be turning into a spider. We all discussed the ramifications Orcus would be dealing with now that the witch would not be making new fiends for him on this realm. That pleased me the more we could do to weaken Orcus the better.

Maybe the best lesson we learned from fighting Strahd was that some creatures needed to be brought down a few notches before they could be dealt with. “Time to rest we need a place to cast our spell.” Lanny spoke up changing the line of conversation. “ I don’t like saying his name too much here its like he can hear us. Let’s go into the Bole where I don’t feel eyes everywhere.” A room behind the “Meat Locker.”, As Kef called it, yielded three more giant rubies lying in some maggot infested rotten meat pile we had half a mind to leave them there, but their worth was more than just coin, powerful spell components were gems too bad they turned to dust afterwards. We also found a Crown of Command and two more potions of vitality. After digging through rotten meat we were all ready to take a rest another Solace Bole was cast Lanny did the honors. It was the tisted Bole again warped from the Shadowfell. Still we managed to rest. Kef ran circles inside the Hollow wood Tree completely defying gravity as his feet seemed to cling to the surface he was on.”Yep I think im turning into a spider.” He didn’t seem alarmed at all. Strangely enough none of us were alarmed. He was our Brother. Judge not Lest we be Judged…
In The Deadhold’s Gauntlet

The Gate that we came to, after crossing over the river of undead, was in itself an undead construct. The arms and hands of hundreds of creatures had been mummified to create an oozing putrid smelling gate. Maulin and Kef went to investigate it when the trap was sprung bouth were caught in its grip, and were pulled through the gate to the other side. As they were getting pulled through I could see maulin trying to deactivate the hellish entrance. By the time we got up to where they were, he and Kef had dealt with the gate. A giant snake like Bone Naga and three death hags were there to welcome us to Deadhold. After the fight with the bodac on the bridge we were already tired. The fight was long and hard we spent all of our energy finishing the welcome party. Kef and I took out the Naga. Maulin and Heskan fought the Hags with Lanny helping both of us as needed. We found two large gems 5000gp in the rubble around the entrance along with two more potions of vitality. It was clear we needed rest but resting in the devils bosom was not to our liking. So Lanny cast a Solace Bole to take us to safety. It didn’t work as we planned, we were not in the Fey Wild we were in some dimensional pocket of the Shadowfell. Still inside the protection of a giant hollow tree that was warped in some way to resemble the Fey wilde. Our rest was unsettled all of us still fealt drained from the environment. When we stepped out it had only been an hour, at least that was still the case. We went to what looked like a guard tower it was only one story high but had battle heads around the top. We went to the entrance Maulin took care of the lock then opened the door. Inside was a long hall one side of the hall was a curtain of flesh, rank and disgusting. The fight here was even more intense inside we faced two Bodacs four gouls three sword wraiths. We fought well even though the Bodacs could use power to drain our life force dropping us where we stood. Heskan and I both were dropped but the party stood strong getting us back in the fight before the fiends could press their advantage. Kef and I were fighting well again, tag teaming the Bodac’s and the Wraiths. While Heskan and Lanny killed the Ghouls, Maulin bounced back and forth finishing the job. After the fight was done we searched the guard tower and found 4 breaching armor and shadow stepper boots. We were all still ready to go so we left the small tower heading south in the streets of Deadhold. A Night walker stumbled upon us, and tried to give us trouble. It was dispatched in a few moments and we pressed on. When we came to an opening in the wall we saw a strange creature perched atop one of four wooden racks. Each rack was ten foot tall, and there were four cages hanging from each rack in each cage were the remains of some long dead humanoids. The fiend atop the racks was large and orcish in nature with the tell tell signs of his demon hood, Horns, wings and a tail. He had a powerful looking spear and a long deadly whip. He almost cheered as we entered his area. “A cleric of Pelor this must be my lucky day. You will make a nice addition to my trophy collection.”
I looked up at the Fiend and barked back. “Your head will make a nice trophy in Raven Helm. Let’s see who gets their prize!” Then I shifted into my wolf form charged after him and let loose two burst attacks. They had little effect on him. He jumped down and created a cloud of poisonous gas. As the cloud formed three Death Whights dropped from the cages, that he had hanging, and joined the fight. The fight lasted too long. For the first time in a while I thought we might be outmatched. None of us were landing any big hits just glancing blows. The demon kept using his whip to pull us into the cloud where he woulds cut us up while were blinded in his poisonous trap. Each time we would flee from the smoke and try to fight the Whights. They were draining our strength making our attacks even weaker. As the fight wore on we finally managed to kill off the whights. Though we looked clumsy, and several times we were lucky they were uncoordinated in their attacks. The fiend went down last I had to charge in and try to hit him in the cloud to finish him off. I didn’t but I managed to back him right into Maulins broadsword that finished the job. As the Poisonous vapor disappeared we took his weapons both were powerful magic Items. Whip of winds +4 Death weapon spear
4. Then we all took our collective breath. We had avoided death again but this time it was dangerously close. In spite of the hard fought victory. We all felt our power increase along with our conviction to destroy this cursed place.

We Pressed On
Hutoadius bootoadius

The Keeper wanted to entice us with gifts. Tokens that would remove curse. I flatly refused to take it the party followed my example. I hope Pelor will watch over us in this den of Hell! He pointed out over the sands to the north or was it south it was hard to tell. “There, is where you must go.” In the distance we could see shapes so we set out. The keeper puzzles me surely he must know that if Zitheran finds out what deal he has tried to make with us he is as good as dead. Maybe that could work to our advantage. The sky above was cloudy but there was no relief from the choking heat. There was a dark stain in the desert. As we walked towards it we could see what appeared to be a small settlement there. It was still some distance away and there was the first of several sand storms that hit us in waves each worse than the other. The first wave the sand bit us, tearing into our exposed flesh. It was painful but we pressed on. With the second wave came the first swarm of flies. The wind smelled of death as they flew in and hit us. At first we choked on the amount of flies. Trying to keep them out of our mouth and nose seemed impossible, but we pressed on. Another sand storm hit us this one more painful than the fist. We took cover for a moment just in time to see a few ghouls pass by. They didn’t see us so we waited, once they were out of site we pressed on. The fourth wave brought with it larger flies. There were fewer, but these bit our flesh. We walked as fast as we could through the cloud of flies swollen bumps covered our bodies, and yet we pressed on. This cursed plane must surely be born of some hellish realm. After the fourth sand storm we had to stop and recover. As we got up to continue the filth sand storm hit us this one carried on it the howls and moans of spectral beings. It was haunting and unsettling, but kept us not from pressing on. We came over a sand dune to discover an enormous hoard of the undead. Ghouls, wight’s, zombies, and skeleton’s all migrating to the east. More than we could ever hope to fight so we waited for them to cross. I prayed hard to my god for insight when the time came to do my duty. We had been on this cursed plane for some nine hours. Another wave of sand brought with it the spectral moans of more dead this time there moans were so piercing and unsettling it seemed to drain our strength . With relentless defiance we pressed on. As I looked at the settlement that was now closer I could see the crimson color of blood and could see movement in the moat of undead. As we walked on we came to five large stone jutting out of the ground. We dug around them long enough to find writing. They were tomb stones marking our death for today. Some sick joke or warning. We Pressed on. After the tomb stones we were close the outlines of the buildings were more visible we could see that they were a yellowish color some of the buildings were still up’ other buildings were mostly rubble. There was a larger building across the Blood moat. As we got closer we could see the sea of undead writhing and twisting in the moat that surrounded the stronghold known as Dead hold. There were all sorts of undead of every size, and all in various stages of decomposition. There were some sorts of humanoids that we could not even venture a guess at their origin. The bridge that crossed the moat of death was wide and appeared to be made of perpetually rotting bones. There on the bridge were several zombies four normal sized, two very large ones and a bodac. All were playing catch with the head of a drow elf. We met them on the bridge and fought to cross the moat. It was a hard fight but we won the day. Kef managed to cheat death again he amazes me with the damage he is capable of taking still he keeps his feet. After the fight We Pressed On.

Hoot's NOOTS

The battle to finish the vampire Lauriene was a bloody hard fought fight. We barely escaped with our lives. But considering the events that unfolded after the fight things may well change forever.
We exhausted our selves slaying the Vampire, Bodacks who proved painful to kill, the abyssal ghouls, and the Demon Mage. I took the demons head as a trophy for my room at the inn. Maulin took some of the dust that remained of Lauriene. Lanny took her boots which she said belonged to an elderan anyway. She had a ring, a War ring, that I took a fancy to. Now I will make war with those she called allies using said ring! After we fought we need to rest. This time I didn’t even ask Lanny what she thought about Solace Bole I just started casting the ritual. She just smiled and said “Ok if you insist we will rest in the fey wild.”
My response was sincere “Anywhere but this cursed darkness. I need a break from this realm and its shadows.”
So we rested in the heart of a hollow wood in the Fey Wild. There was a glowing light that I could control. It was soft and relaxing I let the light fill the room. There was a sweet smell to the air it helped to relax us as we rested. I spent my time Praying thanking my lord for the path he had shown us so far. We remained there for twelve hours none of us really wanted to leave, but when we did it had only been an hour since we had left. So it was only two hours since we were fighting for our lives against what seemed to be our doom.
We entered the Abyss again this time there were no bodies or remains left of those we had fought. The tiny spiders that lived on the web must have fed on their remains. We crossed to the glowing black sphere hat was still radiating a blue aura. “It’s a gate, but I don’t know where. I don’t think it is a two way portal. We might get stuck.”
“You heard the Matron if we find the portal to fight Zithiran we needed to take it. Whats to say it will be here if we leave and come back? This is our one good chance. I just know this is the gateway to the Dead Hold. We have to try!” I was shouting over the noise that was now emanating from the portal as we all stood around it.
Lanolin nodded Kef, Maulin, Heskan, and little Gryspim all stood close as we walked through the portal to whatever fate had in store for us.
We were standing on a stone platform like the one we had been on before. Around us was desert and ash. It blew in the faint breeze that cooled the heat of the sun, but only slightly. The sun was a pale dot in the sky blotted out by the ash and sand. The air smelled of decay with every breath. In the distance we could hear the cry of untold voices. There moans drifted in the breeze as it spun around us. On the platform with us was another orb this one was not radiating magic it was the color of copper and looked solid. As we stood on the platform admiring the lack of a view a humanoid male appeared.
The stranger wore robes from head to toe. He was hunched over, and was carrying a staff that was split three ways at the end. Inside the split of the staff was a severed hand floating there. He also bore a large bell around a chain that hung around his neck.”WELCOME to the DEADHOLD Travelers. I. I AM The KEEPER of the DEADHOLD!”
“I thought Zitheran was the keeper of the Dead Hold.” I responded
“Then parlay not with me? One who is so wise.” He barked at me as if had insulted his mother.
Lanny tried to smooth things out.” Excuse my friend he struggles with the pleasantries of civilized discussion.” She smiled “Tell us of your fair realm, Keeper?”
“Yes more to my liking she is.” The keeper nodded we still could not see his face.”The DEADHOLD is a giant ball of desert floating in the blankness of the abyss. It’s my home. I am a manifestation of her as she is of me. Zitheran is our lord as you friend so guessed. Serve him we must.”
Heskan saw in his behavior that something was wrong. “Well what if you had a choice to serve Zitheran, or for that matter Orcus?”
The Keeper Laughed loud and long he laughed until he had to lean on his staff for support. The he chortled “Strike a deal, you want. Make things better yes? “
Maulin could see that he had a small charm of Orcus, hanging from his wrist, it had the face broken off. He recalled what Zitheran had told us of the dead hold. “Your all slaves of Orcus here. He makes his army here, but you would be free of him if it were possible wouldn’t you?”
“We can help you stamp out all that is Orcus!” I interrupted.”Just tell us the easiest way to Zitheran and we will deal with him once and for all!”
Again he regarded me with disdain. Sliding away from me as I stepped towards him. I got a very bad feeling about this ”Keeper”.
“What do you want!?” Kef shouted getting annoyed about the whole situation. “Are we going to set around and play games or is there some kind of arrangement we can come to!”
The keeper stood more erect this time “Of some substance I know you are. Come to an arrangement we can.” He held out his hands holding his staff in one. “If there is No Zitheran, then who shall take care of the dead? Me, I The keeper will do so. That is my bargain. Help you I will to get to him, but the Hold is Mine for all eternity!”
This guy was a loon. I didn’t trust him, nor did I care to bargain with him, but we needed information. “What are you Hiding from us keeper? What is it you are not saying?”
“CONTROLL That is what I require. Control of the DEADHOLD! Of all of its soul’s, and all of its power!”
“Then would you strike out at the Prime Like Orcus does? The only way I would bargain with the likes of you is if you were to relinquish claim of the Primemateral realm, and all of those who dwell there.” I was truly seeing that this fiend would be no better than the one that currently ran the place.
“You would give me the realm and all its souls if I did as you ask?”He was looking at me now. His face was that of death incarnate, but I did not waver.
“What souls do you try to lay claim to!?” I demanded
“The souls of those sacrificed to the Blood God come here! I think you might know one or two. He streached out his arm pointing to what I would call south. The mist seemed to pull away from an area. In that area space and distance seemed to draw into itself. Untill I could see a Small Keep floating in a sea, but as I looked the sea became zombies writhing around all over each other tearing each other apart. Through the zombies I could see that many of them looked sad as if they were made to suffer a wrongful death again and again. Then there he was… FROST my brother, among the souls kept in the confines of Deadhold! “See him you Do? Then you are He who might come.” He smiled death’s grin “Another named Percy waits behind the walls of DEADHOLD!”
“Tell us how to save them you fiend!” Maulin knew from my reaction what I had seen.
“Perhaps a soul for a soul? Gryspim might be worth the price of a Frost.” He was taunting me now. He knew I wouldn’t kill, or would I?
“Gryspim’s soul is not mine to barter with.” As I spoke the words I knew that I didn’t believe them. I was unbuckling my hammer. All the while I was talking to the fiend that could possibly hold sway over the destiny of my brother’s soul.
“Perhaps it his destiny.” The Keeper smiled. It seemed to make sense.
In a wild rage I broke out and tried to strike down poor Gryspim. I hit him hard, but he was prepared for any outcome so he rolled with the hit. PRAISE PELOR I didn’t kill him in my moment of madness. Maulin and Kef held me down until I could compose myself. He was hurt but wasn’t going anywhere. “I’m ok.. Gryspim I’m sorry I lost my mind to this devil, but now I’m ok.” They let me up.
“Think now you have incentive. Yes? The two souls can be freed if you take Zitheran’s sword Shodow Tounge, and pierce the Eye of Orcus. Then your Family you will free.” He again held out his arms. “All that is left is mine when you have Killed Zitheran, it will all be mine! Your destiny lies there.” He pointed south again, and the ash opened up the keep in the distance surrounded by the sea of dead. It looked like water from this distance. The image of what I saw still burned bright in my mind. That was no sea. “To DEADHOLD with you. Serve well your destiny!”
The Keeper was pure evil. We can’t give him the Deadhold. We must try and find a way to destroy this realm so that all of the souls can find their true resting place. The Keeper has admitted he is a manifestation of this realm which means if the realm goes so might he. That is what mother would wan’t . She would say “Do for the Many what must be done.”
Pelor, Show me a sign! Please don’t let your son fail in this hour of darkness. Grant me the clairvoyance to see what can be done to save all these lost souls. That they might find peace. LORD . If this sword will help us to kill the Lord of the Undead Put it in the hearts of my family of friends to finish the task we are set upon. If there is a way to destroy the Keeper so he might not threaten any other souls show me! So that I might destroy Dead Hold along with all its evil. As for my brother forgive me for my weakness. He was all I had left when mother was taken. I will be mindful of my frailties. Bless the road we must take that it might end in your holy presence. AMEN

Temple of Blood
Hoot nootes

We decided to go back to the Lab to rest we had already cast an arcane lock on the place so it seemed the most logical place to rest. Lanny and I debated weither or not to use the solace bole spell we had then decided to take a normal rest instead. Lanny took watch with each of us taking turns. She had her crystal ball out and was scrying for most of the time that we rested. When we were all rested she had something to say. Her voice was measured her look serious. Still I didn’t expect to hear what came out of her mouth.
“I had a vision, Desmund Ardent came and spoke with me. He warned that Beaureguard had made a mysterious new ally….The Man In Black!” Her face was expressionless. I fealt my Legs weaken from under me. For a moment I thought I would fall I took a large step forward to keep from falling on my face.
“What?! The Man In Black?” My thoughts went to my childhood the first time I saw him after Father died During the Moon Hill Massicre. Then when he came to Fallchrest, destroying the Temple, our home. Capitulating with Thorbald the High Priest of Pelor who wantedto be rid of my mother Anet beloved by Pelor. His jealocy cost him his life stricken down by his own alter. I managed to look back to lanny Every one was waiting for me to say something. “If it is the Dark one we can be certain that Orcus is courting his new Exarch.”
“Desmund called him the bearer of lies, plagues and disease. He poisones the minds of those he deals with. Bringing them to Orcus with his wicked silver forked tounge.” Lanny looked concerned we all understood the gravity of the situation. Maulin was not there to see the destruction of the Temple of His Holy Light Ministries or the Death of Thorbald and the word burned into the Alter that crushed him. ‘CAPITULATOR!’ Though we had spent many a night recalling the sights we had seen to him. The Man in Black was the worst news possible.
“It is impossible to know what he is up to. We need to wrap things up down here and get back to Barovia. Time is our enemy now my friends, we need as much time as possible to marshal troupes and train them. Ninter Vale will need our light!” it was silent for some time before Kef spoke up
“Then let’s get busy I’m a little tired of the only light around here being you Hoot.” I laughed we all could use a little sun. I could not help myself I prayed aloud.
“Holy Father, guide our steps that we might do your will. Hear our petition to you to watch over those we care about and those trying to make what they can from what they have been given. We in turn will remember that With great power comes great responsibility. Thank you for you blessings until were in your light Amen.” I heard a few more “Amen’s” than usual.
We made our way to the traitor’s enclave known now as the Blood temple. The Estate was on a twenty foot rise subtle carvings of female drow and spiders traced the walls of the building. There were stone steps that led to an iron door the steps had carvings on the sides of dwarfs being crushed beneath the steps.
Lanolin and I used our Wizard sight to enter the place and look around It was dark but we could see Large webbed curtains hung in different patterns from the ceiling. Then before we could venture further a female Drow dressed in a Webbed robe flowed up to us as if she were a ghost. Her eyes were dead she was part of Orcus’es army. Her face was a mask of death. “Get Out Now!” She screamed then we were back in our own minds outside of the doors again.
We decided to Have Gryspim go in first and give Lauriene a chance to renounce Orcus and go with us to have the Matron decide her fate. At first he was hesitant, so I promised that if he died I would raise him from the dead. “I sure hope your God likes me.” The Little guy has really started to prove his worth. Lanny even started calling him the Dark Rabbit.
Maulin opened the door effortlessly with his key. It opened to a dark grey room with large webbed curtains, hung in patterns from the thirty foot ceiling. Shadows washed the room. Maulin snuck in right after Gryspim trying to use the shadows to his advantage. I let him get far enough in to avoid my Holy light Cast a spell to help defend the party from physical attacks then I charged in right behind Kef who went Maulins direction. I went right behind the Dark Gnome Gryspim. I saw the Vampires from thirty feet away they looked a lot like Strahds Lesser Vamps, but they were Drow. They came in from the walls and from behind curtains. Gryspim walked to some open doors then turned to me and beckoned for me to follow him in to the room. I knew better.. Hopefully he would be ok until we dealt with the Lesser Vampires. There was a smell of blood in the air. We dealt with the six of them rather handily. Maulin seemed off his game. I could tell he was frustrated after the first encounter. He charged into the open doors where Gryspim had gone, followed by Heskan. We heard a loud screech that sounded quite different than what we heard from the Vrock. Heskan exploded back out of the from hit hard he was obviously stunned, and was having trouble moving. Then a Wraith flew out the door hitting Lanny and Heskan as it flew by. Lanny stopped it in its tracks with a force cage. Then I charged in following Kef again who went south to cover my entry. I charged into the center of the room ready to use the Power of Pelor there were two ghosts, several lesser Vampire’s, and Lauriene herself. She was standing next to a portal that was giving off a bright Crimson cone shaped light. Maulin lay immobilized by an injury next to the portal. In front of her was a large pool of blood with the shadowy image of her face in the blood. There were eight or ten corpses brutally mutilated lying around the pool. Standing guard were six large statues of Orcus positioned along the walls of the room. They stood silently staring at the battle ensuing before them. The portal was pulsing with the dark red light as she moved about, and cast her spells. The Vamp spawn had come from a hidden room where a secret door lay burst open. It was a real struggle I managed to fire off Pelors Might then teleported with my boots to face the Traitorous Drow, but missed with my dally power to summon aid from an ally. I did heal Maulin who was still in the corner recovering from being blown into the wall. He was still having trouble moving. Kef was facing the Drow and was giving her real problems. Every time he attacked he managed to knock her off her feet so she couldn’t teleport all over the room as she had initially. She still managed to put up a good fight. Along with the last ghost and the Wraith. I had dealy the other ghost enough damage so that maulin managed to hit it from where he was stuck next to the portal. Then Lanny shot it into the portal. As it disappeared its hold over the party was gone, helping those paralyzed with fear to finish the other. The fight went on for a long time. We were wearing down; fatigue was starting to take its hold. Finally when we thought we had the Drow surrounded, she looked as if she was almost down, she turned into mist and floated into the portal. I shouted “we have to go after her.”
Lanny had been studying the portal “It is a two way gate. I don’t know where it goes, but it’s not on this plane. Let’s finish the other two and go after her!”
I nodded “We need to mop this up fast!” So we did our best to finish them Heskan had been working on the wraith for most of the fight so when we joined in it fell quickly. The ghost was destroyed in two strikes. We were all winded so we took a break to catch our breath and recuperate enough to be able to use our encounter powers. Gryspim had been under the control of Laurene at first but managed to recover and even help fight the last ghost. He wasn’t very happy about what we were about to do.”So now were going to jump through a portal that we don’t know where it opens to. You guys are suicidal! I LOVE IT!” Then we all jumped through the portal. It exited into the dark grey wisps of clouds that were the Abyss. We were standing on some magic platform floating in the blackness of the Abyss. Stretching out from the platform was a web bridge. It went to another platform. There Lauriene and the ghost Lanny had thrown into the portal stood. Standing guard next to them were two alien looking abyssal monsters I think are called Bodacs. There were four web bridges coming from the platform they stood on. Each went to another platform, on the far one a black orb of negative light burned with electricity. Standing next to it was some strange devil or demon of the Abyss it was too far away to see good. On the other platforms were abyssal ghouls. The stage was set for a real showdown. Would we try and Kill the traitor and flee, or would we see what this strange orb had in store for us. Tune in next time Same Bat Time same Bat Channel…

Bizzare Meeting
The female Drow Zalin tried to sneak off as we t00k a short rest. Maulin caught her and brought her back to us. We got her to talk, though it is clear she wanted to get as far away from us as possible. Maulin managed to get her to give us some answers. Matron Ulverrain is who we need to talk to. She was surprised to find out that the mage Jhaelant was part of the Drow who had turned on the Matron. The best possibilities of Drow survivors would be the barracks across the enclave Captin Zacknera would have been able to fend off many attacks with his men. We all decided it would be best to let Zalin go about her way if she felt safer on her own then she might even be able to tell the drow ahead that WE WERE HERE TO HELP..

We set out for the Barracks it was mainly square in design with stone walls and iron doors. Maulin knocked on the door this time, and was let in!! We walked into the room that was used as a training ground it had a sand pit with several weapons laying around. The walls had impressive art work in base relief of drow working killing and many other day to day happenings of their kind. The captain came to us he had several male and female drow with him. He was stern and abrupt not wanting to mince words. The party was having trouble convincing him that we were here honorably and intended to help. He had his eye on me the whole time. Finally Gryspim spoke up and mentioned that he was hired to take us to the Ornater. This didn’t impress him “I don’t think he will be able to help us with our plight. He is soft prone to talk when action is what is needed.”
Finaly I spoke up. I made it clear we were here to fight the servants of Orcus. I didn’t mince words “Then take us to the Matron so we might deal with the servants of Orcus. Then we can sit down and play politics.” The Captin smiled I think the idea of having a cleric of Pelor both frightened and intrigued him.
“Yes that would be the best course of action.” The smile disappeared “Though my life might be forfeit I have failed my Queen and deserve death for allowing the demons and undead to defile our holy ground.”
I stared at him for a minute even in wolf form I was sure he knew what he was talking to. “Better to face her with a possible solution to the plight that has befallen your people.”
He saw the wisdom in this and decided to take us to Matron Ulverain. “The path we will have to take will be deadly I will prepare an escort.”
As we traveled through the commonwealth of the enclave, making our way to the Matrons temple I marveled at the buildings. There architecture was mysterious and dark all artwork seemed to exemplify there queen Loth. Phaerverville was littered with fresh corpses, some fresher than others. It was clear that the battle was still raging here. About the time we got the center of the enclave we heard the familiar ear splitting screech of the Vrock. I looked around there were twelve of us including Gryspim whom I have started counting when it comes time to count arms. The Captain and his solders steeled their resolve, They would get us to the Matren. We broke out into the center of town there standing about thirty feet wide and twenty feet tall was a statue of the Demon Queen Loth. Several Ghouls who appeared to be trying to defile the statue many different ways looked up to see us. A Vrock was looking right at us as we stepped out to face them. He screamed Again this time there were others to come. Twelve ghouls including an Eyebiter were following the commands of two Vrock Demons. Kef and Heskan sprang into action in an instant Kef was facing one of the Vrocks and Heskan the other. Maulin went for the Eyebiter. Lanny stood near the Captain and his Drow who were surprised at the Prow ace and courage of our fighters. Then bursting from out of thin air was a mass of smoke and energy. It floated behind the Vrock that Heskan was fighting taking time to form completely. It struck the Vrock in the back with a bolt of energy. He looked annoyed and a little hurt, but kept with his attack on Heskan. I didn’t like the look of that Elemental vortex so I warned every one to watch it. “The element appears to be mindless watch it Heskan.” Captin Zacknera stepped up beside Heskan and struck the Demon hard. The Vrock let out one of his hell screeches it Froze Lanolin and I in place we couldn’t move. I could only watch as the ghouls were making their way to us Maulin was doing his best against the Eyebiter, but the other ghouls were making their way around him trying to get to us. I was so angry all I wanted to do was help but I was frozen with some form of magical terror. Then just as they had surrounded maulin they began making their way towards me. Heskan landed the killing blow on the one who had us frozen. I was free to react, and React I did! I charged right up into the middle of the ghouls and let out my own howl. I saw the Vrock kef was fighting look at me surprised I guess he thought he was the only loud one. Then I hit the ghouls including the eye biter with all of Pelors fury. Seven of them dropped where they stood. The eye biter managed to stay up long enough for Maulin to split his skull in half. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the Captain get swallowed up by the mass of energy. ”WOAH!” Heskan leaped back. Lanny and Kef were trying to finish the other Vrock and the three remaining ghouls. Heskan and Maulin went over to help while the other members of the drow contingent went to the elemental vortex waiting to see if there captain would survive. In seconds he was spat out of the mass of smoke Zacknera was seriously injured so I healed him. This surprised him that I would show him such kindness. I doubt he would have afforded me the same. As I finished my prayer the battle was finished. The captain and his drow were ready to get off the streets.” Stay away from that thing.” He said as he pointed to the smoky mass of energy. “Don’t worry we get the picture.” Lanny spoke up “It’s a gate isn’t it?” The captain nodded ”Not one you want to leave open.” We all smiled at his humor then made for the Temple doors.
As we walked up to the Large ornate doors to the temple Captin Zacknera turned to all of us I wasn’t in wolf form anymore so he made eye contact with me. “Be on your best behavior. Remember where you are.”
“How could we forget?” Maulin quipped the Captain only stared at him.
“I’m serious nothing you have done means anything in here! Let me or the Ordinator address the Matron. Only speak if she addresses you.” We all nodded the gravity of the situation we were in was palpable.
We were greeted by Ordinator Addis the one whom we were sent to contact. We decided to stay focused on the task at hand. Addis was in service to the Matron the time to talk to him about trade would come but for now we needed to kill the servants of Orcus.
The captain and the Ordinator escorted us through the charnel house of horrors that was the temple. We went through the torture chamber. It was horrific I tried not to look but my eyes kept drifting to the devices of pain and death all around. Lanny looked at me and whispered “Are we sure were on the right side?” I tried to calm her.”It’s what must be done to strengthen our position against Beaureguard if he is the new Exarch.” As we crossed the chamber we came to a door where two Ogres in heavy armor stood guard. Captin Zacknera spoke “They have business with the Matron.” The ogres stood to one side and allowed us to pass through the ornate door into the throne room of the matron. The first thing I noticed was the giant mosaic on the ceiling of a female drow face leering at us from above. There were webs everywhere hanging from the webs were forms in cocoons about human size for the most part. Lanny gave me a questioning glance. I urged her to stay calm. A giant statue stood in the center of the room covered in some putrid ooze that made it hard to breathe. There were two columns of blue fire set before a giant Bone throne behind the throne was a spiral stair case surrounded by black pillars. A Male drow stood to the left of the throne he was wearing a bizarre mask that had a wicked grin on it. Then the Matron rose from her throne. She was beautiful for a drow. At first I thought she might be a medusa for her hair flowed with an almost serpent type quality. She had no real emotion that I could recognize. The Grinning masked drow spoke. “All Hail Matron Urlveain beloved of our Demon Queen.” She cut him off. “Who are these you bring before me captain?” spoken in a warning tone. The captain bowed on one knee.” One of them bears the mark of Fang lord and they carry a spider token. They say they are here to help with our current plight. I myself have fought with them. They have shown me an impressive killing prowace. They also have news that I thought you would want to hear.” She looked at Kef who had held up his hand when he was mentioned. “Then speak top worlder and don’t waste my time I am very busy.” Kef told her about everything we had encountered since we had arrived here including the traitorous Jhaelant. She listened intently cutting kef off when she wasn’t interested and encouraging him when she was. Her tone was still hard I could not get a good read on her intentions but if they were to kill us I think she would have tried already. We had a common enemy ORCUS this was why she listened to us. “Profit is a motive I can understand though I don’t believe all of you are motivated by it.” She looked right at me when she said the last words. I wasn’t in my wolf form anymore the battle had made me weary I hadn’t the strength to shift. Considering the company I was in I knew I stood out like a beacon of golden light, and I would not have it any other way. I was tired of hiding who I was It was time to face the darkness in my true glorious form, Shifter. . “A Moonstalking Shifter in service to the sun god how intriguing, or misguided.” She walked out to me circling me and looking at me as if she could see right through me. “You have a grudge to bear on the Lord of the Undead don’t you?” I nodded” Yes you grace I intend to kill him.” She laughed out loud it was the first emotion she had shown.”Yes,yes…you do don’t you. You have ignited my curiosity. If we are to trade you will have to prove your selves. There is another traitor in the enclave. She has chosen to forsake her true god to serve Orcus and his lies of eternal life. Lauriene was once a Priestess of Loth now she serves the Undead lord. She must die along with any other servant of Orcus you find. Keep an eye out for Zitheran’s portal if you find him, kill him too.” “It will be our pleasure your grace.” Lanny finally spoke. The Matron seemed to ignore her continuing “You may rest before you venture out again. The Ordinator will show you where Lauriene’s domicile is. As for you Captain I have not yet decided if you shall live for your failures. Stay here while I contemplate. Now go I have given you too much time already.” As we left we could the terrified screams of the captain… I guess she decided…


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