Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”
Took a step in the right direction today. We left the wood-paneled spike room, went down the long corridor, and ended up in a huge, pillared room.
At the far end of the room, about a dozen gnolls – half of which seemed to be undead – clustered around a throne. On the throne sat a most remarkable gnoll…big but kinda lich-looking, with black fur, glowing red eyes, and a three-headed flail.
Ezekiel started muttering, “No, no, no!” but he does that a lot…and it wasn’t clear if he was talking about the gnoll-lich or the giant armored lizard-thing in the middle of the room.
I went for the leader. My arrow flew true until a few feet in front of the throne, where it hit some kind of barrier and dropped to the ground.
Heiron went for the terrible lizard…and when his arrow whistled harmlessly through it, it seemed to evaporate before our eyes. An illusion.
There was still plenty to fight, though. Agnar and Raven charged a slimy, blob-looking beasty hiding where the lizard had been. Mikael was trying to cast spells, but his non-arm didn’t seem to be cooperating.
I stayed close to Ezekiel and his Protection from Evil, and as we advanced more and more gnolls appeared from behind the pillars. When we got far enough into the room, Ez waved his holy symbol, and the undead gnolls near the throne cowered back. Strangely enough, the gnoll-lich – and the rest of his entourage – hadn’t engaged in the battle at all.
The rest of our party spread out into the room, while I dropped gnolls as they showed themselves behind the pillars. And still the huge black gnoll with glowing eyes just sat there with the rest of his honor guard. I figured the wall of force that kept my arrow from reaching him also kept them from reaching us (as much as I thought about it at all in the heat of the moment). Until Ezekiel pulled out a scroll and read something.
The huge gnoll-lich vanished…and the whole squad of his entourage vanished, undead and all. Instead, a little, inoffensive-looking man sat on the throne.
We didn’t get a good look at him before his outline and features blurred, and he darted for a door to the side of the room. Most of our party was finishing off the real gnolls behind us, and Ezekiel and I just about ran into a glass wall trying to reach the throne. I thought we’d lost another lead when a wall of fire sprang up blocking the door. The little man skidded to a halt and threw down his weapon (all he had was a dagger, really) and began sniveling.
Ezekiel and Raven started questioning him, and I caught sight of Lydia standing off to the side, her eyes looking smug.
Our side wasn’t completely without losses. I found Agnar bashing dead gnolls into putty with the crumbly hilt of a sword. Turns out it was his broadsword – only the reddish, blobby monster ate it or something, and turned it to rust with just a lick! We’ve warned Heiron and Usin to look out for anything like that, and Heiron said it’s a good thing Master Raven only hit it with his hands. Agnar was pretty grumpy about it…he told us some kind of story about how that was his father’s sword. I’m not totally sure how much of his stories to believe, but it sounds like his family is much crazier than mine. Anyway, I offered him the magic sword I’d been using, and scrounged up one from the gnolls that looks good enough I can use it. That way, he still has a magic weapon, and I can use the invisible sword if I need to (I’m glad he went for it, since I don’t like the idea of him running around invisible). He actually seemed touched…can evil people be emotionally touched?
[hasty sketch of rust-monster]
Got back with Ezekiel and Raven, and this is what we’ve learned from our captive. His name is Wimple Frump (talk about a rough start in life!) and he’s part of the Outer Council (says there’s a score or more of them; Bluecolts was only recently promoted). Sounds like Frump is quite down on the totem pole, and they had him guarding this out-of-the-way “escape hatch.” (Makes sense why most of the traps seemed pointed in one direction. Doesn’t explain how anyone expected to get up the salt slide, but I’m sure if we needed to we’d find a way.)
Nine people sit on the Inner Council…he gave us names and descriptions. Edralve is a dark elf lady, and sounds like as nasty a femme fatale as you could wish to meet. Sounds like over half of them are spell-casters, although the leader is a warrior type who prefers to fight with a scimitar. Raven said he sounds like a swashbuckler. Frump gave us a little info on some potential in-fighting among the leaders, but I don’t think we can rely on that. Apparently they all stay in their private city, Sudderheim, which means they can’t be off plotting against each other. They have to at least play-act getting along, because they’re all in close proximity…like a family. Like Reginald and Archy when Mother was watching them.
It’s also very true Frump is terrified of all of them. With that many magical people, it makes sense at least some of them are scryers, and at least some of those keep up-to-date with their underlings…although I think Ezekiel’s right, and keeping that many scryers busy watching the every movement of every minion just isn’t feasible. But as long as they’ve convinced their underlings they do that, it doesn’t matter. Frump says Marquessa came back to explain how she lost the stockade, and they publically executed her for negligence or failure. Doesn’t even matter if they executed the real Marquessa, or if Frump saw it in person. He saw the head, and he firmly believes the Inner Council would absolutely send him to his final judgement if he stepped out of line.
Which brings me to another point…he wasn’t at all this forthcoming for nothing. At first, we weren’t sure what to do with him, or what we could offer him – since he has been quite willingly working for the slavers, and Ezekiel gets strangely frothy at the mouth about that. I could have pointed out that he let that half-orc assassin go that literally assassinated him, and was working for the Temple of Elemental Evil on top of that, and was a half-orc on top of that…but Lydia pointed out we are kinda sorta under the authority of Furiundy (being knights and elders of the land and so on) and we could be within our rights to surrender him to the justices of Veluna or Mitrik for them to pass judgement.
Frump seemed to brighten up at that thought, and I definitely like the idea of letting an actual judge be the judge. Killing prisoners is bad mojo (though Agnar says he doesn’t see the problem), and I also don’t like the idea of letting actual Slave Lords get away with their deeds. The other hand of that, though, is that Frump gives the impression of being a pathetic pile of goo of a man, who would be led around by anyone and anything who happens to present itself. He’s certainly been led around by his greed, it seems…though his post wasn’t too glamorous. A quick ransack of his quarters didn’t turn up any interesting papers, or even anything particularly worth taking along.
We did find a compartment in the throne that held a key – turns out it’s the spare key to the door Frump was trying to escape through. He says the door leads to some stairs, which lead to the Secret Private Island of the Slave Lords, AKA Aery Island. On the island, there’s a fortress that we’ll have to get into – and they even use their own currency (he showed us a coin – it has three hands encircling a pair of manacled hands. Like, they’re not very subtle at all).
We took Frump’s belongings (his bracers were the most interesting thing; he also had gobs of wool on him for some reason), and prepared to return to base. Ezekiel and Raven were having a heated discussion about whether burning Sudderheim to the ground with everyone in it would be ethical. I have some concerns about Ezekiel.
Also had some discussion about the animals. Frankly, there’s a lot of them now…and some of them are large and unwieldy and not best suited to a town visit. (Lulu currently chewing on a dead gnoll leg.) We finally convinced Mikael (and he convinced them) that they should stay here and guard this area. There are plenty of bodies for them munch on, and they won’t get into trouble in town. Tried to get Agnar and Usin to babysit them, but that got nixed pretty quickly. They don’t have the best rapport with the animals, or with each other… Frankly, this party can’t keep growing unconditionally. More thought required.
Now to just keep Ezekiel from committing genocide, and we’ll be all good.
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