The Evengate

Session 1
Up the Mountain, Then Back Down Very Quickly

The Goblin Idol

After a few watery drinks at The Tipsy Goblin, the mad little kobold, Gakpra persuaded a few daring souls to accompany him up the mountain at night.

It was supposed to be an easy run. Just a few sleepy guards, he said. A quick grab, then back down and fast to bed with a heavy purse under the pillow. What could be easier?

The target was a ruby idol secluded along a sheer cliff face on the southern side of the mountain. Only a few guards stood watch, and even they looked mostly ceremonial. The little goblins dozed at their posts, leaning on their spears while the clever rogue, Augh silently scaled the wall above them. The dwarf,Tor, was not so careful. He sent a clatter of pebbles rolling, alerting a nearby guard. Springing to action, Insomnium sent a bolt of psychic nightmare hurtling into the goblin’s brain, sending him screaming over the ledge, to perish on the rocks below.

The fight was short and brutal. One of the goblins in particular gave the companions a problem, sweeping the legs out from underneath the dwarf, pinning him to the ground with a barbed spear.

With the idol in hand, the mountain came alive with alarm. A horde of thousands poured out to swarm over the thieves. A frantic chase, a rockslide, and a great deal of shouting later, the players out ran the angry goblins only to stumble across a gang of thieves from town.

They heard about the heist and wanted to collect the fee themselves. However a few pointed insults, clever lies, and sincere threats sent the gangers skulking back to their gutters without spilling a drop of blood.

Gakpra happily paid the players and scampered off with the idol. Some stray magics lingered however. The idol seemed to carry some sort of mystic disturbance, an aura of darkness. Words of living shadow splayed across windows, drooling vague warnings, hinting at fearsome influences, encroaching horror.

Some kind of warped jelly-spawn attacked the party. A yellowish glob of hate carrying the floating bones of a dozen dead goblins, the creature mauled the party, nearly beating the dwarf into the ground before the rogue could maneuver into position. A well timed chorus of magic and steel sent the horror back where it belonged.

The party staggered off to enjoy a night of troubled sleep. Three names plagued their minds. And who is this mysterious friend sending messages? And what are these foreign thoughts pushed into their minds? Can destiny be averted, or is it written onto the fabric of fate itself?

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Session 2
40 Different Words for Snow

Nice and Easy

A stern dwarf woman hired the PCs to travel north to guide the last few wagons of the year out of the Fallowtop Logging Camp. Rumors, gossip, and local superstition painted the journey as outright suicide. A few of her employees had already killed themselves rather than face the terrors waiting beyond the mountains.

Hours out of the pass, the tundra itself took on a strange, warped visage. There was a stink of vertigo as the land almost shifted under foot. Only with careful guidance and discipline could the party track forward.

Pools of shadow shifted along snow drifts, circling, stalking. The players noticed an ambush and rushed to defend the wagon. Wolves made of inky, black shadow blindly attacked the guards. After a long, harrowing fight, the last of the wolves lay slain, dissolving in the light of the noon-day sun. Too much time had been lost. The wagon creaked and complained, but they could tarry no further.

Through blinding blizzards, mysterious forests, and rolling dunes of powdered snow, the travelers fought the elements. The wagon tipped into a hole, nearly collapsing. While the party dug it out, Zuke Stormhollow discovered a sheltered campsite with five gruesome bodies, victims of cannibalism. Strangely enough, the bodies were not robbed of possessions. Zuke found a puch of coins and a magic belt.

With the wagon repaired and back on their way, the players came upon the logging camp, but the valley was filling with strange ghostly soldiers. A vast legion, perhaps twenty thousand strong filled the vale surrounding the camp. As far as the eye could see, ghostly soldiers waited patiently in formation. In a great cry of panic, the players raced to the safety of the pallisades just as the sun set.

Inside, they met two merchants, gambling. Abaz bin Balgar had nearly cleaned out Raeko Whitetower after two days of drinking and dice. After a few friendly games, Zuke had wagered his magic belt and earned an amulet and a pair of gloves. Raeko was happy to offer up his rare wines to the players, pleased that they could finally pull one over the fat Absalian.

The foreman pulled the players aside for a more dire warning. A woman, Melisande, had wandered in from the wastes, starving and half-mad. She’d been cooking and cleaning at the camp in return for food, shelter, and protection. She wants only to return to Northallow and has been waiting for a supply shipment to follow. The loggers in the camp reckon she might have something to do with all the ghosts standing around outside. The ghosts have everyone terrified. The foreman suggests that it might be safer if Melisande met a quiet accident out on the road. It might send the ghosts away, or perhaps give them someone else to follow around. He offered a portion of his wages when next he returned to Northallow.

Melisande had some very interesting things to say as well. Her family were fur traders that had accidently lost their way. Taken in the darkness, a screaming wind killed them one by one, devouring them. Only she survived. All she wants to do is flee the north. She can’t bear the idea of dying up here. There is an encroaching darkness haunting her mind.

How much does she know? What is she holding back? Was she involved in the murder of her family? Would the world be safer with her dead? or would that unleash the wind again?

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Session 3
Enemies on the Inside

Augh decided to take matters into his own hand. Quietly, in the night, he ended Melisande’s struggle with his knife. In that bitter moment, an evil spirit passed from her into him. He was overwhelmed with visions.

News of the murder woke the entire longhouse. The loggers, exhausted and near to panic, fought and argued, shouting at the PCs and watching the walls, waiting for some kind of retribution. Equally torn were the players, bickering and shoving over the controversy. The fights did not cease until Augh was ejected from the camp, forced to sleep outside until the caravan was ready to move in the morning.

The next day, the uneasy adventurers rode south with the heavy wagons. The bags under their eyes could not hide the suspicious glances. They spent so much time watching each other, they almost missed the raiders.

Wild whoops and screeching war cries rang through the trees, with a dozen savages bandits following. The wagons had little worth stealing, yet the bandits fought to the death, mad-eyed suicidal.

The battle was bitter and brutal, blood staining the snow bright red under the shining sun. Finally, the last of them fell silent and the caravan, wounded and weary, rolled forth.

Many strange sights waited along the trek south. Holes in the ground as if twenty-foot giants simply woke, stood, and walked away. Camp fires stinging the sky like threads on a loom, far to the east. A scared family, running on foot, desperate to escape the terrors of the tundra. A regiment of ghosts, lead by a faceless girl, dissolving under the pious faith of two humble priests.

After a long day’s travel, the players made it back to Northallow, but it seems they’ve brought something sinister with them. A malovent force has settled like a storm-cloud over the city. The residents have been mulling over prophecies and locking their doors at night. Can their gods protect them from the impending doom?

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Session 4
Racing through The Break

Sweet Nothings

The third body was sprawled out in the street. Someone had gone through some effort to arrange the poor girl’s insides around her outsides into interesting designs. The guards were brandishing blades and batons to keep the crowd back. Despite their efforts, by the time the PCs got there, the scene was already muddied with the bootprints of passersby. Investigating the scene, the cuts were definately motivated by arcane purposes. This wasn’t a murder, it was a sacrifice.

A flicker on the rooftop. They’re being watched. Augh scrambles up just in time to catch a glimpse of Cannibal Dak making a shadowy getaway. Billy Blue hired him to look into the murders. A few of the players went off to study the magical implications of the killings. The rest, the more street-savy, went off to meet with Billy. They had a very interesting conversation.

Billy was under pressure to make the killings go away. He was very pleased to speak with the players. After word spread of their harrowing journey out of the tundra, Billy could plausibly place the blame squarely on the players’ shoulders. In no incertain terms, he held the players at swordpoint. After careful negotiations, they left with their hides, and purses, intact.

Studying the patterns of murder, the players figured the murderer was drawing a five pointed star into the very soul of the East Break, painted in blood. Waiting at point four, they all met back up. That’s when the cultists struck.

Screaming shadowy reprisals, robed figures leapt across the rooftops, flanked by flickering motes of dark energy. Dak and his crew were backed into a corner by the madmen. Swift reprisal along the rickety shingles quickly felled the cultists. Recovering from his wounds, Dak relates that he saw the murderer himself heading to the fifth point. No time to waste, the heroes sprinted along the street.

Catching him in the act, the murderer set to finish his grisly task while his dark-robed followers interceded. A fierce mage named Bilious Wendt defended the killer while he cut. As the mage fell, the killer’s powers grew wild and out of control. His body warping to match his sick mind, he fled the scene, desperate to complete the fifth point of the star and finish his heinous transformation.

The streets rang with shouts and battle-cries as the party tried to corner the sprinting beast. The last few shreds of humanity died away in the flight. The horrid thing that finally made it to the final stage of the great ritual had become something between demon and god, an abberation, a living expression of apocalypse. A breath of the end of all things.

The players nobly threw themselves at the beast. They stained their weapons with a holy salve, aggravating the monster’s wounds. The beast plucked them up from the ground and tossed them about, and still the heroes attacked. The thing could not be allowed to feed, to live another moment. After a great struggle, it finally slumped and wheezed, collapsing into a ragged pile of unearthly flesh, a pimple on the ass of the earth.

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Session 5
Ssstrange Bedfellows

Billy Blue called the PCs to his little restaurant. He paced around his back room. He was pissed but, for once, the players were not the cause. A corpse on a table, a pile of jewels, and two ratty looking cutpurses all huddled together, waiting Billy’s verdict. They painted quite a story.

‘It was just a hold up. We weren’t gunna kill him,’

‘He started hissing and pulling out this knife. We was just defendin ourselves. It was an accident,’

The thieves were operating outside their assigned neighborhood. That offense was normally enough to warrant a quick, messy death. There was a complication, however. As the PCs approached the body, they could see the corpse’s light-green scales, the flat-slitted nostrils, the nictating eyelids turning dry and milky. They’ve accidently killed a yuan-ti. If Billy didn’t move quickly and decisively, the whole town could turn on him, that is, if the snakes didn’t get him first.

The players scooped up the pile of jewels as payment for their investigation. Careful inspection of the corpses clothes lead them to the cobbled heights of Gilded Hill. The yuan-ti had been impersonating a local lawyer working with a court surveyor. Documents lifted from his apartment lead the PCs to a run-down shop out in Pott’s Field.

There, they met a rather friendly, talkative Yuan-ti mastermind already packing up. Whatever reason originally lead the snake-worshippers to set up shop in Northallow, they’ve decided to relocate somewhere warmer. The leader, named Yrss, made a bargain with the players: let the snakes walk free and the players can have full access to the cult’s treasury in town. The only caveat, Yrss is a genius trapmaker, a true artiste, and the treasures are guarded with some of his most nefarious traps.

Eager for great reward and piqued by the promise of danger, the players accepted the deal. They didn’t want to just let the trapmaker walk, so at sword point, they lead him toward his own devices.

In front of a run-down warehouse along a shady road in The Old Post, the party stopped to cautiously approach, checking locks, poking around windows. Yrss giggled and clapped as the players guessed and second guessed each of their actions. They spent an agonizing half hour skirting around the circumference of the warehouse. They foiled a few simple needle traps, an odd clockwork mouse, and a false chest in a crate.

Finally, after dusting off an old riddle in the middle of the floor, a room opened under their feet. Shelves rolled back and folded up as the true trap-puzzle rolled out. An altar filled with arcane switches, a set of panels with divine runes arranged with vague symbols, and a set of snake statues curled up all quietly waiting for a few intrepid adventurers to test their mettle.

As they climbed inside, a net of necrotic energy trapped them within the puzzle-room and slowly lowered, threatening to crush them under it’s crackling darkness. The statues animated and circled, tossing players onto springboards, launching them into the life-draining net. After a great deal of frantic button-pressing, the net fizzzled and failed, freeing the players. A grate opened leading the players to the snake’s secret armory.

Pleased with the demonstration of his machinations, Yrss divulged a special password, “Darkness Overcomes” and vanished, shedding his skin in the process.

The password deactivated the final trap, one which would have destroyed the treasure itself, and the players were pleased to find a great fortune in piled gold, as well as a number of exotic and powerful magical trinkets.

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Session 6
The Wickerville Ghost

The Wickerville Ghost

Wandering idly through the markets out in Wickerville, the players were confronted with a mad, babbling elf. She might have just been any old, crazy bum, save for her very peculiar words.

Red eyes in the cliff
Red eyes down the mountain
Dark windows speak silver riddles
Puddles of floating bones grow up
They flood up in amber
When you took the red eyes down the mountain

Augh recognized her babbling. She was referring to that blasted idol. The party knew that they couldn’t just walk away. Asking around, they learned the mad elf’s name and her home. Escorting the poor creature to her keepers, the PCs discovered the apparent source of her anguish: Children have been vanishing.

Red shadows in thick mist every night come and claim a few children. No one knows how long this has been going on, mostly the urchins and orphans went first. Rafto Budgewagon has been organizing a sort of neighborhood watch. He has a great deal of resentment for adventurers, and refuses to help the PCs unless they are willing to scratch his back first. Such a seemingly simple request: Find employment for some of his people. How difficult could that be?

A meeting with the Baron proved difficult indeed. A number of other petitioners waited for an audience as well. Pacing back and forth in the main hall, the PCs met Captain Ecklan and the boisterous lawyer, Dantarion Beepe. The Baron rarely keeps his own appointments and the petitioners held little hope that they would be seen. Altering tactics, the PCs went looking elsewhere.

Down in Penny Basement, Sheriff Groat was interested in hiring on extra seasonable help, but he asked a steep price: Poison a hundred of Ecklan’s horses. THe PCs left the Basement with Groat’s bitter hissing ringing in their ears. After some debate, they settled that they couldn’t work with Groat. They betrayed him to Ecklan, thus earning a ruthless enemy.

They weren’t able to secure the work until making another tour of the city and pulling some strings to finally gain an audience with the Baron. They lined up a few dozen jobs renovating sewer tunnels beneath Gilded Hill. Rafto was pleased. That night, they went out hunting.

Sure enough, the ghosts were out. Red, sickly pillars of flame leading zombie kidnappers. A brutal skirmish in the streets lead the PCs to a basement where their old friend, Gakpra was tied to an altar, imprisoned in dangerous magicks.

After freeing the little kobold, he described the strange spirits inhabiting the ruby idol and how a number of worshippers of Jubliex had tracked him down and stolen its power. They were the ones behind the kidnapping, feeding the children directly to their mad god’s oozing belly.

A frantic race through the city’s mist lead to a heated scuffle around a portal to another world. The maw of Jubilex waited, almost claining a few savory meals. Finally, the mangled worshippers were felled and the portal sealed. In doing so, the players won a powerful, albeit reluctant ally in the dwarf, Rafto.

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Session 7
Friends in Low Places

The Army of Rats

The public works project around the old sewers had not been going well. People had been vanishing. Just a few at first, then dozens. Everything had ceased pending further investigation. The players were called in. The city council offered a generous fee with bonuses if the threat from below could be neutralized. The players quickly agreed.

Down in the tunnels, strange phenomena assaulted their senses. Walls freezing solid, unexplained visions, the sound of a massive heart beating so loud the walls shake. Then the rats struck.

Guardsmen with their heads nearly gnawed off piloted by mad rats crawling along the ceiling lunging down with blades drawn. Piles of rats spilling from grates, overwhelming the heroes, almost drowing them in the filth. Something was controlling or connecting the rats. Some kind of greater power.

After the brutal fight, an explosion shook the halls. The players were trapped. Poison cannisters clanked and rolled down. The sewers were filling with a deadly poison. As they fled deeper into the tunnels, they discovered a ghost chasing them in the walls. One of Groat’s lieutenants, a revenant named Slantwise, tormented the players, lashing out from the shadows with powerful psychic attacks.

Past the sewers and the old siege tunnels, the players found an ancient excavation. Even Slantwise feared to follow any deeper. Wall markings and odd coins found in the deep heralded an ancient time, stone first dug around the days of the Dawn War. These tunnels as ancient as the world itself.

Rats floated by, swollen like balloons of brain matter. They were the collective, an abberrant psychic mass of mutated rats dwelling in a great egg-shaped cavern in the hollow core of Gilded Hill. The beasts swarmed and huddled over a strange black pool of oily fluid. The players entertained ideas of poisoning the verminous swarm, but instead negotiated with the swelling sentience. The Collective agreed to free all their captives and refrain from attacking any more workers while the party agreed to arrange for trash to be dumped into the tunnels for the collective to feast upon.

The players crept out of the sewers later that day with yet another strange ally and a dozen stranger questions about the nature of the city and their place in its immediate destiny

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Session 8
Pickup Styx

After a week of wild hallucinations, Brokthul finally awoke from his coma. Troubled by visions of the ring of burning eyes, the field of infinite fire, the red blaze surrounded by six wings, Brok sought out a local moonsister for answers. She, instead, had questions for him.

Her ancestor spirit, The Great Wheel, had not been answering her pleas. A great war threatens the city and she needs to hear from the spirit. A group of barbarian generals awaited her prophecies. Brok agreed. The moonsister came around to the player’s inn later that evening.

Drawing a chalk outline on the floor, she opened a door to the Feywild. The evening opened out into a dark, green field leading to the two great mountains to the north. The players followed the path, leading deep into the mad wild of the land. Crazed, bearded creatures swarmed out of the living mountains to swarm over the players. Named Korreds, they threw themselves onto the PCs wrapping ropes around their necks. A female danced on stilts, shouting to her brothers through a fierce, clay mask. Her cries of ‘Booga Gebooga Boog’ stirred the Korreds to mad brutality. Battered and bloody, they drove the creatures back into their mountain homes.

Beyond the pass north, a lake of ink with wide lilypads that glowed like campfires. A stone altar lifted the party up into the sky where the great spinning spirit confronted the group, delivering it’s dire warnings of the coming invasion of Northallow. The spirit showed them the eruption underneath the ground that would someday become Northallow. A thousand beholders spilling out from a great egg met in battle by a great Turathi legion. Blood and carnage. A legacy of violence.

Returning to the real world, armed with such knowledge, the party split to contact their different sources. Tor went to speak with the secretive ‘Watchers at the Door’, Brok went to consult with the savages, Wilson ran to deliver the dire warnings to the Baron. Little did the humble cleric know that the villain Slantwise was setting a trap in Castle Amshire.

A devious trick by Slantwise sent the castle guards to chase Wilson from the castle. Now a wanted fugitive, he ran through the back roads and alleys, trying to lose pursuit. The Sheriff’s men were too persistent, eventually finding him hidden behind a pile of trash. Shackled, they lead the cleric hobbling through the streets to Penny Basement.

Rafto sent some men to intercept the prisoner, staging a small riot to extract Wilson and hide him among the houses. Free again, but a wanted man, Wilson skulked back to his inn licking his wounds. As the party consulted with each other and shared notes, they decided to meet with The Smile the next morning and pool resources.

With a rare display of caution, the party decided to sneak through town via the rat warrens. With the friendly rat Collective as their guides, they could safely access any part of the city. Passing through the great center of the collective, they could see a hugee, fleshy mass dangling from the ceiling on lengths of gooey mucous and tendons. Was this some new stage of evolution for the rats, or perhaps they were growing their own god.

Popping up in Gilded Hill, The Smile was pleased to see them. He quickly drafted some forms to grant official pardons for any of the party members. Discussing how exactly to spread their warnings, the party decided to throw a great party using The Smile’s connections. All the power players in town would be there. All their hated enemies, all their most powerful potential allies, all in one place. The temptation to poison the punchbowl is overwhelming.

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Session 9
Welcome to the Machine

The dust stung his eyes, but he knew it could not be dust. The blazing sun, the cracked clay earth, it wasn’t real exactly. The minotaur bent down and touched the ground, rubbing the soil bbetween his fingers. It certainly felt real. If there were seams in the disguise, holes in the tapestry, Dulan couldn’t see them. He was walking inside the mind of a stranger and planning to face off against an enemy more ancient and powerful than anything he’d ever understand.

Six images floated nearby, spirit servants summoned as companions and guardians. Each in turn spoke its name and pledged its service. There was:

-Brother Snake the hypnotist, the charlatan, the liar. Poisonous smile, poisonous eyes, poisonous mind. He can trick even himself, bending backwards to attack his own tail.
-Brother Bear, sullen protector, great guardian. Overbearing, Overpowering, Overprotective.
-Brother Vulture, blood drunk. Bloated war-glutton, herald of death, he is the first to bring new life to the killing fields.
-Brother Tiger the brilliant. He carefully calculates and hunts with single minded purpose. He likes to toy with his dinners.
-Brother Beetle in his blackened shell. He is cautious, guarded, paranoid, but attacks with blinding speed and strength.
-Brother Broken the no-mind, the identity of no identity. His is the name of the void, a swirl of darkness around a white mask.

And before them spun a great cyclone, a vortex of sand and dust at the center of the wasteland. Phantoms images gathered before the wind’s fury to enact some old tribal minotaur rite of passage. They gathered children to throw into the cyclone. Hulking beast-men painted in sky-blue chalk hurled their children into the storm. They were taken at once, their skin stripped away, vanishing into the tornado.

Dulan rushed to save the children, but his hands passed straight through them. This was a memory, an old routine playing out in the mind of Abra, the strange shaman who has promised to help Dulan sever his connection to Baphomet, demonic father of all minotaurs. And yet, there was something hiding behind the memory, a vision of chains and bone. A poisonous claw lashed out from the illusions to strike the spirits. The spirits rallied and struck back.

Brother Bear threw himself forward first to protect the children, despite their illusory nature. Brother Vulture threw himself screaming to the winds, to speed by and dive in a blood-curdling attack. Brother Snake wove around the distant fields, casting his nefarious magicks. Brother Beetle lumbered to the center to snap at the chains connecting all the hidden claws. Brother Tiger directed the battle, rallying his friends while Brother Broken, ignoring him, lunged directly into the heart of the storm.

The soul of the storm emerged, a construct like a dragon made of twisted chains and cattle bones, dripping with poison, covered in obsidian shards like scales of black glass. It screamed and charged, attempting to drive away the interlopers. Dulan called upon his ancestors who rose like a thousand mouths from the ground to snap at the beast. So distracted, Brother Vulture could fall from the sky to drive his hammer into the dragon’s face.

Howling, the creature split into a thousand prehensile strands of chain, fleeing back into the cyclone. Dulan gave chase, fighting against the brutal, blinding winds to the center.

The dragon slipped into a cave at the eye of the storm. As they approached the cave, the spirits noticed the rocks becoming a giant skull, and the cave, an eye socket. They were standing inside a vast hourglass with the sand running out beneath their feet. They hurried inside.

They chased the dragon into the twisting halls beyond. The cave was now a pathway of glass suspended in some kind of astral vacuum. They were no longer in Abra’s mind, but traveling along a pathway linking him to that great demon, the progenitor Baphomet.

They could see the whole of the network, the psychic pipes binding every minotaur to Baphomet’s heart. They could see deaths like flashes of light; energy pulsing down the length of the construct, feeding the demon. As they neared, they could see the reality of the creature and his very nature. Baphomet, the monster, blood-hungry war-bringer, was no more than a machine, like a calculator. His labyrinths of madness were no more than circuit paths, his vast design and every function powered by violence, fear, and death. He was a computer, built at the dawn of time to perform a single task, to answer a single question, and he has labored with single-minded determination ever since.

There, finally, at his heart did they find that missing piece of Abra, the connection to Baphomet, arcane perfection, the astral computer. Bound in silk and hovering over a pit of cracking energy, a shadow of a young boy minotaur hung. Over him crawled the dragon, licking its wounds. Milky grey flesh plumped over the broken links of his chain-body as it slithered forward to devour the spirits.

Ready for battle, the spirits threw themselves at the monster. Hidden in the wyrm’s tongue was a dripping fang loaded with a terrible poison. Brother Vulture, taken with a sting, fought to hild his very midn together as the venom worked its way. It was Brother Broken, smiling, who took the beast unawares. Moving like a whisper, he cleanly swapped his mind for that of the beast.

Screaming in hatred, the beast now controlling the Broken spirit attacked Dulan. Brother Broken steered the dragon into the pit, bracing the beasts horrid face into the burning light. Held there, the party rained pain and fury down, pressing the creature further and further towards death.

But it was Dulan who made his peace with the universe. Seeing time and space, and his place in it; he connected to the vastness, calling out. He realized his place in the puzzle, and yet, a piece that carried the whole of the puzzle with him. He shattered his spirit-self into a thousand pieces, each burning like a star, forming into swirling constellations. The whole of creation, filled plump like a womb opening into the birth of time itself. The light and heat burned forward, searing the beast, driving the flesh from bone, breaking the chains, burning the sticky silk. And from the supernova he stepped, reborn.

The spirit of Abra, now freed from Baphomet, floated forward. Teered flooded his ghostly face as he thanked Dulan. A moment of horror then, and confusion. Dulan asked the matter, but Abra replied cryptically with, “When it comes your time to be free, you will be given a choice. You must not hesitate. Promise me that! You must not hesitate!”

And when he awoke from his trance, the shaman was gone…

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Session 10
The Party

Sometime around three in the morning Tor, huffing and puffing, finally arrived at the brothel. He leaned against the old, crumbling wall and fought to catch his breath. His pale hands trembled against the haft of his axe, but he refused to sling it across his back. Looking over the broken cobbles of the street, he recognized Zuke standing quietly by the door, his cloak pulled tight against the bitter, morning chill, his hood drawn low over his face.

“Ho there, human. Is it safe?”

Without turning, the invoker replied, “Were you followed?”

“Had a bit of a scare, but no, drove the bastard off,” returned the dwarf.

“Then we are safe,”

Tor nodded and waved at the shadows. Two figures cautiously crept out. The Baron and his chamberlain rushed the brothel and shut themselves inside.

“Well that’s over then,” said Tor, scratching at the spittle frozen to his beard.

“Quite a night,” agreed Zuke, still looking away, down the street.

“You hear that? Squeaking or something…”

“I’m sure it’s nothing,”

The dwarf finally slung his axe, “Hope none of them rats are around. Little beasts give me shivers, always going on about sugar and such,”

Zuke said nothing. The wind picked up for a moment, ruffling his cloak.

The dwarf continued, “Long night, anyway. Crazy party,” he mused while kicking some of the clotted mud from his boots, “Not even sure what happened. D’you know if the orc went off and did what the halfling asked?”

Zuke nodded.

Tor exhaled, grinding his teeth anxiously, “Dark business there,” he hesitated with a question, not particularly wanting to know the answer, “So the, uhh, whole family then?”

“Gutted and left to burn,”

“Ach,” Tor winced. He dug through his pockets for a strip of blackroot to chew. There was something comforting about the old, bitter taste of blackroot between the teeth. The dwarf wiped at his runny nose and thought for a moment, “How did the priest take the news?”

“Not well,” was Zuke’s simple reply.

“Not well, eh? What does that mean? Where is he now?” the dwarf prodded.

Zuke said nothing.

“Yeah. I can see that. Dark business it was. Dark,” the words did little to ease his troubled mind, but the silence made Tor just as uncomfortable. He spoke up again, “So what about you then, anything happen after the party?”

“It’s been a busy night. I’ve been busy down in the tunnels,”

“Oh yeah? Have fun with the rats?”

“I’ve seen quite a many strange things tonight. About myself. About the world,”

“Ha! You’re getting all cryptic. You’ve been hanging out with that Smile fellow?”

Zuke turned to his companion, “Tonight, Zuke the man has died. In his flesh now rises Zuke the god,”

The cowl falls away, and the dwarf looks into the empty cave where eyes should lie. Tor staggers away and fumbles his weapon into his hands. “By Moradin’s steady hand, your eyes!”

“I no longer need them. I see things farther and faster. I see the true face of this city,” he speaks calmly, almost lyrically, “The nights will grow even darker, my friend, and we’ll be busy indeed,”

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