This session saw the end, at last, of a story arc that had become a long-running odyssey of misadventure. What had seemed like a simple task to repay a sinister looking necromancer for having raised Jin from the dead, escalated into an ever more complicated sequence of events that always seemed to draw the party away from competing their goal. I suspect that some of the characters, at least, may find wisdom in the quote from Pet Semetary, "Sometimes dead is better."
Last session ended on a dramatic note: the characters being pursued through the streets of Dragotha by the troll crime lord, Septimus Squalor and his gang of orc mercenaries. Valkrys and Tavranik quickly outdistanced the slower-moving Bvar and Theon, and when it became apparent that the latter two could not escape, they positioned themselves in an alleyway to defend themselves, while Valkrys escaped to the upper tier with the rescued oracle. Tavranik lurked behind Squalor's gang firing arrows, and when things looked grim, he scaled a cliff wall to try and enlist the aid of the second tier's crime lord, known only as The Crone. Her headquarters were in a brothel called The Guilded Whore, which also served as a temple to Malcanthet, queen of the succubi. Tavranik noticed that while The Crone's face was concealed within a deep hood, her cloak parted to reveal a young and shapely figure beneath. He told her that his companions were presently battling Squalor on the first tier and wondered if she might not like to use the situation to her advantage and eliminate a dangerous rival to her position. She agreed and followed Tavranik back to the battle, accompanied by a pair of prostitute body-guards. The situation by this time was growing grim, as Squalor himself had entered the fray, and his gang was encircling the alley to make sure no one escaped. Bvar and Theon were running low on hit points when The Crone tossed a fireball into the melee in hopes of ending the troll's life in a burst of flame. The fireball killed all of Squalor's minions, but just missed him and the PC's. Seeing that the tide had turned against him, Squalor chose to fight another day and fled the scene.
The battle over, The Crone, a priestess of Malcanthet, asked Tavranik if he would worship at her altar in appreciation for the aid she had rendered. Uncertain what this meant, but reluctant to offend the powerful Lady of the Second Tier, he agreed. He returned with her to The Guilded Whore and was led to an altar bearing an effigy of the succubus queen, where The Crone then consummated the rites. When her hood slipped off, Tavranik was horrified to see that instead of hair, her head was covered in a writhing mass of blood-red worms, but found himself unaccountably aroused despite the horror mounted atop him. Once the services were complete, Tavranik found himself utterly drained of energy, barely able to move, and was almost certainly at death's door.
He collected his clothes, staggered out of the brothel and dragged himself up to the fourth tier of the city, where the rest of the party had congregated at the headquarters of The Painted Man, lord of the uppermost tier. The Painted Man sat, clad only in a loincloth, his entire body a tapestry of tattoos depicting arcane runes and symbols. He thanked the party for returning The Oracle to him and agreed to provide them with a guide back to the surface, as he had promised. As the party was still carrying around an arcane-locked iron-bound chest they liberated from Sothiss's lair, they asked The Painted Man if he could open the chest for him. Such a task was beyond his talents but he suggested that his ally, The Leech Lord, ruler of the third tier might be able to accomplish the task. Since Tavranik was affiliated with The Leech Lord's gang, this seemed like a good idea as he was able to make introductions and gain them access.
The Leech Lord was a thin, anaemic man, with dark purple bags under his eyes, and limp, greasy black hair that hung in front of his face. His body was covered with bloated leeches. In one corner of the room, several zombies were running on a treadmill trying vainly to reach a baby that was dangling in front of them. When asked about the Chest, the Leech Lord called for brighter light to see it by and tugged twice on a pull-cord. In response, two more babies were lowered from the ceiling in front of the zombies, who ran faster still, increasing the light generated by the glow bulbs that lit the Leech Lord's chambers. The Leech Lord agreed to break the arcane seals on the chest on the condition that Tavranik accompany them to the surface and serve as his agent topside. He gave Tavranik an amulet that would allow the Leech Lord to contact him telepathically at any time to give instructions. They all agreed to this, and the chest was found to contain a large number of verdigrised coins of unknown minting, along with Sothiss's spell book. The Leech Lord revealed that the coins were minted in the ancient city of Murias, one of the cities of the Tuatha de Danann, the gods of men.
After a long and perilous journey, the party finally ascended to the surface, but many leagues from where they descended, and had to travel several days cross country to get to the village of Glen Morag. Arriving home, they found the village in flames, and bands of soldiers bearing the livery of the High King of Llanvirnesse were torching the village and rounding people up. On a gibbet swung the dead warchief of Morag, to whom the characters had sworn allegiance. The party was quickly spotted and questioned by a band of mounted warriors. Careful to conceal any allegiance to the King of Morag, the party was told that he had attempted to mount rebellion against the High King, Rathad MacMorne, and had been using the Scepter of Gwyddno, which had magical powers of command to rally an army of followers to his cause. Since it was the characters who had traded this scepter to the traitorous war chief in exchange for patents of nobility and a land grant in Morag, they were quick to extricate themselves from the situation before they could be incriminated in the plot and they hastily made their way back to the Flaming Faggot, where they delivered up to Brother Frosck the orb they had recovered from the necromancer, Sothiss. Over the past several days, Jin had been irritated by pain and itching in his eyes, which now glowed, alarmingly red, and was blinded whenever he looked at flame. Frosck told him that this was likely the result of alien energies emanating from the orb, which Jin had been carrying for weeks, and the change was almost certainly permanent. While Jin is now able to see in the infrared spectrum, the glowing red eyes will make it difficult for him to be inconspicuous.
Welcome Back to the Labyrinth
"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."
"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."
"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"
"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"