“The holy fire of Memmnon city was one of the great disasters to the nation of Varassia prior to its time of turmoil. How the fire came about few people know, though many theorize that it was an act of sabotage or arson by the thieves guild against one of their supposed enemies. What few people were told however, is that the investigation shortly after discovered that the fire itself had a magical origin. This was of great concern to the city officials, who had kept the nation free of the blasphemous magic for decades. Ironic then, that it was the cities inexperience of magic that prevented them from combating it with any great effectiveness.”
- John Barlywood – Conspiracy and War in the North
Damon's player couldn't make this session so we had his character take the long way round to meet us next time. Starting off, our characters are summoned by the head mage of Farrel and offered a job to steal a holy book from the vault of a rival city, Memmnon, in the anti-magical nation of Varassia. Arriving in the city, our characters poke around a bit till they are contacted by members of the local thieves guild who have an offer of mutual gain. Also rearing her head however, is Trust, the DM's original character, who has ambitions of her own.
“Taking what she had learned from her earlier adventures, Trust had worked up the ranks of the Varassian thieves guild astoundingly quickly. The top position was tantalizingly out of her reach though, as the magic fearing Varassians dared not consider leadership by a planes touched tiefling. It was providence then, it seemed, that sent Carnack Cousland to her, seeking favor to enter the Varassian vault. A seemingly unsolvable situation, coupled with a man with no morals, could tip the balance of the Varassian underworld in her favor.”
Ezio de Sirenze – Here We Stand: The Teifling Peoples Road to Acceptance
So, Trust offers our group a different option: Assassinate the leader of the thieves guild. The DM had set this up so that, upon investigation we would find that there was tension between the guild leader and his house servant, allowing our characters to redirect suspicion. This didn't work too well though, as for the first of many times Carnack and Lerissa agreed that a house fire gone out of control would work much better.
The DM made sure this wasn't without consequence however. The group get spotted, to which Carnack jumps on Lerissa's back as she teleports away, landing them in a noble's garden. As the fire rages, it takes a quarter of the city with it. Killing thousands, ruining trusts plans, and leaving the city on alert from suspicious foreigners. Only Trust and Megi were bothered by this , mirroring the DM's disdain for us bypassing his setup, Lerissa was as indifferent as her players predecessor character Azreal. Carnack himself doesn't care how many die as long as it gets the job done.
“The cleric known only as Tom, from parts unknown, was a gentle soul. He had not a bad bone in his body, and was willing to do what it would take to set right the world's wrongs. In his travels, he had heard the legends of the sleepers, and saw a way to use these legends to re-shape the injustices of our world”
Denton Romulus - Bound for Glory: Those who dared to change the Realms
Busting into the vault was easy money, nabbing Carnack a Helmet of True Sight and the others a few other magical items. Things were soon to go downhill though, as the aforementioned magical tome was nabbed by an enigmatic and seemingly indestructible cleric called Tom. This put the group in an uncomfortable position, leaving us to pander to the cleric to try and obtain the tome.
“The drider infestation of northern Varassia is not nearly as old as people think. The nations ancient stories of horrific monsters stealing people away at night are often attributed to actual encounters with the driders, but this actually comes from good old fashioned Varassian paranoia.. The driders arrival in the region only occurred not fifteen years ago.
Running out of resources in what was the great mines of Lolth's providence, many groups splintered from the Drow empire in search of carving out their own fortune. The crust under Varassia was a natural target, since the nations aversion to magic meant that is was practically untapped for resources that would have normally been taken for rituals. Digging their way north, the drow failed to anticipate that they would garner the attention of the driders, and upon arrival were set upon. Without the protection from the empire, it was the Drider Queen who exerted command over this new settlement, but her ambitions would soon lead her beyond the cavernous depths.”
- Gabriella Burke – Mapping the Realms Underdark
Damon rejoins us this session, oblivious to the chaos that Carnack had unleashed on the unsuspecting city dwellers. Taking shelter at a convenient inn, the group is then faced by a bunch of mysterious cultists, who take a particular interest in the cleric Tom. Carnack and Damon play dumb, but this backfires when the cultists decide to take the others hostage. Carnack and Damon continue to play dumb, and the others are taken away. Begrudgingly, the two decide a rescue is in order, as Tom still has the items they require.
Damon and Carnack track the cultists to a nearby village, and discover a secret hide out under a temple. Much to the surprise of the priest. Unfortunately, only Megi and Lerissa are within, and Tom has mysteriously vanished. Great. Ancient stone murals direct the group to the mountains in the north, which they head to, being their only lead at the moment.
When they get to the mountains they discover them to be inhabited by the spider-like Driders. Carnack surmises that they might be reasonable and for once takes the diplomatic option. They are not reasonable, and the group suffers another tough beat down before finally overcoming them.
It's about this point that my comic Nobody's Heroes takes place.
“Our Goal – To never allow the tyranny of divinity and magic sully this nation again. To never allow those to posses the power of Gods. To never allow the breaking of the ancient codes. The sleepers must not awaken. To this we will give our lives, and take the lives of others if necessary. We choose to discard our morality to this end. Choose the possibility of damnation. Choose to make choices that others would not make. For the good of our country. The sleepers must not awaken.
- Creed of the Cult
After battling through the caves against driders and a particularly nasty Beholder, the Drider Queen decides to give our characters the grace of an audience. She happens to know where Tom may be heading, and offers part of the solution in return for raiding a nearby village for slaves. Normally not fazed by such actions, Carnack does reason that potentially an escaped slave could make the entire group a target for the authorities, but on the other hand the usually pious Damon has no problem with this plan. They agree temporarily, then decide they may have a better option.
Heading north they investigate the spreading plague of werewolves. In what ultimately turns into a confused muddle, Damon and Carnack contract the curse, but find that Tom has been somewhere near and conveyed the cure to the locals. Along the way they discover that the cult has been spreading out and streaking its muscles. In turn, so have returning conspirators the Black Hand.
It gets worse, they then find a mystical grove, shielded against all but Carnack, who's atheism is not affected by it. In the grove an ancient tomb houses two mysterious angels and an empty container that appears to have been tampered with. By Tom. With recent lycanthropy resolved, Megi, the only character that seems to have been dishing out any damage in combat encounters, is then kidnapped. Great.
“Discredited and exposed in Wardovia, the Black Hand needed to consolidate their efforts in order to make up for the loss of their stomping ground. Varassia was a natural choice, since their rampant anti-magic paranoia was an ideal environment to manipulate. Fortuitous it was then, or so it seemed at the time, that the emergence of Revenant, a seemingly benign messiah, occurred almost immediately. For all his miraculous power, Revenant was exceedingly trusting of anyone he came into contact with, making him the perfect puppet dictator.
One small problem still remained however, the power that Revenant has obtained had come from an ancient sleeping God.. Should another individual access similar power, they would be able to rival Revenant. Fortunately for them, their newest member, former Head of the Farrelite Mages Academy, had advised them of all this. He also brought news of another issue. Invasion.
- John Barlywood – Conspiracy and War in the North
As it turns out Farrel have decided to be a bit ambitious and take advantage of the chaos by invading. The group have a word with their original quest giver, who it turns out has the book, won't pay them and is now working for the Black Hand. Bugger. With no other option then, the group offers its services to the invading forces, who help them out a bit in locating Megi. Heading back to the secret hideout under the temple. Carnack and Lerissa do a spot of torture. Carnack's choice of putting one poor individual out of his misery involves him sticking his thumbs through his eye sockets into his brain. Horrible, but damn it was fitting for the character.