Stage 1 and Stage 2 are complete (see below)
Please have an idea of how you’d like to spend your 350g. Even if you don’t have specific items picked out, a general idea will help that go faster! The session will begin at 6pm tomorrow but (if it’s okay with Christina and Alex) I will aim to be there for 5pm to help people pick goods. Everyone should be level 6 at this stage.
The Hold of the Deepking stands south of Ladueguer’s Furrow and north of Themberchaud’s lair. It is a dark and foreboding edifice lodged between two great columns that rise up into thick clouds of smoke that conceal the cavern ceiling. Giant basalt braziers filled with molten lava bathe the palace facade in a hellish glow, and the thick stone walls bristle with iron turrets and battlements. There appears to be no one guarding the palace, but Hgraam quickly whispers to you that it is an illusion: all the palace guards are invisible, and listening carefully reveals the clanking of heavy armour moving to and fro.
“Over two hundred elite guards, " Errde nearly beams, flashing her insignia as she does so. The sound of the ranks of duergar, some ten deep, standing aside to give you a path to the Hold is intimidating. You enter.
Lava pours down troughs cut into the black basalt walls of this vast hall. The heat is oppressive, and the air reeks of sulfur. Thick black columns support the heavy ceiling, and at the far end of the hall stands an iron throne atop a polished obsidian dais. A crowned duergar encased in armour sits on the throne. Next to him stands a royal consort wearing a gown made of gold coins.
“Tell him what you found,” Errde tells the party, “tell him of these demon worshipers. If he believes you it doesn’t matter what I think. But don’t mention this succubus business, you’re apt to get us killed.”
“They’re right,” Hgraam mutters, “his consort… Shal. She is not the duergar she appears to be. She is planar… yet I do not sense the same magics on my cursed brethren. The demogorgon worshipers who attacked our clan… this creature is not with them. I sense a different evil within her, but just as dark. Tread with caution…”
EVERYTHING BELOW THIS IS NEW AS OF 08/13 Sorry this is so shitty
With quick psychic prodding, Ness hatches a plan that ignores any input from his party members. Could you convince him to do otherwise anyways? With Hgraam’s help, he suggests that himself, Luis Guizman, and Hgraam present the proofs directly to Shal, so she can give them to the king. Handing them to one of the guards is unwise because, of course, any of them could be compromised by these demons. The idea is to hit hard on the fact that letting either the party or the guards approach him with this could put his life in danger, and only Shal could do it. Shal, as a succubus, should be predictably cocky.
Hgraam makes his appeal.
“Steelshadow, this information points to a very really demonic threat facing the duergar, let into our city by some on the derro council. Clan Caingorm’s struggles have been caused by this miscreants. We must present these idols to you, but it unwise to let either us or your guard approach you. We may be tainted already, your exaltedness, and anyone of your guards—even the most loyal, bravest of them—may be conditioned by demogorgon’s made touch. Even I do not trust myself in your presence, and I am your oldest friend. Let us show these articles to Shal—your exalted consort, surely immune to all charms.”
The party is surprised by how easily the Stone Giant lies, though Errde’s face goes sheet-white as she pieces together the plan. Ness shields his mind. Shal whispers in Steelshadow’s ear: the party cannot tell if she is trying to convince him of a different plan of attack, but Hgraam seemed to press that letting the party see him directly, letting a guard see him, or ignoring this information would be suicide. She seems unable to direct another course of action, and acquiesces. Steelshadow motions to one of his psions and the walls of force around him reshape: he is pocketed, and a crevice opens around her wall of force. Hgraam is asked to enter, and he brings his two consorts (after they drop their weapons, of course).
In her presence, Ness wastes no time: he quickly thrusts his psychic blade into her belly. Even shielded, he cannot withstand the onslaught; neither can the rest of the party. The image of a nine-foot tall figure—the image of untamed desire—etches itself into your minds: every plane and curve of his body, every glance of his burning eyes promise pleasure and pain. A subtle wrongness pervades his beauty, from the cruel cast of his features to the six fingers on each hand. He is surrounded by the finest things, awash in hedonistic pleasure.
“This is the kingdom come,” Shal’s voice seethes in your minds.
Reality comes rushing back. Steelshadow shouts. The guard quickly tries to undo the wall of force. Luis, however, joined in and stabs Shal with a hidden dagger iin the back. Hgraam shouts over the din of combat: “see his blade fail to break her skin! This is no duergar! Do not be deceived king. DO NOT BE DECEIVED BY HER PERVERSION.” She realizes she is undone, however. She quickly transitions into her true form and swiftly shifts into the ethereal. King Steelshadow looks faint, and a glint (though not totality) of sanity returns to his eyes. From within the ethereal, however, the succubus successfully charms Luis who is pushed into stabbing Ness. Hgraam decisively knocks Luis out with a strong blow to the head, and the party tends to their wounds. Several guards surround the combatants, blinking into visibility. It seems that the succubus was not able to escape entirely: two Empty-Scabbard Killers, the king’s elite guards, pop into visibility holding the head of the succubus. Elite ethereal trackers.
The party is again arrested, and handed over to Errde who is asked to remove them from the city. Not without thanks, of course: Hgraam tells the party that the king, when alleviated of a strange paranoia that lingers, will pledge to root out demons in the city. Hgraam has sent for a cleric from Blingdenstone to remove the king’s curse. Errde offers the party an armoured guard to bring them five day’s outside of Gracklstugh—near Neverlight grove, where they can find rest and directions to Blingdenstone. As a parting farewell gift, three members of the Empty-Scabbard Killers arrest the party’s drow followers for extended, secret service questioning, giving the party a bit of a lead…
Stage 1 (resolved)
After returning to Errde Blackskull, captain of the Stone Guard, the party was given their reward of 350gp worth of equipment EACH, including common magic potions, ointments, and scrolls. Because the party found so many details implicating the Council of Savants, Erdde has arranged for a counsel with Deepking Steelshadow. First, however, because the party recovered the ritualistic statue that the cultists were using to attack the Stone Giants, Errde recommends the party speaks to the Stonespeakers to get their supported with the audience.
Ness and Theo tell Errde about Gorglak, the Stone Guard who attempted to assassinate your new friend(?) Werz. More importantly, they mention the succubus. Errde is incredulous, as expected:
A mad derro, in the throws of so-called demogorgon worship—so, to be clear, a derro madder than derro already are, mad enough to believe in demon lords trouncing through the material plane, says a succubus has seduced the great Steelshadow? He who leads the most perfect empire of the underdark? Laughable.
A long tunnel opens into Southfurrow District, extending several hundred feet and into the home of the stone giants of Clan Cairngorm. The tribe is named after the ancient oath of fealty their ancestors swore to the bearers of the Cairngorm Crown, the traditional regalia of Deepkingdom monarchs. The giants lead simple, uncomplicated lives, and their dwellings reflect this. The stone giants value their privacy, and duergar are normally not allowed inside Cairngorm Cavern.
When you arrive, Stonespeaker Hgraam is expected you by the entrance. He is short on pleasantries, apparently displeased with the fact that the party did not subdue his cursed and rampaging brother, choosing instead to murder him. Errde prods the party (with an implied penalty for failing) to share with Hgraam the information they discovered in Whorlstone, regarding the ritual used to force the stone giants to grow two heads. He listens, and then tells the party:
Amends for the crime against my brother are not cured, but they are lessened. I will vouch for you in anything you seek to accomplish with Steelshadow. I give you this, as an offering of peace and this, as an offering of reward.
He gives the party two crystals: one massive emerald worth 500gp and one stonespeaker crystal. The polished crystal is the length of a human forearm, and Hgraam explains that it resonates strongly with conjuration and divination magic. It might help them root out the demons plaguing them.
Errde then prods the party to tell Hgraam about the succubus. Unlike Errde, he is more sympathetic.
I will cast a subtle divination when we meet with the king and scan for such an evil. Tread carefully, dreamlanders. Steelshadow is fair but aggressive. If he is under the enchantments of a succubus… then there indeed seems to be demons among us. And this is even more troubling than one succubus. Something evil stirs in the Underdark. The rock itself cries in pain and horror, and madness creeps from the blackest depths Pay heed to the signs surrounding you. A cave with two faces. Rock devoured, and the land overgrown. The pebble believes itself flesh. The earth rejects its wards, and the tunnels shake in fury. By these portents, you shall know of evil’s presence and of evil’s face. This is what the stones tell me.