Continued from Scourge of the Slave Lords Part I… Our players for this session are Nick (Alarik, Human Crusader 8) and Steve (Steve, Human Swordsage 8). GM PCs include Mornrandir (Human Wizard 8) and Laurin (Human Cleric 8).
Amidst the candles and braziers, knelt a cleric in prayer. The incense burned as he muttered his words, beseeching his god for the means to repay those who wronged him. Only half a year ago, he had been cast into this realm to rid it of great evil…only to have been sold into the servitude of said evil instead. By those who had been sent in with him no less! Revenge burned inside him like a bonfire but that was fine. After all, his god was the one of the sun.
So focused on prayer was he that he did not hear the steps of the Slave Lord entering. Instead of interrupting, the Slave Lord merely listened as the cleric spit the words of hate towards his former comrades. When he had found that this so-called “Dustin the Good”, who had helped destroy the Temple of Elemental Evil, was a slave on his market…well, he had to know more about those who had discarded him. And how he could use them for his own purposes.
So, the two of them talked all through the winter, each using the other unknowingly to further their own machinations. The Slave Lord had heard Dustin’s tale, how the crime the cleric had been sentenced for was not one he committed. Relying on this thirst for revenge, the Slave Lord stationed Dustin in Highport and waited for the party to move on from the village of Hommlett. He soon heard of their invitation to Safeton and the manor of Dame Gold, engineering the raid there. From Dustin’s intel regarding their lust for wealth, he counted on them rescuing the lady…if only for the bounty.
The sequence of events had been manipulated to lead the party to Highport, one way or the other. While the slaver’s plan had not gone exactly as it should have (mainly the party’s escape once reaching Highport), their time in captivity upon the galley should not have endeared them to the Slave Lords. They will find this temple, the crux of the slave trade in Highport, sooner or later.
Waiting for them will be their former cleric, Dustin. He will have the resources of the temple at his disposal, which should be enough to overcome a party deprived of their magical items (or any scrounged up during their time in Highport, provided they find a dealer willing to sell). Once the party is dealt with and when he had finished using Dustin to purge the Slave Lord hierarchy of a traitor, the cleric will easily be discarded. The slave trade would resume unabated with the deaths of those who conquered the Temple of Elemental Evil.
Dustin was not going to be a mere pawn, however, as he had ambitions of his own. While he had no love for the other party members, only the wizard had sold him into slavery. He figured his former comrades were more selfish than evil…and if they were nefarious, he could use that to get them to turn on one of their own. He had gleaned much about the Slave Lord’s operations that he could share with the party, provided they hand the wizard over.
Even if the scenario did not play out as predicted, Dustin was confident that evil would be cleansed from the world. For his god had shown him visions of evil men being cut down by a blade of flame and a great volcanic eruption consuming their stronghold. His god had interpreted the vision for Dustin, telling him the meaning and significance of each nightly dream. Dustin had it on divine authority that all this would come to pass. He had already won. It was now only a matter of time waiting for everyone else to catch up and realize it.
Once a crown jewel amidst the local jungle, Highport was the center of trade along the sea. Commerce from all places flowed into the city and the wealth was evident by grandeur of the buildings. While the money and goods that flowed into Highport made the citizens there rich, it also attracted the attention of barbaric hordes. A conglomeration of orcs, gnolls, goblins and other humanoids sacked the city after six attempts.
Curiously, the head of the horde did not keep Highport for himself. Instead, he merely occupied the city and allowed humans to resettle it…only the humans who were allowed to return were none of the original settlers. Instead, a more evil stock was sought.
As the party recuperates in Highport, the city is little more than a ruin with enough of a touch up to make it look presentable. Its inhabitants are divided amongst their own ambitions, united only by their fear of the Slave Lords. The Slave Lords only care that their profitable trade is conducted in Highport, with enough pretense of a government concocted to keep that establishment in tact. Outside of slaves, Highport is a town where the only law is whoever has the strongest sword arm.
To the surprise of no one, the party fits in with the evil around them. For 6 days, Steve sets fire to any ships in the harbor and manages to evade detection. As can be expected, he racks up a considerable bounty (27,000 gold). Ser Nicholas adopts the alias “Alarik” and uses his suave charm to influence those in the slave trade. Caerwyn tries to work his way through the slave organization as well but does not manage as well as Alarik. Mornrandir uses his leadership abilities to organize an underground resistance movement for free (i.e. escaped) slaves…who also help retrieve the party’s belongings from the bottom of the ocean.
On the sixth day since their arrival, Mornrandir meets with Alarik and Steve to plot their foray into the Temple of Highport. Alarik has learned that all slaves are taken there, as it is a processing center of sorts. People dealing in the slave trade enter and leave via the temple’s main gate. Some of the slaves recently processed match the description of Dame Gold and her guests. Although there is a secret entrance to the temple, Alarik has convinced those in the city he’s a prospective trader and would like to see the stock…a request that has been granted.
To continue the tradition of framing other party members for crimes they have committed in order to secure a bounty, Steve suggests incriminating Caerwyn as “The Arsonist.” All present sign off on the plan, for the public commotion regarding The Arsonist’s arrest would likely draw some attention away from the Temple of Highport. And thus, Caerwyn was knocked out, silenced and hauled off in the middle of the night before being turned over to the authorities. When they checked his hideout, they found all kinds of materials used to make alchemical fire. The authorities declared the arsonist case closed after paying the party the bounty’s reward.
The next day, with Highport authorities and (some) citizens trumpeting the capture of the dreaded arsonist, the rest of the party (plus Laurin, a recruited cleric) made their way to the temple. Steve uses Caerwyn’s magical hat of alter self to disguise himself as a buff specimen. Mornrandir uses magic to achieve a similar effect. Alarik is able to pass off Laurin as a friend.
The party enters the Temple of Highport, with access to its interior easily granted. Alarik knows the location of two slave pens, one on the temple level proper and the other in its depths. He leads his “slaves” through the temple’s courtyard into the garden but soon loses control of them. For in the garden are a group of harpies, the mortal enemy of Steve. Steve blows the party’s cover by attacking the harpies, downing two of them before the others fly off to warn their masters of intruders!
The four soon come to the slave pen on the temple’s top level…but find it’s not much of a slave pen at all! As the party moves to free them, the “slaves” turn out to be half-orcs! Armed with short swords concealed within their raggedy robes, the half-orcs attempt to slay the party on behalf of the Slave Lords. One fear spell later and the humanoids are cowering within the corners of the room. Alarik, Steve and Laurin slay a few of them before leaving the room, with Mornrandir placing an arcane lock on the door.
Before venturing back into the courtyard, Mornrandir and Steve alter themselves to look like half-orcs. They take Alarik and Laurin as their “prisoners” and plan to use them to catch the guards unawares. Upon entering the courtyard, they notice the area is on full battle alert. Orcs have pushed over tables and are taking cover behind them while some half-orcs have a primitive flame-throwing device aimed at the door to the garden. Luckily, the humanoids are not too trigger-happy and are pleased to know that some of their own managed to catch the intruders!
This allows Steve to use the same technique he set so many ships in the harbor ablaze with on the flame-throwing device! The half-orcs are immediately incinerated while some of the orcs are cut down by Alarik as they flee the temple into the city! The rest escape, raving about how the arsonist lives as they do so. The party does not give chase, figuring that the authorities would believe Caerwyn was the real arsonist.
Exiting the courtyard, the four open the main doors to the Temple of Highport. They bypass the trapped corridor lined with gargoyles by simply flying over it (and carrying those who can’t). Listening in at the door, Steve hears the moaning of a few slaves amidst the grunting of some half-orcs…and a murmured prayer uttered by a familiar voice. He does not know why Dustin is here but figures he won’t be too happy to see Mornrandir.
A minute later, the door to the alter swings open with Steve and Alarik dragging Mornrandir towards Dustin. They force the wizard to kneel down in front of Dustin, with Steve asking why the hell Dustin’s here. Dustin tells Steve he’ll tell him everything but only after he’s exacted the revenge he’s waited so long for. Dustin casts divine power but Steve and Alarik help Mornrandir to his feet.
Then all hell breaks loose! A troll suddenly appears from a poor box, suddenly growing from a small stone miniature! Alarik faces the troll alone while Laurin deals with the half-orcs. Steve grabs Dustin and they both teleport to the top of the room. Steve manages to keep Dustin in his grasp while fixed on the ceiling, thanks to his spider-climbing magic gear and an increased strength buff. Dustin’s divine power buff is then dispelled by Mornrandir.
Dustin’s last thoughts are of confusion and fear. Why did Steve not betray the wizard? He struggles to free himself of Steve but it is in vain. Dustin’s thoughts are interrupted when Steve comet throws him into the ground, the impact upon the stone floor paralyzing him. Steve then helps Laurin deal with the half-orcs before facing the troll with Alarik. Mornrandir’s attention is fixed on Dustin.
Alarik reminds the party that Dustin is needed alive but Mornrandir dismisses that. After hitting Dustin with rays of enfeeblement and exhaustion, the wizard poly-morphs into a mind flayer. Powerless to stop him, Dustin’s brain is soon extracted by the mind flayer. With Dustin’s knowledge now in possession, the party frees the slaves. The slaves are grateful for freedom but fear for their lives after seeing the brain extraction. After descending down a trap door, the party rests for 8 hours in an extra-dimensional space created by an extended rope trick.
[ The above encounter with Dustin was supposed to be with another cleric…until Gabe suggested it would be pretty hilarious if the party ever ran into Dustin again. This was the best place to fit that encounter. ]
The next day consisted of a rampage through the lower levels of the temple. Slaves were freed, brains were extracted from hosts and the party recovered some intel regarding a slaver caravan. Said caravan is believed to be the one transporting Dame Gold and the other kidnapped villagers. They also found a map and directions to the Slave Lord capital, the city of Suderham. The party wasted no time in pursuing the caravan, hoping to catch up with the caravan…either in the wilds or in Suderham.
As the party ventures into the jungle wilds, a drow priestess makes her way to Highport’s dungeons. Any questions from guards immediately cease when she shows her ID, revealing her to be one of the Slave Lords. She had received a most disturbing message from the spider goddess: That she would soon be framed for a plot to usurp control of the Slave Lords. The evidence “incriminating” her would be manufactured by the head of the Slave Lords himself, hoping to purge the ranks of those undesirable.
The spider goddess, Lolth, had told the priestess this news, as well as to seek aid from one of her own. The only other surface drow around was in this very prison. He would be grateful for his release and stay of execution. He would prove useful in eliminating the Slave Lord leader…and be grateful for the chance to get revenge on those who had wronged him.
She opened the cell of Caerwyn Tyr and together, boarded a ship with yellow sails. During the trip to Suderham, they discussed the terms of his contract… Caerwyn was now an assassin, all he had to do now was kill someone.
Next Time: The players skip most of the content by using the alter self spell! The party rampages through Suderham, making off with a considerable bounty of gold! The Slave Lords are dealt with! And one of the party members dies!