The smell of burning flesh fills the air as Tezzes fireball careens into a group of the guards advancing from the arena upon the group. Ivan fires on a guard advancing from the north carrying one side of a vat of oil. The musket ball shatters his shin bone, and he goes down, spilling the oil everywhere. A bolt flies from Gladus, Roscoe’s crossbow, and pins the wounded guards lifeless body to the stone floor. Wishing to end the conflict without further bloodshed of the basically innocent town guard, Elena dashes to the fore and executes a powerful kiai. The ferocity of her cry causes the remaining guards to turn tail and run.
“I didn’t sign up for this!!” The retreating guards lament.
Roscoe urges them not to go thru the alchemy room, so the group moves north after the guards. They emerge into the arena to look for Grok, but are greeted by a hail of flaming arrows. Ivan smiles at the wisdom of using scouts as he sees Roscoe, Gideon and Tezz struck by the projectiles. They quickly dart back into the hallway and proceed up to the level of the arena sky-boxes, where Grok is purportedly being held. Ivan, who knows the best way to sneak around something is to kill it, busts down the door of the nearest sky-box, startling an angelic Deva. The Deva jumps and accidentally looses a flaming arrow into the stands of the arena. This plus the bonfire of bodies combine to cause the arena to finally catch fire. Ivan charges into melee range and attemts to pound the angel into submission. His attacks, to his own surprise are rebuffed.
“Join our party they said. Punch to the right they said. I’d rather be treasure hunting!” He mutters under his breath.
The Deva, not having noticed the rest of the group, is attacked and subdued ultimately by Yertle.
“Do you yield?” Gideon asks the planar being, who he knows to typically be aligned with good. The deva casts a sympathetic gaze at Roscoe, then pulls out his mace and with a terrifying savagery and ferocity drives it into it’s own head. It’s skull shatters with a bone-chilling crack. All who witness it are shocked at the sight they have just beheld. Roscoe, puzzling at the creatures last look at him, feels drawn to take one of it’s morning stars with him.
The group manages to avoid the other devas detection as they make their way to the center box where they see Grok and a winged figure. The Arena below them burns. Roscoe recognizes this to be Zoraida, his mother, in her true succubus form. She regards the group then looks at Grok, who is bound with his neck in a noose hung from a gallow. She laughs and kicks him from the platform. Lightning quick the group reacts. Gideon levitates Grok to stop hi fall, while Roscoe pulls off a miraculous shot and severs the noose. Gideon settles him safely in the box, and Roscoe moves to untie him. Yertle charges in, shoving Ivan aside, and tries to knock Zoraida to the ground to disrupt the spell she begins to cast. Failing this, the full force of the spell is unleashed. Roscoe manages to twist out of the way of the blast, but a hellish fireball scorches Ivan, Yertle, and Grok.
“The choice it yours.” She says to Roscoe, and takes to the air.
“It doesn’t have to be this way!” He calls back.
“Yes it does!” Ivan retorts. “You burn me, I break you…bitch!”
Beams crack and the building rocks as the fire surrounding them begin to degrade the integrity of the building. Pulling Grok to his feet the party dashes across the suspended bridges joining the sky-boxes. Elena and Grok’s feet find a weak spot in the floor and they fall, dangling over the flame. Ivan, made large by Tezz’s magic, turns back and takes one of them in each hand, hoisting them back to safety. Tezz himself runs ahead, to find a clear path. He warns the rest about a tongue of fire licking thru the wall, and all make it thru the room. Just as they near the exit some beams fall from the ceiling, separating Ivan, Grok, and Gideon from The rest of the group. Elena runs to prepare the boat for their escape, while Roscoe searches the exterior for another exit for the companions. He finds one and calls out to them. Ivan’s keen ears make out his cry over the cacophony around him, and leads the group towards it. But as they run to the exit the stairs around them give way. With preternatural speed Gideon casts a spell to strengthen the stairs beneath their feet and keep them from harm, but the way ahead is impassable. Roscoe circles the building and quickly finds an alternate route, and once again Ivan zeros in on his voice with ease. But as he ushers the others towards the new path, a support column breaks away from the wall and topples towards him. Gideon sees this and tried yanking him to safety. Ivan is more than a little singed, but still standing. Grok is staggering, barely able to stand, and Gideon is himself limping as they try to navigate the final smoke-filled tunnel to freedom. Ivan and Gideon emerge, but Grok stumbles and loses his way. Roscoe grits his teeth, and charges new horns first into the breech to find Grok. The acrid smoke fills his newly awakened sent glands, but he hears Grok hacking in the fumes. Pulling him to his feet and slinging Groks arm over his shoulder, Roscoe guides him out of danger. They all stumble into the boat and Elena begins to row them to safety.
Gideon recommends that, since the city will no doubt be even more hot for their capture now, that they venture to his native swamps to hide and regroup. They manage to avoid detection by the patrolling guards, but are seen by many merfolk, who seem curious about the party and the demolition of the arena. Not being able to communicate better, Gideon pantomimes that ‘the arena blew up and we’re running away.’ Truer words were never gestured.
Once in the swamp, Gideon navigated them to a group of healers. There they all spent a few days healing Grok and recuperating themselves, before heading back towards Ilhopa. They did not, however, think to question their friend Grok, whom they had gone to great lengths to rescue, about the nature of his capture or what else he might have known. * trumpet ’whaa-whaa-whaa" sounds *
As they near the edge of a clearing close to the river of oil, Ivan sees a group of figures pouring a mysterious substance into it. He alerts the team of this, and that a weaselly man with blond hair and mage’s robes. Tess recognizes this as the description of Bartholomew and bursts out of the brush. Bart sees that their jig is up and beings to repudiate his lackeys, pushing one into the oil they were treating. The guard plunges into the flow and begins to disintegrate. Bart and his group retreat to their mule drawn carriage and try to flee the scene, but the party breaks into a run to give chase. Tezz leaps into the air in mid stride and transforms into a hawk, taking wing and darting ahead of the carriage, hoping to set an ambush. But as he is setting caltrops in the road and congratulating himself on his cleverness, Ivan has sprinted ahead of his quarry and forded the river, and slaughters their mule. He then somersaults onto the carriage top with the four remaining guards and calls a shout of challenge to them all. They attempt to attack him, but he parries them expertly, while one drops his weapon in the confusion. Roscoe takes a few shots and then fords the river to lend aid, but he notices something in the reeds scurrying off. he tries to track it down, but to no avail. Gideon and Yertle levitate and swim across respectively and run to the fray. Gideon enlarges Yertle, who moves around the cart and drives it towards the tainted river of oil. Elena, who was the slowest to react, managed to jump onto the carriage, looking for Bart and seeing a chest instead. She dives thru, nabbing the chest before the cart sinks into the sludge. Ivan manages to deliver a parting shot to a guard before he back-flips off the cart, landing neatly in the reeds. Two of the guards leap clear, but one catches his hand trying to claim his weapon and loses his life, melted in the toxic oil. The weaker of the remaining guards is dispatched, and the last is subdued by Ivan, Roscoe and Elena just as Tezz returns, panting and wondering why his clever ambush was ruined!
“What were you doing to the river?” Roscoe barks.
“Nothing!” cries a flustered Tezz.
“Not you!” Roscoe grimaces. Tezz flicks his tail up to him indignantly, and and turns, eyeing the new chest they have acquired. As the others are interrogating their captive, he deftly pops the lock and opens the chest, seeing a delicately carved statue of a merfolk.
Roscoe grills the captured guard about his orders. He says he is a member of the elite guard for Bartholomew and they were trying to break the protection of the city to allow them to attack the merfolk by poisoning the rivers. He tells them that his orders arrive by pidgeon at 2am in their homes. He lies and tries to convince the group that the message only comes if he lives, but Roscoe’s goggles of sense motive show this to be false. The house lights fade on the group, puzzling over their next move…