Part 15: Deep into the Snake Pit
The party awoke, fully rested and ready to take on Sithembile’s lair. Leticia was asked to go with them, but had to heal the town guard’s medic earlier that morning after it was revealed that he took a couple of fireball blasts while defending the town the previous evening. Dorian couldn’t do anything and was hesitant to “embrace” (read: convert to vampirism) the man, so Leticia’s expertise was called for.
On the way to the mountain, Leticia detected an oppressive evil around the mountain. Drake discovered it as well, namely by the fact that his horse did not want to go anywhere near the mountain no matter how much Drake coaxed it. Ultimately, he found he would have to go on foot. The party arrived, opening the secret door into the lair, to discover a lone sciurid, badly wounded and in need of medical help. His wounds turned out to be cursed and diseased, and the creature was astounded when Rephael managed to undo the worst of the damage. He revealed that another sciurid party had been seen going into the area but never returned, and the loner was trying to shadow them, only to run into cats that apparently had bandages wrapped around them. He then introduced himself as Miron and was last seen leaving to warn his tribe to evacuate the region.
Part 16: Old Friends
The larger threat around this mountain fortress was twofold: giant wolf ghouls and the mummified panthers that had caused the sciurid’s grave injury. The first time the wolves were encountered, Drake used the aurumvorax stew he had made the previous day to distract their attention and get them fighting, allowing the party to slip past. Further encounters with the wolves and all encounters with the panthers ended in fighting, as Leticia sensed something very wrong and evil about them and did not want to leave them alive. However, the party also encountered two enclaves of blattar, both trying to conduct rituals. One of them had an intended victim – whom Leticia recognized as Ganzorig Dragonchanter – that the party freed and then escorted out of the mountain.
The party also encountered two old demon friends, Gozuki and Mezuki. They were directly working with the blattar ritualists, but fled the moment they saw the party (but not before Rephael scarred Mezuki). When the party ran into the duo again, they revealed that they had a new master, Zheng Horak, and their previous night’s fireball rampage was one last fling before they left their previous master. They also hinted that they would do one last task for their old master, Sithembile, and fought the party. Gozuki, matched up against Rephael, could do little to harm him thanks to being the smite evil target. Mezuki, matched up against Bruin and Drake, did much better, and would have killed Bruin had he not been raging at the time. Their defeat revealed that they had tattoos which allowed them to teleport away if they were about to perish.
The fighting also revealed that there were now amulets that could deflect holy power and redirect it against the attacker. They didn’t do much for Gozuki and Mezuki, as they had been using weaker versions, but these were still a noticeable problem.
Part 17: Catch of the Century
The group would finally encounter Sithembile, who addressed the party as an illusion. Sithembile deliberately set Gozuki and Mezuki up to accept a new master, because he knew his time was short the moment he met the party – recognizing them as Samir’s killers. Sithembile went into explaining his intent for infiltrating the kingdom and expressed surprise that Samir was killed so soon after his infiltration, and noting that Samir was cast out because he studied the arts of the antipaladin. Also, Sithembile has relayed to the rest of the rakshasas about the identities of the party causing them so much trouble.
Sithembile’s style of combat turned out to be going invisible and sneak attacking so well that even uncanny evasion abilities would not be enough to save them. After one such strike completely whiffed on Bruin and another nailed Rephael, that strategy was shut down quickly when Fiona thought quickly and threw glitterdust on him. After that, Sithembile was… honestly a pushover, though buffed up so much that it took smashing a dispelling ingot into his face to get the more troublesome buffs dispelled. Sithembile was a much more graceful loser than Samir ever was, spilling the beans on the Maharaja’s takeover plot – apparently the Orozhakian kingdom represents the biggest threat to the Maharaja’s plans for world domination, so she’s targeting that one first. Sithembile also revealed the secret of the anti-holy amulets – the Maharaja had a hand in those. When Sithembile insisted that he had his mind magically blanked to prevent anyone from gleaning the Maharaja’s location, the party decided to knock him out and drag him back to Bludzen.
The party also retrieved a parchment that apparently listed the identities of every one of the rakshasas involved in the takeover plot. The Maharaja was identified as Zheng Horak, Samir was crossed out, and there was a note on one Itri Patil that Mazikiri had been ‘taken out’. This information was brought back to Dorian, who had recovered from his burning experience by taking a bath in blood and was hesitant to reveal where the blood came from. He was honestly shocked that the party had brought back a live rakshasa and information on the leaders, but did implore the party not to go far until he had the information – either from saving Shun or breaking Sithembile – was discovered. Dorian also revealed that Damian was still working on getting transmutation experts, although this information would put that plan on hold. Finally, he hinted that there was only going to be one chance to get information out of Sithembile – once they’re done cracking his mind, the people of Bludzen want Sithembile executed.
The party gets some time to relax from their adventure. There is a good chance they will need it.