After the defeat of the Yellow Men, the party had been arrested for attacking Abhimani Fressell, a visiting warrior, accusing him of releasing the Yellow Men. Count and Countess Polyngton held court to decide the matter and since both are extremely intelligent, they reasoned that neither Abhimani nor Mistress Thakwraa was responsible for the deaths of the previous day. Mistress Thakwraa, however, was exiled from Blem to preserve the peace, since many locals would blame her for the attacks. The party’s zeal in finding those responsible was praised (+1 Reputation again!) and they were asked to stay after the trial to talk with the Count and Countess.
After court, the Count and Countess shared their belief with the party that the attacks had been carried out by a shapeshifter, possibly one in the employ of Count Dustane Radclyffe of Ruthven, whose domain was to the south. They charged the party with discovering the truth by slipping over the southern border of The Pass.
Before they started on the new mission, Ian and Brendan competed in the Grand Melee. There were thirty warriors on either side, assigned to the Blue and Red teams. All were among the finest in the county Braedt, as well as some from Ruthven and Rodes. Brendan (Blue Team) was double-teamed in the first turn of the combat and defeated before Ian (Blue Team) could come to his aid. Eufemmia (on the Red Team) was also defeated in the first turn. Ian persevered through four more rounds, by which time the Blue Team had 10 people left, and Red only had two. Blue won, and the remaining members were rewarded with battle-trained Coursers, and the Champion of the Day (not Ian, though he was the second best left) was awarded a mithril suit of plate armor.
While the warriors healed, Josette encountered a beggar woman who claimed to once have been the mistress of Arnold de York, the Wizard of Jellakar. Josette paid for the woman to get clean, to get some new clothes, and fed her. In return, the woman shared what she knew of Arnold’s Dark Tower and the Halka demon that guards it.
During the night, the woman passed away from old age. The party suspected dirty play, so Ian performed an autopsy, after which they put the remains in a bucket and buried it secretly. Then they left for Restwell, all except Sir Alexios, who had become the Countess’s latest lover. He dallied for a time, and sent the others ahead.
On the way, they passed through Jellakar, where Sir Guddeswyk recruited them to investigate Arnold’s tower. Arnold had not been seen for six months, and an elite team of guards sent into the dark dome a month ago were missing as well. Or at least, three of them were. The other three had been tossed out of the dome in very small pieces.
The party recruited Musuoulus, the handsome gay owner of the Conquerer bar in town, who had met the party before and spent a wonderful evening with Brendan. Musuoulus was wisely reluctant about entering Arnold’s Dome, but after Brendan (who is a handsome devil) flirted with him, Musuoulus relented and agreed to accompany them.
The next day, they opened the doors to the dome and discovered that a magical blackness filled the dome, one that not even Scorch the fire elemental could illuminate. Moreover, Scorch reported that a barbed demon they recognized as a Halka was inside the dome. Facing a -8 to hit modifier from fighting in such darkness, and informed by Josette that Halkas could see in such darkness, the party reconsidered their approach.
Rather than going straight in, they went to the rear of the dome and had George the earth elemental open a door into the tower. Ian then ran into the tower and closed the door to the dome before the Halka could enter. They found a circle, triangle, and pentagram inscribed on the floor, a circular stairway leading up, and an open trapdoor with stairs leading down. Ian closed the trapdoor, noticing as he did that the top was inscribed with the words, “The Gates of Hell.” The party then explored the upper levels of the tower, finding focus crystals, Witchwood Teas, some odd dried mushrooms, several books of worth, and a Forever Lantern with a fire elemental bound within.
Leaving George to keep the tower closed, they opened the trapdoor and headed down. Ian and Brendan narrowly avoided a pit trap, and then just a few minutes later avoided another one. Musuoulus decided that the party was crazy and that Brendan was not worth the craziness. He headed back up again, only to find that George would not let him out. He hid under the four poster bed on the third level, and hoped the party would survive.
Below, the party found a sacrificial table used for human sacrifice to the Demon Gods, and later found a tomb with four coffins. They continued to descend and found themselves in four successive levels of a prison. The first cell was empty. The second held a Bladecloud demon. They left it in its cell. The third proved to have an open cell door from which buzzing came, so they quickly closed the wooden door that led from the circular stairway. On the bottom level, Ian and Brendan again narrowly avoided a pit trap, but Josette walked right onto it. Luckily Brendan grabbed her and pulled her back before she could drop. Josette Shaped some rock over the pit so that it was sealed and would no longer work.
Josette sensed a presence in the bottom cell (which had no window) and six more underneath them (in the pit, they guessed). Ian was seized with a great curiosity about the closed cell, and ultimately he held the door shut while Brendan picked the lock. Once the door was unlocked, the Jaldak demon inside easily pushed Ian aside and bubbled and oozed out into the corridor while the party fled in despair. Scorch tried to burn it, but the Jaldak was agile enough to avoid him and continue to move forward. While the rest of the party fled upward, Josette tried to banish it, and luckily succeeded. A Jaldak is only vulnerable to acid, fire, and spells, and could easily have killed the party if it was just a little faster.
Counting their lucky stars, the party paused for the evening.