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This is the fifteenth episode.

Episode summary[]

A slightly more complete map of the area than the one seen last episode.

Worried about the implications of the ritual she stumbled across last episode, Angel returns to The Party and together they charge into the room, discovering a large toppled crystal and a little old man with a full-sized scythe and a blood-red bowler hat to match his blood-red beard. The scythe is covered in blood-red blood. He's accompanied by droves of mutated warbonders, each with a crystal protruding from their foreheads. They also notice a dead mutated warbonder lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood-red blood.

Angel identifies the old man as a Redcap, a type of evil murderous Fey. The Redcap kindly switches his chanting to common: "Butcher's blade/flesh is flayed/blood is freed/a deal is made. Your throat will sing/your life I'll take/you'll dance with me 'til Baal is slaked. Draven decides on the basis of this that it's time to roll initiative.

The Redcap is supernaturally fast and strong and can whirlwind with his scythe, similar to Black's flail. He also has damage reduction. Thankfully, Little One has a solution for that, so he and the Redcap pair off while the others engage the mutants. They find that a single hit to the gems is enough to kill a mutant, although the -4 to hit from a called shot makes it less effective for targeting the stretchy ones. The hulks, on the other hand, are far easier to kill this way. The Redcap fights brutally, at one point killing some of his own people with a whirlwind attack in order to harm more of The Party, but with Draven's help, Little One manages to kill him and the mutants are soon mopped up.

Analysing the loot, the scythe is just a +1 whirlwind weapon, like Black's flail, but the Redcap's red cap is far more interesting. It grants a +1 profane bonus to AC, capable of stacking with nearly anything, which will increase logarithmically with the number of freshly-slain sentients whose blood the hat is soaked in: +2 when it reaches 100, +3 when it reaches 1000, etc. It even absorbs the blood, so it doesn't get all gross. However, Draven eventually decides that wearing red after Labor Day is one moral line he will not cross, so he disenchants the hat for crafting XP.

After healing up, The Party is low on spells, but despite this they decide to carry on and confront the mastermind behind the horrors they have witnessed. The crystal room has three doors (including the one through which they entered) and a set of stairs leading up. One door just leads into an antechamber connected to the wooden doors they chose not to use earlier and the stairway has a magical trigger which Angel is unable to disarm, so they decide to try the third door next.

The lair of the Umberhulk.

This room contains a chasm full of random-looking crystals and an Umberhulk. They make their will saves against its confusion gaze and attack, only for a smaller insectoid creature to pop up on its back and attempt to mind control Little One. He resists this as well, but succumbs to the Umberhulk's confusion gaze just as Draven kill it. Black extracts the Neogi from the Umberhulk's corpse and, on the basis of the surgical tables around the room with recently-crystalled Warbonders, decides that the best course of action is to crush the entymological indoctrinator beneath his sabaton.

On closer inspection, only three of the four Warbonders have crystals in their foreheads and between them, Black and Draven attempt to perform brain surgery. Their first patient dies on the operating table, but the second and third survive. Meanwhile, Angel finds another staircase in this room and sneaks up it, encountering the after-credits scene from the previous episode, this time with slightly more context.

Shadow 1: My research is essentially complete and the augmented army venture has been completely compromised. There is no longer any compelling reason to remain here.

Distant shadow: I concur. Your research is done. We should bring you back.

The conversation from before then plays out as before.

Angel uses a Message spell to inform the rest of The Party of what she has witnessed. Little One is convinced that the shadows are merely overconfident, but Draven points out that were they truy overconfident, they would believe themselves to be able to defeat The Party outright, rather than merely killing 1.5 of them before being cut down. Angel continues to eavesdrop as the shadows reveal that their "fate data" on The Party is "very incomplete" and that the shadows can only divine information via "their reflection in Lord Kintemazu's matrix", from which combat seems likely, given that The Party "don't appear to hold their own lives in very high regard". However, another of the shadows claims that "if they kill my brother, they will regret it".

Draven is very confused as to the content of the overheard conversation and decides to try to get some information out of the figure before killing him. The Party head up the steps to find a single Rakshasa and four crystalline pillars. They also see three illusory Rakshasas, effectively holograms. The real Rakshasa greets them and apologieses for the actions of the various monsters they have dispactched, expressing regret for his organisation's involvement. He elaborates that they are investors in fey bargains, but that several of these investments have gone badly and the events in Hengal were an attempt to rectify these. The female Rakshasa promises that they will no longer bargain with Neogi or Redcaps, but Little One is not satisfied by this. Another of the holograms identifies the physically-present Rakshasa as Lord Kintemazu and states that they want nothing but his safe return. They further claim that "the bank manager" was able to stash 14,000 gold before being captured and that they will turn this over to The Party if they return Lord Kintemazu unharmed to their portal.

However, Little One remains unconvinced and so battle is joined (somebody increment the "Little Once almost gets the party killed" counter). Lord Kintemazu uses the power of his crystal pillars to generate some shields and teleports across the room, but takes no offensive moves. He offers to cure one of The Party of their "astral affliction" in exchange for his life. The female Rakshasa realises that this was the source of an unknown energy signature she had detected, although it had been distorted by Lord Kintemazu's matrix to the point of unrecognisability.

Lord Kinekoro offers to use his and his brother's personal accumulation of karma to cure one member of The Party and Kintemazu adds that the white seed is weakening, meaning that its ability to protect them will soon be coming to an end, and the affliction is "not pleasant for mortals". However, given that they'd still have to find a cure anyway (for the rest of the party), they decline the offer and continue their attack. This is ineffective against the Rakshasa's damage reduction and he continues to refrain from damaging attacks, impeding them with a Heavy Earth power and teleporting away again with the two of the crystal pillars, while the other two make ineffective elemental attacks.

His brother, however, is less reticent about violence, promising The Party that if they kill Kintemazu, he will use his karma to "alter [their] very reality and [their] fate will become [their] doom". They continue their assault and Kintemazu finally returns fire, launching a spray of crystals. After another round of attacks, Little One manages to land a devastating blow and Kintemazu begins casting something, but Black suddenly suggests ammending the deal, with the Rakshasas agreeing to aid them in a future battle of The Party's choosing and extending protection over the whole party instead of outright curing one of them. Lord Manxaze refuses to "authorise an expenditure from the great pool" for this, but Kintemazu suggests that they empower the spirit seed instead, allowing it to protect The Party for longer, and Lady Hazemura concurs that this is possible, estimating that the seed will be able to protect them for at least an additional six months. Angel has them throw in the gold as well.

Lord Kintemazu bolsters the seed enough to keep it going another two weeks as an interim measure and gives them a senchara stone, a type of psionic crystal that can be used to contact his organisation. He cautions that if they need physical assistance (which would come from Kinekoro, apparently the fighter of the bunch), they will need to give at least 2-3 days' notice (a week would be ideal). They can provide remote assistance at short notice, but the more time they have, the better aid they can provide.

The route taken from the crystal room under Eloyah to Kintemazu's portal (marked with a cross).

Kintemazy shows them a staircase which leads up to Eloyah, but the decide that it would be preferable to leave the long way, via the tunnel, so as to avoid the attentions of the Psionic Academy. It takes them several extra days, but they make it to the portal without incident and Kintemazu tells them where the gold is hidden - a tree a couple of hours away.Angel and Little One want to collect the gold while the tiger lord is still in their power, but Draven and Black have grown to trust him over the week they have spent together and convince the others to let him go. Gushy The Rahjs open a planar portal from their end and Kintemzu steps through to safety. The Party then race to the appointed tree, where they find the gold that was promised to them, hidden with an invisibility ward, in the form of certified negotiable gemstones. The money, that is, not the ward.

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