Players: Daniel, Lynn, Mike
After returning from their first dungeon crawl in the Sunless Citadel, Charn, Horgic, and Devan accompanied Ashton to Westgate, where he gave a magic apple from the vampire tree to his mentor, saving his life. While they were on split up on various errands in the neighborhood, they were attacked by a bounty hunter who turned out to be Devan's old friend Meg. Meg, and apparently a lot of other people, had heard a rather slanted version of Charn and Horgic's escape from Paneris. She also claimed to have been coerced into taking the job, and that she was supposed to bring them to Freeport and contact Paneris in a tavern called the Black Gull.
They left Meg and bought passage on a merchant ship to Freeport, where they were attacked by a crew of hobgoblins intending to conscript them. After killing the hobgoblins, the party claimed their ship and renamed it the Manticore, after the caged beast the hobgoblins were transporting. A young cleric of Ezren named Ariel had observed their fight with the hobgoblins and wanted to hire them to find her missing friend, a temple librarian named Lucius. They agreed to hear her out over drinks at a nearby tavern, the Bilge Rat.
Ariel had known Lucius for most of her life. Six years ago, he had suddenly changed overnight, acting like a complete stranger. He was expelled from the temple for violating the sanctum, and then left Freeport for four years. He then reappeared, just like his old self, and somehow convinced the high priest, T'uron, to readmit him to the temple. For awhile everything seemed to be back to normal. Then Lucius began looking haggard, and started asking what he had been doing after his initial personality change, as if he hadn't been there. Two days before the party arrived, Lucius had disappeared.
Although expressing serious doubt that it could be done, they accepted the mission. Then they went to the Black Gull to take care of their business with Paneris. There they nabbed the contact and found out from him that Paneris wasn't coming to town. Disposing of the errand-boy at the temple of Daiten for attitude adjustment, they noticed a cult of Go-Taro chanting in a run-down shack, then squaring off in ritual fist-fights. They moved on to the temple of Ezren to look for leads. Ariel, worried that hanging around with adventurers would get her into trouble, took them outside and then to Lucian's house.
At Lucius's house, the first thing they found was the monster under the bed, a grotesque amorphous mass of eyes and tentacles that drove Horgic to gibbering madness (temporarily) with its incessent babbling and kept trying to envelop Ashton. After destroying it, they resumed searching the house. They found Lucius's diary and a scrap of paper with a to-do list. The diary confirmed what Ariel had told them, and described "cities as tall as the clouds and creatures so alien in form that I can't describe them." After some fussing over the word "turnips" on the to-do list they forgot about the scrap of paper, despite one promising lead, "talk with Captain Scarbelly". In the basement, they found newly built but empty shelves, and some strange but harmless crustaceans that seemed to have crept in through a crack in the wall.
They decided next to see what they could find out at the temple of Ezren. In addition to Ariel, Lucius's diary had mentioned the high priest T'uron and his assistant Milos. Meeting Milos was no problem, but they were told that T'uron was much too busy planning the dedication for the Lighthouse of Ratawist to see them. Ratawist, they were told, was considered to be the founder of the city, which had been built from a mountain enclave of his that survived the great cataclysm.
Milos was remarkably unconcerned about the missing librarian, even suggesting that Lucius might just be sleeping off a hangover somewhere. When they suggested that the gibbering horror they found in his house might have been Lucius, Milos shrugged and said that it was entirely possible. They did notice that Milos had a piece of carapace on his desk, similar to the crustaceans they found. Milos didn't know what it was, but expressed interest when they said there were more.
After attempting to get various priests into trouble, they left and returned to Lucius's house to check out the crustaceans again. They noticed one in the corner that had died and was covered with a fuzzy white fungus. Horgic smashed it and was engulfed in spores, which failed to infect him, but left him with a momentary craving to go to the temple and read something (he couldn't remember what) in the temple library. After recovering, he declared this to be "devil fungus".
Having noted that T'uron was busy with the lighthouse dedication, our heroes decided they needed to sneak out to the site after dark and hired a local boatman to take them. (They knew better than to try to sail their newly acquired ship with no nautical experience.) On the way, they were ambushed by mercenaries. They easily defeated the assassins, although Horgic got hit with a couple of lightning javelins. In the leader's pocket they found a note that said, "Black Gull, after sundown" and bore the symbol of Ophion. There they found an intermediary for "the Brotherhood". Ashton and Devan pretended to be his contacts, but couldn't get much out of him, so Devan shadowed him after he left. This led them to a bricked-up house in the eastern district, after which they lost the errand-boy in a crowd.
They found a secret door going through a barrel in the basement of the bricked-up house. A spiral stair beyond led them down to a basalt-walled dungeon. Although they had carefully searched all surfaces of the entrance, they missed a pit trap later on. Ashton blasted a room full of skeletons to dust, then they moved on to the main chapel, where they discovered that Milos was the leader of the Brootherhood, at least in Freeport.
Charn took out the acolytes with his first two shots. Milos made Horgic think Ashton was on fire, causing him to first douse him with water, then pull down the curtains over him. He turned Charn into a garden snake and made Devan flee the room. Despite this, Horgic eventually freed himself of the suggestion and Ashton freed himself from the curtains. Soon Milos was charbroiled and chopped up.
Behind the altar they found Lucius, tied and gagged. On the way to the temple to get Charn's polymorph dispelled, he explained that Milos had apparently heard of other incidents like what happened to Lucius, and hoped to learn about the extraplanar entity that had borrowed his body. Unfortunately, Lucius didn't remember what Milos wanted to know, and so was tortured for nothing.
Lucius did know that his condition had begun with Horgic's "devil fungus". The Captain Scarbelly on his to-do list was a pirate with whom the entity had booked passage. Lucius had learned from the pirate that the entity had demonstrated at tendency to note even the most insignificant details. He had paid Scarbelly to take him to an undistinguished point in the sea and asked him to wait. He then jumped overboard and vanished under the waves for hours. Lucius returned looking satisfied but said nothing of his purpose here.
Later in their voyage, the pirates noticed one of the dead and fungus-encrusted creatures on the ship. The fungus affected one of the crew in a strange manner, more like what it did to Horgic. Gralank the pirate became extremely fastidious and developed a number of odd habits, but didn't go through the kind of total personality change that Lucius did. Also unlike Lucius, he recovered a month later and had no memory loss. A whole swarm of tiny crustaceans was later found near Gralank's cot.
The party checked out one more room before leaving the dungeon. There, they accidentally summoned a hideous mass of tentacles which waved around the room searchingly, then subsided and vanished, leaving only a sick feeling and visions of black and purple tentacles holding together vast spheres in the void.