The Empty Keg

Session 35

Recap

Picking themselves up after the battle with the prison’s final guardians, the Empty Keg catches a small break when it seems that the intricate lock on the door has long since been broken (from the inside). Pushing the doors open, the adventurers find themselves at the top of a sort of hill surrounded by a lake of black glass. The landscape is bleak and barren, broken by tremendous spires of shattered stone standing at impossible angels. The heat and the dust are oppressive, and a ball of fire hangs high up in the red sky. The only structure is a bridge made of worked white stone, so the Keg heads towards it.

While crossing the bridge, the stones begin to shake as enormous fleshy appendages wrap themselves around crossing and begin to tear it apart. It isn’t long before the entire structure collapses, sending the Keg into icy black necrotic sludge while a titanic, oozing mass of tentacles pushes itself out of the morass and begins to feed. The battle with the abyssal kraken is lengthy and difficult — Barnaby stands toe to toe with the beast and flies into a berserk rage from which he almost does not recover, while Azera is pulled under the depths almost immediately and does not resurface until the battle is ended (had her divine heritage not protected her, she would surely have perished). Exhausted, the company manages to make it to the other side — an entire 500 feet from where they started.

Navigating the terrain proves difficult, but some timely ritual magic gives the Keg an idea of where to head. Trudging through the badlands is slow and tortuous work, and the company finds their way barred by an enormous crevasse which they use to take shelter from a howling sandstorm. Though there is no night, the Keg spends an uneasy period of rest hidden under tarps while dust devils run amok during the storm — only Joshua seems unconcerned with the conditions, almost taking pleasure at putting his training to use. Ominously, there are tracks of some kind of demonic bloodhound near the Keg’s campsite, but Azera is confident her ritual magic protected the group from their notice.

With the new day come new decisions. Rather than investigating a far off geyser or a patch of mist, the company continues along the edge of the massive crevasse until they espy a curious sight — a gypsy wagon resting in a patch of shadow where there should be no shadow. Investigating, Jack pierces the illusion masking a night hag and her bodyguard — a pair of fierce and massive Fir Bolg. The hag, Niamh, is startled and then irritated that her illusion, which works well enough against demons, was of no avail. She reacts with curiosity, asking what mortals could possibly be doing down in the Pit. After some back and forth, a few charming lies from Jack, and a veiled threat from Joshua, she reveals that she is a trader from Greywall. Though she is not willing to risk her livelihood showing the company her way in and out of hell, she is willing to treat with them.

Azera takes the hag aside while the rest of the party bicker over what they are willing to give up (souls? magical items? residuum?). The discussion between the deva and Niamh is brief and ends with the hag receiving a lock of Azera’s hair. When the two return, the hag agrees to give the Keg copies of her maps and to trade fairly for useful rituals to help them survive in the abyss. The company accepts the maps, but is unwilling to pay for anything more. With a shrug, the hag reminds Azera that the terms of their deal were that the Keg moves along immediately as she does not want to be anywhere near those that the First and Forsaken is pursuing.

“Your best bet is to seek out Kuru, a merchant in Morglon-Daar. I would not trust her were I you, but she can point you in the right direction if you seek someone who can open a gate back to Eberron.” She calls her phantasmal steeds into being and sets off in the opposite direction.

XP
Abyssal Kraken! 1000xp
Hell is a Bitch 750xp
Hag’n Wagon 750xp

Loot
See attached maps (but remember they are not necessarily reliable).

Comments

Today a squid inked in my mouth and it almost killed me but i chopped it up really good underwater and that was harder to do than chopping up squid on land. Azera says were in hell and lans super quite and jack and joshua are being big jerks and trying to make me sell the coutail souls to make it easier on us. Krumroc would never sell coutail souls, so i said no and then we argued because jack cant sleep and Azera keeps trying to use his magic fairy powder without asking.

Oh and I wanted to kill the ugly lady. Not cause she was ugly but because she takes souls from people and thats bad.

I dont wanna have to be good all the time. Its hard and boring. But I have to be good cause when Krumroc comes back ill show him that the empty keg is still the way it should be.

Session 35
 

A trying couple of days. I was unable to come to grips with the Demonic cephalopod, and I can feel Uriel’s frustration. The next demons we encounter will feel the fury of our pent-up rage – and if they turn out to be our persuers, so much the better.

Discord within the Keg continues to reign. We must decide finally on what to do with the soul jars and our amassed residuum. If we cannot find a common ground, I fear what will transpire between Barnaby and Jack. Luckily Azera was somehow able to diffuse the situation with the Hag on her own. I cannot help but feel we missed an opportunity there, however.

I am concerned for my companions. They seems to be feeling the effects of this oppressive atmosphere much more greatly than I am. A few months in a freezing, damp trench would make them long for the dry heat of this plane. I don’t know how much longer we will be able to go on without better shelter or some form of transportation. Hopefully our maps will prove accurate, and we won’t have to wander these badlands with no concrete goal any longer. That should help our morale.

Session 35
 

The following comments are provided in summary form for the convenience of the players.

*Barnaby *looks around plaintively. Making sure that the night hag has left and isn’t hiding behind another illusion (checks with Azera and Jack)

“Ooook. So… um… Before we go to a demon city we need to work something out. I don’t know a lot about Demons, but they seem to like to try to kill us or try to make us sell them things.”

Looks to Joshua. “If they’re trying to kill us that’s fine. We can kill them back. And if they want to try to buy things from us, I’ll sell my boots and my armor and even my sword… but I’m not selling these Jars!” The tiny halfling raises his voice, its staccato screeching and intensity is starting to reach the same chattering tempo of a battle rage.

“This is the Empty Keg and we do not make deals with demons. Do you remember the last time we did that? "Krumroc was really upset. Like… didn’t wanna talk to any of us for a few weeks in a jungle upset. Now I know… " Barnaby’s void starts to quaver and shake a little bit “… that Krumroc isn’t here anymore. And maybe he’s not coming back. Maybe Tikulti killed him or took him away. But Krumroc was the boss and he’s still the boss! So until we find him I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure that you and Jack don’t ruin everything!”

Barnaby turns to Jack “I’m sorry you didn’t get a good nights sleep! And I’m sorry that things aren’t going good for you ever since we got down here and that you’re having some kind of magical time of the month- but you’ve been a real jerk, AND NOT JUST TO ME!” Barnaby points at the Deva “She’s been really nice, and its probably a trap because whenever anyone is nice to us its a trap… well except for Govan… but we don’t have time to fight each other just because you don’t like her! Joshua and I fight all the time but I don’t tell him he’s not a real part of this group!”

Continuing his tirade the halfling turns to Azera “And you! We’ve known you for two days! So stop getting sticky fingered with our stuff! Ask before you take things, Jack maybe a jerk but he never had a problem with me using the residuum before – and if you stick around a while I’m sure he won’t mind you using it either. AND DONT GO MAKING DEALS WITH EVIL UGLY HAGS! I KNOW WHAT THEY DO! SHE TOLD ME SHE STEALS SOULS AND SELLS THEM TO DEMONS. THAT’S TERRIBLE!”

Finally Barnaby turns to Lan, his eyes are wide and panic is starting to set into his voice “Lan! Back me up! We don’t make deals with demons, we kill demons! We don’t sell out people who helped us, we don’t sell souls to evil creeps. Were the Empty Keg! Were supposed to be good guys! You’ve known Krumroc longer than anyone else here… I don’t wanna do his job! His job is hard! You’re supposed to be the leader!”

Barnaby sits down in the dirt and begins to sob uncontrollably.

Lan
To Barnaby, uncomfortably: “Um…hey…buddy…it’s alright. We all miss Krumrok, both as a friend and as the leader of the Empty Keg. But we have to get along without him one way or the other.”

Shifting to address the group: "But I agree with you. We need to remember who are our friends and who are our enemies. On the friend side, the Empty Keg needs to be a team in all ways, which means that the tools that we have on our persons are shared tools. Let me refresh the group on how possessions work when we’re on a mission, paraphrasing from your contracts: "

Seemingly looking back into his memory and trying to look very official: “All strategic resources in possession of the members of the Empty Keg are the property of the Empty Keg as a whole. They can be used by any member of the Empty Keg to achieve strategic goals throughout the course of the mission. If the strategic resource had been a personal possession of one member of the Keg, they will be reimbursed for its value at the end of the mission. Items gathered throughout the course of the mission will be used by the team member who can use it most effectively, and at the end of the mission all members of the Empty Keg will receive and even share of all treasure gathered.”

Turning to Jack, forcefully: “So Jack, if you’ve got residuum and the group needs it, the group GETS it. You will be reimbursed for anything that was yours personally, so just keep track and we’ll figure it out when we return.”

Turning to Azera: “That said, all resource utilization has to be cleared by the group. As far as I’m concerned that means a vote, but if we can’t determine it that way then I’ll make the final call. Don’t think that because you’re the one that CAN use it, you get to determine IF it gets used.”

Addressing the group again: “We need to behave as one finely tuned weapon, each contributing to our shared goals and never trying to gain individual power. Jack showed us that he can do this in a big way in that room—we all need to remember it for these smaller situations as well.”

Continuing, with a more grim look: “Now in terms of friends and enemies, at this point I consider anyone outside of this group to be our enemy, and that goes double for demons. I mean, they’re DEMONS, guys. If we are forced into dealing with them to get out of here then so be it, but we cannot lose our moral ground and behave in the style of demons ourselves, which means respecting the souls of the fallen at least to a certain extent. I would much sooner fight my way out then risk selling my own soul for a quicker route. Merchants tend to be resourceful—maybe this merchant would take something other than souls as payment. So I say we still seek out this Kuru and see if we can make a deal that doesn’t require evil deeds on our part. But I open it to the group for further discussion.”

At this, Lan looks from face to face in the group expectantly. You might notice that he’s also standing taller than normal and holding back a proud smile.

Joshua:

I concur with Lan on all points. But it has become painfully obvious that our most valuable commodity here is these souls. If we intend to keep them safe, it is important that the denizens of this plane never suspect we even HAVE them. Towing them around on that disc in full view of everyone and everything is no longer practical. I suggest we each take 1/5th of the jars and hold them in trust for the group. We should not even MENTION them again unless we are in a truely dire situation.

Our next order of business should be choosing a destination. Do we head for Morglao-Daar, or attempt to locate a portal out of this realm on our own? Either way, we need to keep moving. Shelter may be increasingly difficult to come by.

And Barnaby, for the love of all that is holy, stop sniffling!

Session 35
 

Lan:

Well we have to figure out a way to hide these things. Maybe we should look for some big animal to kill, then hide them inside that thing’s carcass? Anybody up for that?

Session 35
 

Joshua:

I’m not convinced towing reeking carrion around behind us is the best idea in our current situation. We have no idea what kind of attention from the local wildlife that may attract.

Session 35
 

As soon as Barnaby collapses to the ground, Azera’s eyes grow wide with concern. She pulls a handkerchief, a square of dark blue silk speckled with golden stars and moons, from her bodice , and sits beside the halfling.

She listens as each member of the keg has his say, ministering to Barnaby with hopefully soothing shoulder rubs, and the occasional, “It’s going to be alright… you should blow your nose… again.” As Lan goes through his speech, her cheeks flush to a ruddy plum.

“No, Dear, not into your hand. Use the cloth.”

As Joshua starts into his monologue, she nods almost imperceptibly… that is… up until he admonishes the barbarian.

She shoots the mage a pursed-lipped glare full of tired disappointment. Did he seriously have to keep picking on the weak minded Talentan? One would think playing no small part in reducing him to tears would be enough. For a man who put so much stock in his own mental capabilities, the Aundairian could be incredibly small minded. To laud unity, and then immediately estrange an already hurting comrade… pathetic.

She barely hears Lan and Joshua’s next exchange.

“I’d like to say something. And I’d like to not be interrupted.” She gives Barnaby’s shoulder one last squeeze, before assuming a cross-legged, meditative stance and regulating her breathing.

“In the two days that I have known the Empty Keg, I have been freed from prison, learned of a fascinating prophesy, and laughed for the first time in over a decade. I have also been offered up as a slave for trade, come under the interest of one of the plane’s most powerful beings, and been thwarted in my every attempt to save the four of you from the very serious ravages of hell; by YOU, no less.

I appreciate, more than you can know, that you have freed me from the tower. In that liberation, you gave me the barest means to escape this miserable place. And it’s true that I’ve owed you that much in return. I understand your distrust, and Twocopper, I even understand a small piece of your absolute inhospitability, flagrant rudeness, and frankly sociopathic inclinations. I’m not one of your brotherhood, and I’ve been in your debt.

However, those maps negate that debt. While two of your proposed brethren pressured a third to engage in what is essentially genocide, I sacrificed a portion of myself to gain the barest means to escape this miserable place. None of you played any part in that. Those maps are mine. And I’m giving them to you. You, who, were it not for my navigation, would have likely died many times over in the past two days alone. You who accuse me of stealing, when I’ve three times now ASKED for the means to better transport you through a wasteland. You who’ve collectively, and multiple times now, called me less than person. We’re even."

She stares at Jack, not bothering to disguise her black-eyed hatred.

“If you as a group require of me an oath to induct me into the keg, however temporary that membership may be, conduct it. I will give my word. But if I am denied a vote from here till we are out of Hell, if I am disregarded as a commodity or burden, and ,light help you, if I am again offered up for trade even once before we leave this miserable place, I will not be as understanding as I have to this point been.

All I owe you now is the same exact thing we all owe each other: our best efforts in getting us all out of here alive. We’re equals. And if you can’t accept that, then you’re not worth my gift to you, or my effort."

She stops glaring at Jack finally, and looks around at the rest of the keg.

“Truth be told, I don’t dislike the majority of you. It’s been some time before I’ve seen mortals, and it’s refreshing to travel with wordly men again. Lan, you could be a wonderful leader some day. Barnaby, your dedication to your family, both hereditary and chosen, is the stuff that heroes are made of. And Joshua, your perspective on the world is frankly fascinating. Having experienced little of either city, or war myself, I was hoping I could in time learn from you.

I think you’re good men. And I’d like for you all to come to trust me as an ally, if not a friend."

The plum colouring returns to the deva’s cheeks, “I apologize for any personal hurt I may have unthinkingly caused any of you. If I’ve been perceived as a thief, or as mercenary, I haven’t meant it.”

She takes a deep breath in, then stands and offers Barnaby a hand so he might do likewise,

“That all said, I agree with Joshua that we need to keep moving. I suggest the city. We shouldn’t even attempt to bargain with the hag’s contact, but announcing our intentions to her in part, and then following her in stealth should yield results. And… I for one am dying to bathe and get out of my pajamas. Are there other opinions?”

Session 35
 

Joshua:

Azera… is right. I mean, not about Barnaby, but the rest of it. She has proven her willingness to stand with us in battle, and to sacrifice for the good of us all. Before, we relied on Krumroc to keep us together. Now, we must rely on each other. We are in as dire a position as we have ever know. There is no clear way forward, only options which range from bad to worse. It will take ALL of our skills to get us out of here.

I have known Jack a long time, Azera. And we have been through much together. He is a cynic and a survivor, but he is no sociopath. His actions are those of a man, alone, and desperate to get out of here. Jack, remember – you are not alone! This is a trial we will overcome together.

So let us put aside talk of bartering with Demons. Let us put aside worldly concerns of wealth. Let us focus ALL of our energies on getting off this plane, and back home. Let us not forget who we are. We… all five of us… are the Empty Keg. Now let’s get moving.

Joshua turns on the group and takes a few step away, then suddenly wheels back

Wait! … pyjamas?!?

Session 35
 

Lan

“Azera, I think what we’re missing is your official entry into the Keg. We can verbally agree to you being in at this point and sign the paperwork when we get home—so here we go…”

Again trying to look official: “Azera: Do you swear to protect the other members of the Empty Keg and further the goals of the Empty Keg to the best of your ability? And do you swear to continue those two efforts as long as you are able and willing? Note that either you or the Empty Keg can terminate this contract with or without reason at any time.”

This time Lan beams openly about how official he was able to make that sound.

Session 35
 

The deva deadpans at Joshua’s outburst. “Yes… Do you think it normal to wear translucent, moon-and-star-flecked gauze when wading through the demon wastes?” Jeez… give a girl some credit.

She then focusses her attention on Lan. After listening carefully to his two-part contract, she agrees, “I do…I do… noted.”

After a moment’s pause, she turns to Jack, “If no one objects, I would like to cast a ritual now that would enable us to move much more quickly over long distances. It would of course require some resources, but we’ll be much happier for it… that is to say, I vote in favor of expedience.” She raises her hand to indicate her vote, bangles jingle down her her arm to her elbow at the movement.

Session 35
 

Lan looks happy with the procedure-following that he’s seeing and raises his hand and looks expectantly at the rest of the group.

Session 35
Tikulti derekjford

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