The Mirror versions of Raziel, Zach and Thad quickly went about attacking the party, using their deadliest abilities: Mirror Zach make quick use of his own Orb of Fire and cast Flame Strike upon some grouped members, the most harmed being Sig. Mirror Raziel tried to take advantage of this with a Fire Seed, which Sig luckily dodge due to a casting of Displacement earlier. And Mirror Thad did what he did best, which was rush in with rage and kill whatever stood in front of him.
While caught unaware, the party quickly gathered their wits and pulled a counter attack. While Striker’s attempt to Energy Drain Mirror Raziel failed, the rest of the party managed to damage Mirror Zach and Thad enough for Raziel to slay Mirror Thad with Harm. Zach also managed to grapple Mirror Zach so as to lower his defenses, and was eventually slain in turn. The same fate was shared by Mirror Raziel, who was slain by his normal counterpart. With all the Mirror versions killed, they and all their possessions faded into black mists, leaving them alone in the room.
Free to recuperate from their wounds and search the room, Thad used his knowledge of stone to find a single section of the wall which seemed more hollow than the rest of the room, and had Neolezreich tear an opening through it. Behind the wall was a Dretch dancing while wearing a pink tutu, ushering them (in Abyssal) to enter a doorway which it claimed to be the end of the Rouge’s Test. From the entrance being gestured to, music, food confetti came from a giant banquet hall, as if it was waiting for them all along. Almost all of the party walked through, but Striker, Neo and Garland Madaras stayed behind while Striker searched out the rest of the room. This seemed to trouble the Dretch, the reason why made all the more clear once Striker made a realization: there was another wall that sounded hollow behind it, and the entrance to the banquet hall was actually a gate back to the exit of Titan’s Tunnel, the entrance of the valley which contained Rouge’s Retreat.
This realization shocked the remainder of the party at the Retreat, while it infuriated the rest all the way back at Titan’s Tunnel. While those in the Retreat decided what it is they should do next, those at Titan’s Tunnel simply decided to sit and wait rather than decide upon a plan of action in order to go back to Rouge’s Retreat, believing that Striker and the rest would eventually leave of their own accord. Eventually scaring the Dretch into the corner (who was simply following orders), Neo tore down the newly discovered fake wall into a stairway, of which halfway down stood a statue of Olidammara. It congratulated them on not being fooled passing the test, and as a reward for their cunning they had gained access to the main house. On their way down, the Olidammara Statue also made note they had the option to teabag themselves while climbing down the stairway through his legs (which they have to do in order to go down). Striker and Garland did just this, and while they took damage from crashing their face into solid stone, an unknown magical effect came over them.
The stairway opened up to a room where naked mariachi players stood and played. Ahead of them was a hallway towards and expansive library and a further hallway. To the left was a banquet hall filled with food and merriment, and the right a doorway blocked by a prismatic wall (believed to be the other side they first came upon in the Retreat). They entered the banquet hall and noted a theater/church to Olidammara (which Garland quickly rushed to), while Striker spoke with some of the people upon the table. A few of them were unsettled by their appearance, but the majority were glad to see them and told them to enjoy themselves while at Rouge’s Retreat. The Retreat attracted many, filled with those who completed the test or managed to find a way to it via magically or on foot (travel through the astral plane supplied by Githyanki or merchants). Long as they didn’t upset the caretakers of the Retreat (whose room was behind the prismatic wall), they were free to enjoy themselves however they wished.
Investigating the retreat further towards the Library, the walls were lined with shelves that stood 40 feet high, with books ranging from simple jokes and fables to detailed accounts of history (all penned by one with no concept of Law, of course). The hallway extended further, with one door leading to a magical and alchemical lab for crafting, while the other doors lead to bunk rooms for the Retreat’s many occupants. The hall eventually turned left into another hall used for painting, where artists took up so much space they needed to paint over the work of another for their own designs. The hall eventually opened up into a wide balcony which overlooked the Astral Plane, which gave reason as to how Githyanki were able to travel here. The balcony eventually lead back to the banquet hall, where they heard Garland making quite the commotion inside.
Upon entering, they noted Garland trying to give an extraordinary performance, all the while holding the stone he collected in the past. When asked what he was doing, he explained he thought the stone was in truth a Luckstone of Olidammara, and was trying to break the curse upon it by “praying” in the grandest church to Olidammara he knew of. Determined to finish what brought Garland to the test to begin with, they assisted him in what way they could (instruments, costumes, with Neo even grabbing a top hat), even seeking assistance from those in the banquet hall. Their song and dance reached a crescendo, and holy symbols to Olidammara around the room began to animate with cries and laughter just as a bright light shined within the correctly presumed Luckstone. The curse was broken, and in celebration Olidammara filled them with dance and merriment throughout the night, prompting them to quickly go to bed when it was finished.
The next morning, Neo was awoken to the pecking of an owl in the banquet hall (he could not fit in any of the bunk rooms). After swatting it away a few times, one of the merchant looking folk grabbed it and explained it was the familiar to the hermit who was the current master of the house. On where the hermit was at the moment, it was unknown, and it was probably best to leave him alone because…well, he was a hermit who like to keep to himself. Even the caretakers came to understand that after awhile.
All the same, Neo quickly grabbed the owl for Striker to see, so that they could possibly use it as a means to track down the hermit, knowing that Corneria sought the magic only he could create. Whilst coming up with a plan, they came into contact with one of the caretakers: a Balor dressed in a tuxedo, resistant to the flames its body created. Going by the name Omnidrac, the caretaker explained the hermit had a habit of disappearing from them now and then, given to how he enjoyed being alone, yet couldn’t really leave the location even if he wanted to (presumably some kind of magic that wasn’t elaborated). Asking for assistance in finding the hermit, Omnidrac said he would do it if they won a game akin to Russian Roullette (with no one dying of course).
Taking all of them by the hands, Omnidrac lead them through the prismatic wall to the caretaker’s room, which was a mess of games, toys, books, and other assortment of items fit for high Outsiders of Chaos. Of note the most was another prismatic wall blocking another door (the party now understanding this was the real prismatic wall they had to pass from the Rouge’s Retreat lower house), along with game of what Omnidrac had in mind was already in play. Sitting at a table by a high Eladrin (named Maximilian) was a wizardly looking fellow named Ochre, whose only remaining limb was an arm. The other limbs were now bleeding stumps after Maximilian chopped them off with Omnidrac’s vorpal sword.
Omnidrac explained: they would flip a coin, and depending on whose side came up, that person would lose a limb. Should Omnidrac win and Striker lose all his limbs, Omnidrac would have had a good laugh. If Striker won, Omnidrac would help him in finding the hermit. They made sure to note that is was safe, because Maximilian had prepared a regenerate just for this occasion. Hesitant be believing he needed the assitance of the caretaker, Striker agreed, and quickly lost all of his limbs versus Omnidrac who only last his legs. When Striker asked if it would be alright for Maximilian to regenerate his limbs, Max got a worried look on his face and pondered if he really did prepare that spell for the day. He eventually relented and claimed to be “just kidding”, and Stiker’s limbs grew back in quick order. Neo decided to play a game of his own against Omnidrac, who quickly agreed to it, forgetting that he only had his arms left, which he quickly lost versus two limbs lost by Neo (which Striker regenerated with a spell of his own).
Claiming that he had to follow through upon his bargain, Omnidrac explained he couldn’t go anywhere with no limbs, and Maximilian was out of such magic (much to the horror of Ochre), and Maximilian claimed the deal was with Omnidrac and not himself. If they wanted him to help them find the hermit, they would need to pay him to take on his friend’s responsibility. After much debate, Maximilian eventually agreed to take over Omnidrac’s deal on his behalf without payment, and they left Ochre alone with the limbless (yet laughing) Balor.
As a means to assist them in finding the hermit, Striker called for a Miracle to guide him, and he eventually walked through an illusory wall that was present in the artist’s hallway. The room (as told to him by Maximilian) was the master bedroom, and looked more like a treasure room than anything. A small walkway was sorted out towards a wondrous bed, but otherwise there were shelves and tables overflowing with art, gems, and magic, almost as it it was just thrown on. Striker was guided to a table and a simple looking bag, which he grabbed, and was almost overwhelmed by an urge to put the bag back and place another item on the table of at least 1000 gold pieces. Striker resisted, and looked inside the bag.
Within was an old looking man who had a knife held to his throat by githyanki, who claimed he would kill him if they did anything out of the ordinary. Maximilian was able to verify that he was indeed the hermit, and Neo put on his most vicious face to intimidate the Gith, who asked to have them place the bag outside in the hall and step away. Doing so, the Githyanki crawled out, all the while gathering a crowd of people (some of whom the party spoke with were drawing weapons as if they were in alliance with the Gith). Asking one more time to back off only to gather more anger from Neo, the Githyanki dropped the hermit and ran for the gate back to Titan’s Tunnel, while his own allies followed, jumped off the balcony to the rest of the Astral Plane, or left via magical means.
Maximilian gave no chase and went straight to the hermit, and the party followed suit. The hermit showed little thanks to them, and quickly went about gathering his things to go about his life as normal. What they were able to get out of him amounted to his trade with the Githyanki to be at an end, for while he allowed just a single Githyanki parley to begin trade with them and assist in getting his goods out to the world, that one eventually enacted a plan to capture him in his own bag, cutting him off from mental communication from the caretakers. The hermit continued to wonder on if that Ochre fellow was in on the deal, for he distracted the caretakers far too much with their games in the days leading up to the capture.
Through all of this, Striker tried to explain to them who he was and the rest of the party, and when Sig’s name came up, the hermit went in a rage to the caretakers room, claiming he was going to kill Ochre. Entering with the assistance of Ochre, the hermit was threatening the nearly limbless elf with death, all the while saying his being there had nothing to do with Sig. Striker eventually calmed him down, saying that Sig was a friend of his, and that he was seeking the rescue of the hermit this whole time. All the same, the hermit demanded Ochre’s limbs not to be healed, lest he turn someone into an egg and crush them.
As the conversation continued, Striker explained that Slingham (a country the hermit knew of) was on its way towards towards Corneria, and the country desperately needed the goods only the hermit could provide. Not only that, they would likely come over Rouge’s Retreat and seek it’s destruction, something that was not in the interest of the hermit. While the hermit could indeed profit from the selling of his accumulated goods, the destruction of Rouge’s Retreat didn’t bother him much, other than an annoyance. It just happened to be the best secluded spot he could find and yet still manage a means to support himself. Still, the idea of Slingham spreading this far didn’t sit well with him, even if they did manage to have a good business plan, because it just meant having to find a new place altogether.
As a means to convince him to leave the Retreat and help them, Striker pointed out that he was royalty, and even had a red gem tattooed with the silver cross on his chest to prove it. Should the hermit assist them, Striker claimed he would become the new king, to which the hermit raised his eyebrows and asked pointedly that he would kill the king, to which Striker said yes. Ammused at this turn of events, the hermit went through a secret passage in the library to gather his belongings, only to return and tell them he can’t leave unless there is a new master to Rouge’s Retreat. The party volunteered Garland, who was against the idea at first, but they said it would only be a temporary circumstance, and he and the hermit went through the process of handing off mastery of the household (involved a lot of special handshakes).
Leaving through the Gate to Titan’s Tunnel, the party was whole once more and made proper introductions. Upon seeing Sig, the hermit opened up his bag of holding and dropped out Ochre, still limbless from his games with the caretakers. Discovered to be one of Sig’s friends from the Randian’s west of Corellon’s Shield. He joined up with him along with two others and eventually joined up with the Madaras Syndicate after they were convinced by Dravo Madaras VII. Ochre had been missing and was presumed dead via orders of Dravo, only to be told weeks earlier that it was all a ploy to pull Sig out as a traitor to the house. In reality, Ochre was ordered (with promise of a large fee) to go to the Retreat and distract the caretakers with games. He was there for months, and was quite glad to hear Dravo was now dead.
After all introductions and explanations were complete, the hermit asked where they would like to go, for he could take all of them with him in a single use of Greater Teleport. On asking if it would be Corneria due to the goods he had to get to them, they instead asked to be dropped off at Corellon’s Shield, so they could quickly figure things out with Elan Gwaren and get the assistance of Elfland in the coming war (who in turn needed assistance, for the floating continent had already crossed over Wildflowers). After dropping them off, the hermit left for Corneria, intent on selling his wares and services.
Seeking an audience with Elan Gwaren, the party was stopped by guards, for the only one the elves recognized was Zach (who was now a Drider). After explanations were given, they were brought forth to the king, who was already in discussion with the Randian’s of the west. They arrogantly claimed that not only had he failed as a leader of their people against the Drow, but he was going to lead the country to ruin in the wake of Slingham coming upon them (making sure to mock Sig in the same light as well, whom they banished long ago). They were quickly pushed out, though they were mostly done as it stood when the party arrived (though they clearly could have argued for much longer). Elan explained his attempts against the Drow have been weak, for while he had the assistance of the Moaning Diamond, it was mostly a tool to get control of the country again, not so much attack the Drow directly. And with Slingham coming forth (Elan spoke with representatives the previous week) and Way of the Shalm still neutral upon the matter (though Whispering Muse and it’s wild nature were another matter)…Elfland was bound for a collapse.
And so talk of what could be done to neutralize the attack of the Drow began. The most obvious question to arise was how Elan was able to stop the fighting with Drow in the past. He presented the rings which he and Camilia shared, and explained that through words and magic, they made a pact which would not be broken, and agreed to hold the slaughter. On what was said and done, he merely said that was a secret he could not share, to which Thad loudly proclaimed Elan likely wed Camilia, something Elan vehemently refuted.
A possible coup could be staged as well, and have one of Camilia’s remaining priestesses (Beccie the corpse crafter, and Fiona the summoner) assume command after the death of Camilia. On who they should have in place of Camilia, Elan explained that of those remaining, the current queen was the most reliable in terms of keeping their word, while the others were otherwise quite mad. They attempted to contact Fiona, believing her to be the more powerful of the two, via Zach’s casting of a sending. Not much discussion was had after that sending, which was used as a form of introduction, for Fiona cursed and belittled Zach in response.
Feeling they could likely use the rings Elan once shared with Camilia and find out how they worked on their own, they took them and discussed how they could possibly meet her without battle, to which Elan explained there was a neutral ground they would meet at, and should Elan contact her about it, she would likely meet them there. The party agreed, and a message was sent, and a map and description of the locale was given as well. Stating they needed to get there quickly, Sig only managed to prepare a single Greater Teleport to get them to the proper location, saying they needed to wait till tomorrow to get there. Elan pointed out he could assist them with teleportation, but it would cost them, for he would be drawing upon resources he didn’t prepare ahead of time. Knowing that Slingham was looming, they provided enough gold to supply the casting, and arrived at the neutral ground (leaving Ochre behind with clerics).
The party spent the night on the neutral ground (which was within the underdark), rising the next morning to the sound of an army approaching them from deeper in the earth. Soon enough an that army stood before them, the majority drow warriors, but also scattered with clerics to Lolth and their hordes of undead (undead which were originally attacking them, but now uncontrolled after the death of Dravo). Soon enough Camilia came forward, not only flanked by Beccie and Fiona, but new crafted undead from the corpeses of Banyon, Carmen and Janet. The party thought she would come on her own and not bring an army, as it was with Elan in the past, to which she explained that was with Elan, and this was a secret place to them, requiring a whole new set of circumstances, especially when dealing with them.
Jumping right into negotiations, the party pointed out the coming of Slingham, and with it the likely destruction of not only Elfland, but the Drow as well (Slingham was keen on clearing out the whole of the land, even under it). Camilia expressed no worry, saying she could likely use the chaos of war to help eradicate the whole of the elves while they fought against the Dragon army. She would lose many Drow in the process, but if it meant removing elvenkind from existence, it was worth the price. From there her people would retreat deep into the earth, even farther than Noir, until Slingham had long passed over the land.
Not wanting such an outcome, the party presented the rings Camilia once shared with Elan, and what could be done to renegotiate another peace. She claimed none of them were willing to meet her demands, but when pressed, she said she had almost no more family: Drizzle was made slave to Dravo and eventually slain by the party, Malta Goya sought her head (as did other children), and Zach abhorred all that they were for the surface. While Camilia still had one faithful son left (his powers as a wizard strong enough to cast clone), she desired more children, and those from strong parents. Should one of them be willing to mate with her and give a child once a year, she would call off her people, and continue to grow stronger beneath the earth.
Thad at this point laughed, believing he had it right when he called out Elan for sleeping with Camilia, prompting Zach to ask if that made Elan his father. Camilia looking at him coyly and simply asked if he truly believed such a weak individual could conceive him. The party then asked which of them were proper mates, or if any of them would do. Camilia clearly ruled out humans, elves, and dwarves (making Thad sigh with disappointment), but she had no qualms with Githzerai or the Black Dragon. Once again feeling they were running out of options, Raziel tried his best to convince Neo to the pact, not wanting to go through with it on his own, but would if it meant peace from the Drow. With Neo refusing to mate with Camilia, Raziel reluctantly agreed to the pact, and they exchanged the pair of rings with each other.
Raziel was taken through the wall of drow soldiers and beyond where the rest of the party could not see or hear him, and hours later the drow suddenly began to recede into the earth. They found Raziel near a patch of stone dressing himself, knowing the deed was done, and given a promise to return in one year. With sending sent to Elan, he teleported there and assisted in taking them back to Corneria, where negotiations and plans needed to be made in order for Elfland to assist in the coming battles. Meanwhile, Neo managed to get word from a member of a resistance force in Slingham, and flew off in the direction of the continent, seeking the leaders of the movement so that he may assist.