Hard Time

'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home

Dates: 1st Lady to 2nd Void, Tithing

In the effort to find and retrieve Jesdin Marthair from the eternal imprisonment of the plane of Carceri, the party had to initiate great amounts of preparation, which basically broke down into three categories: divinations to find Jesdin's location, hiring extra "muscle" for the trip, and finding a competent guide to the plane.

Selgar took care of the divination, hiring a sage acquaintance of Jesdin's, the Confucian sage Fung Yun Wo. The divination is performed, and Master Fung inscribes a map of the fourth layer of Carceri, Colothys.

Hirelings come from far and wide: Arluth hired the skulk, Cianna brings along her swindler-master, the ooze mephit Blurble, Selgar brings a fellow Cipher, Kelverack Ironoak, a warrior-mindbender, and a strange gnoll priest called T'Nook. The Abyssal warrior Grälf Thyer and Taoist priest Sung Hi also come along.

Arluth obtains the guide through his underworld connections, finding an exile who lived much of his life on Carceri, a drow priest/thief named Quevven Hune. His expertise dictates that he'll only claim payment when the party needs to get off Carceri.

So, the night before departure, Arluth and Selgar gather the party at Tolling's Dinner Theatre, where a fully-catered dinner leads into a strategy meeting where the drow exile tells the party of survival on the plane of Carceri.

The party goes to the Hive Ward and inscribes "X's" on their foreheads with flour. The portal opens to Colothys, and the party finds themselves surrounded by grey and black mountains, looming over them threateningly.

The party sees flying beings circling above, at about 500 feet. From a distance, the party can hear an unearthly singing and some of the party begins to walk up the sheer rock face from the platform which the party arrived on.

The beasts, which have the upper bodies of ravaged old women and the lower bodies of birds-of-prey, dive bomb the party and begin attacking them. After a long and horrible fight, the party battles them back, leaving the skulk dead in the cruel rocks of Carceri.

After resting overnight, the party walks on the established path and comes to a rope bridge crossing a chasm. Beyond the chasm, they can see a guard who shouts out for a toll. Quevven takes a gem to her, and, when she refuses, Quevven slays her mercilessly, tossing her body over the side. This angers the inhabitants of the town, who immediately rally to the bridge.

Thinking it's a good way to scatter the villagers in fear, "Box" quaffs a potion of polymorph self and turns himself into a large clockwork dragon. However, the power of the plane perverts the alteration dwoemer in the potion and "Box" attacks the party instead. After a few minutes of his transformation, "Box" regains his composure and crosses to the other side of the chasm. Quevven kills or scatters most of the petitioners, and the party occupies the abandoned village.

After resting in the town, the party continues on the one road, and comes to a fork in the road. Standing at the fork in the road is a female hill giant, contemplating the choice and scratching her head. T'Nook approaches her tentatively, and makes friends with her. She wants to find the domain of the hill giant diety Grolantor. Choosing the left trail, the party continues along until they find a cave in the rock face.

Scouting out the rock face, Blurble encounters the inhabitant, who kills the mephit immediately. T'Nook bravely approaches the enraged lupinoid, whom he identifies as the yugoloth Qrell, whom he was sent to bring back to Elysium as a defector.

When asked about Jesdin, Qrell mentions that she saw an aasimar matching Jesdin's description in a chain gang headed for the palace of the titan Crius. Down the other road is the village of Straifling, but the party would prefer to head directly for where they believe Jesdin is imprisoned.

"Box" looks into the creature's eyes, and instantly remembers his capture and torment at the hands of the same kind of creature on the Grey Waste. Llaereth describes it as an arcanaloth, and "Box" takes notice of it.

On their way to Crius' castle, they encounter a strange party of humans, grasping leashes at the ends of which are violent two-headed dogs. They do much damage to the party, who must limp back to Qrell's stinking cave.

On their way out of the cave after resting up, the party is ambushed, right outside, by a native of the plane, an oozing creature with bright white eyes and three servants. He vows to destroy Qrell and the party members for despoiling his plane. Once again, the battle is joined, and takes a lot out of the party, including the recently lycanthropic Quevven.

Without a guide, the party departs for Crius' temple. As they get closer to the fork in the road, they see a portal shining with a golden light on a plateau above the road. Deciding to investigate it as a possible escape from the plane, they are ambushed by the enslaved servants of a lamia (initially mistaken for a bariaur), which include a manticore who unleashes a bloodlust in Qrell. She tries to consume both Llaereth and "Box."

After this delay, the party finally sights Crius' grand temple in exile. Made of marble, it is proportioned to the 100-foot tall Olympian, but equipped with "doggie doors" for the human servants who cater to the Titan of Gravity's whims.

After bribing the front door guard with a magical halberd, the party scouts out the great hall, and then explores the left hallway of the temple. Knell, using her chaos imp powers, investigates a few rooms before the party goes back to the front door guard and finds out where Crius lairs.

When they barge into his room through a human-sized door, the titan impatiently banishes the party to his "birdcage." However, a few party members remain: "Box," Selgar, and Knell. When the titan tells a riddle to allow them to release their friends, "Box" answers correctly with "gravity," the sphere of influence of the titan, which he learned from Arluth when the party was discussing Crius.

The party rescues the banished party members and Jesdin, who looks bad after his three-week stay in Carceri. Some party members sense a portal next to the "birdcage" room, and find themselves on an infinite staircase hanging in a grey void. The party climbs the stairs to a platform made of tin. A lone door stands on the platform, and the party sees a room beyond, filled with abandoned tools and inventions.

As the party rests, they are interrupted by a half-snake, half-female, who tells them that they are on the Infinite Staircase. All of her race, the lilendi, serve the moon goddess Selune and that she can guide the party down to the absolute bottom of the Staircase, which opens into the Gates of the Moon, Selune's realm. Ghiana, this lilendi, also offers to take the party to Sigil, but they opt for the free trip to Ysgard.

Once on Ysgard, the party heads for Alfheim, to the tower of Jesdin's master Rethas. The party is given a path to Alfheim, and walks from this earthberg to Alfheim's. Alfheim is in the midst of summer festivals, and the party stumbles across one in the village of Aeslip.

Upon waking after their revelry, the party discovers "Box" has disappeared. The villagers say that perhaps the huldrfolke, the reclusive elves of this part of Alfheim, might have kidnapped him. They are curious beings, and love new things they've never seen before.

The party goes down to Rethas' tower, asking the master mage what they can do to get "Box" back. Rethas tells them that the huldrfolke will exchange items for more interesting items. T'Nook's chimes of interruption prove a worthy exchange for the reclusive shapechanging elves.

Intruding on the huldrfolke's village, the party finds "Box" polymorphed into a little girl who is, for some reason, crying. The party gets the huldrfolke to release and dispel "Box," and the party can go back to Sigil.