The heroes did not make much progress in combating the Mordent this week, as they took a breather to restore their energies. After resting for some while in Cab’s ruined church, the adventurers wandered over to this ballyhooed Arronax Amphitheater to see what it was all about. After being ushered through the gates, they met with the Master of Ceremonies, who was a striking figure. Tall, decked out in a robe that melded crimson silk with leopard skin, and with a gold circlet around his brow, the M.C. appeared at first glance to be a displaced nobleman. But when he opened his mouth to speak, a guttural greed was evident in his voice and his lips curled back into a contemptuous sneer, showing him to be no chief’s son. He asked the heroes whether they had come to personally engage in the arena’s wide variety of exciting deathmatches, or whether they had come as trainers for the upcoming Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Peasant Bouts. The concept of peasant on peasant combat proved utterly thrilling to all of the heroes, and soon each one was led away to a different quarter of the arena to train and equip some hapless, desperate commoner. The ensuing battles involved much mayhem and bloodshed; Garon’s peasant, having received tutelage in the subtle skill of chakra binding, proved to be quite potent, although Freith and Kell’s commoners put in a good show, as well.
None of this was really germane to the heroes’ short-term goals of healing themselves of taint or protecting Drogue, or to the long-term goal of driving the Mordent back to the Nightlands. But the spectacle of two terrified non-combatants fighting for their lives in the arena proved to be such good, wholesome family entertainment that the distraction was impossible to resist. Afterwards, the adventurers went back to their new base of operations and consulted with Cab as to how they might purge themselves of taint. He told them that a halfling paladin, one Sondra, had gone on a mission to a planar juncture that lay many miles to the southwest, there to travel into Hell itself and capture an artifact of fell power before it was surrendered to or seized by the Mordent. Cab asked that they heroes rendezvous with Sondra and help her in disposing of the artifact. He feared for her safety, since she had left some days before and had not yet returned. The quest seemed a worthy one, and the party was eager to help, but some were concerned about how Drogue was faring, given that there had been hints of an imminent attack. Rhyken attempted to teleport the party back to Drogue, but found that his spell failed, as did the spell that would’ve taken the party twenty miles outside of the city. It seemed that some powerful magic was negating teleportation into the city. Most likely, gnomish archmagi had erected a defense against a sneak attack by the Mordent forces, but it was just as likely that the Mordent had disrupted teleportation travel to prevent the city from receiving any reinforcements. Either way, there was little that the heroes could do about it at present, so they prepared to head out and meet up with Sondra.
Rhyken commissioned Chupoclops to create (with Cab’s help) a number of potions that would allow him to sleep through the night when he was out in the field. Owing to gnomish perversity, Chupoclops opted to create Stuffed Dire Rats of Restless Sleep rather than straight potions, although the aesthetic change would not alter their effectiveness. Thus prepared, the party was ready to venture out into the hostile wilderness once again.
The heroes did not get far before their progress was arrested. There was a disturbance at the gate, with equal numbers of people fleeing from the wall and rushing towards it to get a better look. The chatter of the crowd was fragmented, and it became clear that nobody had any real idea of what was going on, save that some heroes from the arena had gone out to engage against a monstrous threat. The party caught glimpses of blue and white flashing through the bars of steel, and in one moment an insectile head with enormous red eyes and a vicious complexity of mandibles reared above the interference. Rhyken observed that the creature was a Remorhaz, an arctic predator whose body emitted a heat that could reduce steel to molten slag and whose gaping mouthparts could snatch up a man and swallow him whole.
The heroes readied themselves for combat…