The party again split up to pursue their own interests. Phaerun sought to find and stop Boss Grond if he was still attempting to fix the Festival, Lan’Lei kept an eagle-eyed watch over the Spiked Tail, bow at the ready for trouble from the Three, Weiss returned to the Dropsy Mermaid to try and disrupt the plans of the remaining black dragonkin, and Tallendryl disappeared for several hours only to reappear in a tavern under the influence of black spice.
Weiss first surveyed the Dropsy Mermaid, and indeed found that there were several black robed figures in groups of three discussing things quietly on the periphery of the drinking crowd. Weiss bribed a few men, hurled some insults, started drama between drunken revelers, and eventually even threw a chair, and successfully engineered all out chaos. During the bar fight two of the figures’ hoods were drawn back, revealing the black dragonkin underneath. The drunken crowd paused, then turned in angry fists all upon them as the remaining six fled the establishment for their own safety and secrecy. Weiss, now satisfied, reported to the Spiked Tail to begin last minute training drills with Laylen, Triton, and Rusk.
Meanwhile, Tallendryl was busy availing himself of his alone time- he set out to fix the main event for the Diabolist and to frame the Three to dissipate suspicion on his part. He first returned to the Black Garden to buy succubus lips and basilisk ichor. Next, he sneaked into the chambers where the spears of destiny were kept for the upcoming game, and released the succubus lips into the air as a dried incense. The result was an uncontrollable orgy on the dargonkin guards’ part. While they were distracted he very obviously attempted to increase the number of spears for the Three, and then magically enhanced the spears for the Diabolist. After he was done setting this up he returned to the guards and poisoned them with the ichor, which is the favored poison for the Three. The result was that it would seem that agents of the Three very messily attempted to fix the game, but the real advantage was fr the Diabolist, which had no active plans which had been revealed. He then returned to the Spiked Tail and took some black spice to keep a plausible alibi.
As Weiss trained, Tallendryl was having a good time in the tavern, when he suddenly found himself face to face with Draven Halfhand. Instead of hostility, Draven was suspiciously flattering to Tallendryl. He soon revealed his purpose to the wizard, though- he knew that the devil’s scroll was in his possession, and he wished to purchase it, and displayed a large cache of treasure looted from hell hole excursions.
Tallendryl was conflicted, and unsure what to do, so he agreed to Draven’s proposal, but claimed he needed to retrieve it from its secure storage place. Draven agreed to wait fifteen minutes while Tallendryl made a mad dash to Weiss for advice on what to do. Weiss’s advice was very noncommittal and vague, so Tallendryl demanded to know where the dragon of the arena was. Weiss pointed out Elandra’s office, and Tallendryl raced to it, past many guards.
Inside he found the minotaur cleaning up an enormous mess. He hurriedly explained the situation in a drug-addled state, and Elandra seemed unsure of his intention or meaning. After a few frustrating minutes of attempted explanations of plots to kill Parthax, magic, devils, and Crusaders passed, a mixture of his desperation and black spice suddenly produced an echo of the teleportation scroll used during the journey into Axis, bringing himself and Elandra right back to Draven.
Tallendryl made the trade in an exaggerated manner to Draven, accepting the loot for the scroll, he gestured wildly that Draven intended to kill the dragon to Elandra as the Crusader attempted to leave the tavern. She stomped her giant hoof, and charged Draven at full speed only to lose one of her hands and then was run through by his flaming sword. He let her fall and left without much reaction. Stunned for a moment, Tallendryl administered a healing potion, saving her life.
Lan’Lei rushed to the scene after hearing the ruckus, and was alarmed by the news of what had transpired. The pair met up with Weiss, and the three resolved to pursue Draven, avenge Elandra, and to save Parthax. Weiss bumped into a fellow warrior priest and old friend, Brother Iago at that moment, who had just seen Draven heading for Second Blood.
The party rushed to the Crusader fortress just in time to see Draven entering the gates. Tallendryl, without a moment’s hesitation, changed himself into Draven, and ordered the guards to capture the “imposter” Draven who they had just let inside. Confused, they hurried to their commander for help with the confusing situation. This cleared the way for the others to get into the fortress.
Just as they were upon Draven Lan’Lei suddenly stopped in her tracks, seemed to hesitate for a few moments, and then began scrawling a strange symbol on the floor. Weiss and Tallendryl, confused at first, suddenly realized what was happening. Both watched her complete the symbol with a mixture of horror and satisfaction- she had just summoned the Stone Thief to Axis. Mere moments passed when the ground began quaking. Draven, suddenly becoming aware of the party, began mocking them and issuing insults as they fled the scene when the first fissures began forming around the fortress.
Weiss stood a moment in prayer after seeing a Crusader orphanage across the street, and a holy light shone across many of the surrounding buildings- a strong wall which resisted the disintegrating ground, the spraying lava, and then the crumbling of a fifth of the city. The miracle spared nearly all of the innocents in the area as Second Blood sunk into the lava-filled jaws of the Stone Thief. A few minutes later the ground stopped moving, and all was silent- the threat of the devil scroll and Draven had been ended in dramatic fashion, but Axis had suffered a significant loss as twenty percent of the city had been swallowed by the Stone Thief.
Only time will tell if such a drastic sacrifice was worth the trade for an unsure end…