Last night's game was one of those as a GM where I feel like I got run down by a car--I'm not sure where it came from, or entirely sure what just happened. Players can do that to you. Let's hit this in bullet point:
-We were down a couple of players again, but the fearsome foursome decided to carry on. After last week's near-miss with a T-Rex, they managed to make their way (after some well-needed rest and encounter with some harmless pilgrims) to the city of Morsten, The City of the Tower. Lots of 'em, really. The largest towers were all painted a different color to denote, they later learned, one of the various paths of magery in this town (Obsidian was necromancy, Ruby was Fire/Offense, Argent was generalist, and so on).
-When they arrived to town, they learned that all the mages of the council, save one, had disappeared over the past few nights. Anyone who was in the room with one of the disappearing mages was found dead the next morning, a look of total fear on their face. Norgus, a Ruby Mage, was the only left. Well, Friar Charles and the priest Nalgin smelled some sort of malevolent force at work. They offered to help the mage, and in return, if he lived through the night, Norgus offered them one item each from his stash.
-They put Nalgin inside the one modest, tiny church in town (Morsten isn't big on religion), built a room (with the help of many, many laborers) enclosed by waterskins filled with holy water, built a small bed of the same skins, moved the altar inside that room, flooded the floor with holy water, ensured there were holy symbols carved and displayed everywhere, and waited. At midnight, a roiling black cloud of smoke formed and tried to access the room, but was driven off by all the trappings.
It was so above and beyond, I had to give it to them. The mage survived, and Nalgin and Charles ended up with some loot (a Lion's Head shield and a Cloak of Resistance, respectively).
-Basically, Morsten was in a crappy place, because anyone from Morsten carried an arcane mark that a semi-competent necromancer from Darrakis, City of Necromancers, could sniff out in a minute. To get around this, they often used outside labor for snooping. Guess who they wanted to snoop around Darrakis and find out what the heck was going on?
-Leyton negotiated as part of their fee to study with one of the orders of magic in Morsten. He was able to ask a question of each order. He finally decided on Argent robes, which are the most laid-back, generalist school of study. This is a really good accomplishment for him, I think, as it's been something he's been after since the start of the game.
-The group had earlier intercepted a letter from Darrakian troops seeming to indicate something was going on at the Pools of Portation. The Pools are famous for their teleportative ability; you step in one pool, and you end up in another one. The only problem is, the water from the Pools loses this ability if taken out of the clearing they are in. Guess what the group wanted to check out?
-The end result of this was a mess. The group (without Leyton, who had to meditate 3 days to learn a new spell) decided to head out to the Pools of Portation whilst they waited for Leyton to complete his traning. In Norgus' office, he gave them an invaluable, but limited, teleportation stone (the Pools were over 60 miles away) and 2 guardsmen not from Morsten. They also insisted on a mage, so he sent the Ruby apprentice Linius as well.
-The group teleported into a mess of Darrakians. The put some to sleep the first round, but they were ready for them, as the Darrakian mage in the opposition sensed the arcane signature of Linius. One fireball later, half the group was dead, and teleported back to Norgus' offices some 30 seconds after they left.
-After they healed, angrily, some of the group wished for Norgus to accompany them. While they were arguing, and right after Norgus had demanded Vas leave for insolence, Friar Charles activated the stone, sending Norgus, Vas, and everyone else right back to the fight! It was a massacre, with only Charles and Norgus standing a round later. They teleported back to Norgus' office, leaving the corpse the apprentice mage Linius.
-Norgus was furious, livid. These fools had cost him an apprentice, shown incredible insolence, used the teleportation stone without his permission, and worst of all, had left proof that a Ruby robe from Morsten was involved against Darrakis! The characters' attitude didn't help. He coldly informed them that in the morning they would return to the Pools, and fix this wrong. He forbade them from leaving the tower until then. He probably would have had the fools killed or imprisoned, save that they had just saved his bacon the day before.
-The entire time Leyton had been meditating in the tower, unaware of this carnage. He was displeased when Norgus had him disturbed, meaning he would have to start his spell-learning process all over! Norgus bluntly informed him his friends had caused a great deal of havoc and dishonor, and they were to return to the Pools in the morning and eradicate any proof Morsten had been involved.
Holy cow! It was a session of highs and lows. On one hand, the players hit some good personal accomplishments. While in Morsten, Vas was contacted by a mysterious organization known as the Unaffiliated, who promised to help him control his power (but at what cost?). Nalgin and Charles got some new items, and Leyton is on the verge of learning more spells. On the other hand, having little intel and no plan in a move against the forces at the Pools of Portation has brought the party to the edge of doom. Will they head back there to apparent death? Or will they try to just kill the freakin' mage and take over Morsten? Your guess is as good of mine. With all the teleporting the Pools of Portation offer, however, that could be a fun fight...
In two weeks, we'll find out what happens.