Negotiations began well, with Knarillas taking the lead as one of those two who spoke a similar enough dialect to converse with the Reaper. It seemed to be some sort of ancient elf-tongue – although Belardan could follow much of what was being said, he did not know enough to actually attempt conversation himself. The Reaper apologised for the poor hospitality, indicating that she and her minions lived frugally and had nothing to offer. She then mentioned that many agents of chaos were being drawn to Thire in this time, and trailing behind them were those dedicated to the imposition of order. She claimed to have no preference either way.
The Reaper, seemingly a fair elf woman (but in actual fact a hideous hag, according to Badden) spoke in bitter tones of her betrayal many cycles ago by the minotaurs of Thire, despite her efforts to save them from some unspecified danger. The conversation turned to the mysterious machine, which the adventurers are in possession of a piece of, and the Reaper appeared concerned that the adventurers meant to undo a ritual involving the device, which she identified as the Orrery. Apparently, the machine was built by some desperate folks, who upon completion of their ritual, dismantled it to prevent the ritual being reversed. The Reaper seemed to think that undoing the ritual would result in untold chaos and horror. When asked regarding the consequences of leaving the ritual intact, she mentioned that the world would be allowed to die. Hmm.
The prisoner in the cage dangling behind her had at this point risen, and cursing her, had implored his release (in the Levengine tongue, no less).
Conversation then turned to the Deck of Many Things. The Reaper spat and called this deck very dangerous. Knarillas however pushed on, claiming to have in his possession a card from the very deck.
It proved a fateful moment. The Reaper leapt to her feet and rushed at the party, howling and summoning up some fierce thunderous magic that flung most of the group off their feet. Poor Cecil was thrown into a wall, and slumped unconscious. Meanwhile, the Reaper had called upon her troll Hak Hak to eat the intruders. AS soon as the fight began, the mysterious Gem pattern appeared on the floor beside Kade.
A furious melee was about to break out when Saint Belardan strode forth and attempted to calm the situation. Indeed, the Reaper countermanded her orders to Hak Hak and appeared ready to resume diplomacy. Unfortunately for the cause of universal peace, Knarillas’ blood was up, and he refused to back down while he had such a good clean casting of Chaotic Defence up. And so, the fight began in earnest as Knarillas bolted her.
The elven archer followers began a murderous fusillade of pointy death upon poor Badden. They came within a whisker of dropping him before he could react, but he was able to hang on. Knarillas quickly assessed the suspended cage as having room enough room to fit both him and the prisoner, and fey-stepped into it. The cage saved him from at least one arrow, but he remained trapped in the cage while the Reaper howled below, assaulting him with her rending shrieks and unearthly babbling. By this time, her true face, wrinkled, blue and warty, was on show. Knarillas and the prisoner tried spells and hurled daggers, but the hag ducked under the cage.
Meanwhile, the others had been cut off from this by a Wall of Thorns cast by Badden. The archers and troll fought with Kade, Belardan and Badden, and the fight was long and bloody. Kade had observed something odd happening when the troll blundered onto the Gem pattern – the creature momentarily blurred into super-speed, raining an extra blow upon the beleaguered paladin, who put two and two together and managed later to manoeuvre himself onto the pattern. Instantly, he understood the power of the pattern and its link to the Gem card he bore. The pattern could aid each combatant once during a fight, enabling them to briefly accelerate and gain an advantage on their enemy, before the pattern skittered away in a random direction.
The encaged duo began to swing their lofty cell in order to get a better look at their target, but in desperation she fey-stepped towards the briar wall, and Knarillas killed her with a particularly vicious chaos bolt. It was some time before the heroes were able to tip things in their favour, but once the Reaper had been brought low, the others fell soon after. The thick, greasy fumes given off by the merrily burning troll provided a fine celebratory bonfire for the crew.
The prisoner turned out to be a Captain Oakley, a Holy Guardsman like Kade. He noted that he and Kade had suffered the same fate, both ordered into Dead Street in Levenge in order to quest after a band of heretics who had managed to move their entire temple complex, and the hill it stood upon, to parts unknown. Oakley noted that Kade had been touched by shadow, but that he had somehow avoided this taint. He proclaimed himself honoured and grateful to have been saved by the heroes, and explained his quest to cleanse the lost temple, which his visions led him to believe stood nearby. After consulting the party’s map, he identified a symbol drawn by the minotaur shoulder-women as being a likely candidate for a marker of the temple, not even a pulse away.
The party retrieved a few alchemical items of arguable value, and 500 gp worth of Lev trade bars. Also taken from the Reaper’s brow was a Laurel Circlet.
A discussion began on the merits of pursuing Oakley’s quest, particularly in regard to the prospect of conflict with the heretics. During the discussion, Cecil announced that he would be returning to Levenge, along with any who wanted to accompany him. He had a Linked Portal scroll, and proceeded to draw the design of the target circle next to the Reaper’s own permanent circle. Knarillas made copies of both designs. With no takers, Cecil cast the ritual and vanished, taking the metal sphere with him. Later, Badden would reflect that he had never seen the little man so terrified, and despite some persuasion, Cecil was adamant that he was out of his depth and could not go on. He parted, hoping that they would all meet again in Levenge.
Oh, and while the party talked, a couple more elves wandered into the cave, and were quickly killed.