The Sidmouth Slayers regrouped and resupplied at the Mines of Moderheim. The inner workings of the Barrowburrower clan came to light, as it transpired that Barack had in fact been matron Bathilda, come to bring her boys home. Both Borus and Bacon were restored to life, as was the noble paladin Kito. Bathilda took Borus back to Barrowburrower Hill, whilst Bacon stayed on to complete his College’s mission.
The monk Michonne decided to depart the group, perhaps needing time to process the horrors she had borne witness to. She was replaced by a mighty barbarian woman, Helka.
Whilst the party were planning their return to Skull City to deal with the evil necromancers there, Kito had a thought. All the students admitted to the Academy were marked with a skull tattoo, created by a sentinel statue. When the party had entered the Academy previously, Bearcloak was marked by the statue whilst the others made do with make-up to simulate the tattoos. Kito concentrated on Bearcloak’s tattoo, and sensed a powerful evil. Bearcloak offered a theory: it must be that the tattoo is itself an evil brand. He suggested that after the Academy was dealt with the tattoo should be removed somehow. Shortly’s suspicions were aroused though. He asked Bearcloak a question: how many elven magic swords did the party find in their early adventures against the goblins of the Stagwood? In answer Bearcloak teleported away, trying unsuccessfully to steal Shortly’s bag of holding as he went.
Checking the bag of holding’s contents, Shortly found that the Amulet of the Void was missing.
What had happened to Bearcloak? The party tried scrying him, but this did not work. They then used a Commune spell and learned that Bearcloak had been possessed by the vampire mistress of the Black Academy, Ferranifer, and she had returned to the Academy.
The Sidmouth Slayers wanted to lose no time getting to the Academy to recover their erstwhile companion before Ferranifer could re-establish her defences. Rather than wait until the morrow and prepare specific magics they bought potions and scrolls, and a series of teleports later came once again to Skull City. They made their disguises and tried to quietly move through the city, but Ferranifer had at least had time to put her servants on alert and the party were quickly spotted.
A battle ensued at the Academy entrance.
A number of necromancers stood outside of the Academy, and when Ferranifer’s thrall Leon sounded an alert they began throwing spells. The party closed, but were caught in a cloud of noxious vapours that choked them and obscured their vision. As they exited the cloud, skeletal nagas emerged from the Academy foyer.
Bacon summoned a sleet storm, preventing those still inside the Academy from seeing what was going on outside. It also served to slow the progress of the pair of undead naga who had not yet emerged. The naga in front used their own dark magics, fatiguing the heroes and draining their life energy. The foul undead proved resistant to the party’s magic and to many of their weapons. Fortunately though, the naga were a less significant threat in close combat, although they possessed dangerous venom.
Instructor Ngise, one of the Academy’s leaders, had been thwarted by Bacon’s sleet storm but used a dimension door spell to outflank them, gathering to himself a couple of rogues to protect him. From his vantage he aimed a deadly spell at Kito, but Anubis protected his holy knight.
By the time Leon emerged from the sleet storm, the handful of necromancers outside had been slain but the nagas were still engaging the party. In a fury, Leon struck down Kito with his deadly black blade. But it was probably an error for him to then take on Helka as well. The barbarian avenged the paladin, slaying Ferranifer’s servant.
Bacon used summoning magics to try to turn the tide in the party’s favour. He used a powerful magic item that had been taken from Acererak’s crypt to conjure an air elemental and send it against Instructor Ngise. He then summoned a dire wolf, as Bearcloak/Ferranifer and Academician Drake (the other leaders of the Academy) joined the battle.
Shortly was exhausted by the nagas’ evil magic, and injured by a lightning bolt. But he managed to save Kito’s life with a potent healing spell.
Bacon’s elemental swept up Ngise and one of his guards in a whirlwind. The powerful wizard was ill-equipped to deal with this foe. Whilst he eventually managed to blast the elemental to destruction with fire and magic missiles, the elemental by this time was high in the air, and Ngise fell to his death. One surviving rogue fled into the city.
Bacon’s dire wolf did not fare so well. Emerging on the other side of a stinking cloud spell, the wolf faced both Bearcloak/Ferranifer and Academician Drake. The two necromancers slew the wolf with Vampiric Touch spells, fortifying themselves in the process.
Helka leapt through the fog and sleet, into the Academy foyer. Meeting Bearcloak/Ferranifer and Academician Drake, she employed her mighty axe. The wizards responded with deadly force, and whilst Helka withstood the assault, she was blind and close to death. She staggered back outside, temporarily defeated.
After another summoning spell was interrupted and ruined by a bone naga’s magic missiles, Bacon brought a new ally into the fight: The Glass Griffon, recovered from the Crystal Tower of Devral. The Griffon engaged one of the naga in a deadly grapple. Bacon then made his way inside the Academy foyer and goaded the two enemy wizards.
Ferranifer had had enough time since she possessed Bearcloak to learn a good deal about the Sidmouth Slayers. Only Helka was an unknown quantity. She knew that Bacon was very agile, but not hardy. She gambled that she could kill him outright with an empowered evocation. But luck was with the halfling, and he dodged the blast of cold. He was less lucky against her follow up, and was struck blind, like Helka.
Kito tried to approach Bearcloak/Ferranifer, but found that a new magic thwarted him and he too was forced to retreat.
Now, only one bone naga remained, and it was locked in a struggle with the airborne griffon. Shortly healed Helka, restoring health and sight. The dwarf then brought Kito and Helka back in to the Academy foyer with his own dimension door spell.
For a couple of seconds, as Helka’s axe swung down, Bearcloak tried to take in his surroundings. He realised that he was back in Skull City, in the midst of a battle. He recognised some of his allies. And then, despite all of his magics, Helka’s mighty axe felled him. (What nobody knew at this point was that Helka’s magic circle against evil, from a potion she had consumed, temporarily suppressed Ferranifer’s possession).
Academician Drake realised that he stood alone against three powerful warriors. Although the Academy held other students he could call on, some of them quite skilled, these foes had beaten Ferranifer, Ngise and Leon as well as the bone nagas. They were also responsible for the destruction of the golem that guarded the city, and Morrow’s Children, the dark nagas who patrolled the walls. Drake teleported away.
Bearcloak was dying. Ferranifer’s evil spirit still possessed him. Shortly stopped the bleeding, and the group placed Bearcloak in manacles whilst stripping him of all equipment. Bound, gagged and unconscious, Bearcloak/Ferranifer was removed from Skull City as the party teleported out.
Shortly carried out an exorcism under the light of the sun. The Amulet of the Void, that had served as receptacle for Ferranifer’s soul, was stored in the bag of holding. When her spirit was driven out of Bearcloak it was left with nowhere to go, and was permanently destroyed by the pure light of the sun.
With the threat of the Black Academy ended, the Sidmouth Slayers might now be able to make use of the message on the Amulet of the Void: “The Face of the Fiend Does More than Devour; With the Least of My Form, ’Tis the Portal to Power.”