The Belly of the Beast

Peregrine, Amelyn, and Emby spend a day in Tantor informing the wizards' guild of the situation and telling them to contact the Pelorians in Bastion for further information or if they'd like to help. They also talk to the temples of St. Cuthbert and Heironeous in Tantor, telling them the same thing. Emby talks to her parents about her and Damir's engagement, and the party spends the night in Tantor. During the night, Peregrine searches for poison-dealers in the seedier side of Tantor, but he fails to find what he's looking for. They set out for Gwivonna in the morning. When they finally reach Gwivonna, they go to speak to Malicor. Peregrine convinces him to teleport Peregrine to the Temple of Ehlonna and prepare a potion that will teleport him back. A couple hours after Peregrine leaves, Damir reappears on Malicor's doorstep - all detailed below. While in Ehlonna's realm, Peregrine speaks to the priests of the danger and has them bless his sword and bow. He then buys a Quiver of Ehlonna from the priests. He also visited his uncle and his old family home, then left some equipment that he wouldn't be needing at his uncle's place before teleporting back. When he returned, the next morning, he was greeted and given a book by Damir - again, all detailed below.
Meanwhile, Damir had convinced Malicor to grant him a disguise (polymorphing him into "Nikoli"). He then had Malicor summon some creatures to attack him with sword and bow; when he was suitably injured, he had Malicor prepare him a teleportation potion, make it smell like alcohol, and send him to near the crater. Damir hid the potion in his flask so that it would not be noticed (hopefully). He then limped toward the crater, proclaiming his allegiance to Lord Drummond when challenged by the dragon. He carefully noted where the dragon appeared from, though pretending not to notice. He then bluffed his way through the "greetings" at the hideout, claiming he was Nikoli from Regiment Four under Major Darren Kane, killed in action. He took notice of everything he could, even to the point of identifying any visible magical items. The group accepted him that night, though they stood guard over him; they did, however, heal him. The next morning, quite early, they dragged him out of bed after only a couple hours of sleep and threw him into a torture chamber. There, a morbidly obese wizard atop a flying throne and with a ferret familiar took a long, slow 24 hours to… check his legitimacy. They tortured him slowly, using his pain to create a dose of liquid pain. The wizard used pain-inflicting spells as well as more mundane methods of torture, using salt on the chest, back, and leg wounds to ensure that they scarred. He also branded Damir with a symbol of a dripping skull. Through the first few hours, Damir yelled and gasped in pain, but after a while his anger consumed him and he stood, closed-mouthed, as the wizard tried more and more intense methods of torture. Damir would not crack, however, and was allowed to sleep after being healed once again. He spent the next day trying to learn everything he could about the area and the people and taking careful mental notes. One of the first things he learned was that most of their traps can be bypassed by holding a holy symbol of Nerull or Vecna in front of yourself as you pass; he was given a new holy symbol of Nerull. One of the men revealed himself to be a bard when he tried to Suggest to Damir that Nikoli shouldn't worry about their major plans. Since Damir knew the way the power worked, he didn't allow himself to be Fascinated. Eventually, Damir figured out that they were sending the bard, the half-dragon they'd met before, and (due to his efforts at ass-kissing) him to spy on the Citadel. There, the corrupter would infiltrate the priests and turn or weaken as many as he could; the bard would continue south to Bastion, where he would try to learn more of the strategic plans of the priests. Damir agreed to go along and help the bard with gruntwork. On the way out of the crater, he palmed the flask. When they approached another crater, Damir cast a Major Image of two priests of St. Cuthbert popping up to assault them. He then had them attack, dodge the counterattack, and run off when he broke from the group to chase them. Damir fired some shots, missed, and pretended (with the help of another illusion) to be hit and have some rocks knocked from the edge of the crater, carrying his body to the bottom (another illusion). As he dove off the cliff and cast the illusion of his body at the bottom, he drank the potion and concentrated hard on Malicor's doorstep. He reappeared but hit the ground hard, as though he'd fallen 20 feet (would've been 30, but his Tumble check succeeded). Malicor hears the crash and teleports outside to investigate; he sees the scars and the brand and suggests that Damir heal himself and patch his clothing before going inside (though he will still bear the scars and the brand). Malicor then polymorphs him back into Damir; he leaves the Bluffing spell intact, however, so that Damir gains a +10 to Bluff and Disguise checks to act like Nikoli. Damir does so, then pulls the cord. Malicor teleports back inside and has Emby check the door, claiming to be busy. When Emby sees Damir at the door, she begins to ask where the hell he's been; however, before she can say a word, Damir grabs her and holds her like there's no tomorrow, barely controlling himself enough to keep from crying. She decides not to say anything and just hugs him back for a few minutes. When Damir finally lets go, he tells her he'll fill her in later but needs to write some things down first; he then begins writing feverishly at the table. Emby tries to look at his chest on a whim after noticing he's buttoned his shirt too well; he spots her and brushes her off gently, asking her to wait a few hours until he can talk to her. She leaves him alone for a few minutes, then begins to sneak papers from under his nose as he completes them. Damir is writing up sketches of each person with descriptions of their known powers and abilities, lists of their equipment, lists of known traps, a sketch of the dragon with his abilities listed, a list of the equipment he could identify and guesses at what he couldn't, a list of the rooms he saw with sketches of the layouts of the buildings, a sketch of each room, an overall sketch of the canyons, and a list of the types of torture equipment and spells he'd seen (in other words, everything he'd seen with an Int check of 23, natural 20; a Spot of 26; a Listen of 18; a Search of 14; a Gather Information of 25; and a Spellcraft of 32, another natural 20). After a few minutes, Malicor came downstairs and helped Emby leaf through the stack of completed papers as Damir, oblivious, kept writing. Both deduced everything that had happened from his papers, though he did not ever state that he'd been there and in fact described Nikoli as completely as the other Blood Hunters. After a while, Damir finishes. He tells Emby that he's going to visit some of the girls at the Silky Doll before they leave town and asks her along. She follows, invisible. Damir purchases 6 tokens from Chastity, who is actually relieved he hasn't been killed; he chats amiably with her for a minute (Bluffing that he's normal, 32). He then goes inside and has Emby choose two girls to speak with. Damir speaks with them "alone" for a while, hearing the rumors about himself and about Emby. He then asks if they'd like to meet his beautiful fiance (they'd only heard he had a girlfriend), and Emby reappears in front of them. They chat for a while, given 4 tokens (1 per girl from Damir, 1 per girl from Emby). Damir tells them that he plans to pull the same trick on Xandra next; they agree to play along, and Emby re-invisibles herself. In Xandra's room, he plays as though he wants to sleep with her, trying to get her worked up but dodging her approaches. He keeps his cool until she finally starts heading for her box of "toys"; he then interrupts her, telling her that his fiance would be angry with him for sleeping with her. He asks her if she'd like to MEET Emby sometime, while Emby reappears behind Xandra. This, to say the least, surprises Xandra. They then talk for a while, Xandra having been given a second token after Emby reappeared. After that, they leave, with Damir introducing Emby to Chastity (who seems genuinely happy for him). They then walk back to the inn to sleep and wait for Peregrine. In the inn, Emby asks him about what happened; Damir tells her that she doesn't want to know specifics and that she knows everything she needs to know from the book (and more). He then sleeps fitfully, waking many times from nightmares. The next morning, Emby and Malicor make 7 copies of the notes Damir wrote; a copy is sent to the Main Temples of Ehlonna, Heironeous, St. Cuthbert, and Pelor, as well as to Bastion. This leaves two bound copies; one, Malicor keeps. The other, the party takes with them (as well as Damir's original notes). Damir suggests to Peregrine that they might track down and intercept the bard and corrupter, who are heading for the Citadel; they may supply the party with some information, after all. Damir and Emby then leave immediately for Peloria; Peregrine and Amilyn stay in Gwivonna to study the book. Once they reach Peloria, Damir has the priests heal his scars (resulting in a short misunderstanding once they see the brand, which Damir remarked upon as a useful means of identifying spies and sympathizers). He pays them with 60 GP and offers a scroll of lesser restoration as another portion of the payment; they eventually accept but request that he take the scroll to Bastion. He agrees. Damir and Emby wait in Peloria for Peregrine and Amilyn; as they wait, Emby tries to comfort Damir about his horrible treatment. She talks him into showing her his body to prove that the priests healed all the scars, something he was reluctant to do. All along their journey, she continues to comfort him; his nightmares, consequently, become fewer and further between after a few nights. He begins to try to thank Emby for her treatment of him, telling her how much he loves her. After a few nights, she emotionally breaks down and begs him never to do anything like that again. He only agrees that he won't do anything like that again unless, basically, the fate of the world (or many others' lives) depended on it. When they finally reached Bastion, Damir was acting nearly normal again (though he's still having nightmares, he's not waking as violently, and he's hiding/suppressing his fear better, replacing it with resolve). There, he told her that he loved her and knows that he could never find another woman half as good as her, that she's been completely unbelievably wonderful to him, etc (going on for a good half-hour). He then carefully, fearfully, but longingly makes love to her again, for the first time after his torture. The next day, the party quickly fills in the priests of Bastion with new information (a description of the torture and some "pictures" of Drummond's men from Damir's memory, thanks to Mindshare and one of Emby's cantrips). The party then heads off toward the Citadel to warn the forward forces about the approaching danger.

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