The Juma Associates climb the ancient paved road towards the ring of stone pillars. Hrothgar checks his map of unseen lands: ahead is the vast snow-covered peak where Vrishabha lies trapped in the ice, waiting to be freed. A great stone arch crosses the road, guarded by three rakshasas. Hrothgar charges in, followed by the others, and they are quickly dispatched.
From here, the road leads steeply upwards to a large round stone platform about a hundred feet in diameter. Nine great rock pillars, over 40 feet high and irregularly-shaped surround the platform, forming a circle of stone. Within the ring of pillars are eleven rakshasas – some have the heads of tigers and other great cats, others are foxes or vultures – and Gyeltsen, a yakfolk sorcerer.
These rakshasas are led by Avishandu (the Fourth Tribune and Boss of All Bosses); also present is the infamous Heinsoo, Aurius Kalothese (Tribune of the Imperial Quarter) and Mardinuya (once the deva Samael who discovered that Srivatsa’s Bow and the Arrows of Hanuman could be used to free Vrishabha).
Avishandu mocks the Juma Associates for their naivety and stupidity: “Before we kill you, I’d like to thank you for freeing so many of our servants from the curse that trapped them in bovine form. You really have made things so much easier for us. Now, prepare to die in agony.” Hrothgar responds with a bloodthirsty threat of his own and battle is joined!
Heinsoo shoots Hrothgar with his poisoned crossbow, then Juma is bloodied by a hail of arrows from the rakshasa warriors standing between the pillars. Gil takes down two of these archers with magic missile, then brave Juma charges in, only to go down from multiple sword attacks from Mardinuya and Aurius. Hrothgar also charges the rakshasas, despite being slowed by the poison, and Jenma attacks an archer with acid orb, while Ulthar moves forward to heal Juma. Unfortunately, Avishandu’s misleading visions send him reeling backwards and the Urskovian warlord’s carefully planned tactical sequence is in tatters. He does manage to heal the genasi but not much – Aurius’ deadly aura of doom prevents healing magic from functioning at full strength.
Vashnawi and Gil kill two more warriors, but now Hrothgar is in trouble, falling unconscious to attacks from Mardinuya, Heinsoo and Aurius. Marduniya’s cloying words dominate Ulthar but fortunately Jenma is on hand to slap the warlord in the face and snap him out of it. Still bloodied, dazed and prone, Juma teleports away from the rakshasas; he’s hit by Gyeltsen’s withering staff and weakened. Wisely, he decides to use his mask of the impish grin to hide.
As Ulthar goes to heal himself, the dagger with a gold dragon’s head hilt he’s been wearing on his belt for months, transforms into its true form – that of a snake-like raktavarna rakshasa – and bites him in the leg. The nasty creature’s mindbite again throws his plans into disarray and he growls in frustration, before pulling himself together and smashing the raktavarna to a pulp with his great axe. Meanwhile, a dao blademaster appears from the stone, summoned by the yakman, and attacks Vashnawi. The pair continue to fight each other at the edge of the stone platform for the rest of the encounter.
Jenma is pulled towards Aurius with his phantom lure and attacked, but the dragonborn turns one of the rakshasa’s sword blows back on him with chaos echoes. Gil casts ice storm to create his signature zone of icy terrain around the rakshasas, then follows up with furious immolation on the following round to burn Aurius, Mardinuya and Gyeltsen. “Bring me my great axe” rings out in the mountain air, and Hrothgar is healed as Heinsoo steals the escalation die with reversal of fate. The gnoll enters the hydra rage, his axe darting and biting like the hydra’s many heads as he attacks the rakshasas.
Aurius has been bloodied but Juma unbloodies him when he rolls his gambler’s die. Then, Mardinuya bloodies Jenma, allowing her to strike back with aspect of the dragon. At the end of the round, Ulthar attacks four opponents in turn with path of storm, killing Avishandu and Aurius. Gil turns to stone after being hit with Gyeltsen’s diamond bonds, while Juma is tricked into attacking an illusionary duplicate instead of the real Heinsoo. Hrothgar falls unconscious and is dying again. Jenma slays Mardinuya with twin bolt.
Ulthar heals everyone, rallying them to his warlord’s banner and grabs the Arrows and Bow from the stone altar. Next, he unleashes his warmaster’s assault and Hrothgar and Juma charge Heinsoo as the Urskovian takes down Gyeltsen. With her master slain, the dao vanishes.
Only Heinsoo is left standing, but not for long as Hrothgar uses his final confrontation to slain the party’s arch-nemesis.
With the rakshasas vanquished, Vashnawi leads the PCs in an hour long ritual to destroy the Arrows and Bow. As they sustain their om chants, dark storm clouds gather overhead. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning flashes down, striking the altar and blowing the two weapons into smithereens!
Now the final adventure of the Juma Associates is over, our heroes go their separate ways.
Gil returns to Forathin to his father Paelias, in the hopes that his magical knowledge and prowess will at last impress him.
Hrothgar travels to the Great Grass Sea in search of a legendary totem which will unite the gnoll packs of the steppes under his rulership as Khan of All Gnolls. A confrontation with Urgedai the Kinslayer seems inevitable.
Jenma tracks down her sister Sora and persuades the paladin to go on a new adventure with her.
Juma steals the secret formula for Parsantine Fire but Ulthar persuades him not to give it to Sheikh Babak al-Hasid. As punishment for his failure, Juma is forced to serve as a pleasure slave among the nomads for a year and day.
Ulthar goes into politics with the ambition of becoming the first Urskovian to sit on the Inner Council. The Old Quarter tribune, Murad al-Rumi vouches for him, and Juma helps his comrade’s political campaign behind the scenes with a few dirty tricks.
Pics by Gog Magog