The team will be transported by Eyeless' agency to a place close to the location of a ritual of human sacrifice.
From there it is their responsibility to prevent the successful conclusion of the ritual, rescue the victim, steal the sacrificial knife and take the High Priest's knife-hand. The team must get clear with their prizes, and only when clear of pursuit will they be able to summon transport back to Eyeless.
Compensation: 1,000gp (or another equivalent reward, by negotiation) each for success, 200gp to each survivor in the event of an honourable failure.
In the six months or so after Novi returned from the last job (the only survivor) she got to know her new colleagues: a pair of half-orc twins, Sharn and Ul'Rak.
Novi spent the time arranging for the sale of various of the bits and pieces she took from her erstwhile companions' corpses, and for the purchase of various other useful items. She also forked out large sums of money to finance her fighter and magic-user training, so she is now levels 4/3.
Sharn and Ul'Rak were employed on a number of simple, uncomplicated jobs: debt collection, leg-breaking, intimidation, that sort of thing. They seemed to be enjoying themselves.
The team were summoned to Eyeless' tower in the mountains, and told to come ready for travel. They were carried up the mountain road in Eyeless' own carriage: comfortable enough, but driven by a disturbingly thin and silent driver, and drawn by a team of unsettlingly thin horses. The journey took about six hours, passing first along the main, well-travelled road leading up to the mines and foundries, and then branching off on to a narrower, steeper and much less busy road — in fact, there was no other traffic at all — that wound up and up and eventually ended at Eyeless' tower.
They were met by Eyeless' factotum, a short, round, cheerful man going by the name of Parrot, considerably more lively than the coachman, and with whom they had dealt before. He provided them with excellent food and ablutions before leading them into the presence of Eyeless himself.
Eyeless led them into a sizeable octagonal room, windowless and unfurnished, and entirely mosaiced with a multitude of geometric designs covering every surface.
"In three days," he said, "there will be a ritual made which will involve the sacrifice of a boy. You will be sent to a place near to the site, from whence you can spy out the terrain and make your plans. Your task will be to interrupt and ruin that ritual, and bring back to me the boy, alive, and the sacrificial knife, and the hand that wields that knife. It is not sufficient to prevent the ritual, it must be interrupted. You must then get clear of the site, and only when you are free of immediate pursuit, you may summon transportation back to me.
Novi asked many, many questions, eliciting little more in the way of information. (Ul'Rak immediately nicknamed her "Nosey", which she did not appreciate). She did manage to worm out of him confirmation that he wasn't going to kill the boy himself, and Eyeless also revealed that ruining the ritual would be in everyone's best interest, in addition to the wage he would be paying. He was non-specific as to why.
He eventually managed to shut Novi up for long enough to get everyone assembled on a pattern on the floor, whereupon the walls, floor and ceiling al began to merge into a seamless sphere around them, unbroken except for above, where it narrowed into a smooth, round shaft leading up into darkness.
There was a sudden jerk, which knocked Sharn and Ul'Rak over, and the room began to sway in a disconcertingly stomach-turning way. It was too much for Novi's digestion, alas. The roller-coaster motion continued for an indeterminate length of time: long enough for the Hitty-Twins to get quite hungry again, and for Novi to wish she was dead, when it ended with a sudden crash, knocking everyone off their feet.
The room began to shrink rapidly in on them, and just as it seemed about to crush them all it somehow dissolved around them. They found themselves in pitch darkness and breathless, muggy heat, with a small bulbous, long-necked brass bottle at their feet. Novi put it in her pack.
They were on a path, surrounded by close, dense jungle, smelling of decaying vegetation. They could see little, even with the benefit of infravision; the vegetation was thick enough that they could see only a few yards in any direction. They got off the path and settled down to wait for daylight.
They were not left undisturbed. A gigantic centipede, twelve feet long, came looking for a meal. It bit Sharn on the leg before it could be dispatched, and its poison made her leg swell alarmingly and turn a virulent purple, not to mention causing her searing, burning agony. The effect proved to be temporary, fortunately: healing draughts kept her alive long enough for the poison to work its way out, and by the next morning she was more or less back to herself.
In the morning light they could easily see that the muddy trail had been heavily used, with the marks of bare (human) feet going both ways, many of the prints showing evidence of having been heavily burdened. They followed the path towards the sounds they could hear: voices shouting, hammering, sawing — all the sounds of construction. The trailed debouched into a sizeable clearing, obviously quite freshly cleared, and the team got off the path and found a spot near the edge of the jungle where they could observe the proceedings.
On the far side of the site, straddling the edge of the clearing and the jungle beyond, was an ancient ziggurat, about two hundred feet high. It had clearly been heavily overgrown by the jungle, but had been cleared (on the facing side, at least) of the lianas that had covered it. The clearing was a hive of activity, with at least a couple of hundred smallish, darkish, very lightly clad people, busy at work repairing the stairs up the ziggurat, and building what appeared to be a sort of semi-circular arrangement of four levels of bleachers in front of it. It was clear that the work was well advanced, and that they'd be finished by the end of the day.
It rained. Frequently. Then the sun came out again, hot. Frequently. The reason for the minimal clothing of the workmen became rapidly apparent as our favourite band of intruders sweated and itched their way through the day.
Sharn went off, wearing Novi's Invisible Ring, to scout out the rear of the ziggurat, hoping to find another stair behind. She found it relatively untouched by the workers, and still with its network of lianas growing up its terraces. Each level was about twenty feet high, and though the walls would have been quite easily climbable if they were dry, they were covered in mosses and slimes that made them treacherous to ascend. There was no stairway other than the one out in front. She returned to report her findings, and the team settled down to planning.
Initially, the planning revolved around how to get one or more of the workers' ladders without being detected. Novi had an Invisible Ring that she'd yoinked off Olaf's corpse, but they suspected that the sight of a ladder floating along apparently under its own steam might draw untoward comment.
Eventually they settled on this plan: Novi would cast a Levitation spell on herself, and scramble up the levels of the rear of the ziggurat like a balloon, carrying all the rope they had between them — about 150'. Then she'd dismiss the spell and toss the rope down for the other two to climb up with. That would still leave them two or three levels from the top, but within striking distance for the assault — yep, you guessed it. A frontal attack. It was inevitable really, considering how long the planning session went on. The idea is that they scramble up during the sacrificial ritual, kill everyone, snatch the kid, and then gargle down some Polymorph Self potions and fly away, easy and free. What could possibly go wrong?
Well anyway. They made their way around the clearing to the back of the ziggurat without detection, and the climbing plan went without a hitch. On the way up, they passed deep niches in the walls of the levels, in which were painted friezes, badly degraded by age and mould, but repeated sufficiently to make out the general tenor: lines of blue people being opened up and disembowelled by a golden figure, above them a black disc, and below, reaching up, a hideous tentacle-faced, fanged abomination. Charming.
They are now hunkered down, waiting for the night to pass and the dawn of the ritual day to arrive.
XP: 1,695 each,
Sequence of events (just so I can fill it out later, maybe):