After recovering from the mummy rot, the Freak Squad decides to confront Rhotlzhogok, the mind flayer from the Badlands. He has been testing Rad Longhammer for quite some time, while creating and torturing similar subjects in his tower. Rad thinks about his past long and hard, and decides he can’t really believe his memories in the tower since his tormentor played mind tricks on him to hide his own nature and location. However, Rad can believe in the small village that he tormented on his rage fits after being cast away, and identifies Spinal Spire as their destination. Faust needs to establish a permanent portal in order to ensure his future survival. He decides to use the lich’s own lair as a hideout, so he teleports the group in there. After he does the ritual, he needs to wait for a day to cast it again to leave. The adventurers are isolated from the world’s troubles, and finally able to relax.
Tobin grows restless as the day passes, and challenges Rad to a match. Rad gets himself ready for an arm-wrestling contest, but receives an arrow to the shoulder! He tries to deflect the rest, but Tobin keeps attacking savagely. Rad loses it and uses his fists of fury full force, landing a deadly dance of punches on the ranger. Not satisfied, Tobin presses on even more fiercely. The battle heats up so much that Mazith and Faust almost, almost start caring about their friends killing each other.
Rad calls upon his inner strength, which now has a voice of his own, to light up his blows with energy, setting Tobin on fire. Unsure of what calamity is befalling her lover, Lady Oscar uses the fate ring that she shares with Tobin to lend her strength. Tobin nocks one last arrow, lets go, and pierces Rad, who falls unconscious.
Mazith helps Rad wake up and tend to his wounds. The whole party is glad to leave when Faust can cast his teleport ritual again, and Faust makes sure to let in some fresh air from the outside into his lair.
The Badlands used to be a bountiful area where a powerful theocracy ruled. The Old Faith was an order of powerful druids who believed they had a divine guidance to rule the land. As they grew more powerful, they attacked the layers of hell in order to eradicate them one layer at a time. As their power grew, so did their ambition.
A betrayal in the form of pact with the demons eradicated most of the upper order of druids, and the explosion of magic turned the land into a wasteland. Surprisingly, the hell creatures kept their promise and a demented druid of demonic lineage is in charge of the open portal to the demon lands. Because the lands was permeated with chaotic magic, wizards relocated to The Sharid and formed a democracy there.
Sandman tells them that teleporting into the Badlands is extremely dangerous due to the chaotic magic, and recommends a two stage trip through The Sharid. The embassy of The Sharid is located in a cloud floating a mile on top of Timbermoor. With his powers, Faust is able to conjure a storm to land the party safely there. They are welcome by a wizard wearing colorful robes, who recognizes Tobin as a fellow Sharidian, and approves of the party’s resourcefulness, granting them passage to the market square portal in the desert lands.
The party makes it to main city of The Sharid, Ras Matara. It surrounds an oasis located in the middle of desert dunes. Its inhabitants are highly trained in arcana, and mystical creatures seem to have made this their home. The party’s horses seem out of place, so they buy camels for the trip. The merchants pay top prices for the gear, gems and coins that the adventurers part with, in exchange for better enchantments for their items. Dazzled by shiny objects, the party rides on to their destination, unprepared for the elements on their way north to the Badlands.
Tobin has natural resistance, and Mazith trained one, but the rest of the party grow thirsty and exhausted. They decide to go on instead of searching for water, and make it through the cold night. The next day they can’t go on, and eventually find a desert mouse, which they follow to some brush. As they dig the find some water reservoirs to keep them going to their destination. The land turns from fine sand to red sandstone, and the wizard tower grows taller as they approach the village.
The freak squad knock on the tower and are received by a butler who informs them that his master is awaiting them at the top of the tower. Rhotlzhogok welcomes Rad Longhammer, proud to see him grown up and harboring the beast inside him. Rad and Tobin lose their temper and attack the mind flayer overlord, but he is fully prepared. Multiple mind flayers and their thralls appear in the room and mind blast the party before they get their shots off. Tobin’s arrow hit the mindflayer regardless, but Rad’s initial flurry monk attacks unfortunately miss, leaving him without an advantage over his enemy. Mazith, being already dazed, acts extra stupid and vulnerable to have the enemies concentrate on him. Faust steps back and fires from a distance.
However Rhotlzhogok has studied the adventurers during their battle with the Beholder, and knows their tactics quite well. The illithids relocate the warriors against the wall, and they themselves surround Faust, beat him up, and dominate his mind. One of the mind flayers is able to grab onto Faust’s skull with his mouth tentacles, ready to consume his brain. Their mental powers refresh and they send another round of mind blasts that cripple the party’s reaction times and concentration. Rhotlzhogok tells Rad that had Aishe Malinova been here, she would have suggested diplomatic talks, and he would have described the proposal he had for saving Rad and Pelor. But Rad and Tobin had attacked on sight, and peace talks would only be a possibility if they surrendered before someone got killed. To show his command of the situation, he describes the strengths and weaknesses of the party’s fighting style and how his brethren would win this battle, and he would still get to experiment on Rad… unless he volunteered.
Tobin is ready to strike the overlord but Rad forces her to stop, much to her anger. Rhotlzhogok likewise stops his comrade from devouring Faust’s brain. He says that Rad’s body is harboring Hyperion, one of the Titans of ages past, inside him. The mind flayers had been experimenting with weapons to prevent their race from being obliterated by the Githyanki, who revolted from their slavery. Now the Githyanki seek revenge, and will likely move on to conquer their cousins, the Githzerai, after exterminating the Illithids. Rhotlzhogok came to this world to revive and retrieve the Titans, who were imprisoned with the lives of the gods of Hinrik, and use them to destroy the invading Githyanki armies. All his experiments were to create creatures that could withstand the process; Rad was subject 47. The titans and their hosts are ready to be transported, otherwise the end result would be liberated titans in Aeon, seeking revenge against the current set of gods. Hyperion, being the Titan of the Sun, would likely destroy Pelor.
Rad thinks about it long and hard, and agrees to ship away the titans to the Astral plane to fight the Illithid’s war. Rhotlzhogok agrees but must retrieve Hyperion, too. Rad is able to convince him too leave him inside him, and with the Pelor’s blessings and Bahamut’s wards, Rad’s mind forces the creature back into his prison, leaving only enough of an opening for Rad to draw power from the eternally enraged Titan.
Faust, who had been battling with his tentacly captor for a while now, decides to use his silver tongue to persuade the mind flayers. He mentions how in fact, the Freak Squad had multiple magic items and powers under their sleeves ready to be unveiled for the first time, that Rhotlzhogok could not have prepared against, so it was good that the fight stopped where it did. Rhotlzhogok is convinced by his tall tales, and realizes how fortunate it was that his comrades were not slain. He promises Rad a magical item of great power since his allies, alive, are more valuable to him.