Rise and Fall of Arela

Session 21 Recap
First Time for Everything

Quint Strain’s elf “consultant” Eredris came to the pier to investigate the crate containing Aramil’s corpse.

He apparently tries to teleport onto boat, but misses. He asks for crate to be removed from the extradimensional space, then asks to have it moved off the boat. After performing some ritual and donning a pair of spectacles, he shows a path the crate took.

The group get Polycarp and Eredris to follow the trail invisibly. It winds around the city, jumping off and onto the different causeways until finally wending behind the Temple of Alion and its cemetery. The path leads to a large monument on a slab before disappearing underneath it. Polycarp tells Eredris that the trail ends here and to be free to return to his boss with the news, who promptly takes the offer and teleports away. Polycarp then sets up to have a stakeout, without results.

Polycarp returned to the ship, informing Vyktor about his discovery and waking up Artas Menethar to tell him he found nothing. After that he had a conversation with the dragon, learning that water elementals have been trying to drown people and had tried to drown him.

The next day was the day of the announcement. The party decided to split up to approach the event separately to avoid detection. Polycarp and Drael made their way to the bank as part of their plan. They saw the lackluster guard put in place as part of Quint’s plan and began making their way to the roof. On the fourth floor Polycarp noticed a wet spot on the floor, which further investigation revealed to be blood. Picking the lock revealed a storage closet containing a stripped body. They locked the door again, and sent an arrow to the members on the balcony.

Meanwhile, Ignomine and Vyktor met at the base of the Merchant’s Guild tower, heavily fortified with their own security and Shivar Guard. They met Alexandra, who despite her unpretentious appearance was clearly commanding respect from those around. Alexandra instructed Ignomine to stand on Snugga’s, leader of the Skullcrushers, left impersonating her Third. Vyktor was to be standing near Quint, appearing as one of his magical advisors. Ignomine provided Quint one of his bracelets as a means of providing healing, to which Quint acquiesced with a roll of his eyes. Snugga, meanwhile, yanked Ignomine to the side and made it clear that he was to do exactly what she said while he was supposed to be in her employ.

Polycarp, seeing his party mates, launched an arrow with a letter to the balcony. Unfortunately, he didn’t consider that there might be protections around the balcony, which was apparently the case; the arrow stopped in midair and shattered. A few glares from the guards nearby and Drael realized he could send a silent image informing them of their discovery.

Quint Strain stepped forward with the Jezebel impersonator to the cheers of the packed crowd. He began the announcement by making a nod towards the anticipation built up around his and Jezebel’s pending nuptials. The crowd roared its approval. “I am sorry I will have to disappoint you.” A hush fell over the crowd. “…Because I asked Templemaster ”/wikis/Farn/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Farn to marry us last night."

There was a moment of silence, and then the cheers erupted throughout the packed square. After a few moments Quint motioned for the crowd to quiet, which they finally did to a dull roar. “But that’s not the biggest announcement I had to make today. Some of you guess that my marriage to Jezebel might mean the re-establishment of a form of nobility for ”/wikis/shivar" class=“wiki-page-link”>Shivar.

This, however, is not necessary to establish my family’s nobility. Allow me to explain: As many of you know, I and my late wife survived the 30 year war and had my beloved daughter, Alexandra.

“What many of you do not know is that my wife, ”/wikis/Alyssa/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Alyssa, was a member of the McGovern family. Clearly she survived the night of blood all those years ago." There were gasps throughout the crowd as the swifter among them realized the implications of this information. “As you may realize, this means that Alexandra is already of Shivaran noble birth, and that I am by marriage.” The stupefied crowd were suddenly shaken into rapturous cheers, at least until Quint spoke again.

“But all of this means nothing without proof.” Templemaster Farn then stepped forward and spoke in his deep sonorous voice. “When Strain and Jezebel came to me to marry them last night, I at first refused. It was only when Strain presented this that I agreed to his request.” At this, Templemaster Farn then presented a dagger with a large green gem. “This is the sigil blade of the High Lord of Shivar. It will only glow for the blood of the noble family.” He gestured to Alexandra to approach and take the blade. As it passed into her grasp, the gem in the hilt lit up with a brilliant emerald light. As its light shone over the square, cheers and applause erupted with thunderous force.

“With this knowledge, I am pleased to announce High Lord Quint Strain.” He turned to the rest of the Templemasters, who all stepped forward in turn to recognize the new High Lord.

As soon as this bombshell was completed, the assassins began their attack. On the bank roof, one of the guards drew his bow and aimed at the balcony. Polycarp immediately drew his bow on him, but hesitated just long enough for him to get off his shot. On the balcony itself, Shugga’s second tensed up and started to move. Vyktor immediately sprang into action, but unsure of the orc’s motives launched a Grease spell to drop him to the floor. Down in the crowd, Artas detected a cloaked figure pushing his way through the crowd. As he pursued, the cloaked figure began pushing his way through the crowd. Unable to catch up, Artas roared a challenge and clearing the crowd between him and the suspect.

The shot from the guard snapped through the air, but instead of crashing into the barrier the shield of force split and fell with a shimmer. The arrow struck true, embedding itself into the new High Lord’s neck. At the same time, the glamer around the Jezebel impersonator fell, the miscellaneous wards and auras collapsed, and any spells prepared and cast refused to function. Quint collapsed in a pool of his own blood. Ignomine desperately asked Snugga if he could help, then leapt forward to Lay on Hands, staunching the bleeding. Vyktor meanwhile identified the arrow as having delivered an Antimagic Field – unfortunately now attached to Quint’s flesh.

Polycarp unloaded on the guard, now revealed to be the assassin. Five arrows pierced the figure in a blur of rapid shooting, and the disguised figure dashed off the side of the bank’s balcony. Artas tried to grab the fleeing character, but he managed to slip out of his grasp just as the other figure landed in front of him. “This is NOT how you said this would go!” he hissed. In response, the fake guard launched himself into the air. Drael meanwhile summoned a swarm of lantern archons to pursue the fleeing assassin.

Ignomine did what he could to heal Quint’s wounds, but was blindsided by the Second bull-rushing him off the balcony. Vyktor, shocked, urged Quint to move back into the building and dashed to the far corner of the balcony, away from the field emanating from him. He then launched a spell that summoned a field of black tentacles, grappling him in place.

The assassin that Artas was pursuing, seeing his immediate future, drew a potion. Artas tried to strike him down but he managed to down the potion, and disappeared. Thinking quickly, Artas menaced the invisible assassin, calling him out for his cowardice. The assassin, compelled by the taunt, tried to sneak attack Artas before he realized that it would purge his invisibility, negating his escape. Seeing no other option, he surrendered.

The sniper, pursued by the archons, began to zigzag through the city streets as he flew. Polycarp dashed off as fast as he could run, barely managing to keep him in view. Harried by the archons, the fleeing assassin was held back long enough for Polycarp to race ahead and set himself up for a shot. He drew a careful bead, then launched a strike that finally dropped the assassin for good.

With the assassins subdued and Quint taken to safety, it was time to clean up the mess. Inside the Merchant’s Guild Tower, a recovered Quint thanked his rescuers and made clear his plan to interrogate his assassins. Farn and the other Templemasters tended to the worst effects of the assassins’ weapons.

To be continued…

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Session 20 Recap
A Further Series of Unfortunate Events

Decide to use crystals to meet with Etzio Damien and check his motivations before giving back equipment or (possibly) crystal. Leave equipment on ship, travel outside the city. Crush the crystal, and Edagener appears; try to negotiate shard. Requested to speak to Etzio. Etzio confirms through speaking-stone, essentially, that he was working to return Rovagug. During course of conversation Artas reveals that he was a servant of Sidus and had been there at Rovagug’s original imprisonment. Etzio says to forget the previous deal with the crystal, but to bring him Artas Menethar. Party refuses (Drael hesitated), combat is joined, Edagener says how glad he is that he will get to kill Ignomine with his powers restored.

Kill Edagener, death reveals that he is a lich and will return.

Have a second meeting with Alexandra at a swanky restaurant, Polycarp gets all dressed up like a ponce, they explain their plan to have a public announcement to draw out Jezebel’s assassins, use a double to protect her, and have the party placed strategically around them to capture the assassins. She explained that the teleportation indicated that Evil aligned people were able to teleport, and that the deal with the Temple of Abadar preventing teleportation had been modified. Drael’s attempts to teleport were unsuccessful, indicating that only Evil was allowed to move in this way – a bad sign.

Group reveals they might have been followed, Alexandra is exasperated, they leave back to the ship to prepare.

Once there, the group worked to discover how the equipment of Butcher of the Bay, and the proof of Kharlin’s involvement in the assassination attempt, had been snatched away from them. Vyktor surmised that it had been a spell of recall, which required the use of an Arcane Mark placed upon the item. Realizing that Etzio had declared himself an expert of teleportation, the party realized that much of their gear could be taken away from them. They spent much of the rest of the evening scanning their equipment and discovered arcane marks on all of them. Even more disturbing, Vyktor’s practiced eye revealed that just about ALL of the items had curses laid upon them, nasty devices that would detonate the item, or curse the individual using it, or cause nasty and unwanted effects if used for the wrong (good) purpose. The group sequestered the items in the ship’s extradimensional room and let Vyktor work on defusing the marks and the sabotage.

This required a trip to acquire a scroll of Erase and a few other items, which Artas and Ignomine elected to complete. Vyktor was able to get a few items decontaminated, enough that the party wasn’t completely hampered in its combat effectiveness. Drael meanwhile left to contact his information network. Polycarp tries to infiltrate the Magistrate’s location, is unable to make it past his formidable, beefed-up defenses.

Ignomine goes to Templemaster Farn to give him an update, informs him of the destruction of Edagener, his exposure as a lich, and the issues with the Wolf’s gear teleporting and the concerns regarding his control and that the Temple of Abadar had traditionally controlled teleportation access and the implication that he might be complicit. Farn explained he was working with the Temple of Asmodeus.

Some time later, back at the ship, the group realizes they haven’t heard from Drael in quite some time. Unknown to the party, he had been taken captive and was being tortured for information. He tried to bluff them, but was ultimately unsuccessful, and finally spilled that Polycarp was the one that had killed the Wolf. In a bid to save his life, he offered to deliver Polycarp to them if they set him free. They agreed, but made it clear that someone was going to die the next day… they preferred if it was Polycarp, but someone else would do just as well.

Just as the party was about to go out and try to find Drael, he returned. To his credit he explained everything that had happened. Polycarp immediately went out to scout the locations he’d picked up from his own investigation and the place that Drael was told to deliver him. He found what appeared to be the area they had been keeping Drael and an empty warehouse for the drop.

The party spent the rest of their time arguing about how to approach the handoff. In the end Ignomine, Artas, and Vyktor would hang back under a spell of Invisibility while Drael delivered Polycarp pretending to be an unwitting dupe. They approached the warehouse which was locked on all sides except one. Not wanted to be directed into a trap, Polycarp picked the lock for the loading door and waltzed in. The rest of the party took up positions before Polycarp suddenly went on the offensive. The hostage takers were quickly subdued, but luckily not killed, as they realized too late that they were members of the Shivar Guard.

Apparently the assassins had tipped them off about the bounty and were just there as unwitting agents of the group. Some urgent healing (including restoring the captain’s eye lost in the ambush) and lots of diplomacy and excuses were enough to paper over the issue, but there was still the issue of the guard’s report. The group was able to negotiate something agreeable to the guard, a few days’ delay while they investigated the Blades’ involvement.

The next day, as the party recuperated on the boat, they discovered they had a crate addressed to them on the pier. When they opened it, they saw a note saying “We warned you.” Inside was the tortured and dismembered corpse of Drael’s half-brother, Aramil.

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Session 19 Recap
A Series of Unfortunate Events

The party had little time to rest after the battle with the Revenant. Shortly after divesting it of its arms and armor, proof of the corpse’s identity, a flaming concoction was thrown through the window into the room full of corpses and shattered over the bar. Figures could occasionally be seen dashing past the openings, and anyone that passed in front of a window got a crossbow bolt shot at them for their trouble. The fire soon began consuming the bar, detonating jars of alcohol and making the conflagration worse. Ignomine shouted to Artas to recover the body as proof of the encounter, then foolishly very bravely charged out the window to endanger himself harass their attackers.

Meanwhile the fire was steadily growing worse, the exploding bottles of liquor throwing shards of glass and splashes of fire everywhere. Artas tried to dodge the blast and shove the body away, but succeeded in only moving it just outside the edge of the fire and left himself exposed to the flames. Drael was preoccupied with trying to escape from behind the burning bar, while Polycarp dashed upstairs to see if he could get an angle on the attackers. Vyktor was left to try and keep everyone alive, including the incredibly stupid brave half-orc, who was now on fire and running back and forth past the windows outside trying to chase down the assassins.

Having escaped to relative safety (i.e. away from the exploding bottles of booze) Drael was able to summon several water elementals and begin dousing the flames. Vyktor had to divide his attention between the several party members burned in the conflagration, and Polycarp, after missing his attack on an assassin disappearing into an alleyway, showed remarkable presence of mind by checking for people trapped in their rooms upstairs. Defying the flames and thickening cloud of smoke, he expertly picked the lock on the door to find a small girl overcome by smoke, tossed her over his shoulder, and made his way down the stairs.

Ignomine continued to ineffectually harass the assassins outside while still on fire, while Drael’s elementals succeeded in containing the blaze. Vyktor shouted for Ignomine to come back in, Drael cast Invisibility on the party, and the group escaped out the back door… only to be ambushed in the alleyway. Luckily they were not able to detect the invisible group, one of the assassins even managed to smash headlong into Artas as he was moving down the alley. Taken by surprise most of them were quickly dispatched, with the exception of what appeared to be the female leader of the gang. One of them was able to be subdued for later questioning.

At a loss for what to do next, the party handed off the girl to the clerics for care and made their way back to the ship with their new prisoner. As they approached, they saw members of the Shivar city guard waiting at the pier to their ship, arguing with the Harbormaster and trying to board the Retribution. They set their conscious prisoner in a dark alleyway, asking him to stay tight, after agreeing to his terms to be smuggled out of the city. The group then advanced on their ship. Seeing the party approach, the Harbormaster directed the guard to take the argument up with them. The guards explained that two “inspectors” had boarded and one of them been attacked, and demanded to board the ship.

The party boarded the vessel ahead of them and did a quick survey. In the barracks they found the dragon finishing up the last of his meal of human trespasser. The dragon informed them that he(?) had performed his duty and guarded the ship, though the other invader was able to flee. With the deed already done the party had little choice but to praise the dragon for performing its duty so well, erase the little evidence remaining with some Prestidigitation, and asked the dragon to escape into the water to avoid detection. It did so with alacrity… apparently a meal of human had not completely sated its growing appetite. The guard were then invited onto the ship to perform their inspection, found nothing, and left. The surviving trespasser was presumably spending the rest of his time getting blackout drunk and hoping to forget he ever saw anything.

The party now had a chance to take stock and plan their next moves. They were able to squirrel their captive onto the ship (taking care to instruct the dragon, returning with a catch of large fish, that he was not to be eaten) and negotiate their deal to get him out of Shivar. He gave more information, saying that the lady was his employer and that she had some sort of arrangement with the Temple of Asmodeus. Beyond that he didn’t know much, only that they were supposed to take capture the party alive if at all possible.

That mystery still open, they turned to the events just before the attack on the Spiked Gauntlet. The letter that the Mysterious Stranger had dropped told them they could meet someone at one of the warehouses near their pier. They waited until the appointed time at dusk, then set out to meet their contact. Polycarp elected, once again, to find his own way.

After getting past the gatekeeper they were led into the back of the building. The warehouse was packed with crates and boxes, but hidden in the back was a blocked-off area with a table and chairs. Several dock workers were seated there playing cards, but the real surprise was Quint Strain’s daughter Alexandra Strain. She waved for the muscley dockworkers to leave and for the party to sit down to talk. About this moment, she called out to the rafters for whoever was up there to come down from on top of the crates. It appeared that Polycarp’s attempts to come in undetected had not been successful.

With that awkward beginning to the discussions, the conversation spent a lot of time in vague and circuitous terms, neither side revealing with whom they were inclined to ally and what their aims or goals might be. Exasperated, and to Polycarp’s consternation, Ignomine decided to lay his cards on the table. He explained that he was tasked by his Templemaster with a Quest to find out the motivations of Quint Strain and the Magistrate. He also mentioned that they had reason to fear that the ones trying to assassinate Quint’s fiancee, Jezebel, were none other than the Kharlin Blades. When Alexandra seemed skeptical, Ignomine told her about the attack on the Spiked Gauntlet, then motioned for Artas to pull out the armor and blade marked with the sigils of Avandth Wolf, recovered from his body, from the bag of holding. Artas did so… only for the princely equipment to disappear!

Alexandra immediately started to her feet, and warned everyone that they needed to get out of there. She said she would explain later, but that they had to leave the area immediately. With that, the party had no choice but to flee back to their ship.

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Session 18 Recap

Continued sailing south in the moonless night. Came upon a ship in the darkness from behind, slowed down then passed them farther out to sea so not to alarm them.

Debated which heraldry and banners to use, decided to go with Adweld because that was where our manifest said the cargo was from and they dock rarely with Shivar, used Drael’s Silent Image to create illusion of mast and rigging.

Docked in the Shivar Docks, realized we had no idea how to read flag signals or semaphore. Had ballistae pointed at us until Raven flew up and explained we were new and dumb at this.

Docked at the Shivar wharf near Warehouse 42. Mild confusion when our ship didn’t have cleats, or a gangplank, or much of anything a regular ship would be expected to have. Harbormaster (contact with Gaius Cerris eventually realized who we were and proceeded to disguise ship.

Dragon needed food, someone went out to get five pounds of meat. Explained to dragon that we were in “hostile” territory and Croach was not available, seemed to accept answer. Had torn up bunk.

Went to High Temple of Abadar to get Ignomine’s Atonement. Was left cooling his heels for an hour. Artas was kicked out because his spikes were poison. Finally made contact with old high priest friend, who took him to the new Templemaster Farn, an irascible dwarf. Demanded that Ignomine find the motivations of the leader of the Merchant Guild, Quint Strain, and that of the Lord Magistrate of Shivar Chandler Thorton to receive his Atonement.

Went to gnome shopkeeper to figure out Artas’s armor poison. Did some test, took samples, tried to trick them into getting more of the poison.

Decided to try to contact Quint Strain first, because he had been out and active (as opposed to Magistrate’s secretiveness) and wanted to find Polycarp’s friend Ayda and make sure she was ok. Went to the Spiked Gauntlet, bartender hadn’t seen her for a few weeks, the Mysterious Stranger appeared and seemed pretty ticked at them For Some Reason. Ignomine followed him out and laid his cards on the table, even though he knew it would probably anger Polycarp (especially because it would annoy Polycarp, once he realized that he was the one that had assassinated Wolf) – he needed to figure out the motivations of those two people so he could atone so he could stop some nasty shit from happening. Hopefully the stranger could help them; in exchange, he could tell the new Temple Master a favorable interpretation of Quint Strain’s motivations, whatever the Free Shivar movement might like, because apparently a deal with the previous Templemaster (who had mysteriously disappeared For Some Reason) had been crucial for them.

Drael came back with his information from his intelligence network, and the party decided to meet and discuss things privately. Hotel tried to gouge them for money, Vyktor instead suggested they use his Rope Trick. They learn some stuff. As they are leaving the extradimensional space and landing in the alley, Artas is ambushed by some cutters threatening to collect on the bounty on his head. Ignomine drops out of the space, they stand back-to-back and BroCan it out. Several of them are rendered into pink mist, but one got away. Polycarp wasn’t there otherwise he would have chased the fourth down and murderkilled him. Vyktor sent Raven out to track him.

As they were processing what happened (and the bodies, for disposal) Edagener appeared. Demanded the piece of crystal or a return of their payment. Party tried to convince him to wait for a day. He did not accept this, insisted it be given immediately. Luckily he didn’t realize they had it, otherwise it was clear he would have killed them right there. His insistence on getting it immediately made the party even more suspicious. They refused. He said, “You know what, I don’t think I’ll be in town tomorrow,” while staring threateningly at Ignomine, then left the alleyway. Shortly afterward, heard a commotion.

Lots of people cursed, diseased, blinded. They gather them up and take them to the Temple of Abadar. The priests there immediately start handling things, Templemaster Farn demands to speak to the party alone. The party explains about Edagener, that this was part of the reason why Ignomine wanted to Atone, other bad news bears. Farn implies he doesn’t care much, but it’s clear Ignomine does, but regardless he cannot allow this destability to grow. Suggest the use of Quest to find the motivations and to stop Edagener, allowing a temporary atonement and return of Iggy’s abilities. Iggy agrees. Detects Farn as evil. Iggy thanks Farn, Farn says he didn’t do it for him, Iggy says he knows.

(maybe missed something here?)

They go get Polycarp at the Spiked Gauntlet, Revenant attacks them, Ignomine lays the smackdown on a few Dullhands and the Revenant, the entire bar full of people die when the Revenant is slain, Iggy collapses in despair.

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Session 17 Recap

After a restless night spent in Fort McFaren, the party shared their visions, or at least part of them. Ignomine had seen Edagener attacking goblin children, Godfrey, and his mentor Alduin Halfar in his home town of Fragnick, apparently about a month from the present. Artas saw his past as a Knight of Sidus, advancing on the mountain with a host to presumably attack and imprison the Betrayer, Rovagug. Vyktor saw people scheming to compel his mother to perform some kind of ritual to break some magical seals, threatening her life and anything she might care about to further their ends. Polycarp saw his “friend” Ayda from the Free Shivar movement captured and being tortured. Drael saw someone reporting that his father had been captured, possibly killed, somewhere in Adweld.

With all their secrets figuratively on the table, they decided to put their loot literally on the table to try and plan their course of action. They knew the Commander of the fort was going to be arriving shortly, and with it likely whatever course they would have to take… best to be prepared for it. They sorted through the various treasures, oils, potions, and items they had acquired over their adventures and divvied them up as best made sense. That done, they listed their assets at hand.

  • 1 airship (empty, and busted)
  • 1 dragon egg (bronze, probably infested)
  • 1 dagger (evil, incredibly, unfathomably so)
  • 5 different visions involving several different destinations, all with terrible personal consequences

Unable to ease their minds, the party set to repairing what damage they could to the airship, which they decided to christen Retribution. Vyktor and Artas, working together to translate the ship’s manual and try to understand the power crystal, were able to make a repair using the control gems from the mountain. They also realized that the “tool holders” on the walls were actually receptacles for much larger gems like those they took from the mountain control panel. Finally, with nothing else to occupy their minds, the party decided to rest for the remainder of the night, posting watches aboard the ship while waiting for the Commander to arrive.

Morning brought a buzz of activity at the Fort as the Commander approached, revealed to be none other than Toradan Honorforge along with a human cleric. The party stood to greet him upon the Retribution, but he apparently didn’t notice at first. It was clear that he was irate about something, and the party overheard him griping about a dragon being seen over one of the Kharlin forts and that he was being distracted from investigating that by this trip. It was about then that he noticed the airship, and his wrath diminished to something closer to his usual constant annoyance.

“Oh. So I guess there is an airship.” His gaze then fell on the party, including Artas standing with one foot propped on the bow’s railing. “Oh no, you again.” When the cleric accompanying Toradan whispered into his ear, Ignomine was able to pick up a scrap of phrase, “…we need to investigate that ship.” Seeking to maintain control of the situation and their authority over the Retribution, Ignomine invited them to board the airship and to take a guided tour of the facilities. Toradan seemed unimpressed, but the cleric appeared suitably pleased, cooing at the various magical elements and masterful construction woven into its design.

With that concluded, it was time to tell their story. As they recounted their journey to the mountain, mentioning the Snow Goblin Nisav and her system of hideouts they stumbled upon, Toradan’s eyebrows began to climb; at the mention of the dragon, his skepticism turned to incredulity; when they mentioned the ghost paladin of Abadar and the guardian angel encounter, he scoffed; but when they got to the giant crystal and the culmination of his disbelief, Toradan interrupted them and said he had to respond to a message.

Toradan left the airship then, summoning the Lieutenant to direct him to his office in order to respond to this message, leaving the party without having conveyed the most crucial part of their tale. Momentarily at loss for what to do, Tavi, Tack, and Lance took the opportunity to badger them for information now that they had talked to the Commander. It was at this point that Ignomine remembered that they hadn’t even mentioned the Necromancer and the undead fighting other undead in the North, and that Toradan and the Lieutenant were likely ignorant of a large and potentially hostile force bearing down on their position. When informed of this, the Lieutenant’s face became very pale, his eyes opened wide, and he began stammering in his panic.

He revealed the fact that most of the young recruits in his company were scions of noble houses, and that they were not expected to fight. Ignomine clapped a heavy hand on the officer’s shoulder and gave him clear and direct “suggestions” – warn the rest of the garrison, begin preparations for attack, and make sure the recruits knew methods for fighting various undead. The officer, now steadied, hurried off and began issuing orders. Artas and Vyktor, for their part, shared what they’d learned of means to defeat ghouls, wraiths, and spirits to Tavi and the rest in the hopes that it would give them and the other soldiers an advantage and maybe save some lives.

Toradan returned, incredulous that they had neglected to mention warring undead in their tale. When informed that was not even the worst of it, his eyebrows practically leapt over his scalp. They adjourned to the officer’s conference room for privacy to discuss the release of Rovagug, his role as the Betrayer, the appearance of Lawgiver, and Artas’s past memories of Sidus. Toradan’s eyebrows, now released of any association with his face, demonstrated his shock and disbelief.

With that and confirming the airship was operational, he ordered that they were going to take the airship and head directly to Ceres. The party acquiesced, sensing that resistance would only result in their arrest or possible death, and that they could perhaps get aid within one of the Great Cities and that Ceres might be the best option. As they set off they confirmed that the repairs were holding, and that the Great Causeways seemed to augment the power crystal and helped forestall its constant draining. They made it back to Ceres in record time.

As they approached the outer walls of Ceres, Toradan explained that they were going to speak to the Ordermaster of the Order of Alion. He also warned (delivered with a grim smile) that he was not as trusting of the orc-blooded as he himself was, and to be cautious what they told him.

The outer walls were revealed to be little better than stone curtain walls stretched across large stretches of land enclosing the farmlands of Ceres, and were relatively unmanned. Their flight raced onwards towards the inner walls that appeared near on the horizon. Several minutes of travel later at their rapid pace, however, revealed the walls were much further away, and much, much larger than what might first be assumed. Toradan had sent word ahead, and the party saw the much more heavily-defended inner walls laden with ballistae, catapults, and other siege equipment that could have made quick work of their hobbled air ship.

Once they neared the city center, Toradan directed them to a large landing platform near the Order of Alion and the College of Ceres. Vyktor guided the Retribution to a smooth landing, with nary a bump, and staff on the platform quickly cast grappeling hooks over the ship and anchored it to the platform. The party disembarked, and Toradan guided them into the entrance and through the fortifications to the Order Master’s office.

They were led to a large room with a large man sitting behind a desk busily at work writing on parchment. Behind him were two massive creatures, a large celestial wolf on one side and a large dire tiger on the other, sleeping upon large cushions. Following Toradan’s lead the party remained silent until they were acknowledged, the scratching of the quill oddly loud in the vast room.

“I didn’t expect you to be back so soon, Toradan,” the Ordermaster said finally. He looked up, weighed the sight of the party, and then began rummaging in his desk. Pulling out pieces of jerky, he tossed one at the wolf, who caught it without opening his eyes, chewed it, and then stretched to sit up and regard them languidly. The other piece he tossed at the tiger, which hit it in the face, until it too chewed its snack and observed the group with keen intelligence. It gave the impression that they were being weighed.

With their audience gazing at them intently, the party repeated their tale, including what information they could without unduly incriminating themselves. Once finished, the Ordermaster regarded them seriously for a moment, then gestured to his page and began whispering to him. The messenger raced out of the room, apparently intent on delivering a message. The Ordermaster then turned back to them and said, “Your tale is fantastic, but I find myself wanting to believe you. Surely someone couldn’t come up with such an incredible tale on their own. But I have to be certain that you’re telling the truth. Do you agree to have your truth and the motivations of your actions tested?” One by one, the party members gave their assent.

After a seemingly long wait, the messenger returned panting heavily in the company of a refined-looking old woman. The Ordermaster regarded her and asked, “I want you to Commune and have these people prove their story. Are you prepared?” The woman nodded, and said, “Of course. Follow me, please,” and gestured back to the doorway she had come through.

The party followed her into what must have been one of the building’s towers, for they took a spiraling staircase down, down, down deep into base of the building. She led them into an immense chamber with a ritual circle embedded in the floor. It was approximately at this point that Polycarp decided to check out; he’d had enough of this magical shit. The rest of the group followed the ritualist’s gestures and stood in the center of the large circle forty feet or more across as more casters appeared and stationed themselves at points around the outside of the circle. They began chanting a prayer of some kind, mumbling under their breath over and over as the ritual circle began to glow. Suddenly, the circle flashed with brilliance and the party found themselves within a cylinder of radiant light reaching up beyond their sight, their vision outside of the circle blocked by whiteness.

A voice rumbled, vast and rolling:

What is it that you seek?

The ritualist replied, “We seek judgement of the word and actions of these present.”

A figure appeared in the circle then, and approached Artas first.

Why did you fail?

Artas answered.

The figure nodded, then turned to Ignomine.

Why did you not obey the laws of Guest Right?

Ignomine stuttered an answer, “Because I knew of the challenges we must face, and that I would need Drael’s help to complete them.”

The figure regarded him for a moment, then turned to Drael.

Why did you kill a foe that had yielded to you?

Drael made a smirk, and then said, “Well, see, I only had a moment to react, and he had just been attacking us, and I didn’t want to take the chance that…”

The figure drew its blade as Vyktor stepped up and spoke, “Whatever punishment is in store for him, let me take in his stead.”

The figure stopped, then nodded, and Vyktor vanished in a flash of light. The figure then nodded to the rest of them, and intoned its farewell:

Your actions and intentions have been judged. These proceedings are at an end.

… and vanished, as did the wall of light surrounding them. The party stood flabbergasted at the empty spot where Vyktor had stood, and Ignomine felt the first rushes of rage and anger at Drael, first for being the cause of his Fall, and now for condemning Vyktor to who knew what fate for his own actions.

Before they could react, however, the ritualist gathered them together and ushered them up the spiral staircase back to the Ordermaster. He seemed moderately surprised to see them, but made no comment on their missing member.

A bird flew on his desk and mentioned some things, then flew off.

Vkytor appeared, good as new.

The Ordermaster called the bird back from eavesdropping to deliver a message to someone.

They remembered the evil-as-heck dagger, and the Ordermaster summons the ritualist again (who complained about making her climb all those stairs again, she’s not getting any younger you know!) to cleanse it. Turns out it possessed the soul of the wizard that was attempting to reach lichdom. Also (and this may not be known to the party) the guy that got killed was the High Priest of Abadar. Whoopsie!

The Ordermaster asked them to meet with a person to discuss a possible deal.

The party meets with an elderly gentleman who asks that they look into the assassination attempt on his niece. The party belatedly realize who he is, and he offers to repair their airship. Once they agree, he explains his plan and suggests the party get into Shivar discreetly and disguise the airship as a regular water-borne craft on the Shivar Docks and meet with some of his contacts there.

By the time the party get outside they see that Rufus Amillos has already been aboard and repaired much of the damage, including the installation of a brand-new (ancient) power crystal in exchange for the old one, and the stabilization of many of its trim crystals and the repair of the extradimensional storage room.

The party take off, the newly-augmented power resulting in them yanking the anchor ropes off of the platform with them, and launch off to the north to disguise their path. Once outside the outer walls, they climb higher and look for a place to cut east. Finding a riverbank, they dive down at low level and race toward the coast, hugging the ground to foil observation (though some fishermen may have poured out their drinks after seeing them pass.) Once out over sea they climbed significantly higher to continue to avoid observation and headed south towards the Docks.

Once at the coast they were beset by air elementals. Polycarp was on the bow’s observation post and was the worst afflicted, but held his own until Artas and Ignomine could charge in from the engine room. Vyktor flew the Retribution to minimize the impact if the elementals knocked them from their altitude. Drael blasted the elementals, until finally the last of them dissipated in a cloud of dust.

Later as the party recuperated, they realized the Bag of Holding they kept the egg in was writing around. They moved to the barracks as an enclosed space, opened the bag, and a tiny dragon hatchling flew out! It said its name was Vord and its Purpose was to guard, though it hadn’t heard the voice and instructions of the Mother for some time. It asked if the party were Vord to which they said nothing, but strongly implied that they were. Vyktor very cleverly gave it a small pile of gold coins to guard so it could fulfill its Purpose, but also help remember its draconic heritage. Also it ate the Croach-infused remnants of its shell, so hopefully it will be able to eat other stuff.

Also holy shit a hive-mind possessed dragonling, this isn’t a dangerous idea at all! (Ignomine puked over the railing of the airship once he realized what had happened to it and what it might become.) Who knows if they can break the influence of the green goo, which is apparently Vord.

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Session 16 Recap
Out of the Volcanic Frying Pan...

We’ve made a huge mistake

Having successfully eluded the insane clutches of Veroxx but unable to proceed past his guard in their current state, the party decided to retreat to the relative safety of the antechamber just outside of the teleporter room. There they set up watch and began to plan for how they would get to the crystal.

After much preparation, they decided to apply a bevy of buffs to protect them from Veroxx’s wrath. Ignomine extended the protection of Abadar against Chaos to his companions, while Vyktor requested Calistria’s protection from and resistance to fire and make him invisible, and provide a boon of Haste to the party and Polycarp in particular. Drael likewise made himself and Polycarp invisible, while Artas cast his own protective shields. The plan was to try to distract Veroxx long enough so that Polycarp could bypass whatever protections were on the stairs down and use the Chisel given to them by Etzio Damien once he had found the Soul Gem. If he was unsuccessful, or the party was unable to distract Veroxx, or anything else went wrong, the backup plan was to attack Veroxx with everything they had.

Rested and prepared, the party executed their plan. After triggering the portal to the mountain’s heart and Veroxx’s lair, Artas led most of the group into danger. Polycarp held back, waiting for an opportune moment to sneak past. Right off the bat the plan started to go awry. Before Artas had even gone thirty feet into the room a skeletal warrior with a dragon skull wreathed in flame and magma crawled out of the fiery pit and blocked their way. Immediately Artas attacked. Far off, lying directly on top of the gate down, slept the form of the lava drake they had battled the previous day.

Ignomine charged in alongside Artas to deliver the killing blow, splintering the skeleton and dropping its flaming skull upon the path. Invisible to the rest of the party, Drael cast Spiderclimb and wall-crawled his way above the party for a better vantage point and began summoning fire elementals to combat the dragon. Artas, seeing an opening, signaled to Polycarp to begin his assault. He sprang from the shadows, nimbly flipped over the ten feet of lava separating the paths to the way down, and sped across the remaining distance… all completely invisible and impossible for the rest of the party to see. But it was awesome-looking, I’m sure.

Artas and Ignomine continued farther down the main path, tentatively waiting for Veroxx to make his appearance, which Veroxx obliged in suitably dramatic fashion. He emerged from the magma, molten rock dripping from his obsidian scales. “Oh, it’s you again. I thought I had allowed you to leave with your lives. No matter now.” With a glance, he set off the flaming skull in a burst of acrid smoke, blocking the path back. Thankfully, Drael and Vyktor were high above the poisonous cloud and avoided the worst of its effects.

Polycarp, meanwhile, prepared to eviscerate the still-sleeping drake. He readied his rapier, chose his target, and struck… only to have the illusion disappear, and as his invisibilty faded he realized his mistake. Luckily their plan to distract Veroxx seemed to be working, so he set to work disarming the traps and locks on the gate now barring their passage forward.

Veroxx attacked Artas and Ignomine, showering them with a blast of his furnace-hot breath and shattering their hope that they could solve this with words. Thankfully the wards cast on them by Vyktor held, and the heat of his attack did not reach them. Ignomine’s curved blade, bound to the principles of Law, slashed out in retaliation, and Artas struck home with a mighty blow of his greatsword. Veroxx decided it was best to attack from outside the range of these fighters and flew up beyond their reach.

Drael continued to summon allies to the fight, clinging to the walls and invisible to Veroxx. The fire elementals, unable to fly, were ineffective once Veroxx became airborne, but he summoned a swarm of lantern-archons that pelted the dragon with multiple beams of light. Vyktor boosted Ignomine’s size, trying to get the dragon within reach, while Artas followed suit with a scroll of his own. Faced with the two fighters and a swarm of impinging fire, Veroxx retreated to the archway to the stairs, feet away from the no longer invisible Polycarp.

Polycarp faced a dilemma: having already disabled the poison gas trap, he could unlock the gate and escape down the stairs but risk alerting the dragon. Alternately, he could use the element of surprise and attack the dragon and extract every advantage he could… but at the risk of incurring its wrath and far from the help of his compatriots. Instinct fought with reason, but in the end reason won out. He eased his lockpicking tools into the gate and was satisfied with an audible “click” as the lock sprang free… and a booming voice said “Oh, hello.” Despite his best efforts, Veroxx had noticed.

The rest of the party looked on with dread as they realized that Polycarp had been spotted, and far from their help. Vyktor launched a bolt of energy, sapping the dragon’s strength with a wave of exhaustion. Seeing the path wind off into the distance and far too long to help Polycarp, Ignomine instead clumsily launched himself across the lava, teetered on the edge, and blessedly regained his balance before falling back in. He waved to Artas to follow him, only belatedly noticing the red-hot tentacle waving menacingly between them… and that had just missed pulling him into the molten rock. He paled, but figuring one heedless act deserved another, he charged into combat with the dragon once more.

Despite knowing what might lurk beneath the pool of lava for him, Artas leaped across the chasm as well, slashing away the tentacles and closing to the fray. Blocked by Ignomine’s enlarged form, he tried to shove past. The walkway was too narrow though, and he found himself stumbling over the blistering hot inferno. Drael’s fire elementals came to the rescue, sweeping beneath his gigantic boots and supporting his weight enough to escape the flames and fires of the mountain’s heart, while Drael himself summoned even more archons to join the fight. Soon nearly a dozen of the creatures were swarming about the dragon, blasting it with holy light and orbiting it like some bizarre star system.

Veroxx ignored all this, and instead unleashed his fury upon the exposed Polycarp. His serpentine neck snapped out, catching the rouge in his jaws and holding him in place. Veroxx blasted a wave of antimagic energy out, eliminating or suppressing the magics that the party had cast to protect themselves and hinder the dragon. Sensing an opening, Vyktor sent his thrush Raven to boost their protection once more, and slammed Veroxx with another exhausting wave. Unheeding, the dragon assaulted Polycarp with a barrage of teeth and claws, wings and tail thrashing. Faced with the focused onslaught of a wrathful dragon, it wasn’t long before Polycarp succumbed to his wounds.

Veroxx’s obsession would be his undoing. Focused on Polycarp, the dragon didn’t notice Drael summoning more archons to the fray, or Artas relinquishing his enlarged state to charge into melee, allowing Ignomine to use his magically enhanced reach to fight from behind him. One of the archons was able to boost Polycarp back to consciousness, allowing him to slip into the passage unnoticed, while Vyktor continued to keep the party on its feet. Under the assault of dozens and dozens of ray attacks, the dragon was clearly becoming overwhelmed. Victory seemed at hand… and then it all went wrong.

Ignomine, sensing the end was near but not wanting to see the end of such a majestic creature before its time called out for Veroxx to yield. Surprisingly, the dragon bowed its head in acquiescence, and Artas held up a fist and called for their allies to hold their fire. The archons, however, did not stop, and unleashed a final barrage. Veroxx exploded into a cloud of smoke and flame, washing over those near in a singeing wave, and Ignomine felt his protective shields fail. A shudder went through the entire mountain, and the party feels it’s beyond time to get their mission over with. They spend a few moments patching themselves up and descend into the room beyond the stairs.

Down there, the find a spectral figure with wings of radiant energy and a brilliant white hood with nothing but darkness beneath the cowl, apparently guarding the door on the opposite side of the chamber. To its left lay a decomposing corpse wearing brilliant armor. Close to them, and to their right, stood a ghostly shape of a hobgoblin. The ghostly hobgoblin introduced himself as Lancer, a paladin of Abadar, and greeted Ignomine as a fellow member of the order. “So the Guard has finally come? Good, it was about time. I was worried I would never get out of here.”

It took some explaining, but apparently Lancer had been part of a cosmopolitan civilization from before Arela was abandoned where Elf, Orc, Goblin, and Man all worked together. During Lancer’s time thousands of years ago, the races were all fleeing the continent because of some great cataclysm, and he had been ordered to destroy the crystal beyond the door facing them. The Angel standing in front of them had bested Lancer, however, and the properties of this room had prevented him from seeking his eternal rest, for it was his body lying before the door.

For the last thousand years Lancer’s ghost had been attempting to get past the Angel, to no avail. However, he believed that he could delay the angel long enough for the rest of the party to get through, as he had fought it multiple times to no long-term ill effect. The Angel stood silent sentinel while they debated what they should do. In the end, the agreed to Lancer’s plan, his allegiance to Abadar and his previous mission to destroy the crystal clearly easing Ignomine’s mine about their task.

As Artas advanced the Angel spoke its first and last words: “Begone from this place.” Lancer leapt into action, tackling the Angel’s spectral form and dragging it off to the side. “HURRY!” he shouted, and the party pushed through the door.

The massive chamber chamber beyond was nearly filled with an enormous crystal, 60 feet in height, 20 feet in diameter, and perfectly flawless, hovering slightly above the ground. Polycarp stepped forward with the Chisel given to them by Etzio and pushed it against the faceted surface, fighting against a field of energy before it contacted with a light “plink”. Using the hammer from his tool kit, he gave the chisel a solid thwack.

The entire crystal, chamber, and mountain seemed to give a sonorous toll as a wave of energy washed over the group, and a resounding CRACK revealed a foot-long fracture piercing the formerly flawless crystal. Two of the party were momentarily stunned by the wave of energy, but Polycarp pressed on with another blow. There was another ring, another wave of energy, and another crack that reached the very heart of the crystal and broke off a shard from its side, the tide of energy knocking most of the party unconscious with only Ignomine and Raven withstanding its effects to bear witness to what happened next.

First, the wave of energy came with the collapse of all the wards and barriers that had been in the mountain complex; runes, sigils, and other formerly visible arcane marks flared to visibility before collapsing to inertness. The barriers preventing the detection of magic and evil fell soon after, allowing Ignomine and Raven to see the effects of their handiwork. A hand reached out from the gap where the crystal shard had been liberated and began grasping around, while a portentious voice rasped freedom. One glance at the hand and Ignomine was blasted with a wave of revulsion, the Evil searing his sight and roiling his stomach. His unconscious compatriots groaned as the wave washed over them, all of them beset by horrible visions. Ignomine felt a wave of despair wash over him.

Then a crash from outside the room announced the approach of a gargantuan creature. With a smash, a figure thirty feet high crashed through the wall and slammed a hand the size of a wall against the breach in the crystal. In a booming voice the size of thunder it ordered them to “LEAVE, NOW! WE CAN’T HOLD IT FOR MUCH LONGER.” Veroxx swooped in, landing upon the outstretched hand and swathing it with his wings, lending what aid he could, his large body looking like nothing more than a pet bird perched upon his hand. The mountain shuddered ominously once more.

Ignomine stood dazzled, for before him stood Lawgiver himself, the aspect of Abadar, and what else but the creature that had yielded to him and been slain instead. Relief flooded him, because it would be all right now. “SAVE YOUR FRIENDS, AND GO! THERE’S NO TIME” the giant repeated. Ignomine stuttered an apology for releasing whatever evil was inside the crystal, and filled with the presence of his god’s aspect Channeled Divinity to heal his friends to consciousness. “YOU COULD NOT HAVE KNOWN, AND ABADAR DOES NOT BLAME YOU. BUT FOR YOUR ACTIONS HERE TODAY, YOU MUST ATONE.”

The healing energy still suffusing him, Ignomine felt his connection to his god, the sheltering warmth of his protection, and comforting weight of his presence lifted from him. He had Fallen. The mountain gave another alarming rumble, and the party scooped up the crystal shard and fled into the main chamber. From the far doorway they heard the sounds of the undead much closer and seemingly not as preoccupied with combat. With no time to waste dealing with their fear and despair, they took the door to the mountain top and surveyed the scene.

They saw that the army of the undead that had swarmed over the mountain and guarded it for ages had collapsed, and the other undead army was pressing to the main entrance. Thankfully, the side entrance they had taken still seemed unobserved. The party, however, could not say the same for themselves, as they saw large flying figures in the distance swerve in midair to point in their direction. They had to get down the mountain, and quickly.

Polycarp had his ring of Featherfall to protect him, and Drael had his Cape of the Mountebank. That left Drael to summon dire bats to carry the remaining three down the mountain to more passable terrain. With the aerial scouts bearing down on them, they scrambled under the protective and disguising layer of ice to their airship and began preparations for launch. Polycarp took the helm, while Vyktor and Drael manned the engine crystal. Artas and Ignomine relayed directions, as without his healing Ignomine could no longer power the engines.

His healing would have made little difference, though. When Vyktor and Drael entered the crystal room, they saw that the suspended Soul Gem had a large crack in it. In addition, it no longer glowed with the warm yellow-white light it had previously, but instead a sinister purple-black. It seemed the wave of energy that burst from the massive crystal had reached as far outside as here, and probably explained the collapse of the undead as well. In any case, the crystal had sufficient charge to get underway, though it was clear the crack was causing it to lose power continuously, and they had little enough time left.

Polycarp launched them into the air, and they made a speedy escape south going as fast as the crystal’s compromised state would let them. They outpaced their pursuers and spend a dark and fitful night traveling. They arrived near midnight at one of the border castles along the Great Northern Causeway, and eventually convinced the patrols that they were not undead and to allow them to pass. The last of the crystal’s energy was sucked out as they passed the gate, and the airship ground to a halt just inside the gates.

There they alerted the garrison, seemingly composed only of teenagers and other green recruits, and requested the presence of the Commander for the Ceres garrison as soon as possible. Looking at the stars revealed that, whatever their perception of time had been within the mountain, apparently nearly a month had passed in the outside world, and apparently many of the Great Cities were on the brink of war. When told that it would be a day before he could arrive, the party settled down to process all that had happened.

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Session 15 Recap

Interview with a Vampire Dragon

With the red gem placed into the statue’s hilt, the massive doorway opened onto a hellish sight. An enormous room opened up before them with a flat ten-foot-wide walkway winding its way around to the left, arcing in a half circle before coming in and doubling back on itself, closing in on a pillar or walled circle in the center. Level with the path was a lake of lava, liquid molten rock radiating heat into the air and making it shimmer and ripple, its red hot contents bubbling and oozing languidly. It was going be uncomfortable for the foreseeable future, given the cold-weather gear they were all wearing.

The party cautiously advanced along the walkway when a booming, mellifluous voice sang out, filling the chamber with its sound. It was clear it was a language, but none that the party understood.

After a moment of confusion the party answered the voice, and a massive shape moving beneath the lava sent a bulge across its surface. The voice responded, this time in Common.

They could not force me like they did you lot.
For the same reason the bane couldn’t take me I think.
They had said it was because I am mad,
but I just don’t see the link.

But I have new visitors again, so can it be true?
Have the manlings returned to the land they once knew?

I’ve been here so long it is hard to track the years.
A few decades I’d guess, not the centuries I’d feared
since the last manlings came and entered my room.
They were fun and tasty but gone far too soon.

I grow bored and am curious now, so I’ll give you this offer:
a series of games and challenges I proffer.

If you win, this room I will let you leave unmolested
Lose, I will release my pets and you get ingested.

I want your full attention, and threats to your life may be too light a touch.
After all, coming here shows you don’t value them much.

So with your lives I’ll offer another prize to pay.
For each challenge you beat, answer one question I may.

Ask a question to which I am not permitted to answer
and I’ll grant you two new ones as a prize enhancer.

First, I will ask of each of you a riddle in turn.
Guess right and you win some knowledge to learn.

Guess wrong and you lose, but you may guess again for a fee.
Just answer a question and sate my curiosity.
Answer the question for me and another guess you receive;
You forfeit if you don’t answer or you try to deceive.

Next I will ask of each of you a task.
Complete them and you’ve won another question to ask.

If you all make it through we can part ways in peace.
But I’m willing to bet this day ends in a feast.

So let us not delay any longer.
Let us begin with the one who is stronger.

Turning to Ignomine, the Voice continued:

My mother is a strong and proud Orc female,
We live in an Orc village like from a fairytale.
One day a dark god came to the village, insane.
He struck dead every creature with orc blood in its veins.
So tell me Paladin, can you contrive,
If all this is true, why am I still alive?

Ignomine, thinking of his own upbringing, responded with the only thing that made sense to him: ‘You are adopted.’ The voice chuckled, and the singsong response came:

An answer you gave, but a wrong one I fear.
Perhaps you did not understand, or were unable to hear.
Regardless, you’ve lost, but fear not! You still have a chance!
You can answer again and still get to advance.

If you would continue, I would know where you’re from.
Where were you born? From whence do you come?

The paladin had a sudden fear of this dragon running loose in his home, burning the only place he’d truly felt welcome and loved. Still, he figured that a dragon trapped in a mountain for centuries or even decades probably wasn’t aware of his little home town, so he responded honestly: ‘Fragnick.’

There was a momentary silence, then came the bemused reply:

Very well, you’ve responded, and honestly I deem,
Though where Fragnick is I know not, nor what it might mean.
You may answer once again, but be warned!
Future trick answers may mean you are harmed.

Dealing with this rhyming madman had led Ignomine to what he was certain was the right answer, because it was something he wished were true right at that moment: ‘You were somewhere else.’ The response came swift: ‘Correct. You may ask your question.

Ignomine, who had been pondering whether destroying the crystal was the right thing to do for some time, asked the voice, ‘What does the crystal do?’

Alas, a subject about which I cannot reply.
Two more you may ask, though more of the crystal I’ll deny.

Thinking hard, Ignomine came up with what he thought was a clever workaround. ‘What would you do if the crystal was destroyed?’

I would leave,’ came the response. Ignomine elected to save his second question until the others had gone, clearly needing more time to ponder his phrasing. The sing-song voice resumed:

For the Half-Orc, of course, I gave an easy one first,
Now the Drow will get a chance at my next rhyming verse:

I have a mouth, but cannot talk.
I can run but never walk.
I have a head, but never weep.
I have a bed, yet never sleep.
What am I?

Vyktor spent some time pondering this riddle. After what seemed an interminable period, he responded with the correct answer, ‘A river.’ His question came more quickly; holding up the chisel, he asked, ‘Will this destroy the crystal were we to use it?’ There was a pause, as if the voice was pondering or examining the artifact that the drow held aloft, but Polycarp noticed two brilliant shining yellow beads set into a faceted obsidian ridge emerge from the magma. He nudged Vyktor and pointed it out, giving him just enough time to identify it as a Magma Dragon before it disappeared under the glowing surface.

It appears that it will.’ The party braced themselves for an attack, but none was forthcoming. Vyktor shared the news of what it was they were facing, and the fact that they were considered unpredictable and even insane by other dragons, a group not always known for their stability. As a few of the party members processed the realization that they were in the presence of a very powerful, very real, very likely to attack them dragon, the beast realized it had been seen and emerged from the volcanic pool.

Molten rock dripped from its glittering obsidian carapace, and cracks and gaps between its scales glowed with the fires the inferno within. Rivulets of lava continued to spill down its flanks as it emerged, and guttering lines of flame cascaded from its toothy maw.

Veroxx

So nice to finally make your full acquaintance.
I’ve been wanting to make a dramatic entrance.

The party stood in awe of the large creature, but managed to resist the aura of fear and menace emanating from it. Seeing that the group of intruders was not going to run, the dragon continued.

Veroxx, you may call me, spelled with two ’X’es.
Your continued cleverness begins to vex us.
Answer your next riddle more quickly this time
for I am growing bored and tire of rhyme.

Turning now to Drael, the voice continued:

A strange earthen house
that brings nought but disdain.
And yet those who stay there,
Never do complain.

The sorcerer hemmed and hawed, trying to think of a response. True to his nature, he also began chatting up the 15 foot tall reptile, asking him if he had any children. The response was chilling.

Yes. None living.

The silence stretched awkwardly, until Drael finally blurted out, ‘The privy?’

Wrong. Now answer me, how long has it been since Manlings returned to this continent?

They answered as best they could, approximately 400 years ago. Drael was given a second chance, and answered correctly with ‘A Grave.’ His question was ‘Who are the Council of Nine?’

Veroxx was much more brusque with his response, and did not rhyme this time. ‘Another topic I may not discuss. You have two questions you may ask.

The sorcerer, thinking of his friend Artas, then asked, ‘What happened to Sidus?’

The gruff reply: ‘The Betrayer.

Nonplussed, he soldiered on. ‘My second question: Who is the Betrayer?’ At this the dragon acted coy, and replied,

I am forbidden from telling you that Rovagug was the Betrayer.

While the party pondered this, Polycarp was next.

Not Buckets, not barrels, not baskets, nor cans;
What must you fill with empty hands?

‘Gloves,’ he answered confidently. ‘Who are you here for?’ The answer was similarly dissatisfying to his previous answers: ‘I am here for myself.’ Finally, it was time for Artas to respond.

It can pierce the best armor,
and make swords crumble with a rub.
Yet for all of its power,
it can’t harm a club.

Artas gave some serious thought before replying, “Rust.” At Veroxx’s nod, he asked his question: “What happened to Rovagug?”

At this, the dragon seemed to lose patience, the cracks between its obsidian scales flaring with light and heat.

You should know that is a forbidden topic, and your impertinence makes me think you imagine this is a game just because I amuse myself with riddles. You forfeit your question… answer another riddle, or face my wrath!

The party noticed with some alarm that any pretense toward rhyme had been dropped. They also noted a dark significance to his last question…

What must be kept after it is given
or else you may not be forgiven?

Artas, very carefully, responded with the answer: “Your word.”

Very well. You have passed the first portion of the amusements I have devised for myself. I grow tired of riddles and rhymes. The second phase begins now.” The dragon pointed towards Ignomine and Vyktor. “These religious ones shall go first. I wager that you have experience fighting undead, but how good are you? Kill my challenger before it hurts you, or else you lose.

With that, a fiery demon appeared on the walkway before them. Polycarp nocked an arrow and Drael and Artas readied themselves for combat, but from Veroxx’s demeanor it was clear that the orc and the drow would have to face this challenge alone, without their help.

Though the flames and embers wreathing the figure, Vyktor was able to identify it as something like a bearded devil. He warned Ignomine, then cast protective spells around him and sped his motions as the fiend made its slow advance towards them. Ignomine called upon Abadar to strike down the outsider, pulled on the power of his cloak to guide his strike, and charged the devil once it was in reach. Shouting “The Mountain Falls upon the Unwary!” Ignomine banished the demon with a devastating overhand blow.

Hmph. Very well. Next, your disfigured friend. You must touch the ceiling, or touch me, without getting hurt.” With that, the dragon retreated into the magma pool and sunk until only its head was visible.

The rogue thought about his next move. The walls in the chamber were smooth stone forty feet tall before they began curving to the ceiling eighty feet above them. With Drael’s Spider Climb spell it would be a piece of cake, but he got the impression that would not be accepted by the dragon. Touching Veroxx, on the other hand, would require a thirty foot leap over open magma, and who knew what would happen after he landed on the beast… would it submerge itself, allowing his victory but taking his life? He decided to avoid trusting the creature and instead took matters into his own hands.

First, he borrowed one of the mighty bows his compatriots had, and though they looked at him suspiciously (was he going to try to shoot the dragon? Was he crazy?!) they complied. He then took some of the fine elven rope they had, the really long length, and tied it to one of the Arelan Steel longbow arrows he’d bargained for from Etzio. Finally, he nocked the arrow, drew with all his strength, and fired it into the ceiling. The extra punch from the bow was enough to overcome the weight of the slender rope and smash itself into the rock hard enough to support his weight. After a few experimental tugs he easily clambered up the rope and patted the rock ceiling above. He then slid down the rope and undid the knot with a complicated tug, though the valuable arrow was left embedded far above.

Very well, the dragon growled, “you’ve passed. The final challenge goes to you two. Keep my minion from touching any of you. Make contact, with any of you, and you lose. Let’s see you get out of this one!” Suddenly, a large dragonoid burst from the surface of the pool and landed in front of them, the lava dripping from its scales and hissing as it hit the walkway. It advanced upon the party and now they had to avoid getting hit by the creature while still being forbidden from helping.

Drael identified it as a lava drake, a male and slightly smaller form of dragon, and came up with a solution. While Artas distracted it with a fierce and intimidating show of force, the sorcerer made the rest of the group invisible. Then, he summoned a herd of horses, counting on the drake to favor the easy meal over the much fiercer party. Its reptilian head snapped forward, its jaws snapping as it took a bite… out of the summoned steed! Artas quickly retreated while the beast was distracted, was made invisible as well, and Drael kept the drake supplied with more summoned horses as it tore through the herd, banishing them from the plane often after a single bite or fierce slash of its claws. Once time was up, it left to return to the magma pool.

With a roar Veroxx launched himself out of the magma and onto the path just outside the archway into the pillar that led down to, presumably, the crystal and the object of their quest. “Fine. You have beaten my challenges. You may leave in peace, instead of pieces.” The party looked at each other quizzically; wasn’t the whole point of this so they could go forward? Seeing their confused expression, the dragon’s annoyed tone turned to one of supercilious glee. “I never said you could go on, if you’ll recall. I only said we could part ways in peace. So go. Before I change my mind.” The last part was finished with a snarl.

Seeing no other options and worn out from the ordeal, certainly not capable of challenging a dragon in its lair, the party had no choice but to retreat, regroup, and plan for another attempt.

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Session 14 Recap

(The following provided by Michael. Feel free to add detail/make corrections as appropriate.)

The party decided to sleep in one of the barracks. They surmised that with only one door to guard, it would be the safest place to rest. Safe, of course, is a relative word. So while their bodies lay in slumber or at watch, each felt something tugging at their minds. In their dreams, wisps of smoke came oozing from around the door, prodding along the stone cold floor to where they slept. It always came from beyond the door. When the smoke reached them, they would stir, maybe wake and the drift back into uneasy sleep.
When on patrol, they felt like they were being watched. Something outside was feeling for a way in; but it was like looking at a star sideways, always out of vision straightaway. Though they all experienced it, none had the words to describe it, other than the creeping feeling of horror that lay beyond the door.
Polycarp felt a rough hand shake him. “Get up.” It was Artas, already suited into his armor. Polycarp rubbed his eyes and sat up. Drael was looking through a spell book. Vyktor and Iggy were not in the room. “Where are the rest?” he asked. “Outside, communing with their gods.” Since they had come to this place of hell, the cleric and paladin were without the help of their dieties. In order to gain their spells, they needed to cross the magical line in the cavern that led to this place.
Soon, all were ready and Polycarp led the party through the passageways to the huge spiral staircase that led a lower chamber. “Are we ready?” he asked turning round to look at his….friends? Polycarp had to stumble over the word. It still felt uncomfortable, like he was learning a new language. He was as amazed as anybody that he had remained in the party this long. A wry smile flashed across his face. He wondered if anybody saw it. Let’s not get gushy, he said to himself.

The staircase was 10 feet across and kept going. Every time they thought surely the end is right around the bend, it kept going. It seemed like hours, but really was only about 20 minutes when the stairs stopped at two large doors. They spanned the distance of the stairway. “Hold here and I’ll check for traps on the doors,” Polycarp said over his shoulder. Slinking forward with deliberate steps he made his way down the last couple of steps towards the door. Click. Shit. He was so focused on the door that he neglected to check the passageway. From the floor above, he heard the sound of grinding portcullis. We’re stuck in here. No going back. To add insult to injury, the door wasn’t trapped or locked.
“I set off a trap.”
“What do you mean?” Iggy asked. He shifted in his spiked armor.
“It’s not the door. There was a pressure pad on the floor. I heard a noise overhead. I think we’re trapped down here.”
“Only one way to go then,” Artas huffed.
Vyktor and Drael took hold of each door, while Iggy and Artas stood before them. Polycarp was in the rear, arrow notched in his bow. “Okay,” Iggy said, “Open them.” The door swung inwards easily.
The doors opened into the middle wall of a huge room illuminated by low light. Six massive stone pillars square, some 20 feet on each side and 50 feet high stood in the room. The room itself was 120 feet wide and 200 feet long and the pillars were set 30 feet from each other and 10 feet from the walls. They were set at corners to the open door. They didn’t reach the ceiling, leaving a space of about 10 feet from the top. Iggy and Artas could see small sconces jetting out 10 feet from the top on the two furthest to the left. On the left wall, two massive statues of creatures with huge swords stood as silent sentinel for the huge vaulted door. On the right wall was another vaulted door without sentries.
[editor note: I forgot the information of the symbols on the ground.]
“By the gods,” Iggy drew in his breath. Carved in horrifying detail on the pillars, hacked and mutilated bodies of all different races writhed in stone for all eternity. For a moment, they had to blink to ensure that they were not, in fact, real and somehow melted into the stone. As they moved into the room, Artas moved around the first pillar to the left.
Immediately, he was struck by a bright flash of light in the face. Had he not had his shield spell activated, he might have been seriously injured. But for the moment, it was more annoying than anything. “I’m being hit by something,” he called out to the party. The rest of the party entered the room. Iggy went to the right of the pillar, followed by Vyktor. Drael stood in the doorway.
Polycarp scanned the room. On seeing the body in the far corner, he ran like a shadow against the wall. The mummified body was clad in a cloak and light leather armor. From the look of it, it must have been here for decades. In its hands were a book and quill, which Polycarp took and placed in his sack.
Again, more flashes of light struck the shield as Artas moved to inspect the sentinels by the door. Vyktor, ever watchful, noticed two things: the first was the statues had eyes the moved and the second that the source of the flashes came from the sconces on two of the pillars. “It looks like magic missile. Must be some kind of defense for this place. It has something to do with the stateus.” He called out to Artas. Looking back to Drael, he asked “Why don’t you see what you can do about this.” Drael nodded, pointed his finger and let fly a barrage of energy missiles. As soon as the darts exploded on the sconces, they heard the scrape of stone on stone.
“There are things on top of the pillars!” Iggy called out.
Stone gargoyles lurched from their stations and flew down to engage the party. One flew down and struck Drael with its claws, ripping his flesh. Another dropped down in front of Iggy trying to grapple him. A third flew from its perch to the ground. It was near Polycarp, but had not seen him. Polycarp notched a bow and shot the monster twice. It screamed in pain and turned to face him. Another came and attacked Iggy. The fifth flew towards Polycarp. The last stayed on top of its pillar.
The battle was fierce. Artas was far removed from the fighting, making his way back from the huge archway door. Iggy made quick work, hacking one after another into rubble. Drael was wounded badly when he suddenly disappeared from the melee.
After the battle was over, the party began to search the room. Beside the dead body and the remains of the gargoyles, the only things in the room were weapons strewn about. While Artas began searching the room, Vyktor noticed the eyes of the constructs had a target: Artas. He surmised that someone this was connected to the magic missiles attacking him. Vyktor shared his thoughts with the group and Polycarp used one of his old sacks to make blindfolds on the constructs. The missile stopped coming.
The huge door was surrounded by a stone arch. Polycarp inspected the door and found a complicated mechanism. He tried to open it and failed. “I’m going need a lot more time to get this open.” Hunkering down, he got to work. The others searched the room and found another secret door on the opposite wall that they entered. Like the first, it was seamless to the walls around it. They waited to open the door until Polycarp got done with the lock.
As they waited, Vyktor noticed a gaseous form appear near the statue on the left of the archway. Suddenly, all felt the chill they had experienced the night before. The creeping horror was here, present among them. They felt it like an ooze surrounding them, suffocating them, choking them of light and goodness. Then it appeared.
It looked like a man, old and scraggly with fanged teeth and long boney fingers that ended in sharp claws. Drael and Polycarp shuddered, fighting every urge to run, to flee from the horrible site. Iggy screamed and went rigid. As soon as it appeared, it faded from view.
“What the hell was that!” Artas screamed loudly. So loud he startled himself. I must get hold of myself.
“I don’t know,” Vyktor answered, “but this is bad news for us. Look, something is wrong with Iggy.” He moved over to the Paladin. His face was bone white and locked in a horrible frozen scream. Vyktor couldn’t help but notice the similarity to the carved images on the pillars. Drael and Polycarp shook off whatever fear had taken hold of them. Polycarp cursed. “I’m gonna have to start over again on this door.”
The blindfold on the sentinel to the left feel from its perch. Immediately, magic missile struck Artas’s shield.
“Screw the door!” Artas said, “Cover those eyes! That thing is still in the room. You don’t have to be a cleric to feel it.”
And he was right. It was there, on the edges of their minds, trying to poke holes in whatever defenses the mind constructed. It was hungry for their souls, but how much sweeter for it would be a soul caught in a snare of fear.
Vyktor murmured some words of magic and began to shimmer. Suddenly he morphed into a giant bugbear. Putting his great head into the air, Vyktor-as-bugbear began sniffing and scrambling toward a pillar. “This way, I know where it is!” he cried as Artas followed. A bust of light from Vyktor’s hands shot out and enveloped the creature in glitterdust. Polycarp jumped on the sentinel and covered its eyes again. Drael called forth lantern archons who immediately set upon the foul beast.
Drael then turned to Polycarp, “I’m going to make you invisible.” Polycarp faded from view.
The creature, a boogeyman, struck wildly with its claws. [editor’s note: I didn’t take detailed notes on the fight, so I don’t recall if anyone was actually hit and all the hits that it took.]
Polycarp strode to a spot on the floor where he could see the shining aura. He took two arrows from his quiver, notched them, and let fly. The creature screamed out and fell to the floor.
“Thank the gods that it’s dead,” Vyktor said turning back into his drow self.
The party sat exhausted on the floor. Slowly Iggy came out of whatever affected him.
“What’s next?”Drael asked. They all sat looking at one another.
“I should get back to that door,” Polycarp said getting up.
“Wait,” Artas responded, “Let’s go through that secret door first. Better to face whatever might be back there than have to interrupt you again.”
It was a solid plan and the group went to where the door was, opened it and stepped into the hallway. It was 10 wide and about 60 feet long. Polycarp scampered forward like a shadow to the where the passageway turned right. Peeking his head around the corner, he motioned them closer. The hall went the right for another 50 feet and opened up into a small room.
There were three columns on the wall to the right of the hallway. In the middle column, the tallest, was a pulsating yellow gem. On either side were two gems on shorter columns: one light blue and one red. Polycarp took the yellow gem. The pulsating stopped.
“Should you of done that?” Iggy said irritably. Polycarp glanced back at him, shrugged and picked up the other two gems as well and put them in his sack.
“Before we go any further, I have something you all might want to hear,” Polycarp said pulling a sheaf of paper from one of his many compartments.
“Where did you get that,” Artas asked.
“From the dead guy.”
“You didn’t think it was important enough to mention before?” Artas muttered. What else is that noseless bastard hiding? And you, spoke a voice that only he could hear, what are you hiding? Artas clenched his lips. That voice. When would all this stop! [editor’s note: didn’t remember if this happens to you, but I think you get some communication from other planes? Also not sure if you like them or not, but sounded good in my head. If not, eh…]
Polycarp ignored him and read ….[I forgot the sheets at Tyler’s, so just pretend! Dude who hired us, hired them. It was the last party of 30 years ago. All died, except for one who went crazy.]
“That explains a lot,” Drael said. “Since it looks like we came through a secret door, we were lucky enough to avoid whatever it was that they fought. At least for now.” They discussed the implication of the journal entries and what that would mean for them.
“You all figure it out. I want to get back to that door,” Polycarp.
It took him two hours, but finally Polycarp unlocked the mechanism. While they waited, they opened the door on the other end of the room. It opened out into the snowy expanse they had walked through to get to this place. The door pulled open to reveal a solid wall of black obsidian polished glass. They could not see through it.
“Great,” Iggy said, “What now.” He leaned up against one of the statues. He happened to glance down and noticed something on the hilt of its sword. There was a space missing on the hilt. It looked like……“Hey Polycarp, let me see those gems you took from the other room.” Polycarp gave him the gems. He hunch was confirmed. He placed the light blue gem into the hilt.
The gem and the glass began to shimmer. The obsidian turned dark red and melted into white and faded. They could see a tundra, windswept snow and could hear the sound of battle.
“What is this?” Drael asked. None wanted to go through for fear they would be teleported or caught in the scene they were looking at.
“Try the other gem,” Polycarp said.
Iggy placed the red gem into the other sentinel’s sword hilt.
The gem and the glass began to glow and shimmer. The black turned to red and the red melted away. Before the was a stone path way through what looked like a lava path.
“Shit,” Artas said, “Didn’t the journal say something about big bads coming from fire?”
Nobody answered. They all continued to stare into the hellish landscape where they all knew they would soon have to go.

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Session 12 Recap
A series of unfortunate decisions

When the party regroupd, Artas Menethar and Ignomine recounted all they had been through and how the orcs had been influenced by outsiders to form war parties. Attempts by Vyktor and Ignomine to supplicate their respective deities were unsuccessful, leaving them unsure about the proper path forward. In the end, they decided to take Etzio Damien’s offer.

The party traveled to the field outside the city limits and activated the gem, teleporting them once more to the mountain door. However, when they tried to gain admittance, they were informed that the master of the stronghold was busy with other guests, and would attend to them shortly. After a short wait, they saw some familiar faces leaving the complex: Jenet, Aurora, Gordimar, and a half-elf and a half-orc they didn’t recognize. When asked if they had taken the deal, Aurora rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah right, you’d have to be an idiot to take that deal.” Well then, this seems promising.

Discussions with Etzio proceeded quickly, with the party negotiating for several very valuable weapons, armors, and other artifacts as an advance for completing his quest to get a chip of the Soul Gem. Artas selected a suit of Chitin full-plate, while Ignomine took an Arelan Steel elven curved blade. Etzio also gifted them a Refilling Spoon, a wondrous item that would provide food for at least one of the party members and cut down on the rations they needed to provision, and a couple of gems that had lesser fire elementals bound to them to provide heat. He also presented two gems, distinct in shape and color, and explained their purpose: one would be used when they had succeeded in their quest, and the other when it was evident that they had failed in their quest. Either gem could be activated by crushing.

That completed, Etzio explained that he could teleport them as far as the northern forts, saving them a week’s travel, but that they would have to make their way through the Northern Wastes from there and it would be prudent to prepare for the trip. With Artas and Ignomine having already chosen their payment, they volunteered to return to Shivar and procure the winter clothing, climbing gear, camping supplies, and other items while the rest of the crew looked over Etzio’s merchandise on offer. They got crampons for climbing on ice and glaciers, pitons for climbing sheer cliff faces, ice axes and picks for climbing in rough terrain, insulation and padding for those in plate, parkas and gloves for those that didn’t use armor, insulated tents and sleeping bags to keep warm at night, supplies of rations for the trip, and some miscellaneous other items. Ignomine also took the time to provision Godfrey and give him money and directions to some mercenaries to hire as guards, instructing him to send word of what was going on to his mentor Alduin Halfar in Fragnick, and to spend his time their learning of his training and to prepare himself martially for when Ignomine returned, or if he didn’t, to gain his fortune as a mercenary or soldier.

Reunited, the party was teleported to a spot on the northernmost Great Causeway that served as the barrier protecting most of Arela from the undead that still plagued the north. Based on the information that Etzio had given them, they decided to follow the Causeway east to get closest to the reported location of the Soul Gem. Drael provided the party with an invaluable resource in the form of summoned mounts that greatly sped their progress. They passed a few of the fortresses on the way, taking the time to learn what they could about the Wastes; generally, it was bad and they were suicidal or insane for trying to go out rather than further in. Regardless, at the last fortification they convinced the general there to allow them to pass through the main gate and into the Wastes.

Several days into the journey, they were ambushed by another wartribe of Orcs heading east to join the main War Party. Surrounded, the party was threatened with nearly 30 of the creatures. Despite Ignomine’s pleas for peace (or maybe because of them, for the half-orc’s presence seemed to infurate them,) they attacked, launching the brunt of their assault on the heavily-armored Artas and Ignomine. With careful positioning and superior battle-prowess they were able to hold off the assault and eliminate the orc threat, including an orc shaman that evaded sight with a spell of invisibility but could not evade Detection of Evil. Once again, their equipment seemed too fine for orc-make, and indicated that the outside interference was much larger than they had guessed thus far.

As the party progressed into rougher territory, it became clear that they were being followed.

Huge pack of wolves, one could talk, evaded using Drael’s mounts and him teleporting, Vyktor sealed up the small cave they hid in, wolves left.

Emerged from hole, saw message written in dirt, something flying in the distance was clearly searching for the party, revealed to be several griffons. Tried to avoid them, but were spotted. Griffons were on intercept course, several well-placed fireballs and Smiting arrows killed the one that was a mount for an armored foe, the fall severely damaged him. Other griffons engaged, headless armor called out Artas Menathar’s full name, Ignomine challenged him and smote him quickly, remaining Griffons were quickly dispatched.

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Session 11 Recap
The Ballad of The BroCans

So I’m writing this summary of the last D&D session so that my DM will get off my back about it, so here it is, enjoy it or whatever.

The group was supposed to go on a quest and get loot or something, but most of the party couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed that day so that didn’t happen. Instead the two meat heads in cans of the party (we’ll call them BroCans for simplicity) had to entertain themselves. With nothing better to do, they made the decision to wander off by themselves and make decisions for the rest of the party. This included using a very magical and probably dangerous magical artifact to teleport to Calistria knows where. The BroCans found a door in the side of a mountain but were too meatheaded to see or know anything about them. Luckily, the door spoke to them just like that scene at Jabba’s Palace with the popping eye thing. Despite all of the meat in his head, Artas was able to form words which got the door open. Inside the mountain there were a bunch of crytals that looked magic, but Artie was again too dumb to figure out what they were. The two BroCans were met by a shadowy construct, to which they mostly responded with a collective “Whoa” and followed him. After spending some time in a sitting room where they still were not smart enough to learn very much, they were met by a really old dude named Ezio Daemon, who was super old. Enzo Demon talked a whole bunch but basically said “I want to hire you get a super powerful soul gem for totally ‘legit’ reasons.PS everyone else I’ve hired to do this has died…maybe.” While the two BroCans have a hard time thinking sometimes, they both knew that this Mr. Elmo DeLorean was super crazy and obviously didn’t give a shit about their lives buuut he pretty much offered to give the group Bonkers Lootz if they would do this, so the two BroCans kept listening. Then Eskimo Deforestation took them into his back room to show them his “Chisel”, which was super big. Artie and Iggy basically forgot about everything else because their meathead brains were to busy drooling over all of the lootz. Esposito Dudeman said he would totz give Iggy that Crooked Eleven Sword of Fancy Metal and Artie that Swank Meathead Can of Super Light Metal if they just did whatever he said. Artie and Iggy looked at each other and said “We are too much meatheads, we cannot make choices. We will totally hit you back.” So the two BroCans let the magical crazy mountain man.

Oh yeah, I forgot, E.L.O Dimethylethanol told the two that the last group he sent north went with an expedition that included their old “friend” Torridan Honorforge and <dm>. With nothing better to do the two BroCans went looking for miserly Dwarfadin. They found him at an in along with fucking RUFUS! And there was much rejoicing, because Rufus is awesome. Anyway, Torridan basically told them that they should stay the frak away from the North. Either you will freeze your balls off or zombies will totally eat them off. Bad news bears. Then Rufus asked for his soul sucking rock back, Artie gave it to him, but threw him some wicked shade about it because nothing is more fun than messing with good old Rufus.

Iggy then decided that he was feeling all pious and junk and dragged Iggy to church. The clerics at his big ass temple were all impressed by Iggys Paladininess and his Orciness and they gave him mad respect and let him do his thing up in the fancy vault thing. So Iggy was doing his thing talking to god and whatnot, saying “Hey, I want that Wacky Elfish sword but that guy seems hella crazy, can you help me out here god?” but god was all like “Nope, you on your own sucka”. So then Iggy was like “well shit” and needed to calm down by polishing his piece. As he came out of the vault one of the clerics snatched him up and ushered him into an office with one of the temples muckety mucks who gave Artie some hardcore side eye for following them in.

The muckety muck guy told Iggy that there are some Orcs up north that were getting all gentrified which gives the god of civilization the warm and fuzzies, but recently those same Orcs have been causing a bit of a ruckus. The temple dude asked Iggy (and Artie I guess) to go north and tell the Orcs to calm the F down, or figure out what all of the noise is about. Iggy and Artie looked each other and said “Eh, why not?”

So Iggy and Artie left the city all by their lonesome…well except for Iggys man servant Godfrey who could probably be knocked down by a stiff breeze but is now the owner of a nice tower shield and some leather armor. If they had been smart, Iggy and Artie would have acquired some health potions or scrolls or other restorative magical items, but this is what happens when you let the two meatheads plan the expeditions.

The trio took to the road and it wasn’t long before Artie barely, just barely, saw something in the tall grass. Artie took a step forward and whipped his sword around a lot and screamed and did other very scary stuff. It was super effective and the thing in the grass was shaking in its boots…or hooves…Artie didn’t know at the time. Then out of the tall grass steps the ugliest thing either of them had ever seen. It was like part Lion, part bull, part cat hairball. Artie peed a little. Luckily Iggy was ready to bring the pain and he stepped up and called upon the power of his magical cloak so that his blade might strike true. Iggy raised his gleaming Elven curved blade above his head and cried a mighty oath as he brought the instrument of the hairballs ultimate doom crashing down toward its head. In that instant Iggy new that he was truly one of the masters of the universe as all his martial expertise, and all of his divine grace, and all of the powers of the arcane were guiding his sword home. Iggy knew that he could not fail.

And then he missed.

Fortunately, Artie was nearby to help by letting the Lion-Bull-Hairball thing gore him a bit and then put a spell on him to make him bleed a whole lot. Artie continued to soak up damage while Iggy was dropping mad pain bombs on its hairy ass until the thing was unconscious. At that point Artie stood over the beast, touched it, and said “BLEED” and the thing died and Artie was very satisfied. Godfrey tried to heal Artie but instead nearly choked him to death, and Iggy had to step in and remedy the situation.

The pair was a little beat up so they decided to find a camp, unfortunately, their meatheadedness took over and they did not find a comfy Motel 6, instead they were packed into a tiny clearing in the tall grass. Artas was the first on watch because he was in the worst shape. During Iggys watch, another lion-hairball showed up. Artas was still nearly dead and had no armor on, so he mostly provided support (i.e. was mostly useless) and then proceeded to pass out. Iggy once again dropped stupid amounts of hurt on the hairball, but the hairball did a number on Iggy too. The hairball died, but then two jamokes started coming through the tall grass looking for their, now dead, hairball. Iggy tried to talk to the jamokes, but they didn’t seem interested. Artie did his scary sword thing again. It was super effective, but that was about the only effective thing he did. Iggy pimp-slapped the first jamoke so hard his head came off. The other jamoke was kind of dumb and thought he could take Iggy. He was wrong. Iggy kicked the shit out of him too, but didn’t kill him. Iggy then had a long conversation with the Orc jamoke trying to figure out why they were causing a ruckus, the conversation involved the jamoke refusing to talk and then Iggy backhanding him into unconsciousness and waiting until he woke up. Artie stood by acting real tough, but was basically clueless since Iggy and the jamoke were talking in Orc. The jamoke told Iggy that him and his bros were acting all hard because they had joined up with a crew that called themselves the “War Party” and were following around another jamoke named (I don’t remember). He also said that there were a bunch jerk face humans that were giving all of the jamokes crazy gear and telling them to cause all the ruckus. Iggy and Artie were not happy about this. Eventually, Iggy let the poor guy go. The trio then got some sleep and then head back to the city because they were all in danger of dying. On the way home, Artie looked in his bag of holding and found some potions of Cure Light Wounds along with some other loot. Again this is why you don’t let meatheads plan the expeditions.

And so ends my session summary. Do I get lootz?


Alternatively…

Uncertain of what else to do, the party (which at this point only included Artas Menethar and Ignomine) decided to use the mysterious teleportation gem provided by Edagener when they ran into him at the local bar. Curious about where it might take them and who would be the boss of someone as powerful as Edagener, they traveled far outside the Shivar city limits and activated the gem. Polycarp had no interest in being summoned, as he saw it, and elected to stay behind and do whatever it is he does on his own (like assassinate Kharlin generals…)

The party minus Polycarp appeared near the summit of a mountain before a massive door set into the rock face. Seeing little else to do, they approached to knock but were startled by the appearance of a magical eye surveying them. Once they stated they wished to enter the doors opened, revealing a fuzzy and shadowy figure dressed as a servant. Drael suspected it was a construct of some kind, but it was intelligent enough to offer them the rules of Guest-Right to the party; the party were promised protection from harm and safety from danger by the host, while the guests were responsible for keeping any secrets found there and to be considerate guests. There was also the assumption that any words spoken would be true to the best of the speaker’s knowledge.

The construct led them to a large waiting room where it informed the party that its master would be appearing shortly. In the meantime they were free to make themselves comfortable. One corner of the room had a fireplace with large comfortable chairs set around it, where Ignomine decided to wait patiently. Another corner had a small table littered with many small crystals, a crystal ball, and what appeared to be notes and workbooks, which to Vyktor appeared to be magical research. Along one wall was a series of banners and crests, all with a slash marked through them, which Artas realized were probably some ancient and long-forgotten Houses. The other corner had a large bookshelf full of old tomes.

About ten minutes later their host appeared, a wizened old figure of indeterminate old age and race who introduced himself as Etzio Damien. Gesturing to the table of crystals, he revealed that he had made a lifelong study of them, items called Soul Gems. Holding up a purple crystal about the size of his hand, he explained that the Soul Gems were developed during Arela’s ancient age and allowed for the storage of massive amounts of power. Larger and purer crystals, like the one he held, were even capable of holding the life force of a creature and using it to power unknown arcane devices and energies.

Etzio explained that he had been researching these crystals for most of his life, and that there were rumors and signs of a crystal larger and purer than any other deep in the Northern Wastes. He had sent at least seven expeditions out to find it, but all had failed. The latest one, several years past, was the closest yet but had only one survivor return, and even then not entirely sane. When asked why Edagener or Etzio himself didn’t go to reclaim it (seeing as they were clearly much more powerful than any in the party), he responded that the nature of the Soul Gem would be immediately fatal to persons such as themselves, but that the party should be able to approach safely. He also mentioned that one of the past expeditions had traveled for a time with acolytes of Alion, including a certain Toradan Honorforge.

When asked what they would do once they got there and what they would get for doing the job, Etzio led them into another massive room carved out of the mountain. A large worktable littered with items and artifacts ran the length of the room, and there were racks of weapons, armor, and chests full of gold and jewels scattered about. Moving about near the work table was a small stone or metal figure that resembled a garden gnome working on some kind of item. Etzio picked up a metallic spike engraved with runes and sigils and said, “I want you to take this chisel, break off a piece of the crystal, and bring it back here for me to study. For this service, I’m prepared to give you anything in this room.”

Taking another look around, Artas could see a suit of what appeared to be Mithril Full Plate. Vyktor seemed immediately drawn to the magical gnome construct busy at work building magical items. Drael thought of all the gold and powerful magical items that could be had to aid his spellcasting, while Ignomine noticed a weapon rack full of Arelan Steel weapons… including an Elven Curved Blade, proof that elves and their martial tradition could trace itself back to the times of Ancient Arela. Thinking better of defacing an ancient artifact about which he was ignorant, Ignomine asked for a guarantee that altering the gem would not destabilize civilization or cause it harm. Etzio explained that he wanted the piece to study it, and could not be sure he could grant that guarantee until after he’d researched the gem. The best he could offer was to share what he learned once they had broken off a piece of the gem for his study using the chisel. He continued…

“These chisels are incredibly difficult to make, and require a… significant amount of time to fabricate. I fear that this may be the last one I am able to complete, so I’d be willing to even advance you some of your reward if it will help you accomplish my task. I just ask that you make claiming the crystal a priority if you do so. There is a necromancer moving about near the location of the crystal, and though I do not think they have discovered the crystal yet I fear they may do so.”

Though sorely tempted, the party decided to wait and discuss their options later. Their host bade them farewell, but cautioned them not to draw any more attention to themselves. When they responded that they didn’t know what he was talking about, and Ignomine swore that he was unaware of anything else, Etzio replied that he could say no more. The party left out of the mountain door, activated the gem, and found themselves back in the field far outside the city that they had left.

Seeking information on what to expect in the Northern Wastes, the party set out to find Toradan Honorforge. Luckily he was at a local bar, and they caught him before his departure back north to Ceres. His advice was that only people with a deathwish went to the Northern Wastes; between the cold, the undead, the ancient trapped fortresses, and the remoteness, there were a multitude of unpleasant ways to get oneself killed and very little to get out of it. The only reason he had gone up with a bunch of his brothers was to defeat a powerful Lich, though he did recall another group joining them for part of the journey. As for advice for those foolhardy enough to go to the wastes, he suggested “wear warm clothes, avoid the undead, and Don’t.”

The party split up to reflect on what their course of action should be. Drael went to gather more information and develop his network, while Vyktor went to pray to Callistria for guidance. Ignomine likewise went to the high temple of Abadar, requesting one of the prayer-rooms of the First Vault. Though he prayed extensively for guidance he heard no response from his god. Ignomine prayed harder, worried that his actions could inadvertently destroy some of the last signs of Ancient Arela, or that conversely he could do great good for civilization with the rewards for helping Etzio. Ignomine heard only the faintest of echoes saying that he could receive no guidance before the presence retreated.

Troubled, Ignomine left the cloister to find a Temple attendant waiting for him with Artas. The attendant escorted them to one of the priest’s offices, where its occupant explained a task for him. It seemed that some of the Orc tribes north of Shivar, tribes that had been accepting expressions of peace and civilization, had suddenly cut off contact and become violent. The priest asked Ignomine to go as a representative of Abadar to find out what had happened and report back, if he was able. He also warned that the last priests they had sent up there had been attacked.

Ignomine and Artas collected his ward Godfrey and set out on the northern road. It was clearly inferior to one of the Great Causeways, terminating in a dirt road only a few hundred yards outside the city walls. Ignomine, still troubled by his newfound possession of a slave, made it clear that Godfrey was free to leave his service at any time as a free man, and that he was free to express himself in any way he saw fit; essentially, that his continued presence with Ignomine would be taken as an assent to accompany them. After Godfrey said he understood, and seeing Artas approve of the gesture, Ignomine offered him his former liege’s arms and tower shield. It would be dangerous on the road, and Godfrey did not appear to have experienced the rough life of an adventurer from his former master. In addition, the valuable items would give him a chance at a new life if he chose to leave Ignomine’s service. Shocked, Godfrey could only stutter his thanks and his wonder at such a gift.

Some distance outside the city, Artas noticed a creature lying in wait alongside the path, hidden by tall grass. Try as they might, neither Ignomine nor Godfrey could detect the creature, so Artas stepped forward and roared a challenge to it. Provoked, the creature attacked, revealing itself to be a monstrous beast seemingly crossed between a bull, a goat, and a lion, all scraggly long hair and hooves with sharp horns growing out of its head. It charged and gored Artas. Taking advantage of its distraction, Ignomine stepped to its side, drawing on the power of his cloak to make sure his strike hit true, and poured the power of his muscles and his god into the blow… and missed.

The beast continued to maul Artas while Ignomine slashed at it with his blade and Artas’ spellcasting made the wounds weep blood. Godfrey stood back, keeping lookout for further aggressors. With a final mighty blow the beast was slain, and the battered warriors decided to set up camp to tend to their wounds.

They found a small clearing in the grass and set up camp. With fewer party members the watch was more difficult to arrange. Artas’ went quietly enough, but during Ignomine’s watch another of the massive beasts managed to sneak up on him and attack, but thankfully his armor turned the attack. With Artas out of his armor and still injured Ignomine had to take the brunt of the attacks, barely managing to keep standing after enduring attack after goring attack. With a final burst of strength he poured his might into a felling blow that separated the beast’s head from its neck. Exhausted, they sat down to recuperate.

It wasn’t long after that they heard voices approaching. Ignomine understood them speaking the Orcish tongue, and called out a warning to them as they approached. “Your beast is dead, and I warn that you will as well if you attack.” They continued to approach, and Ignomine could see an aura of evil about them. When they finally appeared, Ignomine again ordered them to stand down. Rather than allow them to approach further, Ignomine summoned his deity’s bond to make his sword light with fire, and Artas made an intimidating display that gave them pause. Determined, the orcs moved to attack. Artas cursed the closest orc to bleed from his wounds and Ignomine charged and dropped him in a single blow. The second, armed with a spear, tried to position himself to advantage but was stymied by the tall grass. He too soon fell to Ignomine’s blazing sword, falling in shock to the massive amount of damage he sustained with the blow. The two of them stripped the orc of his weapons and manacled the orc before he regained consciousness.

After he woke up, the orc refused to talk or answer who his chief was, giving only a spit of disgust and a slur at Ignomine’s parentage for an answer. Though it pained Ignomine to do so, he acted the brute and backhanded the orc for his insolence. Augmented by his deity’s power the blow knocked the orc unconscious, after which Ignomine healed him and brought him back to consciousness. This continued for a few more times before the orc finally capitulated. He revealed his chief was called Ragnar and was leading a War Party. The war party had attacked the orc tribes that had made peace with the humans, ordering them to join them or be killed. He also revealed (after further aggressive persuasion) that some other humans were providing the tribes with the fine equipment they had been using, including masterwork hide armor and some fine weapons. With that, Ignomine freed the prisoner and allowed him to flee west.

Now comes the time to decide if the party will accept Etzio’s quest, or try to find out more about the people funding and organizing all of the wild humanoid tribes.

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