Shadows of the Rift

Session Fifty-One
The Underground Realms


21 Hearth 508

The party decides not to fully butcher the dead rift drake that has just attacked them and was vanquished. They settle on only taking the teeth and claws.

The four guards that they took with them return to their comrades back in Qwast while the main party, Burask, Kortash, and Burkas Feldspar stay behind at the fissure.

The corners of the fissure can be used to climb downward at a slope. The party opts to use the corner to slide down. Burkas leads the way, followed by Surm (who uses climbing gear). Mõrvar slips and falls down to the bottom of the crevice. He finds himself in a cavern tunnel. Rilka, Savaric, and the two porters follow.

The tunnel slopes downward into the darkness. Savaric leads the way, followed by Burkas, Mõrvar, Surm, Kortash, Burask, and Rilka. They travel about a mile down the tunnel, Savaric finding nothing in his searches but a word written in what Burkas believes is Draconic on the wall. No one can decipher the word. Burkas says he doesn’t remember seeing that last time he was here. It could be left by kobolds, but it could also be left by what Burkas calls “Trogs”— troglodytes. Surm and Savaric know about troglodytes—they are reptilian humanoids from an ancient civilization that have degenerated. They also emit a smelly musk that can sicken their foes.

Surm makes mental notes of their directions as they go. When they come to a fork in the tunnel, Savaric marks it in chalk with an arrow pointing back the way they came.

They find themselves in a chamber drenched in an odious scent. Here, the party is attacked by a band of Trogs who attempted to hide in the darkness behind a series of stalagmites. They make short work of the Trogs, with most of them holding their breath throughout the battle. Savaric and Mõrvar did not, but they managed to fight off the sickness induced by the stench.

Savaric searches the room and finds more of the Draconic writing on the walls. They all then hear the slap of bare feet stepping toward the chamber. The party all hide behind stalagmites.

Seven Trogs come walking into the room. Surm, from his vantage point, sees an eighth Trog come skulking in behind them, obviously hiding. A fight ensues and all eight—including the skulker—are taken out. The skulker had a pouch with some gemstones in it that was taken. Then Mõrvar beheads all of the bodies.

As they continue on, the party is approached by 2 more skulking Trogs. Mõrvar, Surm, and Savaric see them hiding in the stone cavern. Mõrvar demands that they come out. Savaric approaches as well. He uses his prayers to produce a thunderclap that trips one of the skulkers. Surm attacks the other with magic missile. They make short work of the Trogs and Mõrvar chops off the heads of the bodies. The bodies are searched and pouches taken. Savaric marks the tunnel in Low Dwarven before moving on toward the next chamber.

Savaric steps into the next room and is suddenly enveloped inside a huge Lurking Ray. Rilka steps forward and slays the creature in a single, well-executed, strike. They find a hoard of treasure beneath the foul creature’s body. They then continue to the next chamber.

They come upon a chamber with many stalagmites and stalactites. There is a tunnel to the ‘north’ of the room and tunnel to the ‘south.’ Savaric barely hears the heavy breathing of a creature beyond the south tunnel. Burkas indicates that’s the way they need to go. Savaric activates Ilona and goes to see what is beyond the southern tunnel.

He sees, clinging to the side of the wall, watching the chamber entrance, a huge monstrosity with four arms and a vertically-aligned maw at the top of its head. He goes back to his companions and tells them going ahead is a bad idea. He then describes what he sees. Burkas indicates that the ‘north’ tunnel leads into the same chamber, but from a different angle.

At this point, the creature must have gotten tired of waiting for its prey, for a large forearm comes swinging out of the tunnel entrance. Its monstrous head pokes out and peers at the party. The party attacks the creature, while Mõrvar runs down the ‘north’ tunnel to attack the creature from the rear.

Finally, the creature is brought down by Surm and his spells. He identifies the creature as a Gug, a monstrous aberration of the deep places that is known to cruelly play with its prey. In the corner of its chamber, the party finds more treasure.

The party continues to move forward. As they move into an apparently empty chamber, the air sizzles with lightning bolts that strike Rika and Savaric, though they manage to move partially out of the way. Looking into one of the alcoves of the chamber, they see large centaurian spiders with Drow torsos standing in the entryway. Their spider-like faces are monstrous and strange. Two more stand behind them.

The party engages with the Driders and attack. Soon, two are dead and the back two are forced to clear their dead brethren out of the way to get to the party. Suddenly, another Drider appears in the chamber. Mõrvar attacks the new foe—only to find that it is an illusion. While Mõrvar engaged with it, the Driders cleared their path and then cast another lightning bolt at the northman.

“I’m going to eat your fucking soul!” Mõrvar declares and engages with the Driders. Finally, the monstrosities are slain and Mõrvar decapitates their bodies. They collect some pouches off of the creatures and pocket the treasure. They opt not to take the masterwork maces being carried by the creatures.

Burkas says that they are on the border of the fungal fields—chambers full of fungi that is harvested by the Drow for food, Here they will start to encounter Drow guards and other officials from the city. it is decided that this is the place that Burkas will take his leave of the party. He is paid 10 gold for his time and he bids the party farewell, heading back the way they have come.

The party then have a discussion and it is decided that the party will use false names while dealing in Ambraxaran. They then enter the fungal fields.

Soon thereafter, they are met by a troupe of Drow warriors lead by a female in a red sash. She wears a leather badge on her belt bearing the symbol of a wyrm. They are accompanied by 5 more Driders.

“Turn back, surface dwellers,” she says in Elven.

The rest of the troops ready their crossbows, aiming them at the party. Surm steps forward and speaks to the troops’ leader in Undercommon, indicating that Mistress Steeltusk (Rilka) wishes to trade in Ambraxaran.

“How do you come to know of Ambraxaran?” the leader demands.

“From weak Drow men that could not resist the Misstress’ techniques,” Surm answers.

“For one who would break Drow men, her guards are insolent,” the leader says.

“My mistress’ guards are loyal, fierce, and expendable,” Surm says.

The leader looks Rilka over and asks, “Do you have an agent in Ambraxaran?”

Rilka says something indecipherable to the leader and Surm ‘translates’: “My mistress is tired of talking. Let us pass.”

The leader frowns. “Your mistress must treat with me to receive an escort through the fields or turn back.”

Rilka attempts to intimidate the leader and Surm feigns fear. “My mistress will accept your escort.”

The leader then turns to her troops and addresses them in Elven: “Take them to the gate.” She indicates two of the guards and two of the Driders.

The Driders and the Drow take up the rear and the head of the party, a guard and a Drider at each end. They then lead the party deeper into the fungal fields.

Huge mushrooms grow in the these chambers, as well as phosphorescent moss. It is harvested by slaves guarded by Drow taskmasters. The slaves are mostly male Drow, troglodytes, and even some grey-skinned dwarves.

The troupe is stopped by another Drow leader wearing a red sash in a large chamber with a pair of wagons being lead by giant monitor lizards. This leader demands to know where these lowly guards are going with a troupe of surface dwellers. The guards indicate that “Captain Slerythyryxx” ordered them escorted to the gates of the city. The red sashed leader—apparently a Captain—lets them pass.

Finally, the troupe crosses all of the fungal chambers and emerges into a huge chamber. Up ahead is a plateau ascending from a deep and wide trench. On the plateau are stone spires and carved stone buildings—the city of Ambraxaran. Guards stand watch at one end of a long bridge that crosses the trench to the other side. These guards bear leather badges with a sword inside and five-pointed star. They wear blue sashes. Here, the guards from Captain Slerythyryxx turn the troupe over to the guards with blue sashes.

“What business do you have in Ambraxaran?” one of the new guards demands.

“Shopping,” Surm answers.

Rilka attempts to intimidate the guards and demands their names—through Surm as a translator. “We are of House Vanirys,” the guard says, “That is all you need to know.” The guard says that they will allow them entry after paying a ‘proper’ gate tax of 5 gold.

Then Surm indicates that they will let Imrith Illythis know that the guards at the gate were ‘so diligent.’ This changes their attitudes. The guard says that he ‘misspoke’ and that they will allow them entrance with a tax of 3 silver. They also send their regards to the Demonic Champion. Surm says that his mistress will forget you even exist, for which they should be thankful.

The guards advise them to douse their light, indicating Rilka’s falchion. They indicate that some may be “offended” by it. She binds her falchion. They then also get directions to Hrenivoc—the Pits district of the city. The directions indicate a tunnel passage heading down into the plateau.

They follow the directions and pass various structures built into the rock. They also encounter various denizens of the underground realms, including a beautiful humanoid with horns and a pointed tail who solicits Mõrvar. They move on and find themselves at the bottom of the passage in a slummy neighborhood. They see troops of Troglodytes marching through and figures wrapped in dark robes—some short of stature and some the size of most humanoids. These Surm identifies as “Dark Folk”, a mysterious race of humanoids that dwell in the underground realms.

Mõrvar puts up his hood as Surm asks about for directions to the Crimson Stain. He gets directions from one of the Dark Folk. They follow the creature’s directions and find themselves before a large stone structure with a wooden door stained red with paint or some other sticky substance.

Session Fifty
A Bargain in Darkness


22 Harvest 508

Surm emerges from the Overlord’s hall, smiling, and rejoins his friends.

“You get what we needed?” Savaric asks.

“Well, the red Orb is currently held by a Drow elf woman named, Berithrian Illithys, Matron of House Illithys, Orb-Bearer. She is very ill tempered and has a very low opinion of Humans and males in particular. However, I don’t have a location. I know Drow dwell in underground cities, but nothing to help us locate this Drow. I think we should visit the elf sage at the University to try and get a lead," Surm says.

“Once we get that orb, can you locate the rest of them?” Mõrvar asks.

“One orb can be used to communicate with another, but only if its bearer is near. Even then, you only see the possessor’s face, not surroundings. In this case, she announced her name and title and expressed great displeasure at being spoken to as an equal by a human and even more so by a ‘weak-willed male’. The name and the fact that she is a Drow is all we have to go on right now. That’s why I suggested meeting with the sage specializing in elves, maybe we can get a clue as to the location of Drow settlements near that tower in Yulania. I suspect the elf Alundriel and his lieutenants were taken by the Drow. If so, there may be an entrance near his encampment, perhaps within the Rift itself since his camp was near the edge,” Surm says.

The Chancellor says that he will be happy to take them to the office of Belurien Springstorm, an elven sage who studies history and is their liaison to the Saelfsidhedai.

As they make their way to the carriage, Mõrvar whispers to his companions, “Our goal is to eventually obtain all 8 Orbs, right?”

Savaric says, “Well there are 10 orbs, but no, I was under the impression that we were pursuing the other objects that are described in the obelisk.”

“Yes, we are currently on task for that, but down the road, eventually shouldn’t we think about pursuing and collecting all 10 orbs? Maybe not anytime soon, maybe years from now, but wouldn’t that be pretty cool, to collect them all?” Mõrvar asks.

Surm says, “Except that having ever owned an orb makes all dragons hate you. Seems like pretty powerful enemies to make. That means we should be careful not to touch the red orb when we find it, just pack it and deliver it. Let’s get to the sage and see if we even have a chance of finding it.”

Rilka nods. “We may need to obtain a special carrying case for it before we leave Kalimsport.”

As the carriage is being brought around to take you back to the University, the Chancellor says, “I don’t think you fully appreciate the power—and danger—of the object for which you seek. Otherwise you would not bring up such a foolhardy idea. Further, as per our agreement, the University will not be assisting such an endeavor—at least not without the requisite compensation.”

Surm shares his knowledge of the Drow: “The Drow are a race of dark-elves that live in the Underground realms. They take members of other races and enslave them. They are also very antagonistic, not just toward the surface races, but to their cousins, the elves, especially. The upper echelon of any Drow settlement, underground village, or grand metropolis is uniformly female. In larger cities, Drow matrons head great houses that serve as both centers for their families and power nexuses. These matrons are often clerics or wizards, as are their cadres of advisors. Regiments of trained Drow warriors serve each house and its matron.”

“It looks like we’ll have our work cut out for us then," Rilka says. “On a side note, how long were we planning to stay in Kalimsport? I had some custom-order work I wanted to get started.”

“I suggest a bag of concealment,” Mõrvar says. “We could use the orbs to make allies with Dragons by trade negotiation?”

Savaric says, “Even if we tried it with a metallic dragon, I’m pretty sure it would be, ‘give me the orb and I won’t bite your face off’.”

Surm says, “I would like to leave once we have a clear direction to start in. If you have custom work, get it started; you know we’re coming back.”

“So is K-port our base of operations for the next 5 years?” Mõrvar asks.

“Our contract ends in 5 years. We are based in Kalimsport until we finish these quests. It may not take 5 years,” Surm says.

You all load up in the carriage and head back to the University. Once there, the Chancellor leads you to the chambers of Belurien Springstorm, sage and liaison to the Saelfsidhedai.

Belurien appears to be an elf of middle years. He has a rather pinched expression on his face—which seems to be permanent. He looks over the party and says, in only a slightly accented Tradespeak, “Yes, Chancellor, I will be glad to help, of course. What can do for you?”

After the Chancellor makes introductions, Surm gets down to business.

“Master Springstorm, as you know, we are on contract for with the University to find an artifact, a red dragon Orb. Its last known possessor was Alundriel the Renegade who disappeared from his encampment at the edge of Yulania near the Rift approximately 80 years ago. Now, according to the information we have recently uncovered, the Orb is in possession of a Drow elf woman named Berithrian Illithys, Matron of House Illithys, who titles herself Orb-Bearer. We need to find this woman, but her name and race are the only clues we have. We were hoping you may know something of the Drow and if they have a settlement near the Rift at the edge of Yulania?”

Rilka peers at the sage expectantly, trying to assess his reaction to the mention of Drow.

The elf raises a thin eyebrow. “Drow? I know something of them, yes. Every Saelfsidhedai child learns something of our dark cousins. I’ve not made a study of them, but I have some information. As far as settlements, I can recall two possibilities: Almetherocc and Ambraxaran. But you spoke of House Illithys as well.” He goes to a large book and opens it, flipping through the pages until he finds the one he is looking for. He runs a thin finger down the page and says, “Ah, yes. Illithys. That House primarily resides in Ambraxaran.”

“Where is Ambraxaran located?” Surm asks.

“The city’s precise location is unknown, but it is generally thought to be beneath the area of Tower Yenuil in southeastern Yulania,” the elf says. “Almetherocc lies further north, closer to Melnys Vale.”

Rilka pipes up, “Are the Drow often known to venture above ground? Would they employ tunnels or natural passages in the earth to do so? Or would they use magical means of transportation?”

“They have been known to venture out, looking for slaves or treasure. They could use either natural tunnels or magical means—they have many sorcerers and wizards in their number that could allow for that," the elf says.

“Sounds like investigating around beneath the area of Tower Yenuil in southeastern Yulania is the best lead we are going to get," Surm says. "Master Springstorm, is there any advice you can give on dealing with the Drow? Strengths and weaknesses? Is it a city as we know it, will travelers be welcome or will we stand out? Will we be able to roam the city or will we be arrested on sight?”

Belurien looks pensive. “Well, the city is deep underground, but otherwise much like other cities. It is ruled by a council of matrons from the great Houses and reflects their values—cunning, dark deeds, and evil. They are humanoids like you or I, so they have no weaknesses other than those that come with being such. However, they are underground dwellers—so their eyes are particularly sensitive to light. They are especially proficient spellcasters and most have some talent to use magic to hide or to obfuscate. Also, they seem to be able to resist magic to a degree. Most are also adept at the use of poison. In the city, you will not be welcome. Being ‘surface dwellers,’ you would probably be arrested and enslaved."

“If they come to the surface to collect slaves, what are the chances that we are going to be left alone in their city? Do we need to ally with someone to have their protection there, or are they going to just jump us and capture us when we show up?” Mõrvar asks.

Belurien says, “As I stated, surface-dwellers are not welcome there. If you were to arrive in Ambraxaran, I believe that chances are good that you would be set upon and enslaved. As far as making an alliance, in my opinion, there would be no other faction worth allying with to protect you. The other races that dwell there are equally as a likely to betray you and sell you to the highest bidder.”

“You mentioned that they were sensitive to light, is there some item or spells that are particularly effective against them?” Savaric asks.

Rilka comments that she does have the ability to cast light, which may be effective.

“I meant something more like a flash bang or some kind of light based spell/weapon,” Savaric says.

“Like a falchion that glows like a torch?” Rilka asks with a smile. “There are some prismatic spells, but I don’t think anyone can cast them. The alchemist class may make something similar to a flash-bang.”

“I said light-based, not hack-into-tiny-bits-based. More directly, does the sage know of an extra effective weapon/item?” Savaric asks.

“There are spells that make light as bright as sunlight,” Mõrvar says. “The 3rd level Daylight spell may help.”

Belurien says that he is neither a spell-caster nor an adventurer and thus would not care to speculate on what their strategy should be.

Mõrvar asks, “Do you know any or have heard tale of any out-casted Drow from there that we might be able to track down? Where would an outcast even go? Is there a different dialect of the elven language that the Drow speak?”

“I have not,” the elf says. “The Drow would probably execute or enslave a non-conformist and if one escaped a Drow city, then she would probably hide somewhere in the underground realms—and hide well at that. Being a pariah amongst her own people, and appearing as an enemy to others, she would not have many places to take sanctuary.”

“As far as the language question, most of the writings we have uncovered from the Drow are either in Elven or in a dialect called ‘Undercommon,’ a dialect spoken by many of the denizens of the underground realms."

“What other underground dwellers are there besides Drow that we might be able to find to help us navigate the underworld?” Mõrvar asks.

“There are many races in the underground realms (derro, ghouls, duergar, etc.), but most are as trustworthy as the Drow—which is to say, not at all. A guide would be as likely to help or sell you out. The underground realms are a highly dangerous place. However, you might consider a dwarf. They live in those realms and are a noble people. However, a dwarf would be as likely to be killed or enslaved as you would be.

However, upon further reflection, your half-Urkhani friends may be able to pass as travelers or traders and possibly not be singled out on sight. Some Orc tribes have been known to dwell underground and they are not as hated by the Drow as they are by my people—no offense is meant, of course. Merely being objective.

I do not know of a specific guide for you to follow-up with, however, that has actually been inside a Drow city. Most of what I know comes from information gleaned by captured Drow, ancient Elven texts, and the reputation they have with the Dwarven people," Belurien says.

Rilka says, “Looks like making friends with a dwarf might be a good idea then.”

Mõrvar replies looking at Savaric, “Looks like Savaric is finally going to get to be best buddies with dwarves.”

Then Mõrvar straightens up like he just had a thought. “Hey, we know some dwarves. Granted, they are the wrong direction, but perhaps they can get us in contact with or point us in the direction of dwarves who could help us with this. I am talking about the two we saved that gave me the multi-tool.”

Savaric says, “Do we think they will have any contacts that far away? I suppose anything is possible, I don’t know how tight-knit the dwarves’ society is. It seems they’d have nothing in common other than both being dwarven.”

“That’s a long way to travel in the opposite direction, it doesn’t seem practical,” Surm says.

Rilka says “Kalimsport is the largest city in the world. I’d say we have a chance of locating a dwarven adventurer who might be able to help us."

“The tower of Yenuil—what condition is it in? Is it a military fort, a town, or ruins?” Surm asks.

“The Tower of Yenuil is an active Tower of Sorcery. A community of magical practioners live there and study," the elf says.

“Is there a town for commerce where we could get supplies and lodging?” Surm asks.

The sage unrolls a map: “The town of Sayud in Kuskar is about 50 miles away, to the west of the tower. There is also a small, unnamed village shown here about eight miles from the tower.”

The party then bids good day to the sage and heads back to the University’s dormitories, where they are currently residing due to their agreement with the Chancellor. There they discuss their plans for travel. They decide to leave in 15 days due to various things that they want to get done in the city before heading out.

Mõrvar leaves and goes to have uniforms made for the guards. Savaric makes arrangements to work—teaching tracking and other survival skills to those that want the training. Rilka goes to have a new magic falchion crafted for her. Surm and Mahgnus head out and have Ornish courtier’s clothes made for Mahgnus. They also start searching for information on a dwarf with information on the Drow.

23 Harvest 508

Surm and Mahgnus get a bead on a dwarf by the name of Burkas Feldspar who claims to have faced the Drow. He usually frequents the Elixir & Prayer in the temple district of the city. The two men head in that direction to try and get some help from the dwarf.

At the Elixir & Prayer, they find the dwarf sitting at a table perusing a thin book. Surm approaches the dwarf and makes introductions. “Pop a squat,” the dwarf says and indicates the nearby chairs.

Feldspar does indeed claim to have encountered Drow in his years as a guide for the dwarven cities and other sites in the underground realms. He has heard to Ambraxaran—in fact, he’s been as far as the gates, though has never been inside. He confirms its location with the information Belurien had given the party the previous day. Surm manages to convince the dwarf to guide them to Ambraxaran—acting as a guide, and nothing else—for the some of 5 silver per day. He’ll lead them to the city, but he won’t go inside. The two shake on the deal and agree to meet up again on the 7th of Hearth.

Surm then makes arrangements to get a Necklace of Darkvision to aid him in this endeavor and then begins training at the University in speaking Undercommon.

7 Hearth 508

The Crimson Cord meets back up with Burkas Feldspar at the Elixir & Prayer. Introductions are made and it is apparent that the dwarf is put off by the half-orcs, but he seems still willing to the do the job. They discuss their plan of claiming to be merchants searching for goods that can only be found in a Drow city: alchemical Blackstar Bombs and Void Bombs. They also decide against taking the guards in with them as they may be seen as too big a threat.

Once their discussions are done, they load up and start heading out of Kalimsport toward Yulania and Kuskar.

11 Hearth 508

The party reaches the city of Rayl around noontime, but opt to circumvent the city.

14 Hearth 508

The party reaches the city of Jora, capital of Kuskar. They make camp outside of the city and go around it in the morning.

16 Hearth 508

The party reaches the large town of Sayud. Once again, they make camp and go around in the morning.

19 Hearth 508

On the Lower Iamari River, not far from where they hope to find Tower Yenuil, the party comes across a very small village. The village does appear to have an inn—it bears a sign with a black star on the door. They go inside and only a few old codgers are in the common room and a heavy-set Kuskar male is behind the bar.

“Welcome, strangers!” the man bellows as they come inside.

Surm has a conversation with the man about his sign. It is apparently the sign under which his father, Matyas, marched under in Kuskar. He is Gyorgi Matyasvan and has run the inn since his father’s passing. This village is called Qwast. It is sparsely populated and supports visitors to the Tower.

Surm wants to let whomever is in charge of the village know that they and their guards mean no harm and would like to be able to camp here while they visit the tower. Gyorgi says that he is part of a village council and that, so long as they do no harm, the guards and the party should be fine. The party orders food—a fine rabbit stew—and settles in.

Rilka has a conversation with an old codger by the name of Kaeridin. He tells her that his friend, Laral, is a groundskeeper at the Tower. He’s seen some strangeness there, but they mostly keep to themselves.

Surm strikes up a conversation with Burkas regarding the “Heart of the World”. The dwarf says he doesn’t know anything about it, but it is clear to Surm that he does but doesn’t want to talk about it. Surm finally convinces the dwarf to reveal what he knows. The element is hard as adamantine and as light as mithral. The metal is found deep, deep, in the earth. It can be crafted, by those that know how. The Heart of the World is a dwarven secret—not for outsiders.

After their conversations and dinner, the party head back to where the guards are camped and bed down for the night.

20 Hearth 508

The party leaves the entourage behind them and head the eight miles over to the Tower Yenuil. It’s a 5-story tower with a solid iron door. Surrounding the tower is a green space with grass and hedges. Behind one of the hedges, they spot an old man pruning.

Surm questions the man, confirming that he is Laral, the groundskeeper. He asks him about the inhabitants of the tower. The old man says that all of the inhabitants like their secrets and if they’ve come for information, there will probably be a cost. There are at least 10 inhabitants in the tower, but he doesn’t rightly know exactly how many there are. After more prodding, the man gives up the name of Master Bratharocc as a source of information on the Drow inside the tower—but also indicates that he studies items with magical properties and will probably want one in exchange for his assistance.

The party finally goes to the door and knocks, using a great iron knocker on the door. Almost immediately, the door opens and beautiful woman in a green ball gown stands before.

“Welcome to Tower Yenuil. How can I be of assistance?”

Surm steps forward and says that they are there to see Master Bratharocc. After a brief exchange with the woman explaining why they are here, the woman welcomes them inside, so long as their weapons are peace-tied. Once that is done, she leads them inside the Tower to a sitting room.

The room has a small bookcase, with books of Kuskar poetry and a gazetteer of the known world. She offers the guests refreshments of wine and finger-foods. Then she excuses herself to see Master Bratharocc. She returns shortly thereafter and announces that Master Bratharocc will see only one of them. Surm steps forward and the hostess escorts him out of the sitting room while the others wait.

The hostess leads Surm to a staircase leading down below the Tower. Once they reach a landing, Surm can small the musty, earthy odor of a cave. The woman says that she will do no further and offers him a torch and says that Master Bratharocc can be found further down. Surm takes the torch, not telling her that he can see in the darkness with the use of his necklace. He then descends further into the cavern.

When he gets to the foot of the stairs, a voice calls out from the darkness beyond Surm’s torchlight. “I don’t know you.” Surm peers into the darkness with his darkvision and sees a man with elven features, save for his midnight-black skin and pupiless white eyes. Surm pretends to not be able to see beyond the torchlight.

“No, we’ve never met,” he tells the Drow.

“Why have you sought me?” Bratharocc asks.

“I seek knowledge of the Drow,” Surm says.

“And what makes you think I have such information?”

“Your name was given to me,” Surm says.

The Drow chuckles, “I see.”

“Do you not have the information?” Surm asks.

“I have much information—what do you seek specifically?”

“Information on Berithrian Illithys in Ambraxaran,” Surm says.

The Drow frowns, “It appears that you have much information already.”

“Only a name and the city,” Surm says.

“And what are you willing to pay for such information?”

The two then negotiate a price—-an ‘item of power’—and Surm even manages to convince the Drow to accept his payment upon their return.

Bratharocc reveals that House Illithys rules the treasury in Ambraxaran, making it a very powerful House. He believes that the party’s cover story will work to get them inside. Once inside, he advises that they seek out a half-elf by the name of Pravenel at an inn called the Crimson Stain in the Pits district of the city. The city is made up of three layers—the upper echelon where the ruling Houses live, the middle market portion, and the lower Pits—where the outlanders and outcasts reside. Pravenel may help them because he hates House Illithys. Plus he’s very resourceful—he’s had to be to survive as a half-elf. Members of House Da’Reth may also help—all the Houses would see Illithys fall, but Da’Reth especially and they may even help outsiders bring her down.

He further advises that they have a female with them—a woman will gain more respect from the Drow than a male. He also talks about the family of Berithrian Illithys. She has two daughters—Imrith and Berg’inyon. Imrith is a demonic champion of the dark power that all Drow venerate. It is best not named, Bratharocc says. Berg’inyon is a known poisoner and murderer for the House. The Matron has two consorts as well as a House Priest.

It is clear to Surm that Bratharocc is bitter and wants House Illithys brought down for personal reasons. He thanks the Drow for the information and makes his way out of the cavern.

Meanwhile, Mõrvar has been trying to charm the hostess, whose name is Isold. He seems to have some success—but then again, the hostess is charming to everyone. Surm returns and gathers up his friends to head out with a fond farewell from Isold.

They ride back to Qwast and Surm reveals the details of his conversation with Bratharocc. Once they get back to the village, they decide that they will leave in the morning and leave the guards behind in Qwast.

Burkas lets the party know that there will be a mile-long tunnel underground and then 5 more miles of tunnels before they reach Ambraxaran, once they get to the entrance.

Rilka prays that night to Bruni for courage.

21 Hearth 508

That morning, the party heads out of Qwast and toward the entrance to the underground realms that Burkas is leading them toward. They take the porters and four of the guards with them to bring their horses and surplus gear back to Qwast when they get to the entrance. Kortash and Burask are equipped with a greataxe and battleaxe, respectively and given 5 platinum apiece to accompany them underground and fight if necessary.

Burkas leads the way east, past the Tower and toward The Rift.

They eventually come to an abandoned encampment. There are ruined, rotted wooden buildings and remains of structures. As they explore the encampment, a rift drake swoops down out of the sky and attacks the party. A hellacious fight ensues, but in the end, the drake falls with a mighty blow from Mõrvar—but not before Savaric is severely damaged.

Mõrvar decapitates the body and Savaric removes its teeth and nails. Burkas tells them about rift drakes—how they are vicious creatures that fly about The Riftpeaks, assaulting travelers and other prey. He then leads them to a fissure into which they can climb, sliding down its sides, into the underground realms.

Session Forty-Nine
A Deal is Struck


19 Harvest 508

Early in the evening, a messenger arrives at The Arrow of Lightning for “to the party of Master Ulrich.” It is a summons to the University by Mandreth Kerendal.

At the University, Kerendal seems very excited. He has the party all sit down and has the obelisk on a desk before them.

“This find is exceptional. Trevans and I have been working all day and all of last night, making notes and studying it. Not only is it an intact Aedonii narrative, but it details a particular ritual that is a unique meld of Aedonii and Ysar magics. Exceptional!"

“The narrative itself is focused on an Aedonii princess by the name of Imano-Tai. She was a princess, but also an adventurer and a scholar. She sought not only enlightenment, but transformation. And, according to the narrative, she achieved it. The narrative details how she ‘ascended’ to a heightened form of existence. I translate the actual phrase ‘walking in the halls of the gods.’ Through the use of a ritual that combines Aedonii and Ysar magics, which took place in the Chamber of Harmony in the central temple of the Aedonii city of Andropolae, she was transformed. Inside the chamber is an obelisk known as the Stone of Ascension. Through its use in the ritual, a person could achieve this heightened state.”

“The ritual requires several parts to be complete. However, their descriptions are devilishly vague:

  • Kirirthterrix’s Fire
  • The Heart of the World
  • The Purple Lotus of Kadath
  • The Dead God’s Dark Breath

“All of these requisite parts are used in the final ritual. Now, Kiritherrix is a Draconic name, this much I know. However, I do not know of any of the other parts mentioned. Still, an intriguing find nonetheless. Linguistically, it helps confirm many of my suppositions about the Old High Aedonii.”

Kerendal smiles. “It is an honor to get to study such an object. While I can study further and get more nuance and beauty from the text, this is the gist, as it were, of the narrative.”

“That’s interesting, but is it just a historical accounting or does it give us a path to follow? Does it lead anywhere? Do you know where the city of Andropolae is? Do you have a means for finding more detail on the ritual parts?” Surm asks, looking around at his friends.

“ It gives a detailed accounting of the final ritual, but not how to gather the component parts—it only states that she gathered those four things. Linguistics is my line, but as I said, the first component bears a Draconic name. You might inquire with Master Aervyn Chenwyth. His specialty is dragonology. Perhaps he can give you some insight on that. He’s here at the University, " Kerendal says. " The Heart of the World may refer to an element kept by the dwarves of Khazak-Ur. It is one of their best-kept secrets. Kadath, the source of your purple lotus, is fabled to lie on the Plateau of Leng, in a dark plane that touches ours. I haven’t really given this much study, though. The ‘Dead God’s Dark Breath’ is a mystery to me. The city of Andropolae sat on the site that is now known as Godscar on the other side of the Rift. "

Surm asks, “Are there any ruins of the city left? Without the Stone of Ascension, the rest doesn’t matter.”

Rilka looks about the proceedings, obviously very interested and especially at the mention of Godscar.

Kerendal frowns. “It has been nearly a hundred years since an explorer has traveled so far as Godscar. The creatures beyond the Rift are dangerous, as are the barbarian Barthud tribes. It is a perilous journey that few have wish to undertake. Scholars have notes from the last expedition that ventured there that indicate that some of the buildings in the city were intact."

Savaric notes that the Rift is a miles-long trench, bottom-less in some locations, that cuts its way in a northwestern by southeastern line, neatly bisecting the continent of Zaldara. It is surrounded on both sides by jagged mountains known as The Riftpeaks.

The cause of the Rift has been lost to history. Was it a war between the ancient races? Did the ancestors offend the Old Gods? Was it a natural disaster? All that is known is that the event, known as The Rivening, destroyed civilization as it was known before. The ancient races of the The Ysar and The Aedonii were utterly destroyed, reemerging from the early days of The Scattering as The Saelfsidhedai (Elves) and Humans.

The Rift separates the newly civilized lands of the world from what is now termed the Eastern Wastes—as well as the strange and monstrous creatures that populate that wasted land. However, some creatures have found their way across the Rift to terrorize the new races.

Godscar is a legendary site in the Eastern Wastes that some believe to be the seat of power in the ancient world of the Aedonii and Ysar. It is thought by some to house the secret to the formation of the Rift and may even be the source of the catastrophic event that changed the known world.

To the east of The Rift lies a vast wasteland of desert sands, dry stone, strange weather, and monsters without number. Thought to be the site of whatever mysterious event precipitated The Rivening, the Wastes are home only to hardy barbaric nomads (The Barthud), goblinoid and orcish races, and monsters of endless variety. Occasionally, these creatures will find their way through The Rift and into Zaldara to plague the countryside.

Mõrvar asks, “Could any of these other ingredients, such as the Dead God’s Dark Breath, be an obelisk similar to this? Does this one have a name?”

“Hmmm…well this obelisk does not have a name per se. I translate its title as ‘The Ascension of Imano-Tai,’ but that is simply the title of the narrative. Based on other artifacts I’ve encountered, the Aedonii used obelisks such as this instead of simple clay tablets,” Kerendal says.

Mõrvar brings out a crumpled map and says that they have encountered Aedonii artifacts before. Perhaps they are connected. Surm reminds him that it was a green gemstone, not an obelisk. Kerendal says that he would be interested in seeing any Aedonii artifacts you may have encountered. They were known to use gemstones not only as adornments, but as seals for chambers and as seals for bindings of outsiders.

Savaric asks if Kerendal knows if they (the Aedonii) traveled between planes of existence. Assuming outsider means an elemental or something from a different plane. “Is that possibly what this Imano-Tai did to get to “the hall of the gods?’”

“The ritual doesn’t mention anything about actually traveling to another plane. However, one of the components, the Purple Lotus of Kadath, does lie on another plane, so apparently the Aedonii were capable of such travel," Kerendal says. “However, I believe that ‘walking in the path of the gods’ was more of a poetic flourish.”

“This gemstone attempted to communicate through visions; could that have been a bound outsider?” Surm asks.

“It could, indeed, be some being bound to the stone. It could also be that the stone itself was sentient. Aedonii sorcery is known to be powerful and strange," Kerendal says.

Surm huddles the group for a quick conference, “Are we interested in pursuing this? If so, should we escort Master Kerendal to the first site or just give him Mõrvar’s map?”

Rilka says, “I’m interested in pursuing this obelisk. It sounds like it may take all of our skills to undergo this adventure… but I look forward to the challenge. As far as the first site goes, I was very glad to be done with that place. If we are willing to let Master Kerendal take the map, I say give it to him. It doesn’t sound like that path will lead us any closer to solving the mystery of the obelisk. I say we talk to Master Chenwyth if we decide to continue.”

Mõrvar says “I was thinking that stone might be one of the ingredients….like the Dead God’s Breath or something. Anyway, I’ve been curious to check out the Rift.”

Surm says, “We could talk to Master Chenwyth, but that’s just in regard to a component of the ritual. If we are going to pursue the ingredients, shouldn’t we make sure the city and chamber are even there? Rilka, are you wanting to recreate this ritual?”

Mõrvar thinks it would be good to achieve ascension.

Rilka looks pensive. “I was thinking more along the lines of this being a way to strengthen our reputation and gain more experience as we try to solve the mystery of the obelisk. I am very hesitant to try the ritual on one of us. We don’t know what happened to the Princess after she attempted it. Considering that the entire area is now a barren wasteland, I can’t help but wonder if those two things are related.”

Kerendal indicates that as far as he can tell, the only relation between the obelisk and this gemstone would be that they are both of Aedonii origin.

Kerendal then asks the party if they would be willing to relinquish the obelisk to the University upon their deaths. They agree to do so and Kerendal also agrees to research the obelisk free of charge. Surm also would like to have the services of the University open to them for the purposes of this quest. Kerendal indicates that he would have to speak to the Chancellor about that. His assistant, Trevans, can arrange for a meeting.

After they leave the University, Mõrvar heads to the Fat Hero to see if he can find Beldis. Halvor comes with him. Beldis is not there. Asking about, Mõrvar finds that she joined up with a group calling themselves the Azure Standard and left town four days ago. Rumor has it that they go to Elf lands to explore Ysar ruins, a task set to them by the University. Mõrvar is perturbed and seeks solace in the arms of another woman, but finds none that are interested. He and Halvor head back to Red Wolf Hall and reunite with the rest of the company.

20 Harvest 508

After hanging out at the inn for a few hours, the party receives a summons from Chancellor Valtaer at the University around noon.

They arrive at the offices of the Chancellor and are invited inside. In the office, the Chancellor sits behind a great wooden desk in scholar’s robes while a young, female scribe sits nearby, quill and parchment at the ready. After welcoming them and thanking them for bringing back Master Kerendal, the Chancellor gets down to business regarding the request to have University resources at their disposal for this quest.

He and Surm negotiate various terms for a contract between the party and the University. The negotiations are tense, but amicable. Eventually, the Chancellor allows the Crimson Cord to have use of the University’s resources in relation to the quests associated with the Aedonii obelisk. The obelisk, if placed on display by the University in its collections, is to be designated by a placard as having been discovered by the Crimson Cord. The University is to have exclusive rights to objects of interest from such quests (excluding common gear and coin) for one year. In return, the Crimson Cord is to be given access to research facilities and sages to assist in their obelisk-related endeavors. The University will also provide housing to the Crimson Cord for no more than a month and a day per stay. The contract will be good for 5 years and is renewable and renegotiable. Surm signs the contract as the Crimson Cord’s representative, as drawn up by the scribe.

The party then go to Kerendal and ask him to look into leads on the other ingredients of the ritual detailed on the obelisk. They then go visit Master Chenwyth in the biological wing.

Chenwyth’s office sports a large red dragon head, perfectly preserved, hanging on the wall. There are also many dragon tchotchkes and artifacts strewn about the room. After describing what they’ve found about Kirirthterrix’s Fire. He does, indeed, recognize the name Kirithterrix. It is the name of an ancient red dragon associated with the red Orb of Dragonkind.

Created in a joint effort of Aedonii and Ysar sorcerers back before the Rivening, the Orbs of Dragonkind are legendary artifacts of great power. Since the Rivening, they have been alternately lost to time and claimed by the powerful.

Each of these fabled Orbs contains the essence and personality of an ancient dragon of a different variety (one for each of the major ten different chromatic and metallic dragons). The bearer of an Orb can, as a standard action, dominate a dragon of its particular variety within 500 feet (as dominate monster), the dragon being forced to make a DC 25 Will save to resist. Spell resistance is not useful against this effect. Each Orb of Dragonkind bestows upon the wielder the AC and saving throw bonuses of the dragon within. These values replace whatever values the character would otherwise have, whether they are better or worse. These values cannot be modified by any means short of ridding the character of the Orb. A character possessing an Orb of Dragonkind is immune to the breath weapon—but only the breath weapon—of the dragon variety keyed to the Orb. Finally, a character possessing an Orb can herself use the breath weapon of the dragon in the Orb three times per day.

All Orbs of Dragonkind can be used to communicate verbally and visually with the possessors of the other Orbs. The owner of an Orb knows if there are dragons within 10 miles at all times. For dragons of the Orb’s particular variety, the range is 100 miles. If within 1 mile of a dragon of the Orb’s variety, the wielder can determine the dragon’s exact location and age. The bearer of one of these Orbs earns the enmity of dragonkind forever for profiting by draconic enslavement, even if she later loses the item.

If they want to utilize Kirrithterrix’s fire, this would be the only way.

The Orb disappeared from history until it reappeared in the hands of a Tarsian Sorceress (Eldeshi Rom). She used her power sparingly, but nevertheless, she and the Orb were lost to history once again after she was slain by a party of adventures looking for treasure and glory. The adventurers sold the Orb to the highest bidder, being the King of Leilior (Duncan Ma’Geddes), who later lost it to a rival and then it disappeared again. It appears again in the hands of an Eaceanian pirate (Dunamaer Truewave) who used it to plunder, until she lost it to a privateer (Hengist Weldwyn), who in turn lost it to a shipwreck. It later resurfaces in the hands of a Sianaean noblewoman (Scarlata Salvestri) before once again disappearing into obscurity.

The Orb was lost for a long while until it rematerialized in 403 AT in the hands an Elven renegade by the name of Alundriel. He had gathered up a rag-tag army of elves, humans, half-elves, and half-orcs and stormed the borders of Melnys Vale and Yulania in the name of Elven border expansion. He took the Vale handily, but had more trouble with Yulania. Even with the power of the Orb, he was driven back to the Rift and his army routed.

Alundriel made his final encampment in the southern portion of the Rift, not far from Tower Yenuil in Yulania.

The party is particularly intrigued by the fact that the possessor of one Orb can communicate with another. Perhaps they can use this fact to their advantage in locating the red dragon Orb. In response to that, Chenwyth says that there are rumors—only rumors—that the brass dragon Orb is in the possession of the Temple of Azumazran in Asdari. Also, the white dragon Orb is in the possession of a person known as The Witch of the Teeth or Grundr’s Mother in Jossia. Finally, the green dragon Orb is rumored to be in the possession of the Overlord of Kalimsport.

After making inquiries about Alundriel, Chenwyth refers them to another sage, Cor Talyth, whose expertise is warfare.

Talyth indicates that Alundriel called a truce with the Yulanian forces and was under “house arrest” at his encampment. In 423 AT, Alundriel disappeared with his three lieutenants—along with his Orb. There are various accounts as to whether or not their weapons or equipment disappeared with them.

The party then returns to the office of the Chancellor. They have a debate about what is to be done next—try to contact one of the rumored possessors of an Orb? Go to Tower Yenuil and make inquiries there? Try to find this last encampment? The Chancellor, after being asked, indicates that he could arrange a meeting with the Overlord. This is finally decided to be the best course of action. Perhaps the Overlord will use the Orb on their behalf to contact the possessor of the red dragon Orb. Negotiating with the Overlord will be tricky, the Chancellor warns, as the Overlord is a tough negotiator and ruthless when it comes to defending the city. But he is known to be, primarily, a man of business. If it can be presented as being in his best interests to do so, then perhaps they can get what they need.

The party then leaves the University, after arrangements for their lodging are made, and goes shopping. They also catch Alasir and Mahgnus up on current events.

21 Harvest 508

The party spends the day shopping around Kalimsport. Savaric spends the day earning capital for his tavern by working at some fletching.

They also receive word from the Chancellor that the Overlord will hold audience on the 22nd and that they can see him then.

22 Harvest 508

The next morning, the party is picked up by carriages bearing the University’s seal. With them is Chancellor Valtaer. The carriage takes them to a walled keep on a hill, not far from the University itself. Once they make it through the various guards, and are relieved of their weapons, they are escorted to a reception area in the keep.

In the reception area are a variety of courtiers: humans, dwarves, even elves. The elves are especially haughty and disdainful. Periodically, a name is announced and they are escorted into the main chamber. Finally, after what seems an inordinate amount of time, the party of Chancellor Valtaer is called.

The main chamber is a long hall, at the end of which is a throne. Seated upon the throne is a seasoned man of indeterminate years dressed in fine, if simple, clothing. To the side of the throne is a tall woman dressed in robes with a bird of prey on her shoulder. At each end of the hall are guards. They can also see guards posted about the throne chamber.

Overlord Colyn Voss welcomes the Chancellor and his party and asks how he can be of service. The Chancellor bows toward the Overlord and begins to lay out the situation regarding the Orb of Dragonkind and their search for it. He introduces the Crimson Cord, and emphasizes the service to the City that such a search would be. Surm interrupts as the Chancellor begins to intimate that the Overlord may have such an Orb. He manages to persuade the Overlord to use his resources to discover who may have the red dragon Orb, talking around the fact that they believe he has an Orb for himself. He does so well that the Overlord invites Surm to stay and see some of these resources in action—provided he swear to keep state secrets. Surm indicates that he would be willing to do that.

The rest of the Crimson Cord and the Chancellor are dismissed back into the reception area and Surm remains in the throne room with the Overlord.

Session Forty-Eight


2 Harvest 508

Savaric signals to the others that the orcs are down and their way out of the building is safe—for now. As Surm, Mõrvar, and Rilka make their way out of the structure with Kerendal, Surm throws up a quiver of arrows to Savaric that they had managed to secure from the dead Gorruk. They then start heading west toward the beach.

As they run down the wide, ruined street, they are met by a female orc with an outlandish headdress and a necklace of finger bones. Surm and Kerendal continue to run west while Rilka and Mõrvar face the woman. After a brief battle, in which the woman is revealed to be a spellcaster of some sort, she is defeated by the warriors and Mõrvar chops off her head.

Meanwhile, Surm and Kerendal arrive at the beach. Surm spots three large barges that the orcs probably use to get off the island. He also spots the Ivory Horn and the Azure Dawn approaching. The griffons, sans Alban and Jalynel, have arrived with the prisoners.

Surm goes to one of the barges and finds a bucket of pitch. This he uses to catch the boat on fire. He does this to a second barge as well. As the second boat catches fire, Mõrvar and Rilka arrive on the beach.

Meanwhile, Savaric makes good his escape, taking out the last of the orcs assailing Alban and Jalynel, and they all start making their way west toward the beach.

Surm manages to herd all of the prisoners onto the barge. Savaric, Alban, and Jalynel arrive as board as well. Finally, Rilka and Mõrvar board and they strike out for the ships.

Looking back, they see a group of orc warriors emerge onto the beach and the burning remains of their barges. A few fire half-hearted shots at the escaping barge, but miss handily.

They arrive at the Ivory Horn, as it is the larger of the ships, and get everyone aboard. Surm introduces himself to the captain, Jocasta Smallbridge. Then they set sail back for Asdari.

While waiting on the deck of the ship, after a long discussion amongst themselves, the party decides to give Alban the talking scabbard as a gesture of goodwill. He accepts the gift graciously and the scabbard seems pleased to be matched with a paladin of Barthal.

Surm has a conversation with Master Kerendal about why he was looking for him—the translation of the Aedonii obelisk. Kerendal is excited about studying such a find and would be happy to do so for those that saved him from the orcs.

The ship weighs anchor outside of an area known as The Kraken’s Teeth, not wanting to traverse such treacherous waters at night.

3 Harvest 508

After a long discussion, it is decided that the party will not split their found treasure with the Bronze Griffons. They agreed to help for pay, and that is all they will receive (other than the gift of the scabbard).

Rilka goes with Alban to cast Lesser Restoration on him for his wounds. The party also sets up a triage for the refugees with Savaric providing healing. Surm negotiates some careful diplomacy to convince the prisoners to allow healing from a half-orc, but they manage. Surm also manages a delicate conversation with the women refugees to determine if any of them have been impregnated. It is revealed that Angelet and Darice are both probably pregnant. Darice seems to be taking this in stride, but Angelet, the broken former guard, is not. Surm offers comfort the best he can.

Meanwhile, the ships navigate their way through the narrow straits between the Kraken’s Teeth and emerge into the sea on the other side.

9 Harvest 508

After several days of smooth sailing, the ships arrive at the harbor of Asdari.

After a discussion about the fate of the refugees, the Bronze Griffons offer to pay half of the expenses to send them home from their cut of the money. This is mostly due to stern looks from Alban to Jalynel.

Darice lives in Asdari. The party promises to return in Ardor to claim her child and take it to a good home. They also make the same offer to Angelet, who seems more than happy to oblige. She lives in Kalimsport, so the party will not have to travel as far to keep their promise.

Both the Bronze Griffons and the party decide to stay in the Arrow of Lightning inn. Noor Khandasi says her goodbyes and makes her way back to The Hydra.

The party have much to discuss now that this adventure is essentially over. After a very brief conversation, Surm is admitted back into the group. Then, a much longer discussion ensues about the name, with them eventually coming to agreement on The Red Kindred—later changed to the Crimson Cord. The group’s banner is also discussed and it is decided to go with the valknut design without the individual sigils of the members.

Surm goes to Mahgnus and Alasir and explains to them the change in future plans and the situation with Angelet. They both agree to remain with the company.

The group also agrees to give Alasir the magical full-plate armor, cloak of resistance, and half-plate that was found to distribute to the guards as he sees fit. Everyone also receives a cure moderate wounds potion.

Rilka buys a round Applejack for the house.

10 Harvest 508

The party spends the day selling various items and conducting business. They then leave Asdari for Kalimsport.

12 Harvest 508

The party arrives at the city of Zyend. They decide to move around the city and continue on toward Kalimsport.

16 Harvest 508

The party crosses through Kuskar.

18 Harvest 508

The party finally arrives in the city of Kalimsport in the late afternoon. They establish rooms at Red Wolf Hall, stable Ghost, and then escort Angelet back to her family’s home. Surm delicately explains the situation to her family, including the accepted offer to take the child, and also gives the family ten platinum for her care.

Mõrvar picks up his custom-made armor.

They return to the Hall and Surm has Mahgnus pay the guards. Then they head to the University with Master Kerendal. Surm gets paid and makes a speech regarding what they have done. Master Kerendal takes a look at the obelisk and is very excited about it. He thinks he can get a basic translation of the piece in a day. The party agrees to return in a day to hear about what the obelisk says.

Rilka writes a letter to Mirka regarding the possibility of fostering the half-orc children and sends it off to Yrda.

Session Forty-Seven


2 Harvest 508

In the morning, the party packs up and continues their way through the jungle. Both Savaric and Noor are confident that they will reach the ruined city of Karsk before noon. They travel on-guard for predators and for Orcs, with Noor, Savaric, and Scarlatta on-point, scouting.

Along the way, both Noor and Savaric find signs of Gortheks. Both agree that they had passed through within the last day, but Savaric is able to tell from what direction they traveled, which way they went, what they had eaten in the past day, and other fine details. The party decides to move on toward Karsk.

As they continue to push their way through the jungle, the party hears the rumble of heavy steps crashing through the trees. They manage to get out of the way as a Gorthek, ridden by a large Orc, bursts through the foliage. After a hellacious fight with the rider and his mount, both are defeated by the party and Mõrvar decapitates both corpses. From the rider, the party gains some potions, some magical half-plate armor, a magical lance, a cloak of resistance, and some gold. They opt to leave the lance, as it is too bulky to carry. They also collect a horn the rider presumably could use as an alarm.

Finally, they approach the valley in which Karsk lies. Scarlatta, Surm, Mõrvar, Savaric, and Noor opt to check out the perimeter of the ruins. It’s difficult to see much through the jungle growth and due to the height of the some of the buildings blocking the view. They decide to send Scarlatta inside with an invisibility potion to see if she can find the captives. After she leaves, Surm returns to the rest of the party to keep them apprised of what is going on.

Two hours later, Scarlatta returns. She has found what she believes is the slave pen and it is guarded by five Orcs. The small group opts to return to the rest of the party to formulate a plan.

In the course of their planning, it is decided that it would be a bad idea to try to take the captives on a day’s journey back to the ships through the jungle with Orcs on their heels. The party sends Jalynel, who does indeed have a bronze griffon statuette that becomes an actual griffon, to take Noor back to her ship and arrange for both vessels to meet them on the shore at the west side of the ruins. It’s the only way they’ll have a chance. Noor nervously mounts the griffon with Jalynel and the two fly off. Jalynel will return to harry the orcs and cause a distraction later.

Surm and Mõrvar head back into the city, skulking about until they find the slave pen. There is a apparently a hole in the back wall that Scarlatta had found previously that allowed her to peek inside and see who was in there. Surm sends a message spell into the pen, calling for Azura, Mandreth Kerendal’s guide. The captured guide tentatively answers. After a brief conversation in which Surm learns how many slaves there are (13) and their state (healthy enough to walk, but Angelet, Kerendal’s former guard, is “broken”). Kerendal is not with them—he is with Gorruk. Surm tells them to “keep the hope” and he and his brother return to the others.

The party then reformulates their plans according to this new information. Scarlatta prepares to go back into the city and try to ascertain the location of Gorruk, the Orc’s chieftain. Rilka prays to Bruni for courage in the face of long odds.

After what seems like an impossibly long wait, Scarlatta comes back from the city. She has determined that Gorruk is in one of the central buildings and has six guards in the room with him. Also, a prisoner that matches Kerendal’s description is chained to a column within the chamber.

The party finally formulates a plan. They will strike near evening, when the ships should be arriving to the west. Jalynel will take the alarm horn and fly to where they struck down the Gorthek rider. There, he will blow the horn and cause a distraction, hopefully drawing a lot of the Orcs’ response to that site. The Bronze Griffons will work to free the slaves while Mõrvar, Surm, Rilka, and Savaric work to eliminate Gorruk and rescue Kerendal. After the initial distraction wears off and the slaves are freed and heading west, Jalynel and Alban will “cause trouble” in the city to further confound their foes.

Before they each go off on their respective missions, Rilka gives all of the party a hug and wishes them luck. Mõrvar says he is more worried about how well the Bronze Griffons will be at doing their job.

The plan goes off virtually without a hitch. Jalynel flies off and, when the party hears the horn sound in the distance, they all make their respective moves. While the Griffons go forth and engage the five guards at the gate, the party heads into the city. They meet some orcs in the streets, but these are quickly dispatched. Savaric takes up a perch on a nearby building and starts firing arrows into the Griffon’s enemies and keeping watch on the streets for any more resistance. Rilka and takes out the guards outside Gorruk’s residence and Surm makes his way inside.

Meanwhile, Mõrvar is making his way through the a hole in the roof of the residence and invisibly makes his way to the sleeping Gorruk. He manages to sever the chieftain’s spine before he even has a chance to react. Soon, he is visible and begins to attack the guards.

The party take on the six guards and, with the help of Surm’s grease spell, they manage to dispatch them relatively quickly. While the party pauses to take stock and Surm begins to work on Kerendal’s lock, explaining as he does so who they are and what they are doing there, they all hear a voice come from the dead chieftain’s sleeping area.

“Thank the gods, I am saved!”

Mõrvar immediately heads in that direction to find the source of the sound. It is easy to find. The sound is coming from the small alcove which is now covered in blood and Gorruk’s dead body. There is a sleeping pallet made of furs and silks that he was lying in. And nailed to the wall is a scabbard with the emblazoned symbol of Barthal (a balance with a sword as a the fulcrum). This scabbard is obviously the source of the sound as he hears coming from it:

“While I deplore your cowardly methods, I am glad to be free of those odious beasts.”

Meanwhile, outside, Savaric is on the roof of one of the buildings. He has been picking off Orcs that threaten the party. The rest of the party are in Gorruk’s residence. Half of the Bronze Griffons (Prana and Scarlatta) have been leading away the slaves from the slave enclosure—for which he has been providing cover fire. The other half of the team (Jalynel and Alban) have been harrying the Orcs in the streets and causing a distraction so the rest of the plan can go off without a hitch.

Savaric now sees an Orc emerge from a nearby building and start jogging toward Gorruk’s residence. Savaric notices that the figure is fully armed and armored (a masterwork falchion, a bandolier of javelins, and masterwork hide armor) and is also wearing one of the horns that you’ve all noticed the guards wearing to warn each other of danger. He fires on the figure, hitting him square in the heart. He fires again and again, finally taking the figure out.

Surm explains to Kerendal “I traveled from Aldasar to the University in Kalimsport just to find you. However, you were already taken by these orcs as explained to me by your assistant, Trevans. He and I convinced the University to fund this rescue for which I assembled a group and came straight away. We were not expecting thirteen other prisoners, so our escape plan has been improvised from this point on to include them. They should already be heading for the beach. Once I have you free from these chains, stay close to me and be ready to run. We have the orcs distracted and confused for now, but if they organize, we’ll be overrun by their numbers.”

“Thank the gods. I’ll do anything you say if you’re heading out of this place," Kerendal says.

“Who’s talking in that corner, someone we missed?” Surm asks.

“It’s a scabbard. I suspect it’s a Crusader’s Scabbard, but I can’t be sure without inspecting it. Gorruk can’t use it, but it amuses him to hang it on the wall and taunt it. The chieftain has—had—a sick sense of humor," Kerendal says, disgust thick in his voice.

Mõrvar confronts the scabbard. “Cowardly methods? I just slaughtered 5 orcs including this piece of shit without so much as even taking a scratch. I call that efficiency. Perhaps you should know your place before you begin insulting someone. I don’t see you freed from this wall yet. Call me a coward again, and you can hang there for the next odious beast to find you amusing.” He then decapitates Gorruk and begins to riffle through his belongings, stripping him down and throwing everything into a pile.

Mõrvar finds a suit of masterwork full plate, a masterwork Orcish Double Axe, a masterwork composite shortbow with quiver and 20 arrows, and a pouch.

The scabbard says, in a subdued tone, “Perhaps I have misjudged you. You are not a benefactor, but a boor. It seems that I have fallen from the frying pan and into the fire. With the Lord of Justice’s grace, I shall yet fall into the hands of a savior.”

“Again, insults….too prideful to apologize. Then continue to hang there.” Mõrvar then says to Surm, “Do we know if the Paladin and his team have the others?”

“Paladin? Did you say Paladin? Could it be that a holy knight has traveled to this forsaken place?” The scabbard asks, hopefully.

Rilka has been quickly picking off belt pouches off of the dead personal guards and putting them in her backpack. She doesn’t turn her gaze from the front door for any length of time.

As she makes her way closer to the two brothers and the scholar, Rilka says “We need to get ready to move.” She flicks her eyes over the dead orc chieftain and the scabbard. “We’ve waited here too long already. Grab what you can carry and still fight.”

“If you are traveling with a Paladin, then they will be very interested in meeting me,” the scabbard says.

“With your insults, too bad you won’t meet him,” Mõrvar says.

Rilka makes it to Mõrvar and Surm finishes picking the lock.

The scabbard says, “Killing a creature in their sleep is a cowardly act. If you find that insulting, you should look to your methods.”

“Well, then I guess your rude and disrespectful attitude just sealed your fate. Don’t like it, then you should look no further then your misguided, self-righteous, unappreciative, and quite repulsive personality. Enjoy the next Orc leader. Leave the scabbard, it will just cause us issues with the Paladin.” Mõrvar says.

Surm pulls Rilka and Mõrvar in for whispering. “We should take it, it will buy us points with the Paladin and his group. If not, it’s bound to be valuable! That will go a long way toward covering our expenses. We’ve been promised money, we have not been paid. A magical scabbard in the hand is worth more than promises.”

Surm grabs the scabbard and is immediately overwhelmed with a peculiar feeling of weakness, as if he’s lost something of his essence.

The scabbard says, “I do not know you, sir, but you do not seem to be worthy of my service. However, you do seem to be rescuing that poor man—though for what motive, I cannot yet tell. If you truly travel with a Paladin, bring me to him so that I may aid him in his quest.”

“Leave it. It will Just cause a rift between us and the Paladin. Rather have allies then enemies. It’s not worth our time regardless of its abilities or value. It will just cause us grief. Sometimes you got to cut losses. We are here to rescue these people, not some mouthy trouble-making scabbard,” Mõrvar says.

Rilka grins and snorts at that, but says "I’m for taking the scabbard rather than arguing with it. Perhaps the Paladin will take it in lieu of pay. But if it will make the difference between us getting off this island alive and everyone getting killed by Orcs, by all means just give him the damned thing. "

“The scabbard is useless. Can’t even help itself when opportunity arises. If we are cowards and not worthy of it, then it’s not worthy of our help. If you take it, I will make sure it finds its way to the bottom of he ocean,” Mõrvar says.

Surm looks confused by that, “I’m not sure why you have such a hatred for an item; since when did you care what inanimate objects think? We aren’t going to keep it. I would like to gift it to Alban as a thank you and a relationship builder with the Bronze Griffons. It’s good to have positive contacts all around. Right now they are hired hands, this moves them closer to friends and friends are good to have.”

“It costs us nothing to carry it to Alban, but we have the potential to strengthen a relationship. It’s a complete waste to leave it, so let’s do it and build relations with another adventuring group. You don’t have to touch it or talk to it, you don’t have to be its friend; I want Alban as a friend, not it. It’s a tool and this is it’s purpose for us.”

“So, if a vote is required then let’s be quick. I’ve stated what I think is the best use this item, I vote take it. Mõrvar, Rilka, take it or leave it? Savaric is not here, it’s just us.”

Surm wraps the scabbard in a blanket and prepares to place it in his satchel, pending the vote. When he is no longer touching the scabbard, he no longer feels that weakening sensation. As he wraps it up, its voice is muffled as it says something about “useful,” “paladin,” and “boorish.”

“You know it can probably sense my heart. This will cause trouble with the Paladin. Take if you must, but if blood is shed because of it, don’t blame me,” Mõrvar whispers to Surm in Joslac.

Surm whispers a reply in Joslac, “You never touched it, so I doubt it knows anything beyond your behavior and words. Don’t start trouble and there won’t be any. Alban will be grateful and we’ll have allies in the Bronze Griffons.”

“Sure you wouldn’t rather sell it, or set it sail in the ocean? Alban and the Griffons better show more appreciation then that waste of material,” Mõrvar says.

Rilka listens to the conversation with bemusement. She shrugs. “I already said what I wanted to do with it.” Then she’ll head back to the entrance, her falchion at the ready. She goes to watch the door and listens—she hears the alarm horn blowing but not at the kill-site; Jalynel must be within the city.

Surm packs the scabbard and takes Kerendal by the arm, and moves up behind Rilka. He grabs the quiver of 20 arrows to throw to Savaric as they leave the city.

Mõrvar throws Gorruk’s body out of the pallet to see if there is anything under there. Then he gathers the full-plate armor and gives it to Kerrendal to carry. Then he sheathes Deathblow and carries the double-bladed Orcish axe. He then decapitates all of the guard corpses and makes his way to the others.

Surm sends a Message to Savaric from the doorway. The ranger not only hears the message that the others are ready to move, but hears multiple horns sounding to the east—the Orcs are returning. He also spots a band of Orcs heading to the slave enclosure and another group of three approaching Gorruk’s residence from the south.

Savaric fires on the three orcs approaching the residence as the other three prepare to leave the residence. Mõrvar says, "Get to the beach. I’ll buy you time and meet you there.” Surm waits to see what Rilka does, not wanting to head to the beach alone.

Rage and Raven: Beneath the Skin (Part One)
Part One


16 Growth 508

Lenoria and Rhain are still in Crownport after their last adventure and, after putting out feelers in the adventuring community there, the two have recruited two new companions.

Taganarn Relicshine is a treasure-hunting Halfling with a loquacious and friendly disposition. Regna Stoneshard is a more taciturn dwarven Magus with a pock-marked face and a dour outlook on life.

The adventures come across a notice that Mistress Londra Walera of the University of Crownport is looking for adventurers. She is the head of the Department of Artifacts. That definitely piques Tag’s interest and the rest are willing to go along.

The four companions go to the University and are led to the Department of Artifacts. Mistress Walera’s office is not huge, but it is spacious enough to accommodate them all enough to discuss the matter at hand. They are also introduced to Mistress Walera’s assistant, Bothran Trevarran.

Mistress Walera begins by setting the stage for the task at hand:

Back in the days of the Acheran Empire, there was an outpost for the Acheran legions, a waystation for their marches north into what would become Leilior and Borael. However, the waystation faced fierce fighting from the Yulani tribes that lived on the lands taken over by the Acherans. In one final, desperate battle, Yulani tribesman overran the outpost and took the head of the leader—this despite the aid of a legendary horn he is said to have said to have possessed that would summon the aid of tribesmen of his own. The tribesmen, however, are said to have respected the leader of the Acheran garrison as a worthy opponent and entombed the body beneath the outpost.

The University wants this legendary horn. The outpost still stands, however, it is currently overrun with hobgoblins. This seems to pique Regna’s interest. For the sum of 500 platinum pieces, she wishes to hire a band of adventurers to retrieve the horn. Anything else the hobgoblins may have found, the party may do with as they see fit—though they should bear in mind that the University would be interested in purchasing any other magical artifacts that they find.

Mistress Walera also states that her assistant, Bothran will be accompanying them. This draws a scowl from Rhain. She explains that he will be able to identify any artifacts that they come across and will be able to smooth the way with the Yulanian border crossing that they will have to make to get to the outpost. He will also be carrying an ancient map they have of the outpost—at least the upper level. Bothran goes out of his way to assure the party that he can take care of himself and that it is not part of their bargain to take care of him, only the horn.

Rhain tells the rest of the party about his encounters with hobgoblins and what they are like. Lenoria asks if it is unusual to have hobgoblins in that area—it is not; it is only unusual to have them in that concentration and to have such a nice stronghold.

The party agrees to take on the mission. Mistress Walera reveals that the stronghold is 80 miles to the northeast in Yulania and gives them directions and landmarks to the stronghold. They decide that they will leave that very afternoon. But first they have to purchase horses. Bothran will meet them outside the University grounds with his gear and a horse.

Tag and Regna split a horse between the two of them and Tag names it Krystal. Rhain names his steed Spirit and Lenoria names hers Firebrand.

When they arrive at the University to pick up Bothran, they see that he has a loaner horse from the University and that he has donned new adventurer’s clothes. He does not wear armor and apparently his only weapon is a finely-wrought dagger at his belt. They all load up and head northeast out of the city.

Along the way, Tag burbles on about the Vale—apparently his Uncle Osric was a treasure-hunter as well. But other than that, the afternoon is uneventful and the company makes camp on the open plain.

As camp is being made, Tag notices that both Regna and Bothran are studying books. It turns out that Bothran is an illusionist, a specialist wizard. Tag finds this interesting, as does most of the rest of the party. This explains why the man eschews armor.

Bothran takes a guard shift along with everyone else and the night passes without incident.

17 Growth 508

As camp is being broke the next morning, much of the party seems to notice that there is something behind the façade of Bothran’s face. His true face is much more reptilian, serpentine, and definitely not human. Lenoria calls him out on it and, obviously surrounded by armed and suspicious adventurers, Bothran points at Rhain and calls out, “Kill your companions!”

And Rhain proceeds to attempt to do just that.

The mighty barbarian attacks Taganarn, who nimbly gets out of the way of the big man’s axe.

A long battle ensues. in which the party defends themselves from Rhain and tries to attack the serpentine Bothran, who continues to hurl spells at them. Finally, Rhain fights off the domination that Bothran used to control him and attacks the serpentine wizard. At last, Tag backstabs Bothran and he falls. Rhain whacks his head off with his axe. The party then proceeds to loot the creature’s body, where they find a plethora of magical scrolls and devices.

Rage and Raven: Poachers (Part Two)
Part Two


15 Growth 508

Lenoria, Diata, and Serenia have just taken out a guard. Uther and Rhain have jogged up to see what is going on. Two more guards are converging on their position. They can see another guard not approaching and staying up closer to the manor house.

While the others handle the two guards, Rhain moves forward quickly toward the guard at the house. Lenoria and Diata take on one guard while Serenia and Uther take on the other. Uther doesn’t seem to be having much luck while Serenia seems to be doing most of the work. Diata is having a bad day as well, though Lenoria is having equally bad luck. Still, they all manage to dispatch their guards. Serenia goes through and finishes them off with her rapier. They all join Rhain at the front door.

“Well, the element of surprise is out,” Diata grumbles. They decide to continue with the plan of getting in through the balcony and letting the others in through the front door. Diata and Rhain will climb up and go through the balcony in the new plan. Diata scampers up the wall without any trouble, while Rhain takes his time and eventually makes it up. Lenoria watches from down below.

At the balcony is a door leading inside. Diata cautiously approaches the door and heads inside—and is ambushed from inside by a guard! She backs up, leading the guard onto the balcony where Rhain can help. Rhain dispatches the guard. “Thanks!” Diata tells him. Rhain grins sheepishly.

Inside is a main room with four doors, one at each corner, and a spiral staircase heading down. Rhain motions for the staircase. Diata sneaks toward the staircase, while Rhain makes little effort to sneak. As they make their way down the spiral, Diata cries out as a “TWANG” is heard and she is hit with a crossbow bolt. Down below are three more armed men—one setting down a heavy crossbow.

Rhain leaps off of the open staircase toward the crossbowman. Diata is left with the two others who are heading up the stairs toward her. Rhain fights the man, who draws a scimitar and crows with triumph after each time he hits the barbarian. Rhain then breaks away from the man and throws open the front door.

Meanwhile, Serenia has heard the commotion in the room and both she and Lenoria have suggested that Uther try to break down the door. So when Rhain throws open door, Uther is standing right there. He quickly assesses the situation and goes in to the fray, followed by Serenia.

Meanwhile Diata is still fighting her brigand with another waiting at the foot of the stairs. While Uther and Serenia harry who Rhain assumes to be Kraven the Crow, he takes on the man at the stairs. Lenoria lends support with Spiritual Weapon from the doorway.

Once the guard at the foot of the stairs is dispatched, as is the one on the stairwell with Diata, Rhain charges, both hands on his axe, and attacks Diata.

“I fucking knew it! Help!” Diata cries.

“You knew nothing!” Rhain says.

Lenoria attacks Diata with her Spiritual Weapon. She falls. Lenoria herself attacks Serenia. Uther is too distracted with Kraven to help Diata. He fells Kraven.

Rhain attacks Uther, staggering him. Serenia looks around at the situation and drops her rapier and raises her hands in surrender.

Rhain then trips Uther, dropping him to the ground and making the half-orc drop his axe. He tells Serenia not to “get funny” or he’ll kill her. She assures him she’s very unfunny.

Rhain and Lenoria secure Kraven and Diata and tell Serenia that this is just business. They can have the seven other guys. She nods in understanding. Lenoria goes after their horses while Rhain waits outside the manor with his prizes. After a bit he hears a “ZAP” sound and smells ozone in the air. He goes back inside and sees Serenia with her hands up and smoke coming off an unconscious half-orc. “He got funny,” she says by way of explanation. Rhain narrows his eyes and asks if he’s dead. “No, I don’t think so,” Serenia says, unconcerned. Rhain goes back outside.

Soon Lenoria is back with the horses and they load up and head back into Crownport. Lenoria explains to the guards that they are taking the one unconscious body back as a bounty (Kraven) and the other is a companion they are taking for healing (Diata). The guards seem to buy and don’t give them much fuss. They do have to pay gate taxes on everyone, however.

Rhain heads to the city garrison to collect the bounty on Kraven. Lenoria goes to a back alley near the Sly Toad to wait for him. After some bureaucratic hoops and explanations, the Watch gives him his bounty of 100 platinum. He then heads to the Sly Toad and meets back up with Lenoria to tell her all went well. Then he goes inside the tavern to find Stavros. He spots the man and approaches.

“Ah, you’ve been successful then,” Stavros says.

“Yes,” Rhain says, obviously uncomfortable to be talking out in the open.

“You have the package?” Stavros prompts.

“Yes, the package,” Rhain says.

“Why don’t we meet at the store in an hour?” Stavros says. “I’ll make the arrangements with the boss.”

“Alright. An hour then,” Rhain says.

He goes back out and explains the arrangement with Lenoria. At this point, they take the time to loot Diata for weapons, armor, and gear—they weren’t part of the deal.

An hour later, they arrive at the abandoned storefront they met at the other night. They enter through the rear, just as they did before, finding the door unlocked. The boarded-up shop is lit with a lantern and inside they find Stavros and their mysterious employer.

“Ah, the promised package,” the employer says when presented with Diata.

Stavros hands them a pouch with the promised bounty inside. “My employer thanks you for your discretion and your competence.”

Lenoria and Rhain head out and return their rented horses to the livery stable and then return to their rooms at the Ebon Hound. It’s been a lucrative day, indeed.

16 Growth 508

Today, the pair go shopping with their newfound wealth.

They head to Ciothrio’s Arsenal, a broker in magical weapons, who buys the magical arrow they found in Diata’s gear off of them. It was apparently a sleep arrow. He was willing to work well with Lenoria as a fellow Sianaen.

They also do trade at Othogotho’s Oils and Elixirs, a shop run by a female half-orc who deals in potions and such. They then head to Berteph’s Scriptorium to cash in some scrolls. Berteph is a halfling.

After a lengthy discussion, they decide that they may need to add to their band. Maybe a rogue—one that’s not bound to his “fun-hating sister”. They decide to stick around Crownport for now, see what pops up.

A Tale of Three: Stormy Weather
The Grand Tournament


2 Transformation 500

During the past week, Althessamari, Le Xin, and Elhana have sold their goods and separated their loot. Althessamari has heard rumors that a cult of Kysk was busted up in the tunnels by the city watch. Althessamari also took the vials they found on the cultist to an alchemist to sell. She’s told two of them have water and that one of them is bloodroot poison. The alchemist is appalled that a “nice girl” like her has such a thing and tells her that if she really wants to sell it, she should take it to the “night market”. She ends up dumping the vials down a sewer drain.

But on this day, while the three friends are ruminating at the Alehouse of the Cats, a messenger comes in and asks for them specifically. They are told that Master Maerin Bevans at the University requests their presence post haste. Le Xin finishes his water while the messenger waits. In the meantime, Althessamari chats with the messenger about his job.

Finally, they all head to the University. Master Bevans is in his office to greet them. He tips the messenger, who then makes his way out. Master Bevans then hands the group a flyer that he has received:

You are invited! To the Contest of the Year!
Tarl Qualtrim’s
Grand Tournament
A four-day series of contests to test a being’s
Each contest has a purse of 100 Platinum Sirens
With the Grand Prize being the coveted
Orb of Storms
Present this invitation at the gates of Tarl Qualtrim’s estate near the city of Jirra on 9 Transformation 500 to gain admittance (with a fee of 100 gold pieces of any denomination per entrant).
Good Fortune to You and May the Gods Smile Upon You!

“I want that Orb for the University,” he says. “I think you can win it for me. You are obviously have demonstrated acuity, prowess, and subtlety in your previous endeavors and I think I can put those qualities to use here. The University would fund your entry fees and would be able to supply passage to the city of Jirra. You would also be able to keep, by way of compensation, the winnings of any contests along the way. We just require the Orb.”

After a brief discussion among themselves, the three friends agree to take on the job. They also decide to leave for Jirra early to get a sense of the competition. So Master Bevans agrees to arrange for transport the following day. He will contact them at “their usual haunt” with the details once they’ve been arranged.

After the group leaves, they go to the market district and purchase healing potions and food for the journey, not knowing what to expect of this contest. The journey to Jirra should only take a day, but one never knows what will happen on a ship.

That evening, at the Alehouse, they receive word that the arrangements have been made for them to leave on the ship Amber’s Unity, which will be leaving first thing in the morning. Captain Amber Truaxe will be taking them to Jirra. Althessamari comments that it sounds like a dwarven name.

3 Transformation 500

This morning the three companions head over to the docks as directed and meet up with Amber’s Unity. They call up to the ship and are welcomed aboard by the crew and finally by the captain, Amber Truaxe, a dwarven female. The captain also takes into her cabin where she says she has a package left for them by the University—a pouch of gold and a mention of “entry fees.”

The companions are allowed to be anywhere on the ship so long as they stay “out of underfoot”. As the ship puts out, Le Xin begins to explore the ship while Althessamari meditates in the wind. Elhana simply stands on the deck looking imposing. The only thing of note that occurs during the journey to Jirra is that a cargo ship passes them along the way with an escorting warship for protection. It’s a very quiet, and peaceful journey that takes the entire day.

The companions discuss their return with the captain as they are putting into port at Jirra. She says that she has been paid by the University to stay for 4 days, maybe longer if needed.

Once they put into the harbor, inspectors come on board to inspect cargo and discuss taxes and fees with the captain. Then the inspectors come to the companions for “gate” taxes as they are putting off to shore. Althessamari asks for directions to clean, affordable inns nearby or near the tournament. The inspector directs them to the Trickster and Cask or the Hare’s Meadhall. They opt for the Hare’s Meadhall as it is nearby at the moment.

At the Meadhall, there is a bard playing and the place seems lively. There are two rooms available, so Elhana and Le Xin opt to share a room, while Althessamari gets one to herself. They each purchase a bath and a meal. After settling in, Althessamari wanders about the common room asking about the tournament. She finds a fellow named Franklin who’s willing to talk at length about the contest.

“It changes every time, mind you. But this time, I’ve heard that each contest will take a day; acuity one day, prowess, the next, and so on. The champion of each day wins the thousand gold piece prize. Then, each champion, on the fourth day, will face Tarl Qualtrim for the Grand Question with the final prize on the line. Whoever answers the Grand Question will win the final prize. If you don’t answer the question—no prize. At least, that’s the way my sister’s brother-in-law’s cartwright’s casker who’s working the event tells it.”

With that information under their belt, the companions go to bed.

4 Transformation 500

The companions check out of the Hare’s Meadhall and head west to check into the Trickster and Cask. There are three rooms available here, so they each get their own room. Once they get settled, Althessamari asks about for information regarding Tarl Qualtrim’s estate. She makes such a good impression that they get the offer of a personal guide.

Their guide takes them to the estate, which is nearby. It is a large, walled affair with large, wrought iron gates out front. It’s hard to get a sense of anything other than size five days before the tournament. There are guards inside the gates, but not outside. They return to the inn.

Althessamari asks about trying to get a sense of the competition—are there any big names, past winners that are competing? Any big favorites? It’s hard to get a sense because the contest changes every time, but there is a tavern brawler by the name of Orlan Tavar that’s probably going to enter. He’s a local with a bad attitude. She is also directed to a priestess of Halor who is sitting alone at table—she apparently arrived today and is here for the tournament.

Althessamari approaches the lone cleric and invites her to sit at the companions’ table. The priestess shrugs and says, “Alright” and moves to drink with them. Introductions are made; her name is Candyse Onlav. She is apparently entering the tournament to help secure funds for her temple back in Kalimsport. She heard that there will be a spellcasting portion of the contest and she hopes to enter that and that there will be combat and she is adept at that as well.

Le Xin approaches her with the possibility of making a deal for the Orb of Storms should she win it—if it is funds for the temple she wants, then perhaps a deal could be reached? Candyse says that she would have to make inquiries at the temple, but is confident some sort of arrangement could be reached. But she has to win it, first.

After they chit-chat for awhile, Candyse excuses herself and the companions make their way to their rooms for the night.

5 Transformation 500

The companions decide to take up small jobs while they are waiting for the tournament to begin on the 9th. Elhana and Althessamari manage to find work, but Le Xin does not. That night, they have dinner with Candyse and settle in for the night.

6 Transformation 500

Today, Le Xin and Althessamari manage to find work, but Elhana does not. They, once again, have dinner at the inn with Candyse and settle in for the night.

7 Transformation 500

Le Xin and Althessamari manage to find work, with Le Xin making a bonus. Elhana finds no work today. Again, they have dinner with Candyse and then make their way to their rooms for the night.

8 Transformation 500

Le Xin and Althessamari find work on this final day before the tournament, while Elhana does not. They have a final celebratory dinner with Candyse and Althessamari chats with the bard about elven things. Then the companions go to bed to rest up for the tournament tomorrow.

9 Transformation 500

That morning, the three companions arrive at the gates of the estate. Liveried assistants direct spectators in one direction and participants in another. They get in line with the other participants and then present their invitation and entry fees. When they do that, they are each given a participant’s sash to wear and are directed to stand out in a large field out in the estate with the other participants. Out in the field are numerous barrels stacked on their sides.

Soon, a large platform, pulled by mules being led by more assistants, makes its way down the field. On the platform is an extravagantly dressed man. He tells the man pulling the mules to halt and then address the gathered participants:

“I am Tarl Qualtrim and this is my Grand Tournament!” There is a series cheers from the spectators. “Here we will test your acuity, prowess, and subtlety in a series of games designed to challenge you to the fullest! Today is the Contest of Acuity, a contest of physicality. We begin with the barrel rolling competition! All competitors line up and ready yourself for the contest!”

The companions line up as asked and proceed with the contest. Althessamari falls off on her first try. Elhana stays on for a long, heroically long, time. Le Xin gives her a run for her money, but ultimately falls short. Their competition falls short as well and, finally, Elhana is declared the winner of the Barrel Rolling competition.

Next, is Taber Tossing. Once again, Le Xin and Elhana come close, but Elhana edges him out. Althessamari, with the help of her spirit “companions”, manages to dig a trough in front her with the Taber, much to the consternation of the judges. But even with the help of the spirits in throwing the long pole, Althessamari doesn’t measure up. But neither does the competition and Elhana is declared the winner of the Taber Toss.

The next competition is a drinking contest. Le Xin, due to his code, sits out of this one. But Althessamari and Elhana are game. Althessamari passes out after drinking only a small amount of the strong dwarven stout. But Elhana manages to hang on a bit longer before throwing in the towel, before actually passing out. Still, she managed to out pace the competition and is declared the winner of the drinking competition.

The final competition is an obstacle course, in which the winners of all the days competitions were to compete. As Elhana swept the contest, there is no need for the obstacle course to decide the winner of the Acuity competition. But, for fun, she decides to try the obstacle course anyway. Tarl Qualtrim claps her on the shoulder and tells her she’s a good sport. However, she fails the first set of obstacles—perhaps it was the dwarven stout.

No matter—Elhana is declared the winner of the Contest of Acuity and given the 1000 gold piece (or rather 100 platinum piece) prize.

The companions take the prize and head back to the Trickster and Cask to celebrate, guiding Althessamari along the way.

10 Transformation 500

That morning, the companions head back to the estate of Tarl Qualtrim and line back up with the participants on the field. Tarl comes out with his mobile platform and announces that today is Contest of Prowess. There will be a series of non-lethal combats. First will come hand-to-hand. Next will come sword play. Finally, will come spell casting. Then, the winner of each of these will combat each other in a general melee to declare the winner! Healing will be provided between opponents.

Le Xin is the first of companions to step forward in the hand-to-hand competition. First, he faces Orlan Tavar, the tavern brawler. He beats him handily. Next he faces a more skilled pugilist, but beats him handily as well. Finally, his third opponent is a Shandorian monk fighting in the Scorpion style. This fight challenges Le Xin, but he eventually comes out on top.

The next challenge is sword play and Elhana steps forward. She is provided with padded armor and a practice sword. She quickly dispatches a foot soldier and a guardsman and is left with a mercenary warrior. This one poses more of a challenge, but manages to dispatch him without much fuss.

The final challenge is spell casting, for which Althessamari demurs, citing the fact that she was not ready for a non-lethal combat when she selected her spells for the day. She watches the competition, however, and sees that Candyse enters and prevails.

So now Elhana, Le Xin, and Candyse will face each other in the “Grand Melee.” The three face each other on the field. Le Xin tells Candyse that this is just a competition and there will be no hard feelings. Candyse agrees. Tarl calls for them to fight.

Lee Xin goes after Candyse. He places her in a firm grappling hold and keeps her from spell casting. Elhana moves in with her practice sword and thwacks Candyse with it. Le Xin manages to maintain his grip on Candyse while also striking her.
Candyse still can’t break the hold. Elhana thwacks her hard. Le Xin maintains his grip and strikes her again and she goes limp in his arms. Le Xin sets the cleric down and faces Elhana. Elhana then yields to Le Xin.

The crowd, who wanted a fight, erupts in boos. But Le Xin is declared the winner of the Contest of Prowess and is awarded the cash prize.

The companions head back to the inn to celebrate. Candyse does join for dinner—there are no hard feelings.

11 Transformation 500

Once again, the companions arrive at the estate of Tarl Qualtrim and are lead to the site of the competition. This time it is a large hedge maze. This will be the Contest of Subtlety.

Tarl announces that only ten may enter and they will be selected by lottery. So all of the companions enter their name into the bin to be selected as competitors. Fortunately, both Althessamari and Elhana make it into the top ten. The lottery winners are then lined up and sent into the maze.

The competitors take a good part of the day exploring the vast maze. Elhana, unfortunately, gets almost hopelessly lost in many twists and turns of the labyrinth. However, Althessamari finds her way through just ahead of another elven competitor and takes the prize.

That night, at the Trickster and Cask, Althessamari pays the bard in gold to play only Elven music that night.

12 Transformation 508

That morning, Elhana, Lee Xin, and Althessamari all stand before the crowd at Tarl Qualtrim’s estate and await The Grand Question. The eccentric merchant comes out once again on his mobile platform and address the crowd:

“Today is the final day of the Grand Tournament! Our champions all will have the opportunity to answer the Grand Question to win the Orb of Storms!”

A liveried staff member walks up with a velvet pillow on which sits a crystalline orb. One can almost see purple lightning striking within the glass. Another assistant walks up with a bag and slips of parchment and a quill for each of them.

“I will ask the question. You will each write your answer on the slip of parchment and place it in the bag. If only one has the correct answer, you win the Tournament! If more than one wins, I ask another question of those with the correct answers. If no one has a correct answer, the Tournament is done and there is no winner. Are you ready?”

The crowd goes wild with excitement.

“Forward I am heavy. Backward I am not. What am I?”

Each of the companions give the question some thought and write an answer on their slip of parchment. They each place their answers in the bag. The bag is then collected and handed over to Tarl who reaches inside and reads the answers.

Tarl smiles from ear to ear. “My friends! There is one correct answer in this bag!”

The crowd erupts in applause.

“The correct answer is ‘ton’. Forward, it is heavy and backward it is ‘not’. Althessamari is the winner of the Grand Tournament!”

The Orb is brought forward, along with a wooden carrying case. The crowd rushes forward to congratulate all of the competitors. Finally, the companions break away and move to head back to the inn. Candyse is with them and Althessamari offers to let her travel back to Kalimsport with them. Candyse says she would like that. They decide to take a carriage back to the inn as they are carrying an expensive magical artifact and they don’t want to be accosted in the streets with it.

As they are alighting from their carriage at the Trickster and Cask, an arrow twangs into the side of the conveyance, narrowly missing Elhana. They look up to see a shadowy figure on a rooftop across the street. Le Xin goes to climb up and give chase, while the others climb back into the carriage for cover.

Le Xin climbs up and sees that the figure has jumped across to the next rooftop. He does the same and is gaining on his prey. Finally he catches up and grapples her, a female half-elf, to the ground. He questions her as to why she’s doing this, but she gives no answer. He pins her and ties her up with rope from his pack. Then he lowers her down the building, not taking care to be gentle, and climbs down the building himself.

As the two make their way back to the carriage, she tries to free herself from the rope. Le Xin thumps her ear and tells her to stop it. “You’re going to be sorry,” is all the woman will say, other than “Call the guards already.”

Althessamari tries to get her talk, once they get to the carriage, but to no avail. They strip her of weapons, and when she tries to maneuver out of the way, Le Xin continues to thump her. Finally, guardsmen come and ask what is going on. Althessamari explains the situation and they take the woman away, after manacling her and returning Le Xin’s rope.

They then check out of the inn and head to the docks to catch up with Amber’s Unity. They explain to the captain who Candyse is and ask if she can make arrangements for passage. The captain takes the cleric to her cabin to make those arrangements. The ship sets sail for Kalimsport soon thereafter.

About an hour after sundown, they make it into the docks at Kalimsport. After paying their gate fees, they head into the city and bid farewell to Candyse. They then head home, opting to see Master Bevans in the morning.

13 Transformation 500

The three companions meet at the University that morning and head to Master Bevan’s office. He asks if they were successful in their endeavor and Le Xin (as they were nervous about Althessamari’s spirits) sets the Orb on Master Bevans’ desk.

“Excellent!” he says. “A mutually fruitful endeavor then. I had every confidence in your abilities.”

He shakes each of their hands and assures them that if he has another task that requires their expertise that he will be sure to call upon them. The three leave the University in high spirits.

Session Forty-Six
Civil Disobedience


14 Chillwind 508

It is late. At Red Wolf Hall in Kalimsport, as Surm and Rilka come downstairs into the common room, Mõrvar, Savaric, and an obviously inebriated Halvor come walking in from outside.

Rilka spies a private room off of the common room. She goes to the front desk and arranges for its use. She sits down at the table.

Savaric asks, “Do we need to arrange for rooms?”

Surm says, “Mõrvar will, if he’s staying here tonight. Let’s sit and talk, things have come up.” Surm sits at the table and waits.

Mõrvar secures a room for the night and stabling for his horse. He will then sit alone at a table. He appears to be deep in thought.

Rilka comes and tells him that they’ve secured a private room and that they need to talk. Mõrvar rises and follows Rilka to the private room.

Surm stands nervously. Two issues have come up for you to consider. One, I have decided to separate from the group. Mõrvar, you seem unhappy with everything I do and say. You treat me as though I am the cause of everything that is wrong in your world, I don’t know how to get through to you, but you don’t seem to want me to anyway. The best solution I could reach was to take myself out of the equation. If I’m not part of the group, I can no longer vilify you, ignore your wishes, force you on quest you don’t want to go on, or any of the other selfish things you accuse me of. Where the group goes now and for what purpose is up to you three, I no longer have a say and will no longer stand in Mõrvar’s way.”

“Two, the sage we came to see has been taken from a dig site by orcs, reportedly to one of their islands. If we want the obelisk translated, he must be rescued. I have taken the lead on the rescue mission. I have been entrusted by the University to recruit a group of heroes to rescue the sage. Until I reach the city of the dig site and speak with the surviving guide, I won’t know how many heroes I need, but that is a seven day ride from here. That means this news is already a week old and by the time I get there, he will have been a hostage for two weeks at least. So, time is crucial, I will be leaving in the morning. I would like to hire your group to assist, I’ve worked with you all before and can trust you." Surm stands straighter to attempt a posture of leadership. “If you sign on, you will be working for me, I am in charge and decisions are mine to make. I will invite input, but it’s not up for a vote.” Surm sits down and breathes, slightly shaking from nerves.

“I’m all for helping you, but I’d like you to inform the university that two Orcs helped you in this mission. It’s hard enough on Rilka and I without this tribe making us look worse,” Savaric says.

Mõrvar stands up, tears in his eyes, and says with great pain. "Without you, there is no group. Why you can’t sit and discuss our issues I don’t know. I cannot let you separate from this group and go alone. If I am not there to protect you, then at least the only people I trust to are.” Mõrvar begins crying. “Now you force me away? I disgust you that much? You hate me that much? You need this group more than I, and they need you more than they need me. It is clear I’m the odd man out. I will leave you alone Surm, stay out of your way, never to bother or upset you again.”

Mõrvar pulls Deathblow from his back and places it, his ring, and his amulet on the table in front of Surm. “At least take these. If you no longer wish for me to protect you, then use these, too.” Mõrvar turns and leaves the room.

The group is at first left dumbfounded by the outburst. But then Savaric heads upstairs and talks to Mõrvar. He convinces him to come downstairs and take this quest as an opportunity to reconcile things with his brother. Mõrvar contemplates this and decides to follow Savaric downstairs.

The group, now Rilka, Savaric, and a very withdrawn Mõrvar, decide to accompany Surm on his quest to rescue the sage. Surm stresses that Mõrvar must vote to go because he wants to, not because Surm forced him to—that’s the point of him doing it this way and leaving the group.

Surm stresses that time is of the essence—they’ve already lost two weeks and it is a week’s journey to Asdari, where they will get more information from the guide that survived the attack. He is inclined to recruit more help once they get to Asdari. Also, he announces that Alasir and Mahgnus has elected to follow him out of the group, in order to help protect Surm and to ensure he travels with those he trusts. They have, however, indicated that they are willing to continue their usual duties for as long as needed during the transition. Rilka indicates that she’ll probably need to pick a new sergeant for the troops.

Mõrvar and Surm continue to argue. Surm stresses that what he’s doing is “giving you space—do with it what you will” and emphasizes that it is Mõrvar’s decision whether to come or not.

Surm offers 500 gold pieces in compensation plus “reasonable” expenses as payment for the quest. Savaric asks about the spoils of war and Surm indicates that the University makes no claim on the spoils of war. However, Surm does stress that there will be no reward until the sage is returned.

Rilka dismisses Surm, who goes to his room. He tells Mahgnus and Alasir what transpired and asks them to wait to tell the other soldiery about their separation until things get worked out.

Meanwhile, in the private room, Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar discuss the need for this “cooling off” period and the fact that family is important. Mõrvar brings up that he’ll need to see the armorer before he leaves as he’s got custom armor in the works. He also thinks that the party might be interested in hiring Beldis for this mission. Rilka is extremely dubious of that proposition and they end up talking Mõrvar out of that idea.

They also discuss the fact that Surm is currently handling their group funds. They’re prepared to allow him to continue to do so until the group (hopefully) gets reconciled.

What about Alasir continuing to control the troops? Rilka thinks that it would be best to keep things as they are for now. She also stresses the need to keep arguments away from the troops—to maintain a unified front. After they meet, she goes to find Sum.

“We accept your terms. Alasir will be nominal head of the troops. We won’t be informing them of the split,” she says.

“Alright,” Surm says. “That brings me to a touchy subject. Group funds. Do I cut myself out a fourth of them or do I keep them altogether but continue to have a vote on how they are spent?”

After a brief discussion, it’s decided to keep the group funds intact and that Surm gets a vote in how they are spent, erring on the side that, at some point, the group will come back together.

Everyone goes to bed after a long, emotional, day.

15 Chillwind 508

The group—and Surm, Mahgnus, and Alasir—pick and go as if everything were normal. Mõrvar leaves a message with the innkeep for Beldis, saying that he may be back in a couple of weeks. The entourage then starts to leave town, with Mõrvar stopping off at the armorer making a similar two-week arrangement. They leave the city along the Southgate road and leave out of the south-east gate.

Along the way, Savaric tells Alasir that there’s no hard feelings and that he appreciates him looking out for Surm. Alasir says he appreciates that.

The entourage passes through a manned checkpoint into Kuskar.

18 Chillwind 508

The eastward road turns south at the mountains. They pass through a guarded mountain pass of Acheran soldiers.

19 Chillwind 508

The road takes the party to the city of Zyend. They pay gate takes and decide to save time and pass through the city instead of going around it.

22 Chillwind 508

That afternoon, the entourage arrives at the gates of the city of Asdari. They pay their gate fees and make their way inside. Surm gets information on the location of the University.

The University at Asdari is not quite as grand as the one in Kalimsport, but it is not small, either. The monitors come by and help direct them to Rahin Noorasi. Noorasi is apparently a Fellow of the University, an administrator and donor, not a sage. They are taken a very well-apportioned office and introduced to a well-dressed man with a neat goatee. Surm apologizes for their road-dust but they are in haste and explains their purpose there. Noorasi seems very snotty toward the half-orcs but is otherwise helpful. He indicates that the guide, Achir, is recuperating in the temple of Azumazran. He arranges for a guide for them by the name of Halim, whom he places at their disposal.

Halim guides them through the streets. The young man is very impressed with their retinue and makes a great show of clearing the street for them.

The temple of Azumazran is a very ancient and well-apportioned structure. Large columns inlaid with gold and ivory adorn the entrance and many people are coming in and out. Inside are men and women in blue and white robes and long hair and beards, covering their hair with hoods and turbans, ministering to people as they come in. There are robed figures praying at a great flame in the center of the sanctuary. One of the turbaned priests approach Surm, Rilka, Savaric, and Mahgnus (who came inside) and identifies them as strangers. He asks if they need help.

Surm identifies himself as representing the University of Kalimsport, presents his letter from them, and indicates that he understands that they are caring for a guide named Achir from an expedition that was set upon by orcs. They would like to see him. The priest reads the letter and agrees to let them see Achir.

The priest leads them to a back-room where a hospital has been set up. Several cots are laid out with wounded people and priests are tending to them. One such person is a man who looks like he has suffered from exposure and from being beat about. He looks up at the party in confusion and the priest says, “Achir, these people have come from the University. I believe they wish to speak with you about the sage that was taken.”

Surm introduces himself and the others and says that, indeed, he’d like to hear what happened. “They came in the night,” Achir begins and describes the raid of the orcs on the camp. Apparently there were about twenty orcs altogether, and 5 game riding in on Gortheks, great beasts that are crosses between rhinoceroses and buffaloes. Kerendal only had a guard contingent of 6, so they were vastly outnumbered. The other survivors were a guide named Azura Mirasi and a guard named Angelet Nyweth. Apparently the leader of the raid, Balug, was impressed with Kerendal because he wouldn’t back down and took him. Achir saw them get back on their boats and head out. There was also drumming with the orcs as well. They flew a standard with a red flame on it.

After questioning Achir, Surm asks Halim if he knows any experts on Orcs. Halim says that he knows of one, but he sounds a bit dubious. Surm asks him to tell him who it is and he says she’s a bit notorious. Apparently her name is Noor Khandasi and she can be found at an inn known as The Hydra. “Is it on the bad side of town?” Surm asks. “Well, it’s not on the good side,” Halim says. Surm wants to be taken there, so Halim agrees.

The Hydra is a dilapidated inn in an impoverished part of the city. It bears a sign with a multi-headed reptilian beast over the door. Raucous laughter can be heard from within. Surm, Mahgnus, Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar dismount and head inside. Mõrvar immediately heads to the bar and orders a bottle of whiskey. Surm, infuriated, goes over and tells his brother that they are on the job and to put the whiskey back. Mõrvar is sullen and doesn’t respond very well to Surm’s demands. The two go outside and argue, with Surm insisting, as his employer, for Mõrvar to fall in line with everyone else or to quit the job. Mõrvar looks for support from Rilka, but Rilka says that Surm is acting like an employer. Mõrvar sullenly falls in line. They reenter the common room and Halim points out Noor Khandasi sitting at the back of the room.

Noor Khandasi is an Acheran woman with a long scar across her face and outlandish clothes. She looks up warily as the party approaches her table. “Are you Noor Khandasi?” Surm asks.

“I am,” she says.

Then Surm makes introductions and indicates that he represents the University of Kalimsport and needs an expert on Orcs for a rescue expedition he’s heading up. He gives a brief rundown of what’s happened and what he needs. Noor indicates that her information doesn’t come for free. Surm counters that she may be compensated if it turns out her information is good, but not before. Noor doesn’t seem to like that proposition. She brings up that the University probably has deep pockets and that there is probably a reward for participation. Surm allows that there is, and that he’s prepared to offer 500 gold pieces for participation in the expedition. Noor likes that proposition better than the thought of “maybe” being compensated for her information at a later date. She’s in.

The red-flame standard that Achir spoke of indicates that this is the Bloodflame Clan. They are based out of Karsk, a orcish settlement on one of the Islands of Urkhan. They are known to take slaves for their own purposes (labor, breeding, etc.) and for sale to the Tarsians. They are apparently led by a Orc called Gorruk. Noor has not heard of Balug. Karsk is a settlement carved out of an old set of ruins. She has never raided Karsk itself—she usually hunts in smaller groups.

Surm feels like he need to recruit more help. Noor doesn’t really have any recommendations—she usually works alone. She keeps eyeballing the two half-orcs warily. They’ll also need a ship to sail over to Karsk. Noor has a small craft that can make the journey. Surm intends to rescue whoever the orcs have—not only Kerendal and the two women, but anyone else enslaved. That means the ship may be overrun. That means they may have to have a specialist force—small, but elite. And not bring the soldiery.

They agree to meet Noor at her craft, the Azure Dawn, in two days. She says she’ll have her ready in one day. Then the party leaves to make plans to recruit more help. They also decide to have two soldiers volunteer to stay behind with the ship so that they have someone they can trust there with Noor’s crew.

Halim leads them to a reasonable inn, the Arrow of Lightning. Halim is then dismissed with the request to meet them back at the inn in the morning. Then they get the retinue situated into rooms. Mõrvar buys a bottle of whiskey and heads to his room. Rilka calls for two volunteers to stay with the boat during the mission. Tarben and Sorcha step forward. Seemingly unsatisfied with the results, Rilka offers a raise in pay of 1 gold per day for the duty. Then everyone volunteers. Surm asks Alasir to pick from the volunteers. He chooses Sorcha and Einar. Tarben looks frustrated and Surm claps him on the shoulder, telling him that his initial volunteering did not go unnoticed.

Mahgnus, Tarben, and Rilka are sent out to look for recruits, as are Surm, Alfhild, and Savaric.

Surm’s group gets a lead on someone called Scarlatta the Quick. She is apparently a capable adventurer that fits the bill for what they are looking for and is trustworthy. She apparently travels with a group calling themselves the “Bronze Griffons.” She is staying at the Copper Flagon. They head in that direction.

At the Copper Flagon, they ask the barkeep to point out the Bronze Griffons. He points out a group of four sitting in the common room. One is a large human male wearing a holy symbol of a set of scales with a sword as the fulcrum. Savaric points out that this is the symbol of Barthal, but Surm disagrees. There is also a petite Acheran woman and an Elven male. Finally, there is an athletically built female with a wicked smile who is apparently telling a joke. As the party approaches, she finishes the joke and the Griffon’s all laugh.

Surm clears his throat to get their attention and asks if they are the Bronze Griffons. The elf allows that they are. Surm says that he is looking for one of their number, a Scarlatta the Quick. They all look to the woman who told the joke and she protests that they only just got into town, that she didn’t do anything to get them into trouble. Surm assures them that he is not with the Watch. He represents the University of Kalimsport and is here to inquire about her interest in a job. She invites him to sit and assures him that anything he has to say can be said in front of her friends. Chairs are brought for the others as well.

Surm explains the parameters of the mission to Scarlatta and she seems thoughtful. She indicates that she does not work alone and he assures her that there are others on the mission and he lists them off, including Noor Khandasi. The other woman, the Acheran, indicates that she’s heard of Noor Khandasi, and that she collects Orc ears. Surm takes this in stride and says that she apparently knows the area and a great deal about Orcs and that is why she is on the mission. He was unaware of that habit.

Throughout their conversation, he is aware that the paladin (who may or may not be of Barthal) and the Elf have been having a “conversation” of their own, with the paladin nodding “yes” to the Elf and the Elf making signals of reluctance to the paladin. Finally, the Elf relents and says aloud, “We may be willing, as a group, to take on this mission.”

Surm demurs, saying, “Alas, I have room for only two on my boat.”

The Elf sighs after another look from the paladin. “We can provide our own transport. We would still like to join in the rescue.”

Surm brightens. “That’s excellent. I can offer you 250 gold as reward, payable on the return of the sage. Of course, we plan on rescuing all we can.”

The Elf looks pained. “That is acceptable,” he says.

Surm asks what they have to offer, as he was lead to believe that Scarlatta offered stealth (which was why he was there). The paladin, whose name is Alban, is a paladin of Barthal. Surm seems shocked. The Acheran woman, Prana, is a “master of illusions.” The Elf, Jalynel, lists himself as a fighter that can provide “air power”, but doesn’t elaborate.

Arrangements are made for the Bronze Griffons to meet the group at the Azure Dawn tomorrow morning and Surm, Savaric, and Alfhild take their leave, quite pleased with their results.

Meanwhile, Mahgnus, Tarben, and Rilka follow a lead on a stealthy elf by the name of Tarquinn who frequents a tavern by the name of the Bloody Unicorn. When they arrive at the rough-and-tumble tavern, they are directed to a very rough-looking elf sitting at the back of the room. As they approach, the elf keeps his eyes on Rilka while addressing Mahgnus, who does all the talking.

Mahgnus introduces himself as representing his employer, who in turn represents the University of Kalimsport. They are hiring for a rescue mission into Karsk. The reward is 500 gold pieces and reasonable expenses for a being of his talents. They were wondering if he would be interested. Tarquinn continues to stare at Rilka and says, “I don’t work for Orcs.”

“Aren’t you cute,” Rilka says.

Mahgnus looks back and forth between the two of them and says. “I have obviously wasted your time, sir. This is not the job for you. Good evening to you.” They make their way toward the door, with Tarben and Rilka forming a barrier between the elf and Mahgnus.

“Wait a minute, I am interested in your job!” the elf says, indignant.

“No, I don’t think you’re right for the position,” Mahgnus says, bustling out.

As they make their way out, the elf calls out, “You’ll be sorry you didn’t hire me, lousy Orc lover!”

Rilka and Tarben remain on high alert as they make their way back to the Arrow of Lightning. Mahgnus comments that he thinks he got some bad information.

When everyone returns to the inn, they compare notes on their relative successes and failures. Rilka goes upstairs to inform Mõrvar of what has transpired and to see if he wants to meet their recruits. He seems disinterested and smells of whiskey. Rilka leaves him to it.

23 Chillwind 508

Arrangements are made for the majority of the soldiery and the porters to stay at the inn. After breakfast, Rilka kisses Kortash goodbye, and everyone heads to the docks. Einar and Sorcha will accompany the rest of the party to the docks. They head to the slip where the Azure Dawn is docked. It’s a fairly dilapidated little ship. They are met on the deck by a swarthy man without a shirt who gruffly asks them their business. “You must be the northerners then,” he says when Surm introduces them. He lets them on board. Noor comes up and welcomes them on board as they see the Bronze Griffons approach. Introductions are made all around.

The Griffons will be sailing in a ship called the Ivory Horn. Noor gives them coordinates for their captain to follow as to where to weigh anchor off the coast of the island where Karsk lies as a rendezvous point. The Griffons wish everyone safe journey and head off to their ship. Noor pulls up the anchor and ships out.

1 Harvest 508

The week of sailing is cramped, sweaty, and uncomfortable, but otherwise uneventful. Noor’s two crewmen keep to themselves and are never introduced. Land is finally sighted and the anchor is dropped off the coast. When Surm expresses dismay that the ship is harbored at the island, Noor is sharp with him about not wanting to run her ship aground. They’ll have to take rowboats from here. That’s going to slow down the rescue operation considerably.

After some thought, Noor sails around to the other side of the island, with the Ivory Horn following, and puts in at a lagoon, a natural harbor. It’ll mean more hiking through the jungle, but at least they won’t be sitting ducks in a rowboat. They all disembark from their respective ships and begin hiking through the jungle, with Savaric and Scarlatta taking point. Mõrvar and Noor believe that it will be 10 to 15 miles to Karsk from here. They start heading southwest through the jungle. Savaric has Ghost guard the ship along with Einar and Sorcha.

As they hike through the thick vines and foliage, everyone questions Jalynel about his choice of weapon—a lance. He says that he has a mount—a griffon. The rest of the party is a bit incredulous. He explains that he can summon it twice per week. Still, the party is a bit dubious of his claim.

At the end of the day of hard hiking, Savaric finds a clearing in which to camp. He finds signs of tigers, Orcs, and Gorthek which have traversed through the campsite in the past day. He decides to find another campsite. As the sun sets, he finds another clearing that seems less well-trafficked.

Interlude: At Red Wolf Hall
Private Conversations


14 Chillwind 508

Alasir and Alfhild get the soldiery into formation as the train heads to the inn. Alasir makes it clear that they are still on the job until they are dismissed.

The Hall is located near the city center, not far from the University. One can see the University’s amphitheater up on Sage Hill from the inn.

Red Wolf Hall is a very nice inn with many creature comforts. The innkeep, a ruddy-faced man with a receding hairline, does make it clear, however, that he does not allow lodging in his common room. Rooms will have to be secured for everyone. Fortunately, rooms appear to be available, though people will have to share and it will be tight.

The common room seems lively, filled with well-to-do travelers and visitors to the city center, as well as their retinues. There is a small stage in the common room that currently appears to be empty.

After a brief discussion with the innkeep, it is ascertained that there are 9 private rooms, 3 small suites, 2 average suites, and 1 Luxury suite. Rooms, meals, and stabling are secured for two days. Once room assignments are made, the soldiers head out to the common room, with the exception of Halvor, who heads out the door.

Rilka nods her approval. She arranges for a personal bath & laundry service. As the guards and gear get settled, she touches Surm’s shoulder and says in a low voice, “It would be good for us to talk. Let me buy you something to drink.”

Surm says, “I’d like to get the obelisk to the sage, it’s going to take time to research. I’ll go make those arrangements now, you hold down the Hall in case someone returns, probably in trouble. I’ll take Mahgnus and Alasir with me.”

He begins packing. Before he leaves, Rilka points out they should also arrange for rooms for Savaric and Mõrvar. “Savaric intends to bring your brother home tonight.”

Surm says, “That’s not what I understood, Mõrvar plans to stay out on his own and I thought Savaric was too. But, we can book Savaric a room if you think he’ll return without Mõrvar.”

Rilka replies, “He said he was accompanying Mõrvar to let him blow off some steam, then they were going to catch up with us. I assumed that meant later on tonight.” She pauses, “Although perhaps you are both expecting that process to take longer than I was.”

Surm arranges for a room for Savaric on his way out with Mahgnus and Alasir to visit the University.

After a quick bath, Rilka waits in the common room and keeps an eye on things. She doesn’t distance herself from the guards, but is relatively quiet.

When Surm returns a couple of hours later, he finds Rilka. “Rilka, may we speak privately in your room?”

Rilka nods and rises from her chair. They head upstairs to talk.

Later, when Rilka and Surm re-emerge and head downstairs, Rilka will speak briefly with Kortash and invite him to share her room that night. Kortash gladly accepts the invitation.


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