Shadows of the Rift

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

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3 Illumination 508

The party has taken the southeast tower of the fortress, having snuck in invisibly through the courtyard and fighting their way to the top of the tower. Now they debate what to do next as they lay low on the crenelated roof of the tower. Most of the party want to go back below, while Rhain wants to take a go at the Hobgoblins on the southwest tower.

The party apparently takes too much time debating as a hob from the southwest tower starts coming over, having spotted something amiss on their tower. He comes ambling down the catwalk toward the southeast tower while the party quietly tries to take up hiding positions behind the crenellations. As the hobgoblin guard comes up onto the tower’s roof, he’s ambushed by the party—they make short work of the beast.

Meanwhile, the ruckus has alerted the other hobgoblin who was with him on the southwest tower. That hob starts heading down the stairs into the tower. Rhain bolts down the catwalk to catch up while Regna follows more slowly. Tag and Lenoria check out the body of the fallen hobgoblin guard.

Rhain manages to catch up with the guard down in the south wing of the fortress. He attacks as Regna catches up. Soon, they take out the guard, who is considerably tougher than his companion. The rest of the party catch up soon after and they gather in the south wing.

From there, the party decides to try and take out more of the tower guards before moving on to the dungeon area indicated on their map. They don’t want the tower guards to get alerted and be waiting for them when they come out. They decided to sneak across the open atrium toward the northeast tower. They then opt to sneak across the open courtyard to the tower itself. Tag goes first.

When he gets inside the tower, he finds that there is not a way into the north wing from the tower, like there were in the southern towers in regard to the south wing. He also manages to alert a guard up in the tower, who calls down in the guttural tongue of the goblins at Tag. Tag manages to grunt convincingly and placates the guard up above, apparently satisfying the hobgoblin’s curiosity.

Meanwhile, the others sneak across the courtyard to the northeast tower to join the halfling. As Lenoria makes her way across, the guard from the tower shouts down at Tag—apparently thinking he’s going to do something about what he saw. Rhain sprints up the stairs and meets the hobgoblin up top, tripping him so that he can get into a flanking position as Regna follows up behind him. The two manage to slay the hobgoblin.

When Lenoria catches up, she uses her goddess-blessed powers to heal Rhain and Tag from their wounds of the previous battles. Regna examines the stones at the bottom of the tower, adjacent to the north wing, and says she thinks they could be loose enough to wiggle out and access that wing without going through the front door. Tag starts wiggling the stones quietly. As he clears out a few of the stones, some light from the tower falls into the wing and sheds light on about twenty-eight sleeping hobgoblins, all lined up on pallets on the floor in the room. Momentarily panicked, Tag starts quickly putting the stones back in the wall, saying “We don’t want to go in there.”

They change their plan. They head back up to the top of the northeast tower and then Rhain runs across the catwalk to the two guards on the northwest tower. The hobgoblins notice the barbarian running toward them and come out to meet him at the entry to the tower. He overruns the hobgoblins and sets Regna up to flank them. Lenoria casts spiritual weapon to attack one of the hobgoblins. After a brief battle, the final guard falls after an attack by Lenoria’s spiritual weapon.

The party loots these bodies, allows Lenoria to cast healing on them, and then decide to walk down the catwalk toward the now-empty southeast tower. They head down and cross the open atrium and Tag goes forward to check what are marked as conference rooms on the map.

He hears two forms snoring in one room, nothing in the middle room, and a single form snoring in the third room. They decide to leave the sleeping hobgoblins be for now and head to the kitchens. There they see the cook and his assistant asleep on the floor. They then check the dining hall, finding it devoid of hobgoblins but filled with dirt, dust, and debris. They head back through the dining room to the kitchens and Tag and Rhain deliver a coup de grace to the cooks, slaying them in their sleep.

Tag checks the library door and hears murmured chanting coming from there. Whoever it is, he’s awake and may be a spellcaster. Lenoria disguises herself with props from the various slain hobs and with magic as a hobgoblin and attempts to throw whoever is in the room off guard while Rhain enters invisibly to attack him with bull strength on. The plan is a success—they make short work of the hobgoblin spellcaster and loot his body.

They return to the conference rooms, allowing Tag to stealthily open the door while Rhain enters and delivers a coup de grace to the sleeping hobgoblin. The ruckus apparently disturbed someone they hadn’t heard in the middle room, because a the door opens. Tag is watching the door for just such an eventuality and throws a flask of alchemical fire into the doorway. A large hobgoblin wielding twin sickles emerges and starts attacking with gusto, despite the flames from the fire. After a short melee, Rhain manages to finish him off. Tag once again stealthily opens the final conference room door and Rhain goes in to coup de grace the two sleeping hobgoblins. They loot all of the bodies and create a stash in the east wing of the fortress.

They then head to the door marked on the map as the dungeon entrance. They open the door to reveal a steel grate that overlooks a set of handholds bolted to the wall of the shaft heading down. Lenoria casts light on Tag’s mace and they open the grate and start climbing down, Tag leading the way, followed by Rhain, then Regna, and finally Lenoria, who shuts the door behind her.

The shaft leads down into a small narrow stone corridor. The walls are damp and the air is musty. There’s only way to go so Tag starts heading down the corridor. There are small sets of stairs taking the corridor down as they go. They also spot a narrow alcove, about the size to house a man-sized person, cut into the wall. They figure that it’s meant to house a guard should the need arise. Tag checks the alcove, but finds nothing amiss.

As the corridor circles around they see that the corridor continues on, that there’s another alcove to the side, and diagonally across from the alcove is a shut door. Tag checks the alcove for any secret doors or compartments, but finds none. Tag then opens the door to find five hobgoblin guards—four seated around a table and one standing.

The guards start running toward the door and are met by a bottleneck from Rhain and Regna. Two of the hobs are dispatched when a third comes forward and slams the door shut. Rhain attempts to open the door, but can feel the hobgoblin pushing it back. Finally, the hobgoblin is overwhelmed by Rhain’s strength and moves back, allowing the door to open. The party rushes in and dispatches the remaining hobgoblins. Rhain mutilates the bodies after their looted and Lenoria applies more mystical healing as the party looks around to assess their new surroundings and to wonder what the guards were doing down here.

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Heritage Lost: Part I
Reunion

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10 Longnight 508

Staying in the city of Kalimsport while the University conducts research for the Crimson Cord, Surm decides to pursue leads into the high society of Kalimsport. He spends time frequenting the affluent parts of the city, hanging out in taverns, public galas, and talking his way into parties. He specifically seeks out someone in need of adventurers to handle some local situation, something that the Crimson Cord might be able to take care of locally and quickly to earn some favor and prestige. He wants to get the group in the door of high society and start rubbing elbows with nobles. He would prefer something that requires discretion and will earn favors rather than cash. He’s looking to get a noble name to attach the group to and use as the first rung of the social ladder to the important lords and ladies. A foot in the door, as it were.

He brings Mahgnus with him to help listen and to schmooze with the guests. Both are outfitted in the finest attire Kalimsport has to offer.

His forays into society looking for a possible contact yield the name of Lady Meliora Gynn. She is an Ornish noblewoman who has a residence within Kalimsport, though her lands are just outside the walls. Surm’s initial attempts to make contact with her are rebuffed. However, he keeps trying and eventually gets an “in.” She agrees to meet with him to discuss a potential business arrangement that the Crimson Cord could assist her with.

Surm knows that Lady Gynn was on the side of the current (victorious) King Daveth Pynrose in the relatively recent Ornish Civil War. She aided the Pynroses by running weapons and troops by ship from Kalimsport to Crownport, as well as assisting the “rebel” cause through funding various expeditions. She is a close friend of His Majesty and a favored courtier of the Overlord. She has a reputation for being a shrewd businesswoman and is fiercely loyal to the Pynroses.

Surm informs the group of his intentions prior to meeting with Lady Gynn. He tells them that anybody who wants to come can, but please be prepared to dress the part. “If you guys are happy to let me make the arrangements, I’m happy to handle it. Again, it should be quick and local, but being owed favors by an aristocrat who is in good with the Overlord and the King of Ornis is a boon for us!”

The two half-orcs, Rilka and Savaric, opt to let Surm handle this matter without them. Mõrvar, Surm’s brother, decides to the dress the part and accompany him to the meeting.

17 Longnight 508

Lady Meliora Gynn’s Kalimsport residence is a small, but stately home near the Overlord’s Keep. It has a large lawn and is surrounded by a high stone wall. Entry is barred by wrought iron gates bearing the Gynn crest of a wyvern.

The three men, Surm, Mahgnus, and Mõrvar, are met at the gates by a pair of guards in Gynn livery, gold with a silver wyvern on the chest. One of the guards, an Ornish woman by her accent, asks them to state their name and business.

Mahgnus looks to the two of others as if to ask, “Do you wish me to take this?”

Mõrvar looks at Surm. Surm gives Mahgnus a nod of approval and waits

Mahgnus steps forward and says, “Masters Surm and Mõrvar Ulrich of the Crimson Cord. We are expected.”

His tone has just enough authority to convey that the guard should move quickly, but not so much as to be insulting or condescending.

The guard nods curtly and opens the gate, allowing the three of men to go inside. She accompanies them as they walk down the cobblestone lane toward the house. When they arrive at the door of the house, the guard raps on the door. It is answered by a middle-aged woman dressed in a dark blue high-necked dress, who looks at the guard with an arched eyebrow.

“Expected guests,” the guard explains. “Masters Ulrich of the Crimson Cord.”

The woman turns to the three and smiles slightly. “Ah yes. Welcome to our home. Please, come in.” She steps aside to let them inside the house.

“Lady Gynn will see you shortly. Please come with me.” She leads them to a drawing room with comfortable chairs and sideboard equipped with a silver tray and a crystal bottle of wine with matching glasses.

“Please make yourself comfortable while you wait,” the woman says, and shuts the double-doors behind her as she leave the three in the room.

Surm settles into a chair and sips some wine. His brother does the same. Mahgnus takes up a standing position slightly behind and between the two brothers—unobtrusive, but available should the need arise.

After a few minutes, the doors open and a beautiful woman in a flowing burgundy dress enters the room. Her reddish hair is piled high on her head and held in place with a jewel-studded comb. She smiles warmly and says, “Gentlemen, welcome to my home.”

Mahgnus pours the lady a cup of wine, for which she thanks him and settles into a chair. “I appreciate you meeting with me to discuss this matter. The reputation of your troupe speaks well of you,” she says as she sips her wine.

Surm says: “The Crimson Cord is only too happy to accommodate the Lady. How may we assist you?”

“As you are probably aware, I used whatever means I had at my disposal to assist His Majesty in the recent…unpleasantness…between his House and the Rowyns. Part of that aid was funding and assisting in the shipment of arms, both traditional and alchemical, to Pynrose loyalists from Kalimsport to Crownport. This is no secret and I am not ashamed of my service to the Crown.

“Unfortunately, not all of my endeavors were successful. One such endeavor stalled at Cranbarrow Keep, some ten miles northeast of Kalimsport. The keep was being used to house a cache of weapons, including some alchemical explosives. The weapons were hidden in one of the dungeon chambers.

“The Cranbarrows were betrayed by one of their servants, who sold information about the cache to the Rowyns. The Rowyn faction sent a covert team of sappers to the keep who, with the help of the turncoat servant, used an underground corridor to tunnel up into the dungeon.

“The Cranbarrows discovered their servant’s treachery—but it was too late. The sappers were on their way. They rushed to meet the interlopers down in the dungeon and fought them. In the course of the fighting, the alchemical weapons were ignited and there was a mighty explosion which killed Cranbarrow and sapper alike, as well as crumbling half of the keep.

“Fortunately, the Cranbarrow line survives—the new Lord Cranbarrow is the former Lord and Lady’s son, Borwyn, who was taking an apprenticeship in Kalimsport at the time.

“No one has returned to Cranbarrow Keep since that fateful day—it is said to be haunted by the spirits of the dead. Other creatures have taken up residence in the ruin.

“Lord Cranbarrow would very much like to reclaim his heritage—not only the keep, but the family signet from the hand of his late father.

“I would very much like to help my friend, young Lord Cranbarrow in this endeavor. Thus, I hope to enlist your aid.”

“Remaining true to your king is nothing to be ashamed of at all. Loyalty is an admirable trait that the Crimson Cord appreciates and respects. We would be honored to assist you and the Lord Cranbarrow on this endeavor," Surm says. "This seems straight forward enough, but, just so I can be clear when explaining the mission to my compatriots, you are asking that we not only seek out the lost signet ring, but also clear out any squatters and ‘haunts’ that may have taken up residence since the keep was abandoned?” He also asks for a description of the signet ring.

“You have the gist of the mission correct, Master Ulrich,” Lady Gynn says, “and the ring is made of silver with the symbol of a hart’s head above a crossed spear and axe on the face.”

“Would we be able to speak with Lord Cranbarrow, perhaps get a layout of the lands and keep?” Surm asks.

“Certainly,” Lady Gynn says. “He actually is currently residing here. However, he is also a Journeyman Scrivener and is, at the moment at the Hall of Records, not far from here. If you wish to speak with him, you may either return later in the evening or seek him out there.”

“We could go to him, is he aware of our arrangements? If not, perhaps a quick note from you to ease the introductions. After speaking with Lord Cranbarrow, we will begin preparations for the task at hand. If there are any delays, I will contact you, but I do not foresee any. I expect the Crimson Cord will be on the move either tomorrow or the next day," Surm says.

“He is aware that I am making preparations on his behalf. He is not aware of the details. I will gladly write you a note," the Lady says. Before they leave, she provides them with said note—a brief missive on parchment simply stating that the two of them have been sent by her to discuss a business arrangement and that they can be trusted.

The two brothers and Mahgnus leave the home of Lady Gynn and head for the Hall of Records.

The Hall of Records in Kalimsport is a large, stately building with wide columns bearing bas relief carvings depicting a variety of scenes, both urban and pastoral, of people at work.

The main courtyard is bustling with people, scribes running to and fro with scroll cases in hand, panhandlers watching people and holding out their cups for alms, and various men and women in fine clothes and robes gathered together in conversation.

The Hall itself is set back from the courtyard, its entryway barred by two large iron doors and two guards in city livery.

The three men approach the guards and Surm requests entry. “We are to meet with Lord Cranbarrow. The Lady Gynn indicated we could find him here. May we enter?”

One of the guards turns and opens one of the iron doors. He calls to another guard within. “Three to see Cranbarrow.”

“Very well,” the guard within says, cheerfully.

The guard at the door motions for the three to pass through.

Once inside, they are met by another guard who says, “Lord Cranbarrow is a journeyman with the Department of Lands. I’ll lead the way.”

The friendly guard leads them through a long hall lined with doors with placards detailing various departments and subsections of records: Marriages, Deaths, Taxes, etc. Finally they come to a door marked “Lands.” The guard opens the door and they see a large room with several desks inside with scribes furiously scribbling onto scrolls and books. A large map of Kalimsport is on the wall—it looks like it details the city in light of parcels of land.

“Three to see Journeyman Cranbarrow,” the guard announces, and a young man rises from one of the desks. He’s probably 18 years old, austerely dressed, though the clothes are obviously finely made. He looks quizzically at the three men as he approaches.

“Yes?” he says.

The guard excuses himself and leaves the four young men at the door to the Department of Lands.

“Lord Cranbarrow, I am Surm Ulrich, this is Mõrvar and Mahgnus, and we represent The Crimson Cord. We were sent by the Lady Gynn to discuss the current state of your family holdings and how the Crimson Cord can assist.”

Surm hands the young Lord the note that Lady Gynn composed.

Lord Cranbarrow reads the note and nods. “Very well. Let’s discuss this elsewhere, however. Wait here.”

He goes to a man in robes seated near the large map and whispers a few words to him. The man nods and Lord Cranbarrow returns. “Let’s go to The Knave’s Pipe. It’s nearby.”

Lord Cranbarrow leads the way and the other three follow.

The Knave’s Pipe is a modest tavern not far from the Hall of Records. The four of men are quite overdressed for the humble affair, and get a few looks from the patrons, but nothing hostile—just interest. Lord Cranbarrow selects a corner booth and, after seating himself, orders a bottle of wine for the table.

“I have heard of the Crimson Cord. You are a band of adventurers, correct? I understand that you have done some work for the University of late,” he says.

“We are currently contracted with the University to retrieve artifacts that they would like to research.”

“But we are currently awaiting research and find ourselves with time to kill. That brings us to you. The Lady Gynn informed us of your desire to have squatters and rumored haunts rooted out of your family estate. Since we are uniquely qualified for just such an endeavor, we have signed on, only too happy to assist a local lord with his troubles. We were hoping you could gives us a layout of the estate and keep. A working knowledge of the terrain will make things go smoother," Surm says.

“I see, then you’ve already made all the arrangements with Lady Gynn. Then I will do the best I can. The formal maps and papers were lost after the explosion and no one has returned since then. That was five years ago. I was just a boy. I can sketch you out a layout of the keep as I remember it, though,” Lord Cranbarrow says. “I could provide you a drawing, say, this afternoon?”

“Very well then," Surm says. The three members of the Crimson Cord take their leave of the young Lord and leave the tavern.

Surm decides to “hit the streets” and look for more information on the reputed new denizens of Cranbarrow Keep and if anyone can confirm that it is haunted. Asking around, he learns that the keep is indeed reputed to be haunted. Most “smart” people avoid it so no one can say for sure—well except for old Elizir. He’s drunk most days. They say he ventures out there from time to time to pay his respects.

They find Elizir sleeping in an alley. Speaking with him, they learn that he was the chamberlain for the keep, back before the accident. He says he’s seen the spirits of the dead there—that they’ve chased him off the property. He’s also seen creatures flying from the towers on leathery wings, though he didn’t get a good look at them.

“Elizir, would you be willing to guide us there? We have taken up the cause of Lord Cranbarrow and plan to clear the threats from his estate and search for his father’s signet ring. Your working knowledge of the estate would be most helpful," Surm says.

Elizir belches. “No, that poor boy doesn’t want a ruin. He should start a new life and build something unsullied, untainted.” Then he looks up as if he just heard you. “Guide you there? Are you daft? It’s haunted, and worse! No place for a drunk old man…”

“Well, perhaps if you helped us, Lord Cranbarrow would bring you back into his services. That has to better than drunk on the street," Surm says.

“I don’t deserve a second chance with that boy,” the old man looks down, a tear dripping off of his nose. But then he looks up, a new determination in his eyes, “But he deserves his heritage, right enough. I’ll help you.”

The three men take the old man and get him cleaned up and outfitted with new clothes. They then take Elizir with them to meet back with Lord Cranbarrow at the Hall of Records.

The whole time, Elizir is quiet, barely saying a word except for a murmured “thank you” when presented with the clothes and when introduced to the bath.

They are all admitted again to the Hall of Records and directed to the Department of Lands. There, Lord Cranbarrow is summoned once again and he meets them just outside, two rolled pieces of parchment in his hand.

“I’ve sketched out the keep here…,” he says, and then stares at Elizir. “Master Elizir?”

The old man nods and bows his head, “Aye, lad. It is I. Here to help you reclaim that what is yours.”

The young man embraces the old awkwardly and says. “You are welcome to help, sir. You have been sorely missed. We have much to discuss. Where have you been? What happened to you after the accident? There is so much!”

“There’ll be time enough for that later, lad,” the old man says, patting the young man on the shoulder. “But I thank you for the undeserved welcome. These gentlemen still have business with you.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” Lord Cranbarrow says, recovering his composure. “I have sketched out these two maps of the keep. Hopefully you will find them helpful.”

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Surm thanks him and lets him know that they are staying at the University if anything useful comes to mind, otherwise, they will contact him when the task is done.

They take Elizir with them and have Mahgnus set him up with a bed. Meanwhile, the two brothers explain all to their two companions.

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Session Fifty-Five
Emergence

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25 Hearth 508

The Crimson Cord is accompanying the ghoul ranger Cyrus out of the underground realms. Cyrus is leading the way with his undead leopard.

Along the way, the party encounters one of the deadly and dangers ropers—a particularly nasty denizen of the underground realms. They finally manage to subdue the beast, but it is a near-thing.

They finally find a place to make camp and settle in for the night.

26 Hearth 508

After several more hours of trudging through the caverns, the party emerges into the afternoon sunlight of the surface world. They bid goodbye an awkward goodbye to Cyrus and Savaric attempts to get his bearings in order to find his way back to civilization.

The ranger determines that they are in the southern end of the Rift and that they are probably not too far from where they put into the underground realms. So they pack up and head north, hoping to hit Qwast or Tower Yenuil.

27 Hearth 508

Sure enough, on this day, they arrive at the village of Qwast. They reunite with their guards and head to the village inn to get local news. They ask about for Burkas Feldspar and hear that the dwarf did, in fact, come through some day past. After getting settled with the guards, the main party then decide to head to the Tower Yenuil to complete their business with Master Brathorocc.

Once again, they are met at the door by the beautiful hostess in the green gown and are given hospitality in the sitting room. Surm is admitted to the basement chambers of the drow mage and allowed to speak with him. After a brief, cryptic conversation, and a negotiation concerning several items found on their journey, Brathorocc settles on the Extractor’s Gloves as payment for his information. Surm returns to the group and they take their leave of the tower and return to their encampment outside of Qwast.

28 Hearth 508

The Crimson Cord and their entourage leave Qwast to return to Kalimsport.

5 Longnight 508

As the party travels through the forests in Kuskar, near the border of Ornis, Mõrvar suddenly knows that a green dragon has entered the area within ten miles of the entourage. The troupe makes preparations, hiding in the overgrowth and being prepared to fight, if necessary. Sure enough, a huge, adult green dragon flies low overhead and then moves on, seemingly oblivious to the troupe.

The rest of the day goes by without incident.

8 Longnight 508

The troupe arrives at the gates of Kalimsport. They all head straight to the University, where they secure rooms at the dormitory (per their arrangement) and an audience with the Chancellor. They explain to him their successful mission and the import of it. The Chancellor says that he will rouse the Deans and arrange for a viewing of the finds in one of the lecture halls.

The party cooperates with the University in arranging the viewing and the Deans arrive at Lecture Hall #5 to view the various mystical items recovered—including the Orb, which is still covered by a bag. After the viewing the Deans and the Chancellor confer and then the Chancellor comes to the party and reveals that, of course, the Orb is what they will select for their year’s worth of study. However, they are interested in purchasing some of the items if they are willing to sell. Negotiations are made and sales are finalized. Mõrvar assists by placing the Orb in one of the study rooms.

After that, the party goes to visit Mandreth Kerendal to see how his translation of the Aedonii obelisk is going. The translation is going well—while he hasn’t gotten any new information, he has fine tuned the translation as far as the word choices and the beauty of the language.

While there, the party learns a bit more about one aspect of the quest—the Plateau of Leng.

  • The black ships of the Denizens of Leng can sometimes be found in the harbor of Tarsas, where they have dark dealings with slave traders there.
  • Kadath is a city on the Plateau of Leng. The Plateau of Leng is either a pocket within the Dimension of Dreams or accessible through it.

It was also speculated that the “Dead God” of the “Dead God’s Dark Breath” could be the Viper God.

9 Longnight 508

The party gets directions to various sages from the Chancellor to investigate the Plateau of Leng and the Viper God. They set these sages to the task of researching more information on these topics as part of their agreement with the University.

The party also sets Alasir to distributing the magic longswords and chainmail acquired in Ambraxaran to the guards.

In an effort to sell off some poisons in their possession, they get word from an apothecary about the Night Market—an illicit market in the city where they can sell off such goods. The party decides to send Savaric and Mõrvar to perform this task. The Night Market, which changes location periodically, is currently on a barge in the harbor.

The party spends the rest of the day selling off goods. At the end of the day, Savaric and Mõrvar head to the Fat Hero to see if Mõrvar’s “friend” Beldis is there. Sure enough, she is. The two chat for a bit and Mõrvar gets her to meet him later at Red Wolf Hall, convincing her that his fortunes are high and that she might be able to ride high as well. Then he and Savaric head to the Night Market to conduct their business.

At the Night Market, they find a dealer in poisons, but when Mõrvar goes to find his money pouch, he discovers that he’s been robbed. Angry, but unable to do anything about it at the moment, he and Savaric finish their business and leave. Savaric returns to the University while Mõrvar meets Beldis at the Red Wolf.

10 Longnight 508

Mõrvar brings Beldis with him to the University to meet the rest of the group…

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Session Fifty-Four
The Belly of the Beast

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24 Hearth 508

Mõrvar calls out in Elven, “Surrender and be spared or die,” and then in Tradespeak, “keep him alive!”

The Drow, with a frightened look on his face, turns and runs toward the door on the other side of the chamber. Savaric attacks him as he runs away, but fails to put him down. The nimble elf makes it through the door.

Meanwhile, Rilka listens at the opposite door to hear of any opposition is on the way from that direction. She hears some movement in the next room—not the heavy movement of booted soldiers but the light step of a servant. And the quiet voice of a male tenor singing to himself.

Mõrvar opts to wait until Savaric gives chase to the running Drow. Savaric moves to the door and looks out. He sees into a hallway and another open door. He moves forward and looks into a large room that appears to be an armory/practice room. The walls are lined with racks and pegs with various weapons and armors. At the far end of the room are practice dummies/targets for combat.

Gathered near the center of the room are the Drow that Savaric followed, as well as four armed females. They all turn and look at Savaric in the doorway. He takes a step back out of the doorway, awaiting their inevitable charge.

Mõrvar runs through the bedroom, through the hall, and through the open door, into the armory/practice room. There the gathering of Drow all stand staring at him. He smiles, readies his sword and says, with confidence, “Surrender and live, or attack and be slaughtered.” The faint blue glow of negative energy shimmers along the edge of his blade.

Surm whispers to Kortash to stay with Rilka and for Burask and Cyrus to come with him. The half-orc and the ghoul follow him out of the bedroom and into the hall.

The Drow all move around Mõrvar, the male crossing to move behind him. One of the females says in Elven, “Slaughter? You obviously cannot count, manling.”

Mõrvar lashes out at the male who moves behind him and hits with his blade. The male remains standing, but looks a bit paler as the negative energy saps his strength. Mõrvar calls out, “I can count just fine. There are only 5 of you skanky whores. I think ill defile your bodies after I slaughter you.” The four females all attack and miss—one even drops her sword ten feet away. Mõrvar smirks at the one who spoke earlier and says, “I’m going to save you for last.”

Savaric takes a short step into the room and cuts down the male Drow. Cyrus steps into the doorway and fires his bow into the melee, sinking an arrow into one of the females.

Rilka and Kortash move up to the secret door and look across the room to the hallway and hear the sounds of battle.

Mõrvar cuts down two of the females and calls out, “Who’s outnumbered now, whores? Surrender or meet my blade!”

The remaining Drow attack but all miss.

Surm moves down the hall and listens at the closed door, bringing Burask with him as a rear guard. He hears nothing beyond the door.

Mõrvar calls out to his comrades, “Take them alive to question!”

Savaric crosses the combat to flank one of the remaining drow, dodging an attack of opportunity and taking her down.

Rilka crosses the bedroom and tells Kortash to follow her.

Mõrvar strikes a mighty blow with the flat of his blade to the one who spoke before and she falls into a heap. He swings at the other one, but misses, telling her “Yield, or you too will be cut down!”

Surm and Burask move further down the hall to a set of double-doors. Surm listens. Surm hears a conversation that sounds like it is across a room from the door, between two people—probably female. As Surm doesn’t Elven, he can’t understand what they are saying—but they don’t sound alarmed.

Meanwhile, the still-standing Drow snarls, “Death before dishonor!” and attacks Mõrvar —narrowly missing him with her sword.

Mõrvar says, “It’s settled then; I am totally going to dishonor you!”

Then, at the far end of the hall, the door opens and a male Drow in simple clothing steps into the corridor. He is carrying a tray with an ornate ewer and 4 pewter cups on it. In this moment, he appears to be concentrating on his tray.

Rilka moves into the hall behind Cyrus as Mõrvar knocks out the last Drow female. Savaric secures the two unconscious females, removing their armor and weapons and tying them up. Surm approaches the servant, who barely notices the Northman, so intent he was on his tray, and convinces him that it is in his interest to sit down and be quiet. Surm then convinces the servant to cooperate with him—his and the other servants’ lives may depend on it. The servant’s name is Brizvae.

From Brizvae, Surm learns that the room Savaric and Mõrvar are in is, indeed, a practice room. The bedroom they came through was for the First Consort. The bedroom they arrived in through the wardrobe was the Matron’s room. The smaller shut door is the Second Consort’s room. And the double-doors lead to a large mezzanine over the meeting hall on the lower level. Brizvae had come from the kitchens with refreshments for the Drow in the practice room.

Returning to the practice room, Surm notes the captured Drow females. They search the room and find an assortment of weapons, armor (some magical), and some strange small pots in the locked cabinet with substances that they can’t identify. They go ahead and take the pots with hopes of identifying them later. Brizvae cannot identify them either.

Surm notices one of the females starting to stir and places a found tanglefoot bag on her head. She after a few moments—she ceases to stir.

They go to the Second Consort’s room and find no occupant—but a missing weapon from a weapon rack indicates that he may be around and armed. Brizvae indicates that he did not leave when the others—the Matron and her daughters—went to see about the emergency that occurred earlier in the day. They search the room and find a small chest full of gemstones, which they take.

They head back to the Matron’s room and Brizvae convinces the “singing servant” to come out and they herd the Drow into the Second Consort’s room. It appears to be a conference room of some sort that the man was cleaning.

With Brizvae’s help, they manage to make their way around and clear out more of the servants from the kitchen and herd them into the Second Consort’s room as well. Along the way, they take on some guards in the mezzanine, in the dining room, and finally, the Second Consort himself in a secret room in the Matron’s chambers. After defeating the Second Consort, they find the Red Dragon Orb in a secret compartment in the chamber. Mõrvar takes the Orb and places it in a sack.

Before they leave, the party offers to take the servants with them. Brizvae demurs—they will be in enough trouble as it is and they will not be any good on the surface, which is where the party is ultimately returning. No, the servants will make their own way to Almetherocc, another Drow city, and start over.

After they secure the Orb, the party manages to make their way out of the stronghold the same way they came in, through the passage in the Matron’s wardrobe, and then through the dragon’s lair. Mõrvar can tell that the dragon is within ten miles of the party—probably in the city above. He doesn’t know how he can tell—he just knows—which gives everyone the willies. They head to the tunnel leading out of the underground realms.

Once again, Cyrus leads the way through the tunnels. It’s a long journey through the caverns, and they all look out for hazards along the way, especially the well-camouflaged ropers they encountered before.

At an intersection of tunnels, they encounter a group of dark folk hiding in ambush. The party sees them as a threat and attacks. The dark folk’s leader attempts to dissuade them, claiming that they were sent by Laerus, Pravenel’s friend. Even Cyrus is skeptical and the party continues to engage in combat, slaying the group of dark folk.

After the fight, the party continues through the tunnels and eventually emerges into the city of Ambraxaran. They make their way to the rendezvous point they arranged with Pravenel—the Naga’s Scales. Sure enough, they find the Naga’s Scales and go to the bar and order a “bloody oyster.” They are directed by the barkeep to a secret room where they find Pravenel. After a tense negotiation, they are told that they can be guided out of the city through another secret tunnel. The party would prefer have Cyrus do it and after a bit of negotiation, Pravenel agrees to it, as does Cyrus. No mention is made of the incident in the tunnels with those that were supposedly sent by Laerus. Finally, the party is led out of another secret tunnel out of the tavern and out of the city by Cyrus.

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Session Fifty-Three
The Dragon's Lair

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24 Hearth 508

The party has just finished off the roper and Mõrvar has run it through. The party decides to press on toward the Drow stronghold of House Illythis.

Eventually, both Cyrus and Savaric report that they have come across the dragon’s chamber. Savaric volunteers to scout ahead and check it out. He activates Ilona and goes forth invisibly to check out the dragon.

Suddenly, the massive creature, which fills the magma-filled chamber with its leathery red wings and gleaming white talons, whips its tail around and strikes Savaric. It yells, “Must destroy intruders!” as it does so. Savaric picks himself up and retreats back to the group.

After much discussion, Surm leads the party out toward the dragon’s chamber. He calls out that he wishes to parley with the great dragon. It whips its massive head around to face the sorcerer, but Surm doesn’t falter. It reiterates that it must destroy intruders. It is clear that this is a compulsion placed by the holder of the Orb. Surm and the rest of the party back away so that they are no longer intruding in the chamber.

“May we speak?” Surm calls out.

“Speak!” the dragon returns.

The two enter into a long negotiation. The dragon is called Perdurriex the Mighty “…and your Doom…” he says. Surm manages to convince Perdurriex that if it lets the party pass and retrieve the Orb, they will not use it against him. Further, they can work around the compulsion by letting them pass as guests of Perdurriex, not intruders. Perdurriex agrees.

The party cautiously approaches and passes by, but the dragon keeps his word and allows them to pass. They navigate the narrow igneous rock paths between the pools of magma that make up the chamber. Finally, they make it to the other side.

On the other side, they encounter a large chamber filled with 12 Drow guards and 2 Drider. The party regroups, forms a plan, and attacks them invisibly. They emerge victorious. Mõrvar decapitates the bodies. They loot the bodies and continue onward.

They eventually come to a place where they must choose between a spiral staircase or a ramp, both leading up. They take the spiral stair.

The staircase leads up into a wardrobe that opens up into a lavish bedroom that is currently vacant. They take a jewelry box off of the vanity and explore the room. Savaric finds a secret panel along the east wall and opens it…and is surprised when a Drow on the other side throws a barrage of daggers at him.

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Session Fifty-Two
Ambraxaran

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21 Hearth 508

It is late in the day, though it is hard to tell in the deep darkness of the Underground Realms and the city of Ambraxaran. The party has made their way into the city and into the deepest reaches of the metropolis and to the inn called “The Crimson Stain.” After a brief discussion, they make their way inside.

The inn’s common room is much like those of inns on the surface. There is a motely assortment of underground dwellers at the tables, though. Grey-skinned duergar, a horned man that Surm identifies as a tiefling, more of the dark folk, drow—exclusively male—and Savaric and Mõrvar spot a gathering of humans around a dim candle in the back. Near that table, seemingly leading the entourage, is a half-elf with a group comprised of a half-orc, a dark folk, a cloaked figure, and small bug-eyed being that Savaric identifies as a derro—a sadistic fey creature with a penchant for human experimentation.

The party speak amongst themselves in Josslac as they find a table in the crowded common room and plot their next move. They figure the half-elf must be this Pravenel they are looking for. They just don’t know what their approach should be. They all have their cloaks up and are speaking low and in a language they hope no one here can understand. Examining the reactions of the mostly duergar servers and the other patrons of the room to the half-elf’s party, Rilka and Surm observe mostly a mixture of disdain and fear.

As the party debate their options, a young drow male dressed in a blousy shirt and tight leather pants comes up and puts his arm around Rilka. In Undercommon, he inquires if she would be interested in any entertainment tonight. Surm warns the man to remove his arm and walk away. The bristling attitude and warning do enough to get the man to remove his arm, but he inquires if any of them are interested in entertainment. Surm tells him again to walk away and the man shrugs and moves on to another table. Rilka checks her belongings, but finds everything in order.

A server comes by and inquires if they want to order. They order food and ale. Finally, Surm and Mõrvar rise and approach Pravenel’s table.

Pravenel and his companions bristle with tension as the two brothers approach and give them a “Who the fuck are you?” look. Surm introduces them and indicates that he has some business he’d like to discuss. The negotiations are rocky—Surm even drops the name of his contact at Tower Yenuil, but to no avail. Pravenel insists that they pay 5 platinum pieces for his time. Mõrvar, though unable to speak Undercommon, is visibly unhappy. Finally, Surm agrees and indicates that his companions will do the same. Rilka agrees to but Savaric opts to stay downstairs with Kortash and Burask. Pravenel’s companions, save for the derro, accompany him upstairs as well. The derro settles on top of their table and stares disconcertingly at Savaric.

As they move upstairs, Surm and Rilka recognize some of the features of the cloaked companion as belonging to a ghoul. Surm knows that some ghouls live in the underground as a race and some are highly intelligent, aspiring to various professions—including spellcasters. Surm passes this information on to his companions.

The party arrives at a suite where Pravenel takes a seat and indicates that everyone else should as well. Surm begins again to try and get the man’s attention. The mention of House Illithys does seem to get his attention—at least as far as Surm can tell. Rilka doesn’t notice this. Pravenel assumes that they are after the Orb. Surm indicates that he was told that Pravenel would be the man that could help them.

Eventually, in the course of negotiations, Pravenel does admit that he’s interested in hearing more, but not here. He knows of a safer venue to talk—a certain lotus den. He knows the proprietor there is not on the take from House Illythis. The party agrees to meet with him there.

Everyone gathers up and heads to the lotus den. The lotus den has many chambers, some large, some small, all permeated with an herbal smell and yellow smoke. Most of the chambers have various people with large hookahs smoking what is presumably lotus plants. The proprietor directs Pravenel and the rest to the rear of the edifice. There is a large chamber with a sliding divider to provide some degree of privacy. It seems a bit more isolated from the other chambers and not as inundated with the yellow fog of lotus smoke.

Once ensconced in the chamber, the party and Pravenel discuss the Orb, their resources, and what each “side” has to offer. The Orb is located somewhere in the Illithys stronghold—Pravenel does not know where. However, he does know of a way into the stronghold from beneath. The problem is that there is an adult red dragon in that passage. They eventually decide that Pravenel and his “squad” will cause a diversion of some sort while the party goes through the passage. That way, perhaps the stronghold will not be occupied by the matron and her daughters. They may still have to deal with guards and the consorts, but at least they won’t have to deal with what are, presumably, the greater threats. They finally decide to have the ghoul, Cyrus, act as their guide through the passage. He can also lead them to an escape route from the city. After the deed is done, they should go to the Naga’s Scales—a local tavern in the Pits—and order a bloody oyster. They will be taken to a back room where Pravenel will be waiting.

It will take three days to arrange a suitable distraction. in the meantime, Pravenel suggests that they stay with Nurgle. He’ll hide them in the Pits—for a price. As long as he’s paid, he’ll make sure they’re not seen. They agree. So Pravenel leads the party deeper into the Pits to a cavern with a tattered sheet over the door. He raps on the door frame and calls for Nurgle. A huge head emerges, it’s features a hideous mix of ogre and orc. The arrangements are made with the creature (two gold per night) and the party stay in Nurgle’s back room for three days. Watches are maintained each night, despite the assurances of Pravenel.

24 Hearth 508

Finally, after three long days in Nurgle’s back room, Cyrus arrives and announces in his raspy voice that the distraction is underway. “It is time,” he says. Accompanying him is the animated corpse of a leopard. He appears to be a ranger of some strange sort.

Everyone gathers their things and the cloaked ghoul leads the way through the winding streets and alleys deeper down into the Pits. Eventually, he leads them to a fissure in the side of a chamber wall and indicates that this is way to go. He and his leopard lead the way, followed by Mõrvar, Rilka, Surm, Kortash, Burask, and finally, Savaric.

When they enter the passageway, Cyrus turns to Mõrvar and says, “Be wary—the passages are not unoccupied.” Mõrvar passes the message along the line.

As they follow the passage, they come to a widening of the way. Suddenly, the air is filled with crossbow bolts and Surm is hit. Duergar appear out of thin air and begin to engage in combat. The fight, however, is brief and decisive. The party wipes the floor with the diminutive foes and loots their bodies. Then Mõrvar decapitates their corpses for reasons only known to him.

The troupe continues down the passages, making numerous turns. Surm and Savaric begin to notice webbing in passage. They bring this up to Cyrus, who doesn’t seem concerned. As the webbing gets thicker and actual spiders are spotted within it, Surm brings it up again to the ghoul, who now seems to register some concern. A dozen of the monstrous arachnids begin to drop down from the webs as Rilka ignites the web with a prayer to her deity.

A fight ensues, but the spiders are soon dispatched with little trouble. Shrieks are heard further down the passageway as the web burns away, indicating that more spiders were caught in the flames. The party continues down the passage.

Further down the corridors of the caverns, the party hears the sounds of chitinous legs striking stone—a familiar sound. It reminds Surm of those cave fishers they encountered back in the dwarven ruins. Cyrus sends his leopard ahead and ready’s his bow. Sure enough, a cave fisher is up ahead and it flicks its fibrous line at the ghoul, but misses. Cyrus fires at the creature, doing it damage, but failing to fell the beast. The leopard is largely ineffective. Mõrvar waits impatiently behind Cyrus. Finally having enough, Mõrvar overruns the ghoul and finishes off the crab-like monstrosity.

The corridors become more and more cavern-like, with stalactites and stalagmites appearing throughout the chambers. Finally, Cyrus turns into one large chambers with several large stalagmites in the room. As they pass one, Rilka realizes that something is definitely off about it—she doesn’t think it is a stalagmite. Right about that time, It opens a large maw that contains far too many teeth and six long, fibrous strands peel away from the top and start whipping about. One strand whips her and saps her strength. Another whips Savaric and saps him as well.

Everyone starts doing battle with the beast, an aberration that Surm is able to identify as a roper, as its strands start whipping about and sapping people of their strength. Mõrvar strides forward and begins to do battle with the main trunk. Its maw takes a sizeable chunk out of him, making him highly unhappy, but also making him think twice about the direct approach. Savaric gets down to this smoke arrows and starts firing those. Finally, Mõrvar runs the deadly creature through, though not before it gives everyone pause as to how to proceed from here—there is a dragon ahead, after all…

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Session Fifty-One
The Underground Realms

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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.

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Session Fifty
A Bargain in Darkness

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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.

View
Session Forty-Nine
A Deal is Struck

obelisk.jpg

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.

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Session Forty-Eight
Exodus

burning_barge.jpg

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.

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