Campaign of the Month: September 2018

Shadows of the Rift

Session Eighty-Seven
Red Harvest

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4 Harvest 509

After the battle, in which the Crimson Cord has slain a roper and not one, but two, dragons, they sift through the hoards for useful items and plan their next course of action.

Some of the hoard items are distributed to cohorts for their improvement. It is decided to keep the dragon egg—Savaric places it securely in his backpack. They also combine the two hoards into one in the hoard chamber.

Having sorted that issue, they send Savaric to continue exploring the caverns. He starts sneaking deeper into the cavern, taking one turn and coming upon a large pit dugout in the floor of the tunnel, almost as is something had tunneled up from deeper below. He doesn’t approach very close to the pit, but instead backtracks and takes a different turn.

These new tunnels seem to be largely empty—until he comes into chamber in which the shimmering blue form of a dwarf, armored and with his mouth open in a silent scream materializes. Savaric bolts, with the Nemhain chasing him down the corridor back to his friends.

Surm and Rilka, having heard Savaric’s warning yell, take up positions to face the Nemhain. Savaric runs in and takes up a position near Surm, while Rilka strides forward, with courage, and thrusts the talisman toward the Nemhain—and it dissipates into a blue mist before disappearing completely. The talisman worked!

Continuing down this corridor, the group finds the chamber with the Cassite. They backtrack to the dragon chamber and regroup. After a brief discussion, they decide to check out the pit, just to be thorough.

This time they bring the guards and the cohorts and head up the corridor. Savaric ventures ahead and peers into the pit—and is met with by a gargantuan gaping maw with four tongue-like tentacles surrounding it! A huge, worm emerges from the pit and grabs Savaric with one of its tentacles!

Rilka ventures forth to face the creature and it spews a cone of acid, covering her and Savaric with the stuff. Luckily, Savaric takes no damage from the onslaught, evading it, while Rilka manages to fend off part of it herself. Surm and Gwyn lob spells at the beast while Rilka slashes at it with her falchion and Savaric tries to break free. Uther manages to get close enough to channel energy for the two Cord members in the lead and jog back to the others. The creature attacks both Rilka and Savaric’s minds, though they mostly manage to fight off this onslaught. Surm casts black tentacles which help grapple the beast, but it manages to produce another cone of acid, which takes Savaric out and drenches Rilka. Surm finally pulls out a scroll of power word: stun and stuns the creature, allowing Rilka to remove the beast’s head in a triumphant stroke. The remainder of the worm’s body slides back down into the pit.

Rilka revives Savaric with the healing power of Bruni, along with Uther’s healing from Cereth. Both Savaric and Surm gaze down the hole—Savaric with his sixty feet of darkvision and Surm with a dancing lights spell. After two-hundred and sixty feet, neither can see the bottom of the pit or the body of the worm. They all decide to leave this as a problem for the dwarves.

Savaric begins skinning the dragons while Surm studies the cassite chamber as a point to teleport to. Then he, Gwyn, Rilka, Garth, and Sorcha teleport back to Khazak-Ur to conduct some business. They find a taxidermist in the upper city named Koeltha Stonehide who might be willing to preserve the head of the worm and take the dragon hides that Savaric is working on. As she’s heard of the Crimson Cord, they arrange to meet again on the following day, giving Koeltha time to find a buyer more interested in the hides. She will take the worm head, however. Surm calls it a “tentacle worm” and Koeltha accepts that as its name.

They also head to the marketplace and purchase a large bag of holding at “Sundries by Silverpike.”

Finally, they meet with Tasvian Hammerfall, reporting their success. She assures them that the Conclave will work quickly to acquire enough cassite for their spearhead and then they can begin on the Ysarian Steel shaft. She says she will meet with the Conclave and then see them the following afternoon, after their appointment with Koeltha.

The small party teleports back to the cassite chamber and then help load the hoard into the bag of holding.

They take the newly-skinned dragon hides and the hoard to the abandoned campsite and camp for night. The night passes quietly.

5 Harvest 509

Rilka and Tarben start the day with obediences to Bruni and the entire entourage prepares to travel back to Khazak-Ur.

Around noontime, Surm, Leif, Halvor, Savaric and Rilka teleport to the “House of Warship”, their inn in the city to prepare to visit the taxidermist, Koeltha Stonehide. There, they pick up Mahgnus and head to the upper city.

At Koeltha’s shop, they are met by another dwarf who is introduced as Targus Splitaxe. He is an armorer interested in the dragon hides. He offers 950 gold pieces for the hides, which Savaric accepts. He sells the teeth and claws to Koeltha for another 200 gold. Targus offers to let them see the suits of armor he’s going to build from the dragon hide and tells them that his shop lies in the lower city, two streets over from the Lonely Throne.

After their business is done, the party heads back to the inn where Rilka gets groomed. Savaric, for his part, is growing a beard. They head to the common room for dinner and dismiss Leif and Halvor to their own devices.

Over dinner, Mahgnus describes the information he found. Apparently a man wearing that strange Aedonii symbol was seen in Jenna about two months ago, raising havoc, killing random people. Then, he disappeared. Apparently he was there before heading off to the Saelfsidhedal (or “the elf-lands”). There has been no word on Mõrvar Ulrich—and Surm makes a point of insisting that Mahgnus not refer to him as “Master Mõrvar.”

After dinner, they head to Tasvian’s forge. She reassures them that she has met with the Conclave and work is beginning on refining the cassite for the spear head—it should be ready in about a week and half. But, until the Cord releases all of the information on the Ysarian Steel, then she can’t know how long the spear will take. Surm says that he’s ready to divulge that information and Tasvian takes them to Darius, the Recorder for the Conclave. But before they leave, she hands him a bag of 250 platinum pieces as a bonus from the Conclave for taking on the worm (which Tasvian identifies as a neothelid) and an extra dragon.

At Darius’ home, which is near Tasvian’s forge, Surm recites the secret of Ysarian Steel while Darius eagerly records it in a leather-bound journal. After about an hour, the Conclave has the information they need. Tasvian estimates that the shaft will take about fifteen days to forge.

The party returns to the House of Warship and sends to Alasir via the Agent’s Clasp to get an idea of where the rest of the party is. Alasir informs him that they have just entered the city and are making their way to the House of Warship. The party gets an additional suite for the cohorts to stay in and learn that the soldiery has been staying at the Thane’s Decree, while Alasir, Leif, and Sorcha are at the Three Wells Inn—there was not enough room for everyone at the Thane’s Decree.

The troops arrive and have a joyful reuniting of the troupe. Rilka makes plans to visit Kortash later, though he is staying in the common room at the Thane’s Decree. After the reunion, everyone heads to their separate rooms for the night in anticipation of waiting out the forging of the spear.

8 Harvest 509

Over the past few days, the Cord has been waiting for the forging of the pieces of the spear—the Cassite head and the Ysarian Steel shaft. Rilka makes arranges to have her magical headband upgraded. Savaric spends his time watching the forging process—but is sworn to secrecy by Tasvian—the Conclave doesn’t want any trade secrets getting out. Surm asks Bragara if she is familiar with “The Heart of the World”—she does not.

So on this day, Surm goes to Tasvian and takes her aside. He asks her if she has heard of the Heart of the World. She seems shocked to be asked and admits that, yes, she knows of it, though she’s not supposed to. When pressed by Surm, she reveals that it is an extremely rare mineral found in the deep wells beneath the city. At least, it was. She knows of only two sources now. One, she knows that the temple of Skondir has about 10 ounces of the stuff that is revered almost like a holy relic. The second, she has heard rumor of a vein from a drunk old miner named Koram Flintspire who frequents the Lucky Cup. The source isn’t very reliable though. When Surm asks if the temple might be persuaded to part with their Heart of the World, Tasvian laughs that off—a non-dwarf who shouldn’t even know of the material’s existence, much less it’s location? No, they would not part with it for him.

After talking with Tasvian, Surm takes Mahgnus and the cohorts to the Lucky Cup. The Lucky Cup is a ramshackle dive of an inn. There are a handful of dwarves, some humans, and even a couple of half-orcs sitting at tables about the room. Surm and the others, in their clean clothes and finery, make quite an entrance.

After a brief exchange with the bartender, whom Surm manages to charm with his personality and a bit of coin, they learn that Koram is indeed here. The barkeep points to an unconscious, white-haired dwarf lying face-first on one of the tables. Surm and the others go to join him and Mahgnus wakes the dwarf.

The dwarf, with unkempt beard, long hair, and horrible breath, comes to. He has a wide gap between his teeth and blinks about, asking who they are. Surm asks if he’s Koram Flintspire and he affirms that he is. Surm then whispers to him that he wants to ask him about the Heart of the World and that he was told Koram was the man to talk to.

The old dwarf blinks in surprise and says that they can’t talk about that down here in the common room. Surm gets a room in the inn, free for an hour from the barkeep so that they can talk in privacy. They all head up to the room and they can all see that Koram has a distinct limp.

When they get up in the room, Surm gets the dwarf to tell his story. Apparently he was a part of a mining outfit funded by the nephew of a Thane. The nephew’s name is Rolgar Graniteshard. While they were in one of the deep caverns beneath the city, Koram saw that they had opened up a vein of the beautiful mineral known as the Heart of the World. But before they could mine it, the tunnel wall was opened up by a Ghorazagh, a monstrous, many legged horror of the deep caverns. It nearly took Koram’s leg off as he tried to get away…the others were not so lucky. No one in the expedition survived except for him.

The nephew sent two adventuring parties down into the shaft to clear out the Ghorazagh—neither returned. Now no one will take the job. So the rare mineral lies un-mined down in the deep, guarded by aberrations of the deep.

Surm indicates he wants Koram to lead them to the shaft. Koram laughs at that—he isn’t going back down there. He nearly died and friends he knew did die. He prioritizes his life over gold and glory. He does tell them where to find Rolgar Graniteshard, though.

Surm pays the man five gold for his time and he, Mahgnus, and the cohorts return to the House of Warship to report to the others.

14 Harvest 509

Surm teleports to Kalimsport with Mahgnus, Rilka, and Savaric to spend the day establishing their building projects in the city.

15 Harvest 509

Surm has been spending his time teleporting back and forth from Almathriel, visiting with Lord Springvale. Lord Springvale is fascinated by the tales of adventure Surm brings back, and by Surm himself. He asks Springvale if he would be interested in the dragon egg that they found. The elven lord demurs, saying that he is more interested in antiquities. But he does offer to ask about and find someone who does.

During one of Surm’s subsequent visits, Springvale tells him that he thinks he knows someone who might be interested in the egg—a lecturer at the Spire of Magic named Valerian Tarsinia. She is interested in such things in her studies and was a classmate of the Princess of the Moon. Lord Springvale can arrange a meeting if Surm wishes—and Surm indicates that he does.

The following day, Springvale informs Surm that dinner has been arranged for the 15th. Surm asks if the others in the Cord are welcome, and Springvale says “Of course!”

The party arrives for the dinner and Springvale is gracious and welcoming. He indicates that Valerian is already here. He leads them all into the dining room where an attractive elf female with long brown hair, that shimmers like gold in the light, stands by the sideboard with a glass of wine. Her lavender gown is exquisite.

Introductions are made and Valerian is reserved, but polite. Dinner of roast goose with vegetables is brought out and everyone takes their seats. Lord Springvale tells Valerian of the Crimson Cord’s exploits, almost as if he is showing off that he knows such illustrious adventurers. Valerian seems to be interested in the story, but is still very reserved and not very demonstrative. Polite, but quiet.

Finally, she brings up that Paranthiel spoke of an egg. Surm takes up the story and describes the egg. Then he has Savaric present it. Savaric brings it out of the backpack—and notices a slight throb in the egg. Just once. He lets Valerian touch the egg and she notes how warm it is to the touch. She seems genuinely fascinated and asks to examine it. Savaric acquiesces.

About this time, dessert if brought out—custard with fruit. As everyone is enjoying their desserts, Valerian says that she will consider the matter of the egg and send word to Paranthiel if she is willing to purchase. This is amenable to all involved.

Valerian takes her leave and Rilka comments on her reserve. Springvale indicates that it probably due to all of her dealings in the court—one must maintain ones reserve there or have one’s desires and wants used against them. Rilka, and only Rilka, hears a hint of bitterness in the lord’s voice when speaking of the court.

Springvale is willing to hold the egg until Valerian makes an offer, though he jokes about the possibility of it hatching on his watch. With this, the Crimson Cord takes their leave.

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Session Eighty-Six
Dragons Fall

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24 Chillwind 509

The Crimson Cord have decided to wait eight days before descending into the depths beyond Khazak-Ur in search of the Cassite chamber…and the dragon.

During this time, Surm Ulrich hits the streets and recruits the first four cohorts for his design of a new and expanded Crimson Cord. There is Gwyn Emberbright, a half-elven female sorceress; Bragara Stonemantle, a dwarven female fighter; Uther Meryton, a human male cleric of Cereth; and Darvin Barrelight, a halfling male rogue. Surm is hoping to train these new recruits in the ways of the Crimson Cord and send them out into the world to spread the name and glory of the Cord.

Rilka, for her part, is getting her falchion further modified by magic to help face the coming the fight with the dragon. Savaric debates buying poison for his arrows, but decides against it, thinking it may go against the teachings of Isranthr.

3 Harvest 509

The Crimson Cord, with the new cohorts, and their guards, find Tasvian Hammerfall and she begins leading them all through the city down into the far reaches of the mountain on which the dwarven capital is perched. Tasvian takes them all through a series of tunnels and chambers, all leading deeper and deeper down into the ancient rock. Finally, after nearly a day of travel, they come upon a camp that used to belong to dwarven miners—before the dragon was discovered and it was abandoned.

Here the entourage decides to make their own camp—but not before encountering a cloaker that was hiding on the ceiling of the chamber. After a brief fight, it is Gwyn that eventually deals the killing blow. After the fight, the group is able to make their camp in peace.

4 Harvest 509

That morning, Tasvian passes on the talisman to use against the Nemhain to Rilka and explains how to use it. It is mostly used to turn the creature, but there is a remote chance that it could be destroyed outright. She explains that the set of the chambers where the cassite can be found is located about a hour further below. With this, she takes her leave.

As they make their way down, the party decides to send Savaric ahead to scout once they get close to the dragon’s lair. As they descend, the temperature begins to rise—not enough to harm, but it is simply noticeable and slightly disconcerting. Soon, they begin to hear the deep sounds of heavy breaths—possibly from a huge creature—echoing up the corridor..

Savaric uses Ilona to go invisible and he stealthily makes his way into the next chamber. There he finds the dragon, looking about and on its guard due to the noise of such a large group traveling down the corridor. As Savaric continues to scout the passages and avoid the dragon he discovers yet another adult dragon in an adjacent chamber. This one is slumbering. He cautiously makes his way back to his comrades and makes his report.

The Cord spends some time planning their next move. The dragon, on its guard already, calls down the corridor: “I hear you whispering, little rats. Plotting your theft, no doubt.”

After formulating their plan, the main party forges ahead to face the dragon, leaving the guards and cohorts behind in the corridor. Savaric sneaks ahead invisible to set up an advantageous position near the dragon from which to fire his arrows.

Once they begin their attack, the dragon is caught unawares by Savaric’s barrage of arrows. Surm heads forward, invisibly, and sets up an invisible wall of force in the chamber, blocking the other dragon from coming to its compatriot’s aid. In the meantime, Rilka and Savaric are dealing with the dragon, with Surm lobbing spells after setting up his wall. Finally, the beast is felled by one of Savaric’s many arrows.

The party briefly regroups and then Surm dismisses the invisible wall to allow them to face the second dragon. This fight goes well and Savaric is also able to bring down the fell creature with his well placed arrows.

They bring the guards and cohorts forward into the dragon’s chamber before beginning to explore the other chambers. They find a hoard of coins and other objects near the main chamber. They also find the second dragon’s hoard tucked away in a narrow cavern—and, with it, a single leathery egg. Finally, as they full explore the area, they encounter a roper—a hideous aberration that disguises itself as a rock formation. This creature is also brought down by Savaric, though not until it puts up a hard fight, shooting its tendrils out at Rilka and Surm.

The Cord regroups in the dragon chamber, ready to face the Nemhain and find the cassite in the northernmost chambers of the cavern…

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Session Eighty-Five
Knowledge Gained, Knowledge Sought

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11 Chillwind 509

The party stands outside the Ruby Arch within the Hall of Mercerius. After making sure that the ruby they have collected from within is secure, they walk to the Diamond Arch. There, they discuss elementals and a possible plan if, as they suspect, this gate leads to the elemental plane of air. Rilka could fly with the power of her armor to the gemstone and retrieve it while the others (Savaric and Surm) deal with the elementals—assuming that this area is set up symmetrically with the other.

They head inside the arch through the dark portal, with Rilka leading the way.

The three adventurers hover in the midst of a realm comprised of sky above and below. A warm light suffuses all—though its source is impossible to discern. Small, living whirlwinds fly by, rifling through their hair and clothes. It is hard to determine where is up and where is down. And, without an external “push” of some sort, it is impossible to move from one place to another. The portal they came from remains just out of reach behind them…

Savaric uses Ilona to fly to portal. He reaches back through the portal, and nothing happens. They decide to send Savaric out of the portal to secure a rope to use to navigate around the portal on the other side. Once on the other side, he secures a rope to the Diamond Arch and brings the remainder of the line through the portal. Success! Surm holds the remainder of the rope after Savaric returns and ties it around himself.

Rilka flies toward a sparkling clear gemstone hanging suspended in the air about 100 feet away. As she approaches, as expected, a pair of large air elementals coalesce in the air around her. They begin pounding her as she tries to fly to the gemstone and back to her friends. Surm sends two lightning bolts toward one of the elementals from his wand while Savaric fires arrows at the creature. One of the elementals gives chase, while the one that has sustained the most damage from Surm and Savaric’s onslaught lingers behind. The elemental continues to pound on Rilka as she flies back. Finally, she makes it to her friends and through the portal, with Surm and Savaric pulling themselves through with the rope. They all arrive back in the Hall of Mercerius, safe and with the gemstone.

Rilka says some prayers of healing for herself and everyone takes a moment to rest. Then they head to the Aquamarine Arch.

The three discuss the probability that this gate will lead to the elemental plane of water. They wonder if they will be able to breathe there—or if that is part of the trial. Savaric braves the portal and arrives on the other side. He is immediately engulfed in water and, when he opens his mouth, begins to drown. He does see a shining aquamarine-hued gemstone about one hundred feet from the portal. He returns through the portal and reports that they will not be able to breathe.

The party takes some time to discuss a plan for this portal and Surm arrives at a creative solution. Rilka will be able to cast water breathing on herself and Savaric. Meanwhile, Surm will turn himself into a squid and outswim the elementals with the gemstone. With their plan in mind and spells cast, the three pass through the Aquamarine Arch.

They find themselves immersed in a sea without a surface or a floor. There is a diffuse glow lighting the area, its source unknown. The water feels to be a mixture of saline and fresh and swirls with currents and eddies. Across the way, about a hundred feet away, is a gleaming aquamarine gemstone. Surm immediately transforms into a squid and swims for the gemstone. Sure enough, two huge water elementals take form within the waters around the stone. Fortunately, Surm is able to outrun them as they give chase and he flops through the portal with Savaric and Rilka close on his tentacles.

Surm reverts to his usual shape and the three then discuss what to do with the three gemstones: ruby, diamond, and aquamarine.

They take the gemstones to the central green gemstone in the Hall and each, at the same time, present a gained gemstone to the floating emerald. The gemstones are pulled out of the hands of the presenters and begin orbiting the central green gem, much in the same way that Ioun stones orbit Rilka’s head. Then beams of light—white, red, and blue—burst forth from the smaller gems into the green one. Suddenly a huge portal opens up above them, covering the ceiling of the hall. Sand begins to fall down through the portal, quickly filling the room. Surm immediately levitates to the top of the room. Savaric and Rilka have to pull themselves up through the pillar of sand toward the awaiting portal on the ceiling of the room. Finally, the two half-orcs push through and the three ascend through the portal.

They stand on a column of packed sand. About a hundred yards ahead of them, they see a thirty-foot-tall platform, approachable on three sides by wide steps. The platform is made of green marble, as is the floor leading to it. Beyond the platform is darkness, impenetrable save for the occasional purple, green, and blue electrical strikes that permeate it. The darkness stretches out for as far as they can see.

Perched upon the platform is a huge creature. It appears to have the body of a lion, the wings of a mighty bird of prey, and human face. The face is male, dark-skinned, with a black braided beard and no mustache. The eyes are solid blue light. It wears an elaborate, golden headdress with strange symbols etched upon it. The brim is lined with gemstones.

The creature opens his mouth and its booming voice, speaking in Jossian, can be heard not only ringing in their ears, but in their thoughts.

“Come forward, mortals. You have endured my trials and have earned something of great value—my time. Do not waste it.”

Surm begins telling the great androsphinx of the quest for the secret of Ysarian steel. Mercerius wants to know why it is that they wish to have this secret. Rilka explains the holy quest and the forging of a weapon to combat the coming evil.

Mercerius says, “Yes…the wheels of the universe forever turn toward the inevitable end. A force not seen upon this plane in an age stirs. I know not if this knowledge I bestow upon you will help you drive it back, but I give you my hope that you can.”

Mercerius then rears back and gives a mighty roar. The party is temporarily deafened, but find that they now have the knowledge needed to forge Ysarian steel. A dark portal opens to their side and the sphinx is no longer in the chamber.

The party passes through the portal and finds themselves at the bottom of the mountain on which Mercerius’ stronghold stands.

12 Chillwind 509

Surm teleports the three of them back to Valeton, where they frighten a gardener who is working the grounds around the temple of Rosaela. Reuniting with their troupe at the Dancing Hare, they discover that a day has passed and it is now afternoon on the 12th of Chillwind.

Alasir buys the three drinks in celebration of their victory at the stronghold. Rilka retrieves her holy symbol from Halvor, to whom she gave it in case she didn’t return.

With drinks in hand, as well as a warm meal, the three discuss what is to happen next. Should they return to [Almathriel] and report their success to Lord Springvale? Should the proceed to Khazak-Ur to find the cassite crystal needed for the spearhead? They finally decide to head to Khazak-Ur. Rilka excuses herself and takes Kortash upstairs with her.

13 Chillwind 509

As the troupe begins to make their way out of Valeton, Surm begins to record the secret of Ysarian steel in a newly-blanked Tome of Leadership. The autumnal winds blow down from the mountains and bring a freshness to the air. The trees are turning color and the vale is quite beautiful this time of year. The day and night pass quietly as they travel northwest toward the pass that will take the troupe out of the vale and out of the elven lands back into human kingdoms and, eventually, Khazak-Ur.

16 Chillwind 509

After two more days of travel, the troupe arrives at the walls of Ebongate around noontime. After questioning by the gate guards, Alasir is logged as the leader of the forces going into the city. They travel to a park near the city center and let Surm study the area for about an hour so that he can have a clear point to which to teleport at some point in the future, if needed. There is a statue named fro Firan Stormwind, a cleric of Halor, here and it can be used as a landmark. After about an hour, they continue on through the streets and exit the city on the other side.

20 Chillwind 509

After several more quiet days of travel, the troupe arrives at the gates of Khazak-Ur, chief city of the dwarven civilization. Surm inquires of the gate guard concerning the Conclave of the Forge. The guard seems a bit disconcerted, and avows that he has heard of the Conclave, though they like to keep themselves secret. He suggests that they speak with Tasvian Hammerfall at the Maker’s Nod, a tavern. She should know something. He also gives them some recommendations for inns and they decided on the “fancy” inn, the House of Warship. It is apparently built from an old warship that has been dragged into the mountain and converted into an inn. Intrigued, the party makes their way there.

Along the way, Surm dismisses the troops to go on leave and Alasir stays with the guards, leaving only Surm, Rilka, Savaric, and Mahgnus to go to the House of Warship.

At the inn, which has a grand gangplank and gold-filigreed hardwood interiors, they are greeted by a mature female dwarf by the name of Isvalda. She sees to their needs and arranges a suite for the four of them. After the four are settled into their rooms, they head out into the city to get courtiers’ clothes (at Surm’s insistence) in order to make a good impression on this Tasvian Hammerfall.

Surm wants the clothes the clothes today, but the tailor insists that such a job, to be done at the quality Surm demands, takes three days. They pay the man extra and receive assurances that they will have the clothing ready by tomorrow morning.

They head back to the House of Warship and have dinner and drinks in the common room. They have a young dwarven male as a waiter who serves them in earnest, but is later taken aside by a very hoity-toity looking dwarf seated at a nearby table. The two half-orcs have been receiving stares from that direction all evening. After the young waiter is taken aside, he heads to the kitchen area. From that point forward, it is clear that the waiter is trying to rush the table’s occupants into finishing their evening. Surm purposefully takes his time.

Savaric asks about the finely-dressed dwarf and learns that his name is Fergus Stonecracker, an investor in the inn. They watch as Stonecracker rises to leave and runs into Isvalda at the door to the common area. There, he expresses his “disappointment” in allowing such clientele into inn and jeopardizing the quality of his investment. Isvalda says nothing and lets the old dwarf pass. She heads into the kitchen and, a few moments later, the young waiter returns with a round of drinks for the table. “On the house,” the dwarf says.

Soon thereafter, the party heads to their suite and to rest in warm beds for the first time in a good while.

21 Chillwind 509

As the party (sans Mahgnus) leaves the House of Warship to retrieve their finery and to seek to Tasvian Hammerfall, they meet Isvalda on the deck. Rilka thanks her for the drinks last night. Isvalda acknowledges the thanks with a simple nod of understanding.

The party retrieves their dwarven finery—including a dress for Rilka. She receives help from a matronly dwarf with the clasps on the dress. They return to the House of Warship to change and stow their gear. They then head to the Maker’s Nod.

It’s early in the day and the Nod does not have many patrons. There are a pair of dwarves seated in one corner. A couple of humans—not together—sipping drinks, and a young female dwarf seated alone sketching in a notebook. They approach the female.

Surm introduces himself and the others to the young dwarf, who is, indeed, Tasvian Hammerfall. Surm makes his inquiry of her concerning what she knows of the Conclave of the Forge. She seems a bit disconcerted by the question—especially the fact that a gate guard fingered her as having such information. Nevertheless, she suggests that they take the conversation to a more private area.

Tasvian leads them out of the tavern and to a nearby residence with a small forge sitting adjacent. They gather in her forge. There, she listens as Rilka explains why they need the Conclave and the cassite. Tasvian acknowledges that she can probably get them an audience with the Conclave, but that it’ll take her about three hours to do it. And they will need to be prepared to convince the Conclave of their case—they take pride in their secrecy, but also in their knowledge. The party agrees to return here in three hours.

The three friends head back to the House of Warship to change and to wait for Tasvian’s meeting. Rilka requires the aid of a chambermaid to extract herself from her dress. The young female dwarf—who is extremely giggly—helps her out, much to Rilka’s chagrin. They all decide to attend the meeting in their “Captain Rilka” uniforms and to go armed and armored—they don’t know where Tasvian is going to lead them and it is best to be prepared. Surm also buys a bandolier with which to hold weapons, flasks, and wands at easy reach.

After three hours, the party arrives at Tasvian’s forge. She is dressed in a dark cloak that covers her completely. “Follow me,” she says and leads them through some back alleys and dark side-streets to a less affluent part of the upper city. She arrives at a back door in an alley and knocks in sequence—3 knocks, then 2 knocks, and finally a single knock. The door is opened by a thin (for a dwarf) male with a pointy black beard. He ushers them all in and opens a trapdoor in the floor. Stairs lead down into darkness.

Tasvian leads the way down into a basement with eleven other dwarves. She hangs her cloak on a peg near the entryway. At the back of the room is a wooden pallet being used as a stage and an ornately carved stool. On the stool sits a bit of what appears to be red silk. As Tasvian leads the others through the crowd, greetings of “Hello Forge Master” follow in Tasvian’s wake. She arrives at the stage and places the silk stole about her neck. Each end has the seal of the Conclave embroidered in white.

Tasvian introduces the party to the gathered dwarves and indicates that they have a request of the Conclave. Surm steps forward and starts their tale from the beginning, with the green Aedonii gemstone. He then goes on to explain their holy quest and the need for the cassite and how he associated the use of the mineral with the Conclave. Finally, he implores them to assist them in this important mission, and invokes the name of the Crimson Cord—which some of the gathered dwarves seem to recognize.

Tasvian says that there is some discussion and a vote to take place. She indicates that this will be done in secret and has the Cord wait upstairs.

After about ten minutes, the Cord is brought back down into the basement and Tasvian announces that the Conclave has voted to help them in their quest. They would be happy to help the Cord forge with the secret of Ysarian steel and to aid in acquiring the necessary cassite needed for the Spear of Salvation. However…the only cache of the mineral that they are aware of is in an old cavern, deep below the city, and is guarded by the red dragon Imratrix—at least, according to the writings of their predecessors in the Conclave. There is also a nemhain, a ghostly guardian set by the previous Conclave to guard the cache. Tasvian has a talisman to help against the nemhain, but she has every confidence, based on the reputation of the Crimson Cord, that they can handle Imratrix. The Cord agrees to take on the task.

The cavern will take about three days of travel to find. Tasvian can lead the way once the Cord is prepared for the journey. The Cord can find her either at the Maker’s Nod or at her forge.

The meeting is dismissed and everyone disperses. And the Crimson Cord has a dragon on their mind…

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Session Eighty-Four
The Hall of Mercerius

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30 Transformation 509

The Crimson Cord are staying at the Dancing Hare in Valeton. The principals are staying in one suite, while Mahgnus, Alasir, and Tarben share the second suite. The rest of the troupe are bunking in the common room.

Inside the suite, after all arrangements for accommodations have been made, Surm reveals that Mõrvar has had a letter delivered to them outlining his demands for his severance with the Crimson Cord. The group discuss the particulars of the matter and come to a decision to essentially “cash out” with Surm’s brother, paying him a fair severance of platinum coin instead of meeting his demands one-by-one. They are in agreement that there will be no negotiating on the matter—the offer can be taken or left. Surm will deliver the message to Mõrvar (who is apparently camping on the south side of the town) in the morning.

That evening, Surm takes time to memorize the features of the temple to Rosaela in the center of town in order to use it as a location for teleportation back to Valeton.

1 Chillwind 509

The party makes ready to leave Valeton and journey to the Riftpeaks to the east. As they head out of town, Surm takes the form of a hawk and delivers their message to Mõrvar at the south of town. After delivering the message, Surm returns to the party and assumes his usual form.

It is autumn in the Vale, which brings changing leaves on the trees and chill winds blowing down from the surrounding mountains. It is a, nevertheless, a pleasant and quiet journey. That night, the troupe pitches their camp in the cover of the forest. The night passes without incident.

2 Chillwind 509

Near the end of this day of traveling, the party has emerged from the dense forest and into the foothills of the Riftpeaks. Savaric, scouting ahead, notes a tall pillar of bones on one of the hills up ahead. The pile is probably ten feet in height and narrow. He reports back to the rest of the troupe and they approach the bones together with caution.

As Savaric examines the pile more closely, Rilka prays to her god and finds that there is no evil nor any magic emanating from the pile. Surm speculates that it may be a cairn of some sort. Savaric finds that the bones are humanoid and definitely stacked in a purposeful fashion. Further, the bones are clean—there is not a mark on them either from battle or artifice. He also finds no tracks in the area other than their own. The top of the pillar is adorned with a humanoid skull. Peering between the bones, he discovers that the pillar is hollow, but sees nothing inside. Finding nothing more, but being disturbed nevertheless, the troupe elects to move on.

At the end of the day, the troupe arrives at the base of the western Riftpeaks. The core of the Crimson Cord (Rilka, Savaric, and Surm), decide to send the bulk of the troupe back to Valeton and take only Tarben and Burask (both volunteers) with them to Mercerius’ stronghold. They give Alasir the other half of the Agent’s Clasp that can be used for communication.

The troupe camps for the night, which passes quietly.

3 Chillwind 509

This morning Alasir takes the bulk of the Crimson Cord’s guards back to Valeton. The remaining members (Rilka, Savaric, Surm, Burask, and Tarben) beginning navigating their way through the mountains, blazing a trail for themselves through the craggy passes.

As they make their way through, later in the day, Savaric spots a large shape overhead descending at speed toward him. He takes up a position and begins to fire at the creature—a rift drake—with many rapid fire shot. The creature is overwhelmed by the barrage and falls heavily, with Savaric and Ghost both narrowly avoiding being crushed by the falling carcass.

The rest of the troupe, about 50 feet away, see and hear the falling drake and start coming forward to help as a second drake begins to descend. After the drake lands, it breaths out a ball of acidic vapors that cover Savaric and Ghost, but they manage to avoid the brunt of the burning cloud. Savaric once again takes up a position and begins firing as the rest of the troupe catches up. Finally, the second drake is dispatched.

Savaric takes about an hour to skin one of the rift drakes for its leather, teeth, and claws. The party then continues on its way, emerging from the mountains near nightfall to the volcanic plain of the Rift. The party sets up watches and camps for the night.

4 Chillwind 509

This morning, Surm teleports everyone to Almathriel to pick up Ilona from the craftsperson that was “upgrading” her powers. On the return trip, he manages to find a similar area of the Rift to land in, but not the same one he left (he had a left a marker with his arcane mark on it to designate it to avoid getting lost). Fortunately, they were only about a hundred yards away from their intended destination. The small group continues on its way across the obsidian plain, camping in the desolation for the night.

6 Chillwind 509

Once again, Surm teleports the party to Almathriel to retrieve magic items. This time, the return occurs without incident.

As the party continues across the desolate Rift, with Savaric scouting ahead, they come upon a sight that they had hoped never to see again—a colossus carnivorous blob oozing its way across the plain. Surm remembers that cold damage seemed to be its weakness and began preparing snowball spells. Savaric fired into the creature, but it bounded its way faster than its size would indicate and smacked Savaric hard with one of its pseudopods—sucking his life blood. Rilka steps forward to bravely defend Savaric and manages to split the ooze into two smaller creatures. She, too, is hit and is drained of life, falling on the field, seemingly dead. The fight has now taken a turn that is hard for the party, having to fight on two fronts. Surm pelts the creatures with snowballs, eventually dispatching them both with the powerful balls of ice.

The battle leaves the party hurting badly. Surm teleports them all back to Valeton, to the temple of Rosaela, and then they walk to the Dancing Hare to spend the night nursing their wounds. Surm tells the story of their battle to an impressed audience of Crimson Cord guards and inn patrons. Farlo gives them all drinks on the house.

7 Chillwind 509

Rilka spends the morning in prayer as the party prepares to depart once again for the Rift. After her prayers, she provides herself and Savaric with healings and restorative prayers to aid in their recovery from the battle. Afterwards, she tells the party that when she fell in battle the previous day, she found herself in the Hall of Bruni. There, he told her that he was proud that she fell bravely in battle, defending her friends. This is a good death for one of his own. But, there is still much to be done about the coming menace. So Bruni told her that she would not be living in his hall just yet…but would reside there is she fell again, or when she completed her task against the doom that is to come. She is essentially living on borrowed time until her purpose is complete. The Cord doesn’t know what to do with this news and is largely silent. The party rests for the remainder of the day while Savaric goes on a hunt in the name of Isranthr. Savaric returns with fresh meat for his friends, after making the appropriate sacrifice to the Hunter.

Farlo, the innkeep, asks Surm to tell the story of their battle again to tonight’s patrons, which he does to a rapt audience.

8 Chillwind 509

Surm teleports the party back to the Rift to the site of their battle with the blobs. There, the remains reek of old blood, bile, and decay. They move on toward the eastern Riftpeaks. That night, they camp and make ready to move on the next day.

10 Chillwind 509

After traveling all day across the desolation of the Rift, the party arrives at the Riftpeaks at sundown. They stand at the base of the mountain on which Mercerius’ stronghold is reputed to lie. Surm changes his shape into that of a giant eagle and flies to the top of the mountain to scout it out.

Near the top of the mountain is a plateau. Setting on the plateau is a series of marble columns, covered in strange runes. On top of the columns is a great marble lintel, also with runes etched in its edges. Within the wall-less structure is a dark portal. Above the structure, casting multicolored light over the runes on the columns and lintel, is a huge dark storm cloud with purple, red, and blue lightning streaking through it.

Surm returns and reports his find to the rest of the party. They elect to teleport to the top the following morning.

11 Chillwind 509

Surm teleports the party to the plateau near the top of the mountain. Savaric checks the area finds none. Surm casts read magic on the runes and discovers that they are runes of warding that help infuse the portal. If the warding is dispelled, he will dispel the portal itself. Further inspection reveals that the warding appears to teleport those that cannot breach the portal if they try too many times. Where they are teleported, it is unsure—but Surm is fairly confident that it would be somewhere on this plane of existence.

It is decided that Savaric will try the portal first. He makes his way to the dark glowing pane and passes through, disappearing into the darkness. Bursask goes next—but fails to penetrate a membrane that seems to be around the portal. Tarben tries, and fails as well. Rilka hands a holy symbol of Bruni to Tarben and asks him to give it to the shrine she is building in Kalimsport if she does not return. She then tries the portal—and fails. She tries again—and penetrates the membrane and enters the darkened portal.

Surm teleports himself and the two guards to Valeton—or at least, attempts to. He ends up somewhere in the dense elven forests of the area around Valeton. Clearly exasperated, he pulls out a scroll and then teleports them all to Valeton. He sends a message to Rilka through Alasir that they’ve arrived. The message works—making them wonder whether or not Rilka and Savaric are on another plane of existence or not. After making sure that Rilka and Savaric are fine (they appear to be in a darkened hall of some sort), he uses another scroll to teleport himself back to the plateau. Surm then braces himself and heads through the portal, breaking his way easily through the membrane and into the darkness.

The three stand in a dark hall, with gold, rune-infused walls and dark floor tiles which have sparks of arcane energy running between them. Ahead of them is a floating emerald, about the size of a fist, glowing in a soft green light.

Surm announces their presence: “We seek Mercerius from the far side of the portal!” No answer is offered from the vast hall.

They move forward and examine the gemstone. It is not like the green gem that infect Surm’s brother so long ago—it appears to be a keystone of sorts and is related to the ioun stones that Rilka has orbiting her head. There is also some sort of necromantic ward around the keystone to protect it. Beyond the keystone is an alcove with a large framed gateway holding another dark portal. The gateway is made of aquamarine. Examining it with his arcane senses, Surm determines that it is a portal to some fixed point off of this plane. They continue around the perimeter of the hall and find two other portals—one framed in diamond and one framed in ruby.

After a brief discussion, they party opts to pass through the ruby portal.

They find themself on an island of black rock surrounded by rivers of fire and lava. Behind them is the portal through which they passed. Across this fiery plain, on a pedestal of obsidian, they spot a shiny red ruby. Surm casts telekinesis and begins pulling the gem toward them, slowly, across the plain. As it crosses one of the rivers of fire, two large fire elementals emerge and start gliding quickly toward the party, overtaking the slow-moving gemstone. A fierce battle ensues, which Surm concentrating on moving the gemstone as the other two fight off the elementals. However, they party eventually overcome the elementals, causing them to dissipate into embers. Surm grabs the gemstone and the party returns to the hall through the portal.

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Session Eighty-Three
Cutting Ties and Moving On

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16 Transformation 509

The main body of the Crimson Cord and its entourage are marching from the Ysarian complex site toward Almathriel while Surm has teleported away to take care of some business. The evening of the 14th was a quite a dramatic affair, with a drag-out argument between Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar over their actions within the Ysar complex when Surm jumped through the gate. There are many hard feelings simmering to the top for the group and things came to a head. Morvar leaves during the night without so much as a word, taking his horse and riding southwest.

Surm utilizes his newly-developed teleport spell to take care of some loose ends and to confront his brother, seemingly for the final time. He tries to explain to him that even if he was right about what happened in the complex, his reactions afterwards were wrong and not indicative of a person who cares about family. Mõrvar is intractable, insisting that everyone was against him, had always been against him, and that Surm was taking their side—as per usual. Surm, obviously upset and a bit angry himself, leaves his brother to his own devices and teleports away.

Surm now returns to the remaining members of the Cord and discusses the implications of the split with them. They all agree that Mõrvar is clearly no longer a member of the Cord, which would mean no access to their business dealings and contacts under their auspices. Surm has taken steps to ensure that this is the case. They also all agree to move forward with Surm’s recruiting idea of the Crimson Cord Fellowship to further their fame and resources. Surm is to return to Almathriel where Tarben, Burask, and Mahgnus await—he has some business brewing there awaiting their return (a magic weapon for Burask, retraining, etc.). He then teleports to Almathriel, with a request from Savaric to have Mahgnus ask around for some known brewers in the area that he could call upon as contacts when he starts his own brewery in Kalimsport.

18 Transformation 509

As the bulk of the Cord travels through the forests toward the elven capital, they come across the scene of a battle. There are three dead bodies—from the looks of them, woodcutters. A fourth is lying unconscious from a traumatic head wound—a mighty slash has nearly split his head in two. It’s a miracle the man is alive.

According to the woodsman, a band comprised of a huge Northron and an entourage of about a dozen hooded clerics of some sort, came striding through the woods. The woodsmen hailed the strangers, but the Northron ignored them and struck them with his mighty axe, as if just clearing a path through a field of wheat. He and the cloaked ones moved on as if nothing had happened, but they left them all for dead.

The Northron wore an iron symbol around his neck of some tentacled beast.

This happened two days ago. The woodsman dies as he finishes his tale.

Savaric confirms some tracks—both booted and horse—moving toward the northeast. Rilka recognizes the symbol as one from the altar that contained the green gemstone back in the Aedonii ruins that tried to control Mõrvar.

That evening, Rilka informs Surm of the find via the Agent’s Clasp. Surm indicates that he will try to do some research on the symbol Rilka describes—he recalls it from the altar in the Aedonii ruins as well. The Cord are not going to follow—they only have food enough to get to Almathriel and they don’t know what they are going to encounter if they pursue the Northron.

Surm asks Lord Springvale for information on the symbol, but the elven nobleman demurs, saying that symbology is not his expertise. But, a member of his salon, Zordlon Rainbringer, is and he will write Surm a brief letter of recommendation to get him through the door to see him. Surm will do so in the morning, before attending his sorcerous training session.

19 Transformation 509

Early in the morning before attending his training session, Surm calls upon Zordlon Rainbringer. Zordlon is a venerable elf, with grey in his blond hair and creases in his otherwise flawless skin. He carries a silver-headed cane, though does to appear to rely upon it. He confirms that the symbol is consistent with Aedonii symbology and is probably religious in nature. He wants to consult a colleague about it, however, and asks Surm to return in three days to get more information. Surm agrees.

21 Almathriel 509

The bulk of the Crimson Cord arrives in Almathriel around noon. They check in to The Mithral Dagger and secure rooms for the next few days as they complete their business.

Mahgnus informs Savaric of two prominent “brewers” (elves don’t really brew—they are more into spirits and wines): Rilinior Silverleaf, a distiller of absinthe, and Amrunelara Starbright, a vintner.

22 Almathriel 509

That morning, before going to training, the three main members of the Cord visit with Zordlon Rainbringer regarding the symbol. He says that he doesn’t have much information for them—much of the ways of the “Elder Races” are a mystery to scholars today and knowledge was lost with the Rivening. But, he can confirm that the symbol is that of a being known as Akthalos—an “Elder God” of the Aedonii. It was reputed to represent chaos and evil and, somehow, was exiled at some point by the Aedonii.

After seeing Surm off to his training session, Savaric takes Ghost goes hunting in the woods outside of the city. After a few hours, he manages to down an “elven” antelope with spiralled, straight horns and particularly tender meat. As he butchers the kill, he prays to Isranthr for guidance and to pledge his faith to the Hunter. He gives a portion of the kill to the fire for his new patron and takes the rest back to Almathriel to share with his friends.

That evening they have a meal with Lord Springvale at his estate. As usual, he is a wonderful host, engaging to his guests, and hangs on their every word—though Rilka notices that Surm isn’t saying anything and Springvale distinctly refuses to make eye contact with Surm. After regaling their host with tales of their adventures and their future investment plans in Kalimsport, Springvale says that is time for him to fulfill his end of the bargain.

“While I, unfortunately, do not possess the knowledge you seek, I can direct to the one who most probably does. The secret of Ysarian steel can be gained from a being known as Mercerius. He is an ancient being of great power who lived in the time before the Rivening and actually saw the death of the Ysar and Aedonii and, according to one’s beliefs, witnessed the birth of the Elves and Humankind.”

“Mercerius resides in his stronghold in the mountains on the far side of the Rift. The way will be perilous and Mercerius is not known for his hospitality. But, should be able to treat with him, he will have the information you desire.”

Springvale goes on to explain that the best route to reach the stronghold is through Valeton, the largest settlement in Melnys Vale. He will provide them with a rudimentary map to the site where he believes the stronghold lies. No one knows what manner of creature Mercerius is, which Springvale finds fascinating. He also indicates that part of the being’s “inhospitable nature” is his wont to put his visitors through a trial in order to receive the information they seek.

After dinner, Springvale assures them that they all can call upon him again whenever they like. As the Cord are walking down the street away from the estate, Rilka chastises Surm. “What did you do to him?” She brings up how awkward things were and thinks he should go back and apologize, which Surm does as the others return to the Mithral Dagger.

Surm does not return that night.

23 Transformation 509

Savaric, concerned that Surm is not at the Mithral Dagger and ready to go to his training session, peppers him with questions from the Agent’s Clasp. Surm only responds that he’s fine and that he’ll be going to his retraining. Savaric goes to meet him there, and manages to catch Surm during his lunch break.

Other than that, the day is spent mostly provisioning and shopping for magic items and the like in the city’s Silver Ring. In fact, Savaric will be leaving Ilona to be upgraded while he travels. While she is delighted to be upgraded and be more useful, she doesn’t like being separated from Savaric.

24 Transformation 509

Rilka and Surm teleport to Kalimsport to retrieve funds from the bank for their various purchases in Almathriel. That evening, Savaric and Burask pick up the latter’s newly-enchanted greataxe. The Cord then all go to have dinner with Lord Springvale again. This evening’s dinner is far less awkward.

25 Transformation 509

The Crimson Cord and their entourage finally set out from Almathriel toward Valeton to the southeast. The early autumn day is warm, though the nights are starting to get a bit chill, especially with the winds coming off of two parallel mountain ranges. They anticipate arriving in Valeton in six days.

27 Transformation 509

Travel through the old growth forest of the elven lands has been relatively easy and even serene. Until today. Savaric spots a giant mantis lurking behind a copse of trees. He easily dispatches it with two expert shots from his bow. The Cord moves on.

30 Transformation 509

Late in the afternoon, the party arrives in the quaint town of Valeton. It is clearly designed for the Vale Folk (halflings). The buildings are small, but cozy. Hearth fire smoke floats upward from chimneys. Vale folk can be seen leaving shops and heading to homes or public houses.

As the large troupe rides into the town, they are mostly met with looks of curiosity from the townsfolk. At the center of the town is a large structure bearing a wooden disk carved with the likeness of a pair of cupped hands. This is symbol of Rosaela, the Provider, and primary goddess of the Vale Folk. This temple is likely used as a storehouse for supplies for the town, a source of the provider.

Here they are met by a female halfling, probably in her mid-twenties with a wavy red-brown hair and freckles. She has a club on her belt and wears a green sash with orange chevrons on it. She introduces herself as Keela Stoutfoot and she is the constable of Valeton. She asks them a few questions as to what brings them to Valeton and gives them some recommendations regarding inns (“The Dancing Hare has a cottage pie—excellent! And you must try their stout…”). She leaves them with a warning not to get into any trouble while in town.

The troup follows the constable’s directions to the Dancing Hare where they meet Farlo, the innkeep. A very informal fellow, but friendly, Farlo gets them set up with what rooms he has (though the majority of their ‘army’ will have to bunk in the common room).

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Session Eighty-Two
Iron Resolve

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13 Transformation 509

The party is in a large chamber that holds some sort of interdimensional gate locked in between two quartz-like pillars. There is odd Ysarian artwork sitting in the center of the room. Two intellect devourers are grappled by sorcerous black tentacles called into being by Surm. They have just slain a large illithid and are turning to finish off the other, as some foreign power attempts to grab control of Surm and Rilka’s minds from within the gate.

Savaric fires into one of the grappled intellect devourers and finishes it off.

Mõrvar casts enlarge person on himself and grows to twice his normal size. Meanwhile, both he and Surm examine the gate to try and determine if there is a way to close to close the gate. The power is magical, but so otherworldly and strange that it is hard to get a handle on it, but as near as they can tell, there are only three ways to close the gate:

1. Destroy one or both of the pillars anchoring it in place.
2. Use dispel magic against the strange magic. Though it would be more difficult than usual because of the alien nature of the magic, it would be possible.
3. There is probably some means on the other side of the gate that controls it and could close it.

Surm decides he’s going to go inside the gate and find a way to shut it down. He jumps into the tear in reality between the towers. Inside, he sees the large brain in a metal vat that could be seen through the portal. But what he didn’t see through the portal were the twenty or so illithids standing vigil in this strange, dark chamber. There is also an intellect devourer holding two rods before the open gate. Surm throws the small creature through the gate to his friends, yelling “His name is Rodly!”

The gate closes as the intellect devourer flies through to the other side.

Mõrvar goes into a rage, stomping about and wanting to kill. He attacks Rodly, who quickly disappears. Rilka and Savaric begin looking for Rodly while Mõrvar attempts to stomp through the tentacles to kill the other intellect devourer. He gets grappled by the tentacles, but attacks anyway, destroying the remaining intellect devourer.

Then, Savaric and Rilka see the corpse of one of the large illithids begin to stir. Savaric starts firing arrows into it as it rises. Rilka attacks the corpse as well, splitting it open to reveal Rodly inside. Savaric and Rilka don’t want to kill the creature because if may be able to re-open the gate so they can rescue Surm. However, Mõrvar sees the creature and charges forward and destroys it, despite Savaric and Rilka’s protestations.

Savaric charges up to Mõrvar and punches him, calling him a dumbass. Mõrvar punches him back. Rilka unloads in a rage on the eldritch knight, telling him how selfish he is for self-indulgently giving into his anger like that instead of thinking about how to help his brother. Mõrvar is unrepentant, while his sentient blade insists that Mõrvar kill Savaric for attacking him.

Meanwhile…

Surm uses dimension door to get out of the chamber he’s in and (hopefully) somewhere a bit safer. He finds himself in a long, narrow chamber, the long sides of which are lined with devices containing small vats with brains inside of each one. They pulse and and bubble from within metal bucket-like containers. Surm can hear echoes for stomping boots coming to him from the surrounding complex.

He pulls out a magical scroll inscribed with a gate spell and prepares to grab one of the “brain buckets” to take with him. He tries to cast the powerful spell—but it is too much for him, it does not cast. Now, footsteps have gotten closer, so he returns the vat and steps to the side, casting invisibility on himself.

Two illithids enter the room, obviously searching for him. He feels some type of power buffet his magical resistance, but it doesn’t penetrate. The illithids, continuing their search, exit through the other side of the chamber.

Once Surm is sure the illithids are gone, he grabs a vat and tries the gate spell again…

Back in the gate chamber, Rilka has finished chewing out Mõrvar and has retired to a corner of the room to pray for help for Surm. She calls upon Bruni to help her friend, citing his bravery in going inside the portal in order to close it. She feels her connection to the deity shiver and fade in answer…

Mõrvar picks up the two rods that Rodly brought with him and examines them. They are very strange and alien to his knowledge, but he thinks he has figured out how to re-open the portal. He moves toward the pillars to begin…

As Surm begins the work of casting the powerful gate spell, the echoes of approaching boot stomps ringing in his ears, the new portal opens almost immediately, without any effort on Surm’s part. He knows that this should have been a lot harder, because his effort was minimal. A bit disconcerted, he passes through the portal, carrying his small vat. The gate shuts behind him.

Surm is now back in the chamber of the portal with his friends. He yells at Mõrvar, “Don’t open that gate!” Every one turns, but cannot see Surm—he is still invisible. He releases the spell and then finds himself fiercely embraced by Mõrvar.

Savaric, still mad at Mõrvar, flings one of the intellect devourer corpses at him and sardonically points out how lucky he is that Surm found his own way out. Deathblow throws one of the corpses at Savaric with his telekinetic projectile power, but misses the ranger. He demands that Mõrvar kill him for his attack. Mõrvar ignores the sword as Rilka and Savaric both angrily engage with him to explain to Surm what has happened. Rilka states that she doesn’t trust Mõrvar anymore.

Surm calls for calm, reminding everyone that they are on a job. They all acquiesce and Savaric begins searching the room. Mõrvar takes his warhammer, and with the help of Kortash and Burask, destroy the gate pillars. They decide to continue on and clean out the complex. They head to the north west corner of the complex and find that one of the chambers holds yet another iron golem.

After a brief discussion, they decide that they may as well go ahead and take care of golem—or at least, see if they can.

Rilka takes Surm aside and tells him that she called on Bruni to intervene on his behalf on his behalf, because she didn’t want anything to happen to him. This seems to discomfit Surm, but he says thank you.

Savaric sets himself up for a shot from across the room, the door of an adjacent chamber. Rilka takes up a position in an adjoining room, ready to rush in if needed. Mõrvar does the same. Savaric carefully aims an adamantine arrow and fires it into the golem. It stirs to life and as Savaric continues to fire one adamtine arrow at a time, it makes its way to the doorway, though the creature is too large to pass through it. It begins pounding on the wall next to the door, forcing its way through the strange, soft, Ysarian metal.

Mõrvar sneaks up behind the creature and enlarges himself, waiting to see if Savaric manages to fell the creature.

Savaric continues to fire and just as a crack breaks through the wall and the golem begins widening it with its hands. Finally, the last arrow hits the construct and it slumps forward and stops its rampage.

Gathering together once again, they explore the remaining chambers in this wing of the complex. The only item of interest found is a deep, bottomless shaft in one chamber with the smell of sulfur pouring out it as a foul draft. They decide to enact the same plan with the other golem in the other wing.

The second golem falls in much the same way as the first, though Savaric is using powerfully magical arrows this time instead of adamantine because he used all of those.

They search this wing and only find a chamber with strangely designed furniture and a table—some sort of meeting place. Savaric is convinced that there is something they’ve missed, but is convinced to come away and leave the fully explored complex.

Outside the complex, the party does not see the young pyrohydra. Savaric does some tracking and determines that it has moved to one of the deeper caverns from here. He wants to pursue it and take it with them, but is talked out of it by the others. He really doesn’t have the means or ability to care for the beast as he’s traveling. They can notify Lord Springvale of the creature and let him send someone to deal with it. They all leave the tunnels and emerge into the camp late in the afternoon.

They are greeted by the guards and given reports of what has transpired while they were inside—which wasn’t much of anything. Rilka and Savaric stand aside and pray, which makes Surm very uncomfortable. The party gathers again and decides to head back to Almathriel in the morning.

That night, Surm has a dream.

He is sitting in a boisterous longhouse, much like the longhouses of his homeland. Mead and sweat and woodsmoke fill the air. Tales are told and songs and sung. He sits on a bench against one of the walls of the long chamber and beside him is a muscular middle-aged Northron male with a two wolves sitting at his feet. The animals seem alert but relaxed.

“Your friend sacrificed a lot for you,” the man says to Surm. “I was willing to help because jumping into the gate showed courage. I hope you are worth the sacrifice she made.” He turns to the young sorcerer and looks him in the eye. “The world as you know it is in jeopardy. Many wheels are in motion. There will be much pain and strife to come. Keep your courage. You’re going to need it.”

At that, Surm awakes.

14 Transformation 509

The Crimson Cord and their entourage pack up and march out, leaving behind Doranthanel and his mercenaries. They spend the day traveling through the old forests of the elven lands and then make a camp that night.

Around the campfire, the Cord gathers—they have much to discuss.

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Session Eighty-One
Secrets Beyond the Gate

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12 Transformation 509

The party has just defeated a slew of possessed duergar and their intellect devourers. One has escaped into the next chamber. Savaric pursues his quarry into that room, through two arched doorways. Entering the room, he sees only a closed door and a long-discarded duergar corpse. He begins exploring the room for secret compartments and bumps into something in the doorway that he can’t see. He backs off and is clawed by a formerly-invisible intellect devourer! He fires a barrage of arrows into the creature and slays it.

Meanwhile, Rilka is guarding the open doorway in the previous room while the others wait for Savaric to search the area.

They retreat into the larger room where they battled the other duergar and head into the smaller adjacent room that Rilka has been guarding. The southern wall has a locked door that Surm attempts to open with the make-shift key they found—but he breaks the key! Fortunately, he has the mending spell and repairs it, and then tries again. He opens the lock successfully.

Savaric searches the way down a short corridor into another small room. This room is found to be empty, save for another locked door. Surm unlocks the door and Savaric and Rilka proceed into a long, narrow room—Rilka casting detect magic and Savaric looking for secret traps or passages.

Rilka detects a magic aura in the area just as they are assaulted by a fireball that ignites right in their midst. Savaric manages to save himself with his quick reflexes, evading the explosion completely. Rilka is well-served by her quick reflexes as well, though she does get more mildly burned. The conflagration reveals an illithid standing toward the back of the room, waiting for them.

As the other members of the party, Surm, Kortash, and Burask, file into the room to help deal with the new threat, two more fireballs ignite, engulfing them all. Most manage to not take the brunt of the assault, but Kortash is badly burned. He retreats into the previous room. The explosions reveal an additional two illithids in the room.

After a brief battle, the party’s superior numbers and Savaric’s wizardry with the bow bring them victory against the mind flayers.

Savaric searches the room and finds a secret panel in the wall. Opening it reveals a narrow corridor. Rilka casts detect magic down the corridor and detects the presence of a magical aura. Surm steps forward and attempts to identify it—only finding that it is a strong aura; he cannot determine the type of magic being employed. He then, with the encouragement of his friends, casts dispel magic against the likely trap. The magic dissipates.

Savaric makes his way down the corridor, looking for more surprises. The corridor leads to another door. Rilka discerns a magical aura on the door. Surm comes forward to identify it and, once again, determines that it is strong but cannot identify the kind of magic being employed. Again, with the encouragement of the others, Surm manages to dispel the magic on the door. It is unlocked.

Savaric opens the door and proceeds into the next room, which is empty. Rilka detects no magical auras—but does notice that as Savaric is moving about the room, he tends to avoid the center. When she points this out, Savaric doesn’t know what she is talking about. Surm comes in and begins looking around and discovers that there is an illusion in the center of the room hiding a large cabinet made of the same strange metal found throughout the complex. He tries to get the others to see it—Rilka’s senses manage to penetrate the illusion, but Savaric still doesn’t know what they are talking about—the room is clearly empty.

Surm opens the cabinet, revealing its interior to Savaric as if a portal had opened in the center of the room. Inside the cabinet is a large chest made of the same strange metal, a rack with a number of wands handing from them, and another rack containing a collection of scrolls. They still discern no magical auras in the area. Surm determines that the Ysar could be using a spell called magic aura to mask the magical auras in the room. It is actually a fairly simple bit of sorcery.

They empty the cabinet and begin going over the contents. The chest is not locked and contains a great deal of strangely minted oval coins of platinum, gold, and silver. There is also an assortment of gemstones and some vials containing magical potions.

They decided to take their finds back to the camp and stash it there—it will soon be time for Surm to collect Mõrvar from Kalimsport anyway. Surm wants to use the Ysarian teleportation device they found in one of the chambers. He steps onto the platform—and a series of images begin speeding across the back wall of the room. He concentrates and the images stop on a view of the campsite pulled from Surm’s mind. Savaric walks through the image and instantly finds himself in the camp—scaring a few of the guards by his sudden arrival.

Surm uses the Agent’s Clasp to message Alasir about the arrivals of the others. He sends the others through in the same manner as Savaric—but when Kortash and Burask try to follow Rilka through, they are stopped—Surm can only send one at time or it breaks his concentration. Finally, after everyone has made it through, he sends himself to the University of Kalimsport.

Surm heads out onto the grounds to find his brother, Mõrvar. Mõrvar gives Surm some teleportation scrolls and returns the crystal ball. Mõrvar also shares the information he has gained concerning metal golems. According to the sage he spoke with, if this Ysarian construct acts like ones in their time, then it will be very hard to damage except with the hardest weapons (damage reduction vs. adamantine), it may be immune to most magics, and may also be able to breathe a poison gas.

They head to the Market District to gather magical and adamantine arrows for Savaric to help in their fight against the golem. Surm messages Rilka (through Alasir) that they will return to the camp in the morning.

Meanwhile, Savaric goes hunting for some rabbits to placate the young pyrohydra with that is living in the caves near the Ysar complex. He goes in and, after a while, actually manages to get the beast to act in a friendly manner toward him. He leaves the cave and goes hunting again with an impatient Ghost.

13 Transformation 509

This morning, Surm and Mõrvar teleport back to the camp and meet up with the rest of the Crimson Cord. Surm begins identifying their magical finds. They also spend a good deal of time planning against the golem.

They eventually decide that Surm will return to the harmonious crystal room and gain true seeing from one of the crystals. They then head to one of the more central chambers—where they had previously found a large, alien throne—and begin exploring again from there.

Savaric and Rilka search an adjacent door and open it, leading into another room. Surm can see—though the others cannot—that there is an invisible duergar in the doorway. He tries to warn everyone as it runs a gauntlet toward Burask, who is standing in front of Surm, guarding him. The duergar attacks Burask, rendering visible, and the others work quickly to dispatch it, though it cut a nice slice out of Burask.

Surm casts black tentacles into the room ahead in case there are other threats. Rilka and Savaric carefully step into the room, trying to avoid being grabbed by the magical appendages. Rilka can discern, by the curve of various tentacles, that four other figures have been captured by the spell. She immediately goes in to try and slay them. Mõrvar steps in and uses storm step to cross through the tentacles (and the trapped figures) to the other side. He heads up into an open doorway to another room.

Meanwhile, Surm, Kortash, and Burask, head around to try and get to the other side of the tentacle room through an adjacent corridor. They find that the corridor opens into a room with strange, metal furniture—and two illithids! The three engage the mind flayers who notice their entrance and turn to approach in kind.

Mõrvar, in the next room, sees a strange tableau: there is some sort of planar gate at the far end of this room. In the center of the room is an Ysarian crystal sculpture of some sort, its abstract design slightly disturbing to the eye. Also into the room are three intellect devourers and two very sinister looking illithid-like creatures, but with tails and spiked tentacles. Mõrvar is assaulted in both mind and body by the creatures and one of the duergar that has followed him into the room from tentacle room. He calls out that he found the gate and he tries to make his way back out of the room without being surrounded.

Meanwhile, the tentacles continue to squeeze the trapped duergar which force their parasitical intellect devourers to emerge into the tentacles. Rilka continues to fight, as does Savaric. As Mõrvar storm steps into the tentacle room from the gate room, Savaric fires at the intellect devourers and duergar in pursuit of Mõrvar.

Surm, Kortash, and Burask, finally dispatch one of the illithids, but the other one has made his way into the tentacle room. Savaric makes short work of the creature in a rain of arrows.

The entryway to the gate room is now guarded by intellect devourers. Surm casts black tentacles into that room, trapping the aberrations. The two large ilithids escape the tentacles and move toward the gate. Then, the party lines up in preparation for Surm’s other plan—a dimension door bringing most of them right up to the illithids!

They fight one of the illithids, bringing him down fairly quickly, leaving only the intellect devourers trapped in the tentacles and the last strange illithid. Surm glances into the nearby gate and sees what looks like a vat with a giant brain resting in it. As the party turns their attention to the final illithid, Surm and Rilka feel a force try to grasp control of their minds…and both realize that the power came from within the gate…

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Session Eighty
Delving Deeper

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11 Transformation 509

The party is in a chamber containing five glowing crystals, each launching beams of energy to the center. Then the crystals begin to shudder and a narrow hole seems to be ripped through the scrim of reality. The tip of a large pincher begins to emerge from the rip in the air…

Rilka steps forward and places her enchanted falchion between one of the beams and the center. She is nearly pushed back from the force of the power, but holds steady. The hole through which the pincher protrudes stops growing, though the appendage continues to grope about.

Surm casts dispel magic on the crystals. The beams stop, the crystals stop shuddering, and the hole in reality closes. The pincher, cut off from its host, drops in a bloody mass to the floor.

Surm, Rilka, and Savaric then debate on whether or not to take the claw out of the complex, back to camp, and destroy it. They are concerned with the possibility of its owner scrying it and finding them to look for revenge. Surm identifies the creature as a glabrezu demon from the Abyss. They ultimately decide to remove the claw and burn it outside.

Kortash and Burask carry the claw as the party, with an intellect devourer held in a stasis field, backtracks to the entrance of the Ysar complex. As they descend into the cavern where they fought the pyrohydra, Savaric is approached by an angry young pyrohydra. He attempts to calm it with his ranger abilities, but fails. Eventually, he manages to calm the angry beast down and give it some food, allowing him to catch up with the others without the creature pursuing them.

When the party emerges from the mine entrance to the camp, they find that night has just fallen. They explain the situation to Alasir, who orders guards to set up a bonfire for the party. Surm tells the story of what happened, but in a very dry and matter-of-fact manner. Still, most are suitably impressed with the way the Cord handled the demonic entity.

That evening, Surm is scried by Mõrvar, who communicates what has been happening in Kalimsport and also asks to be teleported back to join the others in a day. At Savaric’s prompting, Mõrvar is also asked to conduct research on iron golems while he is in the city.

The party then has a debate on what to do with the pyrohydra youngling they have discovered, but come to no real conclusion before calling it a night.

12 Transformation 509

The party wakes the next morning more refreshed and ready to face the horrors of the Ysar complex. They debate some more on what to do to handle the iron golem sentinel that they have encountered, but come to no real conclusion. Ilona advises Savaric to use her to sneak past the golem—he should do it and not tell the others, because they’ll just tell him ‘no’. Savaric, instead, suggests the idea to the others and finds the idea rejected.

Surm leaves his specimen in stasis with Mahgnus for safekeeping before returning to the complex.

When they enter the caverns before the Ysar settlement, they find that the young pyrohydra is sleeping. They continue on to the complex. They return to one of the “hub” rooms within the complex and enter a chamber a that they have not explored before.

This room’s stone walls, floor, and ceiling is filled with crystalline veins. In the center of the room is a plain stone panel, 5’ by 5’. Rilka detects a moderate magic aura on the panel but can tell nothing more. Surm does the same and determines that the magic is based on conjuration—which could mean teleportation of some sort. But it could also mean summoning. Savaric begins searching the room and finds that, when he touches the panel, magical energy starts to flow into him, making his hair stand up on end. Surm steps forward to test out and finds the same—but also can tell that the magic is tapping into the same source that he uses to fuel his own magic casting. He steps examines the panel further and discovers its purpose.

Though it is of an entirely alien design, the panel and crystalline veins seem to be linked somehow to form a magical teleportation device that will allow an arcane spellcaster to stand on the panel, select a location, and teleport there. They must concentrate to activate the device and to select their destination, but they could conceivably travel to anywhere on this plane of existence. It is a one-way trip for one person.

Nothing else of interest is found in the room.

They move on through one of the additional unlocked doors and enter an empty chamber. From there, they descend into the room in which they destroyed the carnivorous blob. They decide to search the room, now that the threat has been dealt with. As Savaric conducts his search, three of the possessed duergar emerge from a doorway adjacent to the room. They end up chasing one of the duergar into the next room and Burask is mortally injured, but miraculously saved by Rilka’s efforts. Eventually, the duergar and their intellect devourers are dispatched.

Savaric finds a secret door in the room and the party follows him into a new chamber containing four thrumming crystals, their hums in sync with each other. They opt not to disturb the crystals, though they did detect evocation magic emanating from them. They carefully move on through one of the doors into another “hub” room containing several doors. According to their previous interaction with the duergar priestess, they are in an area that is trapped.

Detecting magic, Surm determines that a moderately strong aura is located in the center of the room. He uses his arcane mark to mark the edges of the aura, making the possible trap visible.

They move on through another door and come to a large room with strange, crystalline mosaics embedded in the walls. Inside are seven of the possessed duergar—which are eventually dispatched after a long battle…

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Session Seventy-Nine
Harried Harmonies

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11 Transformation 509

As the party stands in the room with three dead illithids, Surm and Savaric search and loot the bodies. All they carry are the dark cloaks and the strange serrated swords they have encountered before. Rilka is still injured from her encounter with the carnivorous blob. Surm asks her if she wants to pull back and leave or stay. She says she wants to stay. Savaric pulls out his wand of cure serious wounds and gives her some healing, but her life-force is still drained.

At the north end of the room is a portcullis. They peer through it to see walls with veins of multicolored crystal. In the center of the room is a large metal humanoid construct, seemingly made of the same strange metal that is used on the doors. They decide to leave the golem be.

They, instead, open the southern door to reveal a room with more of the crystalline veins running through the walls. The floor is comprised of tiles of different sized and different colored crystals. Savaric heads into the seemingly empty room to search it out and, after a couple of steps, feels a wave of magic wash over him, filling the room. Suddenly appearing in the chamber are three large creatures—skeletal with cadaverous insectoid bodies that include a long tail with a stinger. As the party engages with one of the monstrosities, the other two disappear. Savaric finishes off the creature with a barrage of arrows that send it flying back. The other creatures seem to have left.

At this point, the party decides to backtrack to the entry room of the complex and try another door that was left untouched on their previous foray into the Ysarian city. This door opens into a small, empty room. They then return to the room with the strange statue and head into a door they left behind. This reveals a room occupied by three of the foul intellect devourers that they have encountered before—only this time, they do not have duergar hosts. The party goes in and does battle with the creepy aberrations. Two are completely slaughtered, but one (dubbed “Thad”) is mostly intact—having only taken damage from Savaric’s arrows. Surm draws the gold rod given to him by the scholars at the University of Kalimsport and says the command word. Thad’s corpse is suddenly enveloped in a clear sphere of magical force that can be moved by Surm’s mind.

They open a door at the north end of this room to reveal with crystalline veins running through its walls and a series of multi-colored crystal tiles set into the floor. Surm casts detect magic and determines that the floor is, indeed, magicked. He decides to try and dispel the magic instead of possibly summoning more strange creatures to fight. After two failed attempts to dispel the magic, he gives up. Rilka enters the room and springs the trap—summoning two of the strange bony, cadaverous insectoid creatures that they encountered before.

As the fight rages on, Surm realizes that these are summoned creatures, and thus can be dispelled. He casts dispel magic, sending one of the creatures back from whence it came. He casts again, dispatching the second one as well.

Taking the south door of this room, the party discovers two more illithids, which are quickly dispatched. This room has a doorway leading to another room.

This room is dominated by a large metal and crystal abstract statue (8’ tall and 5’ wide). It radiates a faint magical aura. There is another door beyond the statue. After examining the statue extensively, and being disturbed by its alien design, the only thing that is determined about it is that is is eerily warm to the touch. They move on to the next door, which is locked—though, with the makeshift key they got off the duergar, Surm makes short work of it.

Opening the door, another long, narrow room is revealed. The center of the room holds five large crystals arranged in a square, with the fifth crystal in the center. The crystals are about 1’ wide and 4’ tall. They are clear, but iridescent. Surm casts detect magic on them and determines that not only are they strongly magical, but their type of magic is shifting wildly.

Surm enters the room. As soon as he hears his footfall hit the stone, the crystals start thrumming in discordant frequencies. After various experiments with the crystals, it appears that they do nothing but hum as soon as a sound is discerned in the room. Nothing blocks Surms path to the next door. Rilka hits upon the idea of trying to match the tone of one of the crystals to see if that does anything. After a bit of persuading, Surm pulls out his flute and matches his tone to one of the crystals.

The crystal begins to glow and a Surm is then bathed in energy from the crystal. He feels a force within him making him stronger and he finds that he can direct it to where he needs it most—though the effect is probably temporary—only lasting a day. He decides to make himself physically stronger.

He tries another crystal and finds that its energy, which also emerges from the crystal and blasts him, is for healing. Excitedly, Rilka tries singing to the tone and succeeds in healing herself of most of her life loss.

They try a third crystal and Surm is blasted with negative energy—draining him of both life and vitality. He has lost the temporary boost to his strength as well. He matches tone with the healing crystal and restores himself.

Needing to know what all the crystals do, Surm tries a fourth crystal. This one bestows true seeing on all in the room (Rilka, Surm, and Savaric—the half-orc guards remain in the previous chamber). This, too, is known to be a temporary effect—lasting only about half an hour.

Finally, there is the fifth and final crystal. Surm matches its tone and energy shoots out from it to the other crystals, pooling the energy in a nexus above the fifth crystal. Suddenly, an image appears in the air above the crystal. It is a fearsome sight—the creature is grotesquely large with four arms—two puny, but two huge and ending in lobster-like pinchers. Spines line its back and horns top its head.

Everyone in the room hears, in their mind, a terrible voice saying something in a language that none of them understand. Surm tries to communicate with it, to convince it that they can’t understand it. The creature repeats his words, clearly frustrated. Surm tries to communicate some more, but to no avail. It finally just utters an unknown, but curt, phrase.

Then the crystals begin to shudder and a narrow hole seems to be ripped through the scrim of reality. The tip of a large pincher begins to emerge from the rip in the air…

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Session Seventy-Eight
Deeper and Deeper

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11 Transformation 509

As Rilka and Surm make ready to return to the University and then return to the Ysarian complex, they are approached by a harried young half-elf woman asking for Mõrvar. In the course of the conversation, it is revealed that her name is Ariana Oland and she is a member of “The Brotherhood (she’s going to have to speak to Morvar about the name)” and that it’s important that she speak with him. Surm indicates that he is not here in Kalimsport, but that they would be seeing him very soon. So she convinces them to pass on her information.

Another member of the Brotherhood, named Liran Rimsey, a chandler (or candle-maker), has not been at work in several days. He was supposed to attend a meeting of the Brotherhood at The Torn Grimoire, a tavern on the east side of Kalimsport, but he did not show. His wife says that he has not come home, either.

Ariana thanks them for passing on the information. They have notified the City Watch, but watches are not investigative organizations—they just keep the peace. And, they probably aren’t going to help a half-elf anyway (at least, according Ariana). She also indicates that Mõrvar can come to the Torn Grimoire to find her if he needs more information.

Rilka and Surm return from Kalimsport with Kortash and Burask in tow. When they return, the soldiers of the Crimson Cord are holding a line at the entrance to the mine side-by-side with Doranthanel’s mercenaries.

The two half-orc brothers are regaled with welcomes from their comrades-in-arms while Surm and Rilka update Mõrvar on the news they received from Ariana Oland, his Brotherhood recruit, concerning the missing Liran Rimsey. Mõrvar decides that he needs to go to Kalimsport and deal with this situation quickly. So he convinces Surm to teleport with him back to the city with his horse and the crystal ball they acquired in the Tomb of Secrets. The two brothers teleport to Kalimsport, though Surm returns after an hour having purchased more teleport scrolls.

The remaining Cord members (Rilka, Surm, and Savaric), along with Kortash and Burask, descend back into the mine and return to the Ysarian complex.

They decided to take another route this time, going through one of the locked doors near the entrance. As per usual, Savaric is checking for traps and signs of secret passages while Rilka takes up Mõrvar’s usual role of casting detect magic along the way. After Surm unlocks the door with the make-shift key they found on the duergar, Savaric opens the door.

The walls of the room beyond are filled with veins of crystal. There is also a cloaked figure—an illithid—apparently feeding on a duergar. They attack and soon dispatch the strange aberration. Surm collects its strange, serrated sword. From here, they move on to an adjacent room.

This room is dominated by a large pool of crimson liquid ringed by bricks of the strange soft metal they’ve encountered on the doors of the complex. When they enter the room, the liquid rises and reveals itself to be a sentient blob!

After a hard-won battle, in which Surm figures out that cold will do the most harm to the creature, and that it can be contained by a wall of force, the blob is defeated—but not without cost. Rilka, who was struck by the bizarre creature, had her life-force drained severely.

The party backtracks a bit and tries a different door. This door opens into a small room containing another illithid! Surm quickly shuts the door and the group has a conference on what to do next. They decided to head into the room—and find that another illithid has joined the first!

After a brief battle, the party dispatches the foul creatures—though they are stumped as to where the other illithid came from. Finally, Surm figures out that the northern wall of the room is an illusion, hiding a doorway into another room. He struggles with getting the others to realize this and finally just dispels it.

The secret doorway opens into a room containing a statue, standing about 8’ high and 5’ wide. It is comprised of odd, disconcerting, curves and angles. Staring at the piece too long almost makes one nauseous. There is another arched doorway leading to another room beyond.

The room beyond is empty, but does have two doors leading out of it. Surm unlocks the locked northern door and reveals an empty room, though it does contain three more doors to traverse. They take one of the northern doors and it leads to a short corridor, ending in a locked door. They decide to try the other northern door.

This one leads to a room with a portcullis to the north, a door to the south, and three illithids conferring together in the middle of the room.

In the course of the battle with the creatures, Kortash is blinded by the powers of the mind flayers. Rilka, however, when the battle is done, is able to cure him of his malady.

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