Shadows of the Rift

Session Sixty-Nine
Blades in the Darkness

4 Illumination 509

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Having camped through the night, disturbed only by the screams of Hekia as rides through her nightmares, the party wakes refreshed the next morning and begins planning their next approach for the Tomb of Secrets. Having the map of the Tomb prepared by the halfling, Torvald, at their disposal helps in this endeavor.

They decide to approach the next chamber, which they fear is occupied by another Nightshade, a huge undead creature of the plane of Shadow capable of summoning undead shadows themselves, from two directions. Mõrvar , Savaric, Thoras, Caric, Senna, and Aria will approach from the north in a direct assault. Mõrvar will be bearing an item with a daylight spell in order to dissipate the magical darkness surrounding the Nightshade. Savaric will take up a position to fire into the creature, as per usual, and the priests will set up to be able to lend healing support to Mõrvar.

From the south, approaching through the wall via a dimension door, will be Surm Ulrich, Prenella, Prioress Drenham, and Rilka. Drenham will have a Protection from Evil about her that will also encircle the others. She will also be prepared to cast a dismissal against the extraplanar Nightshade, sending it back to its home plane of existence. She will also support Rilka with a Shield Another spell, taking half of the damage inflicted upon the half-orc fighter-cleric. Rilka will take up a position to attack and Surm will support with his sorcery. This team will come in 6 seconds after Mõrvar enters the room.

Sorcha and Tarben will wait back in the room where they first encountered the nosferatu.

Once the plan is decided upon, the party enters the Tomb of Secrets once again.

Lit by the eldritch green glow of the witchlights, they walk through the chambers where they had already encountered various undead creatures, stepping through pools of gore and viscera, remnants of their past battles. Eventually, they come to the point where the teams must separate and Prioress Drenham says a prayer to Halor to shine his blessings down upon their endeavors. The two teams then move into position.

Sticking to the plan, Mõrvar runs down the corridor toward the darkened chamber, daylight lighting his path. Deathblow, his sentient greatsword, bellows a battle cry in his mind. When he arrives in the room, the magical darkness is dissipated and he sees via the darkvision spell he cast before beginning his approach. Crouched in the back of the large chamber is a huge, black, spider-like creature with 9 legs and a chitinous bulbous body. Its head has a multi-faceted eyes and huge mandibles that click in anticipation of the kill. Mõrvar moves into position and attacks. The others follow more slowly behind, failing to take their heavy armor into account.

Meanwhile, once he gives the “go” signal to Mõrvar, Surm counts down from six. Then he casts his dimension door and brings the other team with him inside. Because of the location of the creature, Rilka is slightly displaced, but not too far away, and is still able to attack the huge undead monstrosity.

Eventually, the rest of northern team makes it inside, but not before Mõrvar is grievously injured by a bite from this huge creature’s mandibles. As the jaws close around him, he feels supernatural cold run through him, as well as a warmth of venom coursing through his veins. He manages to fight off the effects of the venom, but he is in dire peril. Savaric is finding that arrows are not as effective against the creature as he would have thought. The Nightskitter, as this type of Nightshade is known, is also capable of filling the room with a burst of negative energy, damaging all of the party in the room. The clerics of Halor try repeatedly to dismiss the creature, but it manages to fight off the attempts through the force of its will and its resistance to magic. Mõrvar and Rilka continue to chop away at its chitinous armor as it bites Mõrvar again, bringing him closer to his mortality. The good priests channel their own energies to heal the party.

Finally, Prioress Drenham calls to Halor and lays her hands upon the creature crying “No!” and channels a burst of positive energy. The sunlight-tinged burst flies forth and burns through the Nightshade. It shrieks in pain and turns over on its back, its great legs curling up and twitching in death. Mõrvar decapitates the monster.

The clerics of Halor all join in joyful praise of Lord Sun. The rest of the party gather around Mõrvar and begin applying healing—which the clerics soon assist with.

Savaric searches the room and finds nothing of interest save a few strands of shadowy web lingering the corners of the room. Surm reaches out with his rapier and touches the web, which dissipates at the touch.

With Mõrvar sufficiently recovered, the party continues further into the Tomb.

Venturing forth, with Savaric looking for traps and Mõrvar detecting magical auras, they come across a couple of empty rooms before coming to a stuck door in front of what the map indicates is a small corner room. Savaric takes a crowbar and unsticks the door. As soon as it pops open, he finds himself face-to-face with a Mohrg—who wraps its long, slimy tongue round his round, orcish head. Savaric feels a slight tingling sensation, but nothing more as the tongue pulls itself away with a disgusting “smack.”

Savaric sidesteps out of the way and allows Mõrvar access to the creature. The Mohrg steps forward to face the Eldritch Knight and the two begin fighting. Rilka steps up to engage as well. Mõrvar can see a second Mohrg waiting behind the first.

Rilka, in a dazzling display of swordsmanship, manages to decapitate the Mohrg with a flourish of her falchion. It falls and the second steps forward to take its place. Soon thereafter, she runs her blade up into its guts, clearly visible beneath its skeletal rib cage. It falls with a gurgling moan. Mõrvar decapitates this one to be sure.

They continue down a brief hall, where Savaric finds magically-triggerable trap. According to the aura, it is an evocation of some sort, according to Mõrvar. Surm takes a look and confirms. They eventually, after a long discussion, decide to go around the trap and approach that room by another route. Savaric enters a long room that had been empty—and finds himself facing a lone ghoul. The ghoul seems equally as surprised to see him. Mõrvar easily slays the creature in a single strike. They head to a locked door and Surm takes his time and picks the lock. They make their way around to the room “guarded” by the trap—and discover that it is completely empty. They confirm the location of a secret door they identified on the map and then make their way to explore the final rooms in the northern portion of the Tomb.

Approaching those rooms, there is a trap marked on the map by the halfling. Savaric finds the trigger and marks it so that it can be avoided. they make their way into an open room covered in old bloodstains. As Savaric and Mõrvar search this room, they hear the sound of meaty feet flapping on stone and see ghouls starting to run into the room from an open archway. The two take position and the rest of the party joins them to meet them. They manage to kill five ghouls in the bottle neck and then make their way into the next room, where they see a large armored ghoul with his back to wall. Five more ghouls are lined up in front of him.

Mõrvar casts storm step and shoots into the foremost ghoul and into the armored ghoul, displacing himself into the back row, next to the armored ghoul. He can feel an aura emanating from the ghoul—an aura of cowardice. It shifts its masterwork greataxe in its hands in anticipation of the battle to come. The lightning of Mõrvar’s step obliterated the lesser ghoul that he stepped through to get here.

The ghoul with the axe attacks Mõrvar twice—one blow is deflected off of Mõrvar’s ominous armor and the other completely misses. Mõrvar swings Deathblow and engages with the ghoul as the rest of the party files into the room. The other ghouls close around Mõrvar and try to bite him—but they all fail to penetrate his defenses. One of clerics lets loose with a burst of positive energy from the Lord of the Sun—the power burns through the lesser ghouls and destroys them all—leaving only the large armored specimen engaging with Mõrvar. Soon, Mõrvar finishes him off and cuts off his head.

In searching him for magical items, he discovers a desecrated symbol to the god Modthras around his neck—a stylized black sun. Modthras is an old Midron god of Night and Darkness. The clerics of Halor rejoice in the felling of an adherent to such an abhorrent sect.

Savaric searches out the rooms and the surrounding hallways and finds nothing, thus concluding the search of the northern section of the Tomb.

They head to a large chamber in the southern portion of the Tomb that they had already explored and begin their new approach from there. In that room was a locked door to the north of the room. Surm begins picking that lock when a pair of ghostly hands emerged from beyond the door, reaching out to touch him. He jumps back out of the way with a cry of horror. The priests begin channeling and the others move into action as a more ghosts begin to move through the walls into their chamber, moaning with a frightful cacophony as they make their way inside. Most of the priests of Halor—as well as the two mercenary guards, are unnerved by the moaning and bolt, leaving the main party to deal with the ghosts. Rilka and Savaric are injured by the touch the creatures, whose touch withers them with the affects of age. However, Surm manages to take out three of the ghosts with his magic missiles while Mõrvar and Rilka take out one apiece with their efforts.

Eventually, the others return, sheepish at their supernatural terror.

Opening the door, the party finds another empty room.

Turning back the east, they unlock another door and Savaric begins to walk into a short corridor. As soon as he steps in to begin searching, however, he manages to set off a maximized fireball that fills the corridor and shoots into the room behind him, catching Rilka and Mõrvar as well. The fighters manage to take the brunt of the damage—though Prioress Drenham is still shielding Rilka from damage, saving her from some of the effects. Savaric deftly manages to avoid taking any damage from the trap. He moves into the next room and finds another empty chamber.

Returning to the larger southern chamber, they check out another of the adjacent doors—finding it to be stuck. Savaric starts working on it—and discovers a spectre behind it! Soon, they are joined by two more of the creatures emerging out of the walls. Savaric manages to send one to its final death and even Sister Aria finds glory in the name of Halor by vanquishing one of the hellish creatures.

The party takes a quick rest after the battle before pressing on, hoping to finish exploring this half of the Tomb before opening what they assume to be the treasure chamber of the necromancer.

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Session Sixty-Eight
The Death of Savaric

3 Illumination 509

neardeath.jpgThe party, and their assisting priests of Halor, are in a large chamber where they have just fought off a band of vicious Mohrgs—hideous skeletal undead with visible viscera and long, whip-like tongues that they use to paralyze their prey.

After healing up and searching the large room (finding nothing), they move on down the corridor. Savaric leads the way looking for traps, with Mõrvar looking for magic.

Searching the immediate area, they find two small, empty rooms, accessible via portcullises—the source of the Mohrg infestation. They apparently heard their movements in the large room and opened the doors and came running. They also made their way into another sizable room where Savaric finds a large pit trap in the center of the room. This danger is marked and avoided by the rest of the party.

In a further corridor, Savaric sets off a spear trap and damages himself. They make their way further and encounter a chamber full of mummies. These foes are soon vanquished, but not without various members of the band being disabled by crushing despair.

Recovering from this encounter, they make their way back south and head down another corridor. Mõrvar manages to detect a magical aura in the corner of the corridor. Surm determines that the nature of the aura is to cause great pain and inflict damage—it is a strong aura. After a debate as to whether or not Surm will dispel the magic or allow someone to bear the pain and be healed (saving the dispel for later), they opt for the later. Savaric volunteers to take on the magical aura.

He strides forward and suddenly cries out in great pain, his limbs contorting in magical agony, and collapses. Mõrvar quickly examines the body and determines that he is dead.

Meanwhile, Savaric awakens in a beautiful, verdant grove. The sound of water trickling down a peaceful stream fills his ears. The smells of flowers, trees, and rich earth fill his nostrils. Beyond him is a vast forest, with both deciduous and evergreen trees. And beyond that is a hill on which stands a huge wooden longhouse. He looks down and finds that he is dressed in simple, but clean, clothes.

A hand reaches down and a man offers to help him up. Savaric looks up to see a handsome man with long red-brown hair and beard dressed in green lacquered light armor. He has a quiver of arrows slung on his shoulder and an exquisite short sword at his side.

“Welcome, hunter,” the man says. His voice is deep, warm, and friendly.

After a brief conversation, in which Savaric determines that the longhouse he sees is the man’s hall, not much more about where he is, the man offers Savaric deal. The half-orc could remain in this realm, hunting, or he can return to where he was and perform a service for the man. Savaric tries to wheedle more information from the man about the nature of the deal and the realm, but the man only smiles and “that would be telling.” Savaric eventually agrees to return and perform the service. The man seems pleased and tells him to go north and find a shrine to Isranthr. There he will receive further instructions.

Then Savaric wakes up.

Mõrvar is freaking out about Savaric being dead. Surm and Rilka are dubious, asking the priests of Halor to apply healing to the body.

Savaric opens his eyes and slowly rises. Everyone is glad that the half-orc seems to be alright. He describes to the others what he saw and what was said when he was “gone.”

Rilka is in awe—she believes that Savaric has found himself in the presence of a god and was returned to the world of the living.

Surm is a more skeptical and feels that Savaric got the short end of the bargain.

Mõrvar is still freaking out how Savaric was dead and now he’s alive.

The Prioress of Halor offers no guidance—they have little knowledge of the ways of the Northron gods.

After applying some healing to Savaric to get him fully recovered, the party moves on, as the trap has not reset itself.

Down the corridor, they encounter two things: a cell containing what is obviously a zombified priestess of Halor and another chamber with a series of hanging cages containing the skeletal remains of prisoners that have been long abandoned. After a discussion with the priestly contingent of the party, they send the zombie to its final rest.

Continuing to make their way through the necromancer’s lair, they encounter a series of ghosts and a band of nosferatu, a primitive form of vampire. Savaric manages to slay one of the vampires in a single volley of arrows in a stunning display of archery. Eventually, after a tough battle, all of the creatures are slain. The last one is finished off by Mõrvar, just as it is about to drain the lifeforce from Prioress Drenham. She nods in thanks to the sorcerous warrior.

Traveling further through the corridors, they find a room that is clearly cloaked in supernatural darkness. Thinking that it may be another Nightshade creature, they retreat to the nosferatu chamber. As they plan their next move, a Shadow moves into the room behind Mõrvar and strikes, draining him of much of his strength. The party engages with the incorporeal creature and finally force it to dissipate.

The priests apply restorative spells to Mõrvar and the party retreats from the Tomb back to their encampment outside.

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Session Sixty-Seven
A Long Slog

3 Illumination 509

spooky-corridor.jpgThe party spends the morning planning their next moves within the Tomb of Secrets. After a night’s rest and preparations, including redistributing loot to those who can use it most, they are ready to give the necromancer’s lair another go. Hekkia is left behind with the guards and the priests of Halor, under the direction of Prioress Drenham, opt to assist the party in cleaning out the lair.

They enter the lair the way they came make their way to the entry chamber where they first encountered the armored ghoul and his cohort. With Savaric looking for traps and Mõrvar detecting magic, they search through the witch-lit corridors with the rest of the party following in their wake. They methodically make their way through each room of the lair, planning on cleaning our the entire complex.

Along the way, they encounter mummies, ghouls, ghoul commanders, and another band of Mohrgs. They also encounter a couple of magical traps along the way.

The party collects what treasure they can and continue, fighting their way through. Finally, they find themselves in a large chamber, the corpses of vanquished Mohrg surrounding them, planning their next line of attack on the Tomb of Secrets.

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Session Sixty-Six
A Cunning Plan

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2 Illumination 509

After defeating the spellcasting ghouls in the room, the party searches the rooms and the bodies they encountered them all. Though they find some magical objects on the bodies—including magical silken ceremonial armor on the spellcasters—they find little else of interest in the rooms.

Mõrvar brings up the possibility of using a dimensional door to pass through the walls of the rooms to shorten their route through the lair. After a lengthy discussion, the plan is nixed due to the fact that the spell won’t be able to transport everyone into the guardian’s lair, thus putting those that did travel at risk.

However, Mõrvar also speculates on the location of a possible secret door that, if actually there, would also shorten their route to the guardian chamber. Surm agrees that this would be a good idea, if the door is there. So this is the plan the party decides to pursue.

While the room where they fought with the ghoul warriors is being searched, Tarben, Sorcha, and Brother Caric take the loot back to the entry chamber of the lair.

In this chamber, Surm finds an illusionary wall is blocking a secret door. However, following the door where it leads would lead them away from their goal, so they decided not to pursue it.

They make their way further along their route, out of the ghoul rooms and down a corridor. Savaric searches along the way. They find their way into an empty room. They search this room out and find nothing really of interest. They move on to the next room.

This large room has several doors and a portcullis that leads toward the direction they wish to go. As he is searching the room, Savaric can hear snarls, growls, and movement from beyond the portcullis.

After a brief planning session, Savaric and Ilona agree to venture down the corridor that is blocked by the portcullis. They hit the lever and the gate opens noisily. Then Savaric, invisible thanks to Ilona, cautiously makes his way down the corridor. He finds himself at another portcullis. Beyond it he sees two hideous undead creatures, skeletal with entrails writhing in their bony guts that twine upward to form a long tongue that lolls out of the mouth of the creature. Six more are lounging about in the room beyond, making eight altogether. Savaric cautiously makes his way back to report.

After consulting those with religious knowledge, it is determined that the creatures are Mohrgs, undead that spawn from the corpses of dead serial killers. Their tongues can paralyze and if you are slain by a Mohrg, you quickly rise as a fast-moving zombie in service to that Mohrg.

After a long planning session, the party decides to send Surm and Prioress Drenham down the corridor to make the first strike against the Mohrg. Surm can entangle them in black tentacles while the Prioress can call holy fire down upon them. Surm can then encase them all (or as many as he can) in a fireball. The tentacles will make it harder for them to dodge the flames.

As Surm makes his way down, Prioress Drenham opts to cast her spell from the main room instead of the corridor, leaving Surm alone in the corridor. As he continues down the hall, he sees the Mohrgs straining against the portcullis—and then hears the distinctive sound of gears turning. The portcullis begins to rise.

He quickly casts his spell. Prioress Drenham casts hers as well. Mõrvar and Rilka ready themselves to enter the corridor and change places with Surm. The portcullis continues to rise and the Mohrgs begin to move forward, undeterred by the black tentacles. As the party repositions, the portcullis opens all the way and the Mohrgs begin to move. Rilka casts a burst of radiance into the room. Mõrvar casts scorching rays into the room. Then the fight begins.

While Mõrvar engages with the lead Mohrg, Surm casts fireball into the group behind them, catching the one Mõrvar is fighting in its outer rim. Mõrvar slays the lead Mohrg and another moves forward to take its place, filling the narrow corridor with Mohrgs. As the fight goes on, the Mohrgs prove to be resilient opponents, but are eventually falling to Deathblow and the barrage of spells. The tentacles finally manage to entangle them as well, impeding the creatures’ abilities to fight. Surm launches a lightning bolt from a wand at the line of Mohrgs, doing a great deal of harm to them.

Finally, between the spells, the tentacles, and the blades, the Mohrgs are all dispatched.

Moving into the next room, Savaric searches it out and does find another secret door, leading away from the direction the party wants to go. Where the party wants to go, is a locked door.

After Surm takes a go at the lock and fails, the party decides to break the door open. Mõrvar takes a crowbow and pries it open, revealing an expected short corridor with a dead end.

Savaric comes forward to search the area—this is where Mõrvar thinks a secret door should be. Sure enough—-Savaric finds one. It is free of traps and unlocked.

The party fortifies themselves with a battery of protective spells (prayer, bull’s strength, shield other, etc.). Then Rilka, followed by Mõrvar, enter the secret door.

Rilka finds herself in complete, impenetrable darkness. Even the light of her magic falchion is doused. She cannot even see with her Orcish darkvision. Suddenly, she feels a great deal of pain as something very large bites her. The bite sends cold and poison coursing through her veins. She cries out in alarm and pain, but manages to move forward to allow Mõrvar passage into the room. Prioress Drenham calls upon the light of Halor, casting daylight, to illuminate the area and dispel the magical darkness, allowing Rilka and Mõrvar to now see with the light of her falchion.

What they see is a hideous, huge, black, spiderlike creature surrounded in umbral webs of shadow.

The two warriors engage the creature poison continues to course through Rilka’s veins. It bites Mõrvar, but he manages to fight off the venom—for now. Eventually, after some very nasty bites, the two take down the Nightskitter.

Mõrvar cuts off its “head.”

Now the party can either wait to enter the Inner Sanctum of the necromancer or go now, while their protective magics are still in effect…

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Rage and Raven: To Slay a Dragon
New Friends and a New Quest

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15 Longday 508

The group is staying at The Topaz Dagger in Asdari after a fruitful expedition to the Monastery of Punari. Tavayne takes the companions over the more posh Wand of Fire inn for drinks.

When they enter the Wand of Fire, Tavayne is recognized by another man in the tavern. He is a handsome Acheran accompanied by a beautiful Acheran woman. The man is Ali Abidali, an adventurer whom Tavayne has encountered in his travels before. The woman is introduced as Amira, Ali’s traveling companion.

Tavayne invites Ali and Amira to come to his table for drinks. Ali and Amira graciously accept the invitation and are introduced to the rest of the group. Rhain, as usual, seems unimpressed and put-upon, though is fascinated by Amira’s beauty. Tag is eager to meet the new people and impress them. Lenoria is cautiously friendly while Regna is her usually sour self.

Throughout their stay in the common room, Tag ostentatiously “clumps” his new staff on the floor, hoping to get the attention of a wizard who will be impressed by his new find.

When asked what brings Ali to Asdari, he replies that he is on a quest and was doing research in the University here. When pressed, he gives them more details—obviously hoping to entice the group into helping him.

He has been hired by Samil Halimasi of the city of Qualera in the Jirran Freeholds. Samil is a wealthy merchant in that city and he has hired Ali to rescue his daughter, Azuna.

About a month ago, 15-year-old Azuna was kidnapped by kobolds on the docks of Qualera. Azuna was in the docks district, running an errand for her father. She was taking signed papers for to the captain of the Blue Gull to sign. As she made her way through the throng, she didn’t notice as she was being surrounded by heavily cloaked figures. When the opportunity struck, they closed in, herded the protesting girl out of the crowd, and toward their waiting boat.
Witnesses spotted reptilian features beneath the cloaks. A couple of dockhands tried to intervene but the figures breathed fire and burned them, driving them back. The Harbor Watch was notified and craft were dispatched to attempt to intercept the small boat before it left the harbor.

That’s when Moedrig made an appearance.

A huge, adult, red dragon swooped down from the skies above Qualera. The force of her wings sent the Harbor Watch ships bobbing in the waves. The dragon essentially covered the small craft’s escape and then flew off toward the west, toward the [[Et’tir Mountains]] in Tarsas.

Samil did not sit idle. As soon as he heard what had happened, he started putting wheels into motion to get his daughter back. He put out feelers among the local adventuring community to find some help. He used his local information network to try and figure out what happened. He even commissioned a small craft, The Crestrider, to cross the sea to the western shore of Tarsas and investigate Moedrig’s mountain. The craft never returned. Its charred remains were found on the beach, but no trace of the crew was inside.

He has hired Ali to bring Azuna back. He will pay him for his service. On top of that, if he manages to defeat this dragon, there is its hoard to think of.

He knew that he could not take on this task alone. Further, he thought that if he could find some magical tools to have at his disposal to help even the odds, that would be even better.

He found a band of these kobolds operating in Jirra and managed to subdue one long enough to get some information out of it. The kobolds, cultists devoted to “The Divine Moedrig,” are seeking virgins with Draconic bloodlines to sacrifice for some dark ritual culminating later in the year—possibly Growth of next year—but they may not be able wait that long and go ahead and do it in the month of Hearth. It depends on the will of Moedrig and the astrological signs at the time.

Next, he managed to secure some information from a bard he met in Kalimsport about the elves of Almathriel, who have fashioned a weapon against dragonkind to defend themselves against that particular threat. Perhaps if he could get a hold of that weapon, then he could even the odds considerably.

In his information gathering, he also came across the story of Lord Jalten Dragonsbane, a Boraelan baronet who is said to have slain a dragon with the help of a mystical greatsword. Lord Jalten settled in Sarra, in Borael, some 80 years ago. His heir, Farkus Dragonsbane, resides there now.

“The Cowards,” the dwarves who fled Moedrig’s mountain when the dragon came, have never forgotten their shame. Some say that they crafted a weapon with which to take their revenge on the fell dragon. “The Hammer of Vengeance” is a powerful artifact that could also be used to his advantage—if he can find this lost colony of dwarves.

Finally, the last potent weapon against the great dragon that he has gotten wind of is the True Name of the dragon. Used against her, it could turn the tide of battle—if it doesn’t burn the mind of its holder. This weapon can be found in Jossia, of all places. It is possessed by a woman called, alternately, the Witch of the Teeth, or Grundr’s Mother.

With these resources, and a band of adventurers to help, he thinks he just might be able to pull this off.

The group seems interested in Ali’s quest. There is potentially much glory—and much treasure—involved in such a quest. Ali offers them a share of what Samil is paying. After much discussion, they eventually decide to start with seeking out the weapon in Almathriel—after they settle up with the monk in Crownport. They also determine that the ritual must have to do with the astrological signs prevalent in months of Growth and Hearth—The Sorcerer and The Wheel, respectively. The Sorcerer is associated with “mutable fire,” while The Wheel is associated with “cardinal fire”—fitting for a ritual associated with a red dragon.

With Tavayne buying drinks, Tag orders baijiu all around, which most of the group respectfully declines. In the course of their conversation, Ali claims to be the greatest swordsman of all time. Tag decides to put this to the test and finds him a challenger to a duel. A half-elf by the name of Trevis takes him up on the challenge. The innkeep demands that they take the fight outside, so they all head out.

A circle is drawn and terms are decided upon—three touches. Tag discovers that Trevis is a duellist by trade. The two men face off and the bout begins—and is over in a heartbeat. Ali handily beats the half-elf before he even knew what hit him, touching him three times in a dazzling display of swordplay.

Trevis takes it in stride and shakes the Acheran’s hand afterwards and has a drink with him.

Eventually, everyone wanders back the Topaz Dagger to sleep off their baijiu.

21 Longday 508

After waiting six days for various magic accoutrements to be completed, the party finally leaves Asdari, with Ali and Amira in tow.

Late in the day, they pass through the city of Zyend. As they make their way to the Trickster and Wench, a modest inn, the street suddenly clears as a pair of creatures descend from the sky—harpies! Savaric shoots one down and the rest of the party manages to dispatch the other. In a matter of seconds, the threat is handled. A member of the watch appears and asks to escort them to the garrison house. There, they are given a reward of 150 gold.

22 Longday 508

The party leaves Zyend and trudges through a hot summer day along the road. Amira wilts in the heat, becoming fatigued.

23 Longday 508

As the troupe travels along the road, Amira and Rhain disturb some treacherous plants, bullhorn acacia, whose hollow stems are full of ants. Rhain manages to handle his ant problem, but Amira is stung repeatedly by hers before the swarm is finally dealt with.

26 Longday 508

The party finally arrives in Crownport in the afternoon. They take up rooms in Charon’s Faire, where Tavayne manages to secure work as a player. As per usual, Tag makes an ostentatious display of his staff—but this time it pays off. He manages to get he attention of a man named Koldrin Brevarrow. He offers to take the staff off his hands and indicates that he can be found at the University in Wolvington College. This gives Tag pause—as he is not sure he wants to part with his relic.

27 Longday 508

The party heads to the University to settle up with the monk, Braden Varrow. They head to the department of Artifacts and Antiquities, to the office of Mistress Londra Walera. She sends for her colleague, the monk. When he arrives, he is pleased that the party has not only returned with the manual but has also cleaned out the monastery. He pays them the agreed upon price happily.

After their arrangements are completed at the University, the party leaves Crownport for Almathriel.

29 Longday 508

The party skirts the city of Osandar.

30 Longday 508

The party happens upon what appears to be a battle site of some sort. The battle, Rhain determines, occurred some 12 days ago.

1 Starfall 508

The party finds a shrine to the god Hathras. Ali leaves some rations behind, while Tag leaves some flint and steel.

2 Starfall 508

That morning, the party skirts the city of Edeva and crosses the mountains into the elven lands. In the late afternoon, they enter the elven settlement of Orielle. Regna is not pleased to be there. They acquire rooms in an inn called The Silver Stag.

5 Starfall 508

After crossing an old-growth forest for a few days, the party arrives in the elven capital of Almathriel. Upon entry, they acquire rooms at the appropriately-named Red Dragon Inn. From the barkeep, they get the name of a sage, Phildreniel Stormwing.

The sage lives in a modest home in a nice part of the city. The sage agrees to see them and, after making their inquiries, they learn the following. An elven ranger and sorceress by the name of Sonina Mooncrest has been working on the weapon for over a hundred years. The weapon is nearly complete. She can be found at the Red Dragon Inn.

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Rage and Raven: Curse of Punari (Part Five)
Bragging Rights

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24 Ardor 508

After an uneventful night of camping, the party is ready to return to the cursed monastery. They journey down through rooms that they’ve already cleared out until they come to unfamiliar territory. Lenoria casts hide from undead on the party, after casting make whole on Rhain’s broken axe. Tag leads the way inside, looking for traps and items of interest. Along the way, he checks some stuck doors for traps, which Rhain takes his time to use his brawn to un-stick.

Arriving at an unfamiliar room, Tag enters followed by Regna. The room, like the one before it, is unadorned. Tag is brought up short by the sight of six gaunt humanoid creatures with long, sharp teeth, pointed ears, and long, pointed tongues. They have clawed hands and feet and their pallid flesh is stretched tight over their starved frames. The creatures, ghouls, are wearing tattered monk’s robes. Two of them hiss and start coming toward him, while the rest seem oblivious to their presence, thanks to Lenoria’s prayers.

Tag and Regna, blocking the doorway, take on the ghouls. In the course of combat, Regna is paralyzed by one of them. Tavayne begins playing his fiddle to inspire their courage.

Rhain starts cutting through adjacent rooms, trying to come up to the ghouls from the other side. He walks into a large room where murals depicting dreaming monks line the walls. Old straw mats are littered about the floor. And seven shambling figures are milling about the room, tattered monk’s robes hanging off of their rotted, zombie, bodies.

Meanwhile, Tag attempts to use his acrobatic skills to push his way through the ghoul to make room for more comrades to join them. He fails to find an opening, but follows up with an attack with his mace.

Rhain, depending on his hide from undead spell, passes through the zombies unscathed, and arrives at another room. Here, rotted straw mats litter the floor. Murals on the wall depict Shandor in various poses of meditation, as well as serene landscape scenes. He starts passing through that room to the room with the ghouls.

Tag continues to attack while Regna stands helpless as the ghouls rake her with their claws. Lenoria bestows on tag a bit of luck, while Rhain comes up from behind and slaughters one of the attacking ghouls.

Rhain then steps forward and attacks the other ghoul, obliterating the walking corpse. Lenoria casts healing on Regna.

The rest of the ghouls have now noticed the party and begin to close in. Rhain attacks while Tag utilizes his wand of magic missile. Regna continues to stand helpless.

Rhain and Tag continue engaging the ghouls. Regna finally shakes off the paralysis. She then belches fire at the nearest ghoul, burning it to cinders. Lenoria channels positive energy to heal her comrades.

Rhain then turns and disembowels the last ghoul, spraying thick, black ichor all over the room. He yells to Regna that there are zombies in the next room. Regna makes her way so that she can belch more fire. She puts herself into position in the large room and lets go with a belch of fire, engulfing two of the zombies. As the zombies begin to close in on her and her friends move into position, she attacks again. Tag flips into the room, turns, attacks on the flaming zombies, and puts it down. Regna belches forth more flame and injures two more zombies. Lenoria channels energy to harm further harm the undead shamblers. Rhain ambles up and finishes off one of the flaming undead.

Lenoria once again channels the energy of her goddess to attack the zombies. The zombies attack the party, doing minimal damage. Rhain steps up and slaughters another of the walking corpses. Tag manages to down another zombie. Regna, with a mighty blow, manages to fell the last zombie in the room.

The party takes a moment to recover, casting healing spells and remove disease on Regna, hoping to prevent her rising as a ghoul. They then follow the corridors to another room where they have not explored. Tag checks the door, finds nothing, and peers inside.

He sees what appears to be a kitchen. The center of the room is dominated by a large counter. Cabinets line the walls. There are kitchen implements littering the floor, rusted and useless. And, of course, there are the 4 skeletal occupants of the room…who don’t appear to have noticed him as of yet.

Lenoria casts weapon of awe on Rhain’s axe and the party opts to use her hide from undead again to avoid the skeletons. They move through the kitchen cautiously toward a door at the end of the room leading to more unexplored territory.

Along the way, Tag looks for traps and items of interest. They pass through a corridor and then through an empty room, finally arriving at another door. He cautiously opens it and sees that it is a room with murals on the walls depicting monks in combat with shadowy forms. In the center of the room is the wizened form of a mummy in tattered monk’s robes.

As the party lines up to enter the room, with Regna in the lead, the mummy spots her and starts to move in. As Rhain moves in, he is overwhelmed by despair and cannot move. Tag attempts to use his wand of magic missile, but cannot manage to make it function. Regna is on her own. Tavayne begins to play.

Regna attempts to trip the mummy up with a thunderstomp spell, but it maintains its footing. It moves in and strikes Regna, imparting its rotting disease on her. She returns with a magic missile of her own. Tag flips into the room and into position to surround the creature. Lenoria casts invisibility on herself and makes her way through and positions herself behind the mummy.

Rhain shakes off the despair and attacks the mummy, while Tag does the same. Regan attempts to aid Rhain and Lenoria casts a healing spell on Regna. Rhain attacks again and Tag aids him, causing a distraction. The rest of the party attempt to aid Rhain as well, but with little effect. The mummy strikes Rhain hard for his trouble, also imparting his rotting disease to the barbarian as well.

Rhain takes a mighty, two-handed swing with his greataxe—and wedges the head of his axe into the floor. Lenoria channels more energy to damage the mummy. Tag steps up and misses the mummy with his mace. Regna activates her magic boots to get some speed, but does not manage to hit the mummy.

The mummy, for its part, hits Rhain again, hard. Then he hits him again.

Rhain draws another axe and attacks. So do the others. The creature is eventually brought down. Tag searches the room, but finds nothing of interest. They move on, with Lenoria reapplying the hide from undead spell.

Moving down the corridor, they come across another door. Tag checks it, finds nothing and carefully opens it. Inside he sees a lone Wraith floating ominously in the center of the room. He quietly shuts the door.

They opt to take another route. Turning up, they go down a short corridor and find another door. Tag manages to disarm the trap on this one and then carefully opens the door. Inside he sees another gathering of ghouls. He shuts the door and the party regroups.

Rhain proposes a plan in which they lure the ghouls out to the larger room. Regna and the others are on-board with this plan, So Tag positions himself at the bend in the corridor with his crossbow, while Regna moves forward to burst in on the ghouls to draw their attention.

Regna makes her way and busts open the door, following up with a spell that fills the room with rocky debris, slowing the corpse-eaters down. She turns and runs down the corridor, with the ghouls hissing and clambering behind her.

Tag fires on the ghouls as Regna runs down the hall. One of the ghouls falls in the corridor. Regna takes up her new position in the ambush room. The ghouls continue to make their way down the corridor, slowed by the debris and having to climb over the body of their comrade.

Tag takes up his position in the ambush room and everyone waits. Eventually, the first ghoul enters and the party surrounds the interloper and attacks! Short work is made of the ghoul. As the ghouls begin to enter the room, Tag moves bodies out of the way to make room as the party slaughters the ghouls one-by-one. Eventually, no more of the creatures enter the room.

Tag makes his way back down the corridor into the ghouls’ room. There he finds a secret panel with a treasure chest inside. The chest is full of coin, gems, and other items. The door on the other side of the room leads into an area the group has already explored.

The party determines that the only rooms left are the one with the Wraith, the room behind that, and the kitchen where they left the skeletons. Tag is convinced the Wraith is guarding something interesting, so they move on to its chamber.

After a brief battle with the incorporeal, life-sucking fiend, they manage to bring it down, with Lenoria casting a holy javelin and finishing it off. They search the room and find nothing of interest—save for a portcullis leading to the last room (save the kitchen). Tag peers through the bars and sees something laying on the floor up against the back wall. There is no way he is leaving without knowing what that is.

They eventually find a panel with the portcullis mechanism inside and open the gate. Inside, they find an empty cell of a room, save for a ornately carved wooden staff. Regna examines the staff with her arcane powers and determines that it is a Staff of Charming. Tag recognizes that the staff most likely belonged to an adventurers by the name of Leyla Halasi, an Acheran wizard. She went missing some one hundred years ago. Convinced that they have a valuable artifact, the party takes the staff.

At this point, after assessing their various wounds and healing capabilities, the group debates on whether or not they just want to take their booty and leave or clear out the monastery. Rhain wants to take the money and leave, but he is out-voted. Everyone else wants to be able to say that they fully defeated the Monastery of Punari. So they head in to take on the skeletons in the kitchen. Rhain is convinced that they are risking their skins for nothing, but goes along.

They then move on to the kitchen occupied by four skeletal monks. They cautiously enter the room and engage with the skeletons, making quick work of the creatures, despite their efforts to stun the party with their Stunning Fist techniques. They find nothing of interest in the room.

Rhain mocks the party incessantly about the all the treasure they gained by risking their lives against those skeletons.

Satisfied that they have assailed all threats in the monastery, the group makes its way to the armory they discovered early in their exploration. They begin loading the various weapons onto their carts. Finally, that afternoon, they start making their way down the mountain pass away from the cursed monastery and back into the jungles of Achera, making their long way back to Asdari.

28 Ardor 508

After a couple of days of travel through the jungle, the party continues to slowly roll its way through the dense overgrowth. Later in the afternoon, Tag and Lenoria spot a structure overgrown with vines and foliage. Tag immediately wants to check it out. Rhain, exasperated, goes along. He just wants to get on to his payday.

The structure is not large and has an open arched doorway leading inside. The doorway is lined with etched hieroglyphs. Tag manages to decipher that they are both a welcome and a warning. Lenoria determines that this may be an ancient temple to Azunapath, though it is built in a fashion no longer used by that sect.

Tag heads inside, with the others following and Lenoria lighting his way. Inside the structure is are four support pillars and, in the center of the square building, a diamond-shaped pool of clear, blue water. Before the pool is a bronze stand with a round, shallow, top, seemingly designed to place something in. Tag examines the pool closely and determines that it is fed by an underground spring. Regna determines that the waters are, in fact, magical. He takes a drink of the water and, while cool and refreshing, it also makes him feel warm in his belly, a pleasant warmth. After they search out the structure and find nothing else, they move on.

30 Ardor 508

On this day, the party stumbles across the remains of a battle. Rhain is convinced that it is the site where they had previously encountered the dire apes. Tag wants to be sure and examines the signs. Sure enough, he comes to the same conclusion. After Rhain mocks Tag for a bit, they move on.

5 Longday 508

As the party continues their long slog through the jungle, Tag and Lenoria halt the party to point out a body that has been nailed to a tree by a spear. The body is rotting and the spear appears to be of orc-make. Vowing to be on their guard, the troupe continues forward toward Asdari.

9 Longday 508

On this day, as they are making camp for the evening, Lenoria finds a rusty spoon buried in the camp. Tag is fascinated, thinking that perhaps it is an artifact or relic of some sort. Rhain mocks them, calling back to the “treasures” not found in the kitchen back at the monastery and that now, at last, they have a kitchen utensil. Tag asks Lenoria for the spoon and she gladly gives it over to him. Tag is now convinced that he has “the Spoon of Punari.”

15 Longday 508

Finally, after nearly three weeks, the party emerges from the jungle and arrives at the gates of Asdari. They head into the city with their laden carts and find lodging at the Topaz Dagger, though Tag desperately wants to stay at the Wand of Fire. Tavayne proposes that they stay at the Topaz Dagger, but later go for drinks (on him) at the Wand of Fire.

They party spends the remainder of the day cashing in their found treasures and splitting their loot. they hit upon a new way to split their magic items, but first Tag gets to pick first, as it was promised last time. Rhain is against this, but he outvoted again. Tag, of course, picks the very expensive magic staff—which he can’t use very well. Rhain grouses the entire time about what the halfling managed to pull off—now he’s just going to sell off the expensive magic item for a haul of money that won’t be part of the general shares.

Eventually, the discussion comes (prompted by Tag) about including Tavayne in the cut—he was very helpful, after all. Rhain is against it—if he wanted a cut he should have negotiated beforehand. As the discussion becomes heated, with Tavayne carefully remaining neutral, Tag convinces Rhain to let “Lenoria’s goddess” decide. He’ll roll a die—if it comes up even, Tavayne gets a cut. If not, then they negotiate for next time.

Rhain, still in disbelief at the turns the conversation has taken, observes as Tag rolls the die. It comes up even—Tavayne gets a cut. The bard bows with a low flourish and thanks the party for their generosity.

The party then gets cleaned up and ready to head downstairs and then to the Wand of Fire.

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Session Sixty-Five
Ghoulish Encounters

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2 Illumination 509

The Crimson Cord, accompanied by two of their guards and a troupe of priests of Halor, continue to explore the Tomb of Secrets in hopes of rescuing the sorceress, Hekia Stormwing from the clutches of the necromancer, Kelthior.

After ensuring that the last chamber they encountered was free of spectres, the troupe decides to move on. Having examined the map provided to them by the halfling, Torvald, who was a former companion of Hekia, Surm determines the shortest route to the inner sanctum of the necromancer.

As they head out of the room on their chosen route, they are stymied by a wooden portcullis. It has no apparent mechanism to raise or lower. Savaric finds a hidden panel shielding a mechanism of some sort, but has no idea what it’s about. Mõrvar determines that is a mechanism associated with the portcullis, but no more. Surm says that it has nothing to do with the portcullis and that the group shouldn’t touch it because it’s probably a trap of some sort. He insists that Savaric should just lift or break the gate so that they can pass through, but Savaric refuses, opting, instead, to search the room for some means of using the mechanism: a rod, a key, whatever.

Mõrvar notes the hole in the top of the mechanism and decides that he’s going to try and manipulate the it. Everybody steps away from him and the panel. He places his multi-tool in the hole and turns It. A “click” is heard and the portcullis starts to raise. He manages to figure out how to secure the gate from shutting again. He looks at Surm and says wryly, “It has nothing to do with the portcullis.”

The troupe lines back up in marching order and heads down the corridor, with Savaric at the head looking for traps.

The corridor leads to a locked door. Surm is brought forward to pick the lock. It seems to give him a bit of trouble, but eventually, he manages to get it unlocked. He returns to his place in line. Savaric then bursts through the door to find that a large group of ghouls waiting for him.

The fight between the group and the ghouls doesn’t last too long, with Savaric and Mõrvar making a good showing. The group clambers into the chamber and then heads to the next door along their route—except for Savaric. He feels the need to the check an open archway on the opposite side of the room. He walks up and looks in—and spots another group of ghouls staring at him in anticipation!

Savaric backs away, hoping to leave some room for his compatriots to come to his aid. This allows the ghouls to come forward and surround him in the lower chamber. They all attack, and while he does take some damage, none of the ghouls manage to paralyze him or pass on their deadly disease.

The rest of the party manages to arrange themselves in a manner in which to help their friend by attacking the ghouls. Soon, the ghouls are sent to their final rest.

Savaric takes another look in the room where the ghouls came from and spots a charred shield lying in a corner, a fountain in the center of the room, and a strange, abstract statue of a swirling vortex at the back of the room. Mõrvar comes forward to detect magic on the finds before heading in detects none—however, he does note that the statue is a probably a representation of The Nazul, a force of chaos and destruction that works in opposition to the Acheran god, Azumazran. The rest clerics in the party start discussing what they know—or don’t know—about this evil being and Surm enlightens them with more information—including the fact that there is a “Vortex Grimoire” that details how to bring The Nazul to this world from its home plane.

After the theological discussion dies down, Savaric and Mõrvar both, but especially Savaric, are sore tempted to go and explore the statue room. The rest of the party talks them out of it and the troupe lines up and moves into through the next door on their route.

After traveling a brief corridor, they come to another locked door. Surm is brought forward again and spends some time working on the lock. He pops it open and heads back to his former place in line. Savaric opens the door and peers inside. Gasping, he notes that the room has five wraiths in it—and they all seem to notice him. They float down toward the doorway and start attacking.

Savaric manages to maneuver his way through the wraiths and into the room, allowing Mõrvar space to attack as well. Prioress Drenham assists with guidance spells along the way. Eventually, all of the wraiths are dispatched. Mõrvar and Savaric take a fair amount of damage, but neither succumb to the creatures’ life drain abilities.

Nothing useful is found in this room and the troupe moves further along on their chosen route. They follow a corridor down to an unlocked door, which leads to a large, empty, room. Here the troupe regroups a bit and performs some healing magics to recover from their previous encounters. The door that will take them further along their chosen route is also unlocked. Savaric opens the door and sees a strange sight.

There are a total of 6 ghouls in the room, but these are unlike most of the monstrous, feral ghouls he is used to fighting. Two, the ones facing him, are dressed in robes, headbands, and strange masks made up of pieces of human faces. The other four are wearing breastplates and wielding greataxes. One of the two robed ones facing him points at him and says in a strange, hissing voice, “Intruders!”

Savaric backs away and the rest of the party form a gauntlet for any incoming ghouls to run through. The first of the armored ghouls comes through, and is peppered with shots from Savaric, and attacked by Mõrvar and Rilka. It is quickly brought to its second death. Surm, in the meantime, uses sorcery to cause stones to spontaneously appear and fill the room with the robed ones; the stones and earth fall on the ghouls and cause the floor in their to be more treacherous. Two of the others run through, facing the gauntlet. All of the party members take an opportunity to attack the lead ghoul, while Rilka is skilled enough to get to attack both. Then, everyone is wracked in pain as negative energy bursts through the room, not once, but twice, each from the ghouls that just made it through the gauntlet. They also seem to emit an aura of cowardice about them, making everyone more vulnerable to fear.

The party attacks the ghouls in earnest and, fortunately, make short work of the two before they do more harm.

The last of the armored ghouls makes its way out and is attacked by Mõrvar, Rilka, Savaric, and a couple of the clerics. Rilka takes an especial interest in this one, making two critical hits in a row against, severing tendons and disemboweling it. Still he, fights on—though not for long, as the others all take a whack at him and bring him down.

Then, a single bolt of lightning comes zipping out of the room and striking Surm, though he manages to dodge some of the effect. “Oh, now it’s on,” he mutters as he prepares a return volley. He casts fireball into the room, hoping to hit both of the robed ones.

The troupe is now in a quandary—do they cross the difficult terrain of the dead ghouls and the falling stone that Surm set up in the other room to pursue their quarry or wait and see if these robed ghouls decided to walk their gauntlet?

Mõrvar uses his power to step all the way across the room, through the robed ghoul that attacked his brother, and arrive on the other side of him, shocking it along the way.

Surm cleverly uses a dimensional door spell to take himself and three of the others—Rilka, Brother Thoras, and Prioress Drenham, into the room and into position, instantly. The other robed ghoul manages to send a bolt of lightning into Thoras at point blank range. Unfortunately for it, it is in a position in which Savric can hit it with his bow. He fires and does a massive amount of damage to the creature with a single shot The creature is standing—but is not feeling at all well. Rilka and Mõrvar manage to dispatch their robed one, with help from magic missiles from Surm.

The final ghoul, turns to look at Rilka and casts a spell. She starts to cough and wheeze for a moment, but is otherwise okay—but she figures that the spell was meant to suffocate her.

Eventually, the final ghoul is brought down by the multiple attacks leveled at it.

The group now stands in the room, preparing to search the ghouls for loot, They note that the chamber is decorated with a mural on the ceiling depicting ghouls feasting on corpses.

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Session Sixty-Four
Storm and Shadow

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21 Growth 509

After receiving their information and map from Torvald the halfling about the Tomb of Secrets, the Crimson Cord head to the University of Aldasar to set their sages to work on information about the Shadow Plane and creatures known as Nightshades. According to Torvald, the necromancer Kalthior has two such creatures guarding his inner sanctum. They give the sage until the next morning to gather what information they can. Then they head out to the market place to purchase spells and for Mõrvar to purchase a pair of magic boots.

After this foray into the city, they head back to Lord Cannach’s estate.

22 Growth 509

That morning, they all head back into the city to consult with the sage to see what they had to offer concerning the Shadow Plane and Nightshades. According to the sage:

The Shadow Plane is a dimly lit dimension that is both coterminous to and coexistent with the Material Plane. It overlaps the Material Plane much as the Ethereal Plane does, so a planar traveler can use the Shadow Plane to cover great distances quickly. The Shadow Plane is also coterminous to other planes. With the right spell, a character can use the Shadow Plane to visit other realities. The Shadow Plane is a world of black and white; color itself has been bleached from the environment. It otherwise appears similar to the Material Plane. Despite the lack of light sources, various plants, animals, and humanoids call the Shadow Plane home.

As far as Nightshades, these creatures are monstrous undead composed of shadow and evil. They all emit a desecrating aura about them for 30’, essentially treating the area around them as desecrated ground. They have the ability to channel negative energy. They are light-averse, being sickened by bright light and more so by natural sunlight. The various iterations of Nightshades can summon a variety of undead creatures.

One of the creatures described by Torvald was a spider-like creature. This is probably the Nightskitterer Nightshade. It is a huge creature with the ability to spin umbral webs, summon a greater shadow, and whose bite is highly poisonous. It is immune to cold and is resistant to all damage but that from good-aligned or silver weapons.

The sage did not have time to get information the other creature, the huge ram-horned, bi-pedal creature that Torvald described.

After speaking with sage, the group decides that they need to enlist the aid of the church of Halor on this quest. So Surm and Rilka head to that temple while Mõrvar and Savaric head to the Tavern of the Blue Moon to wait for them.

At the temple of Halor, Surm speaks with the Abbot Padraig Ororke, who listens to the story of the quest they propose, as well as the fact that one of their own, a cleric named Thalia, died at the hands of this necromancer. Abbot Ororke tells them that he will send 6 priests with them and that they will be ready to leave by the morning.

Surm and Rilka head back to the tavern and gather up their companions to head back to Lord Cannach’s.

23 Growth 509

The Crimson Cord, their retinue of guards, and the group of six priests of Halor, lead by the Prioress Drenham, all head out of Aldasar toward the east to the awaiting Tomb of Secrets.

After about 10 miles, they cross the bridge over the Mondira River into Borael. The Boraelan troops inquire as to their business, but Surm manages to talk their way through, helped by the presence of the benevolent priests. On the other side of the bridge is a clearing with a group of bronze statures venerating The Five, a legendary group of adventures from the early days of civilization.

The column moves on after a brief discussion of the group and makes their way to the other side of the city of Whitheron where the troupe makes camp on the road.

24 Growth 509

The troupe continues down the road toward Yulania. At the end of the day, they pull over to the side to make camp and note that a small adventuring party made up of three human’s and a dwarf are making their own camp on the other side of the road. The two camps do not interact.

27 Growth 509

After a few more days of travel, the party makes to the other side of the city of Ebongate, the capital of Borael and into Yulania. As they pass the city, it appears that there is a fair going on there, based on the people heading inside. Nevertheless, the troupe moves on.

28 Growth 509

After traveling through the wooded hills of eastern Yulania, the troupe makes camp for the night. During the second watch, Rilka hears movement heading out of the camp. She tries to pursue it with stealth, but fails and hears the sound of someone running off. She calls for help and Leif and Jerrik come up with torches. She loses track of the runner and starts rousing the camp.

Savaric armors up and starts tracking. He finds a trail fairly quickly and he and Mõrvar start following it. As Savaric armors up and finds the initial trail, Rilka determines that 5 days of food are missing from their stores. Surm hints strongly that Rilka should accompany Mõrvar and Savaric in chasing down the thief and orders Mahgnus to check all of their gear to ensure that the food was all that was stolen.

Savaric tracks down the thief to a group of scrub brush and spots him hiding. He draws his bow and orders the figure to come out. The others, who did not see him, watch warily. A man dressed in a tattered Boraelan prison tunic comes crawling out. Savaric recognizes him a Trews Hanric, an Ornish thief. Mõrvar pats him down and finds nothing more than a shiv, which the thief apparently used to kill a guard during his escape. The three, after a brief discussion, decide to let him go after recovering the five days of food. They head back to the camp.

Surm seems upset that they let the man go, especially as he had apparently murdered a guard. But there was nothing to be done about it at the time and everyone went back to bed.

30 Growth 509

After another couple of days of travel, the party pass by the city of Edeva and move on toward the Tomb of Secrets.\

1 Illumination 509

After another day of travel, the troupe makes camp some five miles from the entrance to the sanctum of the necromancer. As they make camp, rain begins to fall and thunder begins to roll.

That night, during the second watch, Rilka hears a thunderous sound that is definitely not from the storm. She rouses the camp and as Mõrvar and Savaric get ready, they see three hill giants lumbering toward camp from the nearby mountains. Savaric fires repeatedly with his bow, as does Mõrvar. Surm even casts fireball between two of them to bring them down. Finally, before any of them can strike a single blow, they are killed. Everyone works together to move the giant bodies out of camp and the rest of the night passes without incident.

2 Illumination 509

That morning, the troupe arrives outside the entrance to the Tomb of Secrets. It is a cleft in the side of a mountain from which an eldritch green glow can be seen emitting from the inside.

After a discussion, the party elects to only bring in two of the guards. Alasir calls for volunteers and Tarben and Sorcha step forward.

The tunnel appears to lit by eerie green witchlight that casts many shadows along the corridor. Surm stands at the head of the tunnel and casts dancing lights down the hall, illuminating it more fully.

The party lines up to head down the narrow corridor. Savaric takes the lead, followed by Mõrvar, then the Prioress, Brother Thoras, Rilka, then Surm, Brother Caric, Sister Senna, Sister Prinella, Sister Aria, Tarben, and finally Sorcha. They finally head inside.

Savaric searches for traps all the way down and finds none. He finds the secret door marked on the map at the end of the corridor—and also discovers that it is trapped. Surm makes his way forward to try and disarm it. Instead, he sets it off and two greataxe blades spring forth from the walls and cut through him. Fortunately, one of the priests has iron spikes and the party is able to jam the blades into the walls to keep the trap from springing again.

The map has the next room marked as “ghouls.” Mõrvar, Rilka, and the Prioress come forward, ready to address the threat. Mõrvar darts inside and side-steps to allow Rilka to come in. He is immediately facing off with a ghoul wearing a breastplate and wielding a greataxe surrounded by four other lesser examples of the species in the room. In short order, between the Prioress’ channeling of energy and the blades of the two Crimson Corders, the lesser ghouls are dealt with, as well as greater one.

As per usual, Mõrvar decapitates the bodies.

Savaric searches the room and finds nothing of interest. They do find a magical belt of giant strength +2 on the armored ghoul and opt to let Savaric wear that for now.

Checking one of the north doors, Savaric finds that it is not trapped, but it is locked. Surm comes forward and manages to unlock it on the second try. Savaric then carefully opens the door onto a large room that appears to have 8 spectral beings floating in it. He shuts the door and reports to the group.

While the group decides what to do, and how to do it, one of the spectres comes floating through the door. They all work together to dispatch it, though the priests are clearly expending a lot of their channel energy abilities. The spectres keep coming, one by one, and soon two by two, through the walls. Eventually, all eight are finally dispatched.

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Session Sixty-Three
A Preponderance of Halflings

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3 Growth 509

The Crimson Cord sets out from Aeth, across Jossia, heading southeast toward the city of Aldasar, the capital of Leilior. Surm says farewell to the King and the Aethyngs, with special good-byes to his mother and his brother. Surm announces that “the Ulrichs are children of Aeth and the Crimson Cord is a ready ally should they be needed!”

4 Growth 509

Along the way, traveling across the northern plains, Rilka spots a cairn of stones with a crude, makeshift grave marker. Scrawled in Tradespeak on a piece of sandstone is:

TIRZON LIES HERE. HE WAS BRAVE. HE WAS MY FRIEND. AN ORC KILLED HIM. 507

Savaric searches for tracks and other evidence around the grave. At the grave marker, Mõrvar points out that it was marked two years ago. “That grave has been there longer than we be traveling together,” he observes, and then displays no more interest in it.

5 Growth 509

Around noon, the group passes through (or around) Josemeedt in central Jossia.

6 Growth 509

As the sun is setting and the time to camp approaches, the group finds their path crossed by a decent-sized caravan of Yulanian merchants and performers. They, too, appear to be settling in and making a camp. The atmosphere is joyful as musicians play jaunty tunes while folks work on pitching tents and tending to their livestock.

The caravan is made up of colorful box-wagons, cloth-covered wagons, and flamboyantly-dressed folks riding horses and ponies. They appear to setting up a central “square” with their wagons. There are small merchant wagons, tinkerers, and other such salesmen. There are also performers—jugglers, musicians, clowns, acrobats, and the like.

Two wagons are set off a little from the others—a small, red box-wagon with the words ZENYA ZAORAVARIAN’S TRAVELING SHOW stenciled in Tradespeak on both sides of it in big black letters, and a mid-sized, multi-colored wooden wagon with a banner hanging on it reading “ARINNA’S WAGON OF EXOTIC TREASURES!” Various signs in multiple languages hang from the wagon’s walls inviting the public to “VIEW AND PURCHASE MAGICAL WONDERS FROM AROUND THE KNOWN WORLD!” or “SEEK THE SAGE COUNSEL OF RESIDENT FORTUNE TELLERS!” and “RECEIVE TATTOOS FROM SKILLED ARTISANS!”

Several of the members of the caravan’s crew wave to the Crimson Cord in welcome as they work, clearly inviting them to come and join their encampment.

It is clear from the set-up of the encampment that the “Zenya Zaoravarian” wagon is probably that of the person “in charge”. There are probably a good 80-90 people in the encampment from what can be seen, mostly humans, though they can spot a few dwarves, halflings, elves, half-elves, and even a couple of half-orcs in the mix.

As the party makes its way closer to the encampment, they are met by a colorfully-dressed woman who has emerged from the box wagon marked as “Zenya Zaoravarian’s.” She is smiling as she approaches. She is apparently unarmed.

“Hail, fellow travelers. I am Zenya. Do you come to share our camp? We’re not offering our show tonight, but we do offer fellowship, good food, and fair trade from our merchants. Here you can find goods both mundane and exotic. I, myself, can even offer you a glance into the past or the future, for a few coins, of course.”

She gives them a winning smile and spreads her arms wide in welcome.

Savaric asks, “How few coins for the fortune telling?”

Zenya smiles at Savaric and says, “I can already see that you are one that values your coins. Only five pieces of silver.”

Savaric says, “I’ll follow you,” to Zenya.

“Then we shall go,” Zenya says and leads the way to her wagon.

Inside the narrow confines of the box wagon are many colorful scarves, pillow, and curtains with beads and other accessories hanging from the ceiling and walls. The small quarters smells of spices, wine, and incense. Hanging on the wall is a small, well-wrought, portrait of a handsome Yulanian man in his prime. Below it is a small nook where a small unlit candle sits. She lights the candle with a piece of flint and steel and directs the half-orc to sit at a small table in the center of the “room.”

Zenya goes to a cabinet and pulls out a small wooden box. She opens it carefully, almost reverently, and removes a burgundy velvet bag. From within the bag she withdraws a deck of cards. She kisses the top of the deck gently and delicately places the it on the table as she takes her own seat across from Savaric.

“Now then, my large friend, you must tell me, what is it you seek? Is it Love? Honor? Fortune? What is it you wish to explore?”

Savaric replies, “I don’t know…”

Zenya chuckles amiably. “Oh, you are shy. That is adorable. You like your money, yes? Let’s look at that…”

She pulls out one suit of the cards from the deck and shuffles them. She then spreads them out before you, face down.

“Pick a card, my dear…”

As Savaric picks a card, Savaric insists, and truthfully, “I really don’t know what I want. Money and fortune are a clear path to the THINGS I seek but those are only means to help me protect me and my mismatched family; as dysfunctional as we are. We seek Glory, we each have our own call to honor, fame, and all the what-not with Mirka. I feel as if I don’t know my ultimate goal or how to get there. I had hoped that was something you could help me with,” Savaric breaths out somewhat lackadaisically as he pulls his card.

Before he pulls his card, Zenya stops him. “Ah, a very thoughtful answer to a not-easy question. The first step in this reading is called The Choosing. We will explore your current place in the world and see if the cards have a message for you in relation to question at hand. Then we will delve deeper into the timeline of your life. Perhaps by looking mindfully at the past, present, and future, you can find for yourself the answers you seek. Wait.”

She returns the cards she withdrew from the deck and pulls out another suit. “Now draw,” she says.

Savaric draws “The Owl.”

“The Owl represents the eternal Wisdom of natural order. It is the harsh reality that causes a pack of wolves to cull the weak in the herd—it is tragic for the culled deer, but through such actions the herd grows stronger. See here, the needle The Owl holds binds life together, but can just as easily pick that life apart.

“This is you, is it not? It shows us what you ultimately seek—Wisdom. The Wisdom that comes with the balance of what others term “good” and “bad”. For you, there is only life and it is made of both. You are the binder, the one that brings disparate forces together.

“I see a role for you as a guide, bringing others to the truth of the order of things. Others are blinded by their dedication to god, to glory, or to themselves. Your influence will be a weight in a balance that will tip the scales in one direction or the other, depending upon the needs of the natural order.”

Zenya then takes the card back and places them all back in the deck and begins shuffling.

“Now, we will begin the reading in earnest.”

She takes out top nine cards of the deck and lays them out face down, in a spread—a 3 × 3 square. Then she smiles and “And so, we begin.”

She turns over the one at the upper left—“The Wanderer.”

“In the past you have gone through life as a collector, appreciating the things that others find worthless. Indeed, much of your life has centered around the acquisition of Things—wandering about the world, finding new things, selling things, buying things, trading things…”

She then turns over the card in the center row at the far left—“The Rabbit Prince.”

“Now, here is a quirky fellow. Here is where the path of your past becomes more filled with shadows and moonlight—clear in some places, hidden in others. Here we have the vagaries of battle personified—note the broken sword in the Prince’s hand. I think you have seen many battles, and have seen that anyone—no matter how skilled or prepared—can fall. Perhaps you have even fallen yourself.” She shrugs. “As I said, shadows and moonlight.”

Then she turns over the last card in the left-hand column: “The Paladin.”

“Here we see a symbol of strength against adversity. But, in your past, I think this has been seen this as something that was foolhardy, yes? Perhaps you encountered a situation in which the wisest course was to run—but that has it’s own consequences, does it not?”

Now she turns to the middle column. “But that all is in the past. Let us look at the present.” She turns over the card in top row, middle column: “The Courtesan.”

“Here we have political intrigue. Perhaps you are involved in matters of the court or other important factions. You have striven and come much higher in the world than your station would normally indicate. You wear one face for the public, but quite another amongst those that know you well. I think you often find yourself in situations now that require the niceties of society and that your actions, the way that you shape events, depends largely upon how you are treated.”

Next she turns over the card in the center of the spread. “The Demon’s Lantern.”

“Here, the present situation is unclear, but perhaps an opportunity is at hand to guide your way, if you but reach out for it. I think you find yourself presently in an impossible situation—or at least, it seems to be. You are looking for a guiding light to keep you from sinking into the mire. Be careful, though, of these will o’ the wisps, leading you astray and to your doom. Not all that shines is a light.”

She turns over the card in the middle column, bottom row: “The Publican.”

“Here I see that you have in your life a place of refuge and safety, fellowship and camaraderie. But it is tainted—something is wrong with your safe haven and it is no longer the refuge it once was. The cause is unclear—I cannot see if it is from without or from within. But your fellowship is now a place of strife and acrimony.”

She turns to the final column of the spread. “Now we look to the future.” She turns over the top card of the last column. “The Crows.”

“Now this is a dangerous bunch. They have eye to taking that which you love. Perhaps you have gained an enemy, or some new danger lurks that threatens that which you hold dear. But, I see that calamity is likely to be averted—though never without consequences.”

She turns over the middle card in the column: “The Eclipse.”

“Things are bit more hazy here. But I see you questioning yourself more and more in future. You will be filled with self-doubt and loss of purpose. I know that it is purpose that you seek now—but from what I can see here, you may not find it in the short term.”

Then she turns over the final card: “The Liar.”

“The lamia shows a future for you in which you discover love at its most treacherous. This is not the love that moves mountains—this is the love that rips the heart in two and causes lovers to leap to their deaths. It may mean obsession, unrequited passion, or doomed love. Expect the passion and the fire—but beware the burn and always sleep with your eyes open.”

Zenya sits back and sighs. “Now, my friend, we have glimpsed into your past, your present, and your future. It is possible, and even normal, to have more questions than when you came in! But, my sincere hope for you, is that you find the wisdom you seek. Many do not have the presence of mind to seek out their purpose, expecting it to be handed to them. I have found, and this only the wisdom of experience that speaks, that purpose must be made for one’s self, it must be forged, if it is to be strong. Now, go with the blessing of the gods and spirits, my friend, and think on what we have seen together.”

Savaric says, “This gives me much to ponder. You’re definitely right about it bringing up more questions than answers. Is there anything more concrete you see in these cards. Some thing more in the way of direction other than just, ‘make your own path?’”

Zenya smiles as she leads you from her wagon, "Ah, my boy, if the cards were THAT precise, I’d charge you much more than 5 silver. No, the cards give you some clarity—they illuminate the past, present, and future in the hopes that you can see some places in which to blaze a path—they do not dictate, they illuminate. They cast light into the shadows. Only you can decide the direction.

“Besides, and here is some free advice, worth exactly what you pay for it, but if you follow a path someone else lays out for you, then aren’t you living their life, not your own? Isn’t the entire point of life to make your own path?”

Savaric and Zenya emerge from the wagon. Zenya has her hand on Savaric’s shoulder in a friendly gesture of guidance.

When Savaric and Zenya emerge from her wagon, Surm simply shakes his head disapprovingly. He then moves to intercept Savaric after he walks away from Zenya.

“Put no stock into what you have heard in that wagon. She is a Charlatan speaking of vagaries and ambiguities that provide nothing useful. Her ‘wisdom and magic’ is the ability to read a person, then speak of vague situations and circumstances that encourage that person to apply whatever she is saying to their own circumstances. It is entertainment only Savaric, do not waste thought on her words and do not be disturbed or excited about anything she said. She is a performer and the cards are only painted pictures with no meaning other than what she decides in the moment depending on who is sitting across from her. If anything, be sad at the 5 silver you just lost and learn a lesson from this experience.”

Surm does not visit any wagons and encourages the others to avoid the theatrics and guard their pouches.

Mõrvar approaches the wagon marked as having tattoo artists, as does Rilka. “Am I to understand tattoo’s of a mystical nature can be purchased and applied here?” Mõrvar asks.

At the wagon, a Yulanian woman greets them warmly and says, “That’s right. We have artisans that can apply such things inside. Follow me.” She leads them inside the box wagon.

Inside—they are surprised to see that the inside is clearly bigger than the outside. There are rows of potions, wands, scrolls, and other objects from around the world. She motions for Mõrvar to follow and takes him toward the back where the tattoo artists are.

“As far as mystical tattoos, we usually offer these,” and she motions to a sign on the wall:

Animal Totem Tattoo : 12,000 gp
Hypnotic Tattoo : 900 gp
Runeward Tattoo: : 1000 gp
Serpentine Tattoo : 2000 gp

“Does anything catch your eye?”

Rilka stops at the counter and sees a waifish Yulanian woman, who greets her. “Welcome, friend. How can we help you today?”

Rilka expresses wonder at the size of the wagon and browses some of the wares. She decides that she’s not buying today and goes outside to join Savaric in sitting by the fire and listening to music. She inquires if they know any Northron sons. They do and they oblige by playing some.

Meanwhile, Mõrvar says, “Not anything I was really considering. I was curious about the caster’s tattoo. I will admit, the animal totem is intriguing, but 12,000 turns it from intriguing to un-interesting. So, you’re traveling, no long lines waiting, is that your best price?”

Arinna smiles. “I have been known to give some credit, some mind you, for a tale well-told. Do you have any tales, pale one?”

Mõrvar will grin, “Ms. Arinna, I have tales of love, hate, friendship and fear. Tales of justice being brought to those who exploit the weak, and tales of journeys that brought riches. I have tales of adventure and glory and tales of fallen friends. I have tales that will leave you smiling or crying, leaving you feeling warm and fuzzy or a bit shaken with butterflies. I can tell you tales of Warlords, radicals, Frost Giants, Drow, dwarves, elves, and even the Adonii. I can tell you tales of ancient artifacts and hoards of orcs, of skeletons, bloodbeasts, drakes, griffons, pegasus, and winter wolves. I have a tale where I beheaded the same lich three times before we found his soul and crushed it. I even have a tale of coming face to face with a red dragon, and having a conversation that, in a strange way, was pleasant. Are these the tales you would like to hear about?”

Arinna crosses her arms. “Then impress me, tale-spinner. Tell me your tale.”

Mõrvar asks her, “Tell me, with all of your travels, have you ever heard of the Cursed Isle of Salvi?” She arches and eyebrow and nods, “I’ve heard the name and a few things.”

And with that, Mõrvar begins his tale.

After he is done, Arinna gives him a slow, respectful clap. “A tale well-told. I salute you, Northron. I tell you what, I will give you the totem tattoo for 9000 gold.”

Mõrvar will smile, “That is very generous of you. Still, I am on the fence. This is a lot of money for something I wasn’t sure about to begin with.” Mõrvar contemplates for a moment, “Tell you what, if you will take 6000, and allow me to cover the other 3000 by trading you a cloak of resistance and an amulet of natural armor, and a promise that you’re a fantastic tattoo artist, then we have a deal.”

Mõrvar then smiles, “And I’ll even tell you a tale about that amulet I took off the lich I beheaded three separate times before finally destroying him in our fourth meeting.”

“I suppose I can live with that arrangement,” Arinna says. “I, actually, won’t be administering the tattoo. But my cousin, Maella, is a fantastic tattoo artist.” She smiles. “And save your tale. Don’t give them away for free. You may need that for trade sometime.”

Arinna warns him that the working of the tattoo will take about twelve hours, which will make them late in leaving the next day.

Mõrvar lets the rest of the party know of his plans. Surm will ask, “What tattoo and why? Do you even know the details of how they work? Why don’t you wait and think about it first? If you still want one, get it in Aldasar. This seems like an impulse buy that a bunch of creepy carnies sold you and you’ll regret buying later.”

In the end, Mõrvar decided against the tattoo.

7 Growth 509

That morning, the party breaks away from the encampment and heads further down the road toward Aldasar. Later that afternoon, they encounter the city of Skeene. They go around that city and move on, camping off the road later that night.

8 Growth 509

The party sets off once again, southward, in the morning.

Later that morning, they encounter the city of Kivley. They move around the city and travel onward.

9 Growth 509

On this day of traveling, as they take a break for a rest, Savaric finds, discarded in the brush, a battered and muddy wizard’s hat. Examining the hat, he finds a note inside written in Leilioran:

Upon the 8th day of the Reign of Charity, when the Black Serpent lies in blood and the Moon is crowned, the Lich Tyrant shall be slain.

Later that afternoon, they arrive at the city of Aldasar. Instead of the going into the city, they head straight to the estate of their friend, Lord Cannach.

As they approach the front gates of Lord Cannach’s lands, they recognize one of the guards—Tarben! He greets them and assures his compatriot that they are welcome here and to lets them inside. He escorts them into the estate proper.

When asked, he indicates that Lord Cannach’s guard captain has been working them into their rotation while they are staying on the lands and drilling. It’s easy work and Lord Cannach is a good boss. They’ve had one other job while they’ve been here—a cushy guarding gig at a social function. It was easy work and there was free food afterwards—-it’s been a semi-vacation, but most of the guards are ready to go back on the march.

Tarben drops them off at the manor house where they are greeted by Lord Cannach’s chamberlain, who fetches the lord of the manor. Lord Cannach greets them all warmly and welcomes them into his home.

As usual, his hospitality is impeccable and he brings them food and drink and sits them down in his parlor to hear about their exploits and future plans.

Surm tells the story of the frost giants, demon skulls, and victory. Lord Cannach enjoys the story thoroughly, wishing he had more exciting things to report of life here in Aldasar. Not much has been going on in his world, of late.

Surm also gets with Mahgnus about his progress on the orphan-retrieval front. The valet has been putting out feelers for wet-nurses that will be available for travel in month of Ardor. They are to inquire of him at the estate.

The Cord asks for, and receives, permission, of Lord Cannach to stay on his lands while they are conducting business for a couple of weeks here in the capital. Surm and Mõrvar arrange to do some retraining while Rilka arranges to have a magical item enhanced. Savaric seeks for, and finds, work to build capital for his dream of an inn.

They all settle into their work, ready to pass the next two weeks in peace.

11 Growth 509

On his way back from his retraining, Mõrvar is walking down the streets of Aldasar toward Lord Cannach’s when out of nowhere a halfling appears out of the crowd, walking beside him.

“Say, I know you. You’re Mõrvar Ulrich, aren’t you? Of the Crimson Cord?” he says.

“Why, yes, I am,” Mõrvar says, full of pride. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Daveth. Yeah, I’ve heard of you. I heard you carry that big sword around because you’ve got a little dick.”

Mõrvar is struck speechless for a second and then says something about showing the halfling his dick. The halfling says, “Oh, no, I don’t swing that way, thank you very much. Bye!” and disappears into the crowd.

When Mõrvar gets back to the estate, he shares his encounter with his friends. They all warn him that its a trap, not to fall for it and to ignore it. They also decide to travel with a “buddy” in the city in case they’re targeting the whole group. Nobody walks alone back from their retraining. Rilka will walk with Mõrvar, Savaric with Surm.

12 Growth 509

As Mõrvar and Rilka are walking back from Mõrvar’s retraining session, once again the halfling pops up out of the crowd and says to Rilka, “You don’t want to hang out with this guy! He’s all talk, no action!”

After a brief exchange of insults, the halfling disappears again into the crowd.

When they get back to the estate, Mõrvar is fuming. He wants to concoct a plan in which Savaric follows them and tracks the halfling back to whoever hired him to antagonize him. The rest of the party try to warn him off of this plan, advising him to leave it alone, that if he ignores the trap, the trap can’t spring. Mõrvar insists that he needs to do something about this or its going to happen every time he comes into this city. The rest of the party can’t seem to dissuade Mõrvar from pursuing the matter.

13 Growth 509

Sure enough, the following day, as Mõrvar and Rilka make their way back from retraining, the halfling appears again. “Oh, you’re on the wrong side of town for pliable, young boys. They’re much cheaper on the other side of the river.”

Mõrvar puts his arm around Rilka and says, “Come on, let’s get out of here. Ignore him,” and leads Rilka down the road, not looking back. He seems to be taking his friends’ advice!

Rilka hears a disturbance behind her and a gasp from some of the walking throngs. She sees the halfling dusting himself off as he waves at them. “Have good night!” he says.

14 Growth 509

This time, Mõrvar’s final day of retraining, Rilka and Mõrvar take an entirely different route home, away from the neighborhood that they they had been traveling through. They made it through their trip unaccosted by halflings.

15 Growth 509

Surm completes his retraining efforts on this day and begins looking for rumors and leads for potential work for the next month or so.

He hears about about a sorceress named Hekia who is imprisoned in the Tomb of Secrets by “chains of magical shadow.” Following up, he learns that the Tomb of Secrets is in the Uralda Mountains of eastern Yulania.

He also hears about a magical fountain reputed to grant strength to those that bathe in it. However, the fountain is located in the Gauntlet of Emirkol the Chaotic, a stronghold in the Jorani Mountains.

Surm takes these rumors to the party to judge their potential for the Crimson Cord’s next undertaking before escorting the half-orc orphans back to Yrda.

It is decided that he will seek more information from the sages at the University of Aldasar.

16 Growth 509

Surm takes his information to the University and makes arrangements with two sages to look into the two quests. He gives them until the 21st (the day Rilka’s belt will be ready) to come up with the information.

21 Growth 509

On the 21st, Surm goes to the sages to pay them and collect the information they have gathered while Rilka goes to collect her magical belt.

Hekia was a heroic sorceress from an adventuring party styling themselves as “The Sableflames.” She was captured by their archnemesis, a necromancer by the name of Kalthior, when the party attempted to slay said necromancer in his base of operations, the Tomb of Secrets. Kalthior had previously unleashed a horde of undead on a small village in Yulania and the Sableflames had been brought in to protect it. They followed him to his lair and went inside.

The sole survivor of the encounter was a halfling by the name of Torvald. He came out of the lair, determined to have his friend rescued. He spent all of his money to hire another adventuring troupe to go in and get Hekia. None returned and now Torvald is penniless and hopeless, living in the slums of Aldasar.

This expedition took place nine months ago.

The sage offers Surm a map to the Tomb of Secrets, as well as directions to the neighborhood in which Torvald now lives.

Emirkol the Chaotic was (or is, according to some tales), by all accounts, mad. This is no wonder, as he is also purported to be/have been a worshiper of Sabreel, the old Midron god of madness. The summoner created his Gauntlet as a test for adventurers to go through to test their mettle. He felt that the “adventuring class” was bloated and needed some thinning.

Survivors of the Gauntlet—of which there are very few recorded—tell of a maddening place that threatened their bodies and warped their minds. One such survivor spends his days reliving the experience in his mind while sitting in an asylum. The Gauntlet has been reputed to have existed for over a century.

The sage can, once again, provide a map to the destination of the purported whereabouts of the Gauntlet.

After Surm takes his information back to the Cord, they decide to pursue the quest for Hekia—though the thought of more strength clearly intrigued Mõrvar. They decide to look up Torvald to get more details.

They all head into the city and to a run-down part of town near the city center. According to their information, Torvald lives in a shack a block from The Three-Billed Duck Tavern.

They arrive at the shack and Rilka knocks on the door, asking for Torvald. After a few seconds, the door opens slightly and a milky blue eye gazes back out. “Yes? I am Torvald.”

Surm explains that they are there for information on the Tomb of Secrets and his last expedition there. At first, the halfling behind the door is reluctant to help the party. He doesn’t want to talk about that because it is “too sad.” But once it is clear that the Cord is going after Hekia, he lets them inside to discuss the matter.

Inside, the furnishings are sparse, spartan, but clean. And presiding over them is a the oldest halfling any of them have ever seen. He has no place on his face without wrinkles. His hair is white and wispy. He also carries a small, wooden, walking stick for support. He motions for them to sit down, ignoring their expressions of dismay at his aged frame.

He confirms that he is, indeed the Torvald that went on that failed expedition to the Tomb of Secrets. When the party went into the necromancer’s lair, there were four of them altogether.

“Thalia, the cleric, she was the first to fall. It was ghouls that did her in. Next went Landros. Even his mighty greatsword couldn’t save him from that trap. He was disembowled.” That left he and his friend, Hekia Stormwing, to persevere and complete the mission so that the others will not have died in vain.

They made their way to the inner sanctum of the necromancer. Torvald stuck to shadows, trying to get an advantage over the spellcaster and stab him from behind while he and Hekia battled. But Torvald wasn’t good enough and was spotted. The necromancer uttered a word and suddenly Torvald was an old, wizened halfling. Soon, Hekia was bound in “chains of magical shadow” and Torvald, now old and afraid, ran from that place, leaving his friend behind to her fate.

As soon as he got back, he gathered all of his resources to launch another expedition to save Hekia. The necromancer had a special hatred for the young sorceress, and the feeling was mutual. Torvald was sure that the necromancer was keeping her alive and in pain. He spent all of his money—and the expedition never returned.

The party asks the halfling what else he can tell them about the necromancer Kelthior. Torvald knows that he is “old beyond his time” and that he is also resistant to magic. He is not a lich or another sort of undead, but is a master necromancer, a wizard of the arts of death magic.

Torvald states that he can offer no recompense for the rescue of his friend. Surm assures him that none is needed. Then Surm asks if Torvald can give them a map of the lair and Torvald says that, yes, he will draw out a map based on what he can remember.

After thanking Torvald provides them a map and thanks them profusely, Surm and the others head back into the city to research and purchase the necessary spells they’ll need for the expedition. They speculate that the spell used to age Torvald is an enhancement of a known spell, Sands of Time, but obviously more powerful and probably of his own devising. It is also thought that it is probably through the use of ritual blood magic that Kelthior is keeping himself “old beyond his time.”

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Rage and Raven: The Curse of Punari (Part Four)
Part Four

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23 Ardor 508

Rhain, Lenoria, Tag, Regna, and Tavayne are inside the cursed monastery of Punari. They have just finished off 5 skeletal monks and are sifting through the treasures they have found distributed on the floor of the chamber. After collecting the treasure, they continue through the monastery.

Eventually, they find their way into a large chamber containing the shambling, walking, corpse of a mummified monk. This formidable creature proves to be a challenge for the party, but in the end they prevail. Tag finds a secret door and discovers two rooms filled to the brim with exotic weapons of various types and styles. He finds nothing more of interest.

Moving on, they encounter more of the lesser skeletons, as well as a wraith, along with a fair amount of treasure, and eventually make their way to the other side of the monastery, where they encounter more skeletal monks, and, finally, a mummy that must be Punari himself. After a long fight, in which Lenoria finally calls upon the intervention of Imtiau, the mummy is defeated—with both the luck of the goddess and a well-placed throw of alchemical fire from Tag. The remains burn quickly and drop a blackened heap of ashes upon the floor in the shape of a raven.

Going through, they utilize Lenoria’s hide from undead spell to avoid encounters with more horrors. They encounter another couple of mummies (one which they catch on fire) and then come upon a chamber with a pedestal holding a book. Hovering over the book and pedestal is a shadow. They dispatch the shadow and claim the book, “The Manual of the Mountain Panther.”

They gather up all of treasure they’ve collected and place it on the carts outside. By this time, the sun is sinking low on the horizon and they decide to camp for the night and tackle the rest of the monastery in the morning—with the help of Lenoria’s spell.

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