11 Chillwind 509
The party stands outside the Ruby Arch within the Hall of Mercerius. After making sure that the ruby they have collected from within is secure, they walk to the Diamond Arch. There, they discuss elementals and a possible plan if, as they suspect, this gate leads to the elemental plane of air. Rilka could fly with the power of her armor to the gemstone and retrieve it while the others (Savaric and Surm) deal with the elementals—assuming that this area is set up symmetrically with the other.
They head inside the arch through the dark portal, with Rilka leading the way.
The three adventurers hover in the midst of a realm comprised of sky above and below. A warm light suffuses all—though its source is impossible to discern. Small, living whirlwinds fly by, rifling through their hair and clothes. It is hard to determine where is up and where is down. And, without an external “push” of some sort, it is impossible to move from one place to another. The portal they came from remains just out of reach behind them…
Savaric uses Ilona to fly to portal. He reaches back through the portal, and nothing happens. They decide to send Savaric out of the portal to secure a rope to use to navigate around the portal on the other side. Once on the other side, he secures a rope to the Diamond Arch and brings the remainder of the line through the portal. Success! Surm holds the remainder of the rope after Savaric returns and ties it around himself.
Rilka flies toward a sparkling clear gemstone hanging suspended in the air about 100 feet away. As she approaches, as expected, a pair of large air elementals coalesce in the air around her. They begin pounding her as she tries to fly to the gemstone and back to her friends. Surm sends two lightning bolts toward one of the elementals from his wand while Savaric fires arrows at the creature. One of the elementals gives chase, while the one that has sustained the most damage from Surm and Savaric’s onslaught lingers behind. The elemental continues to pound on Rilka as she flies back. Finally, she makes it to her friends and through the portal, with Surm and Savaric pulling themselves through with the rope. They all arrive back in the Hall of Mercerius, safe and with the gemstone.
Rilka says some prayers of healing for herself and everyone takes a moment to rest. Then they head to the Aquamarine Arch.
The three discuss the probability that this gate will lead to the elemental plane of water. They wonder if they will be able to breathe there—or if that is part of the trial. Savaric braves the portal and arrives on the other side. He is immediately engulfed in water and, when he opens his mouth, begins to drown. He does see a shining aquamarine-hued gemstone about one hundred feet from the portal. He returns through the portal and reports that they will not be able to breathe.
The party takes some time to discuss a plan for this portal and Surm arrives at a creative solution. Rilka will be able to cast water breathing on herself and Savaric. Meanwhile, Surm will turn himself into a squid and outswim the elementals with the gemstone. With their plan in mind and spells cast, the three pass through the Aquamarine Arch.
They find themselves immersed in a sea without a surface or a floor. There is a diffuse glow lighting the area, its source unknown. The water feels to be a mixture of saline and fresh and swirls with currents and eddies. Across the way, about a hundred feet away, is a gleaming aquamarine gemstone. Surm immediately transforms into a squid and swims for the gemstone. Sure enough, two huge water elementals take form within the waters around the stone. Fortunately, Surm is able to outrun them as they give chase and he flops through the portal with Savaric and Rilka close on his tentacles.
Surm reverts to his usual shape and the three then discuss what to do with the three gemstones: ruby, diamond, and aquamarine.
They take the gemstones to the central green gemstone in the Hall and each, at the same time, present a gained gemstone to the floating emerald. The gemstones are pulled out of the hands of the presenters and begin orbiting the central green gem, much in the same way that Ioun stones orbit Rilka’s head. Then beams of light—white, red, and blue—burst forth from the smaller gems into the green one. Suddenly a huge portal opens up above them, covering the ceiling of the hall. Sand begins to fall down through the portal, quickly filling the room. Surm immediately levitates to the top of the room. Savaric and Rilka have to pull themselves up through the pillar of sand toward the awaiting portal on the ceiling of the room. Finally, the two half-orcs push through and the three ascend through the portal.
They stand on a column of packed sand. About a hundred yards ahead of them, they see a thirty-foot-tall platform, approachable on three sides by wide steps. The platform is made of green marble, as is the floor leading to it. Beyond the platform is darkness, impenetrable save for the occasional purple, green, and blue electrical strikes that permeate it. The darkness stretches out for as far as they can see.
Perched upon the platform is a huge creature. It appears to have the body of a lion, the wings of a mighty bird of prey, and human face. The face is male, dark-skinned, with a black braided beard and no mustache. The eyes are solid blue light. It wears an elaborate, golden headdress with strange symbols etched upon it. The brim is lined with gemstones.
The creature opens his mouth and its booming voice, speaking in Jossian, can be heard not only ringing in their ears, but in their thoughts.
“Come forward, mortals. You have endured my trials and have earned something of great value—my time. Do not waste it.”
Surm begins telling the great androsphinx of the quest for the secret of Ysarian steel. Mercerius wants to know why it is that they wish to have this secret. Rilka explains the holy quest and the forging of a weapon to combat the coming evil.
Mercerius says, “Yes…the wheels of the universe forever turn toward the inevitable end. A force not seen upon this plane in an age stirs. I know not if this knowledge I bestow upon you will help you drive it back, but I give you my hope that you can.”
Mercerius then rears back and gives a mighty roar. The party is temporarily deafened, but find that they now have the knowledge needed to forge Ysarian steel. A dark portal opens to their side and the sphinx is no longer in the chamber.
The party passes through the portal and finds themselves at the bottom of the mountain on which Mercerius’ stronghold stands.
12 Chillwind 509
Surm teleports the three of them back to Valeton, where they frighten a gardener who is working the grounds around the temple of Rosaela. Reuniting with their troupe at the Dancing Hare, they discover that a day has passed and it is now afternoon on the 12th of Chillwind.
Alasir buys the three drinks in celebration of their victory at the stronghold. Rilka retrieves her holy symbol from Halvor, to whom she gave it in case she didn’t return.
With drinks in hand, as well as a warm meal, the three discuss what is to happen next. Should they return to [Almathriel] and report their success to Lord Springvale? Should the proceed to Khazak-Ur to find the cassite crystal needed for the spearhead? They finally decide to head to Khazak-Ur. Rilka excuses herself and takes Kortash upstairs with her.
13 Chillwind 509
As the troupe begins to make their way out of Valeton, Surm begins to record the secret of Ysarian steel in a newly-blanked Tome of Leadership. The autumnal winds blow down from the mountains and bring a freshness to the air. The trees are turning color and the vale is quite beautiful this time of year. The day and night pass quietly as they travel northwest toward the pass that will take the troupe out of the vale and out of the elven lands back into human kingdoms and, eventually, Khazak-Ur.
16 Chillwind 509
After two more days of travel, the troupe arrives at the walls of Ebongate around noontime. After questioning by the gate guards, Alasir is logged as the leader of the forces going into the city. They travel to a park near the city center and let Surm study the area for about an hour so that he can have a clear point to which to teleport at some point in the future, if needed. There is a statue named fro Firan Stormwind, a cleric of Halor, here and it can be used as a landmark. After about an hour, they continue on through the streets and exit the city on the other side.
20 Chillwind 509
After several more quiet days of travel, the troupe arrives at the gates of Khazak-Ur, chief city of the dwarven civilization. Surm inquires of the gate guard concerning the Conclave of the Forge. The guard seems a bit disconcerted, and avows that he has heard of the Conclave, though they like to keep themselves secret. He suggests that they speak with Tasvian Hammerfall at the Maker’s Nod, a tavern. She should know something. He also gives them some recommendations for inns and they decided on the “fancy” inn, the House of Warship. It is apparently built from an old warship that has been dragged into the mountain and converted into an inn. Intrigued, the party makes their way there.
Along the way, Surm dismisses the troops to go on leave and Alasir stays with the guards, leaving only Surm, Rilka, Savaric, and Mahgnus to go to the House of Warship.
At the inn, which has a grand gangplank and gold-filigreed hardwood interiors, they are greeted by a mature female dwarf by the name of Isvalda. She sees to their needs and arranges a suite for the four of them. After the four are settled into their rooms, they head out into the city to get courtiers’ clothes (at Surm’s insistence) in order to make a good impression on this Tasvian Hammerfall.
Surm wants the clothes the clothes today, but the tailor insists that such a job, to be done at the quality Surm demands, takes three days. They pay the man extra and receive assurances that they will have the clothing ready by tomorrow morning.
They head back to the House of Warship and have dinner and drinks in the common room. They have a young dwarven male as a waiter who serves them in earnest, but is later taken aside by a very hoity-toity looking dwarf seated at a nearby table. The two half-orcs have been receiving stares from that direction all evening. After the young waiter is taken aside, he heads to the kitchen area. From that point forward, it is clear that the waiter is trying to rush the table’s occupants into finishing their evening. Surm purposefully takes his time.
Savaric asks about the finely-dressed dwarf and learns that his name is Fergus Stonecracker, an investor in the inn. They watch as Stonecracker rises to leave and runs into Isvalda at the door to the common area. There, he expresses his “disappointment” in allowing such clientele into inn and jeopardizing the quality of his investment. Isvalda says nothing and lets the old dwarf pass. She heads into the kitchen and, a few moments later, the young waiter returns with a round of drinks for the table. “On the house,” the dwarf says.
Soon thereafter, the party heads to their suite and to rest in warm beds for the first time in a good while.
21 Chillwind 509
As the party (sans Mahgnus) leaves the House of Warship to retrieve their finery and to seek to Tasvian Hammerfall, they meet Isvalda on the deck. Rilka thanks her for the drinks last night. Isvalda acknowledges the thanks with a simple nod of understanding.
The party retrieves their dwarven finery—including a dress for Rilka. She receives help from a matronly dwarf with the clasps on the dress. They return to the House of Warship to change and stow their gear. They then head to the Maker’s Nod.
It’s early in the day and the Nod does not have many patrons. There are a pair of dwarves seated in one corner. A couple of humans—not together—sipping drinks, and a young female dwarf seated alone sketching in a notebook. They approach the female.
Surm introduces himself and the others to the young dwarf, who is, indeed, Tasvian Hammerfall. Surm makes his inquiry of her concerning what she knows of the Conclave of the Forge. She seems a bit disconcerted by the question—especially the fact that a gate guard fingered her as having such information. Nevertheless, she suggests that they take the conversation to a more private area.
Tasvian leads them out of the tavern and to a nearby residence with a small forge sitting adjacent. They gather in her forge. There, she listens as Rilka explains why they need the Conclave and the cassite. Tasvian acknowledges that she can probably get them an audience with the Conclave, but that it’ll take her about three hours to do it. And they will need to be prepared to convince the Conclave of their case—they take pride in their secrecy, but also in their knowledge. The party agrees to return here in three hours.
The three friends head back to the House of Warship to change and to wait for Tasvian’s meeting. Rilka requires the aid of a chambermaid to extract herself from her dress. The young female dwarf—who is extremely giggly—helps her out, much to Rilka’s chagrin. They all decide to attend the meeting in their “Captain Rilka” uniforms and to go armed and armored—they don’t know where Tasvian is going to lead them and it is best to be prepared. Surm also buys a bandolier with which to hold weapons, flasks, and wands at easy reach.
After three hours, the party arrives at Tasvian’s forge. She is dressed in a dark cloak that covers her completely. “Follow me,” she says and leads them through some back alleys and dark side-streets to a less affluent part of the upper city. She arrives at a back door in an alley and knocks in sequence—3 knocks, then 2 knocks, and finally a single knock. The door is opened by a thin (for a dwarf) male with a pointy black beard. He ushers them all in and opens a trapdoor in the floor. Stairs lead down into darkness.
Tasvian leads the way down into a basement with eleven other dwarves. She hangs her cloak on a peg near the entryway. At the back of the room is a wooden pallet being used as a stage and an ornately carved stool. On the stool sits a bit of what appears to be red silk. As Tasvian leads the others through the crowd, greetings of “Hello Forge Master” follow in Tasvian’s wake. She arrives at the stage and places the silk stole about her neck. Each end has the seal of the Conclave embroidered in white.
Tasvian introduces the party to the gathered dwarves and indicates that they have a request of the Conclave. Surm steps forward and starts their tale from the beginning, with the green Aedonii gemstone. He then goes on to explain their holy quest and the need for the cassite and how he associated the use of the mineral with the Conclave. Finally, he implores them to assist them in this important mission, and invokes the name of the Crimson Cord—which some of the gathered dwarves seem to recognize.
Tasvian says that there is some discussion and a vote to take place. She indicates that this will be done in secret and has the Cord wait upstairs.
After about ten minutes, the Cord is brought back down into the basement and Tasvian announces that the Conclave has voted to help them in their quest. They would be happy to help the Cord forge with the secret of Ysarian steel and to aid in acquiring the necessary cassite needed for the Spear of Salvation. However…the only cache of the mineral that they are aware of is in an old cavern, deep below the city, and is guarded by the red dragon Imratrix—at least, according to the writings of their predecessors in the Conclave. There is also a nemhain, a ghostly guardian set by the previous Conclave to guard the cache. Tasvian has a talisman to help against the nemhain, but she has every confidence, based on the reputation of the Crimson Cord, that they can handle Imratrix. The Cord agrees to take on the task.
The cavern will take about three days of travel to find. Tasvian can lead the way once the Cord is prepared for the journey. The Cord can find her either at the Maker’s Nod or at her forge.
The meeting is dismissed and everyone disperses. And the Crimson Cord has a dragon on their mind…