30 Transformation 509
The Crimson Cord are staying at the Dancing Hare in Valeton. The principals are staying in one suite, while Mahgnus, Alasir, and Tarben share the second suite. The rest of the troupe are bunking in the common room.
Inside the suite, after all arrangements for accommodations have been made, Surm reveals that Mõrvar has had a letter delivered to them outlining his demands for his severance with the Crimson Cord. The group discuss the particulars of the matter and come to a decision to essentially “cash out” with Surm’s brother, paying him a fair severance of platinum coin instead of meeting his demands one-by-one. They are in agreement that there will be no negotiating on the matter—the offer can be taken or left. Surm will deliver the message to Mõrvar (who is apparently camping on the south side of the town) in the morning.
That evening, Surm takes time to memorize the features of the temple to Rosaela in the center of town in order to use it as a location for teleportation back to Valeton.
1 Chillwind 509
The party makes ready to leave Valeton and journey to the Riftpeaks to the east. As they head out of town, Surm takes the form of a hawk and delivers their message to Mõrvar at the south of town. After delivering the message, Surm returns to the party and assumes his usual form.
It is autumn in the Vale, which brings changing leaves on the trees and chill winds blowing down from the surrounding mountains. It is a, nevertheless, a pleasant and quiet journey. That night, the troupe pitches their camp in the cover of the forest. The night passes without incident.
2 Chillwind 509
Near the end of this day of traveling, the party has emerged from the dense forest and into the foothills of the Riftpeaks. Savaric, scouting ahead, notes a tall pillar of bones on one of the hills up ahead. The pile is probably ten feet in height and narrow. He reports back to the rest of the troupe and they approach the bones together with caution.
As Savaric examines the pile more closely, Rilka prays to her god and finds that there is no evil nor any magic emanating from the pile. Surm speculates that it may be a cairn of some sort. Savaric finds that the bones are humanoid and definitely stacked in a purposeful fashion. Further, the bones are clean—there is not a mark on them either from battle or artifice. He also finds no tracks in the area other than their own. The top of the pillar is adorned with a humanoid skull. Peering between the bones, he discovers that the pillar is hollow, but sees nothing inside. Finding nothing more, but being disturbed nevertheless, the troupe elects to move on.
At the end of the day, the troupe arrives at the base of the western Riftpeaks. The core of the Crimson Cord (Rilka, Savaric, and Surm), decide to send the bulk of the troupe back to Valeton and take only Tarben and Burask (both volunteers) with them to Mercerius’ stronghold. They give Alasir the other half of the Agent’s Clasp that can be used for communication.
The troupe camps for the night, which passes quietly.
3 Chillwind 509
This morning Alasir takes the bulk of the Crimson Cord’s guards back to Valeton. The remaining members (Rilka, Savaric, Surm, Burask, and Tarben) beginning navigating their way through the mountains, blazing a trail for themselves through the craggy passes.
As they make their way through, later in the day, Savaric spots a large shape overhead descending at speed toward him. He takes up a position and begins to fire at the creature—a rift drake—with many rapid fire shot. The creature is overwhelmed by the barrage and falls heavily, with Savaric and Ghost both narrowly avoiding being crushed by the falling carcass.
The rest of the troupe, about 50 feet away, see and hear the falling drake and start coming forward to help as a second drake begins to descend. After the drake lands, it breaths out a ball of acidic vapors that cover Savaric and Ghost, but they manage to avoid the brunt of the burning cloud. Savaric once again takes up a position and begins firing as the rest of the troupe catches up. Finally, the second drake is dispatched.
Savaric takes about an hour to skin one of the rift drakes for its leather, teeth, and claws. The party then continues on its way, emerging from the mountains near nightfall to the volcanic plain of the Rift. The party sets up watches and camps for the night.
4 Chillwind 509
This morning, Surm teleports everyone to Almathriel to pick up Ilona from the craftsperson that was “upgrading” her powers. On the return trip, he manages to find a similar area of the Rift to land in, but not the same one he left (he had a left a marker with his arcane mark on it to designate it to avoid getting lost). Fortunately, they were only about a hundred yards away from their intended destination. The small group continues on its way across the obsidian plain, camping in the desolation for the night.
6 Chillwind 509
Once again, Surm teleports the party to Almathriel to retrieve magic items. This time, the return occurs without incident.
As the party continues across the desolate Rift, with Savaric scouting ahead, they come upon a sight that they had hoped never to see again—a colossus carnivorous blob oozing its way across the plain. Surm remembers that cold damage seemed to be its weakness and began preparing snowball spells. Savaric fired into the creature, but it bounded its way faster than its size would indicate and smacked Savaric hard with one of its pseudopods—sucking his life blood. Rilka steps forward to bravely defend Savaric and manages to split the ooze into two smaller creatures. She, too, is hit and is drained of life, falling on the field, seemingly dead. The fight has now taken a turn that is hard for the party, having to fight on two fronts. Surm pelts the creatures with snowballs, eventually dispatching them both with the powerful balls of ice.
The battle leaves the party hurting badly. Surm teleports them all back to Valeton, to the temple of Rosaela, and then they walk to the Dancing Hare to spend the night nursing their wounds. Surm tells the story of their battle to an impressed audience of Crimson Cord guards and inn patrons. Farlo gives them all drinks on the house.
7 Chillwind 509
Rilka spends the morning in prayer as the party prepares to depart once again for the Rift. After her prayers, she provides herself and Savaric with healings and restorative prayers to aid in their recovery from the battle. Afterwards, she tells the party that when she fell in battle the previous day, she found herself in the Hall of Bruni. There, he told her that he was proud that she fell bravely in battle, defending her friends. This is a good death for one of his own. But, there is still much to be done about the coming menace. So Bruni told her that she would not be living in his hall just yet…but would reside there is she fell again, or when she completed her task against the doom that is to come. She is essentially living on borrowed time until her purpose is complete. The Cord doesn’t know what to do with this news and is largely silent. The party rests for the remainder of the day while Savaric goes on a hunt in the name of Isranthr. Savaric returns with fresh meat for his friends, after making the appropriate sacrifice to the Hunter.
Farlo, the innkeep, asks Surm to tell the story of their battle again to tonight’s patrons, which he does to a rapt audience.
8 Chillwind 509
Surm teleports the party back to the Rift to the site of their battle with the blobs. There, the remains reek of old blood, bile, and decay. They move on toward the eastern Riftpeaks. That night, they camp and make ready to move on the next day.
10 Chillwind 509
After traveling all day across the desolation of the Rift, the party arrives at the Riftpeaks at sundown. They stand at the base of the mountain on which Mercerius’ stronghold is reputed to lie. Surm changes his shape into that of a giant eagle and flies to the top of the mountain to scout it out.
Near the top of the mountain is a plateau. Setting on the plateau is a series of marble columns, covered in strange runes. On top of the columns is a great marble lintel, also with runes etched in its edges. Within the wall-less structure is a dark portal. Above the structure, casting multicolored light over the runes on the columns and lintel, is a huge dark storm cloud with purple, red, and blue lightning streaking through it.
Surm returns and reports his find to the rest of the party. They elect to teleport to the top the following morning.
11 Chillwind 509
Surm teleports the party to the plateau near the top of the mountain. Savaric checks the area finds none. Surm casts read magic on the runes and discovers that they are runes of warding that help infuse the portal. If the warding is dispelled, he will dispel the portal itself. Further inspection reveals that the warding appears to teleport those that cannot breach the portal if they try too many times. Where they are teleported, it is unsure—but Surm is fairly confident that it would be somewhere on this plane of existence.
It is decided that Savaric will try the portal first. He makes his way to the dark glowing pane and passes through, disappearing into the darkness. Bursask goes next—but fails to penetrate a membrane that seems to be around the portal. Tarben tries, and fails as well. Rilka hands a holy symbol of Bruni to Tarben and asks him to give it to the shrine she is building in Kalimsport if she does not return. She then tries the portal—and fails. She tries again—and penetrates the membrane and enters the darkened portal.
Surm teleports himself and the two guards to Valeton—or at least, attempts to. He ends up somewhere in the dense elven forests of the area around Valeton. Clearly exasperated, he pulls out a scroll and then teleports them all to Valeton. He sends a message to Rilka through Alasir that they’ve arrived. The message works—making them wonder whether or not Rilka and Savaric are on another plane of existence or not. After making sure that Rilka and Savaric are fine (they appear to be in a darkened hall of some sort), he uses another scroll to teleport himself back to the plateau. Surm then braces himself and heads through the portal, breaking his way easily through the membrane and into the darkness.
The three stand in a dark hall, with gold, rune-infused walls and dark floor tiles which have sparks of arcane energy running between them. Ahead of them is a floating emerald, about the size of a fist, glowing in a soft green light.
Surm announces their presence: “We seek Mercerius from the far side of the portal!” No answer is offered from the vast hall.
They move forward and examine the gemstone. It is not like the green gem that infect Surm’s brother so long ago—it appears to be a keystone of sorts and is related to the ioun stones that Rilka has orbiting her head. There is also some sort of necromantic ward around the keystone to protect it. Beyond the keystone is an alcove with a large framed gateway holding another dark portal. The gateway is made of aquamarine. Examining it with his arcane senses, Surm determines that it is a portal to some fixed point off of this plane. They continue around the perimeter of the hall and find two other portals—one framed in diamond and one framed in ruby.
After a brief discussion, they party opts to pass through the ruby portal.
They find themself on an island of black rock surrounded by rivers of fire and lava. Behind them is the portal through which they passed. Across this fiery plain, on a pedestal of obsidian, they spot a shiny red ruby. Surm casts telekinesis and begins pulling the gem toward them, slowly, across the plain. As it crosses one of the rivers of fire, two large fire elementals emerge and start gliding quickly toward the party, overtaking the slow-moving gemstone. A fierce battle ensues, which Surm concentrating on moving the gemstone as the other two fight off the elementals. However, they party eventually overcome the elementals, causing them to dissipate into embers. Surm grabs the gemstone and the party returns to the hall through the portal.