Campaign of the Month: September 2018

Shadows of the Rift

Session Ninety-One
A Friend in Need


8 Hearth 509

The party has arrived in Almathriel at the estate of Lord Springvale after dealing with the foul sorcerer Sakka the Grim. They are planning on how to present this news to the royal family of the elves.

The rest of the Crimson Cord is due to arrive in the elven capital in three days. Lord Springvale has sent word to the Prince of the Stars, the ruler of the city and the son of the Queen, that he seeks an audience. He receives word fairly quickly from His Highness that a meeting can be had on the 11th of Hearth.

11 Hearth 509

Surm receives word via the Agent’s Clasp from Alasir that the remaining troops from the Cord have arrived at the camp outside the city. He, Rilka, Savaric, Quintrell Borathin, and Lord Springvale all take a carriage to the Rose Crystal Palace to meet with the Prince of the Stars.

The meeting with the prince is short, but cordial. He asks for a report of everything that happened on the journey. He does indicate that a parade through the city with the body of the traitor Sakka would not be welcome to Her Majesty. However, he will send a delegation of guards to Lord Springvale’s residence to collect the Imrakurse and the body of Sakka the Grim for the Queen. He also indicates that Her Majesty wishes to have an audience with them in the throne room on the 13th of Hearth and that the Saelfsidhedal are extremely grateful for their services.

13 Hearth 509

Surm, Rilka, Savaric, Lord Springvale, and Quintrell Borathin are brought before the Queen in her throne room in the Rose Crystal Palace in the heart of Almathriel. The throne room is full of courtiers dressed in the grand and ethereal style of the elves. The Cord are dressed in militaristic finery, with long coats, high boots, and crimson highlights. Lord Springvale is dressed in his finest clothes, as is Quintrell. After being announced by the herald, they come forward to the throne of the queen and kneel before her.

“The Saelfsidhedai owe you all a greatly for the service you have provided our realm. It has been brought to my attention that not only was this Sakka the Grim a thorn in our side, but was courting open rebellion and invasion. And through your efforts, he was thwarted in his ambitions. For this, we thank you.”

A steward begins coming by each of the Cord and Quintrell and bestows a platinum medal embossed with the sun, moon, and stars symbol of the realm upon it. “Rise, Surm Ulrich, Keeper of the Seal. Rise, Rilka Lazarsdottir, Keeper of the Seal. Rise, Savaric, Keeper of the Seal. Rise, Quintrell Borathin, Keeper of the Seal.”

To Lord Springvale, a scroll is given. “Lord Springvale, I think you will find this expansion of your holdings a suitable expression of our gratitude.”

The Queen makes a motion, and it is clear that everyone is dismissed.

Once everyone is in the carriage heading back home, Lord Springvale explains that Keeper of the Seal is both an honor and a responsibility. “It is a title, though not an hereditary one. However, should the Queen call upon her host, you are obligated to heed her call.”

Lord Springvale also looks at his scroll and discovers that he has been granted a villa in Celandacair, a coastal city to the north.

When the party returns to Lord Springvale’s home, they find that each of them have been given 100 pp as well.

After the party returns to Lord Springvale’s residence, a visitor is announced that is seeking out the Crimson Cord. He is brought in and introduces himself as Krrish. He appears to be a Southron male, dressed in the Tarsian style. He is polite, but seems troubled. He wishes to speak to the Cord in private and Lord Springvale is happy to accommodate.

Krrish speaks of visions of a great evil emerging from the sea with tentacles and eyes, as well as a great Northron warrior that laid waste to those around him with a mighty greataxe. His visions seemed to tie him in with the Crimson Cord. He indicated that he believed that the visions were sent by someone dear to him.

Rilka and Savaric indicate that they have heard of this Northron but that they have been given information from their gods that they are not ready to face him yet. But that they will be pursuing him at some point. And that they have a place in this great battle against the evil that is coming. They want to discuss this new development. Krrish says that he is staying at the Mithral Dagger and that is where they can find him.

The party then discusses their next move after their meeting with the Queen of the Elves. Will they be going to Kalimsport? What’s next?

Rilka heads to the Mithral Dagger to speak with Krrish. She finds him there and she gets a list of references from him, all from Kalimsport, where he apparently does the majority of his business from a spice shop that he works with his sister. He also indicates that, as far as skills he brings to the table, he is quiet nimble and stealthy.

Rilka heads back to Lord Springvale’s and the party continues their discussion of where to go next. Surm arranges a farewell banquet for the “Cordlings” at the Mithral Dagger.

The innkeep at the Mithral Dagger clears the common room of those that do not have rooms, so Krrish gets to stay. The tables are put together and food and drink is shared by all. Rilka watches Krrish through all of this and sees nothing untoward. She tells him that she will check his references when they teleport to Kalimsport and will meet up with him when he eventually arrives there by horse.

Surm makes a grand speech about the plans for the guildhall coming soon and the future of the Crimson Cord.

After the banquet, everyone adjourns to either the camp or Lord Springvale’s, except for Krrish, who stays at the Mithral Dagger.

14 Hearth 509

Krrish starts to make his way to Kalimsport.

Savaric asks Lord Springvale to pick out a subtle elven wine to serve at his new tavern venture in Kalimsport. He wants an authentic “seal of approval.” Springvale promises to talk to some wine connoisseurs he knows and get him an answer.

Surm teleports himself, Rilka, Savaric, and Mahgnus to Kalimsport. Once in the city, Surm makes arrangements to speak with Kalys Penwyck, vizier to the Overlord of Kalimsport. Rilka begins making arrangements to upgrade items and check on the progress of her shrine to Bruni. Savaric, too, goes out to make arrangements to update items. Mahgnus leaves the party to begin making arrangements for Surm’s Crimson Cord guildhall (of which he will be in charge) and to find a suitable brewer for Savaric.

Later, the three core members of the Crimson Cord meet in one of the drawing rooms of the fortress of the Overlord of Kalimsport. There they are met by Kalys Penwyck, the vizier to that esteemed ruler. She indicates that she assumes that they are there to discuss the death of Mõrvar Ulrich. She will release his belongings to them, though she wishes to discuss one of the belongings—the sword that they found on his person. She says that if it were up to her, she would turn it over to the temple of Cereth for destruction. However, the Overlord has stated that he wishes to leave that decision up to the Cord. Surm tells her to do what she will with the blade. She also will deliver to them an urn with Mõrvar’s ashy remains—with the caveat that the Overlord has their every assurance that he will not be resurrected. They all so swear. Surm inquires about his brother’s account with the Bank of Kalimsport. Kalys says that the account has been closed, but that she will provide them a writ to allow them to claim the contents.

The goods are delivered to the Cord by servants after Kalys takes her leave. The three leave the compound and make the proper arrangements with the Bank.

Rilka goes out and checks out Krrish’s references and tries to get some “word on the street” about he and his sister, Eldeshi. Everything seems to check out according to Krrish’s story. Rilka then decides to visit Eldeshi herself.

She finds the spice shop in the Northern Market District. Rilka discusses her brother with the merchant and is a little surprised to learn that Krrish was adopted and that Eldeshi knows nothing of a druid in the family or of Krrish’s mother.

Once the party rejoins each other and Rilka brings her findings to them, everyone seems satisfied with Krrish. Surm acknowledges that the “vision” thing is a religious thing and not really his bailiwick.

The three return to Almathriel and informs the soldiers at the camp of the fate of Mõrvar. Savaric buys food and ale for the troops and Surm delivers a moving eulogy for his brother. There is not a dry eye in the camp. Memorial drinks are had all around.

Rilka, Savaric, and Surm take their leave of the soldiery and head into the city to take Quintrell his share of the treasure. They return to the Goblin and Mug, where the bartender, Trusk, continues to try and flirt with Rilka. Quintrell takes them to his nearby apartment where they turn over the coinage. He is pleased for the windfall—he clearly didn’t expect it. As they leave, he speculates on the possibility of purchasing a polymorph to turn him back into an elf.

Surm then teleports the three of them to Uncle Thormax’s hut in Jossia. Surm tells him of his brother’s demise. The old man is sad, through he feels as though such an end was inevitable due to the darkness in the young man’s heart. That night they cast Mõrvar’s ashes into the winds and then spend the night in Thormax’s hut drinking and telling tales.

15 Hearth 509

That morning, the three friends leave Uncle Thormax’s hut. Rilka and Savaric are taken back to Almathriel and then Surm teleports to the village of Aeth to inform the rest of the family of Mõrvar’s demise. He also informs the King of the Aethlyngs of the end of the possible threat. Surm tells them to keep the rings that they were given in case of future threats, however. Surm also gives the family monies from his brother’s bank account, for which they are grateful. Lothar offers Surm his hand, and Surm, after a pause, takes it.

He then teleports to Yrda and inform King Sigurd and their other friends there of Mõrvar’s demise.

Next, he is off to Aldasar, to the estate of their friend Lord Cannach Ma’leod. There, Surm is surprised to be turned away by the Lord’s guards, not once, but twice. Disconcerted, Surm heads into the city and decides to look into this further. In his wanderings, he happens upon Willton Ginnis—the (apparently) former chamberlain to Lord Cannach.

From Willton Ginnis, Surm learns that in the past two weeks Lord Cannach has been acting very strange. He’s hired a mercenary company, the Dire Wolves, to apparently guard the village of Leodin for no apparent reason. He’s been short with staff and summarily fired Willton for questioning his hiring of the mercenaries. This all began, according to Willton, shortly after a Lord Cannach returned from a trip to the city with blood on his person. The noble claimed he had survived a mugging attempt but that the City Watch was handling it. Since that day, things had been odd in the household. On top of that—other noble houses have experienced similar oddness. The help is talking and none of it is good.

Surm gives the old man 100 platinum pieces to live on and to use in bribes to gather information about what is going on. He tells him that the Crimson Cord will return to Aldasar in two months.

Surm then teleports to rejoin his friends and share his disturbing news. They continue with their plans and vow to return to Aldasar in two months.

28 Hearth 509

Krrish finally arrives in Kalimsport.

29 Hearth 509

Rilka meets with Krissh at his spice shop. The two go for a walk. Rilka informs him that his references and story check out. She is a little concerned that his sister didn’t know about his mother, but he assured her that he likes to keep his privacy about such matters. Rilka offers to let him travel with them—with the caveat that they are not going after the man in the vision just yet. Krrish takes the offer.

They two visit with Alfrun at Rilka’s shrine and then share a good breakfast at a nearby eatery.

Over the next few weeks, Rilka spends some time with Krrish, trying to get to know him.

Savaric spends time in Kalimsport establishing his brewery/tavern and in Yrda, spending time with Mirka

19 Longnight 509

Rilka holds a dedication to the new orphanage she has built on the lands given to her by the Overlord of Kalimsport.

14 Changewind 509

Over the past few weeks, much work has been going on in Kalimsport. Savaric’s new brewery/tavern, the “Crimson Brew” opens, as well as the opening stages of the new Crimson Cord guildhall.

Finally, the guards of the Crimson Cord have been set to march toward toward Aldasar while the rest of the troupe, Rilka, Surm, and Savaric, along with Krrish, teleport there. Surm gets more information from Willton Ginnis on the problem with the nobility. He gets some specific members of the nobility that have been acting strange—including the wife of the Lord Mayor of Aldasar. He has also learned that there is apparently some sort of spellcaster with the Dire Wolves in Leodin—someone called “Coldtongue” and that they have also somehow employed a blue dragon to patrol the area on their behalf.

Willton will use his connections to get an audience with the Lord Mayor for the Cord.

The Cord meets at the base camp of the troops outside the city to discuss the Lord Cannach situation. Surm also introduces Lynecit, his new valet.

What could be the malady striking the nobility? Is it possession? A curse? Some sort of disease? Most think that a disease is unlikely. A curse could be detected by a detect magic spell—though it would be very difficult to see. Possession might also be detectable through magic as well. They are ultimately left with more questions than answers.

15 Changewind 509

The core members of the Cord and Krrish all pay a visit to Willton Ginnis, who has managed to get them an audience with the Lord Mayor. They may call upon him anytime at the Hall of Law. The four head to the center of the city, near the royal palace, and are admitted into the hall by the guards and directed to the proper wing. Once there, they are taken to the offices of the Lord Mayor and meet Telly, the bald halfling attache of the Lord Mayor. He is the only other person in the office as the Cord introduces themself to Baron Feargus Ma’leod, Lord Mayor of Aldasar.

The Lord Mayor is a heavy-set man with a broad mustache and a usually jolly disposition. He recognizes the Crimson Cord for their exploits and their “reputation for getting things done.” When asked about any strange behavior from his wife, he reluctantly admits that, yes, for the past few weeks she has been acting strangely. She’s been very “ugly” to staff, very course and vulgar in her discourse, very improper—very unlike her. Yes, there was an incident where she was apparently accosted by someone in the streets, but the City Watch had been notified and was looking into it.

The party decides to stake out and follow the Lady Mayor. The Lord Mayor will allow this as he is very concerned for his wife and the Cord’s implications that this may be a wider problem in the city. But he does caution them to be discrete.

It is decided that Savaric and Krrish will watch the Lady Mayor and follow her. Krrish assures everyone that he will locate her. “Magic?” Savaric asks. “A combination of things,” the young man answers.

The two head out and take up positions on the roof of the Lord Mayor’s house, which is located on top of the same large hill on which the Hall of Law is located.

Meanwhile, Telly leads Surm and Rilka to the Captain of the Watch at the nearby garrison. Her name is Saraid Clyne. Speaking with her, she knows of no attack reported on the Lady Mayor—and she is certain that a report of such an attack would have been flagged for her attention. She can have someone look into the reported attack on Lord Cannach if they like, though searching the records could take some time. In their conversation with the Captain, the two learn that there have been a lot of religious processions going through the city of late and tensions between religious figures and the nobility. They decide to go to the temple of Halor and see if they can learn more of this development.

Back at the Lord Mayor’s house, Krrish sees the Lady Mayor leave the house and turn down the offer of a carriage from one of the servants. She puts up a hood on a dark cloak and moves away from the home. Savaric and Krrish manage to keep up and follow her at a distance. They follow the woman to a seedy part of the city where she slips down an alley and into the door of a seemingly abandoned building. They both hide, with Krrish at the front of the building and Savaric running behind and then on top of the building. Both Krrish and Savaric feel some kind of force pull at their minds briefly, but nothing else happens. Krrish listens at the door and hears the Lady in conversation with someone—apparently they are waiting on a third. This third person soon comes down the alley, also dressed in a dark cloak. He slips in and Krrish slips in behind him.

At the temple of Halor, Surm and Rilka meet with Bishop Aldiss Innismore about the strange behavior of the nobility and the portents and visions Rilka and Savaric have been seeing and addressing. The Midron gods, too, have been sending signs and portents of a great evil that is on the rise. They are making mystical preparations for the event and are trying to move the temporal rulers of the lands to make ready as well.

At the back alley, Krrish listens as the Lady Mayor and the new arrival listen to the third. He informs the other two that “Coldtongue assures me that the portal is nearly complete.” The Lady Mayor mentions that the Lord Mayor is growing suspicious. The first speaker assures her that “he will be taken care of in a couple of weeks.”

The three then begin leaving. Krrish slips out unseen and hides. The two follow the last one to leave, the first speaker, to the edge of the city, where he leaves through the city gates.

Eventually, Savaric and Krrish make it back to the base camp where they reunite with the others who have returned from the temple and the guard garrision.

Session Ninety
Dark Invasion


7 Hearth 509

The party has just slain the Bandersnatch after a well-executed plan. Surm hears a voice near his ear ala a Sending spell. The voice is familiar—it is Kalys Penwyck, the vizier to the Overlord of Kalimsport.

“The Overlord of Kalimsport is saddened to inform you of the demise of your brother, the outlaw Morvar Ulrich, at the gates of the city.”

Surm takes in the information and says, “Thank you for informing me.” None of the others hear the message as they are assessing the situation with the Bandersnatch.

Savaric debates on whether or not to take any of the gigantic creature’s quills as a trophy. He ends up taking five of them and putting them in his Efficient Quiver.

Rilka prays to Bruni to receive Detect Magic and the party starts heading toward the hut that Surm had seen in his bird form earlier in the day.

The hut looks like it has seen a lot of rot from the surrounding swamp land. it is relatively small…about fifteen feet long and square. There is a door and two shuttered windows on the side facing the party.

Rilka casts Detect Magic on the hut and detects no magical auras. Savaric senses no movement from within.

Savaric approaches the hut stealthily with Rilka, Uther, Quintrell, Halvor, and Alfhild at the ready. Savaric goes to one of the windows and takes his sword, trying to move the shutter with the point.

Suddenly the entire hut moves, with the windows becoming eyes and the door becoming a giant maw. Savaric is caught by an enormous sticky tongue that emerges from the door/mouth of the mimic/hut.

After a brief fight with the large mimic, Surm slays the beast with Scorching Rays. it finally releases Savaric.

Surm changes into a bird with beast shape and flies up to look around. As he surveys the area, he spots a…flaw…in the reality of the area and sees a tower beyond what is obviously, to him, an illusory wall. He returns to the party to report.

The party assumes their usual marching order and starts heading toward the “wall” to find the hidden tower.

After a bit of convincing, everyone eventually sees through the illusion and passes through the wall and sees the tower sitting in the middle of the swamp. The tower is three stories high with a crenelated roof.

Savric and Rilka approach the tower, with Savaric looking for secret entrances and Rilka using Detect Magic. Neither find anything unusual. Savaric checks the front door for traps and finds nothing out of the ordinary—but does determine that it is locked.

The rest of the party comes forward and Surm attempts to pick the lock—to no avail. Darvin attempts as well—no joy there, either. Surm takes his time and eventually succeeds in picking the lock.

Gwyn opens the door with a spell. Savaric listens though the open doorway, but hears nothing. He sneaks inside. Rilka detects no magical auras in the bottom floor. Savaric searches the bottom floor but finds nothing unusual.

The bottom floor is filled with crates and barrels. There is a ramp that leads up to the next level as well as a narrow iron spiral staircase leading upwards.

The rest of the party moves into the bottom level. Tarben, Gwyn, and Surm take the stairs whhile Alfhild, Rilka, Bragara, and Savaric take the ramp.

The second level appears to be bisected into a kitchen and a dining area. Savaric searches the area out. The hearth is cold and he finds nothing unusual—but he does smell and acrid stench coming from upstairs. The ramp ends here but the spiral staircase continues to the third level.

Surm casts invisibility on himself and heads upstairs. Savaric gives him a moment and then uses Ilona to make himself invisible and follows him upstairs. Rilka gives them both a couple of minutes and then follows, not invisible and not stealthy.

When Surm goes upstairs he sees what appears to be a workshop of some sort with book shelves, alchemical accoutrements, and a large cauldron that seems to be the source of the acrid stench. He hides himself on the side of the room.

Savaric comes up and sees the same thing and hides himself near the bookshelves.

Rilka comes up, making noise and is very visible. At this point, a hideous, hag-like creature with no eyes appears right beside Savaric and attacks Rilka!

As Rilka encounters this creature, and Savaric attempts to aid her, a second hag appears on the other side of Savaric.

Surm manages to take out one of the hags in a rain of fire and thunder!

During the fight, Bragara starts heading up the stairs, followed by Quintrell. Savaric manages to stun the remaining hag. Surm burns her with a spell while Bragara manages to do small amounts of damage to the fell creature. Finally, Rilka decapitates the hag with her falchion.

Surm casts detect magic on the ichorous fluid burning in the cauldron. He determines that it is some sort of summoning fluid connected to the Plane of Shadow. He casts drench on the fire feeding the cauldron and lets the fluid die, ceasing the connection.

Savaric finds nothing in the room save for various potions and elixirs on the shelves. Rilka casts detect magic on the potions and finds that about ten of them are magical in nature.

The party then take some time to discuss where Sakka the Grim may be, as they haven’t found him in this tower.

Surm uses beast shape to turn into a bird once again and flies to the roof, to the Bandersnatch, and to the pond. He sees nothing of interest along the way.

Savaric searches the tower again and finds a secret door hidden on the first floor of the tower beneath a false crate.

Rilka takes the alchemical notebooks and potions from the top floor of the tower.

Surm returns to the Material Plane from the pocket dimension and has the remaining troops to move their camp. He then returns to the pond and flies back to the tower.

Savaric continues searching, finding nothing more of interest in the tower.

After Surm returns and they tell him of the secret door, Savaric opens the secret door. It triggers a spell trap that was not found (the detect magic spell could not penetrate the crate it was hidden behind). Savaric is nearly dropped to unconsciousness by a harm spell. Rilka magically heals him while Surm identifies the potions that Rilka found.

The door opened by Savaric reveals a dull red light, a hideous, sickening stench, and a narrow shaft with a iron hand holds leading about twenty-five feet down into a cavern.

Savaric heads down first, followed by Rilka, Surm, and Quintrell. Tarben and Einar follow—but Einar is soon overwhelmed by the stench and is replaced by Halvor.

The shaft leads down into a tunnel. The tunnel leads further into a cavern. The cavern is full of ten-foot-tall plant-like pods with a vine-like protrusions. The pods are blood-red in color. The vines are semi-transparent and seem to have some sort of viscous fluid flowing through them into the pods. The pods are hard, with the consistency of wood. They seem to be the source of the sickening stench that fills the tunnel and the cavern.

Moving through the cavern, the party can hear a chanting sound coming from the other side of the “forest” of pods. As they move carefully through the pods, they determine that there are probably about a hundred and fifty of these pods in the cavern.

Emerging from the “forest” they come to an alcove at the far end of the cavern. At the end of the alcove is a stone archway. In the archway are three rose-quartz crystals glowing with the red light that has been lighting the cavern and the tunnel. Within the archway is an image of the throne room of the Rose Crystal Palace of the Queen of the Sun, Moon, and Stars—the Queen of the Saelfsidhedal—the Monarch of the Elven Nation. There is a space for a fourth crystal, which is being held in the hand of a dark-haired elf that stands before the archway. This elf’s body is twisted and hunched and he has a series of tattoos on his face and arms. On either side of him are four large, twisted tree-like beings with horrific, distorted visages.

Surm recognizes the four tree-like beings as being Inrakurses—elves whose bodies have been wracked by fleshwarping magics of the darkest sort. He puts two-and-two together and realizes that those pods are more Inrakurses, ready to hatch. This is what Sakka has been doing with the elves he’s been kidnapping. He’s been forming an army.

Rilka casts silence over the party and they approach quietly. When they get close enough to strike, Rilka rushes forward to interrupt Sakka’s gate spell with her silence. Surm casts his black tentacles to trap the inrakurses. Savaric strikes against Sakka—killing the sorcerer in a series of well-placed shots.

In a series of spells and strikes, the Inrakurses are finally put down—but it is a tough fight. Sakka is searched for magical items. The party then returns upstairs to the tower to find flammable fuel. They also find a hidden chest in the topmost floor. Surm detects and dispels the trap that was placed upon it.

Using the flammables they found in the alchemical lab, they splash the pods below the tower. They also take the bodies of Sakka the Grim and one of the Imrakurses.

Surm teleports the party back to the pond and they all reconnect with the rest of the guards.

The main party returns through the pond and to the tower. They descend once again below the tower and retrieve the gate stones. Surm casts fireball on the pod forest before they leave.

At sundown, Surm teleports Jerrik, Leif, Savaric, Rilka, and the two dead bodies back to Almathriel. The rest of the troupe will be marching back to the elven capital.

Back in Almathriel, the party is met on the lawn of Lord Springvale’s estate by Elbereth, the aristocrat’s majordomo. Unflappable as usual, she bids the party to take the bodies to the carriage house and then come inside and clean up. The carriage keeper is a bit upset at the development, but Surm manages to talk him down.

Lord Springvale is happy to see the party and embraces Surm, particularly happy to see that he is alright. He orders food and drink and to hear the story. Everyone then goes to bed, with plans to discuss tomorrow what to do next.

Session Eighty-Nine
The Quill is Mightier than the Sword


22 Harvest 509

The Crimson Cord is in Almathriel, guests of Lord Paranthiel Springvale. They are discussing the next mission they plan to undertake—finding and removing the threat of Sakka the Grim, an elven sorcerer who is plaguing the Queen of the Sun, Moon, and Stars of the Elves.

The party is also awaiting the arrival of their guards, which should take place in about eight days’ time. They are traveling overland to the elven capital from Khazak-Ur.

The party discusses the merits of visiting with the Queen either in public or in private, in open court or in a private audience. They eventually decide that Lord Springvale and Surm and can arrive in open court, place word of what they are attempting to do in the ears of the audience, and hope that Her Majesty takes the initiative and calls them in for an audience. The next occurrence of open court is Harvest 27th.

They will also start a buzz in the noble community about Lord Springvale’s dealings with the Cord and how they are being called in to take care of something “important.” This will be done primarily by Lord Springvale’s majordomo, Elbereth Calidor. She has connections amongst the “help” in noble society which will be the best conduit through which to seed information that needs to the get to the nobility.

The party also has Mahgnus arrange for a camp situation for the troops when they arrive. They also decide to purchase a banner around which the camp will rally and it will be marked for those to see who they are.

27 Harvest 509

Mahgnus has made arrangements with the city bureaucracy to bivouac the troops outside the city, near the south gate. Permits are made and paid for and the banner has been commissioned to mark the site for the troops.

That evening is the time of the open court. Surm and Lord arrive in their finery to the event. The are many carriages coming up to the wing of the palace in which the event is held. Surm is resplendent in a set of robes which bear an magically animated design upon their face. Lord Springvale is dressed in a colorful court-appropriate outfit.

They are led through line to the entrance where the two are announced: “Lord Paranthiel Springvale, Lord of Valehome, and Master Surm Ulrich, Voice of the Crimson Cord.”

There are many dignitaries and noble folk milling about the lavishly decorated ballroom. Gauzy streamers festoon the ceiling, as well as small floating lights that illuminate the scene. The two meet several people while mingling.

  • Drannor Raltoris, an old friend of Lord Springvale’s.
  • Nidrol Fennys, a rather snotty and hostile nobleman, apparently one of the old cronies of Lord Springvale’s former beau.
  • Ysildea Beirieth, another old friend of Lord Springvale’s.
  • Ayda Liafiel, a rather hostile and haughty noblewoman.

They also note that Surm is not the only non-elven guest to the festivities. Baldin Windskipper, Herald of Ebongate, is announced from the entryway. She is a very friendly and gregarious halfling woman. At one point she approaches Surm and introduces herself. She has heard of him and the Crimson Cord.

Finally, the royals make their appearance.

  • Pantantriel Theisadalra, Prince of the Stars, ruler of Almathriel
  • Irinriel Thisadalra, Princess of the Moon, heir to the Ruby Throne
  • Imraela Theisadalra, Queen of the Sun, Moon, and Stars

They take their seats on a raised platform and a receiving line forms for courtiers to greet them. At some point, Surm is mingling through the crowd, the Princess of the Moon makes eye contact with him and smiles.

Throughout their mingling, it is clear that Elbereth did her work well. Rumors are already circulating among the nobility that Lord Springvale is planning something big with the help of the renowned adventuring company. Further, it is clear that the fame of the Crimson Cord has even reached the heart of the elven nation.

Later in the evening, Surm and Lord Springvale are greeted by the Princess, who acknowledges recognizing the Crimson Cord. She makes some reference to having been away from the capital for awhile, coincidentally she was apparently in the “the North” (Jossia), though she does not elaborate. Surm and Lord Springvale take the opportunity to indicate to her some of what they intend and how they hope to be of service to her mother, the Queen.

Finally, the evening starts to wind down and everyone starts to head to their carriages and back to their estates.

29 Hearth 509

Lord Sprinvale receives an official summons from Prince Pantantriel for a meeting in the palace. The summons is for himself and “the Crimson Cord.”

30 Harvest 509

The rest of the guards of the Crimson Cord arrive in Almathriel to their camp. Savaric has hunted for fresh meat and is providing kegs of ale. Rilka checks in with Tarben on religious matters. A joyous reunion is had.

1 Hearth 509

Surm, Rilka, Savaric and Lord Springvale return to the palace to meet with Prince Pantantriel. They meet in a conference room in the palace; the Cord, His Highness the Prince, and a retinue of the Prince’s guards. The Cord are dressed in their “Captain Rilka” gear and holding their signature weapons. They note that even though they are meeting the Prince and ruler of the city, the guards do not seem to be worried about them keeping their weapons. Here they discuss the mission that Lord Springvale is commissioning the Cord to undertake—to take care of the “problem” with Sakka the Grim.

Throughout the meeting, the Prince never seems to acknowledge the half-orcs, though he shows them not ill will either. They all discuss the mission and the experience of Quintrell Borathin, the Queen’s Guardsman who was killed by Sakka the Grim and later reincarnated into a halfling by a druid. The Prince, in the end, acknowledges that this would, indeed, be a great boon to Her Majesty and will gladly carry the news of it to her ears. The meeting, overall, seems to have gone positively and in line with the Cord’s plans to help Lord Springvale.

After the meeting, the guards are given leave and the main coterie of the Cord go to the Goblin and Mug to find Quintrell to let him know that are moving forward with the expedition. From him, they find out that the site of the battle he had with Sakka and his beast took place about a hundred miles north of the city in the forests between Almathriel and Imdarinis. As they all sip on their dishwater-tasting ale, Quintrell also reveals that according to rumor, Sakka actually resides on a small demi-plane of his own design. He must use some sort of portal or extra-planar magic to travel back and forth with himself and his creatures.

Quintrell agrees to camp tonight with the guards outside the city and to depart with them tomorrow. Rilka also camps with the guards—Kortash in specific.

Surm goes to the Spire Ring and purchases a gate scroll.

2 Hearth 509

The party departs Almathriel in search of Sakka the Grim. They travel in a column through the forest, due to its thickness. Quintell apparently travels with a set of darts and a board on which he practices his throwing. He and Savaric have a game during one of the breaks in travel. Savaric places a fine showing, critically hitting the board in the bullseye. Quintrell is impressed.

4 Hearth 509

After a couple of days of travel, the party is attacked in the night by a band of werewolves. The party is handily victorious with no casualties or injuries. Savaric tracks the source of the band, finding tracks leading northwest. However, he is persuaded not to follow them, as it is a distraction from the matter at hand.

7 Hearth 509

In the afternoon, Quintrell notifies the Cord that they have reached the site of the battle in which he was killed. Looking about the area, the party finds a nearby pond where old tracks have led. Surm casts detect magic on the pond and does sense a magical aura indicating conjuration magic emanating from the pond. After a bit of planning, he and Savaric decide to cast invisibility on themselves (though Savaric uses Ilona to do this) and walk into the pond holding hands.

As they submerge themselves in the pond, they find that they emerge, after a disorientating shift, from the pond on the other side of a planar barrier. They rise and find themselves in a swamp. On the shore, they see a band of goblins—but goblins unlike any they’ve ever seen. These seem to be mutated in various ways: wings, extra limbs, etc. Savaric resubmerges into the pond to return to the others to report what was seen.

As the others make their way through the pond, Surm casts black tentacles on the band of goblins and manages to get them all grappled in the mystical appendages. He then casts a fireball on the restrained goblins. This manages to take all but one of them out.

They also decide to leave Sorcha, Leif, Sigrid, Garth, Burask, and Jerrik behind in the “real world” to guard the horses and equipment.

They take the goblin prisoner and try to question him. He only speaks goblin, however, and Savaric is the only one that can speak to him. When asked about the location of Sakka the Grim, the goblin tells Savaric that he can be found “in your bunghole.” They finally intimidate him into giving more information—though only that Sakka is deeper in the swamp. Savaric punches the goblin out.

Savaric then tracks the goblins as Surm goes invisible and flies as a small bird to get the lay of the land. From his point of view, he spots, far ahead of them, a hut nestled in the swamp. He also sees a large, quilled beast (probably the famed Bandersnatch from Quintrell’s story) roaming the swarm between them and the hut. There is a also a clearing in the swamp between the party and the Bandersnatch.

After a bit of discussion, they decide that taking out the Bandersnatch might be a good idea and that the hut may be their ultimate destination. They formulate a plan to lure the beast into the clearing where the party can ambush it. Rilka will use the flying ability of the celestial armor to lure the beast and hopefully move fast enough to elude it.

The party sets their ambush and Rilka flies forward to entice the Bandersnatch. She is successful—but the beast is far faster than she anticipated. Further, it is able to launch its quills into the air as massive missile weapons. She is struck by one—and it is incredibly painful. Still, she manages to fly into the clearing, leading the creature hot on her heels.

The ambush is strung. It is difficult to fight—to close with it and strike it with a melee weapon means being pricked by its mighty quills. Tarben manages a critical hit on the creature, but injures himself in the process and Quintrell fires at it with his bow, hitting it in the eye. Surm blinds it with gloomblind bolts. Savaric finally gets the kill.

One of the quills is stuck in Rilka, but Savaric manages to remove it without injuring her further. They also notice that the creature was wearing a collar of some sort—it resembles a ring of thorns. Surm casts detect magic on the collar and determines that it emanates enchantment magic capable of controlling the creature and sending the creature’s current status information to another person.

The party now discusses what their next move is…

Session Eighty-Eight
A Debt is Paid


15 Harvest 509

The party has returned to Khazak-Ur after having dinner in Almathriel with Lord Springvale and Valerian Tarsinia, a potential buyer for the dragon egg that they acquired deep beneath the dwarven capitol. The party retires to their rooms at the House of Warship.

16 Harvest 509

Savaric goes into the markets of the dwarven city to commission a necklace to be made for Mirka. He originally wants a silver compass that magically always points to him—but finds that such an item may be too much gold for his tastes. The magical proprietor, Phaedre Silverspike, suggests finding a more mundane jeweler and silversmith.

He finds a jeweler by the name of Tolman Glittergem who has a half-elven silversmith on-site that could meet his needs. Savaric decides on a silver compass pendant with a small ruby chip to represent his heart. The “compass” always points at the ruby chip. This comes much closer to his needed price range and will convey the same message he wants to convey to Mirka—that she can always find his heart. The necklace will be done in three day’s time.

After their shopping spree, the party teleports to Yrda to visit for a short time. Rilka, Kortash, Savaric, Surm, and Gwyn (one of Surm’s new cohorts) make the journey.

They arrive in the center of the village and momentarily startle two guards that are patrolling the central square. The two Northron men wear symbols of Bruni around their necks. Soon, they recognize the Crimson Cord and offer to help them in any way they can. When asked if they wish to see the king, Surm says that they probably should. One of the guards, a young man named Taos, offers to lead them to where Sigurd is seeing to the finishing touches of a new wooden wall around the village.

Sigurd is pleased to see them and offers them the hospitality of the village. He also offers his sympathy for the break that the group has had with Mõrvar. Most of the troupe will be staying overnight, but Surm and Gwyn will be leaving in the evening. Sigurd vows to make space available in the main longhouse for Rilka and Kortash and, with a knowing glance toward Savaric, assures them that Savaric will surely have space in the Hall of Ulfethinn.

Surm takes Gwyn on a tour of the village, stopping first with Rilka at the Hall of Bruni. Savaric goes to find Mirka.

At the Hall of Bruni, the head priest, Dag Falcorsson, welcomes them and gives them some news of the village. As per their previous instructions, the village is being fortified and all strangers are being watched. They don’t want a sneak attack by someone claiming to be their friend. Mirka takes the fellow cleric aside and asks him about any news of a man bearing a strange symbol causing trouble in the Northron lands. Surm and Gwyn leave to continue their tour of the village.

Dag tells Rilka of a tale that a passing skald told of trouble in Rosemeedt on the western coast. Apparently a strange man, in tattered clothes and bearing a greataxe, emerged from the sea covered in ice. He passed through the town, laying waste to all in his path as he made his way out of Rosemeedt. He did, indeed, wear a strange symbol about his neck. Rilka makes note of this information to pass on to the others. She then goes to the central sanctuary of the hall to pray.

Surm and Gwen tour the village and look in on the orphan half-orc babies that they left here some weeks ago. Both Jewel and Cord are doing well and the village as a whole has rallied behind their care. The babes are said to bring the “luck of the Crimson Cord” with them to the village.

Meanwhile, Savaric finds Mirka working on the roof of the entryway to the Hall of Ulfethinn. She notices his approach and deftly leaps down from the low awning. She embraces Savaric and tells him that she has some work for him to do inside. Savaric eventually catches the innuendo and follows her inside to her chambers.

After Savaric’s “work” is done, he tells her of their adventures and the dire portents that have been following them of late. Mirka acknowledges that she can tell that a “storm is coming” but is unsure as to what that means.

That evening, a feast is held at the Hall of Yülthn where Surm is called upon to tell them tales of their adventures. He does a fair job—not up to his standards but more than entertaining enough for this friendly audience. Mead and ale are passed around, along with roasted meats. When asked about her impressions of this village that call the Cord heroes and insists that that they are “home,” Gwyn acknowledges that Yrda is very “quaint.”

After the festivities, Gwyn and Surm teleport back to Khazak-Ur. Rilka and Kortash bed down in the longhouse while Savaric accompanies Mirka back to her chambers.

17 Harvest 509

In Khazak-Ur, Surm goes to the Halls of the Maker to speak with the dwarven priests there about portents of evil and of any news of this murderous man with the greataxe. He speaks to a priest named Fangrim Slatedge. According to the priest, the “Anvils” have seen signs of grim tidings. According to some, The Haduarkan should begin preparations to “return to the bosom of the earth” and that the coming evil is “not a dwarven matter.”

Surm is very dissatisfied with this answer and leaves. He later receives a sending from Rilka via the Agent’s Clasp and he teleports back to Yrda to pick the others up. This time, he brings his cohort Uther.

Upon arriving in Yrda, Rilka, Kortash, and Savaric all gather with Surm and Uther and return to Khazak-Ur.

Rilka goes to the common room of the House of Warship and asks for tidings of trouble from the bards that have come there. They do mention that there have been troubles, but mostly in the human lands to the west.

Surm returns the clasp to Alasir and shares all of the information they have been gathering with him.

18 Harvest 509

The group continues to stay at the House of Warship in Khazak-Ur, waiting for the pieces of the Spear of Salvation to be completed. Savaric picks up his finished necklace for Mirka.

20 Harvest 509

Finally, the group receives word from Tasvian Hammerfall that The Conclave of the Forge have finished the spear pieces.

The group is brought to the central forge where the work has been done and see, sitting on a cloth that has been lain across a folding table in the center of the chamber, is the shaft of Ysarian Steel and the spearhead of orange Cassite crystal.

Savaric reverently approaches the pieces and picks them up. His eyes go start to glow with a strange orange light and he moves away from the table and sets the pieces before him. He then begins to recite prayers in Jossian to the Northron gods: Ulfethinn the Thunderer, Isranthr the Hunter, Saehildr the Flashing Blade, Saemundil the Guardian, and to Bruni the Brave One. He then takes the pieces and melds them together with his hands. The pieces—steel and crystal—mold together as if made of clay and fall into place. Savaric sets the completed spear on the floor and then recites prayers of thanks to each of the same entities. Finally, his eyes return to normal and he finds himself, bewildered, sitting before the completed Spear of Salvation.

Savaric apparently has no memory of saying the prayers and forging the Spear. According to him, he was in the clearing outside of Isranthr’s hall. There, the god thanked Savaric for his work and indicated that his debt was paid, but that the gods would have him fulfill one more task, though he has no debt to pay. Keep the Spear safe until such time as it is ready for him to use. He will know when that time comes. Savaric agrees to do this. Then, the half-orc wakes up sitting on the floor before the completed Spear.

Rilka thinks that Savaric is destined to hunt down this evil.—including the strange man who is wreaking havoc across the lands. Surm is not so sure…he thinks that they are to wait for the time to come. His point is that they don’t “know” anything and that this weapon is for something far worse than that man. Savaric is inclined to hunt down the man. Perhaps the man is a precursor to what is to come and if they can eliminate him, they can stop the evil.

Savaric also shares with the others what he knows about the spear—how it is a powerful artifact against aberrations dedicated to Chaos and that the spearhead, while powerful, can be broken by an ill-placed strike.

The Cord return to the House of Warship with the Spear, after first thanking the Conclave of the Forge for their work.

Back at the inn, the Cord discusses what their next plans are.

Surm reiterates the doesn’t think that they should hunt down the man with the greataxe. They should keep the spear safe and save it for something bigger.

Rilka disagrees: from a strategic point of view, it makes more sense to hunt down the man and deal with him in anticipation of dealing with this coming evil. Savaric is inclined to agree with Rilka.

Surm says that they should rely on their faith and wait. They have been charged with fighting a war, not preventing it. To him, having faith in their gods means standing back and doing what they are told, despite what their own urges tell them.

Rilka concedes that they can’t prepare for the coming evil without more information. Surm suggests that they pray for guidance.

So where will they go next?

They decide to go to Yrda again, first. Savaric wants to give Mirka his gift. Rilka opts to stay behind. So Surm, Savaric, Uther, Bragara, and Darvin teleport to Yrda. Surm introduces the new members of the Crimson Cord cohort to the village while Savaric finds a leatherworker to make a special sheath for the spearhead of the Spear of Salvation. After those arrangements are made, he goes to Mirka to give her the necklace.

Mirka, for the first time since Savaric has met her, is speechless. She embraces him and takes him back to her chambers.

Rilka, in the meantime, fasts and meditates on the problem and prays to Bruni for answers. As she meditates, she finds the world around her fade away and she sits in the Hall of Bruni with a familiar figure. He warns her that she has been calling in a lot of favors of late. She acknowledges this as truth but shares with the figure the confusion and ambiguity of purpose that she is experiencing now in regard to the coming evil. The figure tells her that the gods try to let their charges work their own wills on the world and do not act directly. That figuring out that purpose is part of the journey to the Halls of Aesenjeim. Rilka acknowledges this as truth, but nevertheless seeks guidance. With a sigh, the figure tells her that they are not yet ready to meet the Harbinger. “Travel, quest, grow stronger, and when the time comes you will face him when you have strong enough.” Rilka then finds herself sitting in contemplation, alone, in her room.

Savaric is spending the night in Yrda while Surm and his cohorts return to Almathriel to call on Lord Springvale. The elven lord is delighted at always being surprised by who comes with Surm when he visits. Springvale reveals that he has received an offer from Valerian on the dragon egg: 5000 gold pieces. Surm is unsure as to whether or not that is reasonable offer. Lord Springvale says that he is not sure either, but does know that griffon eggs tend to go for 3500. He also says that Valerian wants the egg before it hatches, not after. This gives Surm pause—why would she want the egg only before it hatches? At any rate, he tells Springvale that he will discuss the offer with the others before committing to it.

Surm also asks of any rumors of dire portent that Springvale may have heard in Almathriel. The nobleman does reveal that there was an incident in the northern port city of Celandacair. The Rose Guard was sent from the capital to help with a rampage that was occurring in the Celandacair docks. Apparently a band of cultists, being led by a large human with a greataxe, were rampaging on the docks and stole a ship. There were some twelve to fifteen cultists and this mighty warrior who, by the accounts Springvale had heard, was unstoppable.

This rumor disturbs Surm. He theorizes that perhaps the warrior was trying to make his way to the Eastern Wastes without crossing the Rift. He thinks that this warrior, whoever he is and whoever he serves, is heading for Godscar—an ancient ruin in the heart of the wastes. It is also the site at which the ritual for which the Cord is searching for components is to be completed in order to achieve the power to “walk among the gods.”

21 Harvest 509

That morning in Yrda, Savaric picks up the completed leather spear sheath. Surm makes several teleport trips from Almathriel, to Yrda, and to Khazak-Ur, eventually getting everyone back to the dwarven capital.

As the Cord relaxes in their suite, discussing their various options and the information that they’ve gathered, Savaric recalls that the dwarves existed before the Rivening—unlike the humans and the elves, at least, according to popular lore. This leads to speculation that perhaps they hid in the mountains during that cataclysm as well.

Rilka asks if all the gods of the various pantheons are sending messages to their priests. Savaric wonders if there will be different weapons made by different pantheons to face the coming crisis.

Eventually, the discussion comes to the perennial question: What’s next?

They have information on how to acquire the Heart of the World for the ritual that they have been seeking components for. This would be of use to their friends at the University of Kalimsport and to the dwarves.

There is also the lead on Sakka the Grim that Mõrvar wanted them to follow when they were on the way to the Rift. Perhaps seeking out this sorcerer will help the Cord get in with the Queen of the Elves? This Sakka is reputed to have killed a member of the Queen’s Guard. Perhaps this is a problem they can help Her Majesty with?

Do they want to take the offer on the dragon egg? Or make the offer elsewhere—like say the Overlord of Kalimsport? They end up deciding not to take the egg to the Overlord. There may be more questions than they want to answer there.

Surm, Darvin, Savaric, Uther, and Rilka teleport to Almathriel to visit with Lord Springvale. There they learn that Lord Springvale doesn’t attend court formally anymore. A bit more prying gets him to admit that long ago he had a dalliance with the Prince of the Stars, Rintheril Theisadalra (a non-inheriting son of the Queen of the Sun, Moon, and Stars). The dalliance ended badly and Springvale was embarrassed and never returned to the court. Apparently, the Prince ended the affair harshly and quite publicly.

Surm urges Springvale to return to court, but with a “win” under his belt. He needs to make a grand re-entrance to court society. Springvale promises to think on it.

The party also show off the Spear of Salvation to the nobleman, who is highly impressed.

After meeting with Lord Springvale, the party heads out to hit the streets for rumors of Sakka the Grim. They learn that the Sakka is a sorcerer that lives in the northern forests of Saelfsidhedal. He is said to control a demiplane of his own that serves as his lair. He has some sort of grudge against Her Majesty the Queen, though no one is sure why. Further, it is clear that “Sakka” is not this figure’s real name.

The party approaches Lord Springvale and Surm asks if he can talk to his friends from court to get more information. He says that he will, but it may take a few days.

Surm also has a new suit of nobleman’s clothes tailored for him for Almathriel. The clothes have a magical design that blooms and shifts as he wears it. It is very chic.

After Surm is measured for his new suit, the party teleports back to Khazak-Ur. There they talk to Alasir. The guards are to start marching toward Almathriel with Surm’s cohort. Rilka puts Tarben in charge of the daily devotional exercises to Bruni.

They check out of the House of Warship and pay the hefty bill. They then bring Mahgnus back to Almathriel with them. There, they are welcomed to stay with Lord Springvale as they wait on more information and for the rest of the guard to arrive.

As the sun begins to set on Almathriel, the party goes to the temple of Celandian, the chief elven deity, to see if they have any dire portents of what is to come. The temple is located in the nearby Rose Ring of the city. The temple is actually a sacred grove with tall, thin columned gazebos placed throughout. The columns have carvings of elves, leaves, and stars upon them. A priestess approaches them, wearing the white robes of her station. Her name is Larinis.

According to Larnis, there are dire portents “writ upon the stars.” An evil comes that will “blot out the sky” and “it’s Harbinger walks the earth.” They have been charged to gather their magics and to have the Queen gather her host to prepare for the coming battle. Rilka and Savaric tell her of the Spear of Salvation and Larinis nods. “It is fitting, that the children of the Aedonii and the Ysar should band together to fight off this evil.” When asked about the Ysar, she tells them that they are said to worship creatures “of the stars and waters.”

After speaking with Larinis, Rilka thinks that it would be good idea to forge alliances and pass the word of the coming danger.

22 Harvest 509

As the group waits for more information from Lord Springvale’s contacts, Rilka recalls that the druid that first told them of Sakka the Grim was named Arianel and that she had reincarnated the Queen’s Guardsman into one of the Vale Folk. Perhaps they can find this halfling and get more information.

They hit the streets and learn that the former Queen’s Guard that is now a halfling is named Quintrell Borathin and can often be found at the Goblin & Mug tavern. He lives in the Traveler’s Ring of the city.

The party heads out to Traveler’s Ring to find the halfling. The Goblin & Mug is a bit of a ramshackle place. The barkeep is a half-orc with long mutton-chops. A drunken human bard performs in one of the corners of the common room. A couple of humans are sitting together playing dice. An elf sits at a table with a half-elf woman in a low-hanging bodice in his lap. And a halfling is playing darts alone in another corner.

The Cord introduces themselves and asks if they can talk to him. Quintrell acquiesces and takes a seat, after throwing his darts expertly at the board to free himself of them.

They sit down at his table, where he has a sizable tankard sitting. He takes a sip from the tankard and asks them what they want to know. They ask him to tell the story of what happened to him in the northern forest.

With a sigh, Quintrell tells how he and a courier named Celand Fornis were traversing the forest when a huge beast emerged from forest. It was big and bore large quills on its sides. Quintrell tried to intervene, but fell. It happened quickly. Then, he woke up—like this. He points to his now halfling self. The druid that saved him, Arianel, saw the sorcerer, Sakka the Grim, emerge from the forest while Quintrell was fighting the beast and make off with the courier. Arianel concentrated on helping the fallen Guard and reincarnated him as a halfling. The sorcerer apparently told the druid as he disappeared that he would have his revenge for her working against his will. He made his way back to Almathriel and tried to continue in the Guards, but it was clear he didn’t belong. So he “retired” and now spends his days here. At the Goblin & Mug, even if he is short of stature, the patrons don’t look down on him. it’s been three or four months since the events in the forest now.

Rilka goes to the bar for drinks and is flirted with aggressively by the half-orc barkeep, who introduces himself as Trost. Rilka rebuffs and takes their drinks back to the table. Throughout the conversation at the table, she looks up to see Trost waggling his eyebrows at her.

Surm asks for a complete description of the quilled beast and determines that it was probably a Bandersnatch—a powerful fey hunting beast. It has little to no weaknesses and is a fierce creature.

Have there been ransoms called for those this Sakka the Grim takes? None that Quintrell is aware of. Have others been taken? Quintrell doesn’t know.

Quintrell asks why they want to know all this and Surm reveals that they intend to find and deal with this Sakka the Grim. If that’s the case, Quintrell will guide them to where Celand Fornis was taken. He wants to help deal with this sorcerer who killed him and took the elf he was in charge of protecting. The Cord accepts his offer and will keep in touch.

As they leave, Rilka refuses to look toward the bar at Trost, but can feel his eyes on her.

That evening, Lord Springvale tells them of the information he’s gained from his friends in the elven court. Sakka the Grim has plagued the Queen for about a century now. He waylays travelers, couriers, and the like, seemingly just to be an irritant. He is reputed to be quite insane and is reputed to have strange creatures under his command. Apparently, the was cast out of the elven court, as well as exiled from the elven lands, for practicing dark magics. He vowed his revenge upon leaving. This former nobleman was called Branderis Voltaran, Keeper of the Seal before his exile and subsequent name-change to Sakka the Grim.

Session Eighty-Seven
Red Harvest


4 Harvest 509

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Harvest 509

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Harvest 509

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 Harvest 509

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

15 Harvest 509

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session Eighty-Six
Dragons Fall


24 Chillwind 509

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

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

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

3 Harvest 509

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

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

4 Harvest 509

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Session Eighty-Five
Knowledge Gained, Knowledge Sought


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…

Session Eighty-Four
The Hall of Mercerius


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.

Session Eighty-Three
Cutting Ties and Moving On


16 Transformation 509

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

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

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

18 Transformation 509

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 Transformation 509

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

21 Almathriel 509

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

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

22 Almathriel 509

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surm does not return that night.

23 Transformation 509

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

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

24 Transformation 509

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

25 Transformation 509

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

27 Transformation 509

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

30 Transformation 509

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

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

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

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

Session Eighty-Two
Iron Resolve


13 Transformation 509

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That night, Surm has a dream.

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

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

At that, Surm awakes.

14 Transformation 509

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

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