Campaign of the Month: September 2018

Shadows of the Rift

Session Seventy
Tomb Raiders

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4 Illumination 509

Having just finished dissipating the last of the spectres that had invaded the chamber, the party takes a moment to heal and for Savaric to search the room. Finding nothing of interest, the troupe decides to continue through the tomb in hopes of wrapping up their exploration soon.

Surm takes a few moments to unlock the door in the southern wall of the spectre chamber. They then continue down a corridor toward the next chamber indicated on the map. Approaching the door, Savaric finds no traps along the way. He checks the door, with Mõrvar behind him casting detect magic. Neither find anything of interest. Savaric creeps open the door and looks into the chamber. There is a large round table in the center of the room, around which are sitting 5 of the armored ghouls they had encountered before along with a sixth, robed ghoul seated at the north end of the table. All of the ghouls turn and look at Savaric, who shuts the door quickly and tells his friends, “Ghouls!”

The party then begins moving past Savaric and pouring into the room. Rilka makes her way around to position herself near the robed ghoul. As she moves, she passes through an uncomfortable aura of cowardice emanating from the armored ghouls she maneuvers around. Mõrvar moves in and begins engaging with one of the armored ghouls. The various priests of Halor make their way in, along with Surm. The armored ghouls move and attack, one with a greataxe against Mõrvar, the others leaving their weapons behind and attempting to bite their opponents. One successfully bites Sister Senna and another bites Brother Caric. Caric finds himself paralyzed by the unique powers of the ghoul, while Senna manages to fight off the paralysis. The robed ghoul points at Rilka, enacting a spell, and suddenly all of the air in her lungs is expelled, suffocating her.

Prioress Drenham seizes her holy symbol and, calling upon Halor’s light, enacts a burst of positive energy that fills half the room. Several of the other clerics follow suit. The ghouls all shriek in pain and anger as the holy light shines upon them. Mõrvar continues to engage with his ghoul while Rilka tries to take out the robed one, but with little effect. The robed ghoul casts another spell, shooting a lightning bolt into Rilka. She manages to deflect some of the effect, but not all.

The ghouls continue to try and bite their living prey, but aren’t having much luck. Mõrvar slices into another of the armored ghouls and slices him viciously across the upper and chest, spraying Senna with the undead creature’s ichorous blood. Savaric slits the throat of another armored ghoul. Surm casts a scorching ray at one of the ghouls, while Senna tries to hit one with a ray of searing light, only to miss. Finishing off another of the armored ghouls, Mõrvar leaps up onto the table to take on the robed one and cuts off the top of its head, flinging it across the room, felling the creature. Savaric finishes off the last one by stabbing Edgefrost through its head.

With six dead ghouls lying in pieces about the room, the party takes a moment to assess their wounds. Rilka recalls that ghouls can be carriers of a disease called “ghoul fever” and Prioress Drenham casts detect disease on the party. Senna, it appears, has contracted the disease. She attempts to remove it through a prayer, but fails. Surm keeps his distance from the diseased cleric and Senna is left shaken with the knowledge that she could, in the next few days, die and become a ghoul.

Searching the room and looting the bodies, they find that the armored ghouls all wear iron symbols of Modthras. These are collected by Surm, as well as the various magical items on the bodies of both the robed one and the armored ghouls.

Next to this chamber is a portcullis leading to a seemingly empty room. They open the door and Savaric goes inside to search. He finds a trap trigger that affects the southwest corner of the room. There is a door leading north, which Surm unlocks. They then head up another corridor until Savaric finds another trap in the corridor. As it will require them to jump over the affected area to avoid, the party opts to take another route. They backtrack to the round-table room and head north from there.

The next room is thoroughly searched by Savaric and determined to be empty. They open a portcullis to the east and follow a corridor to another large, empty room. Savaric searches it and finds a secret door in the eastern wall. He checks it for traps, finding it to be trap-free, and opens it to peer inside. He sees another chamber with a group of mummies waiting inside, alongside some sort of rectangular object wrapped in velvet at the opposite end of the room. He shuts the door and yells “Battle circle!” to his comrades.

The troupe forms the battle circle around the doorway and waits for the mummies to start emerging. When one does, the party springs into action, attacking the monster. Mõrvar finishes it off, slicing its ear off with his flaming Deathblow and felling it in the doorway. Surm throws a fireball into the room, causing a great deal of destruction amongst the mummies, but they remain standing—much to his consternation. Mõrvar performs a storm step spell, transforming into a small bolt of electrical energy that passes through the line of mummies, felling two of them and placing him on the other side of the last. Senna moves into the chamber channels the energy of Halor to help weaken the remaining mummies. Mõrvar finishes off the one in front of him, splitting its skull and spraying Senna with the gory remains. The last one is easily dispatched by the rest of the troupe.

Savaric searches the room, finding only the covered rectangular object. The objects does emit a strong magical aura that neither Surm nor Mõrvar can identify. Deciding to allow Surm to uncover the object, as he believes he has a good chance of resisting whatever effect it may have, they others slip into the previous room and wait. Surm carefully removes the velvet cover, revealing a 4’ by 4’ framed mirror. As he catches his reflection in the glass, he feels a magical force attempt to remove him from his current location, but he manages to fight it off. He quickly examines the aura of the device to determine what it might and, identifying it, has the sense to avert his eyes.

He determines that this is a “Mirror of Life Trapping,” a powerful magical device that contains 15 extradimensional “cells” into which victims can be sucked by gazing into the mirror. There is a command to activate/deactivate the device (and it is currently activated) as well as separate command words associated with each “cell” to allow the user to either free the prisoner or to communicate safely with them. Surm recovers the mirror with the velvet cloth and the party discusses the merits of destroying the mirror—which could free anyone—or anything—imprisoned within or taking it for study to get the command words needed. The Prioress stresses the need to find out if there are any living prisoners inside and to free them—but agrees that breaking the mirror could be risky, as they don’t know what (if anything) is trapped within. Finally, Surm decides to take it with them to study for the command words later.

The party continues through the mummy room, down a corridor into a larger, empty, chamber. Mõrvar’s detect magic discerns a magical aura on the door exiting to the west from this chamber—leading to the last unexplored room in this part of the tomb. Surm opts to attempt to dispel the magic on the door and, after three tries and encouragement from his brother, Mõrvar, he finally dispels the magic.

Savaric leads the way through the door and down a corridor. Rounding the corner, he sees that the arched doorway indicated on map opens into a chamber that, unlike the others, is not lit by the eerie green witchlight that the other chambers of the Tomb are provided. He approaches cautiously and peers into the darkness, depending on his darkvision to guide him. His sight penetrates the darkness—and he sees that the end room is empty save for a large shadow that hovers on the ceiling and is now approaching him.

Savaric moves back and switches places with Mõrvar, telling everyone that there is a large shadow approaching. Unlike the other shadows that the party has encountered, this one is of a degree larger and more menacing. It fills the corridor with its bulk. Mõrvar, wielding his flaming greatsword Deathblow, gamely attacks, yelling for the rest of the party to run. The rest of the party attempts to make their way out of the narrow corridor, pouring their way back into the previous room.

Rilka casts a spiritual weapon to attack the shadow in tandem with Mõrvar. It takes the form of a longsword and attacks, dealing a small amount of damage. Mõrvar is attacked by the creature, and screams in pain and anger as much of his vitality is drained away at the creature’s fell touch. Redoubling his efforts, he attacks the shadow creature, and in a heroic display of powerful swordsmanship, finishes off the incorporeal creature. He then drops to his knees, breathing heavy with his efforts and the injuries he’s sustained.

The clerics are unable to help Mõrvar very much—his injuries are too severe for the magic they have available. They can heal his physical wounds, but not restore his vitality—unless they are able to secure 100 gp of diamond dust with which to cast a restoration spell in the morning. Despondent at his weakened state, and felling defeated and useless, Mõrvar takes a place at the end of the line.

Savaric checks a small, nearby room for secret panels or traps and finds none. They party then decide to gather the loot from today’s kills and head back out to camp. When they get outside, they can see that the sun is setting for the day.

The clerics all apply their remaining healing spells to the party and Surm applies a bit of the ointment of restoration that they had discovered in their travels to Senna’s wound and manages to remove the disease from her system, for which she is thankful.

Surm and Rilka use two of the scroll of teleport that they had found to take Hekia back to Aldasar. They arrive on target in the home of Torvald the Halfling, the old friend of Hekia’s who sent them on this quest. After the prematurely aged Valeman recovers from his surprise, they explain that they were successful in their rescue and the Hekia will need a lot of gentle care. Torvald thanks them profusely and promises that Hekia will receive the care she needs. Surm makes sure that Torvald is aware that “the Crimson Cord is happy to serve.”

Rilka and Surm then head to the market district where they persuade a spell-component merchant who is closing up shop for the day to stay open for them. He sells them 500 gp worth of silver dust. Surm inquires about purchasing opal gems, but the merchant gives him a shrewd look and tells him to try a jeweler or the night market. Surm, a bit chagrined, excuses them and they make their way out. They find a secluded area and read the other teleport scroll—the pair is whisked away by magic from the Leilioran capital back to the campsite in the mountains east of Yulania.

After their return, the camp settles in for the night.

5 Illumination 509

This morning, Drenham takes some of the diamond dust acquired by Surm and Rilka and casts a restoration on Mõrvar, restoring his lost vitality. He once again takes up his position behind Savaric in the marching order, pleased to be of use again.

The Crimson Cord, along with their cleric companions, enter the Tomb of Secrets once again, hoping to clear it out today. They head to a large room near the entrance where they had fought spectres two days ago when they first arrived. The room is empty, but there is a door to the east that they have not examined. Savaric checks it for traps, finds none, but does determine that it is locked. Surm takes his time and jimmies the lock open. Savaric peers in and sees a group of 5 mummies gathered in the center of the room.

As the mummies gather to pass through the doorway, Surm casts a fireball into the room, incinerating most of the mummies—but they remain standing. Mõrvar uses his storm step once again to finish off several of the mummies and to position himself well within the room. Drenham casts a holy javelin into one of the remaining mummies, pinning him with a painful spear of holy light.

Nevertheless, Rilka, after moving into the room to take on the remaining mummies, has a wave of despair wash over her, causing her muscles to lock up in fear and freeze her place. The same thing happens to Aria, Prenella, and Sorcha.

Surm throws a scorching ray into one of the remaining mummies and it goes up in a violent conflagration, covering Rilka and Mõrvar in ashes. The remaining mummy is then bisected neatly by Mõrvar.

Savaric searches the room and finds nothing of interest.

They go back into the spectre room and head west, opening up a locked door and heading down a corridor to what they had been calling “the fountain room.” Savaric enters the room and they now see the fountain, an abstract crystalline sculpture depicting a swirling vortex, and a charred shield sitting the corner of the room. No magic is detected in the area. Mõrvar and Rilka recall that the swirling vortex is the symbol of The Nazul—an Acheran religious figure representing darkness and chaos. Finding nothing else of interest in the room, the party regroups and heads back to Kalthior’s inner sanctum.

Having already disarmed the trap leading to the staircase beneath the throne, they head down the spiral staircase to a large stone chamber beneath. There are racks with weapons lining the walls, a large stack of cubbies for scroll cases, two large chests, and stands holding various suits of armor. A lectern has a large book chained to its surface. Magic emanates from many of the weapons and armor, from the scrolls, and from within one of the chests.

Savaric searches the chests for traps and finds none. Surm takes his time to pick the locks and springs them both open, revealing their treasures inside. One chest if full of potions, oils, wands. The other has a great deal of gold and platinum coin, an assortment of gemstones, and a small velvet pouch. Surm examines the pouch and finds that it contains onyx gemstones—exactly what he was seeking from the spell component shop in Aldasar.

Surm and Mõrvar examine the magical items to determine their uses and abilities. They also unlock the book from the lectern—it is apparently Kalthior’s spellbook.

Having assessed all of the items in the room, they begin moving it out of the Tomb of Secrets and into their encampment.

There is a brief discussion amongst the Crimson Cord concerning the share of the treasure owed to the clerics of Halor. Rilka wants to give them half, but Savaric and Mõrvar balk at that. Mõrvar suggests asking the Prioress what she thinks is fair and going from there.

Surm approaches Drenham and broaches the matter. She says that while they did undertake this quest because it was the right thing to do, not for the sake of loot, she would still like to take some the treasure back to her temple. The clerics gave the aid and support that they were asked to and risked themselves in the process, and it would be fair to accept some sort of compensation. She suggests 20%. Rilka asks if that’s all they want and the Prioress says that that is all they ask for, but if their conscience directs to give more, then that is between them and their conscience; it is not for the sake of greed that the clerics quest. Rilka offers 30% and the Cord agree to pay the clerics this amount of the loot.

Now the troupe must discuss their next course of action. Do they part ways here? Travel with the clerics back to Aldasar? Travel with the clerics part of the way and then break off later? The next steps in the journey of the Crimson Cord is yet to be decided.

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Session Seventy-One
Troubles in Osandar

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6 Illumination 509

After spending the previous ending discussing various issues regarding treasure distribution, shares, and the like, the Crimson Cord awake the next morning and begin gathering up their troupe to head toward Osandar, where they will separate with the clerics of Halor, as the Cord will head south toward Asdari while the clerics return north to Aldasar. Savaric will also break away at Osandar, intending to forego the trip to Asdari and head straight to Yrda with hopes of spending some “quality time” with Mirka and awaiting the return of Cord with the half-orc orphans.

Rilka notices that Savaric apparently didn’t sleep well—his eyes are red and he’s a bit irritable. But tempers are already high with the negotiations regarding shares—Surm is irritated at the amount of “debt” he has incurred by claiming valuable magical items for which he must contribute to the group’s funds. Another sticking point is whether or not the cost of spell components should come from group funds or not—or if spell components are found, should they be considered the property of the group. Suffice to say, many details are being ground out by the group.

The discussion regarding the treasure and the troupe’s bylaws continue as they make their way across the plains of Yulania toward the capital. It is a beautiful, spring day and perfect for traveling. By the time the sun sets, they have reached the road to Osandar. They pull their train of people off to the side and set up a camp.

7 Illumination 509

Once again, Savaric seems to have had a restless night. Rilka asks him about it. He admits that he’s been having a bad dream. He doesn’t remember much when he wakes up; only that he is underwater, and the area is diffused in a strange green light. He sees an enormous, alien eye—it’s deep, black pupil attempts to suck his very being into it, and he tries to resist—but cannot. He wakes up exhausted and with a feeling of deep dread.

The troupe packs up and starts heading down the road for another day of traveling.

In the afternoon, leaning against one of the sparse trees that dot the plains, Rilka and Surm spot a what appears to be a dead body propped up against the trunk. Rilka goes to check it out. She finds a body that is several days old with its hands cut off. Tacked to his jacket is a scrawled note. Rilka can’t read the note and takes it back to the group. The note is passed around and no one seems to know what language it is in. Surm and Mõrvar examine and come to the conclusion that it is Yulanian. They can make out the gist of the note, which is “No one steals from Ralthan’s Rocs.” Surm can even go so far as to tell that the phrasing indicates that the writer was probably from the east side of Osandar. No one seems to have heard of any group called “Ralthan’s Rocs.” The troupe moves on.

8 Illumination 509

Savaric wakes up tired again—not so much that he can’t function, but it is just something that is noticeable.

The troupe moves further down the road to Osandar. It’s an uneventful, warm spring day of traveling.

9 Illumination 509

Savaric is once again reporting a restless night. The troupe moves on.

That afternoon, the party comes across a small, makeshift shrine to Hathras. Shrugging, they move on toward the capital.

As the sun begins to set, they see the gates of Osandar looming in the distance. As they approach, they see the white-crescent-on blue flag of Yulania flying along with the blue-crescent-on-white banner of Osandar.

Approaching the gates, they are greeted by one of the Osandar city guards. “Welcome to Osandar! Will all of you be entering the city this evening?” she asks.

Surm seems irritated at everything and is put off by the friendly tone of the guard. She recites the various gate charges and then inquires about the wolf, Ghost. She asks if it is tame and she is told that Savaric can control it. The guard then states that they can bring the animal in, but it will be charged the tax as livestock and, if it gets into any trouble in the city, Savaric will be held directly responsible. “If it kills someone, you have killed someone,” she tells him. That’s just fine with the troupe and everyone files through the great wooden doors.

Rilka stops one of the merchants that is rolling up his business for the night and asks for a recommendation for an inn. She and Surm argue over whether they want a modest inn or a fancy inn (with Surm wanting the latter). Rilka asks the merchant for any recommendation he can give. He describes the various inns he knows of around the city, including some modest ones and a fancy one. He advises that they stay away from the Maiden and Staff near the lake—it caters to rough folk. Finally, they settle on the Cracked Cask, in the market district. Rilka thanks the man and they move on.

As they head toward city center, Prioress Drenham and her group of clerics of Halor break away. She and Surm have brief discussion and they make plans for the Cord to meet them at the temple of Halor with their share of the treasure. The Crimson Cord and their troupe of guards head to the Cracked Cask.

The Cracked Cask, marked by a well-painted sign depicting a barrel cracked in half like nut, is a modest affair with a lively common room. Rilka approaches the innkeep to make arrangements for the night. The innkeep, Taryon, is very happy to welcome them to his establishment and seems a bit overwhelmed at the sheer number of people the group is bringing with them. Nevertheless, arrangements are made—with the Cord (including Ghost) staying in two suites while the guards will bunk in the common room. The innkeep summons Argon, his 14-year-old son, to help carry bags and haul supplies. Mahgnus goes with the boy to direct him properly regarding the Cord’s gear.

After the group cycles through hot baths (there are only 3 tubs in the inn) and settling in, they reconvene in the common room to discuss their next step. They need to find a late-night market to sell some of their less savory goods that they acquired from the Tomb. Surm is dressed in his Ornish finest. The others, in typical adventuring gear. He, Rilka, Mõrvar, Kortash, and Burask will go to sell the goods, with the half-orcs acting as “muscle.” Savaric will stay behind and guard their gear stowed in the suites. Surm also makes a point of paying the guards, as well as paying bonuses to Tarben and Sorcha for risking themselves in the Tomb of Secrets.

The patrons of the common room are being entertained by a halfling, who has taken to the corner stage with a fiddle and is doing quite well with a tune known as “The Loquacious Halfling,” an instrumental originally performed by a well-known Bard by the name of Azuredee Silverthistle.

After taking in a dinner of lamb stew and fresh bread, the five head out with their wares to find the black market.

They make some inquiries and find a man who says, “Oh, aye, I can tell you about that. Indeed I can.” He speaks in a low, conspiratorial manner to Surm. "You’ll be wanting to go to the Maiden and Staff. Find a man named Fordham. Yes. When you speak to him, mention that “the moonlight has parted the clouds.” He’ll set you up." Surm asks if he wants him to mention who sent him. The man says, “Sure. Tell him Cordall sent you.”

Surm doesn’t really want to go to the inn where he was told traded in rough folk, but they all head toward the lakeside district to do just that.

The Maiden and Staff is a bit of ramshackle inn, not well cared for. But there is lively music pouring out of the window. There is a sign over the door reading “Maiden and Staff” in Tradespeak and has a picture depicting a lascivious woman with low-cut bodice and high skirts gripping a quarterstaff. The door is guarded by a tall Northron man holding a club.

As they all approach, the Northron simply nods as they enter. Surm gets the impression that he’s there more to throw miscreants out than to give people trouble coming in. The common room is pretty full of unsavory-looking humans, half-orcs, and a couple of dwarves. Surm is entirely grossed out by the dirt in the room. They approach the bar, which is being tended by a half-orc woman. Surm inquires about seeing the man called Fordham. At first she seems wary, but Surm warms her up—perhaps too much so. She smiles at the sorcerer/bard and tucks a curly hair behind her ear. “Sure, sweetie. I’ll go get him. You lot go grab one of those tables.” As they turn to go, she reaches out and pinches Surm’s cheek, flirtatiously. Surm, flabbergasted, heads to the indicated table with the rest.

After a few moments, the half-orc returns with an older man dressed in clean, common clothes. He approaches the table and says. “I’m Fordham. Drusila says you have business with me. What do you need?”

After being invited to take a seat, the man sits down at the table. Surm explains that they were told he would be able to get them into a black market and, “as the moonlight has parted the clouds,” they have found they have need of one.

Fordham nods and says, “I can indeed. Follow me.”

He rises and leads them through an office door deeper into the inn. After turning down a hall, he takes them down a staircase into a basement. Rilka starts to get wary and places her hand near her falchion. But Fordham goes to a pallet of barrels and pulls on a rope ring. The pallet swings away easily on hidden wheels and reveals a secret door with another staircase heading down.

“Go down and follow the corridor. Take no turns and you will arrive at the market.”

The troupe head downstairs, with Mõrvar giving the innkeep a warning if there is some kind of trap down there. Fordham assures him that all he knows of is the market.

They follow Fordham’s directions and traverse the corridor. The air smells close and rank and there is an unknown dampness lining the stone floor. Surm is unhappy about the situation on all counts. However, they do eventually arrive at a large underground chamber filled with stalls and merchants hawking various wares. There are also numerous unsavory customers and several enforcers armed with clubs patrolling the area. There appears to be a tunnel on the other side of the chamber.

Looking about for someone selling or buying magical accouterments, they find a dwarf. His greasy hair is slick and parted in the middle. He’s got a gap-toothed grin and his long beard appears to be shaped by some sort of grease or pomade. Surm is appalled by his very presence.

“Aye, I’m can take some of these goods off yer hands, indeed. What are you offering?” he says when they ask if he’s buying.

Mõrvar makes the negotiations for the goods and the dwarf examines them with an obviously arcane eyepiece. He offers them the traditional one-half market price. As they are concluding the transaction, Mõrvar notices that the dwarf has made some sort of signal to one of the enforcers. Mõrvar threatens the dwarf, indicating that if they run into any trouble, he’ll come looking for him. The dwarf attempts to reassure him. “No trouble—your money spends just fine!”

They make their way to an armorer to sell off some darkly enchanted plate armor. As they make their way, Mõrvar warns them about the signal the dwarf made to the enforcer. The armor merchant is a mysterious figure—dressed in bulky hooded cloak which covers his shape and features. His hands are also gloved. His voice is clearly inhuman, but no one can place what this mysterious figure could be (though Surm proposes that he is a ghoul, like Cyrus that they had encountered in the underground kingdoms). Mõrvar once again performs the negotiations, Surm being too grossed-out by the place to want to bother. At first, Mõrvar attempts to slightly up-sell the armor—an attempt to which the armorer responds in his inhuman rasp, “Aren’t you adorable?” they finally settle on a fair price and the party starts to head out of the market the way they came.

As they move, one of the enforcers, the one that the dwarf signaled to, approaches them with a purpose. While the others hang back a bit, Surm surges forward to meet him.

“That exit is closed. You need to go that way,” he growls, indicating the opposite tunnel.

“But we came in through there,” Surm says.

Mõrvar attempts to intimidate the man with a long diatribe about how they meet any trouble that comes their way. But as he drones on, the enforcer raises his spiked club and attempts to strike him. The man’s hits clang off of Mõrvar’s armor and the two half-orc guards come forward to surround Surm and come to Mõrvar’s aid. Rilka and Surm three more enforcers coming out of the crowd toward them.

A general melee breaks out with Rilka, Mõrvar, Kortash, and Burask all fighting around Surm. At one point, Kortash accidentally stabs Mõrvar with his new magical trident. Then Surm can see seven more enforcers emerging from the other end of the room and coming toward them. He reaches out his hand and says, “The dead consume you!” Grasping undead hands rip up from the earth below and clutch most of the men in place. Only one manages to escape and continue toward the melee in progress. The grasped men scream in pain and fear.

The melee continues, and the half-orc twins continue to make a poor showing with Burask sticking the blade of his greataxe into the stone floor—he is unable to pull it out.

Surm continues to handle the incoming enforcers by casting another spell. Black tentacles suddenly spring up out of the ground and grasp the men again, crushing them in their grip. They cry out once again in pain.

There is now a general panic in the room as vendors gather what they can carry and start heading toward the exits—which are apparently illusionary walls to either side of the market room. Rilka is not fooled by them and calls them out to the rest of the group.

Two of the incoming enforcers escape from the black tentacles, but they both run toward the illusionary exits. The room is quickly emptying.

Finally, Mõrvar finishes off the last of the enforcers, cutting off both of the man’s legs with Deathblow and letting the body fall and bleed out. he calls out, “This is the dwarf’s fault!”

As the enforcers writhe and scream in the grip of Surm’s magic, and block the Cord’s preferred exit, Rilka calls on Surm to drop his spell. He lets it go a little longer—and the tentacles squeeze the rest of the life out of the enforcers. Somewhat surprised, but not displeased, Surm finally calls off the spell. He moves forward and places a visible arcane mark on the heads of each of the four dead enforcers—the Ulrich skull symbol. Then he finds some charcoal and paper and writes a note in Tradespeak—“I want the dwarf’s name and location—I’ll be back.” He stuffs this in one of the corpses’ shirt.

Kortash apologizes to Mõrvar for stabbing him while his brother retrieves his ask. Mõrvar is actually somewhat gracious, telling the half-orc that if he didn’t already trust him, he’d be dead. “We’re good.” he assures him.

Mõrvar attempts to decapitate the four enforcers Surm killed but Surm won’t let him. “I’ve already marked these my way. If you need to cut the head of something, do it to the others.” So Mõrvar decapitates the enforcers that died in the melee.

At this point, the market is empty save for them. Mõrvar detects magic and only detects the illusionary walls the magic on their persons. The hitch up their gear and make their way out of the remains of the market.

As they emerge from the secret passage into the basement of the Maiden and Staff. Fordham is waiting there, with a short sword in his hand—but he’s not brandishing it, only holding it. “What in blazes is going on? I’ve had seven people come running out of here!”

Mõrvar briefly explains the situation and asks if he knows anything about the dwarf. The older man furrows his brow. “Yeah, that sounds Binarek. He from the south side of the city. I don’t know where.”

“But you guys, you better get out of here. Out of town, even. This event isn’t going to sit well with the Hand of Talvor.”

“What is the Hand of Talvor?” Surm asks.

“They run a lot of the, well, underground activity in the city. Theft, extortion—the black market. They are not going to be pleased at the disruption of their business.”

The group decides to leave and head back to Cracked Cask. They only have another day in the city anyway.

At the Cracked Cask, the common room has closed for the night and the guards are sleeping in their bedrolls. Taryon is still happy help—even when the group asks for late-night baths. He sends Argon to help. They all have a hot, soothing bath (Rilka sharing hers with Kortash) and rest for the night.

10 Illumination 509

That morning, Surm informs Alasir of the danger involving the Hand of Talvor and cautions him to tell the guards to be alert as they go out on leave today. Alasir assures him it will be done.

The remainder of the party head out into the market district to make their sales and trades with the treasure looted from the Tomb of Secrets. They also take their promised shares to the clerics of Halor—for which Prioress Drenham offers her thanks.

While finishing up their business at the scriptorium, a well-dressed man flanked by soldiers wearing the livery of the country of Yulania waits patiently for their business to conclude. The shop keeper looks nervous, but completes his business with Surm and then greets the well-dressed man. The others, though somewhat curious (except for Mõrvar), leave the shopkeep to his new guest.

By sundown, all of their business is completed. The Crimson Cord heads back to the Cracked Cask, where the only guards unaccounted for are Halvor and Garth—though they were given leave, so no one is particularly concerned at this point.

As people settle in for the evening, Halvor comes stumbling into the common room. He looks a bit dazed and has a garish, purple puncture wound on his neck. “They took him. I don’t know what happened,” he gasps as he makes a beeline for Surm, Rilka, and Mõrvar. “We were heading to an apothecary to buy some tobacco when suddenly all of my muscles seized up and I fell flat on my face.” I saw dark boots come and drag Garth away. Then someone tucked this in my tunic."

He produces a scrawled note written in Tradespeak: “The bearer of the skull should come alone to the Maiden and Staff.”

Surm examines Halvor’s wound and determines that he had, indeed, been poisoned, but he was probably coming off of the last vestiges of its effect.

The group gathers to form a plan to get Garth back and make this rendezvous. They eventually decide to have Surm go alone to the inn, but with Mahgnus and Alfhild following behind to come running if the time comes. Meanwhile, Mõrvar will scry on Surm (who will lower his magical defenses to allow it) and will have a teleport scroll ready to take him, Sorcha, and Alasir with him directly to the inn.

Surm makes his way to the Maiden and Staff while Mahgnus and Alfhild follow, keeping their employer in sight. When Surm approaches the door, which is again guarded by the big Northron, he asks him in Jossian, “What can I expect in there?”

The big man says, also in Jossian, “Keep your hands visible and watch your step.”

“Can I expect any trouble from you?” Surm asks.

“Only if you give me any trouble,” the man says.

Nodding, and taking a deep breath, Surm walks inside.

There are about 15 patrons in all in the room—it is not near as lively as the previous night, though folks are playing cards and having mugs of ale. Surm spots Fordham and Drusila behind the bar and Fordham gives him a very covert apologetic shrug. At the far end of the room sits a well-dressed, but not ostentatious man with Garth sitting beside him. The man waves amiably at Surm, who approaches their table.

The man invites Surm to sit, and, after examining the chair for any unseemly stains, he does so. The man scrutinizes Surm for a moment. “I have heard of you. You are with the Crimson Cord, are you not?”

Surm affirms that he is.

“Yes, you did some work in Kalimsport, yes?”

Surm affirms that this is true.

“Yes, your reputation precedes you. It explains much.” Surm doesn’t know what he means by this.

“Let us get down to business. You are here about the dwarf,” the man says.

“I’m here for my man,” Surm corrects him.

“Ah, yes. Of course, a means to an end. So ugly, but I was afraid you would not accept my invitation any other way.”

“You could have just given me the information about the dwarf.”

“But that is what we will be negotiating, is it not?”

“What about Garth?” Surm looks him over and he appears not to have been beaten or harmed in any way. He does look scared—but probably because he realizes that it would be a bad idea to move right now.

“Oh, well. His part is done. He’s free to go,” the man says and waves Garth away. Garth looks to the man, to Surm, rises, and heads out of the inn. The big Northron stands aside and then retakes his position at the door. Surm thinks he’s there both to keep Surm in and to keep all others out.

“Now that that ugliness is done, let us deal,” the man says. “You want the dwarf. We need recompense for a ruined market. I think we can deal.”

“The market was the dwarf’s fault. He made a side deal with one of your enforcers to take our money after his dealing was done.”

“Ah, but surely all of our enforcers could not have been part of this dwarf’s conspiracy?”

“They were coming to attack us,” Surm says.

“As enforcers are want to do when there is a fight in the market,” the man counters. “Yet your Cord killed them all. This disrupts a very lucrative business for my…associates.”

Surm just shrugs.

The man ponders for a moment. “Still, we do not like the way this dwarf conducts business. And we have no need of trouble with your troupe. As I said, your reputation precedes you. So, I am prepared to give you the dwarf. In return, your Cord, your guards, your group, never returns to our markets.”

Surm nods. “I think that would be acceptable.”

The man smiles. “Good. Now, with whom am I dealing? I am Arnal Degarian.”

“Surm Ulrich.”

“Very good. Now, where do want the dwarf delivered?”

Surm blinks for a moment and ponders. Finally, he says. “You take care of the dwarf. We’ll keep our end of the bargain.”

Arnal raises an eyebrow. “Very well. We will handle Binarek. And you and yours will not enter our markets. We have an accord.” He reaches out his hand to shake with Surm.

Surm eyes the dangling hand distastefully, but finally shakes it. It’s dry and Arnal gives a firm handshake.

Surm rises and then cautiously makes his way out of the common room. The Northron nods at him as he lets him pass.

As he makes his way down the street, Surm is met by Mahgnus, Alfhild, and Garth. The four head back to the market district soon arrive back at the Cracked Cask, where they are met with smiles and cheers by the others.

With their business completed, the party heads to bed to rest up for their departure from Osandar tomorrow.

View
Session Seventy-Two
The Prince's Suite

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11 Illumination 509 (Osandar)

The members of the Crimson Cord and their troupe gather their belongings and set out from the Cracked Cask, leaving Osandar and heading to the distant city of Asdari.

Over the course of the journey, Mõrvar begins spending much of his time with the guards. He seems to be asking them a lot about their opinions on racial prejudice, the justification of action against it, and the like. This singular activity causes some concern in his brother, who pulls him aside and asks him about it.

Mõrvar is apparently feeling out the guards for their feelings on a movement that he is intending to start. It is called the Brotherhood of the Outcast, and Mõrvar has an entire plan of forming this organization in order to strike back against those that would maltreat people based on their race or bloodline. Surm asks if Mõrvar thinks its a good idea to be recruiting among the guards, as they are under the leadership of Alasir according to their agreement. It could be seen as undermining. Mõrvar does not seem to be very concerned about that. He’s also concerned that Mõrvar seems to be forming a second group with which to be associated. Mõrvar attempts to assure him that it is more of a movement than a group, but Surm is unconvinced.

Rilka is also unconvinced of Mõrvar’s plan. Some of it involves doing “whatever it takes” to combat prejudice but Mõrvar refuses the answer the question as to whether his new movement sanctions illegal violence. He says that it depends, that it is not required but may be according to the situation and who is in charge. This answer is very unsatisfying to the rest of the group. Surm brings up the legal issues that Mõrvar could be opening himself up for and Rilka says, “If you let others dictate your anger you will never get over it.” She reiterates that you cannot make people be better people, you can only rely on faith and by living by example. Mõrvar attempts to appeal to their emotions, saying that he has been better off for having his “family,” but what about others that have not had his more positive experiences? They need a movement like his. The others remain unconvinced that he can control what other people think. Savaric largely abstains from the argument.

Later in the journey, the core members of the Cord are approached by Alasir. He says that he has noted, and participated, in the conversations Mõrvar has been generating among the troops. While having the conversations is fine—the guards are amenable to the conversations and that’s not a problem—he wonders if these conversations are leading to a change in the type of service he and his troupe are going to be providing. Up until now, they had been primarily guards and minor support. Alasir wants to know if the Cord intends on pursuing a moralistic crusade. This would be something new and he just wants to be prepared for the change in direction. Surm assures him that the Crimson Cord will NOT be pursuing a moralistic crusade. Alasir is mollified and moves on.

20 Illumination 509 (Kuskar Border)

The Cord comes to a ford in the Arahani River that marks the northern border of the nation of Kuskar. A squad of Kuskar troops, led by a man with a thick, twirlable mustache, He asks them about their business in Kuskar and Surm assures him that they are merely passing through. The squad leader speculates as to whether or not they are mercenaries in league with the Yulanians and Surm convinces him other wise. Satisfied, the squad escorts the troupe across the ford and into the small country. They also note that there a lot more troops at the border than there have been in the past. They move away from the soldiers and deeper into the countryside, moving ever southward toward Achera.

21 Illumination 509 (Jorani Mountains)

The troupe has now reached the southern border of Kuskar at the Jorani Mountains. There they meet the road that leads south into Achera that eventually leads to Asdari.

Once again, they are met by a squad of Kuskar soldiers at the border—but the situation is not nearly as charged as with the border to Yulania. Surm asks one of the soldiers about this and the man seems eager to talk. Apparently, the rumor is that Kuskar will soon go to war against Yulania. There have been border skirmishes for years, but it has been a long time since a full-on invasion was launched by the Voivode.

Once they move on from the border, Surm shares this information with the rest of the party. Mõrvar speculates as to how they can profit from a war between the two countries.

27 Illumination 509 (Zyend)

At sundown, the troupe reaches the gates of the city of Zyend. The Cord opts to set up an encampment outside of the city as opposed to trying to find lodging within.

29 Illumination 509 (Asdari)

This morning, the troupe arrives at the gates of the Acheran capital, Asdari. After paying their gate taxes (including negotiating the entry of Ghost as a piece of livestock), The troupe then makes their way through the metropolis to the what is referred to as “The Illuminated Quarter” to find Darice’s family.

Surm does some asking about and determines directions to the Hasani family home (to which Darice belongs). These directions lead them to a nice neighborhood and a modest, but well-maintained home. They decide that he, Mõrvar, and Mahgnus will go inside the house to meet with the family—the family may not welcome the sight of half-orcs, considering the circumstances.

There is a small gate leading up to the house itself. Surm pulls the bell string and rings the bell. An elderly woman dressed in clean, Acheran clothing comes tottering out and asking who they are. Surm indicates that they are the Crimson Cord come to see about Darice.

“Come in! Come in!” the woman says and leads them into the home. She seems friendly and glad to see them. She takes them into a sitting room and offers them water. She then leaves to fetch the family.

They are joined by a stern-faced Southron man, an older pretty woman who is probably his wife, and by Darice herself.

Darice is heavy with child, but nonetheless seems happy to see her saviors once again. She embraces them warmly. The man, her father Hasan, is more standoffish. Her mother, Kiran, smiles, but seems shy.

Speaking with the family, they discover that the local healers believe that Darice will give birth anytime between now and next two weeks. She has had some hard days, physically, but she is assured that this is typical of such a birth.

Surm secures an accommodation recommendation from Hasan, who suggests the Wand of Fire as a good place to stay. They agree to keep in communication about Darice and that, when the time comes, the Cord will come and fulfill their agreement. Hasan is visibly relieved.

Surm, Mõrvar, and Mahgnus rejoin the others and the troupe heads for the Wand of Fire.

The troupe makes their way through the narrow city streets to the city center. There, nestled beside a well-tended boulevard between the Palace of the Kargan and the Temple of Azumazran is a four-story tower with a sign out front declaring this to be “The Wand of Fire” in Acheran. The sign itself bears a large wand that is lit with arcane fire.

Surm dismisses the guards, telling that they are on leave until they are called back into duty after the birth of Darice’s child. They decide to find a place that is not quite so “spendy.” They find another, more modest, inn nearby called the Topaz Dagger. Alasir can send a runner if more communication is needed during their stay. Mahgnus pays the troops and they are sent on their way. Mahgnus opts to continue staying with the Cord at the Wand of Fire. He will go inform the wet-nurse that he had arranged for on his previous trek to Asdari that she should be on stand-by and then return to the inn.

Entering the Wand of Fire, the Cord finds themselves in an opulent courtyard with a fountain, mosaic tiles in the floors and walls weaving intricate patterns of color, and the entry of a very flamboyant host. The host wears deep purple robes and is nice jewelry on his fingers and neck. He welcomes them to the Wand of Fire and inquires as to their needs. The Cord asserts that they need rooms, a bath, laundry service, and a meal. As far as the number of rooms, Surm asks if the inn has any suites. “Of course!” the flamboyant man says, “in fact, I will take you to the Prince’s Suite!” and immediately has two servants help Mahgnus with the gear while he leads the Cord upstairs.

The suite is gorgeous. There is a parlor with a smaller version of the fountain they saw downstairs stationed in the center of the room. The Host shows them the four rooms available in the suite—two large bedrooms, opulently decorated and smelling of sweet jasmine, and two other smaller rooms with expensive rugs decorating the floors. The Host continues to inquire as to their needs and assures them that they will be met. A portable bed will be brought in for Mahgnus.

No mention of price is ever made.

Rilka inquires as to “spa services” and the Host assures her that those can be arranged as well. Would she like a male or female attendant? She opts for a female. Surm, Savaric, and Mõrvar also arrange for “full relaxation services” with female attendants. The Host makes no apologies for asking—“I make no assumptions. i make no judgments.” The baths are located in the basement level of the tower, they are informed. They are also provided with luxurious robes to use while their laundry is being taken care of.

While the others indulge in the relaxation treatments and baths, Mõrvar heads out into the city to find a trainer to enhance his combat prowess. He finds a female former guard of the Watch called Jamila Turari to perform the training—they will begin the next day.

He also goes to the Topaz Dagger to talk to Alasir. He puts forward the idea of the troops wearing uniform tabards while in service to the Cord. Alasir considers this and agrees that it would be helpful to the Cord for the troops to be visibly connected to the group.

Mõrvar finally makes his way back to the Wand of Fire and indulges in the various services ordered by the member of the group. He joins them for dinner in the “Entertainment Hall” but does not eat anything.

While he was out, Surm begins to make connections with some of the wealthy merchants that are availing themselves of the bath. He makes a distinct connection with a merchant in “objects arcane” by the name of Kalil.

At dinner, the gathered Cord and Mahgnus discuss their activities in the city as they wait for Darice to give birth. Mõrvar has some shopping he’d like to do, but he’ll be training, so Surm agrees to take care of that for him. Savaric indulges in exotic liquors at dinner such as elven absinthe and Kuskar barrel-aged brandy.

Mõrvar brings up the uniform question, bringing up his conversation with Alasir earlier in the day. This begins an extremely long argument between the members of the Cord that descends into the need for parliamentary procedure to come to any sort of consensus. Surm descends into defensive indifference while Rilka and Savaric seem disinclined to engage in the conversation, even when asked point-blank for an opinion. Savaric, in fact, actively abstains from their voting. Surm notices that despite his closed expression and professional demeanor, Mahgnus is looking on this conversation quietly appalled this his superiors seem to be so heatedly stymied by what should be a relatively simple decision.

Eventually, it is decided that the Cord will wear red sashes while the troops wear customized tabards. The subsequent question regarding the purchase of a customized flag for the troupe remains open. Savaric and Mahgnus volunteer to make the arrangements for the uniforms.

After dinner and drinks, the Cord return to their opulent Prince’s Suite and go to bed.

4 Ardor 509 (Asdari)

Over the next five days, the party conducts various bits of business in the city and in the inn.

Mõrvar attends training during the day and returns to the inn at night. Surm continues to make connections in the bath house after going shopping for some scrolls and components for his brother. His new friend, Kalil, informs him that he would like to hire Surm to broker some investment opportunities to Surm’s friends in Kalimsport. Kalil wishes to begin an operation in that city and would like to acquire more capital to do so. For each investor Surm is able to secure, he will be paid 100 gold pieces. Surm agrees and the two work out the details of the transactions involved. Rilka inquires as to the possibility of upgrading her magical tattoo, but discovers that the cost may be prohibitive. Savaric gets a job breaking horses on an estate just outside the city.

On this day, Surm decides to use their crystal ball to scry Angelet, the mother of the other half-orc orphan, in Kalimsport. They see Angelet, still clearly pregnant, secured to the headboard of her bed, bandages on her wrists. She looks emotionally dead and unresponsive. An older woman, dressed in a noble’s clothes, feeds her gruel. Angelet eats—but is clearly not all there.

They decide to send a pigeon post to Kalimsport from the Cord letting Angelet’s family know that they are in Asdari for an unknown amount of time but once they have the other child, they will arrive in Kalimsport post haste.

9 Ardor 509

The troupe is resting at the Wand of Fire when a courier comes with a simple message: “it is time.”

They all head to the Hasani home, with Mahgnus making a side trip to gather the wet-nurse. Once they regroup, only Surm, the nurse, and Mahgnus go inside the house. The birth has just occurred—they can hear the crying of a babe carry from down the hall. They go to the room and see that Darice is unconscious and the baby is being attended to by a priest of Azumazran. They are assured that Darice will recover, but it was a hard birth.

The wet-nurse and the priest exchange notes about the care of the baby while Surm speaks with Hasan. The two agree that it would be best to go ahead and take the babe now while Darice is unconscious. Hasan also mentions that it is Darice’s wish that the babe, a boy, keep the name she has given him: Cord.

The baby Cord is gathered up and Surm, Mahgnus, and the nurse head back to meet the others outside. Savaric insists that someone go back and tell the family about the intent to go to Yrda specifically, so that if they do decide to find the child some day, they are able to. This is done.

They return to the Wand of Fire to gather their things and settle their final bill: which comes to a substantial amount—nearly 450 gold pieces. They pay the Host (who never offered his name and was never asked) and make their way to the Topaz Dagger to gather up the troops. The troops are a little bleary-eyed after their extended leave, but make haste to depart. The entourage then leaves the city of Asdari to begin their trek to Kalimsport.

24 Ardor 509 (Kalimsport)

Along the way to Kalimsport, Surm continues to scry Angelet. Apparently, at some point between their last scrying and the birth of Cord, Angelet had given birth. He sees her no longer bound to her bed, but still there, looking dead-eyed, while the older, noble-dressed woman holds a baby. Another, younger woman, is in the room with them.

Over the days of the journey, Surm continues to scry (using the baby as a point of reference). He observes as the older woman—whom they remember as Angelet’s mother, Marin, cooing and singing to the baby. The babe is a girl, who they later discover has been named “Jewel.”

They arrive in the city of Kalimsport that morning without incident and make their way to the wealthy quarter of the city where Angelet’s family lives. Mahgnus breaks away to find the second wet-nurse he had secured. He will meet them at Angelet’s.

Surm, Mahgnus, and Mõrvar head inside and meet with Angelet’s mother, Marin. She feels that she is caught in a “devil’s bargain”—for she loves Jewel and would like to keep her, but knows that Jewel would have hard life in the social circles in which her family functions. Further, keeping Jewel would push Angelet further over the edge. She is caught between her love for her granddaughter and wanting to protect her daughter. She decides that it is best if Jewel goes with the Crimson Cord. They take the babe after telling Marin that Jewel can be found in the village of Yrda in Jossia should she want to connect with her again.

They rejoin the rest of the Cord, carrying Jewel. Mahgnus introduces the new wet-nurse, Fionna, to the party. She’s a talkative woman, very happy to be caring for a baby again—almost the opposite of the taciturn Pratha whom they picked up in Asdari.

At this point, the Cord splits up. Rilka and Savaric head out of the city toward Yrda with the troops and Mahgnus. Surm and Mõrvar stay behind in Kalimsport to take care of other business. They will rejoin via a Teleport spell in 22 days—about the amount of time it will take for the troops to arrive by cart in Yrda. Alasir leaves Tarben behind with Surm and Mõrvar to act as a guard.

The Cord say their farewells, pay the troops, and then the larger troupe makes their way out of the city, traveling north, toward Jossia.

View
Session Seventy-Three
Inquisitions

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18 Longday 509 (Yrda)

It is night in the village of Yrda. Surm and Mõrvar Ulrich teleport into the village center from Kalimsport. Surm hopes to make a dramatic and mysterious entrance—but ends up startling the two guards posted nearby. They nearly attack the two brothers, until they are finally recognized and directed to the feasting that is taking place in the main longhouse, a celebration in honor of the arrival of the rest of their troupe. Sullen, Surm makes his way with his brother to join their compatriots in the longhouse.

Inside, the majority of the village is feasting on mutton, mead, and locally-grown vegetables. There are more people than Surm and Mõrvar remember from their last visit. The room smells of roasted meat, sweat, tallow, and stale alcohol. At the head of a long table is King Sigurd, a young woman at his side, and Savaric with Mirka. Rilka has apparently not joined in the festivities—Savaric later reveals that she is holding vigil at the shrine of Bruni.

Sigurd spots the Ulrich brothers and hails them, makes them welcome. He has some of villagers move to make room for them at his table. They sit and and Sigurd asks them what they have been doing since they were last in Yrda and where they go to next. So Surm tells the tale of their clearing out of the Tomb of Secrets—an exciting tale that bends the ears of all at the table. He also says that they will be going to the shrine of Isranthr next, on a holy quest for Savaric. Everyone is very impressed and hails go up for the Crimson Cord and Savaric the “The Twice-Born.”

Soon the feasting is done and everyone disperses. Surm returns to the outskirts of the village to the Crimson Cord encampment while Savaric heads home with Mirka and Mõrvar leaves with one of the serving wenches.

19 Longday 509

Early that morning, Mõrvar is awakened in great pain—someone has stabbed him! He looks around, but sees nothing. His gear seems to be in place—but someone has definitely tried to kill him. He picks up Deathblow—who is chuckling. “What’s so funny?” Mõrvar asks the greatsword.

“The little minx in hiding in the corner,” the sword says, clearly amused.

“What?” Mõrvar asks.

“She stabbed you and is waiting for you to open the door,” Deathblow says, continuing to chuckle darkly.

The sword directs Mõrvar to the proper corner and the Eldritch Knight levels the blade in that direction. “You best come out or it will go worse for you,” he says.

The serving wench, Fala, comes charging out of the shadows with a shortspear. After a few passes with the flat of Deathblow’s blade, Mõrvar manages to knock the woman unconscious without taking any more cuts from the spear.

Mõrvar picks the unconscious woman up and carries her across the the village to the Crimson Cord encampment and deposits her in Surm’s tent. He wakes his brother up and, in an agitated manner, explains to Surm, what transpired. The two arrange with Mahgnus and the guards to have Fala bound and guarded. Savaric and Rilka are also sent for. Mirka accompanies Savaric. Surm goes into the village and gets and Sigurd, thinking that whatever justice needs to be meted should be done with his oversight.

Surm asks Sigurd what he knows about Fala—which isn’t much. He believes she’s been in the village about a year. He doesn’t really know that much about her.

After Sigurd is brought to the encampment, Surm and Mõrvar return to Fala’s home and cast detect magic while Savaric searches the place for anything of interest. Nothing of interest is found. Returning to the encampment, they cast again on Fala herself. On her, they discover that her cloak clasp is magical as well as two of her rings. Upon further examination, the rings are determined to be a ring of protection and a ring of chameleon power. The clasp is an agent’s clasp, allowing her to communicate with a handler with a matching clasp. It also broadcasts her status to that handler. Which means that someone knows that she was knocked unconscious.

Surm decides to try and scry the holder of the matching clasp with the crystal ball they acquired in the Tomb of Secrets. They go to the longhouse and view the the crystal. After about 10 minutes, the cloudy vision clears and they see a hardened human man sitting in a longhouse, eating breakfast with a couple of other men. The other men are wearing dark religious cassocks. The man pushes his food away and says the to others, “Come. We must get into position. They will be heading to the shrine of Isranthr soon.” Then the vision fades.

Clearly, Fala was able to get information to the man about where the Cord was heading next.

Surm heads out about the village to gather information about Fala from the villagers. Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar stay behind with Sigurd to question Fala.

Rilka prays to Bruni for healing for Fala and revives her. She looks about nervously at her captors, but says nothing. It’s clear that Mõrvar wants to torture the woman for information, but Rilka refuses. She eventually intimidates the woman into giving up her information.

The men in the cassocks are probably “inquisitors”—religious specialists that root out infidels within and without the cult. She joined the cult of Jörn (“The Sly One”) through a meeting with a blacksmith in Josemeedt that held gatherings in secret. She was told to watch for information on the Crimson Cord and when she passed on her information she was told to kill the Ulrich while she had the opportunity. She was then to go to Braith and wait for further instructions at the Laughing Ogre. She also promises that “The Darkshadow will bring you ruin for what you have done.” Further questioning reveals that the hardened man seen in the scrying is probably this “Darkshadow”—an assassin in service to Jörn. He and the inquisitors have probably been dispatched for retribution for the Crimson Cord’s actions against the cult—they had previously wiped out an entire temple of priests in the west of Jossia.

After Rilka and Mõrvar argue about whether or not Mõrvar can have some “alone time” with Fala, Mõrvar gets fed up and punches the bound woman and leaves.

Two hours later, Surm arrives and gets caught up on the information they managed to glean from Fala. Surm was only able to find out that Fala had lived in Yrda for about a year and mostly kept to herself. Most people believed that she was from “the west” and that she was fleeing some sort of trouble that people were too polite to ask too deeply about.

Everyone involved agrees that they have gotten all they can out of Fala (except for Mõrvar, who is convinced that if he only had some “alone time” with her, he could get better information out of her…). Sigurd has the woman taken to the center of the village. As she is dragged through the streets, the people begin to gather—with Surm’s inquiries earlier in the day and it being a small village, rumors of Fala’s iniquity had begun to spread. Sigurd then addresses the assembled villagers, reminding them of the adversity that they have faced at the hands of the followers of the Sly One and that this women tried to bring more woe upon them by trying to murder one of their own, a hero to the village. That will not stand. Sigurd then has her brought low and decapitates her with his axe. Her head is then placed on a pike at the village entry with a sign of Jörn placed upon as a warning to others like her who would come to bring trouble to Yrda.

The party then gathers and discusses their next plans. Will they go to Josemeedt—-where they suspect this “Darkshadow” and his inquisitors were? Will they press on to the northeast and continue to seek out the shrine to Isranthr? What will they do with this clasp? Mirka says that she has some idea where the shrine is and gives them a description—but that still gives them about 60-70 miles of forest to cover. Savaric invites Mirka to come with them, but she politely declines, citing her duty to the village. She does seem to be bothered by something though, and the two do go to her home and talk privately.

She tells him that she doesn’t think he realizes how important it is that he was brought back to life by a god; that he is god-touched. The fate of world is now entwined with his. That’s huge. It’s big. And she’s scared—because she’s had thoughts that, while she’s never asked anything of him, that maybe when he got tired of wandering, he would come back here and stay with her. But now, she doesn’t think that’s possible. Savaric assures her that anything is still possible and everything will be fine. She seems reassured but gives him a token, a simple silver necklace, to remember her by.

Meanwhile, the others have made plans concerning the return of the wet nurses to the south. Surm and Mõrvar will teleport with the wet nurses to Asdari and then to Kalimsport, buy new scrolls in Kalimsport, and teleport back. The two Ulrich’s make their preparations, take Pratha and Fionna and depart.

Rilka heads to the temple of Bruni and makes a tithing of 40 platinum pieces for the continuing defense of the village.

Savaric spends some extra quality time with Mirka.

After a couple of hours, the Ulrichs return. The party regathers and decide to set off for Josemeedt. They intend to find this blacksmith that Fala mentioned and perhaps root out the cult of Jörn there and get more information on what is going on.

As they set out, Surm decides to put on the Fala’s clasp. He immediately receives a message. “What has happened? Where are you?”

He answers, “I was captured but I escaped. I’ll have another opportunity to kill the Ulrich.”

Later, he receives another message. “Negative. Opportunity blown, fool. Your role is finished. Await orders in Braith.”

Surm takes off the clasp.

After a bit of discussion, they decide to veer away from Josemeedt and head northeast toward the shrine. Along the way, Rilka looks for ambush spots.

When they make camp that night, Surm takes out the crystal ball and scrys the man again. He sees him, his face illuminated by the flickering light of a campfire. Two shadowy forms are near him. He apparently sends two of his followers, “Ajax” and “Warnock” back to Josemeedt to intercept the “little fool” who is returning there and will likely “ruin everything.” Surm is satisfied that their ruse worked—for now.

20 Longday 509

The troupe continues to travel across the plains of Jossia. They make camp that night and plan to continue in the morning.

21 Longday 509

On this day, the troupe hits the edge of the forest to the east of Jossia. Rilka climbs one of the trees to try and get a view of the surrounding land. Savaric begins tracking. Rilka doesn’t see much from her perch and Savaric sees evidence of small game, deer, and a bear.

Savaric tracks the bear and uses his ranger abilities to communicate with it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have very useful information for him—or he doesn’t know the right questions to ask. It’s hard because the bear isn’t very smart. Eventually, he lets the creature go on about his business.

Surm scrys the man again—but the man seems to notice. While riding through the forest, he looks up at the magical sensor and smiles. Surm says to him, telepathically, “I don’t suppose you’ll tell us where you are?”

“That’s not really my style,” the Darkshadow responds. “Seen enough?” he asks after Surm pauses for a bit. Surm breaks off the contact.

When Savaric returns from speaking with the bear, Surm uses his sorcery to turn into a bird and flies reconnaissance while Savaric has Mõrvar cast fly on him while Ilona turns him invisible to do the same. Surm spots the riders some 12 miles to the north of them while Savaric spots a clearing with a hill some 15 miles to the north them—a possible shrine site. The two make their way back after making note of landmark to find their way back to what they had spotted.

The troupe regroups and rides north to follow the riders. Around sunset, Savaric flies up again and spots a thin wisp of campfire smoke coming up from the some two and half miles from them and about two and half miles from the clearing.

Surm tries a couple of times to scry and finally gets through. He sees the Darkshadow once again gathered by a fire pit with two shadowy figures. “They’re not far from here. They’ve been watching us. It won’t be long now. We’ll see it coming—they are not known for subtlety.” He claps one man on the shoulder, leaves the fire pit and clambers into a nearby tree, settles into the branches, apparently to rest.

The group then discusses various plans of attack and whether or not to strike tonight. Savaric seems inclined to bypass them altogether and go to the clearing and see if it is the shrine. But the others want to take out the threat first. Alasir says that the guards would be willing and able to help if there is light to see by—there is a lot of cover with the trees and it is night time—only the half-orcs can see. Rilka can cast “daylight” on a first approach to help.

What will the Crimson Cord ultimately do?

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Session Seventy-Four
The Battle at the Shine

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21 Longday 509 (10 pm)

The Crimson Cord and their entourage is encamped in the forests of northern Jossia. Approximately two-and-a-half miles to the north of them is an encampment of Inquisitors of Jörn, led by a man known as “The Darkshadow.” Some two-and-a-half miles north of them is a clearing with what is assumed to be a shrine to the god Isranthr, the Cord’s chosen destination.

The Cord is planning their next move against the Inquisitors. Mõrvar has a plan involving using the crystal ball to pinpoint the location of the Darkshadow, teleporting in, and taking him our, thus demoralizing the Inquisitors. After about two hours of discussion of various options, they decide to try and use their crystal ball to scry the Darkshadow to get a better idea of his current position. Surm performs the hour-long techniques to enact the device—but to no avail; their prey has resisted the effect. They elect to try again.

Meanwhile, Savaric and Rilka work together to get the guards into good positions to avoid an ambush by any incoming Jörnites.

So once again, Surm tries to scry the Darkshadow. After an hour, the murky clouds within the crystal fail to part—the Darkshadow has resisted the effect once again.

It is now approximately 2:30 am. They decide to go to sleep and regroup again in the morning.

22 Longday 509

After getting adequate sleep, the Cord awakes the next morning a bit late. The spend a good part of the morning with another planning session and finally decide to press forward through the forest towards the shrine. They move in 3-person column, leading their horses through the thick foliage with Savaric moving about 100’ ahead and Mõrvar about 50’ behind him, casting detect magic to look for any invisible foes.

About noon, the troupe comes to what appears to be the remains of an encampment. There is an extinguished fire pit and a cleared area. Savaric looks for tracks in the area and determines that a group of about 11 led horses north from here about 4-5 hours ago.

The troupe regroups and follows.

As the party makes it way through the forest, Savaric calls a halt and returns to the rest of the troupe. He tells them that he might be able to use the forest itself to scry upon the Darkshadow. So he casts his forest sense, calling upon the spirits of the trees and mushrooms and other fungal growths of the old forest to give him information on his quarry. But once again, the man seems to shake off the effect.

Savaric returns to the head of the column and they continue through the forest.

As the troupe makes their way, and Savaric is pretty sure he can see the clearing with the shrine emerging through the trees ahead, Mõrvar spots the aura of magic within the radius of his spell.

“Ambush, Savaric!” he cries, giving his companion the second he needs to react as the Darkshadow emerges from behind some nearby cover and attempts to backstab the unsuspecting ranger.

The Darkshadow gets his attack in, but it is not nearly as devastating as it could have been, as Savaric is able to turn the blow away from his vital organs. Mõrvar starts moving forward to help. Alasir gives the order for the guards to attack and they all start moving forward or firing their bows as appropriate. Mahgnus keeps his head down in hopes that it will be over soon.

Mõrvar attacks the Darkshadow, hitting him once with Deathblow, its triumphant cry of blood-lust echoing in his mind. Savaric punches the would-be assassin in the face.

The Darkshadow attempts to perform some sort of spell-like ability, but Mõrvar takes the opportunity to attack him and delivers a pretty solid blow.

Everyone else continues to try to move forward to help, but the difficult terrain of the foliage is impeding any kind of fast movement in the rapidly unfolding battle.

The Darkshadow gets another blow in, but he is finally finished off by a magic missile from Surm. Mõrvar, as per usual, decapitates the body and then strips it down of its belongings. He then places the head in the corpse’s crotch as some sort of sick joke. They catalog and take his magic items and then Savaric takes to a tree to see into the clearing with the shrine.

He sees a rather shallow hill topped with a squat, square building. Surrounding the hill, Savaric sees ten figures trying to hide, though he manages to spot them. He climbs down from the tree and reports back to the others.

The Cord conducts another planning session and decide to have Rilka fly in with her armor and land on the shrine. She will then cast a bane spell to cover all of the Inquisitors. Savaric will fire on them from the trees. The rest of the troupe will surround the area from the trees. As soon as the Inquisitors start to move and reveal themselves, the guards from the trees will fire and/or start moving to attack (as will the members of the Crimson Cord).

Rilka flies out from the trees toward the shrine and Savaric begins shooting the Inquisitors—a bit early, strictly according to the plan. Rilka alights on the roof as three of the Inquisitors at the front grunt and are thrown out of cover from being hit by Savaric’s arrows. Rilka performs her bane prayer and Savaric fires again, as does Leif. Most of the Inquisitors hold their position, except for the now-visible ones who perform a series of spells and litanies, allowing them extra defense and to create magical copycats of themselves to confound their enemies. They also cast hold monster on Leif, paralyzing him in place. They attempt to do the same to Savaric, but he manages to shrug it off.

The rest of the troupe are desperately looking for the hidden Inquisitors, but are having a hard time. They can hear the sounds of battle toward the front of the hill, but nothing toward the sides or the back.

Savaric fires on one of the Inquisitors on the left side of the hill, revealing him to that contingent of the troupe, opening up that theater of the battle.

Rilka joins the fray at the front of the hill.

Leif eventually shakes off his paralysis and rushes forward with the rest of the front contingent, who has, by this time, emerged from the trees.

Two of the Inquisitors at the front have cast a spell that allowed them to place flames on their obsidian daggers.

Surm emerges from the left-side contingent and spots the Inquisitors at the rear of the hill. This allows him to attack them with admonishing rays and reveal two of them to the rear contingent of the troupe.

As the front contingent is being attacked, the right-side Inquisitors reveal themselves as they move to help protect their brethren. The right-side contingent of the troupe emerge from the forest in pursuit.

As the melee is now engaged at all points in earnest, the battle becomes an epic slog. The Inquisitors use their litanies and spells to increase their defenses and to create copycats, making them harder to defeat. Kortash is disemboweled by an Inquisitor—he still lives, but is not doing well. Savaric’s flaming longbow crumbles to ash in his hands, the result of overuse (a fumble). Rilka calls upon her faith in Bruni to summon a guardian dire bear to aid her in the fight. Mõrvar, Garth, Sigrid, and Halvor, all work together to subdue an Inquisitor and get manacles on him. Alfhild is seen has a harbinger of death, as in every combat she joins, an Inquisitor dies.

But, in the end, all the Inquisitors, save the one that is manacled, are dead or dying. The Crimson Cord stands on the now-quiet battlefield, triumphant, if tired from a long, hard-won, battle.

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Interlude: The Shrine
The Profound and the Profane

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22 Longday 509—Afternoon

The party all stand outside the shrine of Isranthr, tired from their exertions after the battle with the Inquisitors of Jörn. Ten dead, or dying, bodies lie about the hill. The guards all look about, smiling, proud to be alive and to have survived such an epic conflict. Kortash even has a rueful grin as he clutches his ruined abdomen.

Mõrvar, Garth, Sigrid, and Halvor continue to hold the manacled and gagged inquisitor.

All is quiet. A murder of crows fly off from the nearby trees. A figure emerges from within the shrine, leans against the open door, and appears to lazily munch a bit of meat from a drumstick. She is an older woman, with short white hair and leathery skin. She wears a leather apron over a simple gown.

After collecting the pieces of his bow, Savaric asks, “Anyone know who this is suppose to be?” He hobbles to the foot of the hill with Ghost, clutching the base of his back that he strained during the battle.

When Savaric get to the bottom of the hill, Ghost sits and wags his tail, his mouth open in a doggy smile, looking up at the shrine.

The woman calls down. “I’ve been expecting you, Twice-Born. You’ve taken your time and brought uninvited guests to boot. Come on up. Bring the wolf. He looks hungry. I have some scraps for him.”

She turns and goes back into the shrine.

Savaric looks to Ghost and gives a quick snap. “Come on Ghost,” and starts up the hill to enter the shrine.

As he enters the shrine, his nose is hit with the smell of woodsmoke. There is a small hearth at the back of the room with a low-burning fire. There are blankets intricately woven with hunting scenes hanging on the walls like tapestries. There is a boar’s head mounted on the right side of the building, and a drake’s head mounted on the left. There are two comfortable chairs situated in front of the hearth. To the right of the room is a wooden work table with worked skins stacked upon it. To the left is an altar with a beautiful longbow, decorated with gold inlay along the wooden shaft, mounted above it, but below the drake’s head.

True to her word, she sets down a pewter plate on the stone floor of the shrine with what look like scraps of meat and bone for Ghost. Then she sits in one of the two comfortable chairs and motions for Savaric to take the other.

“Sit, Twice-Born. We have much to discuss. The gods are stirring and, I don’t know about you, but they’ve been keeping me up at night. My name is Vigdis, by the by. Vigdis Blooddrake.”

Savaric motions to Ghost, letting him know it’s ok to go ahead and eat. The wolf turns to the plate and goes to it with gusto. He heads to his chair and offers his hand, “I’m Savaric, and I, too, have been awoken.”

Vigdis takes Savaric’s hand and shakes it as Ghost chows down on the scraps. She settles back into the chair.

“Your coming was foretold to me in visions. As was your purpose. There is an abomination coming. A great darkness that will engulf us all, hunter and prey alike, if you fail.”

She takes a deep breath and stares steadily at Savaric. "In my visions I saw a weapon—a spear. It’s haft, silvery grey, with the runes of The Hunter engraved upon it, as well as those of the sorcerers who have imbued it with magics. Its jagged head is a fiery orange crystal. The Spear of Salvation it will be called, for that is its purpose. To save us all from the abomination that comes.”

“This is the quest that Isranthr has set before you: to find the materials and ensure that this weapon is created and ready for when it is needed.”

““The haft is of Ysarian make—their steel is hardest and tempered with magical fire.”

“The point is made of a rare crystal, difficult to shape, but forms a powerful weapon. The Aedonii knew the secrets of its cutting.”

“Together, the power of the Ancient Ones will be placed together and bound in sorcery to forge the weapon of our salvation.”

Savaric, in turn, explains the dream that he has been having every night since he was revived in the Tomb of Secrets, presumably by Isranthr.

You are on a ship, a keelboat, with a band of Northron warriors. An old man is at the rudder, guiding the ship through a turbulent sea. The skies are a deep red marked with black clouds of soot floating on the strong winds. Looking ahead, you see an island on which a tall mountain spews lava and smoke through its top. In your hand is a metal box with runic symbols etched on its face.

Suddenly, the ship is rocked by an impact. Looking behind you, you see a fiery stone embedded in the hull of the keelboat. The men are pointing at the beach of the island where you see a group of giants with fiery hair and beards gathering stones and throwing them at the ship.

The old man tries to change direction and move the boat away from the beach, but the ship is moving too slow. Another boulder strikes the aft of the boat, pummeling the old man at the rudder and carrying him overboard as it smashes through the boat. The craft begins to sink.

The warriors begin abandoning the sinking boat and jumping into sea. You follow suit, leaping into the warm water surrounding the island.

The box is pulled from your hand by some unseen force and suddenly its contents burst from its prison: a deep green gemstone, shining with eldritch light beneath the waves. You, and it, sink lower and lower into the churning waters, almost as if pulled by the same unseen force that pulled the box from your hands.

The warmth of the waters fades as you feel the pressure of the water close in upon you. The sea grows cold, colder than the coldest Jossian winter. It occurs to you that you will not be going to Valhalla, will not be dying a warrior’s death.

By the green light of the rapidly sinking gemstone, you catch a glimpse of great, muscular tentacles—larger than anything you have ever imagined. Turning to try and swim against the implacable force, you struggle against the pressure of the cold waters but to no avail. Giving yourself up to your fate, you turn and face the horror on the floor of the sea. You watch as the gemstone settles onto the sand beside the abomination, only illuminating parts of the beast—but enough to instill a primordial dread that freezes you in place, unable to do anything but continue to gaze upon the fell creature.

But then, your horror grows as you see a great eye open within the mass of tentacled flesh. It focuses on you and you feel your body go limp in abject, hopeless, terror. One of the smaller tentacles reaches out and caresses your cheek. You sense satisfaction and subtle mockery emanating from the creature.

Then the flesh parts and reveals the great, hungry maw with rows of jagged teeth…and the eye focuses beyond you, toward the surface as it smiles.

Savaric also tells the woman about the green gemstone they found so long ago that they sent with the priest of Yülthn to be destroyed. Does she think that the gemstone in the dream is the same gemstone?

“While I have no knowledge of this gem of which you speak, I think it is possible that it is the same artifact. I cannot say with any certainty. It was not part of what I was shown.”

On the subject of Vigdis’ vision, Savaric says, “This seems straight forward enough. Can any Ysarian make the haft? Who is to bind the weapon together?”

“There have been no Ysar since before the Rivening, my boy. Some say they were wiped out. Some say they became the Elven race, while the Aedonii became human. I don’t believe that. The Aesen made we humans, that is what I believe. So the other is probably only the stuff of legend as well. The only truth is that the Ysar are no more. As far as who is to craft the weapon, that is for you to discover or decide—the gods are not going to give you every answer—especially not a god of the hunt. You will have to find your answers. Hunt for them, as it were.”

Savaric asks, “Is there any way you could draw the spear from your vision? If we track down someone that knows anything do with this it might help them. Even a rune from the haft.”

She chuckles a bit, shaking her head. “No. I am not an artist and I would not be able to capture what I saw, other than with the words that were placed in my heart to tell you. Have faith. You will know what needs to be done when the time comes.”

“Am I to just continue as normal until these items fall into my lap? Where do I even start looking?”

The old woman looks at Savaric, a bit perplexed. “You were chosen for a reason. Look at the information you have been given. Think about it. Think of it as following a trail. You are on a hunt, Twice-Born. The most important one of your life. No, nothing is going to fall into your lap. You have to think. You have to work. You have to struggle. That is our lot in life. That is what life is—struggle. In the end, that is what you chose, is it not? To continue your struggle?”

She closes her eyes and sighs. “The Aedonii and Ysar are long dead. But some of their secrets remain. Perhaps that is the beginning of your trail.”

“Well, I’m sure my friends are wondering if I’m safe in here with a strange woman in the middle of the forest. Before I go, tell me, how does The Hunter retire his weapons once they have served him?”

Vigdis chuckles. “You are safe. For now.” Then she frowns. “Unless you fail to fulfill your bargain with Isranthr. Then, you may not be so safe.”

She smiles again. “But, you asked about retiring weapons. It is an odd question. I’m not sure there is much in the lore about it. But, I would say that you should return it to the fires of creation. Return the sword to the forge-fire. Return the bow to the flame and to the ash with which to sow new wood. That is what I would do.”

Savaric pulls out the collected pieces of his bow and stands, “Then I suppose Isranthr’s fire would be the best fit.” He pauses for a moment as he stares into the hearth. “As for our bargain, it doesn’t seem safe is an option either way, but what fun would that be? Either build the spear to fight this new threat, or die without it. Are there no other agents of Isranthr headed toward this same goal? It seems odd that something so important would be left to the chance of one person.” With a small wind up he tosses the bow into the fire, then turns to Vigdis, only half expecting an answer at all, before approaching Ghost.

“You’re asking me to know the entire plan of a god? You give me too much credit,” Vigdis says, chuckling. “Perhaps you sell yourself short. Perhaps the Hunter is a gambler at heart. Who am I to say? All I know that is that there must have been some reason why he decided to intervene and bring you back from Eydis’ judgment, Twice-Born. Go with the blessing of Isranthr and the hope of old Vigdis.” She smiles at Savaric and motions toward the doorway.

Savaric says farewell to the old woman and exits the shrine.

Meanwhile, outside the shine…

As Savaric heads up the hill and enters the building, Rilka starts moving through the guard, gathering people together as needed for the healing power of Bruni. She lingers a bit longer at Kortash’s side, squeezing his arm tightly before moving on.

Mõrvar, from the bound body of the last Inquisitor, tells Surm, “There is no King here to keep me from questioning this one. I need time alone with him. By the time I am finished with him, he will want to tell me any and everything we want to know, as did the last one of these pricks did. It’s not going to be pretty, but I am tired of these assholes. If you have any reason not to let me have this one, it better be good and you better speak up now.” He also indicates that he’s going to drag the prisoner off to do what he’s going to so no one has to see it…unless they want to watch.

Surm says, “Everything ‘we’ want to know? There is nothing ‘I’ want to know from him. Jörn sent their big assassin and we beat him, I’m content with that, I have no need to seek revenge against an entire religion and wage war. I’m uncertain what information you’re looking for other than to get revenge for this attack on us? But, the assassin who attacked you is dead. The assassins who ambushed us are dead. Don’t seek out more problems, we find enough trouble without searching for it.”

Surm tells Alasir to put the guards holding the prisoner to work securing the perimeter and helping round up gear and horses.

Mõrvar says “There is still one more out there somewhere. This one assassin didn’t take it upon himself to gather eleven inquisitors and attack us. We are already at war with Jörn, and I intend to end it one way or the other. Give me the broach, keep track of me just in case.”

Surm says, “We’ve accounted for all the Inquisitors who came out to the woods after us. We know he sent two back to Josemeedt to await the woman. There are no more out here based on the numbers we had. If you believe there are more then we weren’t made aware of them and you shouldn’t go off into the woods.” Nevertheless, he hands his brother the Agent’s Clasp to wear.

Mõrvar drags the Inquisitor off into the woods about a hundred yards. The prisoner is be gagged and cuffed. No one is inclined to follow and watch.

Mõrvar telepathically says to Deathblow, “It would not shock me if there was another one or two of them out here. Keep aware, we know there is at least one more that was with the group.”

As Mõrvar is securing the Inquisitor’s gagged and bound form to a tree, he sees the man close his eyes as if in silent prayer over what is to come. Mõrvar begins applying his grave touch abilities and working to demoralize and demean the man further. Soon, it is clear that the Inquisitor is frightened and wants to flee—but cannot—which feeds more into his fear. Then Mõrvar begins intimidating the man in earnest…

“This all started when your cult assassinated the King of Yrda and tried to frame us…the Crimson Cord. Unfortunately for your band of thugs, it was the Crimson Cord you tried to frame…”

As the words wash over the panicked the Inquisitor, Mõrvar feels a change in the air pressure and suddenly appearing beside the tree, practically in Mõrvar’s face, is a demonic creature…

The demon stabs at Mõrvar with a barb-tipped spear, but the point glints off of the plates of the Eldritch Knight’s armor.

Mõrvar attacks with Deathblow, the greatsword’s blade cutting through the creature’s slime-covered hide. The slime is acidic and attempts to eat through the magic-imbued steal. Mõrvar hears the frustrated howl of the greatsword in his mind and sees smoke coming off of the surface of the weapon.

The creature drops it’s spear and cowers before Mõrvar’s onslaught, clearly wanting to flee but somehow unable to.

Surm hears the sound of conflict come from the woods where Mõrvar dragged the prisoner.

Mõrvar suddenly feels an intense heat flash near him and sees the Inquisitor become immolated in a column of flame that is gone as fast it came. The smell of burnt flesh wafts into his nose and he sees that the Inquisitor has been burned to a crisp. The demon continues to cower at Mõrvar’s feet.

Infuriated, Mõrvar swings down on the demon with his full might. “Really Jörn, this is the best you have? Even your demon cowers before me!"

As Mõrvar hacks twice into the demon, Deathblow bellowing in his mind, the gleaming blade smoking with acid droplets burning into the steel, the rendered shell of demonic flesh disappears with a whiff of sulfur as the second slash penetrates.

Surm comes barreling through the woods with the Handler’s Clasp in hand, with Rilka not far behind.

Mõrvar picks up the discarded longspear that the demon left behind and tells Deathblow to activate its flaming property to burn the acid off, which it does. Mõrvar casts a quick detect magic on the longspear, but does not detect any magical properties on the item. He asks his sword if its okay and Deathblow says, “I am fine. None of the acid burnt through my protections, though my finish may be marred.”

Surm and Rilka arrive on the scene. They see a body bound to a tree, burnt to cinders and smelling of roasted meat and sulfur, Morvar kneeling next to a discarded longspear on the ground.

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Session Seventy-Five
Answering the Call

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22 Longday 509—Afternoon

Savaric has gone inside the shrine at the behest of a mysterious old woman. Surm, Rilka, and Mõrvar are about a 100 yards into the woods, standing around the crisp remains of the last Inquisitor tied to a tree.

Mõrvar relates to the others the encounter with the demon as he was torturing the Inquisitor and the final immolation of the man during the battle.They determine that it was a Babau demon—a low-level demon usually created from the souls of lone killers. They are usually employed as assassins. Surm notices that while the man is completely burned, the tree to which he is tied has nary a singe mark upon it. Mõrvar doesn’t seem very impressed but Surm and Rilka insist that they are dealing with the interference of a powerful being here…perhaps Jörn himself. Mõrvar decapitates the ashy remains.

Savaric emerges from the shrine with Ghost as the others make their way back to the clearing where the guards are gathering up all the goods from the fallen Inquisitors. Alfhild and the others have returned with the Inquisitors found horses as well.

Savaric relates to the others his experience with Vigdis Blooddrake within the shrine and tells them of the prophesy she saw concerning him and the Spear of Salvation. Surm recalls the Aedonii stories and mosaics of underwater creatures—mosaics that related both adoration and terror regarding these creatures. Surm has also heard of Ysarian steel, but nothing more about it.

The Cord debate what to do next and whether or not the forces of Jörn are involved and actively working against them in this.

They finally decide to head to Josemeedt and make a show of force against the Jörnites there, making it known that they have defeated the Inquisitors and the “Darkshadow”, hopefully forcing the cult to back off from taking their revenge on the Cord—at least for a while.

They finally make a camp outside the shrine and, that night, further discuss their plans for treasure distribution. The night passes without further incident.

23 Longday 509

That morning, Savaric reveals that he is no longer having the prophetic dream that has been plaguing him since his revivification in the Tomb of Secrets. However, he feels like “something” is causing a pressure in his head. Rilka performs a detect magic on his head and is momentarily blinded by the overwhelming aura of power. Surm tries heroically to look and determines that is divine magic of a divinatory nature—he theorizes that perhaps it is knowledge hidden in his mind of how to make this weapon waiting to be unlocked when the time is right.

This does not reassure Savaric.

They spend the day traveling quietly through the Jossian forest westward toward Josemeedt. That night passes without incident, save for the witnessing of a comet passing overhead.

26 Longday 509

After several quiet days of travel, the party arrives outside the wooden palisade of Josemeedt around noontime. Surm gathers up the symbols of Jörn and hangs them off of his saddle. According to his plan, he is going to ride forward of the party in a display of strength, making it known to any hidden Jörnites in the settlement that the Inquisitors are no more and the Darkshadow is dead. Just before the party is to go in, Mõrvar decides that he wants to be the one at the front, and takes over the plan. Surm lets him and falls back.

Mõrvar, flanked by the Cord and the troupe of guards, rides slowly through the settlement. Shopkeepers and traders emerge, stopping their dealings to gape at the display. It very much sends a message of “don’t mess with us.” Eventually, they come to main hall of the settlement where they are met by the Steward of Josemeedt, Brun Thandirsson. He acknowledges that he has heard of the Cord’s exploits and remembers them from their last visit to the settlement. But, as last time, he asks that they have their armed force camp outside of the walls. They are welcome to trade as much as they like, but the encampment needs to be outside. It is clear that the Steward is intimidate by the display of power of the Cord, but is determined to do his duty to the settlement.

Mõrvar flounders a bit, looking back to Surm for guidance—but Surm just waves at his brother to continue. He wanted to lead—then lead. Mõrvar indicates that the Cord will do as asked and asks for directions to the hall of Yülthn. The Steward indicates the needed hall. Mõrvar also announces the death of the Jörnite Inquisitors and assassin—which is met with some bewilderment and congratulations by the assembled folk.

Alasir comes forward to Surm and offers to lead the guards off to set up the encampment outside the walls. Surm nods at him to do so and Alasir makes those arrangements as the main Cord moves forward to the Hall of the All-Father.

The Hall of Yülthn has a large common room with an adjacent longhouse with living quarters inside. Rilka catches one of the common room servers and gets them to fetch the priest for the Hall. They are soon met by a woman with dark hair and grey eyes and the customary crooked staff of a priest of Yülthn. Her name is Katla Stormheart. After a brief exchange, she takes them into one of the inn’s rooms to have a private conversation. Surm tells the story of their encounter with the Jörnites and with the green gemstone and the mission of Grimnir Erolsson, her predecessor. Mõrvar turns over the holy symbols to her. She takes the symbols, promising to have them melted down. She is disturbed to learn that someone here in the settlement is heading a cult to the Sly One—but all she knows now is that it is a blacksmith; there are several in Josemeedt. She remembers seeing the men with the cassocks in the common room, but they claimed to be pilgrims of Saemundil—she thought nothing of them at the time. She promises to share their information with the temples of Ketill and Saemundil here in the settlement.

As far as Grimnir Erolsson, all she knows about him is that he had left on some mission and never returned, thus she was summoned to fill his place here. She did here that he was headed for Saemundiljeim—perhaps he left out of Rosemeedt? But Surm remembers he was supposed to head north, not west. She shrugs. Her understanding was that he headed west.

After leaving the symbols with Katla, the rest of the party spend the afternoon trading in the settlement or staying in the camp outside the walls. Mõrvar mostly sits in the camp and broods. Rilka buys traditional Jossian meat pies for everyone (stuffed goat’s stomach’s with meat and herbs). That night, everyone spends the night in camp and Kortash and Rilka spend the night together.

27 Longday 509

The Crimson Cord sets out from Josemeedt to Kalimsport, figuring that they can use their University contacts to get more information on Savaric’s quest.

The day goes by mostly without incident, with the exception of coming across the remains of an old battle at which Savaric finds a bag of wooden toy soldiers. These he decides to keep to give to the orphans back in Yrda.

29 Longday 509

As the troupe makes its way down the road through Leilior, they encounter two men wearing the livery of a white winged horse on a black field. Surm recognizes the symbol as belonging to a minor noble by the name of Eoin Ma’Phorick. The two men are looking at a piece of parchment, looking at the passing riders, and then back at the parchment.

As they pass, Rilka inquires as to what they are doing and they inform her that there is a bounty on this bandit. They show her the parchment and it is wanted poster. They are seeing if any of the passers by fit the description of the wanted man. So far, they haven’t found him. She wishes them good luck and the troupe continues on its way.

Other than that encounter, the day passes without much fanfare.

5 Starfall 509

After crossing through Leilior and Ornis through the past week or so, the troupe finally arrives at the gates of the magnificent city of Kalimsport around noontime. The troupe head into the city through the gates and make their preparations to stay at the University of Kalimsport, per their previous arrangement. Surm has Alasir give the troops leave and informs him that they will be staying in the city for eleven days, but asks him to check in every five to see if there are new instructions or situations. The troops head out with Alasir in the lead. Mahgnus opts to stay with Surm and the rest of the Cord at the University.

Surm speaks with Master Mandreth Kerendal about looking into the matter of the crystal spearhead as it is supposedly of Aedonii make and he is an expert in Aedonii affairs. Kerendal is happy to help and tells Surm to give him a week to see what he can find. Surm also gets the name of Selevan Vosper, an expert on Ysarian culture, to get information on Ysarian steel.

Surm goes to see Vosper, a mousy little man with thinning brown hair, a mustache, and a paunch. Vosper tells him that he could look into the matter, but informs Surm that his best bet would be to contact Lord Paranthiel Springvale in Almathriel. He is an expert in Ysarian antiquities and, frankly, wrote many of the treatises he would be researching. Surm, slightly incredulous, avers that he will do so.

Meanwhile, the rest of the cord look into securing various magical accoutrements around the city. Rilka also files the paperwork to get a tenancy agreement to erect a shrine in the Temple District of the city. This is after Surm manages to get her the needed references in the form of Master Kerendal, Lady Gynn, and Lord Cranbarrow.

11 Starfall 509

Surm gets word from Master Kerendal that he has some information that may be of use to him.

Cassite is a rare element only found in the deepest reaches of the underground kingdoms. The secrets of its use were thought lost with the Aedonii. However, a dagger manufactured some fifteen years ago in Khazak-Ur has been uncovered. Its actual manufacturer is unknown.

The dagger is known to bear the following mark:

Conclave_of_the_Forge_Icon.jpg

Crafting with Cassite Crystal is a delicate process—failure by 5 or more will result in shattering the crystal.

Weapons forged from Cassite have the following properties: +3 to confirm critical hits due to never losing their edge. It ignores the armor bonuses from all armor and deflection bonuses. It also reduces the creation cost of magic weapons/armor by 15%. Weapons made from Cassite Crystal have a hardness of 30 and hp of 10/inch and is assumed to be of masterwork quality. However, Cassite crystal will shatter on a confirmed fumbled attack roll…

Armor imbued with Cassite has the following properties: Hardness 30, hp 25/inch, offers SR 20 to the wearer, including against magic missile (as the shield spell). Armor imbued with Cassite is automatically assumed to be of masterwork quality. However, if protecting against a confirmed critical hit, the crystal will shatter…

Surm thanks the sage for the information and offers to pay, Master Kerendal insists that it is nothing for the group that saved him from an orc pit.

15 Starfall 509

As the troupe is scheduled to leave the next day, and they have heard nothing from the city about Rilka’s application, she and Surm head to the Hall of Records to inquire about Rilka’s tenancy contract for her shrine. They eventually get to see a clerk by the name of Tamsyn Wyndle. After a lot of bureaucratic maneuvering, they manage to get her a tenancy contract and a building license so that she can begin having the work done.

16 Starfall 509

Surm speaks to the sage Belurian Springstorm, the elven liaison in the University, about the possibility of teleporting to Almathriel. He’d like to have a reference to use for familiarities sake in the spell. Springstorm does have a painting of a park in Almathriel that he could use as a reference. Surm decides that he, Rilka and two guard volunteers will travel ahead to visit with Lord Springvale about Ysarian steel. Tarben and Halvor volunteer to accompany them.

That morning, Surm casts the greater teleport from the scroll and takes them to the park in the elven city of Almathriel. They arrive on target, in a small clearing. A gleaming white spire dominates the skyline. They see a couple of elves that take notice of their arrival start in surprise, but continue walking down their path.

They emerge from the park and Surm starts making inquiries as to location of Lord Springvale’s estate. Soon, enough, he gets the information—it’s not too far away from the park. So the four make their way toward the nobleman’s residence…

Later that evening, the four return to Kalimsport through a teleportation circle located on the campus of the University, startling the University monitor assigned to watch the circle. They return to the rest of the party.

Surm explains that they have made an arrangement with Lord Springvale. He has a job that they want the Cord to do—there is a site of Ysarian ruins that have been overrun by “dusky skinned dwarves” and “pyrohydra” and his expedition has been chased off. He wants the Cord to clear it out. If the Cord does, then he will provide the Cord a source of information on Ysarian steel. He will also split with the Cord, 50/50, any Ysarian antiquities found within the ruins. Lord Springvale is not interested in incidental treasure found on the dwarves or with the pyrohydra.

The ruins are located east of Almathriel, the elven capital. They will begin traveling there in the morning. Once there, they will head to the ruins and begin their work.

View
Session Seventy-Six
All in the Mind

Intellect-Devourer-4th-edition.jpg

18 Starfall 509

The Crimson Cord and its entourage leave for Almathriel to gain more information about the next step in Savaric’s quest.

21 Starfall 509

The Crimson Cord arrives at the city of Osandar, capital of Yulania. The troupe encamps outside of the city before moving on.

26 Starfall 509

While crossing Yulania toward Borael and the city of Ebongate, Sigrid comes across a pointed, leather wizard’s hat discarded in the dirt. There is a note written in High Acheran inside: “The Night Walker cannot be slain until the Silver Boar lies in blood.” They contemplate its meaning briefly (mostly Savaric) and move on.

27 Starfall 509

The troupe arrives at the southern gate of the city of Ebongate, capital of Borael. Once again, the troupe encamps outside of the city walls before moving on.

28 Starfall 509

The troupe arrives at the mountain pass that crosses into the elven lands. The far side is guarded by a squad of elven soldiers in livery marked with silver moon, full, on a black field. They are questioned briefly as to the state of their business, but are allowed to pass through.

30 Starfall 509

While traveling through the thick elven forests, the troupe is set upon by six dire wolves. However, between superior skills and numbers, the beasts are easily dispatched.

1 Transformation 509

In the morning, the troupe arrives at the walls of the city of Almathriel, capital of the elven nation. The high, white walls, seamless and beautiful, are covered in ivy and gleam in the morning light. Guards in the livery of the silver moon line the walls and staff the high gate.

After entering the city, Surm asks about for directions to the Mithral Dagger.

As they make their way through the paved streets of the city, some marvel at the elven architecture, buildings which work with nature instead of against it—trees that are utilized as part of the structures through which they are built. Elven construction tends to be on the tall and narrow side, as opposed to the short and squat side of Northron construction. The entire cityscape is dominated by the view of a great white spire jutting up from the center of the city.

It doesn’t take Surm long to get directions to the Mithral Dagger. The inn is a modest affair, built into the trunk of a great ancient tree. Inside one can already hear the sounds of music and camaraderie coming from the common room.

The innkeep, a half-elf with bushy sideburns by the name of Claudio, is happy to set them up in what rooms he has remaining. He has 4 singles, 2 4-person suites and room in the common room for any remainders after the room shuts down for the night.

Mahgnus makes the arrangements with the innkeep as the gear is being transferred to the rooms with the help of some local help (the Cord is going into one of the suites while Alasir assigns some of the guards to the singles and the remaining to the common room. The second suite will be Alasir, Mahgnus, Alfhild, and Sorcha.

Rilka stows her stuff in the suite, then heads down to the common room. She thinks It sounds it’s pretty active. Morvar will follow Rilka’s lead. He is feeling something strange….happiness. Morvar thinks he likes elves’ free-flow lifestyle. In fact, Morvar plans to partake in Elven drink. He wants to join in with the energetic fun, and practice his Elven tongue that he took that he has never used, other than trying to understand Drow.

The common room has several empty tables and booths to accommodate the large group. A male server, a young elven lad with brown hair and wide lavender eyes, takes your drink orders with a smile.

As far as available libations, there is Boraelan white wine, a local red wine, Absinthe, and an Ornish Ale. Savaric buys the table a bottle of the red and Rilka toasts the table. As the troupe lingers in the common room, ordering food and drink, the server, Lysander, proves to be friendly and eager to please. Looking about the room, there are mostly fellow travelers about the common room. A pretty good mix of people and races, though the party has the only half-orcs in the room—save for the bartender. He’s a large, taciturn man with a buzzcut and deep green skin.

Some people of note:

  • A halfling male with dirty blonde hair wearing leather armor and short sword with a grim, determined expression as he downs his ale.
  • A female elf in simple robes with matted grey hair and striking amber eyes sitting alone, her eyes scanning the room as if looking for someone.
  • A female half-elf with an angular face, white-blonde hair, and dark blue eyes who wears banded mail and has a rune-covered bastard sword resting on her table. She sometimes cocks her head to herself as if she is listening to someone, though she is sitting alone.
  • A male elf, tall and thin with wheat-blonde hair and light green eyes dressed in silk robes. He sits alone, sipping on a goblet of some unknown beverage, taking in the room.

Rilka spends her time hanging out with the Cord and with Kortash. Savaric takes in the room and hangs out as well. Morvar seems intent on the other guests—especially the two females (the elf and the half-elf).

After lunch and drinks are had, Surm says “Let’s attend to some business. Tomorrow a guide by the name of Rilolwe Opaleyed will meet us here. She was a member of the earlier expedition that was forced to leave. She has first-hand knowledge of what happened at the ruins and will be able to take us there. Also, there is a small mercenary squad led by an elf called Doranthanel Splitbranch sent to essentially watch over the former camp. So, if anything recent has happened, he should be able to update us.”

“Secondly, since we all agree on the upgrade of Alasir’s position, let’s pull him over and make the offer.”

Surm walks over and invites Alasir to join them at their table for some business talk.

Alasir brings his chair over and listens.

Surm says: “Alasir, the Crimson Cord has decided to invite you to be a Peripheral Member of the group. With this status change comes a change in how you’re paid and the compensation of the troop. If you accept, you would no longer receive a daily wage, you would no longer get the 3% bonus of coin, but you would now receive one share of our total haul from our various ventures. We will divide the haul into five shares. You will pay your troops out of your share and you will set the pay rates. Does this arrangement interest you?”

  • The total haul is split into 5 shares: Morvar, Surm, Rilka, Savaric, and Alasir (Alasir no longer earns a daily wage; no longer gets 3% of total coin)
  • The 4 of the Cord drop 10% each of their shares into a Group Fund
  • Alasir retains his full share, but pays his troops’ wages

Alasir blinks a bit in surprise. But then nods. “I think I could very much work with this arrangement. The proposal is unexpected, but certainly not unwelcome. I accept.” He puts out his hand to be shaken. Everyone shakes his hand and an accord is reached.

Surm says, “Great, that’s settled then. Hopefully, Alasir, the extra income will give you more autonomy with equipping your team and a better ability to purchase magical items. Now, I need to shop for scrolls. Specifically, fire protection. I’ll be back later.” Surm excuses himself, invites Mahgnus to come along if he wishes, then heads out.

While Surm is out, Morvar checks out the female elf’s sword from a distance. He can’t make out enough of the runes to discern any meaning. He also checks out the females.

The one with the sword has sharp, angular features and white-blonde hair and deep blue eyes. She is very pretty, but also looks strong and competent—she gives off the vibe of seasoned adventurer. The other has matted grey hair, but her face is young. Her eyes are a striking amber color and she has a sharp nose. She has a more “wild” look about her. Probably not as pretty, but perhaps more striking. She looks uncomfortable in these surroundings.

Rilka whispers something in Kortash’s ear and the two go upstairs.

Morvar decides to get up and get a closer look. He approaches the adventurer with the sword, hoping to get a good look at the runes. The sword itself is a bastard sword, probably forged from mithral.

“What do you call it?” he asks her.

She looks up at him, giving him side-eye, and says in Tradespeak. “It calls itself Aerená’forlíga’dalonel. I call it ‘Chaossong’.” The word she uses is Elven. It translates roughly into “The Blade of the Song of Greatest Change”.

Deathblow, in Morvar’s mind, says. “The sword’s a prick. I don’t like it. Let’s leave.”

Morvar says to Deathblow telepathically, “What a pussy name for a sword…..what makes it a prick? Is he one of those snobby goody goodies?”

Closer to the sword, he can tell that the runes are for enhancement, conjuration (summoning), conjuration (teleportation), and evocation (chaotic).

Deathblow says, “You have no need to associate with such a being. Let’s leave. You have me. There is no need to examine this sword further.”

“I do have you. I am curious about the woman, and the sword I believe says a lot,” Morvar responds. He smiles at the half-elf and says, “I am an admirer of fine swords. I crafted mine myself. His name is Dodsstoten.” Morvar puts his hand out as a friendly gesture (and only as a friendly gesture), “And I am Morvar Ulrich.”

To Deathblow he says: “I have a feeling the sword isn’t the only prick at the table, and I am not talking just about us”

She takes his hand in a firm grip. “Brandella Mornglow. Dodstotten? I don’t recognize the tongue.” She cocks her head as if listening to something. “You forged that yourself? Impressive.”

Morvar converses in Elven. “It’s Joslac," he says, referring to the word. Smiling still, Morvar will say, "It translates roughly to “Deathblow.”

To Deathblow, “I believe she is listening to her sword. I am sure it’s telling her how big of a prick you and I are too.”

Morvar will continue, “It is a pleasure to meet you Brandella Mornglow, and thank you for allowing me a moment to admire The Blade of the Song of Greatest Change. It is a very fine and interesting sword. I am sorry for interrupting your evening. May you have a wonderful rest of the night.”

“You as well, Morvar Ulrich. Go in peace.”

Morvar then moves on to the amber-eyed elf woman. “Good evening, how are you doing tonight?” he says as he sits down beside her.

She turns her amber eyes on him and narrows them. “I am fair. You are very forward. What do you want of me?”

Morvar slightly grins, “I couldn’t help noticing you seem to be uncomfortably awaiting someone. Thought I would come keep you company.” Morvar will then look around as if scanning the room, looking for someone to approach the table. “Seems whoever you’re waiting for stood you up.” He then turns to her, piercing her amber eyes with his crystal blue eyes, “So what brings you here?”

She looks about the room again and then focuses back on Morvar. “I see you came with companions. Are you adventurers? I could use some help, to be honest and I’d be willing to pay. Unless…” She backs up a bit. “You’ve already been hired. By…him. I’ve said too much.” She rises to leave.

Morvar will pat the seat she just stood from and with a smile, say, “Please…sit. At least allow me to introduce myself and perhaps buy you a drink before you leave.”

She sits, but she still looks wary. “I’m not thirsty. Who are you?”

“I am Morvar Ulrich of the Crimson Cord. Who is..him? I know no one by that name.” Morvar says with a touch of humor.

She looks around the room again and whispers, “Sakka the Grim. A sorcerer I have crossed. Who may have hired you and your friends to kill me. Has he?” She looks at him intently.

Morvar, will straighten into a business demeanor, and in a very serious and business tone will say, “Ma’am, I assure you, if I, or any other member of the Crimson Cord were hired to dispatch of you, there would be no where you could run, no where you could hide, and no one that could protect you from us completing that task. Furthermore, you and I would not be sitting here having this conversation because you would already have been dealt with.”

Morvar then resumes his relaxed posture, returns his smile to his face, and ask her, “So tell me how you crossed this Sakka the Grim,” he asks, inflecting ‘grim’ with a mocking aspect “and why he would want to harm such a pretty little thing like you?”

At first she looks horrified as you describe your business to her but then she looks relieved.

“The sorcerer killed a member of the Queen’s Guard who had ventured into his domain. His friends brought him to me and i restored his life. Now, he will live his life as one of the Vale Folk, but it is as Glorindiel wills it. Sakka saw it as thwarting his will and is now coming after me.”

Glorindiel is the elven goddess also known as “The Gatekeeper.” Her symbol is a golden key. She is the goddess of doorways, portals, thresholds, and the transition from year to year. Glorindiel concerns herself with transitions. Change is a constant and Glorindiel can bless it or ignore it, depending upon the needs of Fate, Time, and the Gods.

“So you have the ability to return life?” Morvar asks with sudden interest. “How is bringing a halfing back from the dead undermining his will?” And then with a curious look as if something just occurred to him, “Queens guard? What is the queen to do about this?”

“Well, if the goddess wills it, and if the dead wish to return, then yes. Not always in the manner that they expect, as in this case, but yes. But you see, I didn’t bring a Vale folk back from the dead. I brought an elf back to life as a Vale folk. And Sakka wanted the elf dead. Thus, I subverted his will. As far as the Queen, I know not. I have tried to stay out of such affairs for a long, long time.”

“Interesting…..it seems to me that he wanted an elf dead, and a dead elf he got. You didn’t return an elf back to life….but rather a halfling," Morvar says. “So tell me, what kind of hiring are you looking for and how much were you willing to pay for that work?"

“Of course, people like Sakka never see it that way. They see it only they way they want to see it.” She shakes her head, exasperated. “But I was hoping for some protection. I am traveling from here north to Imdarinis. It’s about a 12 day journey and I was planning on standard rates. Three silver per day per guard.”

“When do you intend on leaving?”

“As soon as I hire some protection.”

Morvar will smile, “So you know who I am, what’s your name?”

She looks at him a little exasperated. “My name is Arianel. Are you and your friends interested in helping me?”

“Let me talk to them”, Morvar says as he stands. “We are here on business, but that doesn’t mean upon conclusion of this our current contract, we cannot take on another. Once we have discussed the matter, I will let you know.”

Morvar then nods his head and heads upstairs to find Surm.

He goes into his brother’s room and wakes him. “Brother, I believe I have stumbled into a major opportunity to spread our name here.”

Surm groggily says, “Yeah, I know, we’re heading to Ysarian ruins tomorrow for a local Nobleman. That should do quite a bit for a getting our name out locally. I wish you had paid attention when we had this conversation days ago instead of waking me up in the middle of the night for me to explain it again. Goodnight.”

“Besides that!”, Morvar will say. “I just met a woman looking for protection from a sorcerer.”

Morvar informs Surm of the conversation and claims, following up with, “Her statements about staying out of or meddling with the affairs between this Sakka the Grim and the Queen and their perspective domains, leads me to believe that there may be a problem for the Queen. This is the opportunity I see, investigating this further, and if an issue does pan out, once we are finished with this contract, perhaps using our success here to offer our services to the queen to dispatch of this sorcerer. This woman looking for protection, I believe could prove to be a good source of information and contact for this. Just not sure how to handle providing her protection to gain her trust. She’s very…hmm..suspicious, and it took effort to even get that info out if her.”

Surm rises partially out of bed and says, “Perhaps she is suspicious because you … ‘in a very serious and business tone said, “Ma’am, I assure you, if I, or any other member of the Crimson Cord were hired to dispatch of you, there would be no where you could run, no where you could hide, and no one that could protect you from us completing that task. Furthermore, you and I would not be sitting here having this conversation because you would already have been dealt with.”’

“You basically made us sound like mercenary assassins for hire. Not really the reputation that I would like to spread. Also, not a good opening line if you are wanting to be hired to protect this person. Were you trying diplomacy or intimidation? I wouldn’t be surprised if she left right after you came up here.”

Surm continues, “I’m not sure how you expect to get involved? It seems she is looking for someone right now. We leave for the ruins in the morning and we can’t promise her a time of return. What is it you want to do? Split up? You take some guards and head North with her while we go to the ruins? We can’t abandon our current mission, I’ve already made arrangements, besides, this is kind of a ‘Holy’ quest to both Savaric and Rilka, not sure that they would appreciate a delay any more than our employer.”

“If you decide this important enough that you do want to split up, make sure and do some research on this ‘Sakka the Grim’, make sure he is real and get any other details to verify her story. Her story may not be true, because after your meeting with her and the veiled threats you threw out, if she still wants to hire you she is either desperate or crazy. You should confirm that she’s not crazy and all this is made up. Otherwise, I feel for her and you can present it to the group in the morning for a vote, but I’m pretty sure they’ll both want to head to the ruins and get this done first. I know I do. If she can wait for our return, then we could look into it.”

Morvar says, “I don’t want to delay or split, unless the split is allowing Alasir to decide if he wants to take the job and send men with her. I would like for you to use your diplomatic gift and talk to her. See if you can’t probe her for more information. Decide if you think she is crazy or not.” He continues, “If there is a conflict between the QUEEN and this sorcerer, wouldn’t it be worth a bit of your time to talk with her?”

Surm says, “There is nothing to be done tonight. I can’t hit the streets trying to confirm her story in the middle of the night and we leave in the morning. It will have to be investigated when we get back.”

Morvar will return to the common room, find the woman and say, “Unfortunately, we leave for business tomorrow. We will not be able to fulfill your job opportunity at this time. I am sorry for your situation.”

Arianel says, “Well, thank you anyway,” and turns her attention elsewhere. Morvar heads back upstairs to go to bed.

2 Transformation 509

As the troupe is making preparations in the morning to leave, you see a small brown falcon fly through the common room, circle twice, and alight on a beam above the majority of the party. Striding into your midst is an elf woman, pretty, with wavy blonde hair, green eyes, and fair skin. She wears a mithral breastplate over her leather traveling clothes. A large, elegant curved blade—similar to a scimitar, but with a thinner blade—is carried on her back.

“You must be the Crimson Cord,” she says in Tradespeak. “I am Rilolwe. Lord Springvale sent me to guide you to the site. Which of you is Surm Ulrich?”

Surm will step forward and introduce himself extending a hand. Then he introduces Savaric, Morvar, Rilka, and Alasir. “We are ready to leave.”

Rilolwe shakes everyone hand and says to Surm, “My Lord Springvale extends his especial greetings to you, Master Ulrich, and his blessings for a successful expedition. I have my horse waiting outside and we can begin as soon as your troupe is packed.”

She makes a short chirping sound and the falcon flies from the high beam and lands on her outstretched arm. “I’ll await you all outside.”

She turns and heads out.

Once the troupe is loaded up, she begins leading you around the outer ring of the city, the Traveler’s Ring, toward the Eastern Gate. The Traveler’s Ring houses most of the non-elven population of the city, as well as most of of the working class. Eventually, your column passes through the gates and into the thick primeval forest that comprise the wilds of the Elven Lands.

Rilolwe is quiet through most of the ride, occasionally sending her falcon out for flights and having it return. She casts speak with animals to communicate with the bird to get a sense of what it has seen when it goes out on these excursions, essentially scouting ahead.

At the end of the day, the troupe makes a camp and Alasir sets up the usual watches. Rilolwe sets up her small sleeping space and has Alasir add her to the roster, which he does.

The night passes without incident.

7 Transformation 509

The troupe has traveled several days through the forest with Rilolwe. She is fairly quiet, speaking only when spoken to. She is efficient and good at her job. Her falcon, who is called “Swiftwing” is her boon companion.

While the troupe is traveling through thick wood, but the further east they go, the Riftpeaks loom larger on the horizon.

On this day, the troupe come across a tree in which a dead body is hanging from a rope. From the looks of it, it’s been hanging there for weeks. It was probably a human from the looks of it. The clothes have mildewed and rotted and there is a wooden sign tied around its neck with the word “theef” written in Tradespeak on it.

Other than that, the day passes without further incident.

9 Transformation 509

On this morning of travel, the troupe breaks free of the forest and into the rocky foothills of the Riftpeaks. Rilolwe says that by noon they’ll encounter the camp outside the Ysarian site.

True to her estimation, around midday, the troupe begins approaching a small encampment of about a dozen or so warriors. Three approach the troupe on horseback.

The lead rider is a handsome elf with brownish-blonde hair and blue eyes. Accompanying him are two other elves, a female with a greenish tint to her blonde hair and a male. The encampment flies a banner of a manticore on a red field.

The four main members of the Cord ride out with Rilolwe to greet them.

“Mistress Opaleyed, it is a pleasure to see you,” he says in Elven, which Surm and Morvar understand but the half-orcs do not.

Rilolwe returns the greeting, barely remembering the elf, Doranthanel’s, name. She indicates that she has new orders per Lord Springvale and produces a writ for Doranthanel to look at. It essentially states that the Crimson Cord and their troupe are here to clear out the ruins and that they are to be allowed entrance to the ruins for that work. Doranthanel seems to believe that everything is in order and mentions that it should be tough work, considering what he has heard and that it is good that they brought “the brutes,” indicating the half-orcs in the party. He then asks which of the brothers is Master Ulrich, the leader of the Crimson Cord.

Both brothers ride forward, with Morvar wearing a scowl on his face and riding just ahead of Surm. Doranthanel reiterates what he and Rilolwe discussed and asks if they wish to join camps. Morvar and Surm bring in Alasir to this conversation—and Alasir emphatically does not want to join camps. So Mahgnus and Alasir start making a camp between the elven mercenaries and the mine entrance, which is now more clearly visible. A narrow 5’ wide shaft enters the side of the mountain.

Surm asks about the mercenary’s banner. Doranthanel indicates that it represents his first kill. They now fight under his banner. They have no name designation—only the banner. Surm hasn’t heard of the troupe and Doranthanel explains that they mostly work in the elf-lands, that they have more of a reputation there.

While the camp is being erected, Morvar goes amongst the elves, sharing war stories and such. The leaders of the elves eventually have them stop and get back to patrolling.

Surm asks if the mercenaries have seen any sign of the dangers reported by the fleeing expedition. “Only some eyes watching us from the shaft at night,” he says. They do not venture into the shaft as it is not part of their contract. Surm speculates that the eyes probably belong to the duergar they were warned about.

Eventually the camp is set up and the Cord reconvenes for some planning. Surm doesn’t quite trust the elves, things seem on the up-and-up so far. He doesn’t want to take all of the guards into the shaft—maybe only two or three. The rest will be outside if the elves get antsy or turn on them. He doesn’t want the guards to be outnumbered. Everyone agrees that this is a sound plan.

Eventually, they decide to initially just have Savaric and Morvar go inside and scout out the place. Morvar can use an arcane eye spell to look ahead of the Cord’s position. They have a description of the route from Rilolwe. Essentially, you have the mine shaft descending for about 2000 feet, ending at a dead end. In the side of the shaft’s wall at the dead end is a fissure that leads into larger caverns. That’s where the entrance to the Ysar ruins are—as well as the pyrohydra. It is from this fissure that Morvar will send the arcane eye to scout ahead.

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Savaric heads into the mine first with a two minute head start. Then Morvar follows. When they get to the fissure, they change roles. Morvar casts his arcane eye spell and sends out the sensor through the shaft. There are a series of turns in the tunnel, which is quite wide (approximately 15-20’ at its narrowest). Eventually, the tunnel opens into a large cavern. There are tall pillars supporting the cavern, between which sits a sleeping pyrohydra. Along the left-hand side of the cavern is a natural ramp that leads up to a balcony of sorts. Upon the balcony is a rune-covered archway opening into a set of stone stairs leading down.

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Descending partially down the stairs, he comes to a door and a corridor. The door is made of some strange metal the cannot readily identify. He follows the corridor, passing a portcullis, and arriving at another door of the same strange metal. He returns up the corridor and back into the cavern. He descends from the balcony and travels further into the tunnel.

Beyond the cavern is a second cavern with a more lively pyrohydra, looking about. In a small nest is what appears to be a young pyrohydra, the size of a halfling. The tunnel descends further into the mountain. Morvar follows for as long as the spell lasts, finding no more sign of duergar or more creatures.

He and Savaric return to the camp and report what they found.

The group then spends some time discussing and planning their next move. Do they attack tonight while the thing sleeps? What about the other beast? Where are the duergar? Are they within the Ysar area? Who do they take with them?

They decide to take Kortash and Burask with with them—both of the half-orcs can see in the dark, as can the rest of the Cord so they won’t have to use a light source and reveal themselves. They finally hit upon a plan—various preparation spells will be cast before entering the fissure. Then Rilka will cast silence on herself, creating a stealth-zone in which the rest of the party can travel. Once they get inside, Savaric will sneak up to the balcony for overhead shooting. Kortash and Burask will, once the ruckus starts, head to the archway and guard it against any incoming duergar from the Ysar complex. Morvar will lightning step through the creature and get flanking with Rilka, who’ll position herself in a ready position as well. Surm will be lobbing spells from the rear.

Everyone feels like it is a sound plan and so they prepare themselves to make the descent.

When they arrive at the fissure, they hear breathing coming out of the fissure. Morvar sends his arcane eye in to scout it out and discovers that the formerly sleeping pyrohydra is awake. They decide to retreat and regroup, to make a plan B for an awakened pyrohydra.

They eventually come to an accord on a secondary plan and decide to strike in the morning, regardless of whether or not the creature is awake. Alasir assigns the usual watches and everyone settles in for the night.

During the night, at the first watch (Alasir, Kortash, Tarben, Halvor, and Morvar), Halvor is viciously attacked by an invisible duergar with a dwarven war axe. The duergar smells of rot and decay and is quite difficult to kill. The rest of the camp is roused as the fight goes on. The elven camp come to see what the ruckus is and join the others in watching, as the creature is surrounded and more fighters will not help the situation. Halvor is dragged out of the combat and replaced with another of the Crimson Cord guards. Finally, the duergar falls—and bursting from its body is a strange aberration…

It looks like a small brain, pink and glistening, standing on four, clawed legs. It attempts to attack not only with its claws but with spell-like abilities. It confuses Kortash, causing the half-orc to hit himself with his own weapon. As the fight with this new creature rages on, they discover that its hide is hard to penetrate with conventional weapons and it shrugs off most spells. At one point it shrieks in anger—telepathically to all that can sense it—as Rilka deafens it with the thunder of her weapon. “You will pay for that, surface dweller!” it “speaks” in undercommon, which Surm understands. Finally, Surm manages to blow up the creature with a final spell.

Rilka uses Bruni-given insight to discover that this creature is called an “intellect devourer” and that its strange race may not even be from this world. They den alone or in cities of their fellows, venturing out and “wearing” people to enact their cruel, vile, and orgiastic desires. Their victims never survive the process.

Meanwhile, they collect the duergar’s items and identify their magical properties for treasure. Rilka thanks Doranthanel for sending his troops over to help, though there was nothing they could do. Surm does the same. He says to think nothing of it. Surm asks if they had encountered anything like that while guarding over the site and Doranthanel emphatically says that they have not.

The rest of the night passes without incident.

10 Transformation 509

Once again, the Cord plus Burask and Kortash descend into the shaft to take on the pyrohydra, and the new threat of the possessed duergar. Morvar sends his arcane eye inside to discover that the pyrohydra is sleeping again and that the portcullis room in the Ysar area contains two, strangely inert, duergar.

They go with plan A—and it goes off without a hitch.

Savaric gets into position overhead while the others do so on the floor. Once the signal is given, Savaric begins firing into the beast—killing it in about 6 seconds with a barrage of arrows forming a “smiley” face in the side of the creature’s hide. After the anti-climatic battle, they hear the other creature moving toward them through the deeper cavern. They take up positions to ambush it when it emerges into their cavern. Once again, a barrage of arrows fells the monstrous creature.

They go into the deeper cavern and find the young pyrohydra. Savaric tries to communicate with it via his ranger abilities, but it still tries to bite him and breath fire on him with its seven small heads. He feeds the creature trail rations, which seems to placate it somewhat. They leave the creature, thinking to return to it when they finish exploring the ruins.

They decide to send the Agent’s Clasp back to Alasir so that they have a means of communication with the outside—and Alasir can warn them of any treachery on the outside. Finally, they descend down the stairs into the Ysar ruins…

Savaric hears movement beyond the first door that they come to. They decide to check it out. Morvar opens the door to let Savaric fire inside. Inside are two of the rotting duergar. Savaric fires and the battle begins.

As others try to get inside and take out the duergar, Surm and Kortash watch the hall to ensure the other door or portcullis doesn’t open and allow more of the creatures to attack them from the rear.

Soon enough, the duergar (who are unarmed) are defeated—but in their place are their intellect devourer parasites. These are eventually dispatched as well.

Now the Cord stands in the bloody, rot-filled room and contemplate their next move…

View
Session Seventy-Seven
A New Threat Appears

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10 Transformation 509

Continuing through the Ysarian complex, having just defeated two more duergar possessed by the hideous intellect devourers, Mõrvar searches the bodies of the slain dwarves. He finds a make-shift ivory key on one of them. This is given to Surm. The party decides to backtrack and deal with the duergar in the “portcullis room” they first encountered when they entered the complex.

After a brief battle, the duergar—and the intellect devourers within them—are defeated. After searching the room and finding nothing of interest, the portcullis is wedged open by a pin found on the device and Kortash and Burask are assigned to guard that entryway.

Passing from the portcullis room and into an adjacent empty room, the party carefully makes their way with Savaric searching and Mõrvar casting detect magic. From the empty room, they travel down a corridor ending in a shut door. Savaric opens the door carefully and spies three of the possessed duergar inside a room whose walls is lined with crystal fragments. He quickly shuts the door as the duergar look in his direction.

The party then lines up for an assault on the room. They find that more of the duergar has entered the room from an adjacent room, making seven of the creatures altogether. Also, the light from Rilka’s weapon reflects off of the crystals, attempting to disorient everyone within. In the course of the fight, Surm turns the tide by casting a Wall of Bone to separate the groups of duergar, making them easier to dispatch.

Eventually, the duergar are defeated, as well as the foul devourers that occupied their bodies.

After searching the room, as per usual, the group descends into the room from which the extra duergar came. The room is searched and found to be empty. From there, Rilka searches an arched doorway leading into another room. She sees four, strange, cloaked figures standing in the room. One of them turns toward her and she hears, in his mind, “Turn around and say nothing.”

Savaric immediately goes and notifies the others. When they regroup and enter the room, there are no figures. Savaric searches the room and finds nothing of interest. There is a door leading out of the room, but it is locked.

Surm uses the make-shift key they found and unlocks the door. This leads into a small room with discarded duergar bodies strewn about the room in various states of decay. From here is another locked door, which Surm opens. The door leads into a narrow, but empty room decorated with mosaics of strange angles and designs on the walls.

Savaric checks out one of the doors in the room, finding it to be trap-free and unlocked. This leads into a seemingly empty room. They enter the room and Savaric and Mõrvar search it out. Savaric finds a secret panel in the floor. Inside is a chest.

The chest is locked, but Surm (after a search for traps) unlocks it. Savaric opens the chest, seeing a variety of items, strange coins, gems, and a large red gem. Savaric instantly feels something pulling on his essence, trying to draw him into the red gem, but he manages to fight off the sensation. Surm examines the gem and determines that it is a soul-trapping gem.

Among the objects are strangely designed wands of various crystals, an assortment of vials, and scrolls. Surm identifies the objects as magical and determines their purposes.

From this room is a door to the north and a door to the west. They are searched and determined to be trap-free. Savaric opens the door to the north and peers inside. The next room has a group of duergar surrounding a female duergar in ceremonial robes. They don’t appear have the slack-eyed look of the possessed duergar.

Surm thinks the group should parley with the aware duergar. The party gets ready for attack and they enter after Surm announces in undercommon that he wishes to parley.

The female appears to be in charge. She is a priestess of some sort—she wears a strange symbol attributed to some demonic force.

The duergar have been here for a few weeks. About a week after they occupied the area, a vortex opened in one of the deeper chambers and the intellect devourers and their masters came. They don’t know much about the masters, but they seem to have mental abilities and also devour the brains of their victims.

The duergar and the Cord negotiate an alliance—they will escort this contingent of duergar out of the complex and the Cord will have access to treasures found.

Savaric is sent to look for Kortash and Burask, to make sure they’re alright, now that they know that another danger is wandering about the complex. He makes his way back to the portcullis room and finds that two cloaked figures are leaning over the unconscious forms of the two half-orcs, tentacles emerging from their hoods that are wrapped about the two guards’ heads.

Savaric attacks and quickly dispatches the two cloaked figures. He examines the the half-orcs and finds that they are unconscious and near death. He runs back to the rest of the Cord and reports. They and the duergar make their way back to the portcullis room and they see the prone bodies of Kortash and Burask for themselves. They escort the duergar the rest of the way out of the complex.

Outside the complex, the group sees the infant pyrohydra, fat and sleeping corpse of its parent, apparently having cannibalized the corpse for food. The duergar are escorted to the deeper cavern and part ways with the Cord.

The party returns to Kortash and Burask. They decide that Surm and Rilka will teleport back to the University of Kalimsport with the half-orc guards to get help. They’ll also take the body of one of the strange hooded creatures for identification. They also take one of the strange serrated blades the creatures are carrying. Mõrvar and Savaric will return to the surface to the camp. Surm uses his Agent’s Clasp to contact Alasir and lets him know that there is an additional danger and to watch the entrance with Doranthanel’s help.

Back in Kalimsport

Rilka and Surm, along with the inert bodies of Kortash and Burask, arrive at the University of Kalimsport dorms to get some assistance. Kortash and Burask are placed in bunks, along with the covered body of the strange creature which assaulted them.

Surm tells Rilka, “Go to the temple and speak with the Abbot. Remind him of who we are and of our current crisis. Say something like, ‘after the impressive display by Bishop Lynel Winnarrow at Cranbarrow Keep, we knew Halor would be able to help our friends.’” That should spark his memory of who we are if he didn’t remember already." Rilka leaves for the temple of Halor.

Surm grabs the first person he sees and say, “You must retrieve Mater Kerendal and inform him that Surm Ulrich has just teleported into the dorms with an extra-planar mystery. I need him, the local expert on extra-planar beings, and the Chancellor if possible to come and meet me here immediately. The lives of two men are hanging by a thread.”

Surm waits in dorm room with the two half-orcs and the strange corpse. Soon he is joined by Master Kerendal and a strikingly beautiful woman with pale skin, dark hair, and whose eyes are two different colors—one blue, one green. Kerendal introduces her as Haether Dallen, a Professor of Philosophy, Metaphysics, and Comparative Religions from Yew College within the University.

“Professor Dallen is probably our most experienced lecturer in the matter of extra-planar beings,” Master Kerendal. “She is also immediately available,” he says with a smile.

Professor Dallen nods. “I was given the impression that this was an emergency of some sort?” she asks, her voice resonant.

Meanwhile, at the Temple of Halor, Rilka waits as the Abbot, Eddard Elbrynn, is fetched. Soon, she is led to Abbot’s chambers in the temple. The Abbot greets her, stating that he remembers her as being a member of the Crimson Cord and inquires as to the nature of her current emergency.

Surm says, “Thank you for coming so quickly.” He pulls the blanket off of the strange corpse.

“These were seen squatting over my friends, one on each. Now they won’t wake up and our curative and restorative magics seemed to have no effect. We need to know what they are and what damage they may have done to save my friends. All I know is that they seem to invade your mind, do have magical abilities, and per an on-site witness, arrived through a vortex of probable Ysar origin. Oh, and wield these strange serrated blades. My companion is retrieving a priest of Halor, but if you have any knowledge of these things and their mode of attack on my friends, that would be helpful.”

Professor Dallen goes to the corpse and begins examining it. “I have read of such creatures in some ancient and forgotten texts, but never thought to actually set eyes upon one,” she says. “You have stumbled upon something exceeding rare—and dangerous.”

She points to the creature. “This is, I believe, an Illithid, a creature possibly from another plane, possibly from simply so deep in the underground kingdoms we know not from where they come. They are cerebraphages—brain eaters—as well as being slavers. They serve their own dark purposes, purposes unknown to us.”

“I’m not sure what they may have done to these two. There are no wounds, so I don’t think they tried to devour their brains. They could be under some sort of psychic duress. It is also possible that the Illithids attempted to implant some sort embryo within them. We should probably get them to our Department of Medicine and see if the healers there can make a determination.”

Surm agrees to transferring them to the Department of Medicine.

“Professor Dallen, if you and your colleagues in Medicine can collaborate and help my friends, then the Crimson Cord will officially donate this ‘Illithid’ to you and your department for study.”

“After you have reported off to whom ever is in charge in Medicine, I would appreciate a report from you on everything you know or suspect about these creatures. We’ve slain two, but there are still two unaccounted for and I have a team still on site and at risk of attack. Plus, the vortex through which they reportedly arrived is still active, more could come.”

Surm also tells her about the intellect devourers they’ve encountered. Surm leaves a note for Rilka at the gate telling her where they’ve moved them to.

Professor Dallen says, "We will certainly do everything we can for your friends, regardless of the donation. Though the thought of being able to examine this creature is exciting—let’s get them squared away first. I will prepare a brief on what I know of these creatures—it is not a lot. They are so rarely encountered. But I will give you what information I can.

“The Intellect Devourers are another creature, related to but not entirely the same as, the Illithids. Some say they spawn from the same plane of existence. Others say they are from elsewhere, but have shared interests and abilities and are just natural allies. Regardless—that you have encountered both means that your troupe may be in a very dangerous site indeed.”

Surm uses the clasp to message Alasir. “Alasir, we are in Kalimsport, Kortash and Burask are being assessed at the University. Remember, there is still an open vortex down in the ruins, so, we can’t be sure that only two more Illithids are running around, they could bring friends. Ask Morvar to keep watch all night on that entrance, he needs very little sleep.”

As Surm waits, Professor Dallen brings him the following report: A Report on the Illithids

Meanwhile, at the temple of Halor…

Rilka replies that she is pleased that the Abbott remembers her and the Crimson Cord. She is exceedingly glad he would see her at such short notice.

“The temple has assisted us on many dire-filled occasions. Obviously, the affair with Bishop Winnarrow here in Kalimsport, but also in Aldasar and Jenna. While assisting an expedition in the elven lands, two of our number were attacked by horrific creatures.”

She explains the situation, including what has already been done to aid the brothers.

“If the damage is of a mental nature, what has been done appears to be outside of my abilities. I’ve come to ask for Halor’s help.”

The Abbot says, “I know not what I can do to help, but I will bring Halor’s blessing with me. Take me to the two fallen men and I will see what I can do.” He grabs a cloak and staff and motions toward the door.

When Rilka and Abbot Elbrynn arrive at the University, Surm catches her up on the situation.

Soon thereafter, an Esteemed Sage from the Department of Medicine, Gerens Meary, approaches you all. “I’m afraid I have some grave news,” he says. “It is our belief that something has been implanted into these two men’s brains. According to Professor Dallen, it could be the young of these strange creatures you have brought our attention to.” He sighs and rubs the bridge of his nose. “Our chiurgeons could try and remove the parasites—but there is much risk. Should we fail, the men will be mentally disabled, if they survive at all. Magic may restore their faculties, if they survive. It’s hard to say. We are prepared to try if you give us leave.”

Even with Rilka’s dusky green complexion, her sudden pallor is obvious. “If those abominations have done as you say, I see no option but to remove the parasites.” She turns to the Abbott. “Is there any way you might assist? I realize that there may be little the power of Halor can do to remove the parasites from our friends, but my hope is that any potential damage could be repaired”

The Abbot says, “I will make myself available for the healers. Please, Master Meary, take me to the victims and the chiurgeons and I will provide whatever assistance I am able.”

Master Meary escorts the Abbot to the surgical rooms where Kortash and Burask are lying in state.

Surm and Rilka wait in fretful anticipation for the outcome of the surgery.

The University does what it can to make their wait comfortable, bringing them food and beverages and providing a comfortable room to wait in.

It’s a long wait.

After about 6 hours—which brings them to after sundown that day—the Esteemed Sage, Master Meary, returns with Abbot Elbrynn.

“It was a delicate procedure for both of them, and it was touch-and-go for a bit with Kortash, but we manged to remove the parasites without destroying their brains. Abbot Elbrynn here has performed a Restoration on both them and so there should be no residual damage. They are resting comfortably and should be able to leave in the morning.”

“The creatures in their brain were devouring the matter of the organ. It was—gruesome—to behold. The creatures still live, but are currently being held in an alchemical fluid. They are very—hearty.”

“At any rate, your friends will live and even thrive after the experience. Thank whatever gods you give homage to for that.”

Rilka clasps the hands of both men in turn. “Thank you both. We owe you much.” She turns to Master Meary. “Can they see visitors? Or do they need to rest?”

“It would be best to let them rest. They’ve been through an ordeal,” Master Meary says.

Rilka nods, “I see. Well, then we’ll see them in the morning.” She turns to the Abbott, “May I escort you back to the temple?”

Surm updates Alasir: “Kortash and Burask had to undergo surgery to remove parasitic embryos from their brains presumably implanted by the Illithids. Then receive divine restorations to repair the damage. Their survival was a close call. It’s imperative that you not be taken unaware by these creatures. We can not undo the damage caused in the field and even here it was narrow chances. We got lucky. Keep the entrance lit and covered by range weapons. These creatures attack telepathically. Alert the elf camp too.”

Along the way back to the temple of Halor, Rilka thanks the Abbot again. “We will soon return to the East, but I would like to meet again with you tomorrow. I wish to make a donation to the Temple in recognition of all that has been done.”

“That would be appreciated. I will see you then. May Halor’s light illuminate you all and bring you healing.”

“And may your heart be filled with Bruni’s courage and valor.”

Rilka heads back to the University to talk with Surm about their plans for the morning. Now that it’s just the two of them, she’s clearly unhappy about not getting to see Kortash until tomorrow morning.

They discuss the donation to Halor and the need to purchase more teleport scrolls.

Surm will asks professor Dallen if she has any use for the remains of Intellect Devourers? If yes, does she have a means of preserving them for transport. If so, then then will attempt to collect a body for her, intact if possible.

Professor Dallen says, “We could use a specimen in the department, if possible. However, I do not wish you put any of your team in undue danger to secure one. But, an intact specimen would be quite useful for research in a variety of fields.” She will check with the Department of Magical Artifacts to see if they have something that will help with that and get back with them in the morning.

11 Transformation 509

Rilka gets up very early in the morning and quietly leaves for the infirmary, leaving a note for Surm.

One of the Healers with the Department of Medicine lets Rilka into the infirmary. Both of the half-orcs are awake and having a light breakfast. They are lying in beds but seem to be okay. They smile as she comes in and Kortash and says, “Hey.”

Meanwhile, Surm is approached by Professor Dallen. She hands him a golden rod, etched with arcane runes, with a clear crystal at its tip. “The Department of Magical Artifacts gave me this. They are sometimes used by the Department of Natural Philosophy to collect specimens.”

She gives him the command word for the rod. “It has a range of about 40 feet. It will place the specimen in temporal stasis AND place it within a telekinetic sphere for transport. The bearer of the rod will be able move the sphere with their mind. The specimen will be preserved until the effect is dispelled by our people here at the University.”

“The rod can only be used once. They are very expensive and difficult to fashion, so please be careful with it.”

“Is this to be used on a live specimen?” Surm asks.

“Not necessarily. In fact, a live specimen will probably be too dangerous to bring here. No, the stasis field will keep anything from happening to the dead specimen—deterioration, further damage, that sort of thing. The telekinetic sphere will make it easier to transport.”

Back in the infirmary, Rilka smiles at the brothers in return, then sits down carefully on the edge of Kortash’s bed. “Hey,” she replies, laying a light hand on his arm. “It’s good to see you.” Rilka looks at them both, “You had us worried.”

Burask smiles and points at his brother. “I blame him,” he says, smiling. Kortash makes a face at Burask in return.

“In all seriousness, the Healers described some of what happened to us, but neither of us remember much,” Kortash says. We were guarding the exit to that room, like you asked. Next thing either of remember is a searing headache and someone jumping us. I vaguely remember seeing tentacles, like on the squids we see at the docks of Aldasar. I thought I was dreaming—or having a nightmare. Anyway. Next we’re smothering and more pain. Then, we woke up in here." Kortash shrugs. “Guess we didn’t do a good job guarding.”

Burask says, “I keep telling him to stop beating himself up about it. We weren’t expecting trouble from behind, with you lot clearing it out. And how could we have anticipated THAT happening? We did the best we could, as always.”

Rilka meets Kortash’s gaze, “Guess we didn’t do a good job of clearing it out.” She half-smiles, but her eyes betray the stress and exhaustion of the last 24 hours.

To both brothers, she says “We kept fighting more of those brain creatures and trying to explore the site.” She briefly explains finding the hooded creatures and the duergar priestess. “After talking to the priestess about what she and her people had experienced, Savaric ran back to check on the two of you. He saw two of those abominations standing over you and killed them. None of our healings or restorations seemed to help, so Surm and I brought you to the University where the chiurgeons and the temple of Halor were able to revive you.”

“The plan is to take care of some business here in the city, then teleport back to the site later today.’” Rilka briefly takes Kortash’s hand in hers, then stands. “If either of you feel like walking around Kalimsport this morning, then you’re welcome to come Otherwise, we’ll all meet back at the University when it’s time to leave.”

Both brothers are up for getting up and walking around. They’re rested up and ready to leave.

Surm and Rilka head out to buy the needed scrolls and make a donation of 800 gold to the temple of Halor. While in the Temple District, Rilka checks in on the progress of her shrine. It is coming along…ground has been broke and things are progressing as they should. They head back to the University to pick up Kortash and Burask and teleport back to the campsite in the elven lands.

View
Session Seventy-Eight
Deeper and Deeper

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11 Transformation 509

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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