The party stands outside the Ruby Arch within the Hall of Mercerius. After making sure that the ruby they have collected from within is secure, they walk to the Diamond Arch. There, they discuss elementals and a possible plan if, as they suspect, this gate leads to the elemental plane of air. Rilka could fly with the power of her armor to the gemstone and retrieve it while the others (Savaric and Surm) deal with the elementals—assuming that this area is set up symmetrically with the other.
They head inside the arch through the dark portal, with Rilka leading the way.
The three adventurers hover in the midst of a realm comprised of sky above and below. A warm light suffuses all—though its source is impossible to discern. Small, living whirlwinds fly by, rifling through their hair and clothes. It is hard to determine where is up and where is down. And, without an external “push” of some sort, it is impossible to move from one place to another. The portal they came from remains just out of reach behind them…
Savaric uses Ilona to fly to portal. He reaches back through the portal, and nothing happens. They decide to send Savaric out of the portal to secure a rope to use to navigate around the portal on the other side. Once on the other side, he secures a rope to the Diamond Arch and brings the remainder of the line through the portal. Success! Surm holds the remainder of the rope after Savaric returns and ties it around himself.
Rilka flies toward a sparkling clear gemstone hanging suspended in the air about 100 feet away. As she approaches, as expected, a pair of large air elementals coalesce in the air around her. They begin pounding her as she tries to fly to the gemstone and back to her friends. Surm sends two lightning bolts toward one of the elementals from his wand while Savaric fires arrows at the creature. One of the elementals gives chase, while the one that has sustained the most damage from Surm and Savaric’s onslaught lingers behind. The elemental continues to pound on Rilka as she flies back. Finally, she makes it to her friends and through the portal, with Surm and Savaric pulling themselves through with the rope. They all arrive back in the Hall of Mercerius, safe and with the gemstone.
Rilka says some prayers of healing for herself and everyone takes a moment to rest. Then they head to the Aquamarine Arch.
The three discuss the probability that this gate will lead to the elemental plane of water. They wonder if they will be able to breathe there—or if that is part of the trial. Savaric braves the portal and arrives on the other side. He is immediately engulfed in water and, when he opens his mouth, begins to drown. He does see a shining aquamarine-hued gemstone about one hundred feet from the portal. He returns through the portal and reports that they will not be able to breathe.
The party takes some time to discuss a plan for this portal and Surm arrives at a creative solution. Rilka will be able to cast water breathing on herself and Savaric. Meanwhile, Surm will turn himself into a squid and outswim the elementals with the gemstone. With their plan in mind and spells cast, the three pass through the Aquamarine Arch.
They find themselves immersed in a sea without a surface or a floor. There is a diffuse glow lighting the area, its source unknown. The water feels to be a mixture of saline and fresh and swirls with currents and eddies. Across the way, about a hundred feet away, is a gleaming aquamarine gemstone. Surm immediately transforms into a squid and swims for the gemstone. Sure enough, two huge water elementals take form within the waters around the stone. Fortunately, Surm is able to outrun them as they give chase and he flops through the portal with Savaric and Rilka close on his tentacles.
Surm reverts to his usual shape and the three then discuss what to do with the three gemstones: ruby, diamond, and aquamarine.
They take the gemstones to the central green gemstone in the Hall and each, at the same time, present a gained gemstone to the floating emerald. The gemstones are pulled out of the hands of the presenters and begin orbiting the central green gem, much in the same way that Ioun stones orbit Rilka’s head. Then beams of light—white, red, and blue—burst forth from the smaller gems into the green one. Suddenly a huge portal opens up above them, covering the ceiling of the hall. Sand begins to fall down through the portal, quickly filling the room. Surm immediately levitates to the top of the room. Savaric and Rilka have to pull themselves up through the pillar of sand toward the awaiting portal on the ceiling of the room. Finally, the two half-orcs push through and the three ascend through the portal.
They stand on a column of packed sand. About a hundred yards ahead of them, they see a thirty-foot-tall platform, approachable on three sides by wide steps. The platform is made of green marble, as is the floor leading to it. Beyond the platform is darkness, impenetrable save for the occasional purple, green, and blue electrical strikes that permeate it. The darkness stretches out for as far as they can see.
Perched upon the platform is a huge creature. It appears to have the body of a lion, the wings of a mighty bird of prey, and human face. The face is male, dark-skinned, with a black braided beard and no mustache. The eyes are solid blue light. It wears an elaborate, golden headdress with strange symbols etched upon it. The brim is lined with gemstones.
The creature opens his mouth and its booming voice, speaking in Jossian, can be heard not only ringing in their ears, but in their thoughts.
“Come forward, mortals. You have endured my trials and have earned something of great value—my time. Do not waste it.”
Surm begins telling the great androsphinx of the quest for the secret of Ysarian steel. Mercerius wants to know why it is that they wish to have this secret. Rilka explains the holy quest and the forging of a weapon to combat the coming evil.
Mercerius says, “Yes…the wheels of the universe forever turn toward the inevitable end. A force not seen upon this plane in an age stirs. I know not if this knowledge I bestow upon you will help you drive it back, but I give you my hope that you can.”
Mercerius then rears back and gives a mighty roar. The party is temporarily deafened, but find that they now have the knowledge needed to forge Ysarian steel. A dark portal opens to their side and the sphinx is no longer in the chamber.
The party passes through the portal and finds themselves at the bottom of the mountain on which Mercerius’ stronghold stands.
12 Chillwind 509
Surm teleports the three of them back to Valeton, where they frighten a gardener who is working the grounds around the temple of Rosaela. Reuniting with their troupe at the Dancing Hare, they discover that a day has passed and it is now afternoon on the 12th of Chillwind.
Alasir buys the three drinks in celebration of their victory at the stronghold. Rilka retrieves her holy symbol from Halvor, to whom she gave it in case she didn’t return.
With drinks in hand, as well as a warm meal, the three discuss what is to happen next. Should they return to [Almathriel] and report their success to Lord Springvale? Should the proceed to Khazak-Ur to find the cassite crystal needed for the spearhead? They finally decide to head to Khazak-Ur. Rilka excuses herself and takes Kortash upstairs with her.
13 Chillwind 509
As the troupe begins to make their way out of Valeton, Surm begins to record the secret of Ysarian steel in a newly-blanked Tome of Leadership. The autumnal winds blow down from the mountains and bring a freshness to the air. The trees are turning color and the vale is quite beautiful this time of year. The day and night pass quietly as they travel northwest toward the pass that will take the troupe out of the vale and out of the elven lands back into human kingdoms and, eventually, Khazak-Ur.
16 Chillwind 509
After two more days of travel, the troupe arrives at the walls of Ebongate around noontime. After questioning by the gate guards, Alasir is logged as the leader of the forces going into the city. They travel to a park near the city center and let Surm study the area for about an hour so that he can have a clear point to which to teleport at some point in the future, if needed. There is a statue named fro Firan Stormwind, a cleric of Halor, here and it can be used as a landmark. After about an hour, they continue on through the streets and exit the city on the other side.
20 Chillwind 509
After several more quiet days of travel, the troupe arrives at the gates of Khazak-Ur, chief city of the dwarven civilization. Surm inquires of the gate guard concerning the Conclave of the Forge. The guard seems a bit disconcerted, and avows that he has heard of the Conclave, though they like to keep themselves secret. He suggests that they speak with Tasvian Hammerfall at the Maker’s Nod, a tavern. She should know something. He also gives them some recommendations for inns and they decided on the “fancy” inn, the House of Warship. It is apparently built from an old warship that has been dragged into the mountain and converted into an inn. Intrigued, the party makes their way there.
Along the way, Surm dismisses the troops to go on leave and Alasir stays with the guards, leaving only Surm, Rilka, Savaric, and Mahgnus to go to the House of Warship.
At the inn, which has a grand gangplank and gold-filigreed hardwood interiors, they are greeted by a mature female dwarf by the name of Isvalda. She sees to their needs and arranges a suite for the four of them. After the four are settled into their rooms, they head out into the city to get courtiers’ clothes (at Surm’s insistence) in order to make a good impression on this Tasvian Hammerfall.
Surm wants the clothes the clothes today, but the tailor insists that such a job, to be done at the quality Surm demands, takes three days. They pay the man extra and receive assurances that they will have the clothing ready by tomorrow morning.
They head back to the House of Warship and have dinner and drinks in the common room. They have a young dwarven male as a waiter who serves them in earnest, but is later taken aside by a very hoity-toity looking dwarf seated at a nearby table. The two half-orcs have been receiving stares from that direction all evening. After the young waiter is taken aside, he heads to the kitchen area. From that point forward, it is clear that the waiter is trying to rush the table’s occupants into finishing their evening. Surm purposefully takes his time.
Savaric asks about the finely-dressed dwarf and learns that his name is Fergus Stonecracker, an investor in the inn. They watch as Stonecracker rises to leave and runs into Isvalda at the door to the common area. There, he expresses his “disappointment” in allowing such clientele into inn and jeopardizing the quality of his investment. Isvalda says nothing and lets the old dwarf pass. She heads into the kitchen and, a few moments later, the young waiter returns with a round of drinks for the table. “On the house,” the dwarf says.
Soon thereafter, the party heads to their suite and to rest in warm beds for the first time in a good while.
21 Chillwind 509
As the party (sans Mahgnus) leaves the House of Warship to retrieve their finery and to seek to Tasvian Hammerfall, they meet Isvalda on the deck. Rilka thanks her for the drinks last night. Isvalda acknowledges the thanks with a simple nod of understanding.
The party retrieves their dwarven finery—including a dress for Rilka. She receives help from a matronly dwarf with the clasps on the dress. They return to the House of Warship to change and stow their gear. They then head to the Maker’s Nod.
It’s early in the day and the Nod does not have many patrons. There are a pair of dwarves seated in one corner. A couple of humans—not together—sipping drinks, and a young female dwarf seated alone sketching in a notebook. They approach the female.
Surm introduces himself and the others to the young dwarf, who is, indeed, Tasvian Hammerfall. Surm makes his inquiry of her concerning what she knows of the Conclave of the Forge. She seems a bit disconcerted by the question—especially the fact that a gate guard fingered her as having such information. Nevertheless, she suggests that they take the conversation to a more private area.
Tasvian leads them out of the tavern and to a nearby residence with a small forge sitting adjacent. They gather in her forge. There, she listens as Rilka explains why they need the Conclave and the cassite. Tasvian acknowledges that she can probably get them an audience with the Conclave, but that it’ll take her about three hours to do it. And they will need to be prepared to convince the Conclave of their case—they take pride in their secrecy, but also in their knowledge. The party agrees to return here in three hours.
The three friends head back to the House of Warship to change and to wait for Tasvian’s meeting. Rilka requires the aid of a chambermaid to extract herself from her dress. The young female dwarf—who is extremely giggly—helps her out, much to Rilka’s chagrin. They all decide to attend the meeting in their “Captain Rilka” uniforms and to go armed and armored—they don’t know where Tasvian is going to lead them and it is best to be prepared. Surm also buys a bandolier with which to hold weapons, flasks, and wands at easy reach.
After three hours, the party arrives at Tasvian’s forge. She is dressed in a dark cloak that covers her completely. “Follow me,” she says and leads them through some back alleys and dark side-streets to a less affluent part of the upper city. She arrives at a back door in an alley and knocks in sequence—3 knocks, then 2 knocks, and finally a single knock. The door is opened by a thin (for a dwarf) male with a pointy black beard. He ushers them all in and opens a trapdoor in the floor. Stairs lead down into darkness.
Tasvian leads the way down into a basement with eleven other dwarves. She hangs her cloak on a peg near the entryway. At the back of the room is a wooden pallet being used as a stage and an ornately carved stool. On the stool sits a bit of what appears to be red silk. As Tasvian leads the others through the crowd, greetings of “Hello Forge Master” follow in Tasvian’s wake. She arrives at the stage and places the silk stole about her neck. Each end has the seal of the Conclave embroidered in white.
Tasvian introduces the party to the gathered dwarves and indicates that they have a request of the Conclave. Surm steps forward and starts their tale from the beginning, with the green Aedonii gemstone. He then goes on to explain their holy quest and the need for the cassite and how he associated the use of the mineral with the Conclave. Finally, he implores them to assist them in this important mission, and invokes the name of the Crimson Cord—which some of the gathered dwarves seem to recognize.
Tasvian says that there is some discussion and a vote to take place. She indicates that this will be done in secret and has the Cord wait upstairs.
After about ten minutes, the Cord is brought back down into the basement and Tasvian announces that the Conclave has voted to help them in their quest. They would be happy to help the Cord forge with the secret of Ysarian steel and to aid in acquiring the necessary cassite needed for the Spear of Salvation. However…the only cache of the mineral that they are aware of is in an old cavern, deep below the city, and is guarded by the red dragon Imratrix—at least, according to the writings of their predecessors in the Conclave. There is also a nemhain, a ghostly guardian set by the previous Conclave to guard the cache. Tasvian has a talisman to help against the nemhain, but she has every confidence, based on the reputation of the Crimson Cord, that they can handle Imratrix. The Cord agrees to take on the task.
The cavern will take about three days of travel to find. Tasvian can lead the way once the Cord is prepared for the journey. The Cord can find her either at the Maker’s Nod or at her forge.
The meeting is dismissed and everyone disperses. And the Crimson Cord has a dragon on their mind…
The Crimson Cord are staying at the Dancing Hare in Valeton. The principals are staying in one suite, while Mahgnus, Alasir, and Tarben share the second suite. The rest of the troupe are bunking in the common room.
Inside the suite, after all arrangements for accommodations have been made, Surm reveals that Mõrvar has had a letter delivered to them outlining his demands for his severance with the Crimson Cord. The group discuss the particulars of the matter and come to a decision to essentially “cash out” with Surm’s brother, paying him a fair severance of platinum coin instead of meeting his demands one-by-one. They are in agreement that there will be no negotiating on the matter—the offer can be taken or left. Surm will deliver the message to Mõrvar (who is apparently camping on the south side of the town) in the morning.
That evening, Surm takes time to memorize the features of the temple to Rosaela in the center of town in order to use it as a location for teleportation back to Valeton.
1 Chillwind 509
The party makes ready to leave Valeton and journey to the Riftpeaks to the east. As they head out of town, Surm takes the form of a hawk and delivers their message to Mõrvar at the south of town. After delivering the message, Surm returns to the party and assumes his usual form.
It is autumn in the Vale, which brings changing leaves on the trees and chill winds blowing down from the surrounding mountains. It is a, nevertheless, a pleasant and quiet journey. That night, the troupe pitches their camp in the cover of the forest. The night passes without incident.
2 Chillwind 509
Near the end of this day of traveling, the party has emerged from the dense forest and into the foothills of the Riftpeaks. Savaric, scouting ahead, notes a tall pillar of bones on one of the hills up ahead. The pile is probably ten feet in height and narrow. He reports back to the rest of the troupe and they approach the bones together with caution.
As Savaric examines the pile more closely, Rilka prays to her god and finds that there is no evil nor any magic emanating from the pile. Surm speculates that it may be a cairn of some sort. Savaric finds that the bones are humanoid and definitely stacked in a purposeful fashion. Further, the bones are clean—there is not a mark on them either from battle or artifice. He also finds no tracks in the area other than their own. The top of the pillar is adorned with a humanoid skull. Peering between the bones, he discovers that the pillar is hollow, but sees nothing inside. Finding nothing more, but being disturbed nevertheless, the troupe elects to move on.
At the end of the day, the troupe arrives at the base of the western Riftpeaks. The core of the Crimson Cord (Rilka, Savaric, and Surm), decide to send the bulk of the troupe back to Valeton and take only Tarben and Burask (both volunteers) with them to Mercerius’ stronghold. They give Alasir the other half of the Agent’s Clasp that can be used for communication.
The troupe camps for the night, which passes quietly.
3 Chillwind 509
This morning Alasir takes the bulk of the Crimson Cord’s guards back to Valeton. The remaining members (Rilka, Savaric, Surm, Burask, and Tarben) beginning navigating their way through the mountains, blazing a trail for themselves through the craggy passes.
As they make their way through, later in the day, Savaric spots a large shape overhead descending at speed toward him. He takes up a position and begins to fire at the creature—a rift drake—with many rapid fire shot. The creature is overwhelmed by the barrage and falls heavily, with Savaric and Ghost both narrowly avoiding being crushed by the falling carcass.
The rest of the troupe, about 50 feet away, see and hear the falling drake and start coming forward to help as a second drake begins to descend. After the drake lands, it breaths out a ball of acidic vapors that cover Savaric and Ghost, but they manage to avoid the brunt of the burning cloud. Savaric once again takes up a position and begins firing as the rest of the troupe catches up. Finally, the second drake is dispatched.
Savaric takes about an hour to skin one of the rift drakes for its leather, teeth, and claws. The party then continues on its way, emerging from the mountains near nightfall to the volcanic plain of the Rift. The party sets up watches and camps for the night.
4 Chillwind 509
This morning, Surm teleports everyone to Almathriel to pick up Ilona from the craftsperson that was “upgrading” her powers. On the return trip, he manages to find a similar area of the Rift to land in, but not the same one he left (he had a left a marker with his arcane mark on it to designate it to avoid getting lost). Fortunately, they were only about a hundred yards away from their intended destination. The small group continues on its way across the obsidian plain, camping in the desolation for the night.
6 Chillwind 509
Once again, Surm teleports the party to Almathriel to retrieve magic items. This time, the return occurs without incident.
As the party continues across the desolate Rift, with Savaric scouting ahead, they come upon a sight that they had hoped never to see again—a colossus carnivorous blob oozing its way across the plain. Surm remembers that cold damage seemed to be its weakness and began preparing snowball spells. Savaric fired into the creature, but it bounded its way faster than its size would indicate and smacked Savaric hard with one of its pseudopods—sucking his life blood. Rilka steps forward to bravely defend Savaric and manages to split the ooze into two smaller creatures. She, too, is hit and is drained of life, falling on the field, seemingly dead. The fight has now taken a turn that is hard for the party, having to fight on two fronts. Surm pelts the creatures with snowballs, eventually dispatching them both with the powerful balls of ice.
The battle leaves the party hurting badly. Surm teleports them all back to Valeton, to the temple of Rosaela, and then they walk to the Dancing Hare to spend the night nursing their wounds. Surm tells the story of their battle to an impressed audience of Crimson Cord guards and inn patrons. Farlo gives them all drinks on the house.
7 Chillwind 509
Rilka spends the morning in prayer as the party prepares to depart once again for the Rift. After her prayers, she provides herself and Savaric with healings and restorative prayers to aid in their recovery from the battle. Afterwards, she tells the party that when she fell in battle the previous day, she found herself in the Hall of Bruni. There, he told her that he was proud that she fell bravely in battle, defending her friends. This is a good death for one of his own. But, there is still much to be done about the coming menace. So Bruni told her that she would not be living in his hall just yet…but would reside there is she fell again, or when she completed her task against the doom that is to come. She is essentially living on borrowed time until her purpose is complete. The Cord doesn’t know what to do with this news and is largely silent. The party rests for the remainder of the day while Savaric goes on a hunt in the name of Isranthr. Savaric returns with fresh meat for his friends, after making the appropriate sacrifice to the Hunter.
Farlo, the innkeep, asks Surm to tell the story of their battle again to tonight’s patrons, which he does to a rapt audience.
8 Chillwind 509
Surm teleports the party back to the Rift to the site of their battle with the blobs. There, the remains reek of old blood, bile, and decay. They move on toward the eastern Riftpeaks. That night, they camp and make ready to move on the next day.
10 Chillwind 509
After traveling all day across the desolation of the Rift, the party arrives at the Riftpeaks at sundown. They stand at the base of the mountain on which Mercerius’ stronghold is reputed to lie. Surm changes his shape into that of a giant eagle and flies to the top of the mountain to scout it out.
Near the top of the mountain is a plateau. Setting on the plateau is a series of marble columns, covered in strange runes. On top of the columns is a great marble lintel, also with runes etched in its edges. Within the wall-less structure is a dark portal. Above the structure, casting multicolored light over the runes on the columns and lintel, is a huge dark storm cloud with purple, red, and blue lightning streaking through it.
Surm returns and reports his find to the rest of the party. They elect to teleport to the top the following morning.
11 Chillwind 509
Surm teleports the party to the plateau near the top of the mountain. Savaric checks the area finds none. Surm casts read magic on the runes and discovers that they are runes of warding that help infuse the portal. If the warding is dispelled, he will dispel the portal itself. Further inspection reveals that the warding appears to teleport those that cannot breach the portal if they try too many times. Where they are teleported, it is unsure—but Surm is fairly confident that it would be somewhere on this plane of existence.
It is decided that Savaric will try the portal first. He makes his way to the dark glowing pane and passes through, disappearing into the darkness. Bursask goes next—but fails to penetrate a membrane that seems to be around the portal. Tarben tries, and fails as well. Rilka hands a holy symbol of Bruni to Tarben and asks him to give it to the shrine she is building in Kalimsport if she does not return. She then tries the portal—and fails. She tries again—and penetrates the membrane and enters the darkened portal.
Surm teleports himself and the two guards to Valeton—or at least, attempts to. He ends up somewhere in the dense elven forests of the area around Valeton. Clearly exasperated, he pulls out a scroll and then teleports them all to Valeton. He sends a message to Rilka through Alasir that they’ve arrived. The message works—making them wonder whether or not Rilka and Savaric are on another plane of existence or not. After making sure that Rilka and Savaric are fine (they appear to be in a darkened hall of some sort), he uses another scroll to teleport himself back to the plateau. Surm then braces himself and heads through the portal, breaking his way easily through the membrane and into the darkness.
The three stand in a dark hall, with gold, rune-infused walls and dark floor tiles which have sparks of arcane energy running between them. Ahead of them is a floating emerald, about the size of a fist, glowing in a soft green light.
Surm announces their presence: “We seek Mercerius from the far side of the portal!” No answer is offered from the vast hall.
They move forward and examine the gemstone. It is not like the green gem that infect Surm’s brother so long ago—it appears to be a keystone of sorts and is related to the ioun stones that Rilka has orbiting her head. There is also some sort of necromantic ward around the keystone to protect it. Beyond the keystone is an alcove with a large framed gateway holding another dark portal. The gateway is made of aquamarine. Examining it with his arcane senses, Surm determines that it is a portal to some fixed point off of this plane. They continue around the perimeter of the hall and find two other portals—one framed in diamond and one framed in ruby.
After a brief discussion, they party opts to pass through the ruby portal.
They find themself on an island of black rock surrounded by rivers of fire and lava. Behind them is the portal through which they passed. Across this fiery plain, on a pedestal of obsidian, they spot a shiny red ruby. Surm casts telekinesis and begins pulling the gem toward them, slowly, across the plain. As it crosses one of the rivers of fire, two large fire elementals emerge and start gliding quickly toward the party, overtaking the slow-moving gemstone. A fierce battle ensues, which Surm concentrating on moving the gemstone as the other two fight off the elementals. However, they party eventually overcome the elementals, causing them to dissipate into embers. Surm grabs the gemstone and the party returns to the hall through the portal.
The main body of the Crimson Cord and its entourage are marching from the Ysarian complex site toward Almathriel while Surm has teleported away to take care of some business. The evening of the 14th was a quite a dramatic affair, with a drag-out argument between Rilka, Savaric, and Mõrvar over their actions within the Ysar complex when Surm jumped through the gate. There are many hard feelings simmering to the top for the group and things came to a head. Morvar leaves during the night without so much as a word, taking his horse and riding southwest.
Surm utilizes his newly-developed teleport spell to take care of some loose ends and to confront his brother, seemingly for the final time. He tries to explain to him that even if he was right about what happened in the complex, his reactions afterwards were wrong and not indicative of a person who cares about family. Mõrvar is intractable, insisting that everyone was against him, had always been against him, and that Surm was taking their side—as per usual. Surm, obviously upset and a bit angry himself, leaves his brother to his own devices and teleports away.
Surm now returns to the remaining members of the Cord and discusses the implications of the split with them. They all agree that Mõrvar is clearly no longer a member of the Cord, which would mean no access to their business dealings and contacts under their auspices. Surm has taken steps to ensure that this is the case. They also all agree to move forward with Surm’s recruiting idea of the Crimson Cord Fellowship to further their fame and resources. Surm is to return to Almathriel where Tarben, Burask, and Mahgnus await—he has some business brewing there awaiting their return (a magic weapon for Burask, retraining, etc.). He then teleports to Almathriel, with a request from Savaric to have Mahgnus ask around for some known brewers in the area that he could call upon as contacts when he starts his own brewery in Kalimsport.
18 Transformation 509
As the bulk of the Cord travels through the forests toward the elven capital, they come across the scene of a battle. There are three dead bodies—from the looks of them, woodcutters. A fourth is lying unconscious from a traumatic head wound—a mighty slash has nearly split his head in two. It’s a miracle the man is alive.
According to the woodsman, a band comprised of a huge Northron and an entourage of about a dozen hooded clerics of some sort, came striding through the woods. The woodsmen hailed the strangers, but the Northron ignored them and struck them with his mighty axe, as if just clearing a path through a field of wheat. He and the cloaked ones moved on as if nothing had happened, but they left them all for dead.
The Northron wore an iron symbol around his neck of some tentacled beast.
This happened two days ago. The woodsman dies as he finishes his tale.
Savaric confirms some tracks—both booted and horse—moving toward the northeast. Rilka recognizes the symbol as one from the altar that contained the green gemstone back in the Aedonii ruins that tried to control Mõrvar.
That evening, Rilka informs Surm of the find via the Agent’s Clasp. Surm indicates that he will try to do some research on the symbol Rilka describes—he recalls it from the altar in the Aedonii ruins as well. The Cord are not going to follow—they only have food enough to get to Almathriel and they don’t know what they are going to encounter if they pursue the Northron.
Surm asks Lord Springvale for information on the symbol, but the elven nobleman demurs, saying that symbology is not his expertise. But, a member of his salon, Zordlon Rainbringer, is and he will write Surm a brief letter of recommendation to get him through the door to see him. Surm will do so in the morning, before attending his sorcerous training session.
19 Transformation 509
Early in the morning before attending his training session, Surm calls upon Zordlon Rainbringer. Zordlon is a venerable elf, with grey in his blond hair and creases in his otherwise flawless skin. He carries a silver-headed cane, though does to appear to rely upon it. He confirms that the symbol is consistent with Aedonii symbology and is probably religious in nature. He wants to consult a colleague about it, however, and asks Surm to return in three days to get more information. Surm agrees.
21 Almathriel 509
The bulk of the Crimson Cord arrives in Almathriel around noon. They check in to The Mithral Dagger and secure rooms for the next few days as they complete their business.
Mahgnus informs Savaric of two prominent “brewers” (elves don’t really brew—they are more into spirits and wines): Rilinior Silverleaf, a distiller of absinthe, and Amrunelara Starbright, a vintner.
22 Almathriel 509
That morning, before going to training, the three main members of the Cord visit with Zordlon Rainbringer regarding the symbol. He says that he doesn’t have much information for them—much of the ways of the “Elder Races” are a mystery to scholars today and knowledge was lost with the Rivening. But, he can confirm that the symbol is that of a being known as Akthalos—an “Elder God” of the Aedonii. It was reputed to represent chaos and evil and, somehow, was exiled at some point by the Aedonii.
After seeing Surm off to his training session, Savaric takes Ghost goes hunting in the woods outside of the city. After a few hours, he manages to down an “elven” antelope with spiralled, straight horns and particularly tender meat. As he butchers the kill, he prays to Isranthr for guidance and to pledge his faith to the Hunter. He gives a portion of the kill to the fire for his new patron and takes the rest back to Almathriel to share with his friends.
That evening they have a meal with Lord Springvale at his estate. As usual, he is a wonderful host, engaging to his guests, and hangs on their every word—though Rilka notices that Surm isn’t saying anything and Springvale distinctly refuses to make eye contact with Surm. After regaling their host with tales of their adventures and their future investment plans in Kalimsport, Springvale says that is time for him to fulfill his end of the bargain.
“While I, unfortunately, do not possess the knowledge you seek, I can direct to the one who most probably does. The secret of Ysarian steel can be gained from a being known as Mercerius. He is an ancient being of great power who lived in the time before the Rivening and actually saw the death of the Ysar and Aedonii and, according to one’s beliefs, witnessed the birth of the Elves and Humankind.”
“Mercerius resides in his stronghold in the mountains on the far side of the Rift. The way will be perilous and Mercerius is not known for his hospitality. But, should be able to treat with him, he will have the information you desire.”
Springvale goes on to explain that the best route to reach the stronghold is through Valeton, the largest settlement in Melnys Vale. He will provide them with a rudimentary map to the site where he believes the stronghold lies. No one knows what manner of creature Mercerius is, which Springvale finds fascinating. He also indicates that part of the being’s “inhospitable nature” is his wont to put his visitors through a trial in order to receive the information they seek.
After dinner, Springvale assures them that they all can call upon him again whenever they like. As the Cord are walking down the street away from the estate, Rilka chastises Surm. “What did you do to him?” She brings up how awkward things were and thinks he should go back and apologize, which Surm does as the others return to the Mithral Dagger.
Surm does not return that night.
23 Transformation 509
Savaric, concerned that Surm is not at the Mithral Dagger and ready to go to his training session, peppers him with questions from the Agent’s Clasp. Surm only responds that he’s fine and that he’ll be going to his retraining. Savaric goes to meet him there, and manages to catch Surm during his lunch break.
Other than that, the day is spent mostly provisioning and shopping for magic items and the like in the city’s Silver Ring. In fact, Savaric will be leaving Ilona to be upgraded while he travels. While she is delighted to be upgraded and be more useful, she doesn’t like being separated from Savaric.
24 Transformation 509
Rilka and Surm teleport to Kalimsport to retrieve funds from the bank for their various purchases in Almathriel. That evening, Savaric and Burask pick up the latter’s newly-enchanted greataxe. The Cord then all go to have dinner with Lord Springvale again. This evening’s dinner is far less awkward.
25 Transformation 509
The Crimson Cord and their entourage finally set out from Almathriel toward Valeton to the southeast. The early autumn day is warm, though the nights are starting to get a bit chill, especially with the winds coming off of two parallel mountain ranges. They anticipate arriving in Valeton in six days.
27 Transformation 509
Travel through the old growth forest of the elven lands has been relatively easy and even serene. Until today. Savaric spots a giant mantis lurking behind a copse of trees. He easily dispatches it with two expert shots from his bow. The Cord moves on.
30 Transformation 509
Late in the afternoon, the party arrives in the quaint town of Valeton. It is clearly designed for the Vale Folk (halflings). The buildings are small, but cozy. Hearth fire smoke floats upward from chimneys. Vale folk can be seen leaving shops and heading to homes or public houses.
As the large troupe rides into the town, they are mostly met with looks of curiosity from the townsfolk. At the center of the town is a large structure bearing a wooden disk carved with the likeness of a pair of cupped hands. This is symbol of Rosaela, the Provider, and primary goddess of the Vale Folk. This temple is likely used as a storehouse for supplies for the town, a source of the provider.
Here they are met by a female halfling, probably in her mid-twenties with a wavy red-brown hair and freckles. She has a club on her belt and wears a green sash with orange chevrons on it. She introduces herself as Keela Stoutfoot and she is the constable of Valeton. She asks them a few questions as to what brings them to Valeton and gives them some recommendations regarding inns (“The Dancing Hare has a cottage pie—excellent! And you must try their stout…”). She leaves them with a warning not to get into any trouble while in town.
The troup follows the constable’s directions to the Dancing Hare where they meet Farlo, the innkeep. A very informal fellow, but friendly, Farlo gets them set up with what rooms he has (though the majority of their ‘army’ will have to bunk in the common room).
The party is in a large chamber that holds some sort of interdimensional gate locked in between two quartz-like pillars. There is odd Ysarian artwork sitting in the center of the room. Two intellect devourers are grappled by sorcerous black tentacles called into being by Surm. They have just slain a large illithid and are turning to finish off the other, as some foreign power attempts to grab control of Surm and Rilka’s minds from within the gate.
Savaric fires into one of the grappled intellect devourers and finishes it off.
Mõrvar casts enlarge person on himself and grows to twice his normal size. Meanwhile, both he and Surm examine the gate to try and determine if there is a way to close to close the gate. The power is magical, but so otherworldly and strange that it is hard to get a handle on it, but as near as they can tell, there are only three ways to close the gate:
1. Destroy one or both of the pillars anchoring it in place.
2. Use dispel magic against the strange magic. Though it would be more difficult than usual because of the alien nature of the magic, it would be possible.
3. There is probably some means on the other side of the gate that controls it and could close it.
Surm decides he’s going to go inside the gate and find a way to shut it down. He jumps into the tear in reality between the towers. Inside, he sees the large brain in a metal vat that could be seen through the portal. But what he didn’t see through the portal were the twenty or so illithids standing vigil in this strange, dark chamber. There is also an intellect devourer holding two rods before the open gate. Surm throws the small creature through the gate to his friends, yelling “His name is Rodly!”
The gate closes as the intellect devourer flies through to the other side.
Mõrvar goes into a rage, stomping about and wanting to kill. He attacks Rodly, who quickly disappears. Rilka and Savaric begin looking for Rodly while Mõrvar attempts to stomp through the tentacles to kill the other intellect devourer. He gets grappled by the tentacles, but attacks anyway, destroying the remaining intellect devourer.
Then, Savaric and Rilka see the corpse of one of the large illithids begin to stir. Savaric starts firing arrows into it as it rises. Rilka attacks the corpse as well, splitting it open to reveal Rodly inside. Savaric and Rilka don’t want to kill the creature because if may be able to re-open the gate so they can rescue Surm. However, Mõrvar sees the creature and charges forward and destroys it, despite Savaric and Rilka’s protestations.
Savaric charges up to Mõrvar and punches him, calling him a dumbass. Mõrvar punches him back. Rilka unloads in a rage on the eldritch knight, telling him how selfish he is for self-indulgently giving into his anger like that instead of thinking about how to help his brother. Mõrvar is unrepentant, while his sentient blade insists that Mõrvar kill Savaric for attacking him.
Surm uses dimension door to get out of the chamber he’s in and (hopefully) somewhere a bit safer. He finds himself in a long, narrow chamber, the long sides of which are lined with devices containing small vats with brains inside of each one. They pulse and and bubble from within metal bucket-like containers. Surm can hear echoes for stomping boots coming to him from the surrounding complex.
He pulls out a magical scroll inscribed with a gate spell and prepares to grab one of the “brain buckets” to take with him. He tries to cast the powerful spell—but it is too much for him, it does not cast. Now, footsteps have gotten closer, so he returns the vat and steps to the side, casting invisibility on himself.
Two illithids enter the room, obviously searching for him. He feels some type of power buffet his magical resistance, but it doesn’t penetrate. The illithids, continuing their search, exit through the other side of the chamber.
Once Surm is sure the illithids are gone, he grabs a vat and tries the gate spell again…
Back in the gate chamber, Rilka has finished chewing out Mõrvar and has retired to a corner of the room to pray for help for Surm. She calls upon Bruni to help her friend, citing his bravery in going inside the portal in order to close it. She feels her connection to the deity shiver and fade in answer…
Mõrvar picks up the two rods that Rodly brought with him and examines them. They are very strange and alien to his knowledge, but he thinks he has figured out how to re-open the portal. He moves toward the pillars to begin…
As Surm begins the work of casting the powerful gate spell, the echoes of approaching boot stomps ringing in his ears, the new portal opens almost immediately, without any effort on Surm’s part. He knows that this should have been a lot harder, because his effort was minimal. A bit disconcerted, he passes through the portal, carrying his small vat. The gate shuts behind him.
Surm is now back in the chamber of the portal with his friends. He yells at Mõrvar, “Don’t open that gate!” Every one turns, but cannot see Surm—he is still invisible. He releases the spell and then finds himself fiercely embraced by Mõrvar.
Savaric, still mad at Mõrvar, flings one of the intellect devourer corpses at him and sardonically points out how lucky he is that Surm found his own way out. Deathblow throws one of the corpses at Savaric with his telekinetic projectile power, but misses the ranger. He demands that Mõrvar kill him for his attack. Mõrvar ignores the sword as Rilka and Savaric both angrily engage with him to explain to Surm what has happened. Rilka states that she doesn’t trust Mõrvar anymore.
Surm calls for calm, reminding everyone that they are on a job. They all acquiesce and Savaric begins searching the room. Mõrvar takes his warhammer, and with the help of Kortash and Burask, destroy the gate pillars. They decide to continue on and clean out the complex. They head to the north west corner of the complex and find that one of the chambers holds yet another iron golem.
After a brief discussion, they decide that they may as well go ahead and take care of golem—or at least, see if they can.
Rilka takes Surm aside and tells him that she called on Bruni to intervene on his behalf on his behalf, because she didn’t want anything to happen to him. This seems to discomfit Surm, but he says thank you.
Savaric sets himself up for a shot from across the room, the door of an adjacent chamber. Rilka takes up a position in an adjoining room, ready to rush in if needed. Mõrvar does the same. Savaric carefully aims an adamantine arrow and fires it into the golem. It stirs to life and as Savaric continues to fire one adamtine arrow at a time, it makes its way to the doorway, though the creature is too large to pass through it. It begins pounding on the wall next to the door, forcing its way through the strange, soft, Ysarian metal.
Mõrvar sneaks up behind the creature and enlarges himself, waiting to see if Savaric manages to fell the creature.
Savaric continues to fire and just as a crack breaks through the wall and the golem begins widening it with its hands. Finally, the last arrow hits the construct and it slumps forward and stops its rampage.
Gathering together once again, they explore the remaining chambers in this wing of the complex. The only item of interest found is a deep, bottomless shaft in one chamber with the smell of sulfur pouring out it as a foul draft. They decide to enact the same plan with the other golem in the other wing.
The second golem falls in much the same way as the first, though Savaric is using powerfully magical arrows this time instead of adamantine because he used all of those.
They search this wing and only find a chamber with strangely designed furniture and a table—some sort of meeting place. Savaric is convinced that there is something they’ve missed, but is convinced to come away and leave the fully explored complex.
Outside the complex, the party does not see the young pyrohydra. Savaric does some tracking and determines that it has moved to one of the deeper caverns from here. He wants to pursue it and take it with them, but is talked out of it by the others. He really doesn’t have the means or ability to care for the beast as he’s traveling. They can notify Lord Springvale of the creature and let him send someone to deal with it. They all leave the tunnels and emerge into the camp late in the afternoon.
They are greeted by the guards and given reports of what has transpired while they were inside—which wasn’t much of anything. Rilka and Savaric stand aside and pray, which makes Surm very uncomfortable. The party gathers again and decides to head back to Almathriel in the morning.
That night, Surm has a dream.
He is sitting in a boisterous longhouse, much like the longhouses of his homeland. Mead and sweat and woodsmoke fill the air. Tales are told and songs and sung. He sits on a bench against one of the walls of the long chamber and beside him is a muscular middle-aged Northron male with a two wolves sitting at his feet. The animals seem alert but relaxed.
“Your friend sacrificed a lot for you,” the man says to Surm. “I was willing to help because jumping into the gate showed courage. I hope you are worth the sacrifice she made.” He turns to the young sorcerer and looks him in the eye. “The world as you know it is in jeopardy. Many wheels are in motion. There will be much pain and strife to come. Keep your courage. You’re going to need it.”
At that, Surm awakes.
14 Transformation 509
The Crimson Cord and their entourage pack up and march out, leaving behind Doranthanel and his mercenaries. They spend the day traveling through the old forests of the elven lands and then make a camp that night.
Around the campfire, the Cord gathers—they have much to discuss.
The party has just defeated a slew of possessed duergar and their intellect devourers. One has escaped into the next chamber. Savaric pursues his quarry into that room, through two arched doorways. Entering the room, he sees only a closed door and a long-discarded duergar corpse. He begins exploring the room for secret compartments and bumps into something in the doorway that he can’t see. He backs off and is clawed by a formerly-invisible intellect devourer! He fires a barrage of arrows into the creature and slays it.
Meanwhile, Rilka is guarding the open doorway in the previous room while the others wait for Savaric to search the area.
They retreat into the larger room where they battled the other duergar and head into the smaller adjacent room that Rilka has been guarding. The southern wall has a locked door that Surm attempts to open with the make-shift key they found—but he breaks the key! Fortunately, he has the mending spell and repairs it, and then tries again. He opens the lock successfully.
Savaric searches the way down a short corridor into another small room. This room is found to be empty, save for another locked door. Surm unlocks the door and Savaric and Rilka proceed into a long, narrow room—Rilka casting detect magic and Savaric looking for secret traps or passages.
Rilka detects a magic aura in the area just as they are assaulted by a fireball that ignites right in their midst. Savaric manages to save himself with his quick reflexes, evading the explosion completely. Rilka is well-served by her quick reflexes as well, though she does get more mildly burned. The conflagration reveals an illithid standing toward the back of the room, waiting for them.
As the other members of the party, Surm, Kortash, and Burask, file into the room to help deal with the new threat, two more fireballs ignite, engulfing them all. Most manage to not take the brunt of the assault, but Kortash is badly burned. He retreats into the previous room. The explosions reveal an additional two illithids in the room.
After a brief battle, the party’s superior numbers and Savaric’s wizardry with the bow bring them victory against the mind flayers.
Savaric searches the room and finds a secret panel in the wall. Opening it reveals a narrow corridor. Rilka casts detect magic down the corridor and detects the presence of a magical aura. Surm steps forward and attempts to identify it—only finding that it is a strong aura; he cannot determine the type of magic being employed. He then, with the encouragement of his friends, casts dispel magic against the likely trap. The magic dissipates.
Savaric makes his way down the corridor, looking for more surprises. The corridor leads to another door. Rilka discerns a magical aura on the door. Surm comes forward to identify it and, once again, determines that it is strong but cannot identify the kind of magic being employed. Again, with the encouragement of the others, Surm manages to dispel the magic on the door. It is unlocked.
Savaric opens the door and proceeds into the next room, which is empty. Rilka detects no magical auras—but does notice that as Savaric is moving about the room, he tends to avoid the center. When she points this out, Savaric doesn’t know what she is talking about. Surm comes in and begins looking around and discovers that there is an illusion in the center of the room hiding a large cabinet made of the same strange metal found throughout the complex. He tries to get the others to see it—Rilka’s senses manage to penetrate the illusion, but Savaric still doesn’t know what they are talking about—the room is clearly empty.
Surm opens the cabinet, revealing its interior to Savaric as if a portal had opened in the center of the room. Inside the cabinet is a large chest made of the same strange metal, a rack with a number of wands handing from them, and another rack containing a collection of scrolls. They still discern no magical auras in the area. Surm determines that the Ysar could be using a spell called magic aura to mask the magical auras in the room. It is actually a fairly simple bit of sorcery.
They empty the cabinet and begin going over the contents. The chest is not locked and contains a great deal of strangely minted oval coins of platinum, gold, and silver. There is also an assortment of gemstones and some vials containing magical potions.
They decided to take their finds back to the camp and stash it there—it will soon be time for Surm to collect Mõrvar from Kalimsport anyway. Surm wants to use the Ysarian teleportation device they found in one of the chambers. He steps onto the platform—and a series of images begin speeding across the back wall of the room. He concentrates and the images stop on a view of the campsite pulled from Surm’s mind. Savaric walks through the image and instantly finds himself in the camp—scaring a few of the guards by his sudden arrival.
Surm uses the Agent’s Clasp to message Alasir about the arrivals of the others. He sends the others through in the same manner as Savaric—but when Kortash and Burask try to follow Rilka through, they are stopped—Surm can only send one at time or it breaks his concentration. Finally, after everyone has made it through, he sends himself to the University of Kalimsport.
Surm heads out onto the grounds to find his brother, Mõrvar. Mõrvar gives Surm some teleportation scrolls and returns the crystal ball. Mõrvar also shares the information he has gained concerning metal golems. According to the sage he spoke with, if this Ysarian construct acts like ones in their time, then it will be very hard to damage except with the hardest weapons (damage reduction vs. adamantine), it may be immune to most magics, and may also be able to breathe a poison gas.
They head to the Market District to gather magical and adamantine arrows for Savaric to help in their fight against the golem. Surm messages Rilka (through Alasir) that they will return to the camp in the morning.
Meanwhile, Savaric goes hunting for some rabbits to placate the young pyrohydra with that is living in the caves near the Ysar complex. He goes in and, after a while, actually manages to get the beast to act in a friendly manner toward him. He leaves the cave and goes hunting again with an impatient Ghost.
13 Transformation 509
This morning, Surm and Mõrvar teleport back to the camp and meet up with the rest of the Crimson Cord. Surm begins identifying their magical finds. They also spend a good deal of time planning against the golem.
They eventually decide that Surm will return to the harmonious crystal room and gain true seeing from one of the crystals. They then head to one of the more central chambers—where they had previously found a large, alien throne—and begin exploring again from there.
Savaric and Rilka search an adjacent door and open it, leading into another room. Surm can see—though the others cannot—that there is an invisible duergar in the doorway. He tries to warn everyone as it runs a gauntlet toward Burask, who is standing in front of Surm, guarding him. The duergar attacks Burask, rendering visible, and the others work quickly to dispatch it, though it cut a nice slice out of Burask.
Surm casts black tentacles into the room ahead in case there are other threats. Rilka and Savaric carefully step into the room, trying to avoid being grabbed by the magical appendages. Rilka can discern, by the curve of various tentacles, that four other figures have been captured by the spell. She immediately goes in to try and slay them. Mõrvar steps in and uses storm step to cross through the tentacles (and the trapped figures) to the other side. He heads up into an open doorway to another room.
Meanwhile, Surm, Kortash, and Burask, head around to try and get to the other side of the tentacle room through an adjacent corridor. They find that the corridor opens into a room with strange, metal furniture—and two illithids! The three engage the mind flayers who notice their entrance and turn to approach in kind.
Mõrvar, in the next room, sees a strange tableau: there is some sort of planar gate at the far end of this room. In the center of the room is an Ysarian crystal sculpture of some sort, its abstract design slightly disturbing to the eye. Also into the room are three intellect devourers and two very sinister looking illithid-like creatures, but with tails and spiked tentacles. Mõrvar is assaulted in both mind and body by the creatures and one of the duergar that has followed him into the room from tentacle room. He calls out that he found the gate and he tries to make his way back out of the room without being surrounded.
Meanwhile, the tentacles continue to squeeze the trapped duergar which force their parasitical intellect devourers to emerge into the tentacles. Rilka continues to fight, as does Savaric. As Mõrvar storm steps into the tentacle room from the gate room, Savaric fires at the intellect devourers and duergar in pursuit of Mõrvar.
Surm, Kortash, and Burask, finally dispatch one of the illithids, but the other one has made his way into the tentacle room. Savaric makes short work of the creature in a rain of arrows.
The entryway to the gate room is now guarded by intellect devourers. Surm casts black tentacles into that room, trapping the aberrations. The two large ilithids escape the tentacles and move toward the gate. Then, the party lines up in preparation for Surm’s other plan—a dimension door bringing most of them right up to the illithids!
They fight one of the illithids, bringing him down fairly quickly, leaving only the intellect devourers trapped in the tentacles and the last strange illithid. Surm glances into the nearby gate and sees what looks like a vat with a giant brain resting in it. As the party turns their attention to the final illithid, Surm and Rilka feel a force try to grasp control of their minds…and both realize that the power came from within the gate…
The party is in a chamber containing five glowing crystals, each launching beams of energy to the center. Then the crystals begin to shudder and a narrow hole seems to be ripped through the scrim of reality. The tip of a large pincher begins to emerge from the rip in the air…
Rilka steps forward and places her enchanted falchion between one of the beams and the center. She is nearly pushed back from the force of the power, but holds steady. The hole through which the pincher protrudes stops growing, though the appendage continues to grope about.
Surm casts dispel magic on the crystals. The beams stop, the crystals stop shuddering, and the hole in reality closes. The pincher, cut off from its host, drops in a bloody mass to the floor.
Surm, Rilka, and Savaric then debate on whether or not to take the claw out of the complex, back to camp, and destroy it. They are concerned with the possibility of its owner scrying it and finding them to look for revenge. Surm identifies the creature as a glabrezu demon from the Abyss. They ultimately decide to remove the claw and burn it outside.
Kortash and Burask carry the claw as the party, with an intellect devourer held in a stasis field, backtracks to the entrance of the Ysar complex. As they descend into the cavern where they fought the pyrohydra, Savaric is approached by an angry young pyrohydra. He attempts to calm it with his ranger abilities, but fails. Eventually, he manages to calm the angry beast down and give it some food, allowing him to catch up with the others without the creature pursuing them.
When the party emerges from the mine entrance to the camp, they find that night has just fallen. They explain the situation to Alasir, who orders guards to set up a bonfire for the party. Surm tells the story of what happened, but in a very dry and matter-of-fact manner. Still, most are suitably impressed with the way the Cord handled the demonic entity.
That evening, Surm is scried by Mõrvar, who communicates what has been happening in Kalimsport and also asks to be teleported back to join the others in a day. At Savaric’s prompting, Mõrvar is also asked to conduct research on iron golems while he is in the city.
The party then has a debate on what to do with the pyrohydra youngling they have discovered, but come to no real conclusion before calling it a night.
12 Transformation 509
The party wakes the next morning more refreshed and ready to face the horrors of the Ysar complex. They debate some more on what to do to handle the iron golem sentinel that they have encountered, but come to no real conclusion. Ilona advises Savaric to use her to sneak past the golem—he should do it and not tell the others, because they’ll just tell him ‘no’. Savaric, instead, suggests the idea to the others and finds the idea rejected.
Surm leaves his specimen in stasis with Mahgnus for safekeeping before returning to the complex.
When they enter the caverns before the Ysar settlement, they find that the young pyrohydra is sleeping. They continue on to the complex. They return to one of the “hub” rooms within the complex and enter a chamber a that they have not explored before.
This room’s stone walls, floor, and ceiling is filled with crystalline veins. In the center of the room is a plain stone panel, 5’ by 5’. Rilka detects a moderate magic aura on the panel but can tell nothing more. Surm does the same and determines that the magic is based on conjuration—which could mean teleportation of some sort. But it could also mean summoning. Savaric begins searching the room and finds that, when he touches the panel, magical energy starts to flow into him, making his hair stand up on end. Surm steps forward to test out and finds the same—but also can tell that the magic is tapping into the same source that he uses to fuel his own magic casting. He steps examines the panel further and discovers its purpose.
Though it is of an entirely alien design, the panel and crystalline veins seem to be linked somehow to form a magical teleportation device that will allow an arcane spellcaster to stand on the panel, select a location, and teleport there. They must concentrate to activate the device and to select their destination, but they could conceivably travel to anywhere on this plane of existence. It is a one-way trip for one person.
Nothing else of interest is found in the room.
They move on through one of the additional unlocked doors and enter an empty chamber. From there, they descend into the room in which they destroyed the carnivorous blob. They decide to search the room, now that the threat has been dealt with. As Savaric conducts his search, three of the possessed duergar emerge from a doorway adjacent to the room. They end up chasing one of the duergar into the next room and Burask is mortally injured, but miraculously saved by Rilka’s efforts. Eventually, the duergar and their intellect devourers are dispatched.
Savaric finds a secret door in the room and the party follows him into a new chamber containing four thrumming crystals, their hums in sync with each other. They opt not to disturb the crystals, though they did detect evocation magic emanating from them. They carefully move on through one of the doors into another “hub” room containing several doors. According to their previous interaction with the duergar priestess, they are in an area that is trapped.
Detecting magic, Surm determines that a moderately strong aura is located in the center of the room. He uses his arcane mark to mark the edges of the aura, making the possible trap visible.
They move on through another door and come to a large room with strange, crystalline mosaics embedded in the walls. Inside are seven of the possessed duergar—which are eventually dispatched after a long battle…
As the party stands in the room with three dead illithids, Surm and Savaric search and loot the bodies. All they carry are the dark cloaks and the strange serrated swords they have encountered before. Rilka is still injured from her encounter with the carnivorous blob. Surm asks her if she wants to pull back and leave or stay. She says she wants to stay. Savaric pulls out his wand of cure serious wounds and gives her some healing, but her life-force is still drained.
At the north end of the room is a portcullis. They peer through it to see walls with veins of multicolored crystal. In the center of the room is a large metal humanoid construct, seemingly made of the same strange metal that is used on the doors. They decide to leave the golem be.
They, instead, open the southern door to reveal a room with more of the crystalline veins running through the walls. The floor is comprised of tiles of different sized and different colored crystals. Savaric heads into the seemingly empty room to search it out and, after a couple of steps, feels a wave of magic wash over him, filling the room. Suddenly appearing in the chamber are three large creatures—skeletal with cadaverous insectoid bodies that include a long tail with a stinger. As the party engages with one of the monstrosities, the other two disappear. Savaric finishes off the creature with a barrage of arrows that send it flying back. The other creatures seem to have left.
At this point, the party decides to backtrack to the entry room of the complex and try another door that was left untouched on their previous foray into the Ysarian city. This door opens into a small, empty room. They then return to the room with the strange statue and head into a door they left behind. This reveals a room occupied by three of the foul intellect devourers that they have encountered before—only this time, they do not have duergar hosts. The party goes in and does battle with the creepy aberrations. Two are completely slaughtered, but one (dubbed “Thad”) is mostly intact—having only taken damage from Savaric’s arrows. Surm draws the gold rod given to him by the scholars at the University of Kalimsport and says the command word. Thad’s corpse is suddenly enveloped in a clear sphere of magical force that can be moved by Surm’s mind.
They open a door at the north end of this room to reveal with crystalline veins running through its walls and a series of multi-colored crystal tiles set into the floor. Surm casts detect magic and determines that the floor is, indeed, magicked. He decides to try and dispel the magic instead of possibly summoning more strange creatures to fight. After two failed attempts to dispel the magic, he gives up. Rilka enters the room and springs the trap—summoning two of the strange bony, cadaverous insectoid creatures that they encountered before.
As the fight rages on, Surm realizes that these are summoned creatures, and thus can be dispelled. He casts dispel magic, sending one of the creatures back from whence it came. He casts again, dispatching the second one as well.
Taking the south door of this room, the party discovers two more illithids, which are quickly dispatched. This room has a doorway leading to another room.
This room is dominated by a large metal and crystal abstract statue (8’ tall and 5’ wide). It radiates a faint magical aura. There is another door beyond the statue. After examining the statue extensively, and being disturbed by its alien design, the only thing that is determined about it is that is is eerily warm to the touch. They move on to the next door, which is locked—though, with the makeshift key they got off the duergar, Surm makes short work of it.
Opening the door, another long, narrow room is revealed. The center of the room holds five large crystals arranged in a square, with the fifth crystal in the center. The crystals are about 1’ wide and 4’ tall. They are clear, but iridescent. Surm casts detect magic on them and determines that not only are they strongly magical, but their type of magic is shifting wildly.
Surm enters the room. As soon as he hears his footfall hit the stone, the crystals start thrumming in discordant frequencies. After various experiments with the crystals, it appears that they do nothing but hum as soon as a sound is discerned in the room. Nothing blocks Surms path to the next door. Rilka hits upon the idea of trying to match the tone of one of the crystals to see if that does anything. After a bit of persuading, Surm pulls out his flute and matches his tone to one of the crystals.
The crystal begins to glow and a Surm is then bathed in energy from the crystal. He feels a force within him making him stronger and he finds that he can direct it to where he needs it most—though the effect is probably temporary—only lasting a day. He decides to make himself physically stronger.
He tries another crystal and finds that its energy, which also emerges from the crystal and blasts him, is for healing. Excitedly, Rilka tries singing to the tone and succeeds in healing herself of most of her life loss.
They try a third crystal and Surm is blasted with negative energy—draining him of both life and vitality. He has lost the temporary boost to his strength as well. He matches tone with the healing crystal and restores himself.
Needing to know what all the crystals do, Surm tries a fourth crystal. This one bestows true seeing on all in the room (Rilka, Surm, and Savaric—the half-orc guards remain in the previous chamber). This, too, is known to be a temporary effect—lasting only about half an hour.
Finally, there is the fifth and final crystal. Surm matches its tone and energy shoots out from it to the other crystals, pooling the energy in a nexus above the fifth crystal. Suddenly, an image appears in the air above the crystal. It is a fearsome sight—the creature is grotesquely large with four arms—two puny, but two huge and ending in lobster-like pinchers. Spines line its back and horns top its head.
Everyone in the room hears, in their mind, a terrible voice saying something in a language that none of them understand. Surm tries to communicate with it, to convince it that they can’t understand it. The creature repeats his words, clearly frustrated. Surm tries to communicate some more, but to no avail. It finally just utters an unknown, but curt, phrase.
Then the crystals begin to shudder and a narrow hole seems to be ripped through the scrim of reality. The tip of a large pincher begins to emerge from the rip in the air…
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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…