??? (c. -150 CY)
Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna press forward. Opening the doors, they find a hallway stretching to a dead-end to the left and rounding a corner to the right. A set of doors sits straight ahead, and the gem glows and pulls in that direction. Peren, however, expresses a desire to try the righthand passageway, and after some deliberation, the rest of the Shields agree.
The passageway cuts left and immediately terminates at a closed door. After opening it, Peren and Valna note a trap in the floor, probably some manner of spiked floor; they point it out to the rest of the group, and Torinn (having found a set of thieves’ tools in the previous room) disarms it, although not before Peren leaps over it. Proceeding to the door past the trap, they open it and the elves immediately notice another trap. This one appears to be focused around faint, arcane sigils on the floor. Bezaldooz deduces it’s some manner of fire trap and disarms it. Beyond the trap is a brief hallway coiled around a drop down the tower. A staircase leads further up the tower. With the gem still tugging back toward the unexamined room, the Shields decide to go there and then return to the stairway once they have finished.
They open the door and find a library. Three tables sit, each covered by a model of something appearing to be a tomb complex. Bosabrieln surmises this is likely a prototype for Acererak’s legendary Tomb of Horrors; it does appear to be some manner of tomb complex. The Shields also notice a pile of bones between two of the tables; the elves note the bone pile appears to be moving slightly. They additionally note that two of the bookshelves bear skulls; their eye sockets glow with pinpricks of firelight. Bosabrieln feels the stone tug toward the right. Torinn approaches one of the skulls while Peren goes to investigate the bone pile. Hoping to get the element of surprise, they attack; Torinn gives the skull a vicious chop while Peren savagely attacks the bone pile, which rattles and clatters ominously at his approach. As Peren retreats, the spellcasters make short work of the serpentine skeleton. However, Peren is surprised as two translucent warriors step out of the wall — evidently some manner of ghost. As their swords slash at him, he feels weaker, as if his essence is slowly leeching away. The skulls catch fire and fly into the air, cackling and trading quips about what they think their master’s grand design should be called. One unleashes a torrent of flame that blackens the model and singes the Shields of the Sorrowfell, but leaves them still in fighting condition. The combined onslaught of the Shields makes short work of the flaming skulls and the ghosts.
With the enemies destroyed, the Shields begin investigating the room. Bezaldooz sets about searching for books and such, while the others examine the wall. There appears to be a secret door in the bookshelf; they wait and stand guard while Bezaldooz spends roughly a half-hour pouring through tomes. He finds three scrolls — clairvoyance, passwall, and plane shift — as well as a book, History of the Fabled Realm, which covers the early history of the empire of Bael Turath and has been lost for centuries in their native time. It is likely worth something to a collector in 552 CY.
Once they are satisfied, the group opens the secret door and finds a room filled with statues depicting an adventuring party. In the center of the room is a pedestal with a piece of sky-metal. They deliberate for a moment about precautions before Peren just walks in, grabs the sky-metal, and exits without incident. The gem starts pulling out of the room, and the group decides to follow; it leads them out of the room, down the hallway, past the deactivated traps in the floor, and up the staircase.
Upon reaching the top, they find two cupolas joined by an uncovered bridge. The first has a large pit in the middle, matching the shape of the staircase they have been climbing. The elves notice several of the tiles on the first cupola appear to be oozes disguised as stone; they inform the other Shields to keep an eye out. A bridge covered in sigils and runes connect the first to a second cupola, bearing two magic circles and a large, arcane device at the end. A human wizard in red robes works at the device. Without turning, he says, “I offer you one chance to avoid my wrath, you cowardly thieves. Throw yourselves from my tower and I shall allow fate to determine whether you live or die. Otherwise, prepare to truly understand why I am numbered among the greatest wizards of Bael Turath. I am Acererak of the Scarlet Robes, and this is my home!”
The Shields have no desire to throw themselves from the tower. They decide to battle the wizard instead.
Valna steps forward and begins navigating the tower, but the wizard painfully zaps her with a lightning bolt for her trouble. The others begin to move forward as a ghost emerges from one of the magic circles. As it moves to antagonize the group, Peren engages it. It is quickly slain.
Valna then approaches Acererak and banishes him. He attempts to counterspell, but fails, disappearing. Torinn attempts to cross the bridge, but the trap there causes energy to surge through the bridge and slows him down. Bezaldooz disarms the sigils on the bridge, and then the group approaches the machine. As ghosts continue to surge through the magic circles, Peren and Torinn destroy the magic circles; no more arrive. Peren grabs the pieces of sky-metal used in the engine’s construction, and everyone waits for Acererak to reappear.
When he does, they show him no mercy. For all his power, he is quickly slain by the combined might of the Shields. The final blow is struck by Peren, who draws his soul into his helm of seven deaths.
The group makes certain they have everything, and when they are satisfied, Bezaldooz uses the stone to perform the teleportation circle spell to return to Argent.
Obanar asks if their journey was successful, indicating that it has only been a moment since they left; they have returned to Earthday, Harvester 20, 552 CY. The Shields indicate they were successful, and give him the sky-metal so he can begin work on the Implements of Argent. Their next task is to research the divine engine to determine how best to find and protect the other pieces. Peren and Torinn decide to rest, so they go to find alcohol, while Bezaldooz researches in the Guardian’s Tower library and Bosabrieln and Valna go to pray in the Temple of the Dawn for guidance.
Bosabrieln and Valna enter the temple and begin to pray, clearing their minds and hoping for intercession. As they meditate, a dark presence enters their minds, trying to weaken them. They do not bend, and after additional prayers are offered, the altar is encompassed by a blinding light that resolves in the form of a large, gold dragon. It introduces itself as Edarmirrik, an exarch of Erathis, and asks why they have called upon it. Bosabrieln and Valna explain their mission and that they seek to hold Piranoth at bay. Edarmirrik understands, and explains what they need. Several divine engines were created in the Dawn War. Piranoth’s Bane, also called Klar’ekku, was designed by Erathis, god of invention, and Torog, god of imprisonment. Moradin, god of artisans, crafted the artifact. Designed to imprison Piranoth, it had to be used when he was defeated and unconscious. Once used, Kord, god of strength, shattered the engine into five pieces, each of which flew to a different corner of the multiverse. One piece was found by a champion called Deekon and given to the guardian of Argent for safekeeping in the vaults beneath Guardian’s Tower; this piece is now in the hands of the enemy. The other pieces are not known to Edarmirrik, although the astral giants are known to keep track of the divine engines, and the giants of the Temple of Inchoate Mysteries in the Astral Sea are foremost experts on Piranoth’s Bane. It is likely that they know how to restore the divine engine, as may certain exarchs of Moradin (such as the exarch Torugar). Finally, it is believe by some that Piranoth could be freed with only a partially complete engine; three pieces of the five may be all that is necessary, as long as another deity assists. If the primordial’s prison is unlocked in this mannner, Piranoth would return in a weakened state.
Bosabrieln and Valna thank the elder dragon, who dissipates in another flash of light. They then join Bezaldooz to see what he found.
Being by himself and only having an hour or so, Bezaldooz did not have that much luck, but it seems as though the conversation with the eaxarch was fruitful. The trio goes to find Peren and Torinn and discuss the next move.
Once found, it is clear to all that the Temple of Inchoate Mysteries is the next destination. They go ask Obanar about it; he does not know how to reach it, but when he was younger, the githyanki pirates of Black Harbor typically knew how to get anywhere in the Astral Sea. They should be able to find it; Obanar can send the Shields there. They agree to go on the morrow, after they’ve rested.
The next morning, Freeday, Harvester 21, after the Shields have breakfasted and made their preparations, they arrive at Obanar’s chambers in Guardian’s Tower. Once ready, they enter the teleportation circle and prepare for teleportation.
They arrive in a teleportation circle within a bustling seaport. The air is warmer and more humid, and beyond the city walls lies a dense jungle. Many races walk around, although there is a relatively high concentration of the gaunt, greenish humanoids known as the githyanki. Three ships sit in the dock; two ships crewed by humans and halflings, apparently battle-damaged and undergoing repairs, and one strange, slender, ornate silver ship. After asking around, they decide to inquire about matters at the nearest tavern, the Drowned Rat.
While the others find seats in the crowded tavern, Bosabrieln inquires with the barkeep about the ship in the port. He explains that it is the Gossamer Ghost, and it is captained by Akrathial, sitting in the corner, drinking. Bosabrieln buys a drink and has it sent to the githyanki.
After drinking for a bit, Bosabrieln goes over to speak with him. Captain Akrathial is a surly, drunken gith who seems to have little interest. He says he’ll transport them for 20,000 gp; Bosabrieln indicates it will take some time to gather than kind of money, and returns to his seat.
Before he can return to the table, a dark-skinned human man stands abruptly in his path. Rather confrontational, the man indicates that he thinks Bosabrieln has the look of someone from the Sorrowfell Plains about him. Bosabrieln agrees; the man asks if he has Scandshar background, and finally asks if he’s a slave-owner or otherwise affiliated with the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. Bosabrieln manages to calm him down, explaining that not only are they against Scandshar’s slave trade, but they recently killed several of the higher ranking members of the Peacocks. The man apologizes and lets Bosabrieln about his business. A few minutes later, he sends drinks over to Bosabrieln’s table.
Once back in coversation, Bosabrieln reports to the others about Akrathial’s price. Bonatos chides him, asking if he’s forgotten how to haggle. Bosabrieln and Torinn decide to return to Captain Akrathial for negotiations.
Akrathail seems less than thrilled to see them, but over the course of negotiations, Bosabrieln and Torinn determine that he is not actually an addled drunk, but a shrewd negotiator trying to appear uninterested. Additionally, he is nervous about something, and the pair manages to get out of him that he hopes to move the Gossamer Ghost and its cargo before the settlement’s mayor, Ruothvach, returns in the Crown of Cobalt. Bosabrieln manages to successfully use this information to haggle him down to 5,000 gp. They agree to be ready to disembark in two hours.
During that time, Bosabrieln introduces himself to the dark-skinned man. He indicates his name is Banda, from the island of ’Ichi. He was not a slave himself; instead, he is a pirate from Libertatia, who are committed to sinking any Scandshar slave ships that enter ’Ichi waters. Bosabrieln indicates that there is an abolitionist group in the Sorrowfell Plains called the Zookeepers, whom he is certain would be interested in assisting. Banda says he would like that, and Bosabrieln says he will tell them about the Libertatian pirates. Banda tells him to tell his allies to sail toward Libertatia with an inverted Scandshar flag, so that they know not to attack. The two part on good terms, and hope the alliance works out.
Meanwhile, Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn find three others — Basse Buck, a male halfling; Duli, a male dwarf; and Vadamerc, a female half-orc — for a game of Three Dragon Ante. Over the course of the next hour or two, Bezaldooz loses 75 gp, but Peren gains 120 gp and Torinn gains 150 gp.
When it’s time to leave, the Shields prepare themselves and head to the docks to board the Gossamer Ghost. The trip is uneventful, but strange — the Shields aren’t quite aware when they leave the mundane sea and enter the Astral Sea, they’re just aware of the gradual changeover to strange, alien vistas. They eventually come upon an ornate cathedral floating in the air. A set of stairs leads down to a single stone island on the surface of the water, the apparent dock for this place. Strange, silvery giants whose lower bodies disappear into vapor stand vigil on the stairs.
Akrathail indicates this is their stop and asks if they have the return trip situated. They say they do, and disembark. He bids them farewell, and the Gossamer Ghost heads into the Astral Sea.
The Shields of the Sorrowfell begin ascending the tall stairs. At the halfway point, the strange giants stop them, and speaking Supernal, tell them to turn back, lest they be attacked. Bosabrieln manages to convince the giants of their purpose, and the giants agree to escort them to the others so that they may make the same argument. Atop the stairs, another group of astral giants agrees to hear Bosabrieln’s plea for assistance. They agree, but warn Bosabrieln that their leader, Zanashu, has been acting strangely today. The Shields are not the first to come seeking information about Piranoth’s Bane; a contingent of drow arrived earlier to speak with Zanashu. The Shields look among themselves and prepare for a fight.
The astral giants lead them into the cathedral proper, into the skywatcher’s dome. A grand chamber, the room is dominated by a set of icons along the walls and a star-filled dome in the ceiling. Another large set of stairs against the back wall leads upward, further into the cathedral. Two astral giant guards stand at the front, while an astral giant dressed as a priest stands at the back. Four drow and a drider — a misshapen, drow-spider hybrid in the form not unlike a centaur — are also present. The priestly giant addresses the drider, saying, “It seems you were correct, Esixtara, the agents of Argent have come to steal the temple’s secrets. Guards, destroy them!”
The Shields immediately notice that the priest’s holy symbol does not appear like a normal holy symbol of Erathis, and they suspect some force is controlling the priest. The drow unleash a volley of arrows at Torinn, but they barely penetrate his armor. Peren then dashes across the room and leaps onto the astral giant priest. The others try to ignore the guards in favor of attacking the drow. When Peren finally gains purchase, he cuts off the giant’s necklace, and its expression seems to change. It roars to its guards that they have been tricked, and that they should attack the drow.
Even dropping shrouds of darkness across the battlefield, the battle quickly goes against the drow as the combined might of the Shields of the Sorrowfell and the astral giants make short work of them.
Once complete, Zanashu thanks them for their assistance. Bosabrieln repeats their request for assistance, as well as the ritual to repair the divine engine. Zanashu goes to find it, during which time the guards apologize for the confusion and introduce themselves as Zanathe and Martarol. Zanashu returns with the ritual, as well as information regarding the five pieces of Piranoth’s Bane. Two are already in the clutches of the fire giants at Flamefall Tower, one is in the possession of a djinn called Kaseem, one is still hidden at a place called Frost Spire, and one is in the mayor’s home in the city of Breelton. He recommends saving Breelton for last, as the frost giants are already on the trail of the other two pieces in Flotsam and Frost Spire. Additionally, he indicates he was forced to reveal the location of Torugar, exarch of Moradin, to the drider; he suspects Esixtara managed to get a message to the other drow already.
Zanashu again thanks the Shields for their help, and as the guards begin dismantling one of the icons apparently corrupted by the drow, Bezaldooz sets about casting a teleportation circle so the Shields can return to Argent.