Earthday, Sunsebb 6, 552 CY (50 AN)
Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn finish their conversation with Galothel, and she takes her leave to begin the journey to Duchy Jepson. Once they are certain they have everything they might need, they prepare to leave. The itinerary: teleport to Sorgforge, then set out for Pottsdam on foot. They realize they have a transit a problem: their party comprises Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, Bono, Obash, Hurm da Wurm, and three goblins, one too many creatures to transport in one teleport. They consider dispelling Bono before deciding to let one of the goblins go. While debating the best way to go about it, Bono tells Bezaldooz he’ll take care of it and slinks over to the goblins. Peren senses him and grabs him, tossing him back over to Bezaldooz. Bono tries again, taking a long way around to put the goblins between himself and Peren, but Peren is too quick and Bezaldooz orders him not to hurt anyone. Once Peren has grabbed him, he turns visible and tells one of the goblins, “Boo.” The goblin runs screaming in the opposite direction.
Their problem is, for the moment, solved.
With that, Bosabrieln casts seeming so that they may go about Sorgforge unmolested. (Peren requests that he be made to look like a yellow dragonborn, so he can make fun of Torinn for obscure reasons. The goblins are made to look like unruly children.) They teleport to one of the teleportation circles in Sorgforge, and then set out on the road to Pottsdam.
Roughly two hours outside of Sorgforge, they encounter a lone human merchant traveling from the village of Crethorp with wool skeins. They investigate his wares and end up buying several skeins of wool, particularly since he has some skeins dyed in various colors. Afterward, he continues to Sorgforge and they continue along the road.
About an hour or so later, Bosabrieln receives a sending from Vianibrar, asking if he can teleport or project image or otherwise attend a meeting at “Delhig’s house.” (Bosabrieln recalls that Moridal Delhig is a dwarf merchant in Khuragzar and a former traveling companion of Vianibrar. Bosabrieln hasn’t seen him in almost a decade, but recalls the house well enough.) Bosabrieln agrees and informs the others. They step off the road and wait while Bosabrieln casts project image.
Bosabrieln’s simulacrum appears in the entryway of Moridal’s home, where he hears talking from the sitting room. He arrives to find Gloomblight Spellweaver, Moridal Delhig, and Vianibrar in conversation with Banda and two armed guards. Bosabrieln announces himself (to Bosabrieln’s mild irritation, Moridal exclaims, “Why, it’s little Bosie Peredhel!”) and the various parties give greeting. He learns he was summoned so that he could make proper introductions between Banda and the Zookeepers. During the meeting, he learns that Gloomblight’s activities have been going well. The Zookeepers learned of a slaving operation between the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks and a Lord Vau on the world of Rockulon Prime. Using the portal Dr. Dagger Nazareth traversed to access Scandshar, they managed to infiltrate the world and collapse the gate the Peacocks were using to run slaves between the two worlds. They’ve been trying to repatriate the refugees for the past several weeks.
Gloomblight also makes reference to the current troubles plaguing the Shields of the Sorrowfell, as well as the fact that he’s heard there’s a flying castle in the vicinity of Jepson. (He has heard only a little about Barnabus Sleet, the castle’s master, but understands he has had contact with the local government and the Headmaster). He similarly notes that he’s heard there was an active spelljammer helm sensed within the atmosphere, although they don’t quite know where it was traveling. Bosabrieln similarly informs the others as to the Shields’ current activities, and Gloomblight says he’ll pass the word along to the Headmaster.
The assembled party otherwise discusses current events, and Vianibrar notes that he was pleased to hear the old site of Solaeque was cleansed of its orcish occupants. He shall have to send word to the Solaeque Purlieu so that they may begin the long journey back home.
The rest of the meeting is consumed with trying to ensure the initial contact between the two groups is positive, and ensuring they each know of the others’ resources. Once he is confident that things are going well, Bosabrieln takes his leave.
The rest of the Shields inform Bosabrieln that his absence was uneventful, and so they continue on their journey. The rest of the day is similarly quiet.
That night, in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, Bosabrieln receives a sending from Scarlet Jax, which says, “Bosabrieln Peredhel Zivkovic, I can’t believe that you came to Scandshar, set things on fire, became a wanted felon, and didn’t even say hello! Hurtful!” He responds, “My darling Jax, you know had things been otherwise, you’d have been the first I saw. I promise to see you soon. Love, Bosie.”
Having considered the possibility that they’re going to steal Barnabus Sleet’s flying castle, Peren also sets about trying to construct parachutes with the skeins of yarn he purchased and the skins of animals he has hunted. The tensile strength leaves something to be desired, but he’ll keep working at it.
The next day, Sunsebb 7, they continue their trip. This time, they do not bother with seeming on the road, presuming that they can handle anything that comes their way. The day’s travel is largely uneventful until their seventh hour on the road. They encounter a flock of seven axe beaks — large birds like cassowaries, with sharp, flat beaks — traveling across the road to reach the river. The Shields initially give them a wide berth, but Peren decides to attack the birds, which are unable to withstand his magical volley of javelins. The few stragglers that are able to dodge the onslaught are summarily slain. He retains the meat to cook that night.
That night, in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, Torinn communes with the holy symbol of Fenmarel Mestarine, praying for understanding.
The next day of travel along the road is uneventful. On Sunsebb 9, around mid-morning, they encounter a much larger merchant caravan, evidently traveling from Scandshar to Sorgforge. They are a little wary given that they have not used seeming and are totally exposed, but they seem to make a good impression on the caravan, who gives them no trouble. (The Shields later reason that it’s probably helpful to have people report their location occasionally, to better obfuscate their travels and true goals.) They peruse the wares, but ultimately settle on the caravan’s store of oddments. Among their curiosities, they have:
- A lock of blonde hair preserved in glass
- A brooch crafted from a key
- An obsidian pawn engraved with a strange, twisting symbol
- A monocle of green-tinted glass
- A pewter merchant’s weight crafted in the form of a temple
- A block of red wax which bears the impression of a strange key
- An old fur scarf which purrs when you pet it
- A knot of goblin hair
- Half of a castle map
- A dwarven mug engraved with a dungeon map, said to be the Tomb of Horrors
After some discussion, Bezaldooz buys the obsidian pawn and the monocle, Bosabrieln buys the strange fur scarf, and Torinn buys the mug. Several of the Shields end up signing their wanted posters and giving them to the caravan master.
The only tense moment comes when one of the guards keeps eyeing the Shields like he wants to try something, and Torinn tells him to do it, but Bosabrieln and one of the other caravan guards keep the peace.
Once the Shields are satisfied, they bid the merchant caravan farewell and continue their journey.
(Bezaldooz takes an opportunity to closely examine the chess piece; he recognizes the strange, twisting symbol as the mythic Yellow Sign, said to be a fell symbol from dread Carcosa. The chess piece radiates magic, although he cannot pinpoint the source of the magic or the function of the object.)
After another couple of hours, as they approach the village, they encounter another herd of animals crossing the road to approach the river. This appears to be a herd of six steers, although they are covered in metal plates and exhale some sort of nasty green smoke. When they catch sight of the Shields of the Sorrowfell, they turn to charge.
Bosabrieln immediately entraps them within the matrix of a hypnotic pattern while Peren conjures a wall of fire to harry them and slow their approach. The beasts never receive the opportunity to attack as they are kept bewildered and harried. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln keep them at bay with spells while Obash, Peren, and Torinn wade into melee. The goblins pepper them with arrows from afar. One by one, the beasts fall before blade and spell. The only complication is when Obash accidentally inhales some of the green gas and starts to slow, as if turning to stone; he manages to somehow shake off the effect before he is fully petrified. After being pummeled by spells and blades, the last is finally killed by the goblins’ arrows.
Peren sets about trying to carve some of the hide and meat before they continue their journey. The meat inside the metal plating seems foul, but edible.
It’s only another hour or two before the approach the village. To their surprise, they see the smoke of cook fires rising from the ruins. After Peren casts pass without trace so that they may approach unseen, and they scout to find a merchant’s camp inside the village. The workers appear to have been performing some repairs on the various houses in the village. They similarly note an abandoned house on the outskirts has smoke rising from the chimney. Bezaldooz goes to investigate, and when he peeks in the window, he sees an old, dark-skinned human in robes and a staff sitting on the floor. The man looks right at him despite his attempt to be stealthy and gives greeting, saying he’s been expecting the Shields.
Bezaldooz just smiles, nods, and slips back down from the windowsill.
When the returns to the others and informs them of this, they decide to just enter the village. If everyone knows they’re supposed to be there anyway, what’s the point?
The Shields enter and give greeting to the merchant caravan. The leader, a robed elf by the name of Thasar Ulyan, greets them in return. (The merchants are apparently in the process of rebuilding the town in the hopes of rendering it usable again. Thasar suggests it’s part of his elf clan’s purview to try to rehabilitate a dead place.) When Thasar realizes that they are the Shields of the Sorrowfell, he notes that a stranger came to the village a week or two ago and said the Shields would come. The Shields resolve to meet him, although Torinn seems less enthused about the whole affair.
Before they go, Thasar notes that he owes the Shields a great debt, as he was engaged to Lady Dannae, probably known better to them as Demise. Bosabrieln resolves to speak to him later about it.
The Shields head to the hut to speak with the stranger, although Torinn deigns to stay behind and watch the goblins instead. When they enter, he gives his name as Orhan. He indicates that he has seen them in dreams, and wanted to take this opportunity to meet the Shields in person, because he otherwise might not have the chance. Over the course of the conversation, he reveals the truth: he is not human, but instead a slumbering ancient dragon. (Likely gold, by the sound of it.) He has been tasked with guarding the deathless heart of a Primordial so that it may not be awakened again. A friend (whom Bosbrieln correctly surmises is Bahamut), took his charge briefly so that Orhan could meet the Shields — after all, if he does not take the opportunity while he is awake, they may not be around the next time he awakens.
Given that he has seen many visions in his dreaming sleep, he allows the Shields to inquire about them. They ask about the Esteemed and Omniscient Peacock Lord, given that they have recently learned this is an actual entity. He says he thinks they will meet it in combat, but he cannot say for certain how it ends. Only that it is something ancient, evil, and from a distant place. He cannot answer Bosabrieln’s question whether or not the Shields will regain their former glory, although he suspects their names will be cleared if they continue on their current path.
Bosabrieln also asks if he will become a god, and Orhan says he does not know for certain, as there are many futures, many pasts. He asks if Bosabrieln has met the doctor who drugs him yet? Bosie has not.
They eventually decide that Torinn should probably be involved in this conversation, so Peren goes to retrieve him. Torinn and the goblins have managed to hide in the intervening time, and Torinn is properly paranoid, so he orders Hurm da Wurm to fire a warning shot. When Peren moves to react at the arrow that just whizzed past him, Torinn interposes himself between Peren and Hurm. Once the situation is settled — Torinn is convinced Peren has not been ensorcelled, and Peren is convinced to not murder Hurm, Torinn agrees to meet with Orhan.
Arriving at the hut, he indicates he wishes to speak with Orhan in private. Stepping outside, Torinn asks about the sorcery he has recently developed, as he has manifested spells a handful of times during combat. It feels like a curse, but Orhan says it is merely a part of him like any other. The power may come from some draconic ancestor, or perhaps even a mortal one. It is something to which he will have to adjust, given time, but he has this power for a reason.
Torinn also gives Orhan the tome of leadership and influence, assuming that he will know what to do with it. Orhan notes that it will likely not have its magic again for another century, but he can place it somewhere for safekeeping. Or for someone else worthy to find.
Once they return to Orhan’s hut, the last question revolves around how to find Caveghost Clan. Assuming they run a regular circuit of the Sorrowfell Plains, and it’s been about four months, one would expect them to be nearly halfway through the circuit. As such, there is an entrance to the Underdark near Beeheath. (A frustrating revelation, given that they were at Beeheath only a couple of weeks ago.) Orhan also recommends they seek the Temple of the Snail in Heathwood, as there may be something of use to heroes such as themselves there. When the Shields have no further questions, the group sets about setting up camp for the evening. Bosabrieln pulls Torinn aside to inform him that Galothel was a dragon in disguise, a fact which he did not mention; Torinn punches him in the face in response, but then helps him back to his feet, and the Shields continue their evening without further incident. Bosabrieln opens Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion to Orhan, Thasar, and the merchant company. At some point in the evening, a drunken Thasar returns to the topic of his engagement to Demise. He never much cared for her, as she was cruel, spiteful, not his type, and most damning, his second cousin. Overall, he’s pleased that he was saved from a loveless marriage with her.
There is feasting late into the night. At some point, Thasar shares Bosabrieln’s bed.
The next morning, the Shields prepare to leave for Beeheath. They tell Thasar to spread the story that they are headed to Vonseloth, and Bosabrieln pays him 1,000gp to hire mercenaries to escort the Solaeque elves back to their homelands. Thasar agrees to both errands, and hopes to encounter the Shields again.
After Bosabrieln cloaks them in a seeming (this time, Peren masquerades as a gold dragonborn while Torinn masquerades as an elf and acts appropriately wistful) before Bezaldooz teleports them to Beeheath. They immediately set out for Heathwood, and Peren casts pass without trace to hide their passage.
Animal sounds are few as they wander through Heathwood, although they quickly sight a large timber wolf. Peren throws a javelin at it to no avail, but when he gives away his position, the beast stands on hind legs and shifts into a humanoid form, a mixture of man and beast. As Peren rushes into battle, the goblins pepper it with arrows and Obash throws a javelin. Peren’s swords injure the beast, although the goblins’ arrows and Obash’s weapons do nothing to its hide. Torinn lets the fight play out while Bezaldooz casts mislead so that he appears to have fled the battle. While locked in melee, the beast bites Peren as Bosabrieln casts charm person, bringing the fight to a halt. Bosabrieln asks if he can give them directions to the Temple of the Snail, and the monstrous creature turns into a disheveled, hairy, nude man. Bosabrieln sings a song of healing to treat the man’s injuries, and the man indicates he has never heard of the Shrine of the Snail. They agree to go their separate ways, and the Shields slip back into the forest.
They travel for a time before the sounds of the forest return to normal. Bezaldooz stops to talk to a squirrel, making a strange chittering in response, and learns that the Temple of the Snail can be found to the southwest. They continue to march.
Travel through the forest is largely uneventful as they avoid the natural fauna of the forest. Towards the end of the day, they reach an idyllic valley filled with snails. Eight large snails with iridescent, rainbow-colored shells and flail-like antennae. A massive beast with a metal flail for a head roams the valley, occasionally standing on its hindquarters and whipping its massive flail-head about. A small, stone temple sits in the middle of the valley; although it is of solid manufacture, close inspection suggests the stones are ancient and well-worn.
The Shields knock on the door and are greeted by an eladrin in resplendent armor, her hair the ruddy color of late-autumn leaves. She immediately draws her sword, crackling with holy light, and strikes at a point on Bezaldooz’s shoulder — the place where Bono sat, only a few moments ago. She sheaths her sword and gives greeting in an archaic dialect of Elvish. Bosabrieln translates, and when she realizes they speak Common, she switches to a similarly-ancient dialect of the Common tongue. She gives her name as Lady Dul’besibrara Melithlylth’wyn, the guardian of this place. She leads them inside the temple, revealing a small chapel. Where the altar would sit in a normal church is completely dominated by a massive shell like those found on the large snails outside. The surface is pitted and scarred. As they enter, Dul’besibrara finds them what refreshment she has, and they speak for a while. Dul’besibrara is the last guardian of this ancient place, a temple dedicated to the Great Cosmic Flailsnail which carries the multiverse upon the facets of its shell. It is not clear how old she is, but she may date back to the Elven empire that once resided in these lands millennia ago, a link to an ancient sect lost to mortal memory. She receives visitors infrequently, but this bothers her little, as she busies herself with her work. She then sets to work chipping away at the shell with a chisel. During her work, she asks Bosabrieln of tales of the world, so he informs her of current events. When she eventually finishes chipping off a fist-sized piece of shell, she hands it to Bosabrieln, saying it may aid him in his journey.
They spend the rest of the evening resting. Bosabrieln identifies the stone as a snailstone, said to summon ancient heroes to the aid of the wielder on an erratic cosmic schedule. In contrast to most nights, they sleep here rather than in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion. Peren in particular sleeps outside.
Bosabrieln is surprised in the night to be contacted by Headmaster Jepson via a dream spell. (The Headmaster is lucky to have caught Bosabrieln on a night where he is sleeping on the Prime Material Plane.) He largely catches up on business, noting that he spoke with Gloomblight Spellweaver and is aware of the situation at hand. He also met Galothel, who explained the situation in Tovelka; soldiers are being dispatched to escort the refugees back home. He mentions that Barnabus Sleet’s floating castle is hanging over Duchy Jepson. Sleet hasn’t caused any trouble yet, but has met with the local government. He apparently runs some sort of magcial lending library — the Wizard’s Tower is now a partner — among his other activies. According to the Headmaster’s information, Sleet is a hero of the Vaults of Vyzor, and his flying castle is an artifice known to some as the Broodmother Skyfortress, a flying fortress he evidently obtained in his travels.
However, the Headmaster was unaware that Sleet came to the Sorrowfell Plains for the bounty on the Shields’ heads. The detail was omitted from Sleet’s introduction.
Once they are certain they have conveyed all pertinent information, the Headmaster lets Bosabrieln return to sleep.
Peren has strange dreams in the night, dreams of savagery and hunting. He resists whatever force urges him to kill, but the dreams leave him disquieted.
The next day, the Shields thank Dul’besibrara for her hospitality, then take their leave of the valley, seeking the entrance to the Underdark. Their understanding, based on information from Dul’besibrara and Orhan, as well as the lay of the land, is that the entrance should be in a westerly direction.
They find it in the early afternoon without difficulty, a massive sinkhole that leads into the passage of tunnels beneath the earth. They descend into the hole, and find massive tunnels to the north, east, and west. Peren can find no tracks of the orc tribes, so they take a chance and head north. They are forced to sleep in Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion before too long, and they continue their journey in the morning.
The morning of Sunsebb 11 is fruitful, as they find the trail within a couple of hours. The path branches, and it is clear the orcs came from the northeast, heading along the northwestern passage. They are, perhaps, only a few days ahead. They number in the hundreds, and Peren suspects they are trying to travel as quickly as they are able, although they are still much slower than the Shields, given the size of their train. The Shields give chase.
Roughly three hours later, they happen upon a scared, confused woman, clad in rags. She cannot see in the dark, and holds only a pointed stick to defend herself. When they approach, she threatens them, but Bosabrieln lights a torch so that they may be seen. He introduces himself, and she seems relieved to learn they are the Shields of the Sorrowfell. She introduces herself as Joycie Lysell, and says she managed to escape the very orcs the Shields are tracking. While they discuss what to do with her — these tunnels are too dangerous for Joycie, but turning back would require too much time — Obash says he and the goblins can take her topside. Bosabrieln is about to agree when he sees the eagerness in Obash’s face and thinks better of it, but when he turns back to Joycie he sees a similar eagerness in her face that he does not like. He proceeds to ask more heavily how she escaped, suspecting she is a spy for the orcs. He casts charm person to obtain more information from her, but notes that she merely acts as though it took effect. She’s very good at lying, but not good enough to fool him. When he inquires about this, she flees but is quickly caught. When they take hold of her and ask whom she truly is, she shapeshifts into the spindly form of a doppelganger. She tries honesty to escape this situation, noting that she lied in the hopes of killing and impersonating one of them, as doppelgangers do. She has no connection to the orcs apart from knowing that they passed through the area, and so made a good cover story.
Tired of the doppelganger’s lies, Peren skewers the monster with his swords, and the Shields of the Sorrowfell continue on their way.