Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

The Tatters of the King, Part 1

Godsday, Harvester 18, 552 CY (50 AN)

The Shields of the Sorrowfell awaken one by one. Peren and Torinn make their way downstairs to the dining area of the Laughing Maiden. They are joined after a short while by Bezaldooz. Bezaldooz seems somehow…different. He is wearing his heavy cloak with the hood pulled over his head. His skin seems paler. Perhaps most striking, a small humanoid figure — roughly ten inches tall and grotesque in demeanor — sits on his shoulder. He introduces the creature as “Bob” or “Bono” and indicates that it’s his familiar.

Bosabrieln joins the group a little later, having spent the morning making preparations. He immediately recognizes Bono as a quasit, a demonic creature that usually attempts to tempt weak-willed mages into evil acts. After asking the requisite questions and receiving few answers, conversation resumes. Bosabrieln indicates that he has an announcement, but would like to wait for Valna.

When Valna enters the dining area, she is struck by a vision — in an instant, she knows that Bezaldooz has pacted with the foul quasit on his shoulder, and that he is now a vampire. She does not act on the information, instead planning to address it whenever he is gone.

Bosabrieln proceeds to announce that he has been organizing a meet-and-greet tonight as a publicity opportunity. He will be signing autographs for a silver piece and offering kisses for a copper piece. Said meet-and-greet is to occur here, at the Laughing Maiden, sometime after dinner.

After further discussion, Torinn decides to wander off, possibly to check out the market. Bezaldooz gives Bono permission to wander and find food; within a minute, Bezaldooz has lost mental rapport with Bono, indicating he has moved beyond 100 feet and is no longer subject to Bezaldooz’s commands. Bezaldooz decides to wander into the city to look for him.

With Bezaldooz gone, Valna mentions her concerns to Bosabrieln and Peren. The group decides to let it go so long as Bezaldooz doesn’t seem to go too far with his studies; at the moment, his actions are merely questionable, and he does not appear to have done anything malicious to anyone. That having been decided, the group decides to go its separate ways until the evening so that they can gather supplies and make preparations.

That evening, the group convenes again at the Laughing Maiden. Bosabrieln buys the Shields dinner and sits and waits. As people begin to arrive, Bosabrieln greets them, talking to townsfolk, signing autographs, and offering kisses upon request. He singles out a few attractive travelers and suggests they stay until after the event ends.

At one point, Peren spots a large, unattractive noblewoman he recognizes from his imprisonment. He walks over to her and thanks her for his freedom — which seems to confuse and upset her.

As the evening continues, a humanoid construct, holding a sword and wearing a red toga over its armor, walks into the common room of the inn. Several of the people in line move out of the way as it strides forward. Valna, among others, recognizes it as a kolyarut, a creature from Mechanus making it kin to the modrons. Kolyarut specifically arrive to punish oath-breakers.

Significantly nervous, the Shields await the kolyarut. The construct asks if they are the Shields of the Sorrowfell, and whether or not they recently put Lord Oculus in the “dead-book.” When they confirm both, it indicates that its master wishes to offer them a job. Relieved, Bosabrieln asks if it can wait an hour for him to finish. It agrees to do so and stands by the bar until then.

An hour later, with most of the visitors gone, the kolyarut returns. The Shields speak to it, and it indicates it is a representative of the Planar Trade Consortium. The Consortium owns a piece of real estate that the kolyarut’s master, an oni mage named Estevan, would like cleared. The Shields ask if they can speak to Estevan about this, and the kolyarut indicates they may. They arrange a meeting the following morning at the Plum Blossom Inn, in the market district. The kolyarut takes its leave, and the Shields take to bed. Valna, apparently having some quarrel with Peren, prompts him to get his own room, while Bosabrieln shares his room with a few others.

Bosabrieln also has an opportunity to tally his funds in the early morning, and determines that he made 104 cp and 64 sp.

The next morning, the Shields awaken, eat breakfast, and make their way to the Plum Blossom Inn. A clerk behind the desk greets them, and when Bosabrieln asks to see an oni named Estevan, the clerk indicates that an Estevan is staying there, but he’s certainly no oni. Recalling their propensity for illusions, Bosabrieln plays it off as a joke. The clerk directs them to Estevan’s room in the Imperial Suite on the top floor.

Bosabrieln knocks on the door and a voice asks them to enter. A large, blue humanoid clad in a kimono sits before a table. A tea set sits before him, as do five chairs. He introduces himself as Estevan, and bids them to sit and discuss business. He offers them tea. All but Torinn accept.

Estevan proceeds to inquire as to how much the Shields know about the workings of Sigil and its many portals, and explains that the Planar Trade Consortium has access to a portal which leads to a distant land called Carcosa. The portal leads specifically to the upper levels of some ancient ruin, apparently a wrecked air ship of alien design. A tribe of Purple Men — for the humans of Carcosa are designated by the vibrant colors of their skins — inhabits this upper level, calling their village and its environs “Skyfall.” The Consortium has established contact with these Purple Men and wishes to clear the upper level of monsters so that the tribesmen can expands their village throughout the upper level of the ruin. They hope that this will create a base of operations from which adventurers can launch expeditions into the ruins beneath Skyfall, as the boomtowns that grow around dungeons tend to be quite lucrative.

As such, Estevan offers them an astral diamond — commonly worth 10,000 gp — as well as salvage rights to anything they find so long as they help clear the top floor of the Skyfall delve. Estevan also notes that another group of adventurers from the world of Eberron will be joining them, and he has other groups he wishes to contact should the Shields refuse. The Shields briefly take their leave to discuss, and reply that they will take the job. They arrange for a couple hours to gather supplies and ready themselves — particularly Bezaldooz, who hopes to find his quasit Bono in the meantime, and Bosabrieln, who is waiting for a message from Vianibrar which will not travel across planar boundaries. Estevan agrees and indicates that his associates will be notified of their arrival. He gives them a single desert rose, telling them that this acts as a portal key to Sigil; a portal rests in the alley beside the Plum Blossom Inn, and if they carry the desert rose, it will open. That should take them to the Lady’s Ward, and from there, he gives them directions to find the Planar Trade Consortium offices housing the Carcosa-gate. The Shields thank him and take their leave.

The group spends a couple of hours gathering supplies, particularly a second desert rose, and waiting — Bezaldooz awaits the return of Bono the quasit and Bosabrieln awaits a response from Vianibrar. Within an hour or so, Bosabrieln receives a message in his mind, reading, “Glad to hear it. We can discuss matters further the next time you are in Duchy Jepson. Love, Vianibrar.” When Bono does not return, Bezaldooz decides to disembark without him. As the Shields approach the portal to Sigil, Bezaldooz feels Bono’s proximity. Reestablishing a mental rapport, he tells him to never leave his presence. Bono asks what he thinks happens when he sleeps as he crawls onto Bezaldooz’s shoulder. The Shields walk into the alleyway, and as the vista before them changes in their proximity, they walk forward.

They emerge into a different alleyway. A light drizzle falls as they recognize the surroundings of Sigil, the City of Doors. Following Estevan’s directions, they find themselves at a relatively unremarkable building. After stating their business to the guards — the building seems surprisingly heavily-guarded — and the receptionist, they are granted access and given directions to the back rooms. They are told to await Fu Dara in one of the back rooms; they are also informed that the other adventuring party may be about, although the receptionist just started her shift, so she does not know.

Following directions, the Shields wander through the maze of corridors and open the door to the waiting room, as instructed. A group of five are already within. Introductions are made; they introduce themselves to be the adventuring party known as the Mourners of the Saerun Road. They are led by Wilkul Chorster, human cleric, and also comprise the eladrin Prulove Soundinghorn, a wizard by her look; the dragonborn Quotumal Goldheart, likely a fighter; the tiefling Norros Babausong; and the warforged Indrak Kingpost. Valna hugs each in greeting. The Mourners carry themselves with military bearing, and seem to find the Shields’ significantly more relaxed demeanor a trifle uncouth. The Mourners discuss strategy and indicate their plan of attack on a crude map: the Shields will take the left half of the complex, while the Mourners will take the right half. They’ll go room-to-room, either confirming that each is empty or clearing it of hostile inhabitants. The Shields are amenable to this arrangement.

The groups engage in idle chatter while waiting for Fu Dara. Peren starts shamelessly flirting with Prulove, although she appears to sense his troubles with Valna, and starts to ask about them when Valna comes over and drags him away.

Within a few minutes, Fu Dara arrives. He adds a few details regarding the settlement of Skyfall and the Carcosa-gate, but with no further questions from either group, he escorts the groups to the gate-room. The room appears to have been built around an old alleyway, which has been kept intact. Several guards are positioned in the room, including two flanking the alleyway and archway within. Fu Dara directs the groups to the alleyway, and indicates that the guards will grant them access. He says that he believes Northrax, a modron and another member of the Consortium, may be on the other side to give them further instructions. As they approach, one of the guards closes his eyes and the portal opens. The assembled party enters the gate.

They emerge in a room made of metal and other, stranger materials. An oddly-shaped gate sits behind them, and a couple of guards stand in this room. The guards direct them on how to approach the village of Skyfall proper, or how to access the rest of the complex. The group decides to meet the villagers of Skyfall first. They enter a room to see the back half has been violently removed, and is exposed to the open air. A collection of humans with purple skin and primitive dress — largely animal hides — resides in this room. A woman is speaking to a strange, cuboidal creature which is presumably Northrax the modron. The adults seem used to these sorts of newcomers, but the children stare at the strange, pink-skinned beings from beyond the gate.

The modron introduces himself as Northrax, and introduces the assembled party to She of the Dying Light, the chieftain of this tribe, as well as her father The Sight Beyond the Sun, the tribe’s blind shaman. Northrax then takes his leave. She of the Dying Light explains that the tribe has made only minimal forays into the bulk of the wrecked vessel, although they did cut clear across to the armory once. They had little time to investigate, but one of their number — one named Iathacl the Storyteller — managed to gain a suit of powered armor. He has since left the tribe for parts unknown; she does not know if they will encounter him, but it is a possibility. Otherwise, the vessel appears to play host to the strange, bulbous-headed men from the stars who came with the vessel. They have lost access to the ship’s technology, instead living a tribal lifestyle. Various other mutant creatures have been encountered, although with considerably less frequency.

The groups thank She of the Dying Light for her information, and then exit the room. The Shields wish the Mourners good luck, and give them a sending stone. They agree to establish contact in one hour. The Mourners leave to begin that group’s part of the expedition. Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn start taking bets as to how many of them will die. After that matter is settled, the Shields head off to explore the wrecked hull.

The Shields first come to a large room containing several beds, which they quickly surmise to be some manner of hospital. They find little of value, although they do find some manner of healing dose, apparently manufactured by the ship’s previous inhabitants.

The group moves forward and wrenches open another door to find five grey-skinned humanoids with black eyes and bulbous heads. They appear to have heard the intruders, and are ready for battle with their spears and hide shields. In the middle of the room, displayed in a place of prominence, is a gold statuette, apparently of a sitting humanoid.

The clash is brutal and swift. Bezaldooz opens by slinging spells, and with a gesture, some of the alien’s blood flows from it and into Bezaldooz’s waiting palm where it is absorbed. Peren and Torinn wade into the thick of battle, while Bosabrieln provides support. Valna and, surprisingly, Bezaldooz also get into the mix, as he conjures demonic apparitions to vex his humanoid foes. When he withdraws, he sends Bono into combat to harry the humanoids.

Within seconds, it is done. Although the grey-skinned humanoids are deft with their spears, they are no match for the more-experienced Shields. One by one, they are slain.

The Shields find little of value apart from the statuette. Gold with black pearl eyes, it depicts a humanoid sitting in a chair. However, this humanoid displays bat wings and an octopoid head.

Victorious, the Shields rest briefly before continuing their examination of the ruined vessel.

In Our Dry Cellar, Part 6

Moonday, Harvester 17, 552 CY (50 AN)

Having rested, the Shields of the Sorrowfell decide to press onward into the lightless tunnels beneath Scandshar in the hopes of finding Darstina Tallcrippler.

During the long walk, the Shields hear noise from Bosabrieln’s backpack. When they check, a voice is hailing them from the Sending Stone. Bosabrieln responds, and the person says he’ll put on his boss.

Lord Oculus addresses the Shields.

He tells a tale he claims to have heard in Sigil, a story about a mongoose hunting a cobra. The relevant quote, he says, notes that “very few mongooses, however wise and old they may be, care to follow a cobra into its hole.” Divinations have determined that they are inside the tunnels beneath Scandshar, and having crept into the location, it means that there are guards at either end who will trap them. He notes that they were clever to warn their comrades about the Peacocks’ approach, although they did not warn one — Bezaldooz’s undead lover. Lord Oculus notes that such may be a conversation they will want to have with Bezaldooz in the near future. Lord Oculus further states that the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks is so named because they have eyes everywhere. The Peacocks’ gaze is inescapable. He ends the discussion by asking if they know why he is called “Lord Oculus the Beautiful,” and indicating that they will find out.

The group walks for about an hour, encountering old caverns and tomb complexes before finally coming to a set of wooden double doors beyond which they hear talking. Peren listens and definitely hears one familiar human voice and another set of voices, not human. After listening for a couple of minutes, it is clear that the one human and the two inhuman things are brokering a deal over slaves. It is also clear that the human is greatly intimidated by the things, likely because they seem just as interested in eating their slaves as utilizing them.

After some deliberation, the Shields decide to knock. After a moment, a man answers the door. The Shields recognize Lamont MacBeth, the barrister present at last night’s primero game. Behind him, the group sees a room with tables, torches, and stone walls, evidently forming some manner of underground tavern. The Shields also see two large, hulking, armored creatures in the room — umber hulks. Lamont seems a little surprised to see the Shields, but tells his unseen companions that it’s nothing and closes the door.

Peren decides to open it.

As the group walks into the room, they see Lamont’s two companions: two small creatures appearing almost as tarantulas with moray eel heads emerging from their thoraxes. The group recognizes them as neogi — a vile, slaving race of aberrants, served by trained Umber Hulks — although these two are significantly smaller than most neogi known in the world. Their fur is dyed to resemble peacock feathers, and a shaved patch on their left shoulders reveals a spiralling, fractal tattoo with a peacock motif. A bartender is also visibile behind the bar at the far side of the room.

The two neogi threaten to eat Lamont after they kill the interlopers, and battle is joined.

The bartender hides behind the bar as Lamont dashes across the room, trying to hide from the combat. Peren leaps into the fray, jumping onto a table and knocking one of the neogi across the room. The other neogi scurries next to the umber hulks in an attempt to spur them to action. Torinn leaps into that front of the battle, wading into combat with the massive umber hulks. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna stay back, casting spells from a safe distance. One of the umber hulks is temporarily blinded in the chaos, preventing the Shields from being subjected to its befuddling gaze.

As the neogi retreat to torment the Shields with psychic blandishments, the Shields focus their attention on the more dangerous umber hulks. The beasts grasp at Peren and Torinn with savage claws, but Peren is far too quick for them to find purchase. Torinn, on the other hand, is caught, but his armor is too tough for the creatures to crack, allowing him to free himself before they tear into him. They stay in the thick of melee with the creatures, as Valna repositions herself, dashing through the melee to help the others. As the beasts are pressed by the onslaught of Peren and Torinn, they manage to stay in the fight by catching many of the Shields’ beneath their enchanting gazes. Confused and staggering, the umber hulks manage to remove Peren and Torinn from melee a couple of times, enough time for a similarly confused Bezaldooz to stagger into the thick of battle. Bewildered, he does not quite know what is happening as one of the umber hulks latches into him with his claws. He starts struggling and flinging spells and Peren and Torinn rush to engage the creature, but it is already too late. The umber hulk pulls him apart in a gout of blood and a noise of tearing sinew. It drops Bezaldooz in two pieces at its feet.

Despite the loss of their comrade, the Shields fight vigorously; indeed, it appears as though the death rallies them. The umber hulk that slew Bezaldooz breathes its last within seconds, and the second is not far behind. With their umber hulk guards gone, the neogi are quickly slain.

Valna sets about performing rites, wrapping Bezaldooz’s body in a shroud, and placing the corpse in her bag of holding. Peren and Torinn catch the bartender’s attention and get to drinking. Bosabrieln calms Lamont MacBeth and starts questioning him.

Lamont indicates that he merely works for the Peacocks as a lawyer, and doesn’t necessarily know much. With regard to the neogi, they were meeting with him on behalf of their master, a Lord Vau. Lord Vau was apparently attempting to renegotiate the details of their slave trade agreement. For his part, Vau is not in Scandshar; there is a portal to his native realm of Rockulon Prime, although Lamont does not know where it is located.

Lamont does not know too much about the guard patrols, but he does tell the Shields about the layout of the place. He indicates that a relatively straight walk of old temples, tombs, and aqueducts will eventually give way to a fork in the road; left should go to the brig, right should lead to an underground smuggler’s dock. Bosabrieln tells him to not mention this conversation to anybody who comes looking for them, and Lamont says he will not. He is then allowed to leave, and deigns to enter the kitchen behind the bar.

Peren and Torinn question the bartender, asking him about his boss. He indicates that the man’s name is Xannan Dragonsbane, although he really just gives him his pay. Upon request, the bartender draws a rough map of the rest of the underground complex.

The group decides to use the Sands of Time to properly rest and recover for the battles ahead. They sprinkle the sands, and when the circle is closed, they realize that the torches stop flickering and the bartender freezes in place. Only the Shields appear mobile. They rest.

Upon awakening, they break the circle and quickly clean the sand. Then they continue through the lightless tunnels.

When the Shields are once again alone, Bosabrieln sings the song to Veil the group as Scarlet Jax and her boys. When they come to the fork, they turn left to investigate the dungeons.

As they enter, they see a small, dark-skinned halfling woman standing over a dead guardsman, cleaning a dagger. She appears to have torn her prisoner’s robe to make it shorter and allow more maneuverability, and she used the extra pieces to make a sash into which she is stashing her found daggers.

When she sees the Shields entering the room as Scarlet Jax and her boys, her eyes grow wide and she immediately flings a dagger at Bosabrieln’s head, thinking he is Scarlet. Bosabrieln manages to duck out of the way and drops the enchantment, explaining that they’re the Shields and they’ve come to rescue her. Darstina asks what took them so long, and joins the group.

The group rushes toward the smuggler’s dock, but as they enter a large, vaulted chamber with statuary and a pit in the floor, a voice booms throughout the chamber.

It is Lord Oculus.

He indicates that he is called Lord Oculus the Beautiful because beauty…is in the eye of the beholder.

On cue, three thugs emerge from a hallway, followed by a giant, floating head covered in eyes. The Shields recognize the creature as an Eye of Flame beholder, and given its voice and demeanor, it appears to be Lord Oculus.

The group immediately moves into battle formations and begins taking positions. Peren and Valna move to meet two of the thugs while Bosabrieln, Darstina, and Torinn brace themselves to encounter the remaining thug and Lord Oculus. As battle is joined, Peren and Valna engage the two thugs. Darstina keeps the other one busy while Bosabrieln starts singing, slinging spells at Lord Oculus. As Lord Oculus positions himself near the pit, so as to keep Bosabrieln, Darstina, and Torinn in range of his eye rays, Torinn conspires to get him into the pit. Lord Oculus repositions over the pit to keep everyone out of range. Heavily armored enough to withstand the constant, searing heat of Lord Oculus’ gaze, Torinn activates the jump jets on his powered armor, and engages Lord Oculus in battle in mid-air. With a mighty blow of his axe, he sends Lord Oculus tumbling to the hard, stone floor of the pit. When Lord Oculus rises, Torinn does it a second time.

Meanwhile, though Lord Oculus’ men are skilled combatants, they show signs of fatigue and wounds. As one falls and another shows signs of weakness, Torinn rushes over to him, hefting him with his new Giant’s Gloves and bodily throwing him at Lord Oculus. The impact kills the brigand immediately, and sends Oculus tumbling back into the pit. He does not rise again.

As Peren and Valna finish the last of Oculus’ men, Torinn moves to the pit to investigate. Lord Oculus is still alive, plotting his next move from within the pit. Torinn leaps down to confront Lord Oculus, and Peren swiftly follows. Darstina attempts to jump into the pit, but loses her footing and falls. Bosabrieln and Valna stay outside the pit to menace Lord Oculus with spells.

Bleeding from multiple wounds, the Peacock Lord does not last terribly long. He issues one, last, convulsive blast from his eye rays before shuddering and falling to the floor in a heap.

Lord Oculus lays still.

The group severs a few of Lord Oculus’ eyestalks as trophies, and Peren sets about curing them for preservation purposes. The group searches for anything of value, and finds that one of Oculus’ henchmen is carrying the lost Sending Stone, thus completing the pair. The group rests, and after making their investigation of the chamber, they decide to press onward.

The group finally opens a set of double doors, leading into a loading area with a small dock and a rowboat. Crates are scattered about this dock, and several workers scurry around them while four men play cards at a table. They are playing Three Dragon Ante, and appear to have gold scattered on the table as well as treasures nearby — an open chest glints with gold, and an ornate violin is visible in another treasure chest.

The group starts walking forward, but the dock workers and thugs ask them to halt. Bosabrieln says that the assembled party is the Shields of the Sorrowfell, and they have just killed Lord Oculus. He presents an eyestalk as proof. The air goes out of the room at this statement. Bosabrieln asks for safe passage, and the group makes no move to stop him.

As Bosabrieln, Darstina, and Valna make their way to the boat, Peren and Torinn signal their intentions to investigate the brigands’ treasure. They see two small chests, and think they can make do.

When the thieves determine their intentions, they draw weapons and join battle. Peren quickly attacks before sheathing his weapons and grabbing the chest. He dashes for the boat as Bosabrieln unmoors it.

Torinn, meanwhile, is not nearly as fast. He stands sentinel, axe in hand, waiting for the perfect opening to make his move. As Peren leaps aboard the boat and the room erupts into chaos, Torinn sees his opportunity — several of the thugs slash at him futilely as he activates his armor’s jump jets and begins flying toward the boat.

One brigand rushes the boat and leaps aboard, but Peren handily knocks him into the water. Another, significantly more ill-advised thug runs along the length of the pier and attempts to leap at Torinn and grab him. While she manages to successfully reach him with a leap, her hands cannot find purchase on his armor and she falls into the water. Torinn safely lands in the boat, and Darstina and Peren row upstream, towards the surface.

The boat emerges from an aqueduct in the middle of Scandshar’s Market District. The Shields and Darstina garner a few strange looks, but otherwise, it seems as though people are used to this sort of thing.

As they disembark the boat, they do catch sight of a few reminders of the old regime. Old Tom, an old beggar apparently having been driven mad by the Peacocks for some past infraction and left alive as a warning to others, watches them as they emerge from the boat. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the market, a beggar drags himself in a cart — a bandage covers his eyes and his hands have been amputated, suggesting that he was once a victim of Large LeFarge.

The Shields make their way through the Market District and walk to Count Brissot’s house. The guards give them entry, and a servant fetches Brissot.

Finlay Brissot enters the room a few moments later, congratulating the Shields on their success. Noticing that one is missing, he offers his condolences. He sends a servant to fetch the remaining 7,000 gp he owes the Shields, indicating that he will pay them in platinum.

Darstina then asks to speak with Brissot regarding what she learned; Brissot tells her to speak in front of the Shields, as he does not know whether they may need this information. She indicates that there is a connection between the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks and the Broken Chain, although she does not know the extent of the connection. She suspects that the Peacocks have placed plants in the Broken Chain to control their activities; as such, the Peacocks can arrange for the assassination of a target with whom they do not wish to be connected. Ultimately, however, she cannot be certain.

She does note that the Peacocks arrange themselves in a typical criminal hierarchy, but they also have aspects of a terrorist cell structure, as well. Killing Lord Oculus will likely not throw the organization into total disarray, particularly since the Esteemed and Omniscient Peacock Lord is (presumably) still around. They will likely replace the vacancy with another member of the organization.

Darstina makes one final note. Recently, Peacock members and those friendly to them have been receiving notes commenting that, “Ragnarok is in effect. Foss has made the first move. Winter is coming.” She does not know what these slogans mean, although she intends to perform more research.

Once the Shields are paid, Brissot says that they are welcome to anything they need. The group deigns to return to their hotel rooms at the Laughing Maiden. There, they investigate their chests of treasure, finding a gold chalice with moonstones, a gold necklace with garnet gems, six alexandrite stones, and 240 gp. The other chest contains a violin of Vistani manufacture, a holy mace, a miniaturized staff of some sort, and a magic amulet. The group travels to market to sell their gold and gems, and then divides their treasures. While at the market, Valna purchases several pounds of mystic salves to perform the Raise Dead ritual on Bezaldooz.

While waiting, Bosabrieln casts the Sending ritual to send a message to Vianibrar, saying, “Shields victorious. Will stay some in Scandshar to celebrate lavishly. Hope all is well. Oh, had meant to ask about my mother. See you soon?”

Having returned to their rooms, the group rests while Valna performs the Raise Dead ritual. Everyone gathers as Bezaldooz again draws breath. Torinn (falsely) tells him that Valna performed the Speak with Dead ritual on his corpse, and they now know everything. He shrugs.

Reunited, the Shields of the Sorrowfell decide to rest and prepare for whatever comes next on their journey.

In Our Dry Cellar, Part 5

Moonday, Harvester 17, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Peren and Valna, and Torinn are all awakened by knocks on their doors, as Bosabrieln awakens each in turn, telling them to meet in his room in ten minutes.

One by one they arrive, and when all have gathered, Bosabrieln explains his encounter with Vianibrar’s messenger the night before, and that the group has been gifted a bag containing the Sands of Time. Should they need to rest during their assault on the Peacocks’ base, this should grant them the time necessary to do so.

Bosabrieln also comments on a spell he has been researching and believes he is ready to attempt — called Veil, it is a complex illusion allowing several people to appear as others, including specific individuals they have previously met. Bosabrieln plans for the Shields of the Sorrowfell to masquerade as Scarlet Jax and her boys, and infiltrate the Peacock base in the ruined district. They will only appear as Jax and her gang for a limited time, but it will hopefully give them extra time and resources to penetrate the stronghold’s defenses and find Darstina Tallcrippler.

The group agrees to this plan.

Eating a breakfast of rations, the group disembarks and starts walking toward the ruined district. Just outside the ruins, Bosabrieln casts his spell and the group enters the district.

As they walk over a footbridge, they see an armored man note their entry and dart down an alley. A few moments later, a heavily-armed, six-man force emerges from a side street and approaches them. As the group does not seem hostile, the Shields stop and Bosabrieln (masquerading as Scarlet Jax) gives greeting. Peren and Torinn recognize the heavily-armored leader as Dragomir Negrescu, making this group Negrescu’s Nagas. Dragomir expresses surprise at seeing “Scarlet Jax,” and asks if she is in the area to see Lord Book. “She” indicates that it is secret business, so Dragomir lets her go on her way, although he asks if she has seen the Shields of the Sorrowfell anywhere. “She” replies that she has not, and then the two groups go about their business.

After some walking, the group finds the building that has been previously described to them. The Shields enter without issue, and finding the building to be an old tenement of some sort, they decide that their goal lies downstairs. Once they enter the basement, they find that a tunnel leads deeper underground.

After a little walking, they come to a door and decide to enter. The stench of chemicals mostly overpowers the faint stench of decay as they enter. As they walk into the chamber, they find that it is evidently some manner of laboratory. A pale man with dark hair works behind a table of alchemical reagents. He wears a white coat, a turban, and thick leather gloves. Instead of feet, his legs end in raven’s talons. In addition to the chemicals, a cadaver lies upon the table in front of him. A few other corpses are strewn about, all apparently preserved. Another large, humanoid monstrosity comprising stitched together pieces of humanoids lies on a nearby table.

Peren recognizes the pale man as a revenant, a person who was reanimated upon death by the Raven Queen. He is also, presumably, Lord Book.

Strangely, Bezaldooz quietly checks the area for magical resonances, trying to get a sense of Lord Book, and notices one — a brain in a jar, sitting amidst a pile of junk. It is silently watching the party, apparently monitoring them telepathically. Bezaldooz cannot get a sense of whether or not it has noticed their ruse, but as no reaction has occurred, he does not say anything.

Bosabrieln, speaking as Scarlet Jax, speaks briefly to Lord Book, who seems surprised to see them. However, he is more interested in his experiments, and tells them to go about their business deeper in the complex. The group takes their leave, continuing through the far door.

The group wanders through the tunnels beneath Scandshar, walking through sections of old aqueducts, shattered temples, and even caverns. They walk for nearly an hour, during which time Bosabrieln’s Veil lapses. Eventually, they come to a closed door. They pause, listen, and hearing nothing on the other side, throw it open.

Inside appears to be some manner of ceremony including six drow and a cloaked human. One of the drow and the human are quietly chanting. The other five drow are staring at the door, evidently having heard the Shields’ approach.

Peren rushes into the room to engage the drow cultists, attempting to catch them off guard. Just as the seven combatants threaten to overwhelm him, Torinn runs into the room and draws their attention while Valna rushes behind him, muttering prayers. Bosabrieln and Bezaldooz cast spells behind them. Quickly, four of the drow fall to the ground, slain by spell and blade. The remaining two drow and the human fight to the bitter end, but one-by-one, they fall.

The Shields rest briefly after the battle, taking the opportunity to search the fallen. Finding nothing of value, they attempt to ascertain the correct path forward. After studying the old temple complex, Peren decides on a direction, and the group moves forward.

The Shields wander past the old sewers and tombs, walking through twisty little cavern passages for nearly another hour before hearing the echoing sounds of voices. At first it sounds like conversation, but as the voices become clear, it is obvious that they are speaking many languages and engaged in many different emotional states. It is pure gibberish, or the rantings of the insane. As they approach and the Shields’ sunrod illuminates the vast chamber, they see a protean, amorphous form to their left, lurking near the cave wall. Its many eyes and many mouths mark it as what they know to be a gibbering mouther.

The group gets only a moment to register the mouther, as well as the cliff on the chamber’s right, before the ground ahead of the Shields churns and collapses inward, revealing two forms clambering out. Both are large, quadrupedal forms with vaguely reptilian outlines. They look like drakes or wingless dragons, but only in the most generous sense of the term — they are horribly mutated, covered in sores and tumors, and generally appear to be dragons as depicted by a diseased mind.

The two creatures attack, blocking further passage, but before the gibbering mouther can enter the fray, Bezaldooz conjures a wall of fire that blocks the entrance and cuts off the dragon-things’ escape. When Peren and Torinn step forward to engage them, they can move neither forward nor backward, and are forced into the flames.

Despite the beasts’ power, and their constant screams of psychic anguish piercing like daggers in the Shields’ minds, coupled with the constant jabbering of the gibbering mouther on the other side of the wall, the dragon-things do not last terribly long. Both Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln keep them off guard with constant magical assaults, while Valna attacks them with holy magic and Peren and Torinn fight them with sword and axe. Furthermore, they are also caught within the maddening jabbering of the gibbering mouther, further unbalancing them.

Finally, both creatures are slain. The Shields regroup before Bezaldooz drops the wall. Valna buys them another moment by temporarily banishing the creature to another dimension, but when it returns, the group assaults it with renewed vigor.

The gibbering mouther is quickly slain.

With the beasts slain, the Shields pause to rest and plan their next move.

In Our Dry Cellar, Part 4

Freeday, Harvester 14, 552 CY (50 AN)

After sufficiently gloating and playing to the crowd, the Shields of the Sorrowfell travel backstage at the Blackgem Amphitheatre. Shaitan al-Ayyim — flanked by bodyguards while being served by a serving girl — greets them. He congratulates them on their victory, and indicates that he owes them gems as payment, as well as the information they requested. He offers that he can wait until they have time to bathe and otherwise arrange themselves.

Once prepared, the Shields emerge and a messenger fetches Shaitan. He returns and gives them a pouch of jade gems. He reiterates that Torili Two-Spirit likely knows the location of the lost halfling, or knows someone who does. In either case, Torili Two-Spirit will be holding a primero game at his cabaret, The Heart of Scandshar, in three days, on the evening of Sunday, Harvester 16. The Shields thank him and go about their business.

The afternoon is spent in preparation. Bosabrieln accompanies Valna when she gets an enchanted tattoo; a flock of birds patterned across her arms and torso allow her to escape when enemies press too closely. They take the opportunity to discuss what to do regarding Bezaldooz’s dabbling in dark magic, and decide to confront him about the subject. Torinn acquires a pair of rusty gauntlets that allow him to target vital areas of wounded enemies. Peren accompanies Bezaldooz in gathering alchemical formulae and components, and purchases a few concoctions of his own.

When everyone returns to the Laughing Maiden, Bosabrieln orders food to his room and invites everyone to join him. There, Bosabrieln and Valna confront Bezaldooz about his demonic magics. He explains that he found a book in one of the dungeons the group has explored — he shows Bosabrieln his copy of The Confessions of Gingor the Seeker — and further explains that demonology is a known quantity; many sorcerers have truck with fell spirits which they summon to do their bidding, and suffer no ill effects so long as they only use them to that end. He says he will stop using his demonological tricks if it makes the others uncomfortable, however.

The next two days are largely spent resting, preparing for Sunday evening’s festivities.

That evening, the Shields of the Sorrowfell travel to The Heart of Scandshar. It is a strange place, bearing a strong urban and industrial motif. Bezaldooz and some of the other arcane dabblers suspect that Torili Two-Spirit might be using the place to establish a symbolic connection with Scandshar, in essence making the place the literal heart of Scandshar.

Whatever the case, the Shields state their business to the guards at the door, who proceed to wave them through. A pair of sentries standing guard before the doors into the back of the club similarly let them pass once their business has been explained.

They are led to a relaxed, upper-class pub area. Several servants flit around. Two tables are set for primero, and the bar hosts the bartender and moneychanger for the evening. The Shields just catch sight of Torili Two-Spirit heading into another door leading out of the room.

In addition to the wait staff, several other figures are in the room. A noblewoman, a barrister, and a veiled woman with her attendants all idly chatter in one part of the room. An aloof and icy eladrin woman keeps to herself in another segment of the room. Still another segment plays host to a man, well-dressed, but rough-and-tumble in appearance as if from the streets. He has the look of a foreigner upon him.

While Bezaldooz, Peren, Torinn, and Valna get to drinking, Bosabrieln introduces himself to the throng. He learns the noblewoman is Lady Léopoldine Pénélope Merle de Rais, the robed man is Barrister Lamont MacBeth, and the covered woman is Princess Jawahir al-Taqiyya. Bosabrieln feels the Princess is somehow familiar, but he cannot place how he knows her.

Eventually, more enter. A well-dressed man, accompanied by his valet, incites conversation with Barrister MacBeth, Lady de Rais, and Princess al-Taqiyya. The man introduces himself as Lord Otto Weogora. Another man enters after that; he is well-dressed, but bears the thickness and scars of someone who works with his hands. Peren and Torinn recognize Noraver “The Meathook” Wyvernjack, a street-level fixer for the Menagerie of Peacocks. They also recall that he is not the sharpest tool in the shed, which is more or less confirmed when he notices them and greets them with surprise and recognition rather than the typical suspicion most Peacock guild types have been using to greet the party.

With everyone present, all introductions are made. The eladrin is revealed as Viscountess Ravaatris Silversgleaming, and the rough-looking man is introduced as Murdak of Bala Ged. With introductions complete, the groups are organized into two tables. Barrister MacBeth, Bosabrieln, Lord Weogora, Princess al-Taqiyya, Valna, and Viscountess Silversgleaming sit at one table. Bezaldooz, Murdak, Lady de Rais, Peren, “The Meathook,” and Torinn sit at another.

The Princess wins at her table. Bosabrieln wins notably, but ends up using his winnings to pay Valna’s debt.

“The Meathook” wins at his table. Bezaldooz and Peren both win money, but end up using their money to help pay Torinn’s debt. At one point, Peren catches Lady de Rais cheating; he admonishes her for playing primero incorrectly, but lets it go without alerting the dealer. The look on her face indicates that she knows exactly what just transpired.

Afterward, everybody takes the opportunity to continue socializing. Viscountess Silversgleaming, who notable lost, leaves in a huff. Murdak leaves shortly thereafter, relatively happy despite losing over 2,000 gp. He looks almost relieved, in a way. Lady de Rais takes her leave relatively quickly, although Bosabrieln does take an opportunity to flirt with her. She catches Peren’s eye from across the room and curtsies slightly before leaving.

Barrister MacBeth leaves next. Princess al-Taqiyya starts to leave, but Bosabrieln catches her before she does. He asks if she will be in the city much longer. She replies that she will not, and adds conspiratorially (and with a much deeper voice) that it was recommended that she not stay. Realizing that the Princess is Vianibrar, Bosabrieln quickly assesses the situation and determines that the Princess’s attendants are merely high-class harlots made to appear as courtesans and valets.

Shocked, Bosabrieln turns back to drinking and speaks with Lord Weogora. Bezaldooz, Peren, Torinn, and Valna continues drinking with “The Meathook.”

Finally, everyone leaves and the Shields of the Sorrowfell are summoned to Torili Two-Spirit’s chambers. Torili sits in a well-appointed office, accompanied by bodyguard Balror Baridukr. Balror says good bye to the Shields as they arrive, and Torili explains that he is a contrary. Once proper introductions are made, Bosabrieln explains that they wish to know what happened to Darstina Tallcrippler. Torili Two-Spirit indicates that she was last seen in the company of Large LeFarge before her disappearance. Either she failed him in some way, or she was an infiltrator. Torili suspects the latter, given the questions the Shields are asking. However, Two-Spirit does not much care about their motives, and seeing LeFarge is its own punishment. Armed with this information, the Shields bid Torili and Balror good evening and take their leave.

The Shields decide to confront LeFarge. As they make their way down to the docks, they encounter a group on an otherwise quiet street. It is Scarlet Jax and her boys. They outnumber the Shields thirteen to five. She indicates that the Shields are being sought by the Peacocks, and that she’s going to be the one to do it unless they leave the city and stop causing trouble. Bosabrieln steps forward and explains that just as she has an obligation to her gang, the Shields have an obligation to their allies. Discussion is tense, both sides huddle, and Scarlet Jax finally concedes that they’ll get 2,000 gold pieces for the night’s activities. If the Shields give them three grand, she and her boys never saw them tonight.

The Shields huddle, agree to the terms, and the exchange is made. Jax and her boys scatter down alleyways into the night.

The Shields arrive at LeFarge’s dockside warehouse. Bosabrieln, Torinn, and Valna will enter while Bezaldooz and Peren wait outside for a signal. Bosabrieln covers himself to appear female, and knocks on the door. A man — a thug by his look — opens the door. Bosabrieln states he has business with Large LeFarge, so the man directs the trio to the suit of armor at the far end of the room.

All told, there are six in the room — four by the entrance playing Three Dragon Ante for matchsticks, with another two drinking at another table. There is also a rusty, old, black suit of armor attached to strings. It sits limply in a chair.

The trio approaches and the armor clatters to life, apparently controlled by the strings. A voice echoes from it, apparently the voice of Large LeFarge. Bosabrieln says he is looking for an associate, Darstina Tallcrippler. LeFarge asks what Bosabrieln plans to offer in return. Bosabrieln asks what LeFarge might need, and LeFarge segues into why Torinn — now well-known to be traveling in the powered armor from the Sentinel — is there? LeFarge, now revealed to all as a bloodthirsty pixie warrior, comes flying out of the armor’s mouth with his handaxes, the Shields raise the alarm, and battle is joined.

Bezaldooz and Peren barge through one of the windows as LeFarge starts wreaking mayhem with his axes. Two of his men leap to their feet, with morningstars at the ready. The other four pull crossbows and prepare to launch volleys of bolts. As Torinn moves to attack LeFarge, LeFarge throws pixie dust at him and he starts to float uncontrollably around the room. He proceeds to pull anything he can — a laser projector from the Sentinel, and his handaxes — to attack while floating away.

Meanwhile, Bosabrieln manages to get a little distance between himself and LeFarge after LeFarge slashes at his eyes. He proceeds to sling spells. Bezaldooz, now toe-to-toe with one of LeFarge’s coves, does likewise. Valna takes out one of the dazed thugs while Peren focuses on LeFarge.

In the chaos of the brawl, the Shields dispatch several thugs before Torinn falls back to earth. Back in the mix, he tangles with LeFarge until all the thugs are slain and LeFarge is unconscious.

After resting and poking around, in which they find a cloak with uncannily deep pockets as well as a pair of oversized gauntlets, the group awakens LeFarge and interrogates him. He reveals that Darstina Tallcrippler was transferred to a Peacocks’ subterranean smuggling complex underneath the ruined district. She is likely down in the dungeon level. He informs them of the building that houses the complex, but says they’re dead men if they go there. He also threatens to come back from the dead to find them if they kill him. Satisfied, Peren decapitates the pixie. Torinn retrieves the head and keeps it as a memento, while they tie LeFarge’s body to a rock and throw it in the river.

After some deliberation, they decide to return to the Laughing Maiden. They’ll sleep and disembark for the ruined district first thing in the morning.

That night, Bosabrieln is awakened by a knocking at his door. He rises, dons pants, and looks through the peephole to see a young woman. He opens the door and recognizes one of the women in Vianibrar’s entourage. Her bronzer and makeup is smeared; she is only wearing bloomers, a loose blouse, and her jewelery; and she is quite drunk, likely from the century-old bottle of wine in her hand. A backpack is slung over her shoulder.

She indicates the “Princess” — she makes quotation fingers in her drunken state — wished to send a message. Bosabrieln invites her inside, and she gives him the backpack. It contains a letter and a small, filled pouch. The letter indicates that Vianibrar does not know their next move, but assuming they are continuing their mission on behalf of the Wizard’s Tower and the Zookeepers, there is an item courtesy of the Wizard’s Tower. The pouch contains Sands of Time, which can be spread in a circle to stop time outside the circle. It is useful for resting or ritual preparations. Vianibrar also indicates that Headmaster Jepson will pay for the return of the Sands of Time if they are unused. Vianibrar also sends his regards and love to Bosabrieln. Bosabrieln uses the letter to write back to Vianibrar, thanking him for the Sands of Time and sending his love. He also indicates he wants to see Vianibrar in the burqa at some future time.

He returns the letter and backpack to the woman, and after kissing her deeply and telling her to give that to Vianibrar, he sends her on her way. He then undresses and returns to bed.

In Our Dry Cellar, Part 3

Godsday, Harvester 11, 552 CY (50 AN)

Confident in their preparations, the Shields of the Sorrowfell travel to the Chateau of Silent Lasses. The Shields decide that Bezaldooz, Peren, Torinn, and Valna will stay at the café across the street while Bosabrieln enters the Chateau to make the transaction. Before doing so, Bosabrieln pockets five platinum coins, just in case.

Peren decides to attempt eating again at the café; the others wait to see what happens. After a few minutes, a commotion erupts down the street. Several people run, ranting about Convergences and the Broken Chain. A woman, tall and pale with long, dark hair, walks after them. She is flanked by two figures in robes. She looks at the Shields as she passes.

However, these things are secondary to the object falling from the sky. As it approaches, it looks artificial, possibly being some manner of vehicle or conveyance — as it approaches, it appears to be some manner of wagon, albeit one completely enclosed and without animals to pull it. It finally lands, bounces, and careens into the front of the café, knocking tables into disarray. The side opens, and smoke billows out as a strange song plays from the inside of the van. A man steps out, wearing embroidered robes and wielding some manner of strange lute. Oblivious to the rest of the group, he opens the front of this behemoth and begins rummaging around, muttering something about parts being broken. Several guardsmen approach, but seeing he is no threat, proceed to stand around to see if their presence is required. When the Shields finally obtain his attention, he asks if there’s a “body shop” around because he needs to replace his “manalytic converter.” When Bezaldooz asks if he is trying to get rid of a body, he looks around, and realizing his surroundings, mutters about this backwater town. He then asks Bezaldooz if he wants any cocaine.

After Bezaldooz assures him that he does not want any cocaine, introductions are made. The man is apparently Doctor Dagger Nazareth, Space-Wizard, from the world of Rockulon Prime. Bezaldooz asks if he needs any help and takes a look at his machine; he can’t make heads or tails of it, although he recognizes a small and somewhat primitive spelljammer helm at the heart of the machine.

Meanwhile, Bosabrieln enters the Chateau of Silent Lasses. He takes tea and waits for the madame. When she arrives, he expresses his intention to purchase Lydia the Tattooed Lady. He shows the pouch of money. The madame leaves, returning with a man who has the bearing of an accountant. He pulls out some contracts and Bosabrieln gives him the pouch. The accountant counts the money and indicates he is 500 gold pieces short of the woman’s 3,000 gold piece value. Bosabrieln pulls out the other five platinum and hands it to the accountant, who gives him the contracts. Bosabrieln signs them and a porter leads Bosabrieln upstairs.

Lydia expresses surprise at seeing Bosabrieln again, but when he indicates he has purchased her, she immediately grows suspicious. He simply asks her to trust him. A large man enters, and indicates that all of her possessions were remanded to the brothel upon the occasion of her initial sale. Since the dressing gown is not hers, Bosabrieln offers to buy it; the man charges a gold piece. The man further indicates that the tattoos are not hers, and refuses to sell them. He then pulls out a large knife.

Bosabrieln tries to get him to stop until he finally pulls his wand and sings a song of distraction at the man. He then tells Lydia to run. Lydia elbows the man in the back of the neck, and he falls unconscious. She then dashes out of the room. Bosabrieln follows, puts an arm around her, tells her to follow his lead, and the two walk out quietly.

When they arrive on the street, Bosabrieln sees the commotion and tells the Shields that they need to leave. Dr. Nazareth begins playing a song he says he wrote for Lydia, much to her consternation. The group leaves with Bosabrieln, although one of the café staff asks after them who’s going to clean this place?

The group arrives at Count Brissot’s townhouse and informs him of the affairs, including their newly-found companion, Dr. Dagger Nazareth. Bosabrieln also reveals to Lydia that she is now free; they are aiding an abolitionist group, and have freed her. She thanks everyone for their efforts, and indicates that if she is to be free, she would prefer to be called by her real name, Ekaterina. Dr. Nazareth, and they ask if she knows anything regarding Darstina Tallcrippler. She says she heard the halfling ran with Scarlet Jax’s gang for a time, and recommends they start at the Troll and Fish, where she and her boys typically find themselves. The group, tired from the morning’s activities, decides to rest until the evening. Count Brissot says he will look after Ekaterina while the others rest. The Shields move Dr. Nazareth’s conveyance to the street, and he decides to sleep in the back of it. Torinn stays at Count Brissot’s house, while the others return to their hotel rooms at the Laughing Maiden. They meet for dinner, and return to their rooms for the evening.

Valna takes a couple of hours to inquire with Count Brissot about any artificers in the area, as her gravity hammer has apparently stopped working. He recommends a Magella Cupshigh, a noble with House Ehrenfest, whom apparently runs a curiosity shop in the market district. Valna finds Lady Cupshigh, and after explaining her problem, Magella says she will take a look at it. She will contact Valna at the Laughing Maiden within the next day to let her know the cost and estimated time.

That evening, the Shields meet in the lobby of the Laughing Maiden. The woman at the front desk gives Valna a message from Magella Cupshigh indicating that the repairs will run 150 gold pieces and will take a couple of days.

The Shields then go to the Troll and Fish, and decide to let Dr. Nazareth rest and go about his own business. They find the tavern down by the wharf, and enter. An old sailor missing an eye and with a hook for a hand looks to run the place. A half-elf with flaming red hair and a red cloak sits with her back to the bar, her feet kicked up on a stool, her arms stretched out on her bar. She wears leather armor, a rapier and dagger on her hip. A goliath, a minotaur, an ogre, and nine humans drink and make merry. The Shields sit and prepare to have drinks. Bosabrieln asks the barkeeper if he may play; the barkeeper refers him to Scarlet Jax. Bosabrieln asks the red-haired woman, and after she stares for a bit, she asks her boys. They agree if he plays properly bawdy songs.

Bosabrieln’s playing properly pleases the crowd, and after a bit, Scarlet Jax slams her tankard on the bar and asks what the Shields of the Sorrowfell want with her. Bosabrieln explains that they’re looking for Darstina Tallcrippler. Scarlet Jax indicates that she doesn’t know what happened to her, but she might know who does — Shaitan al-Ayyim, the Queer Fakir. He keeps his ear to the ground in circles she does not. She indicates that she knows Peren and Torinn, and wonders if they might know where to find the Queer Fakir. When they make it clear that they are not really in the mood to talk of such things, she indicates he can be found at a cabaret called the Perfumed Garden. Bosabrieln also asks if Scarlet Jax knows anything about the Broken Chain assassin, the changeling boy they encountered. She says she doesn’t mess with the Broken Chain, but she recalls him taking other contracts; apparently, the changeling was a street urchin by the name of Lam Jinnam. Satisfied with the information, Bosabrieln then plays a little more and the Shields take their leave.

While walking, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna confront Peren and Torinn about their previous activities in Scandshar. They indicate that they do not wish to talk about it; Torinn mentions that as Bezaldooz has a young lady in his room and didn’t see fit to mention it, there are certain secrets Torinn and Peren also wish to keep.

The group goes to the Perfumed Garden. It is decorated in the style of the merchants of the Kharha Desert from the Isle of Anhak. The doormen let them enter, and they are greeted by sumptuous carpets, delightful smells, and a stage show featuring dancing girls in harem costume. Mirrors appear to reflect the action on stage into an upper balcony, so that the stage can still be watched if one is sitting down. Guards stand around the curtains on the balcony, a smoke trails out from the openings. The Shields are seated on a rug to the side of the room, and a serving girl comes around to take their orders. Studying them, she realizes they are adventurers and gushes briefly before getting their meals.

When she returns, Bosabrieln asks if the Queer Fakir is available, that the Shields of the Sorrowfell wish to speak with him. She says she will check. She dashes up the stairs, appears to speak with the guards briefly, and returns to the group. She indicates he should be free in about a half-hour.

True to her word, she retrieves the Shields of the Sorrowfell in roughly a half-hour. She leads them up the stairs to the curtained portion. There, they see a large man in tradition dress reclining on the floor. He is eating from a plate of fruit and meat and smoking a hookah. Lounging on the rugs and pillows around him are six women, scantily clad in harem outfits. They are passing around some manner of pipe with a stylized dragon on it; a thick, resinous smoke bellows forth from it. A few of the Shields surmise that he is smoking flavored tobacco, while his lady friends are smoking opium.

Shaitan al-Ayyim asks the Shields their business, and after appropriate pleasantries are exchanged, Bosabrieln explains that they seek what happened to Darstina Tallcrippler. Shaitan al-Ayyim indicates that he does not know what happened to the halfling, other than she disappeared. However, he suspects Torili Two-Spirit might know. He can grant the Shields audience with Torili Two-Spirit — this person apparently holds a primero game with some regularity, and Shaitan can get the Shields into the game. However, to do this, Shaitan requires a favor from the Shields. There is an arena battle at Blackgem Amphitheatre in three days’ time, and due to a last-minute problem, the original fighters had to drop out. Would the Shields’ be interested in substituting for them? Shaitan requests that they go disguised so that the audience will be unlikely to bet on the unknowns, and he indicates that it is to be a contest against a wild animal, although he does not know what manner of animal at the moment. He further indicates that he will give them a cut for their trouble, 1,000 gp.

The Shields agree. He thanks them and says he will see them in three days.

The following day, a messenger arrives and knocks on Bosabrieln’s door. He indicates he is from Headmaster Ebenezer Jepson, and wishes to speak to the Shields. Bosabrieln gathers the other four Shields and the messenger reports his news — there was a fire at the Temple of the Guiding Light in Jepson. No casualties were reported, however, as the temple was on alert. It was apparently caused by a conspiracy of five guardsmen who were apparently on the take for the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. Given the stance Jepson plans on taking with the perpetrators, this officially marks an act of war on the part of Jepson regarding the Peacocks. The messenger asks if there are any messages to be sent to Jepson, and the Shields indicate there are not. He takes his leave.

After that, Bosabrieln makes certain to send a message to Vianibrar, saying, “I swear if you die I shall never speak to you again. Be careful. I have something important to discuss with you once this business is done.”

On Freeday, Harvester 14, the Shields arrive early at Blackgem Amphitheatre to get ready. They put down their group name as the Dirty Egg Smashers, and learn that they will be pitted against Durglothtor the Brown, a brown dragon and undefeated veteran of over a dozen battles. The Shields recall the brown dragons’ affinity for sand, and prepare themselves. They also place some bets on themselves as a prize for their hopeful victory.

When they arrive in the arena, they note that the beasts’ wings are clipped so that he can only fly for brief periods. However, encountering him suggests he’s been running more, and is faster as a result.

The creature immediately closes the distance, roaring and striking fear into Bosabrieln and Torinn. Bezaldooz, Peren, and Valna scramble to avoid clumping, and Peren enters into melee with the beast. Durglothtor is fast and covered in durable dragonhide, but the Shields manage to land a couple of telling hits on it. It breathes a gout of scouring sand, obscuring nearly half the arena, but the Shields regroup to face the foe. Bezaldooz mutters some dark chant at the beast in Abyssal, and when that doesn’t faze it, he launches a fireball at it even though this risks burning Torinn. He hits Durglothtor squarely with the blast, but the dragon emerges unscathed. Torinn manages to roll out of the way of the worst of it, but is still caught in the explosion, forcing Bezaldooz to summon a demonic essence to take the hit instead. Valna banishes the dragon to another place, giving the Shields time to regroup and prepare for the creature to reappear.

When it reappears after a few breathless seconds, the tide of battle changes as the Shields overwhelm the beast. It fights valiantly for its life, but the Shields’ persistence allow them to slay the beast within seconds.

In Our Dry Cellar, Part 2

Godsday, Harvester 11, 552 CY (50 AN)

Peren manages to shake off his stupor as Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Torinn, and Valna mobilize. The guard reports that one of the serving girls ran into a nearby alley; two guards are in pursuit. Bezaldooz and Valna stay behind to attempt to treat Count Finlay Brissot. Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn rush out the door.

Things are a little worrisome at first, but Bezaldooz and Valna manage to stabilize the Count and restore him to consciousness within a couple of minutes. He thanks them for saving his life, and dispatches some guardsmen to investigate apartment of the serving girl, Alyssa.

Meanwhile, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn rush into a nearby alley. In the gloom, they can see two guardsmen lying in the alleyway. One appears to have a slit throat, while the other has no apparent wounds. Both lie still. A little further into the alley lies the serving girl’s dress.

The trio proceeds through the alley until they emerge into a busy street. They scan the crowd and finally notice a young lad, likely human by his look, walking through the crowd. He is shirtless, wearing only leather breeches and a pair of ornate leather boots, coated in some manner of wax. Something about his demeanor prompts them to begin pursuing, and as they do, he notices and begins to run.

Although Bosabrieln manages to shout at the crowd to get them to part, the lad is too swift and agile for them, and they quickly lose him among the crowds. Although they ask around if anyone has seen him, they quickly lose the trail. They begin to run back to Brissot’s home when Bosabrieln hears a voice emitting from his pack.

The group moves into an alley, and after some debate, opens the pack. The voice is asking if it is being received, and Bosabrieln finds that the voice originates from the sending stone still in his pack from Sorgforge — the other half being taken by Tikulti and Demise and presumably among their personal effects when they were captured and executed.

Bosabrieln hails the voice, and learns that the aged-sounding person is none other than Lord Oculus. Lord Oculus, as Peren and Torinn well know, is the local kingpin of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. They have never actually seen him, but they know of him. He proceeds to explain that he has contacted the Shields of the Sorrowfell — referring to Bosabrieln specifically as “Mr. Peredhel” — to make them an offer. They have come to Scandshar, and they should stay — see the sights, go to the cabarets, take in a show. However, as their deeds mark them as known troublemakers, they are not to interfere in Peacock operations. If they can manage to be unobtrusive for a little while, the Peacocks may offer them a job. If they instead decide to interfere, the Peacocks will execute those close to them — be they lovers, mentors, family members, adoptive family members, or even those within the group if necessary — and abscond with the bodies to make resurrection impossible. He bids them farewell.

Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn return to Count Finlay’s house. Among other things, they inform the Count of their failure to capture the assassin. He suspects the assassin will likely return to finish the job. One of the Count’s servants enters, indicating that the serving girl Alyssa was found alive in her apartment, although she was evidently bound and gagged. She is currently under guard, and when the Shields ask if it would be acceptable to speak to her, the Count says he will dispatch a servant to assess her state, although the morning is more likely. Shortly thereafter, a woman flits into the room; she is evidently Countess Saoirse Brissot, Finlay’s wife. At his request, they leave him to rest while they retire to the sitting room to discuss their options.

Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn inform Bezaldooz and Valna about establishing contact with Lord Oculus. They debate how best to proceed — they can wait for contact from the Peacocks, or they can start their investigation on their own. If they wait, they may be led right to the people they need to question, but they do not know how long they will have to wait for the Peacocks to contact them. If they start immediately, they put their loved ones in danger and do not exactly know where to go, but they have the advantage of starting immediately.

Although pale and unsteady, Count Brissot joins the Shields. They explain their dilemma, and decide to start immediately. Count Brissot recommends a contact some of his agents use, a harlot at the Chateau of Silent Lasses known as Lydia the Tattooed Lady. The group decides to warn anybody whom Lord Oculus may attempt to target, and Count Brissot says he will take care of arrangements. A messenger arrives and indicates that Alyssa is in no state to receive visitors, but may be available sometime the next day.

Regarding the assassin, Count Brissot speaks. He indicates that the assassin will likely return for him at some point, so finding the person again should be comparably easy.

With a vague plan to contact Lydia in the morning, the Shields let Count Brissot rest and retire to their hotel. All is normal upon returning, save for Bezaldooz, who enters his room to find it illuminated by candles. A parcel, wrapped in brown paper, sits upon the bed. Cautiously, he unwraps it to find a sheaf of papers, written in the same hand but obviously coming from different sources, that has been bound into a featureless leather book. He hears splashing from the bathroom and enters to find the woman who has taken to visiting him in the night. He indicates that he is surprised that she came all this way, and she indicated that she came to leave him a gift — the book. Evidently called The Confessions of Gingor the Seeker, it details a magus who sought forbidden lore. He expresses an interest in joining her in the bath, and with her invitation, he does so.

The next day, everyone convenes for breakfast. Bezaldooz looks a trifle pale, but the morning is otherwise unremarkable. The Shields make their way to the Chateau of Silent Lasses.

The Shields arrive at an ornate townhouse. They try the door to find it locked; they knock. A slide opens, and a man asks them to state their business. They indicate they wish to see Lydia the Tattooed Lady, and the man disappears briefly before the door is opened.

The sitting room is well-appointed, with a few guards about. The Shields are offered refreshment before the madam arrives. She looks a trifle surprised to see five, but ultimately cares little. They ask if she is Lydia, and she derisively replies, “No.” She leads them to Lydia’s room and says they can settle payment at the end.

They enter to find a woman undressing. She has pale skin, several piercings, and is covered in tattoos. A large peacock dominates her back, marking her as a slave. She looks a touch alarmed at five people in her room, but she is prepared for whatever comes next.

Bosabrieln introduces himself, finding her to be Lydia, and explains that he has come to ask her questions. She finds this somewhat relieving. He then proceeds to ask what she knows about Darstina Tallcrippler, and she says very little on the subject. Bosabrieln indicates, as Lydia herself notes, that two known Peacocks are currently in the room, and it would be totally plausible for this to be a test. Bosabrieln asks what she would need to prove their intentions, and she indicates that she doesn’t know. To put her at ease, Bezaldooz, Peren, and Valna leave. However, it doesn’t seem to work. Out of ideas, Bosabrieln asks what she is worth, and she says she understands herself to be worth approximately 3,000 gold pieces. Bosabrieln and Torinn leave.

After leaving the Chateau of Silent Lasses and paying a gold apiece, Bezaldooz, Peren, and Valna retire to a café across the street. Bosabrieln drops five gold pieces on the counter, and Torinn pays two before they also leave the Chateau of Silent Lasses, joining the others at the café. The Shields discuss their options — trying a different source of information, finding a method to convince Lydia of their sincerity, purchasing Lydia as a slave, or purchasing her and offering her freedom — before more or less deciding on fronting the money to purchase Lydia’s freedom. Bosabrieln leaves, and the others remain at the café to eat a little something.

Bosabrieln goes to the Brissot house to speak with the Count. Finding him awake, he asks if he can speak with the serving girl, Alyssa, but the Count indicates that she is still resting. Perhaps he should try a little later in the day? Bosabrieln thanks him and returns to his hotel room to bathe.

Meanwhile, Bezaldooz, Peren, Torinn, and Valna are eating and are about to leave when Bezaldooz, Peren, and Valna become violently ill — there is a terrible pain in their abdomens and their bowels loosen. Torinn feels slightly nauseous, but has no further ill symptoms. As the group looks, they notice one of the servers has the same wax-covered boots as the assassin the previous night. Although he looks different, this assassin has clearly shown a mastery at disguise; they suspect it is the same person.

When the waiter finishes serving his table, he walks out the front door instead of heading toward the kitchen. The Shields follow in hot pursuit.

Seeing pursuers, the assassin flees, but does not get very far Bezaldooz shocks him with a blast of lightning before Valna halts his progress with the gravity hammer she recovered from the Sentinel. The energy pulls him backward and the shockwave knocks both of them down.

The crowd flees quickly. Peren and Torinn enter the melee and go to work before the assassin disappears in a cloud of shadow. With no other recourse, the group begins to leave when Peren notices something and sees another man, dressed in the same clothes as the assassin, walking out of a storefront. He sprints and fells the man instantly, before hefting him over his shoulder. He recognizes the boots as Boots of Sand and Sea, and decides to take them. The group decides to immediately return to Count Brissot’s house.

Along the way, they encounter some guardsmen. The Shields explain that this man is an assassin, and the guards, seeing the tell-tale grey, featureless face of a changeling, demand ten gold pieces for their trouble.

The Shields arrive at Count Brissot’s house with the prisoner. A runner is dispatched to retrieve Bosabrieln, and the assassin is secured.

Bosabrieln, meanwhile, is recalled from his bath by a knock at the door. Donning a towel, he answers to find a messenger from Count Brissot, saying that the assassin has been caught by the other Shields and that they are at Count Brissot’s house. He dresses quickly and heads over.

When everyone has reconvened, they express their desire to purchase Lydia and offer her freedom. Count Brissot offers an advance on their pay, and says he can give them 3,000 gold pieces out of their final payment. He sends a servant to gather the necessary funds, while dispatching another servant to check on the serving girl, Alyssa. The Count and the Shields discuss plans briefly before turning their attention to the assassin.

Peren roughly awakens the prisoner, and questioning begins. The prisoner only responds by saying, “I am the dagger poised at the heart of the abyss / I am the key by which the prison is opened / I am the hammer by which the chains are broken / By my hand I do the deed / By my will the world is freed.” He proceeds to say this repeatedly.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell and Count Brissot recognize the creed of the Broken Chain. They wonder why a member of the Broken Chain would attempt to assassinate the Count, but return to the matter at hand when Bosabrieln, recalling his Broken Chain brooch in his pack, pins it to his clothes and tells the assassin that he is his superior, and that he should cut it out.

The assassin looks confused, glancing between Bosabrieln and Count Brissot. He then starts shifting form, cycling quickly through different shapes until he is free of his bonds, he then dives into a nearby shadow and emerges next to the Count, grabbing a butter knife and attempting to saw open his own throat with it. He is quickly stopped before he can get anywhere.

After a few more rounds of questioning, the group is able to determine that Bosabrieln broke him utterly. As Bosabrieln convinced him that he was a member of the conspiracy, as was Count Brissot, but Brissot was his target, the conflict was too much for him to bear, and his mind cracked under the strain. Count Brissot says his guards will see to incarcerating the fellow, and he will see if he can learn any details about him.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell returns to postulating why a member of the Broken Chain would assassinate Count Brissot. He says that it is likely just a destabilization maneuver, something to cause chaos, but the Shields wonder if the Broken Chain and the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks are not somehow connected. After all, Lord Oculus obtained a sending stone in Demise’s possession, and an agent of the Broken Chain sought to kill a known abolitionist. Perhaps the two groups are not directly connected, but maybe one has means of manipulating the other.

Shortly thereafter, the Count’s servants return. Alyssa is likely in a condition to receive visitors, and the other returns with a pouch containing thirty platinum pieces. Wanting to finish business with Lydia, the group prepares to return to the Chateau of Silent Lasses.

In Our Dry Cellar, Part 1

Godsday, Goodmonth 11, 552 CY (50 AN)

As the ceremony draws to a close, the Shields of the SorrowfellBezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna — return to the Addled Alchemist. Having heard that they may get another job within the next month, and that they are guests of the town, they decide to settle at the Addled Alchemist until they hear otherwise.

That evening, Bosabrieln recounts the tales of the Shields’ adventures, drawing an even larger crowd than the previous night.

The following day, on Goodmonth 12, the Platinum Claws return. However, it is only Blank, Cliff, and Sariel; Matthas did not return with them. When Bosabrieln questions Sariel about it, she explains that he must have reincarnated, and they will meet him again on the road someday.

That night, Bosabrieln decides to again recount the Shields’ adventures. Afterward, Vianibrar tells the classic Ballad of Fallen Sorg.

There is an encore the following night, on Goodmonth 13. Bosabrieln recounts more tales of the Shields’ exploits, and Vianibrar tells the Tragedy of Barony Aalsburg.

On Goodmonth 14, Bosabrieln again tells tales and sings songs as evening approaches. Vianibrar tells the classic Dwarven history, the Epic of Theronna Onyxarm. Vianibrar also suggests that some scholars claim the tomb of Theronna Onyxarm has been discovered in Sorgforge.

As Vianibrar is telling his tales, Bosabrieln notices a man in the tavern whom he has not previously noticed. The man is a dandy, wearing clothes of silk and lace. He wears a powdered wig and makeup, and most shockingly, is ignoring the evening’s revelry. Instead, he sits alone and quietly drinks, looking rather miserable.

Bosabrieln strikes a conversation, and as introductions are made, he finds the man to be Count Antonio Weogora of Scandshar. Count Weogora apologizes for not paying attention to the tales, but indicates that he is distracted — his family wishes for him to go to the college at Sorgforge and become a lawyer, while he wishes to study the thaumaturgical arts and become a wizard. Bosabrieln advises him to take the path he wants rather than what his family wants, and invites Bezaldooz over to tell him about the University for the Study of the Arcane Arts and Sciences. Eventually, Torinn finds his way over and continues drinking.

While this is happening, Bezaldooz is the only one to notice that Peren and Valna are gone.

After some more drinks and conversation, Peren returns. He is quite boisterous after apparently sleeping with a young, local lass. Bezaldooz notes when Valna returns, looking a trifle guilty, about half an hour later.

The next day, Goodmonth 15, Valna approaches Bosabrieln to ask for help. After some debate on the subject, Valna comes clean — she slept with Peren the previous night. She is concerned, however, as their histories suggest that they might be from the same village. Which further threatens that they might be related. After some debate, they decide to talk to Adeptus Spellweaver.

At the University, Bosabrieln explains to Adeptus Spellweaver that Valna, being an orphan, wishes to know more about her family. Along those lines, she is interested in investigating the thought that she and Peren might be long-lost relatives. Adeptus Spellweaver suggests a ritual called Consult Mystic Sages, although having it performed would likely cost around 1,400 gp. He does suggest an alternative, however; the Baron Lee van Hook has been investigating techniques that may allow him to answer the question, although Adeptus Spellweaver is not certain how accurate those techniques are. They thank him and leave, deciding to speak to the Baron Hook.

When they arrive at the Baron Hook’s chambers, they make introductions and explain the situation. He suggests that he may be able to help them; he has been developing techniques that look at very minute portions of the world. He suspects that there are identifying structures in the blood that he can examine with a new spell he is developing. However, he admits that he cannot provide the certainty of Consult Mystic Sages, and his method could easily give a false positive or a false negative. He will not charge, as it will further allow him to experiment with this ritual. After some deliberation, Valna agrees. He indicates he will need fresh blood from both participants. As such, Bosabrieln and Valna thank him and leave to seek Peren in the Addled Alchemist.

Meanwhile, Peren and Torinn set up a target and engage in target practice in an empty field with Zelazadda Uvarkk’s Lantan musket. While shooting, Peren informs Torinn about the previous night’s sexual encounter with Valna. Bezaldooz joins them and punctuates target practice by setting fire with the target using a fireball, annihilating the target and leaving a swath of scorched earth. The group then retires to the tavern, where Bezaldooz attempts to start a bar fight using the ghost sound cantrip. He fails the notice the attentive student scurry out of the bar off toward the University.

Bosabrieln and Valna are surprised as they see Adeptus Spellweaver making a beeline to the Addled Alchemist, and they arrive just in time to see him yell at Bezaldooz. He admonishes Bezaldooz for his foolishness, and suggests that he received his own bandaged arm for similarly stupid reasons. He leaves, beckoning the gnome to follow. Once the bar settles, Bosabrieln and Valna tell Peren about their opportunity, and he decides to return with them to the University.

Meanwhile, Adeptus Spellweaver takes Bezaldooz into his office. Bezaldooz manages to convince him that he is merely ignorant and foolish, and Spellweaver accepts this before sending him away.

Bosabrieln, Peren, and Valna encounter Bezaldooz on the way to the Wizard’s Tower, and ask if he wants to accompany them. Once he is certain that they aren’t going to visit Adeptus Spellweaver, he agrees.

They arrive in Baron Hook’s office and he starts getting preparations underway. He produces a glass apparatus with a pump and large needle, as well as some other assorted ritual components and an ornate monocle. He explains the procedure, takes blood from Peren and Valna — rinsing and heating the needle between treatments — and then examines the two samples.

After some examination, he states that the structures he suspects to be identifiers are not similar between the two of them. He concludes that they are not related, although he states that they may wish for a second opinion to be certain. The group thanks him, and despite his protestations, Valna donates a couple hundred gold pieces to him. The group then leaves.

The following day, Goodmonth 16, Bosabrieln speaks to Vianibrar about returning to Nainimdul to visit his family. When the rest of the Shields hear about it, they express and interest in joining him, and it is agreed that Vianibrar and the Shields of the Sorrowfell will go together. Bosabrieln makes certain to bring some things he commissioned, and the group goes to the teleportation circle near the town square. He pays Vianibrar for both halves of the trip, and Vianibrar enacts the Linked Portal ritual to transport them to Nainimdul.

They arrive in a small shack containing the other teleportation circle. Apparently, Vianibrar empowered a teleportation circle of his own so that he could easily return home; the shack sits on his property outside Nainimdul. The group assembles and starts to head to the village. As they approach, several elves with bows and swords materialize out of the woods. One gives a strained greeting to Bosabrieln, and explains that he will reluctantly allow them to enter, but he cannot allow the thing — referring to the dragonborn, Torinn — into their woods. After some tense back-and-forth, they agree. Bezaldooz, Torinn, and Vianibrar will return to Vianibrar’s house while Bosabrieln, Peren, and Valna will finish Bosabrieln’s business.

As they approach Bosabrieln’s house, they see a fair-skinned elf outside; he walks into the house without saying anything, even when Bosabrieln attempts to capture his attention. Bosabrieln then knocks on the door, and a tall, pale elf maiden answers. Peren and Valna ascertain this to be his mother. After a tense salutation, she allows them inside and fetches Bosabrieln’s father. They give greeting in the same fashion, and after some strained idle chatter and boasting on Bosabrieln’s part, Bosabrieln starts asking about his mother. Around this time, Peren speaks up and learns that Bosabrieln’s “mother” is merely his stepmother, as his birth mother is some human from outside the village. Bosabrieln’s father rebuffs his questions, telling him to ask Vianibrar about his birth mother. Finally, Bosabrieln takes his leave, leaving a stack of portraits as he goes. Peren and Valna follow gratefully, not entirely comprehending what they just witnessed.

The three return to Vianibrar’s house, where he offers everyone tea. After resting for a few hours, they use his teleportation circle to return to Duchy Jepson.

The rest of the month is spent in study and relaxation. Bezaldooz and Valna study their new rituals. Peren and Torinn spend time at the local barracks and practice sparring. Bosabrieln spends time with Vianibrar. The group also sees Count Weogora a few times before he leaves, saying that he still plans to go to Sorgforge to see Morgrave University, but that he will likely return to Duchy Jepson to study arcana. They also spend time with the remaining Platinum Claws at the Addled Alchemist.

On the morning of Harvester 10, a student from the University — the same bookish young sage with whom Valna had a dalliance a month ago — arrives with news. Headmaster Ebenezer Jepson wishes to speak with them around noon. Valna and he share a knowing smile before he leaves.

Everyone prepares themselves. They arrive at the Wizard’s Tower at the appointed time, and ascend to Headmaster Jepson’s chambers. The Shields notice the strange chess set from the Sentinel now displayed in his chambers, and the Headmaster himself has the “Blather Gecko” on his shoulder. Everybody exchanges salutations, and he notes that he heard Adeptus Spellweaver really gave it to Bezaldooz. After pleasantries are done, he explains that he has heard from his allies, the “Zookeepers” — so named because they seek to keep the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks in check — and they have a mission which may require the Shields of the Sorrowfell.

The Zookeepers sent an infiltrator into the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. They lost contact with her over a week ago. They wish to find out what happened to her, and retrieve her, if possible. He doesn’t know many other details, other than they’re willing to pay.

After some discussion — Headmaster Jepson makes it clear that this job will likely bring them in direct conflict with the largest organized crime guild in the Sorrowfell Plains — the Shields of the Sorrowfell accept. Headmaster Jepson directs them to contact Count Finlay Brissot at midnight at his townhouse in the art district. He also gives them the teleportation sequence for the teleportation circle in the merchant district. He bids them luck and says he is certain he will see them again.

The group is more or less prepared to disembark, so they go to the teleportation circle in the town square. Bezaldooz uses the Linked Portal ritual, and the portal to Scandshar opens.

The group arrives in the smelly, noisy, chaotic Scandshar marketplace. After some deliberation, they decide to get a hotel near their quarry, settling on the Laughing Maiden in the art district. A posh inn, the Laughing Maiden boasts artwork, comfortable beds, sink basins with running water as well as fountains and bathtubs in every room. Two nobles sit in the foyer as the proprietor takes their payment and gets their rooms. They order four rooms — Valna suggests that she and Peren can share a room, officially ending any remaining doubt in anyone’s mind — and the proprietor gets them their keys.

With plenty of time until midnight, they retire to their rooms. Bosabrieln summons a servant to draw a bath; a young serving girl arrives at the summons. As she works, he sees a portion of a peacock tattoo poking out from underneath the neck of her dress. He recalls that the peacock tattoo marks her as a slave owned by the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. As she leaves, he offers to tip her, but she refuses, saying she cannot accept his payment.

Peren sharpens his weapons while Valna takes a bath which she draws herself. Afterward, she and Peren take to bed together.

Torinn, erroneously assuming that the fountains are foot baths, is sitting when there is a knock on his door. He squishes across the carpet to find Bosabrieln, freshly-bathed, who wishes to ask about some things. He specifically wishes to ask about the Peacock slaves, and Torinn indicates that they are indeed quite common here. The Laughing Maiden is probably a Peacock-controlled inn, although it is also possible that the proprietor is merely a well-connected person. In any case, they’re a presence.

Bosabrieln informs everyone that he wishes to have a meeting a few hours before they meet with Count Brissot. Everyone decides to rest until then.

That evening, they gather. There is some initial excitement as each room contains a small selection of books, and someone discovered a hastily-written narrative claiming to be Tales of the Shields of the Sorrowfell. After that dies down, they discuss movement through the city, and determine that they should probably continue to operate quietly until the time comes for it to be otherwise.

As midnight approaches, they take to the streets to visit Count Brissot. Upon arrival at the house, the guards indicate that they are expected. A valet escorts them to Count Brissot’s chambers, and only Valna notices that a passing servant girl leaving Brissot’s chambers eyes their weapons suspiciously and wears fancy, wax-covered boots.

Once they arrive in the room, they find Count Brissot having a nightcap. He offers them some, and Peren partakes. He then thanks them for coming and explains that the Zookeepers sent a halfling infiltrator by the name of Darstina Tallcrippler into the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. She stopped contacting them about a week and a half ago. He does not know whether she is alive or dead, but he would like to find out. He is offering them 10,000 gold pieces if she is recovered alive, 5,000 gp if only her remains or information regarding her whereabouts are recovered. As Bosabrieln asks a follow-up question, chaos erupts. All at once, Count Brissot clutches his throat and starts coughing up blood as he collapses; Peren grows dizzy and projectile vomits as he shakes his head to clear it; and a guard rushes in to report something, instead seeing the strange scene before him.

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 8

Waterday, Goodmonth 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

Hearing that the command center is open, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Valna, and their ally R-66Y decide to proceed. When they arrive before the door, it is open. A hallway stretches off to the left. They walk down that hallway, and when it turns right, they follow.

The windows and open doors reveal a large chamber containing various control panels similar to those they have previously seen. A raised dais sits in the middle of the room; it appears to have some sort of light projection function. At the far side of the room, several large tanks sit; they are surmised to be some sort of cooling system. One large turret is visible in the room.

As the group enters, the doors close and a large, blue, feminine, humanoid figure is projected on the dais. Two other heavy turrets are visible inside the room. It is translucent and obviously an illusion. Evidently the face behind the Voice, she addresses the Shields of the Sorrowfell, indicating that she has determined them to be terrorist saboteurs. She has further determined that R-66Y has been subverted. Her only conclusion is that they must be terminated.

She activates the turrets and starts pumping poison gas into the room.

The Shields go to work, despite the danger of the gas. R-66Y goes to work on the computer, and he activates a dehydrated scientist (just add water!) to aid him. He is quickly joined by Bezaldooz. Bosabrieln, Peren, and Valna each target a turret before Bosabrieln moves to access the command console. Peren rushes up one of the ladders and destroys a turret with his swords. As Bezaldooz, R-66Y, and the scientist attempt to force the system to reboot, Bosabrieln addresses the computer and convinces it to shut itself down.

All told, the procedure takes about fifteen seconds.

Everything goes dark. After a few seconds, the light-projector that projected the female illusion reactivates, displaying some sort of readout. The lights start to reactivate as the readout starts displaying large quantities of information, apparently some sort of restart procedure. After a few minutes, the scrolling, alien text is replaced by a giant face depicting the same woman as before. It quickly zooms out, revealing the same figure.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell speak with her. She apologizes for their trouble, and at Bosabrieln’s behest, introduces herself as SENSEI (apparently an acronym for Sentinel Electronic Nervous System and Engineered Intelligence). She explains how the Sentinel encountered a wormhole — a portal, she explains — in something called the Oort Cloud. It drew the ship inside. Interference knocked out the sensory arrays (and evidently adversely affected SENSEI’s mind), but SENSEI’s understanding from members of the crew is that they traveled through some other place. One described it as a featureless void, while another described it as punching through fleshy layers resembling onion skin. The Shields recognize descriptions of the dreaded Far Realm, suggesting that the ship traveled through that accursed realm, and if the mind flayer and intellect devourers were any indication, it picked up some hitchhikers along the way. A disease erupted which wiped out the crew, and leaving the Sentinel stuck here. Since the ship was designed to split when it reached its destination, some of the sections evidently broke apart from the stress, meaning that the three floors here are not the only parts of the Sentinel. SENSEI has no way of knowing whether any other sections came through with this one.

As for the problem regarding creatures attacking the swamps, as she is now in her right mind, SENSEI can keep the doors properly closed to prevent any exodus.

Bosabrieln thanks her, and says that some researchers from a nearby university will likely seek to come with questions after they leave. SENSEI seems excited at the prospect. She then informs them that they are welcome to investigate the armory, and that the command center crew has quarters nearby, complete with running water. Baths and showers are located on the first level.

Investigating the armory, the group finds what they initially suspect to be a humanoid construct, but what they quickly determine to be some manner of armor. It is too heavy for any of them to wear, although Torinn might be able to make use of it. Other items of note include a collar that bolsters the reflexes and immune system of the wearer, a headband that scans environments and focuses mental power, and a heavy mace-like object that occasionally knocks opponents to the ground. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna take them, respectively.

Bosabrieln takes the opportunity to shower, and the group rests.

The next day, the group develops a plan to return to Duchy Jepson. They will transport the bodies atop a bier atop a conjured Tenser’s Floating Disk. The group goes to gather boughs to construct said bier, but as they exit the cave, they see an old man sitting on a rock. Seven canaries flutter about him, settling on his shoulders. As the group hails him, they all recall the tales — the Old Man with the Canaries is a legendary sage, and is a mask for none other than Bahamut himself. They also recall that the Platinum Claws are dedicated to Bahamut. He bids them to not concern themselves with resurrecting the Platinum Claws; he will see to it. They should worry only about their companion. Bosabrieln attempts to return the magic wand he took from Sariel, but the Old Man refuses, telling him to keep it. He does thank Bosabrieln for the gesture, however, and pointedly looks at the other three. Bosabrieln asks to shake his hand and he allows it. He then takes his leave, with the Shields of the Sorrowfell bidding him farewell.

After that interlude, they decide to visit the Terrible Old Man in the hopes of reviving Torinn so they can simply walk home. They sell some scrounged technology, which the Terrible Old Man seems to recognize while making other cryptic, vaguely unnerving references to other times and places. Bezaldooz also resells the cloak he purchased from the Terrible Old Man, and the group purchases the necessary incenses and oinments to use in the Raise Dead ritual. The group returns so that Valna can study the ritual for a few hours, and then she enacts it over the course of several more hours.

Torinn awakens, asks for his axe, and punches Bezaldooz. The Shields explain what happened, and introduce him to his new suit of powered armor. With the group reunited, they deign to return the following day.

The next morning, Freeday, Goodmonth 7, the group departs. They arrive three days later, on Moonday, Goodmonth 10, to greet the guards outside Duchy Jepson. After some debate, they decide to meet with Headmaster Ebenezer Jepson that day, and so go to the Wizard’s Tower. Once they arrive in Headmaster Jepson’s sanctum, they catch his attention. He seems pleased to see them and asks about their adventure. Bosabrieln relates an abbreviated version of events — he plans on telling the tale that evening at the Addled Alchemist — and some of the Shields of the Sorrowfell offer objects they found in the Sentinel. Bezaldooz gives him a grenade that appears to have additional effects against aquatic creatures, Bosabrieln gives him a translator creature apparently called a “Blather Gecko,” and Peren gives him a chess set he recovered from the ship, evidently made from the strange material found throughout the Sentinel.

Bosabrieln then asks of any news. Headmaster Jepson indicates that there are no further developments regarding the teleportation circle in the kobolds’ caverns; any divinations they’ve done have been murky, and research has not offered any explanation. The Headmaster also indicates that, should they be interested, he may have some work with his abolitionist allies in Scandshar, although he has not contacted them in a little while, and so that would probably be a couple of weeks off. The Shields of the Sorrowfell are also to be considered guests of the town, and will no longer be charged for room and board. He further indicates that they should be ready on the morrow, as they are to be brought before the Duchess Jepson for a small ceremony. He finally tells them to meet with Adeptus Gloomblight Spellweaver downstairs, as he will see to their payment. They bid the Headmaster adieu, and Bosabrieln reminds him to visit the Addled Alchemist that night.

Arriving downstairs, the Shields find Adeptus Spellweaver with a rather large wooden chest. They exchange greetings, and he leaves them to their 5,000 gp payment. Bosabrieln informs him that he plans on recounting their adventures in the Black Moor and aboard the Sentinel this evening at the Addled Alchemist.

With the day ahead of them, the group decides to go shopping for supplies. Afterward, they simply gather until the evening. That evening, as planned, Bosabrieln tells the assembled travelers about the harrowing adventure through the Black Moor swamp and into the ruins of the crashed extraplanar vessel. Everyone is enthralled by the telling, and the Shields end the night by celebrating. Peren, Torinn, and Valna all drink and celebrate raucously, and each goes to bed with some students from the town. Peren manages to impress both and elf and eladrin lady, while Torinn travels upstairs with a young dragonborn sorceress, and Valna finds a bookish young sage. Bosabrieln refrains from drinking, but still revels and retires to his room with a contingent of an elf lass and two eladrin women.

Bezaldooz, strangely, goes to bed early, alone. However, just as he is ready to go to bed, mist starts sliding through the cracks in his window. It coalesces into the form of the beautiful, pale woman he met before he left for the Black Moor. She asks how his studies are going, and asks if he has considered her offer of immortality. He says he needs more time to consider. After some discussion, the two do work out some continuing teaching arrangement, and she ends the night by crawling into his bed.

The next morning, everyone makes his or her way downstairs. Peren and Torinn are both hung over, but manage to maintain their composure. Bezaldooz appears somewhat pale and a touch woozy, but manages to compose himself. Bosabrieln and Valna appear to be none the worse for wear. Everybody breakfasts and hangs around until a steward from Duchess Jepson’s palace arrives. He informs them that they are expected in the afternoon, and that he will wait here for them. They may prepare at their leisure.

As many of the Shields purchased fine clothing the previous day, they decide to change. Torinn did not purchase anything of the sort, although he will wear his shiny new armor. Once everyone is prepared, they follow the steward to the palace.

When they arrive, he shows them to a waiting room with refreshments and says that they will likely be fetched in about an hour. In that time, he returns and asks if they are all prepared. They reply affirmatively, and he leads them to the throne room. Guards open the doors, revealing a court full of people ready to hear the proclamation. The steward announces them, and one by one, they are called forward. Headmaster Ebenezer Jepson bestows an honorary Adeptus rank upon Bezaldooz, complementing his scholarly abilities. He also bestows an honorary Adeptus rank upon Bosabrieln, saying that he does not know him as well as Bezaldooz, but he can vouch that Bosabrieln was mentored by one of the greatest bards he’s known. When Bosabrieln returns to his spot, he briefly scans the room and sees that his mentor, Vianibrar, is indeed present. The Captain of the Guard bestows the rank of Sergeant-at-Arms upon Peren and Torinn, giving them both badges and making them officers of the law. Abbot Aelius gives Valna a small, silver amulet of Pelor and bestows upon her the rank of Deaconess. They embrace before parting. Finally, Duchess Jepson bestows the Shields of the Sorrowfell with the title of Baron; she indicates that, for the time being, they are landless, but they are still ranking members of the nobility until such time as they are assigned a parcel of land.

The group then has the opportunity to socialize, and they do so. Bosabrieln speaks to Vianibrar and learns that Vianibrar will likely be in town for a while. Bosabrieln and Valna then proceed to make smalltalk with the members of the court while Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn do the same, albeit in a significantly more boisterous and crude manner. Duchess Jepson, at least, is entertained.

Finally, the party starts to die down, and the Shields of the Sorrowfell take their leave.

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 7

Waterday, Goodmonth 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Valna, and their ally R-66Y decide to follow the Voice’s instructions and proceed to the teleportation chamber. Knowing the way, R-66Y leads. On the way, they pass the computer core but see that the door is still closed and the control panel broken.

There are two entrances into the teleportation chamber, and they choose the first to which they come. They open the door and travel through a short hallway until coming to some form of control room; a humanoid creature with a tentacled face bends over the control console, wearing some sort of jumpsuit. When both parties see each other, the phrase No, no, no, no! reverberates in the Shields of the Sorrowfell’s collective heads. Recognizing the form of a mind flayer, Peren immediately leaps into combat, smacking the creature senseless and allowing an opening for the rest of the Shields to seize.

The mind flayer does throw some sort of gas grenade, but after shaking off the effects of the gas, the Shields of the Sorrowfell make swift work of the creature, killing it with savage blows.

Peren notes movement in the greater teleportation chamber, and after R-66Y shuts down the teleportation pad, Peren goes to investigate. He finds a small, quadrupedal creature heavily resembling an oversized humanoid brain; he attacks it, but leaps away when three of the creatures quickly move to flank him. Recognizing the telltale shape of intellect devourers, everyone moves quickly, slinging spells and firing shots. Two of the creatures die swiftly, but the last survives just long enough to phase with Peren’s skull, overtaking him and forcing him to attack his companions. Bezaldooz manages to render him insensate as the others withdraw and attempt to excise the creature; finally, it wriggles forth, but finding Peren still dazed, leaps back into his head to redouble its psychic onslaught. The process is repeated, and when finally the creature is forced from Peren’s head, R-66Y kills it with a single gunshot.

As the Shields rest and scrounge for equipment, the Voice makes a rather nervous announcement that something is messing with one of the reactors powering the ship, and that if this situation is not remedied, it will cause some form of catastrophic mishap. To underscore the point, red emergency lights activate and klaxons sound.

The Shields decide to follow directions and head in the direction of the reactor room. Again, they find the computer core still closed and locked, so they continue to the reactor. Double doors open, revealing a towering cylinder with a staircase spiraling around it. To the left, another door marks what is most likely some sort of command center. To the right, a large desk — evidently containing a machine that controls the reactor — is being used by a lone, jumpsuited human. Bosabrieln, with the help of a translator creature known as a “blather gecko,” attempts to communicate with the human, but the human ignores him. When he makes it clear that he will have to stop the man, he refuses, and slings the rifle off his shoulder.

The Shields attack. The man attacks with his rifle, but Valna uses her strange, futuristic warhammer — a “gravity hammer” that pulls the target up to twenty feet before allowing her to deliver a powerful blow — to bring the man to the group. However, even as she does this, another man runs from the other door, wielding a rifle and shouting something that only R-66Y and Bosabrieln can determine to be, “For the Apocalypse!” R-66Y recalls a terrorist group by that name from his native time, and so suspects that they are members of the organization.

The mystery of how humans survived for fifty years in a hostile environment is quickly solved when Peren injures the first man, revealing little bleeding and a metallic skeleton underneath — the two men are constructs. As the second man antagonizes Bezaldooz, he activates an armored suit he managed to scrounge to fly onto the spiraling platform around the central cylinder; he begins slinging spells from afar. When the Shields finally defeat the first construct, R-66Y runs for the computer panel to try to cooldown the reactor; he also adds a small amount of water to a jar of powder he found to summon a dehydrated scientist to help him with the computer. The first construct rises again, but is quickly dispatched. With only one construct remaining, Bezaldooz and Valna join R-66Y to help reprogram the computer while Bosabrieln and Peren dispatch the construct.

Once they manage to put it down for good, the Shields search the room and manage to scrounge some technological devices. Then they rest. As they do, the Voice informs them that they are to report to the computer core.

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 6

Godsday, Goodmonth 4, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Valna, and their ally R-66Y look around and find that James is now missing. Shrugging and determining that this might be natural behavior for the ghost, they decide to use the lift to descend into the biodome control center.

The center is dank, humid, and warm, like the inside of some creature. Everything is coated with a hard resin, and Peren manages to determine that it is organic — probably secreted by something in the manner of spider silk. The Shields start taking positions, and something moves into the range of Bezaldooz’s sunrod — mounds. Four of them, and one of the party sees tiny, cross-hatched seams on them with movement inside. They assume they’re eggsacs. Peren and R-66Y step into some sort of side room, and as Peren reaches the far doorway and peers into darkness, he hears nothing. He glances to the side, and looks into the dark again to see that something has dropped in front of him. Before he gets a clear look at it, he pinwheels back fifteen feet and the creature skitters off into the darkness.

Whatever it was, it was roughly the height of a man, with a dull, grey carapace roughly the shade and texture of the resin walls. No eyes were visible in its featureless cranium, but its teeth and stinging tail were quite visible.

A second sunrod is thrown into the middle of the room, and the Shields of the Sorrowfell get to work. While the magicians take care of the eggsacs, Peren and R-66Y go to confront the hiding creature.

They are highly effective. By the time the eggs have been destroyed, the creature has been battered and knocked to the ground, prevented from effectively attacking. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna begin slinging spells and using the strange artefacts they have been finding in ruins. The creature fights viciously — lashing out with its stinger, biting with its powerful jaws, and even spitting acid — but the creature has difficulty overpowering its attackers. Strangely, at one point it is poised to spit acid in Peren’s eyes, and though it manages to succeed, it is mostly deflected by a shadowy force that envelops Peren. The fight finishes quickly, as the creature runs after Bezaldooz and renders him unconscious with its poisoned stinger. That moment’s distraction is all the other Shields need, and they manage to kill the creature and revive their comrade.

The group makes a sweep of the area, and finding no other creatures, they manage to scrounge some equipment and reactivate the elevator system. They return to the lift and the building above.

On the lift, Peren reflects on the moment when the acid was partially deflected. Wracking his brain, he knows it was magical and he knows that was a partial demon summoning. He decides to keep that information under his hat, as he doesn’t much care so long as it helped him.

Bosabrieln is a little more concerned, but also says nothing. He plans on speaking to Valna later.

When the group arrives in the research station, they hear a noise in the rooms off to the left. Peren and R-66Y are first, and find a strange sight — a golden creature with eight legs appears to be rooting around in some of the equipment. Peren recognizes it as an aurumvorax, colloquially known as “the golden gorger” — vicious little beasts, they are fearless attackers and are so named because of their heavy diet of precious metals. Given the fact that it’s native, he surmises that it probably made its way into the ruins, looking for gold. He also recognizes the creature’s pelt as being worth several thousand gold pieces. As a distraction, he throws his gold pouch (containing only 17 gold pieces) in the corner and the creature rushes over and downs it in a single gulp. As it does so, Bosabrieln and Valna take positions in the room while Bezaldooz stands outside. Peren and R-66Y corner the thing and begin entering into melee with the savage beast, when suddenly it goes flying across the room — summoned by the attractive power of Valna’s alien gravity hammer. She slams it with the alien device and the force knocks both of them to the ground, but the brutal strike only enrages the beast, prompting it to latch into her thigh and claw her until she passes out from shock. Fortunately, the others make short work of the creature and manage to revive her before she bleeds out.

The group retrieves some more strange technology from the panel in which the aurumvorax was digging, and then takes a brief rest before Peren sets about the bloody work of skinning the thing. Bosabrieln asks Valna to accompany him to check something out, and proceeds to speak to her about what he saw — some manner of demonic influence interposed itself between Peren and the alien creature, absorbing some of the acidic spit headed his way. Bosabrieln does not mind his reverence of the Raven Queen, but he is disturbed by that in tandem with any sort of demonic influence. They decide to watch him more closely.

During this, Peren’s sharp ears determine the jist of their conversation. For his part, surmising that neither Bosabrieln nor Valna cast whatever arcane influence summoned a demon’s protection, he supposes that leaves only one suspect whom cast the spell.

He deigns to remain silent on the matter.

Before returning, Bosabrieln musses Valna’s hair to make it seem like they weren’t talking. After a few catcalls upon their return, the Shields determine that this is the most defensible location they are likely to find for a while. As such, they decide to rest here.

The next day, they awaken and prepare to return to the lift system. Peren unsuccessfully attempts to catch one of the rabbit-creatures flitting about, but is unsuccessful; R-66Y and Valna immediately decide to show him up by catching some on his behalf. He keeps the pelts and prepares the meat for jerky before the Shields disembark.

They manage to find their way back to the doorway and the lift. The Voice treats them to what is apparently several versions of the same song overlayed, and directs them to the “Holodeck” for “The Post-Civilization Collapse Survival Training Initiative.” They decide to go straight to the central computer room, but finding it locked and the keypad broken, they determine that they will have to follow the computer’s directions and backtrack to the holodeck.

The Shields find a room of glowing, green gridlines. As they enter, the scene changes to that of a strange, paved street surrounded by incredibly tall buildings made of strange materials. It is obviously some sort of city, but it is abandoned and alien to them, although R-66Y recognizes a ruined post-apocalyptic human city when he sees one.

Suddenly, the group hears a revving motor and looks down the street to see…themselves. Five people stand roughly 100 feet away, and despite their strange arms and armor, they are clearly recognizable as Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna.

R-66Y runs to take cover behind a wrecked automobile. unTorinn (as the Shields take to calling him) rushes to meet him, and they tangle in melee while Bezaldooz launches a fireball across the battlefield, catching unBezaldooz, unPeren, and unValna. As everyone scatters for cover, unBezaldooz returns the favor. Peren pinwheels out of the way, fires his scavenged plasma rifle at unPeren, and sprints down the street to charge him. He manages to evade, but Peren catches unBezaldooz instead.

The melee continues. unPeren falls first, followed by unValna, as unBezaldooz and unBosabrieln attempt to fling spells from cover. unTorinn is interrupted from tangling with R-66Y as Valna activates her gravity hammer, pulling him twenty feet and crashing into him, the shockwave sending them both violently hurtling to the ground. In seconds, unTorinn on his feet again, winding up his sledgehammer for a mighty blow. He brings it down on the supine Valna’s chest, although she manages to catch the haft and divert what could have been a fatal blow. unTorinn is swiftly overwhelmed, and R-66Y targets unBezaldooz and unBosabrieln with a psychic attack that binds them together. Even though unBezaldooz currently floats above the battlefield, Peren is able to slay him by attacking unBosabrieln, allowing the psychic shock to overload and destroy unBezaldooz.

unBosabrieln runs into a nearby abandoned building, and Bosabrieln runs after him, complementing him on his coat before laying him low with spells. As unBosabrieln falls, the room fades back into the green gridline pattern. A panel opens, revealing more pieces of eldritch technologies within. As the group gathers themselves again, the Voice announces a power drain in the teleportation chamber, suggesting that they investigate and further indicating that this investigation will lead them to another combat.