Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 5

Godsday, Goodmonth 4, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Valna, and their new ally R-66Y awaken in the medical bay. After preparing for their day, they bring Torinn’s body as well as the Platinum Claws’ bodies into the medical bay. R-66Y asks the feminine medical android if she can look after the bodies. She agrees.

Ready, the group leaves the medical bay to proceed deeper into the vessel.

As the Shields of the Sorrowfell walk back to the lift by the entrance, a few of them catch sight of someone following at a distance. The person appears to be a human in some sort of jumpsuit or uniform, but it swiftly becomes apparent that he is partially translucent. Bosabrieln hails him, and after some initial discussions, he introduces himself as Warrant Officer James Morgan. When Bosabrieln shakes hands with him, he finds the man to be cold to the touch, and not entirely there — after a bit of resistance, he finds that he can pass right through the man. It swiftly becomes apparent that the man is a ghost of the ship’s crew, and that he hopes to determine what happened with the ship. As such, he decides to travel with the Shields for a time in the hopes of determining the answer.

As they enter the lift, the Voice begins taunting them about being hoboes and terrorists before indicating that something is wrong with the lift, and they must disembark into the biodome area. The lift doors open to reveal hallways to either side and a domed door made of some sort of glass or other transparent material. On the other side of the door is an area that appears to be some sort of thick jungle. The door opens as the group approaches, and the group walks into a dense tangle of jungle.

As best as they can tell, it appears as though they are outdoors in a humid jungle environment. Bezaldooz examines the area and determines this to be an illusion; the walls and ceiling project the illusion of space, although the trees and underbrush are genuine. A path stretches out into the forest.

As the Shields and their companions walk along the path, they notice several creatures resembling rabbits with horns dodging into the underbrush. As they walk, they approach one of the rabbit-creatures sitting on a stump. Colorful flowers on long stalks rise from the thicket surrounding the stump, and the rabbit hunches down as they approach, appearing as though it is attempting to hide behind one of the flowers. Bosabrieln walks forward to address the rabbit creature, but as he does so, Peren notes a bipedal reptilian creature, rather like a drake, standing off to their left. It appears to be watching the proceedings. He warns the others and glances at the flowers around the stump. Valna apparently does likewise, as they both realize at the same time that the “stump” is, in fact, a creature — the “roots” are tentacles, the “flowers” are eyestalks, and the “rabbit” must be some sort of lure. They warn Bosabrieln who is still ready to attack when Bezaldooz stretches his hand and blasts the creature with a magic missile.

Battle is swift and decisive. Several of the bipedal reptiles come crashing out of the jungle, while Peren, R-66Y, and Warrant Officer Morgan tear through the jungle to approach the stump-creature. Bezaldooz manages to slow one of the reptiles with a ray of ice, but as the other two approach, he moves quickly. He pulls out a strange, stumpy sort of raygun and hypnotizes the three reptile creatures that approached him. He follows this with another piece of tech — a large tube that fires a roiling blast of energy, knocking the creatures to the ground. Although the creatures are unfazed by the words of power he speaks in Abyssal, he still manages to kill one of the ravenous reptiles with some assistance from Valna.

Meanwhile, Peren, R-66Y, and Warrant Officer Morgan enter into melee with the stump creature and two of the bipedal reptiles. Warrant Officer Morgan disrupts its structure with his ghostly energies, while the other two attack with mundane weapons. Although the stump creature is a savage attacker, it never stands a chance and dies swiftly. The two reptiles are quickly dispatched with support from Bosabrieln and Valna.

With the other creatures defeated and only two reptiles remaining, the Shields make short work of them.

Everybody sits for a moment to rest. Peren skins one of the reptiles and tries to capture one of the rabbit creatures, although he fails at the latter activity. The Shields move on.

After some walking, they find their destination — a lake with an island in the middle. They circumnavigate the lake and find a bridge to the island. From the bridge, they spot a metallic facility, presumably leading to some sort of command center from which they can reactivate the lifts.

The group approaches the building and R-66Y activates the door panel. As he does, the group hears movement around both sides of the building.

They are confronted by two groups of diminutive humanoids with grey skin, bulbous heads, and glossy, black eyes. Most of them carry clubs and some sort of raygun, but one wears a robe and carries a strange-looking spear. The creatures hesitate, then attack.

The battle is furious — most of the group tangles with the spear-wielding leader and some of his contingent while R-66Y deals with a group of roughly six of them, making short work of them. The leader telepathically requests their surrender before unleashing a psychic wave that knocks much of the party senseless. He then jumps into the melee with his spear, lashing out at any within range. His contingent falls quickly, although three survive to fire on the Shields. The leader manages to strike at Warrant Officer Morgan, but the shock drives the ghost to unleash an unholy scream before disappearing. Valna then pulls out some sort of futuristic warhammer and activates it, pulling the spear-wielder twenty feet and knocking him to the ground with extreme force. The fight goes swiftly as R-66Y holds him in place while the others rush past to attack him before his malign psychic energies can incapacitate them. When he is defeated, the group manages to kill two of the three remaining gunners before the last one flees — but Bezaldooz manages to take it down with a well-placed magic missile.

After resting, the group investigates the building and finds some more pieces of strange technology before determining what to do next.

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 4

Moonday, Goodmonth 3, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Valna, and their new ally R-66Y awaken and prepare to continue through this bizarre labyrinth. After making secure Torinn’s corpse is secured to its bier formed by Tenser’s Floating Disk, Peren is the first out the door, and steps right on a tripwire.

Immediately, a thorny net made from vines falls upon him, knocking him to the ground and entangling him. The tripwire also opens the door to the recreation room, revealing a device on the other side. This appears to be a rifle-like device topped with a single, glossy, unblinking black eye mounted on a tripod. As the group files into the hallway to prepare for combat, it shouts a mechanical greeting before releasing a bright beam that singes Peren.

As Peren manages to wriggle free of the net, the others focus their attacks on the rifle tripod. As they do, several doors on either side of the hallway start opening, and several of the diminutive plant people begin streaming out. They appear largely as the creatures near the boathouse in the swamp, although they bear a slightly more ruddy, rust-like complexion. They rush into the fray with spears and bows, but they are no match for the Shields of the Sorrowfell. After the turret is destroyed, the herbaceous hunters’ numbers cannot compete with the competence and training of the Shields, and the creatures are all defeated.

The Shields rest and manage to find more strange technologies in nearby rooms. The Voice encourages them to seek the computer room to reactivate the lift system.

After a bit more walking through the tunnels of the facility, they find what R-66Y informs them to be an entrance to the medical bay, and through there, the computer room. Before entering, the Voice informs them that they should not listen to the malfunctioning medical android in the sick bay, although R-66Y says that the android should be fine. The Shields walk through the door and are greeted by a female-looking humanoid construct. As she can only speak R-66Y’s language, they converse, and the group indeed learns that the Platinum Claws came through, but that they have not left the computer room since then. Before they leave, she gives them two autoinjectors and directions to the computer room.

Before entering the computer room, R-66Y breaks into the armory and the Shields equip themselves with more eldritch technologies. Then the group takes positions and opens the door to the computer room.

Amidst the strange, technological artifacts in the room, there are five figures. One bears the familiar features of the android constructs found in this facility. The other four are members of the Platinum Claws, although their vacant stares and various body modifications suggest all is not well. Mathas has some sort of gauntlets covering his hands and attached to his skin. The right side of Sariel’s face is dominated by a metallic mask which appears bolted to her skin; a red light flickers over her right eye. Cliff bears metal plates bolted to his skin. Blank appears to be covered in thin wires, forming some sort of lattice over her body.

As they turn and stare blankly at the Shields, they begin gathering their weapons. Thinking quickly, Peren pulls out a grenade from the armory and throws it into the room. It explodes in a blue pulse — however, he expected the flash to remain contained in the room, and it did not. The flash illuminates everyone save Bezaldooz, and everyone except Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln falls asleep, although Bosabrieln is left confused and reeling.

The fight lasts seconds after that. Mathas awakens, although most of the others remain asleep, and Bezaldooz chucks a grenade into the room. Bosabrieln sings a song of confusion as the other Shields awaken. With the Shields of the Sorrowfell and R-66Y back in the fray, the Platinum Claws and their construct handler fall quickly.

The Voice speaks again, taunting the Shields of the Sorrowfell for killing their former friends. It also informs them that the lift is operational. The Shields gather themselves and look for any equipment to scrounge. Among the Platinum Claws’ things, they find two ritual books along with some weapons and armor they can use. Peren also recovers Blank’s journal — the book begins apparently as a primer in which Blank was learning to read and write, but begins to shakily describe the Claws’ exploits in Dawnslight, Kiris Dahn, and Jepson. Valna performs the Gentle Repose ritual on the Platinum Claws in preparation for eventual resurrection, and the group prepares to rest for the journey deeper into the Sentinel.

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 3

Sunday, Goodmonth 2, 552 CY (50 AN)

After awakening, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna set out for the mountain caves they seek. After making their way through some wetland trees and brush, they find the cave mouth.

The cave looks artificial, and its sides appear to have been melted by a great heat. As they enter, they find the hallway opens to a larger, circular chamber. On the far end is a set of metal double-doors with no handles or hinges. To the upper-right, above the door, is an artificial mechanism that resembles an eye. It begins tracking the Shields’ movement as they approach. Between the group and the door are three pedestals. On the left is a chocolate cake, on the middle pedestal sits a goblet, and on the right pedestal sits a potted orchid.

The group determines that the three pedestals are not affixed to the floor, and that they do not appear to be standing on pressure plates. Bezaldooz notes the goblet contains red wine, and so takes the goblet — finding it to be a strange, lightweight, room-temperature material with a slightly “cheap” feel to it — and drinks the contents. He finds the wine to be decent. He also samples some of the chocolate frosting on the cake, as do a few others. Peren actually cuts a piece and eats it. Bosabrieln cuts some of the orchids and braids them into his hair.

Finally the group decides to proceed. As they approach the doors, they slide open, revealing a short, metallic hallway and another set of doors. The group decides to wedge both sets of doors open with the pedestals, so Peren and Torinn drag the pedestals over to the doors and do just that.

The group proceeds through the second set of doors, finding an entrance into a larger room with a cylinder in the middle. The cylinder extends from floor to ceiling and features a hole straight through the middle. It is hollow and descends deep into the facility; the group surmises it is some sort of lift. After Bezaldooz drops a silver piece down the shaft and hears it faintly echo against the bottom, they determine that it is not worth trying to descend. They continue through the room and into the hallway on the other side of the room.

Finding doors on the sides of the hallway, they begin to enter them. They find a game room — Peren grabs a chessboard made of the same strange material as the goblet — and a room that appeared to be someone’s quarters. As they examine the room, a voice emanates from the walls, indicating that they have passed some sort of test, and that they are somewhere called the “Sentinel.” The entity further indicates that this is some sort of ship, and that there is a sickness upon it. It also lists several corporate entities, presumably the “ship’s” patrons.

As they return to the hallway, the Voice speaks again, indicating that they must engage in a security debriefing, and that an “Anne Droid” team has been dispatched to their location. As they come to an intersection, they see a group of six creatures approaching.

The creatures walk two abreast in the hallway. Two humanoids stand in front; they appear strangely angular, and their precise movements suggest they are constructs. Behind them are a metallic humanoid with a small, metallic spider. Behind those two are two hovering metallic disks with some sort of apparatus located underneath. The “Anne Droids” approach and appear ready to initiate combat.

The fight swiftly goes badly. The human-seeming constructs bash their attackers with metal fists, and the spider construct lets fly a missile that explodes, flinging Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna in various directions. As Valna hits the ground, she feels a sharp pain from her new holy symbol, her skin begins to loosen, and she sees sores forming where she was injured. When Peren retreats, this creates an opening for the metallic humanoid to move through the ranks and attack. It knocks Torinn unconscious and kicks him down the hallway.

It takes every effort, but the Shields manage to turn the tide. One by one, the constructs are destroyed, although it takes several healing potions and Torinn is still slain. The Shields take his body to one of the nearby rooms — quarters, given the bedding and such inside — and rest. As they look through the room, they also find several of the strange technological items they found in the dragon’s lair and in the swamp.

They are again addressed by the Voice, which indicates that an error prompted the dispatch of a hunter-killer squad rather than an examination team, and further indicates that they are required in the recreation room for a mandatory physical. Failure to comply will result in the release of nerve gas “on the grounds that new personnel are obviously terrorist saboteurs, and should be executed.” A sentrybot has been dispatched to collect them.

Deciding that they do not wish to be murdered by poison gas, they decide to follow directions. Bezaldooz takes a few minutes to cast Tenser’s Floating Disk, so that they may carry Torinn’s body with them. They open the door to find one of the hovering, metallic things, and they begin following it. Along the way, they encounter one of the angular, human-like constructs. The construct questions them briefly, and after some conversation, they determine that he is trying to repair the computer — the Voice they keep hearing. They also learn his name to be R-66Y. He’s been trying to keep a low profile, but the arrival of outsiders will probably change that. He indicates he has not seen the Platinum Claws, and when questioned about the “ship,” he explains that it is not a sailing vessel, but a conveyance through the space between planets. He doesn’t know how it crashed here. Bosabrieln idly wonders if this is the Fatehammer comet — a spacefaring vessel from another plane, brought here by strange magics.

The group catches up with their sentrybot escort and are led to another metal door. The sentrybot waits outside. The group enters to find a large gymnasium. The gym equipment has been pushed to the sides and three of the strangely-angular humanoids wait at the opposite end. One holds a rapier, one has boxing gloves, and one has a barbell. The Voice indicates the beginning of morning calisthenics, and as the music plays, the constructs attack.

This fight is much more decisive than the last. The three constructs are tough combatants, but they cannot conquer the Shields of the Sorrowfell and their robotic companion. The fencer falls quickly, having rushed into the fray and being quickly reduced to scrap. The weight trainer and the boxing trainer remain, weilding barbell and fists against the Shields. It is not enough; the constructs are destroyed within seconds of each other as the Shields overwhelm them with power and numbers.

As the music comes to an end and the Shields are resting, the Voice addresses them again. It chides them for destroying the expensive property aboard the ship, and then asks if they would also like to destroy “the herbaceous humanoids further down the hall,” suggesting that the creatures will begin to hunt them anyway.

The group then moves into a nearby room and barricades it to rest for a few hours. Bezaldooz takes the time to research Valna’s holy symbol, and determining it to be cursed, dispels the curse with ease. Valna then prepares Torinn’s body with Gentle Repose in preparation for resurrection. The group then sleeps, and with the aid of the others, Valna is able to throw off the rotting, wasting illness that afflicted her.

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 2

Starday, Goodmonth 1, 552 CY (50 AN)

Tineld continues to lead Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna deeper into the swamp. They come to a marshy field bisected by a slow, bubbling stream. Insects buzz lazily in the early summer heat. A bridge allows passage across the shallow stream. As they cross the bridge, the insects coalesce into two humanoid swarms which Bezaldooz recognizes as the somewhat rare C.I.F.A.L. (Colonial Insect-Form Artificial Life). Flanked, the group moves into action as the writhing masses of insects launch themselves at the group with a thousand stinging bites. Bezaldooz manages to cast Sleep on one of the creatures, causing it to stumble forward before the mass of insects collapses on the ground, but Tineld dies in the initial onslaught.

With mass of insects asleep and the other being cornered, the fight seems as though it will be swift. However, about that time, a large, mutated creature that bears a resemblance to a ladybug about eight feet long and five feet high descends from the sky, all fluttering wings and gnashing mandibles. In seconds, a creature resembling a large frog — albeit one with an array of tentacles and a cluster of eyes on an eyestalk — crashes through the reeds and attacks Torinn, biting him off Happy. Torinn immediately sets to struggling with the mutated creature as it tries to eat him — it’s a fairly tense several seconds as he continues to struggle, popping in and out of the thing’s mouth as it works its jaws around the armored dragonborn. Meanwhile, the ladybug-thing shivers as it projects a field of energy around itself. Sighting the closest creature, it attacks Happy and bites the clawfoot in half. Similarly, while locked in struggle with the CIFALs, Bezaldooz levitates off the ground, but his dog is not so lucky, as Wilson is devoured by hordes of stinging insects. Although Bezaldooz manages to destroy the ladybug-thing, and the slumbering CIFAL is easily dispatched, the onslaught leaves Peren and Valna unconscious, and Torinn still struggling in the frog-thing’s jaws.

Finally, the tide turns. Armed with a healing potion, Bezaldooz floats to the ground and manages to revive Valna, next applying first aid to Peren. Around the same time, Torinn finally breaks free of the frog-thing’s jaws. After collecting himself, Peren manages to fire one of his strange weapons at the frog-thing, injuring it. The group then focuses on defeating the last of the creatures, and after much struggle with the frog-thing Torinn cleaves the its skull in two. Finally, after a bloody battle, the last of the insects is dispersed. Exhausted, everyone decides to rest.

Despite the loss of their guide, the group finds the trail fairly easily, and after some more hiking, they come to another bridge leading to an outcropping of land amidst a small lake. An old boathouse sits on the shore, and as they approach, the group thinks they catch movement on the pier.

Moving quietly, the group hears the approach of several people, and they crouch in the brush to see an approaching group. Two large, doglike creatures composed entirely of plant material — largely vines and thorns — are poised at the front, ridden by two, diminutive humanoids also composed of vegetation. Nearly a score of these humanoids trail behind the two riders, and all are armed with bows and spears. The two dog-creatures stop for a drink while the small plant-people investigate the area.

The group bursts into action, taking up positions and slinging spells into the crowd. Bosabrieln takes cover in the boathouse while Peren and Torinn move alongside the boathouse. The riders charge forward, followed by the plant-people, but the fight is brief and decisive. Each swing of a blade fells one of the creatures, while Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln manage to defeat several with spells and alchemical explosives.

Bosabrieln is surprised to see a tiefling huddled in the boathouse as he moves, but the strange person — clad in rags and armor, bearing a shield and spear — makes no move to attack, so Bosabrieln ignores him for the moment.

Finally, the dog-creatures are destroyed, as are the last of the plant-men. The group takes the opportunity to rest before Bosabrieln addresses the tiefling. He reveals himself to have no name — “stolen,” he says — but he does indicate he is the boatman who can take them to the Terrible Old Man’s hut. As Peren notes, the tiefling’s twitchy demeanor, crazed giggle, and bloodshot eyes betray a lurking madness, but he never shows any malice.

When everyone is prepared, they climb aboard a small rowboat, and the tiefling pilots the craft across the lake. On the other side, he docks and gestures to a crumbling old hut, which he indicates to be the Terrible Old Man’s hut. The tiefling then paddles his boat back across the lake.

The group prepares themselves and knocks on the door. The door opens and they are greeted by an ancient, hunched man, clad in rags and with a large, grey beard. The Terrible Old Man. He invites them in — bringing them into a room with a floor covered in hay, with one low table as the furnishing. Other rooms are visible from the entrance, but they stay in this room. He offers them tea, and goes to get it, serving them from cracked china. However, most of them note (for Torinn refuses tea) that it is quite sweet and exotic, and most refreshing.

As they drink, the Old Man offers to get down to cases. Bezaldooz sells his last alchemist’s essence potion for 75 gold pieces, and despite the risks (for many know the Old Man’s wares to harbor the risk of curses) they buy a few things. Bezaldooz purchases a Cape of the Mountebank, Peren purchases an Obsidian Steed and the Helm of Seven Deaths, Torinn purchases a pair of Boots of Adept Charging, and Valna purchases a Symbol of Shared Healing. As it is the group’s understanding that standard goods are not typically cursed, Bosabrieln and Peren purchase healing potions. As advertised, the Old Man charges half the typical market price of such goods, giving them immediately.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell then spend the night in a room with eight bunks. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna sleep fitfully, and awaken the next morning unnerved from a restless sleep.

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 1

Waterday, Reaping 26, 552 CY (50 AN)

Having rested and prepared themselves, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna proceed further into the caverns. After walking through winding little passageways, they find themselves in a large chamber. This chamber appears to be roughly fifty feet high, and the walls are squared off, lacking the features of a natural cavern. The chamber contains ruined structures and walkways indicative of humanoid construction, although the strange architecture combined with the chamber’s structure makes it appear as though someone took this whole area from elsewhere and fitted it into this cavern. The suspended walkways hang over a floor roughly fifty feet below.

As the Shields of the Sorrowfell enter the room, a massive roar shakes the cavern, its origin unseen behind walls, rubble, and the strange crystals that protrude from the floor. Peren remains hidden while the rest of the group immediately fans out to assess the situation and confront the white dragon. Most take cover to assess their surroundings while Bosabrieln darts through the open and hexes the dragon. It flies out of sight, but as Torinn and Bosabrieln start taking the middle walkway to follow it, shouting taunts in Draconic, it flies back into view, swooping down to confront Bosabrieln and Torinn. As it flies into view, the burn scars marring its scales are easily visible, and its eyes glint with recognition. It unleashes a mighty roar as it attacks. Soon, battle is joined — Peren and Torinn confront the beast, striking it and keeping it off balance while Valna and Bosabrieln provide support. Bezaldooz circles the outside of the battlefield, slinging spells at the dragon.

Quickly, it is all over. After a brutal battle on the bridge, a decisive blow from Peren sends the beast skittering over the edge where it lands, with a loud crack, on the ground below. It remains still.

The group takes a moment to gather themselves as Bosabrieln calls to Bezaldooz, aware that he has not been sighted for a bit. Bezaldooz replies that he has found something — the beast’s horde, a pile of dung and rotted meat scattered with bits of gold, artwork, and weaponry. Bezaldooz has started cleaning the area with his cantrips, although he leaves an obfuscated pile of dung for Torinn to unfortunately discover. All told, the group finds assorted gold and art objects, as well as a magical sword, an enchanted choker, and the Belt of Dwarvenkind. They also find five mysterious objects which appear foreign, having more in common with the current strange, technological environment. These objects are varied — small objects that whir and spin, large rifles that fire energy, exoskeletons that function as armor — but all seem to originate from a similar source as pieces of alien magic or technology.

Loaded with gear, the group leaves the caves. As they exit through the dragon’s skull that adorns the entrance, they sight a group of travelers on the road. As they approach, it can be seen that they are a group of hobgoblins and goblins with a lone elf, dressed as a scholar. The group approaches, showing great deference, and introduce themselves as a group of Wordbearers, seekers after the Ashen Crown. One by one, the Shields of the Sorrowfell give their objects. The elf asks Bosabrieln for their names, so that he may keep record of the keepers of the Crown, and he notes that Yeraa thought very highly of them. The two groups then part, with the Wordbears traveling back the way they came.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell arrive in Duchy Jepson in the late afternoon, and they decide to go to the Addled Alchemist inn and speak to Edric Grimboldsson, the herbalist who requested the Shields find his wife’s ring. They find him, apparently about to leave, and as Peren, Torinn, and Valna go to the bar, Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln go to speak with Edric. Bosabrieln presents the ring, for which Edric is very thankful. He then explains that he doesn’t really have much in the way of money to repay them, but he does have something his wife has been after him to throw out. It’s an antique and he doesn’t know if it’s worth anything. He then presents Bosabrieln with a sheaf of yellowed papers and tells the Shields of the Sorrowfell that they should visit he and his wife if they ever have any herbal needs. After thanking them again, he leaves.

Bosabrieln examines the sheaf to find that it is a series of erotic drawings, and to his surprise, he finds he recognizes them. About 150 years ago, noted satyr bard Eropanus the Rake took to sketching the most beautiful women in the Nerathi Empire. His art was subsequently collected, printed, and circulated, and this is probably a collection of prints from his lifetime (which is to say, before he simply fades from history).

Everyone takes a moment to examine the art before finishing their drinks and going to a local shop to get everything appraised. Altogether, the gold and art objects are worth 3,600 gold pieces, while the erotic art of Eropanus the Rake is worth 840 gold pieces. At Bosabrieln’s request, they do not sell the art; Bosabrieln instead acquires a leather case in which to store the pieces.

The group then returns to the inn to rest and eat. Bosabrieln tells the tale of their battle against the kobolds and the dragon, Vilustuminen the White. As the night wears on, everyone retires to their rooms — Bosabrieln and Valna to one room, Peren and Torinn to another, and Bezaldooz to his own room.

That night, Bezaldooz awakens to find soft moonlight filtering into his room. As his eyes adjust, he notes a figure standing in the room. She is tall, thin, and beautiful — raven hair, alabaster skin. Despite his initial shock, he manages to maintain his composure and ask what she wants. She asks, in turn, if he wishes to continue his studies and if he wishes to have more time to do so? He acknowledges this, and asks how this is possible. She responds with a sly smile, and runs her tongue along her right eyetooth. Bezaldooz cannot help but notice its sharpness.

The woman admits that this is quite a lot to ask someone, and if he needs time to decide, he has it. She does offer him tutelage, which he accepts, and she spends several hours explaining some “forbidden” principles of magic and the power that can be wrested from the Abyss. She then tells him that she will be in touch with him again, and that she will continue his studies through sleep-teaching. She commands him to sleep and he falls into a deep slumber immediately.

The next morning, Bosabrieln, Peren, and Valna awaken first and go down to breakfast. They find Adeptus Spellweaver awaiting them. They make small talk over breakfast, deciding to go meet Headmaster Jepson afterward, and they are joined by Bezaldooz, who seems to be in an extremely good mood, and Torinn. After everyone is done with breakfast, they walk to the Wizard’s Tower.

The group makes its way to the campus, and Adeptus Spellweaver leads them to a lift which will take them to the top of the tower.

As they arrive, they find a large room, apparently encompassing the entire top floor of the tower. It appears to be a library with several windows overlooking Jepson, as well as a dock leading to the Spelljammer anchored to the tower itself. The center of the room is dominated by a large orrery. At the opposite end, two figures flank a desk. The first, whose back is to Spellweaver and the Shields, is a tall woman with short, grey hair. She wears colorful robes and bears a staff; her robe and staff are adorned with many bangles and baubles. The man seated at the desk is a similarly old man with long, white hair and a white goatee. He wears a blue robe, and between his teeth, he clenches an unlit, ornate pipe bearing a leering, demonic visage. He is writing in a book and does not appear to be making eye contact with the woman. The room is silent, but the pair occasionally nod at each other as if engaging in a conversation. As Adeptus Spellweaver and the Shields approach, she nods to the man and leaves, her movements at once serene and wild.

The man looks up and after Adeptus Spellweaver acknowledges him, he introduces himself as Headmaster Ebenezer Jepson. He speaks to each person in turn, betraying prior knowledge of the group. Peren and Torinn are humored when the Headmaster refers to Bezaldooz as “Apprentice,” although as the Headmaster explains, Bezaldooz was an Apprentice when he left even though he would probably be considered a Disciple or higher these days. The Headmaster also mentions to Peren that he knows some abolitionists in Scandshar, and he doesn’t know if that might be up his alley, and he further indicates to Bosabrieln that he knew his mentor, Vianibrar. At Bosabrieln’s request, Headmaster Jepson explains that they have encountered each other in Nainimdul — Bosabrieln recognizes the features of the half-elf in the Headmaster Jepson, even though his ears are covered by his hair — and that Vianibrar occasionally guest lectured at the University.

With introductions and such out of the way, the Headmaster Jepson explains the situation: a couple of months ago, strange monsters began appearing in the Black Moor swamp, occasionally making forays into the lowlands. This, in turn, prompted the bandits who lair in the swamp to also make forays south so as to escape the monsters. A few weeks ago, the Platinum Claws went into the Black Moor to investigate, but they never returned or sent word back. The Headmaster tells the Shields that they are the last hope for the Duchy Jepson — if a small team cannot quietly stop the source of monsters, then a force of mages and soldiers will have to do it, and the town has no desire to start a war with whatever mysterious force exists in the swamp. The Headmaster further explains that the Black Moor swamp was created when the Fatehammer comet slammed into the mountains fifty years ago. Over time, the swamp blossomed in the impact crater. He theorizes that the monsters either come from the Fatehammer comet itself, or from a lone magus — someone who would have appreciated the seclusion of the swamp and used it as a quiet place to perform experiments. In either case, he tasks the Shields with apprehending the Black Moor bandits — particularly their leader, Arneth — and determining what is behind the strangeness in the Black Moor. He says he will pay 5,000 gold pieces, plus expenses. The group agrees and indicates that they can leave later that day.

Before everyone parts ways, Adeptus Spellweaver also brings up something that was mentioned over breakfast — the strange findings in the cavern of the Ebon Maw. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln proceed to explain to Headmaster Jepson and Adeptus Spellweaver about the magic circle written in Supernal, and the weird, magical place where the dragon laired. Peren also presents some crystal shards he gathered while there. Headmaster Jepson thanks them and says he will investigate further.

Valna decides to leave her new horse, Penelope, behind. However, Bezaldooz plans to ride to the Black Moor on Wilson, while Torinn plans on riding on his new clawfoot, Happy. After making some purchases and trades, the group meets at the north gate and finds that they have three more companions, supplied by the Duchy. Tineld will be their guide to the Black Moor swamp, while Endtur and Reth are guardsmen who will transport any captured bandits back to the Duchy. The group then sets out.

That night, Bosabrieln is mentally contacted by Headmaster Jepson who congratulates them on finding a summoning circle, possibly the very circle that summoned the Fatehammer comet.

The group spends the next day hiking up the mountainsides before finally reaching the Black Moor swamp on the following day. As they trek through, they come upon a cabin. Peren initially assumes it is the hut of the “old man” to whom Tineld cryptically refers, but Tineld indicates he is deeper in the swamp. Peren also notes a wasp nest in the trees, although the group cannot identify it — it conforms to no variety of bee they have ever seen. The creatures are large and completely gold in color.

While the group is planning what to do, several bandits rush at them from the surrounding swamp. Battle is joined.

A man, dressed in leather armor and wielding a longsword and handaxe, steps from the cabin and takes position to leap into the fray — by his look, he very well might be the leader. One of the bandits falls quickly, but this pales in comparison to when Torinn taunts the group and six bandits and their leader rush at him. The six bandits die while the leader is whalloped.

The fight progresses quickly after that. Two bandits rise from the muck of the swamp where they were hidden in ambush, and they fling themselves at the group. Another man, wielding a crossbow, takes position on the porch. However, one of the remaining bandits surrenders, and after the leader is grievously injured by Peren and Torinn, Bosabrieln entreats the group to surrender. The leader drops his weapons and suggests that his men do the same. Bosabrieln asks that they join forces to rid the swamp of its dangers, but the man indicates that he would rather be taken into custody. They are tired and hungry, and the monsters of the swamp have taken many of their number, including his father, the bandit leader Arneth. As such, they are more than pleased to go quietly.

Before they go, Bosabrieln asks if they saw the Platinum Claws. Arneth’s son replies that his scouts saw them passing through the swamp a couple of weeks ago, but they left them a wide berth and have not seen them since.

As the guardsmen lead them away, the Shields search their cabin, only to find 175 gold pieces and a few more examples of the strange technology they found in the dragon’s lair.

As they rest, Bosabrieln asks Tineld about the “old man” to whom he keeps referring. Tineld explains that there is someone in the swamp known as the “Terrible Old Man.” He seems somewhat pleasant, but he sells discount magic items that have a high risk of being cursed objects.

Into the Ebon Maw, Part 2

Waterday, Reaping 26, 552 CY (50 AN)

After wandering through the caverns, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna come to a larger, open chamber. A large wall of rock partially bisects the room, leaving an open section on the left side. Two chambers are recessed on the left side; each features bars over the opening. The chamber closer to the entrance features a rage drake, while the farther chamber contains three smaller drakes, likely bloodseeker drakes by their look.

As the group walks into the chamber, the rage drake awakens, sniffs, and roars at their approach. At that, the barred doors begin to open.

A small kobold steps out of a hallway at the far end of the chamber. Peren and Torinn rush to deal with the rage drake, while Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna are left to deal with the smaller drakes as they rush into the room.

Peren and Torinn make short work of the drakes, rejoining the group to aid in their assault against the bloodseekers. However, a sludgy, ooze-like amalgamation of four kobolds — all shifting flesh and roiling eyes and teeth — seeps out of a crevice and lunges at Bosabrieln, who holds it at bay with the Evil Eye of the Vistani. It rambles in Draconic, and occasionally begs for death.

Meanwhile, the little kobold, a robed figure with a wand and potion bandoleer, starts throwing vials at Torinn and Valna, currently locked in combat with a drake. The vials shatter and spew fire everywhere. As Peren tangles with the drakes and tries to deal with the sludgy kobold-thing, Bosabrieln and Bezaldooz keep on one of the drakes while Torinn and Valna deal with another.

During the skirmish, a swarm of gold-colored beetles burrows from the ground and begins to swarm and bite all nearby. A well-placed bite leaves Peren temporarily blind, but he manages to retreat and recover as the last of the drakes fall.

The little kobold alchemist takes this opportunity to leap into the fray.

Things go badly for the kobold and his pets after that. Despite the difficulties in fighting a pile of kobold ooze and a swarm of beetles, the ooze is swiftly slain. The alchemist falls next, and his vials crack, creating an elemental conflagration that hits Bezaldooz, although he manages to avoid the worst of it. The beetles are finally crushed last.

The group searches the area to no avail; it is likely that anything of value would have been held by the kobold, and anything he held was ruined. After resting, they move onward.

The next chamber opens to reveal little twisty passageways. Strangely, clumps of crystal grow here. From a larger hallway, a patrolling kobold, evidently on guard duty, rounds the corner and sees the group, raising the alarm. A large, metallic thing, piloted by two kobolds — obviously some sort of construct — lumbers into view behind the kobold. Peren pegs the kobold and retreats, not wanting to be next to the giant construct. Bezaldooz manages to keep the kobold at bay while projecting a sound of armored opponents down another hallway. A group of kobolds approach from that hallway, apparently looking to ambush the heavily-armed foes they hear, but they are disappointed to find that they are still far from engaging the enemy. As Valna and Bosabrieln sling spells from their position, a draconic humanoid — which some of the Shields recognize as an Aurak Draconian — steps into view and gestures at Torinn, who momentarily turns on Bezaldooz and lashes out at him before regaining his mind.

Then, the lumbering war machine steps forward. It steps over the kobold and Draconian, taking position and firing a projectile from a launcher on its left side. The projectile whizzes toward the ground in the center of the scattered Shields of the Sorrowfell, striking and exploding in a momentary holocaust of fire and shrapnel. Only Bezaldooz manages to escape unscathed, and he returns the favor by launching a fireball at the assembled enemies. Several are scorched by the flames, and one of the kobolds dies.

After this missile assault, the group splits to ward against future attacks. Peren attacks the war machine, detaching from the imposing thing to focus on the Aurak, which is currently standing beside an old ritual space with a magic circle. He manages to cut it down, but it then erupts in a fiery conflagration. He wisely flees again to tackle the war machine.

Meanwhile, Torinn handles the onslaught of kobolds. Between him and the spellcasters, several are slain. Content in Bezaldooz’s ability to handle the last, he moves to aid Peren with the war machine.

Bosabrieln rounds a corner just in time to encounter the angry, flaming remains of the Aurak. It lashes at him and misses before finally burning out and dying.

As Peren and Torinn attack the war machine and its kobold occupants, they inadvertently launch another missile, striking Bezaldooz and a very shocked kobold. The bewildered kobold is easily slain by Bezaldooz and Valna, leaving only the metal behemoth. Finally, Peren scrambles atop it, stabbing his swords into its top. The machine, already sparking and smoking, spilling oil on the cave floor, explodes as he leaps back to the ground. Peren and Torinn are caught in the blast, but receive only minor injuries.

As the dust settles, the group goes about investigating and salvaging. Bezaldooz checks out the magic circle first. He notes that it is carved into the solid rock, and determines that it has been there for several years. However, he cannot determine its function; it was obviously made by a powerful magus, and has lain dormant for a long time. It is also written in Supernal, the language of the gods. He manages to cast his Comprehend Language ritual, but it still leaves the whole thing vague — the circle references teleportation and planar travel, but that’s the most he can get out of it.

Bezaldooz next examines the wreckage of the war machine. He manages to determine its functioning — the thing generates and harnesses lightning, and the power source is a small box marked with an unfamiliar symbol. He determines it is dangerous — whatever fuel the box uses is likely toxic and should not be handled — and decides to leave it.

The group then rests, certain that they are close to the dragon’s lair.

Into the Ebon Maw, Part 1

Godsday, Reaping 25, 552 CY (50 AN)

Before meeting with Gloomblight Spellweaver on Godsday, Reaping 25, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, and Valna have a few more pieces of business. First, they go to the stables to see if they can repurchase the Clawfoot they sold some weeks ago. Torinn purchases the creature, which he has been calling “Happy.” Valna similarly purchases a horse which she names “Penelope.”

On Moonday, Reaping 24, the Shields of the Sorrowfell Shields of the Sorrowfell bear witness to the executions of Tikulti and Demise. They are sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead, and the sentence is carried out without complications.

On Godsday, Reaping 25, the Shields go to meet Adeptus Gloomblight Spellweaver of the University for the Study of the Arcane Arts and Sciences. They find him in his room at the White Nymph Lodge, and they indicate they are ready to go. He leads the group to a squat keep near the Citadel, which houses Sorgforge’s teleportation circle. He pays the clerk and the group gets teleported to the Duchy Jepson.

They arrive in a similar building, albeit one open to the air and secured with porticullises if necessary. Once they step out into Jepson proper, they can see the ornate palace Jepson sitting atop a hill. The Wizard’s Tower sits closer to the middle of the city, an incredibly tall tower with a clock on one of the faces. What appears to be a sailing ship is docked atop it, dangling above the town.

Adeptus Spellweaver asks if the Shields wish to settle in a room first or meet with the Duchess, as the Duchess Jepson has requested their presence. The group decides to go to the palace first.

After a short walk, the group arrives, and is led through the palace and into the throne room to find that the Duchess Jepson is human girl in the eight to ten range. She excitedly calls, “Gloomy!” and then thanks the Shields of the Sorrowfell for their assistance, giving what appears to be a prepared speech. Valna goes to hug her, is stopped by the guards, but Duchess Jepson calls off the guards.

Once the Shields leave the throne room, Adeptus Spellweaver explains a few more things about the job, namely that the strange creatures from the Black Moor do have one complication — a group has gone before the Shields of the Sorrowfell. A group known as the Platinum Claws — whom most of the Shields, save Bezaldooz, have previously met — traveled to the Black Moor a few weeks ago and has not yet returned. As previously mentioned, once the Shields have taken care of Vilustuminen, they will be sent to the Black Moor to aid the Platinum Claws.

As the Shields determine they need nothing further, they decide to set out immediately. Adeptus Spellweaver makes certain they know where to go and says he will be at the Wizard’s Tower when they return. He also agrees to stable their animals at the Addled Alchemist, so that they will not have to worry about the kobolds doing anything to their mounts during the short journey.

As the Shields are about to leave, they are met by a peasant who asks for a moment of their time. He asks if they are going to slay the dragon, and he explains that he and his wife are herbalists and they live in part of the evacuated zone. Well, when the evacuation order came, his wife accidentally left her wedding ring behind, and would the group be able to retrieve it? He has little, but says he will pay what he can. The group accepts the task and goes about their way.

As the Shields of the Sorrowfell leave Jepson, clouds gather. The clouds grow thick and black, presaging a summer storm, as the group approaches the last of the homesteads. As they approach the house in which they are to seek the ring, they notice two kobolds standing watch outside, attempting to hide behind trees. Seeing they’re spotted, the kobolds shout. Three more emerge from the house and form a perimeter. As the Shields approach, battle is joined. A swift little kobold in leather armor armed with a dagger emerges from the house, as do two kobolds in scale mail, armed with swords. Last, a dragonborn with scale, shield, and broadsword rushes from the house, crying “HERETIC!” and charging at Torinn. The five kobolds forming a perimeter fall quickly. The heavily armed kobolds keep on Torinn until he falls, then going for the rest of the party. When Torinn is revived, however, combat swiftly goes against the dragonkin. Torinn initiates by hefting his axe, and as he holds it aloft, lightning strikes it. It glows as he cuts a kobold in half. As the rain begins, the other two remaining kobolds are swiftly defeated, and the dragonborn is finally chased down and defeated.

The group searches the bodies, and finds the dragonborn holds what looks like an ornate wedding ring. They take it, and proceed to take away his weapons and tie him up. As the rain starts to fall heavily, the group goes indoors. They interrogate the dragonborn, finding that he and the kobolds are Tiamat-worshippers and servitors of Vilustuminen the White. He says that they number at least a dozen in the mountain tunnels, not counting their allied pets.

Before being executed, he requests that he be untied and the Shields agree. They take him outside and he kneels, saying that Torinn fought well before he beheads him with the axe.

The group spends the night in the cottage, resting before entering the dragon’s lair tomorrow.

The next day, the group sets out for the Ebon Maw. They find the cavern nestled among the rocks. As noted, a large dragon’s skull marks the spot, its mouth forming the entrance to the cavern. In a moment of giddy excitement, Valna runs for the cave, climbs up the face, and slides into the cavern through the eye. The rest of the group enters normally.

As the Shields travel through twisty passageways, they eventually come to an open spot. The open cavern shows signs of habitation; the center is dominated by a large mat of furs likely used as a communal bed. The furs contain gnawed bones, greasy hunks of meat, and a few scattered gold coins and gems. As the group enters the room, they hear tittering behind a pile of rocks. Peren and Torinn step forward to find three kobolds huddled behind the rocks; one charges him and it dies with a single blow. The others run, shouting for help.

The group starts investigating the room. Bosabrieln and Valna stay in central locations, while Torinn looks down the passageway where the kobolds ran. As he rounds the corner, they are waiting and they rush at him. He effortlessly cuts them down. Peren walks across the room — and is surprised as the stone falls away, revealing a pit trap filled with spikes. He is injured, but alive. Torinn helps him escape, and as they are about to examine another passage, Bezaldooz goes over to the mat of furs, which gives way to reveal another pit trap. Torinn helps him out of the pit and the group quietly investigates the other hallway. Finding only a dead-end which is apparently being used as a toilet and refuse pile, the group decides to rest in the main room before continuing deeper into the caves.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 14

Waterday, Reaping 12, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn prepare to go into the hallway beyond the lowered devil statue. They leave Tikulti tied in an alcove, throw a cloak over him, and sneak along the passageway.

Peren sneaks ahead and listens at the door. Soft chanting is heard, and they recognize Demise’s voice.

The group tries to stealthily open the door, but the bone piles around it give them away. Ashurta’s tomb is as before, although a series of silvery runes have been painted on the floor surrounding the central honor statue in the room. Demise stands next to the circle and welcomes them, while Professor Nephret — who is tied to Ashurta’s sarcophagus — shouts to them. They see four rotting corpses standing in the far alcoves while three rotting corpses with tattoos, fangs, and claws stand between them and Demise.

Demise starts by launching a toxic cloud where the group stands, forcing them to flee the cloying, poisonous vapor. Torinn and Peren tangle with the ravenous undead in melee, while Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Emma hang back. They are inevitably caught by the toxic cloud as it moves, forcing them to separate.

A fourth clawed, ravenous undead emerges from an alcove to flank Torinn. Those who are scratched by them find that their extremeties numb and they are unable to move.

Professor Nephret frees herself and makes a dash for the exit — and then she doubles back to claw at Torinn, apparently having been slain and raised as an undead monstrosity.

Torinn decimates the ghouls and zombies with his axe, while Emma holds them at bay with holy power. The Nephret-thing falls quickly before this onslaught. As Bosabrieln steps forward to challenge Demise, he starts slinging spells at her, but her magics are mighty and she drops him where he stands. Her poison cloud similarly sends Emma into unconsciousness, who was unable to flee as she was paralyzed by a ghoul.

Thinking quickly, Bezaldooz conjures a ghostly hand of energy to grab Bosabrieln’s last healing potion and deliver it to Emma. As she awakens, she prays and returns Bosabrieln to consciousness.

As the last of the undead is destroyed and the warriors are no longer paralyzed, they turn their attention to Demise.

Peren lashes at her quickly, but she is much too swift. However, the combined onslaught of the five adventurers is too much, as she is beset on all sides by blade and spell. Finally, she assumes a ghostly form and flees, bolting for the exit. Peren charges after her, and smacking her with the flat of his blade, he brings her low.

Quickly, the group strips her as they did Tikulti, finding the remaining Crown components of Karruuk’s Circlet, Lurtaan’s Cord, and Murkoorak’s Orb. The group also takes some ornate artifacts she has, and Bezaldooz determines her robe and staff to be magical. He takes them.

The group rests and returns to the puzzle room to find Tikulti awake and attempting to free himself. The group knocks him out again and after covering the pair with their cloaks and tying them up, they march them back to the Citadel. They also retrieve Professor Nephret’s body and take her back to the Citadel as well.

The group arrives at the Citadel, and they meet with Captain Kalaes. His guards take Demise, Tikulti, and Professor Nephret’s body. The Captain then addresses the group, thanking them for their service and reiterating that the matter will be investigated by the local magistrates and justice will be served. He further asserts that he would like the Ashen Crown to be delivered to the Wordbearers. Bosabrieln explains that the Lost Children of Nebelun may have some contacts, and Captain Kalaes is about to ask them for assistance in the matter when his gnome secretary enters the office.

The gnome explains that someone is here to see the Captain, and when the Captain tells his secretary to explain that he is busy, the gnome responds by saying that the travelers claim the matter is urgent and that they are expecting that the Captain is speaking with a party of adventurers. They also wish to speak to these people.

He beckons them to enter.

The gnome leaves, returning with two robed humanoids. One, clad in white, priestly vestments and bearing a holy symbol of Pelor around his neck, is a grandfatherly old human whom Emma recognizes as Abbot Aelius of the Temple of the Guiding Light in Jepson. The other, clad in dark robes that reveal his chest and arms, is a humanoid and lank, dark hair streaked with white. He is lean and somewhat muscular, and his left arm is wrapped in bandages from shoulder to fingertips, then wrapped in an iron and mithril chain, and then wrapped with a leather thong attached to a box on the back of his left hand. The initial impression is that he is a drow, although he does not look wholly correct; some recognize the telltale signs of a shade, a human who undergoes a ritual to bind his or her soul with shadowy essence. Bezaldooz recognizes him as Adeptus Gloomblight Spellweaver of the Wizard’s Tower in Jepson; Adeptus Spellweaver is not a member of the faculty, instead operating as a groundskeeper and the Keeper of the Vault, the Tower’s storage for dangerous artifacts.

Emma and Abbot Aelius exchange greetings and hug before he introduces himself to the group. He then defers to Adeptus Spellweaver, who introduces himself and presents a letter of marque from Duchess Jepson, indicating that their business is official. He then explains that transporting the Ashen Crown should be unnecessary; the artifact, as many are, is sentient, going where it wants. It is the destiny of these adventurers to hold it for a time before it moves on, in which case it will go where it needs to be.

Captain Kalaes defers to this wisdom.

Gloomblight Spellweaver then explains his other purpose for contacting the group. The Duchess Jepson has two jobs for them; the payment for the first is the offer of the second. The first job entails the recent rise in kobold raids in the area. Apparently, a group of kobolds have formed a cult around a white dragon, Vilustuminen the White, who recently moved to the area. This dragon is known for the extensive burn scars across his body, leading the group to suspect that it is the same white dragon they met on their first day of hunting goblins.

The kobolds are apparently based out of the Caverns of the Ebon Maw, a series of caves in the base of the Hoarfrost Mountains.

The second job, which will be explained further, involves the rise of weird monsters in the Black Moor swamp. In addition to the strange creatures attacking Duchy Jepson’s northern steadings, these creatures are pushing the bandits in the Black Moor south.

These two problems have forced Jepson to evacuate the farms to the north, bringing the citizens within their walls.

The group accepts and Adeptus Spellweaver indicates he will remain in town no longer than two weeks, giving them time to prepare. He will be staying at the White Nymph Lodge if they seek him.

Abbot Aelius then addresses Emma, saying that since she has traveled and grown, he has determined she is old enough to accept this gift. He gives her a letter and tells her to find him before he leaves tomorrow.

With no further questions, Abbot Aelius and Adeptus Spellweaver take their leave. The group does so shortly thereafter, and Captain Kalaes indicates he will communicate their success to the town’s noble houses and get everyone in contact.

The group returns to the Rusty Razor, and over a meal, they discuss their future together. Bosabrieln brings up the prospect of determining a name for their adventuring party, and they finally agree on his suggestion, henceforth calling themselves the Shields of the Sorrowfell.

Emma also shares the contents of the letter, evidently a letter from her parents, and by Abbot Aelius’ description, found with her when the temple found her as a baby. The letter addresses her as Valna, and explains that there village is surrounded by goblins and their kin, which seem content to starve the village out rather than attack. Before the elves attack as a last resort, Emma’s mother plans to cast a spell to send her to a place of safety.

Strangely, while describing this, Peren has a fragment of memory from when he was very young, a time of strife in his village and a forced march with goblins before his slavery. He doesn’t mention anything.

Emma asks that the Shields of the Sorrowfell now refer to her as Valna.

Later that evening, Valna has dinner with Abbot Aelius, and he explains that some of the acolytes took to calling her Emma in an attempt to divorce her from her tragic past, but again, since she has become older and traveled, he felt it was high time to give her the letter.

The next day, the Shields are eating breakfast at the Rusty Razor when Seldalerya enters the tavern, carrying a rucksack over her shoulder. She explains that Zorphen sends his regards, and that Zelazadda wished to send them some things. She gives Bezaldooz a copy of the formula for smoke powder, Bosabrieln a copy of the Sending ritual for his book, Valna a set of oinments and incense for religious rituals, and says Peren and Torinn can fight over the musket. Torinn takes it, the bullets, and the sample of smoke powder that is sent with it. She wishes everyone well before leaving.

Some people do a little shopping at the market, and after some discussion, they decide to meditate with the Crown pieces in Ashurta’s tomb so that they may learn the Ritual to restore the Ashen Crown. The next day, they return to the goblin slums and spend the next five days in the tomb. Despite the stifling conditions and the odd dreams, they remain and Bezaldooz copies and performs the Rite of Arkentaash.

With the Ashen Crown whole, they decide to use it to resurrect Professor Nephret. Calling upon their noble connections to provide components for the ritual, the group obtains Professor Nephret’s body from the Citadel, takes her to her apartment, and Peren performs the rite. She awakens an hour later, surprised and bewildered but alive. The Shields of the Sorrowfell explain what has transpired in her absence before leaving.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell then continue about their business before leaving for Duchy Jepson.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 13

Waterday, Reaping 12, 552 CY (50 AN)

Feeling reasonably prepared, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn, being led by their guide, Zorphen, set out to find the portal to Sigil.

Zorphen leads them out of Graywall’s foreign quarter, and after sneaking past patrols, the group finds its way into the sewers under the city. They walk until Zorphen rounds a corner and darts back, muttering curses and saying they’ve found a modron.

A large, metallic, polyhedral thing stands in the stream of sewer water. It holds a large mace, its two legs disappear into the murky water, and two wings emerge from its back. A series of strange lenses protrude over its eyes, and it bears various features indicative of a face, but with a clockwork flair.

Zorphen explains that they are creatures of order, and that they sometimes guard planar portals as they hope to close them. However, modrons can be reasoned with, and it may allow passage, assuming the need is great enough.

The group advances to address the modron. It acknowledges their presence, and instructs them to leave. The group then does its best to convince the creature that they must enter the gate. Bosabrieln starts by strongly stating their case, and after Emma hugs the creature and Bezaldooz restates Bosabrieln’s argument, Bosabrieln has no trouble convincing the modron that the group’s intentions are pure.

The group continues past the modron, and as they reach an archway, Zorphen explains that the portal activates when one contemplates the moment of one’s greatest fear. He closes his eyes and appears to be lost in contemplation. A moment later, the space encompassed by the archway warps and changes, revealing a similar sewer tunnel. The group continues through, and feels a sudden change. The air grows cooler, and the earthy smell of waste turns acrid, gaining an almost chemical aroma.

Zorphen quietly leads them through sewer tunnels, warning them about cranium rats and telling them how to find the portal. The group nears the manhole cover and appears to be ready to leave unmolested, the sound of rapid footsteps approaches. A man, clad in leather and with sword drawn, runs around the corner, running on the platform on the other side of the sewer tunnel. He shouts to the party, indicating that they must flee, the cranium rats come, for he has discovered their secret, that they are —

He starts to mumble and repeat his query as blood drips from his nose, his eyes, his ears. He collapses and falls into the sludgy river; he catches on some garbage and his body does not proceed further as the water rushes into a nearby drain.

A horde of rats — all gnashing teeth and beady eyes and exposed brains on their heads — rounds the corner.

Battle is joined. The creatures pummel the party with some sort of horrific ray that leaves them dazed and stumbling. A humanoid with an octopoid head — a creature that some of the group recognizes as one of the dreaded mind flayers — emerges from the darkness, fighting in tandem with the cranium rats. Soon, a contingent of humanoid rat creatures, similar to the wererat form of Kiris Hoyt, emerges from the tunnels to join the battle.

The battle is fast and brutal. The mind flayer blasts the group with psychic energy as the cranium rats pelt them with the same. The wererats rush into battle and are quickly defeated. Torinn and Peren react with their typical barrage of blades while Emma works with prayers and her mace, and Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln throw spells at the creatures. Zorphen attacks with his musket and activates a small, whirring, spherical drone that buzzes around his head. The mind flayer psychically urges Bosabrieln into the swiftly flowing river, and Bosabrieln tumbles into the water, helplessly being sucked toward the drain. Zorphen stops shooting at the mind flayer with his musket to go aid Bosabrieln. Bezaldooz kills a contingent of rats, but they briefly grab hold of his mind, forcing him to fire a magic missle at Peren. The fighters fall, but the healers keep them in the fight with healing magics and healing potions.

All told, the fight ends with the wererats and the mind flayer dead. Most of the cranium rats are killed, but a group of them runs down the tunnels and out of sight. The group uses four healing potions to keep their fighters in the battle. They do not manage to get to Zorphen in time, and he breathes his last in the sewer tunnels. Torinn grabs his musket. Peren scouts ahead and finds the ladder leading to street level. Torinn hefts Zorphen’s body across his shoulders and the group makes its way into the streets of Sigil.

They are assaulted by the noisy, smelly city of Sigil. A light drizzle falls as they enter, and they note that they cannot see moon nor stars through the clouds. All manner of strange sights assail them — demons and other strange creatures walk alongside the more familiar men and elves and such of the Sorrowfell Plains. Based upon the look of the people, this is likely a lower-class district. The group looks around until seeing a couple of women on a street corner — prostitutes by their look. Bosabrieln speaks to her, asking if she can direct them to a temple, and he gives the woman a silver for her trouble. She takes it, and explains that she’s no tout. When he gives another silver, he indicates that she needs a bit more money than that. Ten gold pieces change hands, and she gives Bosabrieln directions to the Temple District.

The group manages to follow her directions without difficulty, and makes their way to a temple of Pelor. They enter, putting a few coins in the donation box, and approach the priestess, an eladrin by the name of Sister Miska. Bosabrieln and Emma speak to her, indicating that they would like to have their friend raised. Sister Miska says the typical donation is 1180 gold pieces, but Emma manages to talk her down to the component cost of 500 gold pieces by noting her own devotion to Pelor. Sister Miska says their friend should be restored in the morning, and that they can stay at the Silver Tankard. They should tell the innkeeper that they have spoken with Sister Miska. As they leave, a few more coins enter the collection box and Emma donates seventy-five gold pieces.

The group does that, finding the innkeeper to be Aratha, a beautiful young woman with feathery wings whom they swiftly surmise to be an angel. Bosabrieln explains the situation, and when he explains they have spoken with Sister Miska, Aratha says their rooms are on the house. Bosabrieln thanks her and says that he can play music, and Aratha says that would be lovely. A porter immediately arrives to take their bags.

Their rooms are impressive. They each have individual rooms, and a bath is drawn for each.

Bosabrieln returns downstairs to perform, while the others rest. He eventually makes his way back to his room, and all sleep.

The next morning, the group breakfasts and talks to Aratha, admittedly trying to befriend her (and in some cases, flirt with her). Most of them find the presence of an angel intimidating, but she seems fairly cordial with Bezaldooz and Emma, and particularly cordial with Bosabrieln.

They turn around to find Zorphen watching this display. Torinn returns Zorphen’s musket, and they inform him that his weird device didn’t make it. He thanks them profusely for their aid, and as they express an interest in shopping, he takes them to the Market Ward. They buy and sell a few things, although he tells Bosabrieln to avoid purchasing a copy of the Sending ritual, as he owes the party and hopes to repay them somehow.

Finally, Zorphen gives the group a brief tour of Sigil before taking them to the Lower Ward. A drawbridge sits outside the Great Foundry, apparently with no reason for being there. Zorphen bids them farewell, and as per his instructions, they loop the fingers of their left hand over each other, opening a rippling portal in the opening formed by the righthand chain on the drawbridge. Seeing a scene resembling the streets outside the Tain Foundry in Sorgforge, the group moves through the portal.

They arrive on a street outside the Tain Foundry, and find they have passed through the doorway of a public privy. A warforged stands inside, asking why humanoids use these things. Bosabrieln tells him to meet them at the Rusty Razor in two days’ time and he’ll explain it.

The group decides to go to the Citadel, hopefully allowing them to explain any issues Tikulti has raised and dealing with the problem before trouble finds them.

On their way to the Citadel, they happen across a guard patrol which has apparently been informed to bring them to the Citadel for questioning. The guards are most surprised to find these supposed criminals asking to go to the Citadel, so they escort them and lead them into Captain Kalaes’ meeting room.

Immediately, they launch into the tale. Bosabrieln explains that they wish to explain their version of events — Peren interjects that Tikulti is a traitor — and Captain Kalaes says that they have told him several disturbing things that have proven true. Before they explain everything, he asks one of his guardsmen to fetch a priest to witness their testimony. After a few minutes’ wait, the guardsman returns with a priest of Bahamut in tow. He starts a brazier of incense and when he indicates he is ready, Bosabrieln gets to work.

He takes a few minutes to explain their sojourn from Sorgforge to Graywall and back, focusing on Tikulti’s betrayal and his apparent cooperation with Lady Dannae — better known as Demise among the proper circles. Similarly, he implicates them with involvement in the Broken Chain, though the level of involvement is unknown.

After detailing his tale, the priest says that Bosabrieln speaks truthfully. Captain Kalaes admits that he is uncertain whether he can be unbiased, as he does not wish to think Tikulti is guilty. As such, he tells the party to find Tikulti and return him to the Citadel alive. Peren asks what the punishment would be for his crimes, and Captain Kalaes explains that if the claims of treason are true, Tikulti will likely be executed. He similarly asks that they return Demise alive so that she may also face justice.

The group agrees.

Captain Kalaes gives them a letter of marque in case any guards stop them before he has the opportunity to inform everyone that they are no longer wanted for questioning.

The group steps outside and uses the Sending Stone to contact Tikulti. They instead find Demise, and when Bosabrieln suggests they meet, she indicates that they should know where to find her; in a Wordbearer ritual spot with several corpses strewn about.

The group surmises that she means Ashurta’s Tomb. Bezaldooz leaves Wilson behind at the Citadel and the group goes to the goblin slums.

They descend into the basement of the crumbling tenement, leaving their light sources behind. As they approach the entry chamber of Ashurta’s Tomb, they hear the sound of talking — some person talking to another about ritual preparations. The name Jaenus is mentioned, which the group recognizes as the elf traveling with Demise when they met her at Professor Nephret’s house.

The group moves into the room to see Jaenus, the very same robed elf with a skull facial tattoo whom they met at the Professor’s house, along with two humans in plate armor and bearing the sigil of the Broken Chain on their tabards. A group of five zombified kruthiks stands nearby.

Justice is swift. Kruthik zombies are slain, and Jaenus falls quickly. The fanatical cultists die last.

Secure in the knowledge that the area is clear, the group moves forward, through the hallway to the puzzle room with the devil statue obscuring a secret doorway. They attempt to move quietly, but they are much too loud. However, they notice people hidden in the alcoves in this room — two armored cultists astride the lowered devil statue; a tiefling woman with a flame-shaped short sword; a floating skull covered in dancing shadows; and a wizened creature, presumably a doppelganger, wearing Tikulti’s armor and bearing his rapier.

Aware that everyone has noticed everyone else, battle is joined. Peren rushes the tiefling, followed by Torinn. The armored cultists begin to move into position, but Bezaldooz fires rays of cold that freeze the cultists’s legs to the floor. Tikulti rushes behind Peren to flank him, but his attack is too hasty to hit home. The skull begins firing rays of energy from its mouth.

Tikulti does well at first, dodging blows and mocking the group with his banter. He is struck a few times, but only with glancing blows as he proves reasonably accurate with his rapier.

The tiefling falls first, but the battle quickly turns nasty. One cultist falls quickly, but when Bezaldooz starts slinging spells at the skull from the safety of an alcove, the other cultist pins him down and starts attacking. Both Peren and Torinn are brought low by Tikulti’s onslaught, and just as it appears that he will turn on the casters, Bosabrieln and Emma revive Peren and Torinn, and Emma manages to defeat the last cultist attacking Bezaldooz. The tide of battle turned, the floating skull and Tikulti are quickly defeated.

Though the others have been slain, the group was careful to only knock Tikulti unconscious. Bosabrieln ties him up as the group rests and attempts to determine the next course of action.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 12

Sunday, Reaping 9, 552 CY (50 AN)

Having rested, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn are tired but prepared to continue. Yeraa wonders why her scouts have not yet returned, so the group moves further up the pass.

Eventually, the canyon opens to reveal a cliffside. The rest of the Wordbearers are there, along with three wagons. Several people are milling about, trying to take a moment to rest. Tikulti, the Citadel’s doppelganger agent, explains that they just drove off an attack by the Broken Chain; there were no casualties, but alchemist’s fire arrows have damaged the wagons in the caravan. It will probably take about a day to repair them.

Yeraa goes on to explain that these are the Lost Children of Nebelun, as they call themselves. They are a group of merchants and adventurers who were also headed to Graywall and agreed to rendezvous with the Wordbearers and help them in their quest. Zelazadda Uvarkk, a gnome planeswalker and the leader of the Lost Children, explains a bit about the organization, and everyone makes their introductions. Some trades and sales are made. Bezaldooz speaks to Zelazadda, but is more intrigued by Zorphen, initially thinking him to be a skeleton. Bosabrieln talks at length with Seldalerya Shadowwood, an exile from his hometown of Nainimdul. Emma chats with Goluboi. Peren helps repair the wagon. Torinn keeps watch.

The next day, the group sets out for Graywall. They arrive on the afternoon of the eleventh day of Reaping, and are relegated to the foreign quarter, the Calabas. The Lost Children go off to complete their business, but indicate they will be in touch with the rest of the group. Bezaldooz asks if he can leave his dog, Wilson, with them, and they agree to look after him in the interim.

The Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, Torinn, and the Wordbearers follow Yeraa as she uses Karruuk’s Circlet to find the location of Murkoorak’s Orb. This leads them through the streets of Graywall until they enter the square known as the Roar — so named for the roaring dragonne statue in the center. Yeraa informs them that it appears Murkoorak’s Orb is buried in a tomb complex beneath the square. The group leaves to plan, and Yeraa says she was considering getting a tent and space to set up a merchant’s stall. If the group could act as merchants to cover the Wordbearers’ excavation, that would work perfectly. She further explains that she does not know if there are any wards on the goblinoid holy site that might somehow interact with nongoblins, so it is probably best if the Wordbearers go alone. However, she reminds the group to use the sending stone in case of an emergency.

The group purchases space and sets up the merchant stall for the night’s Goblin Market. The group buys ale to sell. As a crowd starts to gather in the square, the Wordbearers start their excavation.

The group manages to make a good show of it, playing the part of merchants and traveling entertainers. After maintaining their cover for a couple of hours, the market starts to shut down and the crowds start to thin. Tikulti communicates with the group through the sending stone, indicating Murkoorak’s Orb has been recovered.

Across the marketplace, the group spots Demise with three gnolls dressed in scale armor. Two small, shadowy humanoid figures flank Demise. Battle is joined — Bezaldooz conjures an icy zone over the clustered foes, freezing them as they advance. Demise starts throwing spells while the gnolls rush across the market to close with the group, going for Emma. The shadows focus on Peren.

In the chaos of battle, one of the gnolls falls. The shadows turn invisible, but Peren notices one as it passes a shadowy tendril through him — and tries to grab something from his pocket, presumably Zaarani’s Solitaire. He rushes to slay Demise, and then tries to stay away from the thieving shadows. Meanwhile, one of the gnolls is cut down while it tries to flee, and the last is defeated and knocked unconscious for questioning. The group then turns its attention to the shadows. As one is slain, the other successfully strikes at Peren. He does a quick check of his pouches to determine that Zaarani’s Solitaire is gone. However, with everyone attacking it, the shadow quickly fades and drops the stone.

The group quickly recovers the Solitaire and searches the bodies, recovering coins, jewelery, and two healing potions. The remaining gnoll is awakened and interrogated; he is just a mercenary, retained for 200 gold coins. Stripped of his weapons and armor, he is allowed to leave.

The group is just about to contact the Wordbearers when they return through the opening. However, the group immediately notes something wrong with Yeraa, and when she sees their reaction, she attacks.

The Wordbearers were turned into horrid undead in the tunnels beneath Graywall.

Peren makes short work of Yeraa, Emma repels the undead goblinoids, and the group makes short work of them. While resting, Bosabrieln tries to contact Tikulti on the sending stone, as he was missing from the Wordbearer undead. He indicates that he has three of the pieces of the Ashen Crown, which he will take to Sorgforge, to his “lady friend” and her cultist pawns. He is certain to note that he will have the opportunity to talk to Captain Kalaes before the rest of the group, and will he be more likely to believe his servant or a group of murderhobos? He offers to make things easier if the group just hands over its portions of the Crown, and that he will contact the group when they arrive in Sorgforge.

The group finishes the conversation and grabs a few items, including Yeraa’s journal, before leaving as an orc patrol comes through the area.

After some discussion, the group decides to contact the Lost Children of Nebelun. Astrid and Zorphen are keeping watch over the caravan, but when Bosabrieln reports that something terrible has happened, Zorphen starts awakening the Lost Children. Bosabrieln explains Tikulti’s betrayal and the Wordbearers’ deaths. Zelazadda is horrified, but contemplates the situation and explains their options. The most obvious route is the overland route, but it will take about a month to return to Sorgforge. They can also use a teleportation circle; it only costs about fifty gold pieces, but risks being monitored. If they want the element of surprise, they can try to sneak through Sigil, using a portal to enter from Graywall and using another portal to exit to Sorgforge. After discussion, the group decides to sneak through Sigil. Zelazadda explains that there is a gate in the sewers that should lead to the sewers under Sigil’s Hive district. They can then use another gate in the Lower Ward to emerge near Sorgforge’s Tain Foundry. However, she warns them that they will pass very close to a nest of cranium rats — basically psychic rats that form a hive mind when in close proximity — and warns them to try to avoid the creatures if at all possible. She also sends Zorphen with them, to act as a guide.