Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Revenge of the Giants, Part 2

Sunday, Harvester 23, 552 CY (50 AN)

After some deliberation, the Shields of the Sorrowfell decide to camp in the forest, resting while Bezaldooz transcribes the ritual to form a portal to Argent into his spellbooks. Rrowthar rests with them.

As late afternoon rolls onward, the Shields find themselves ready to disembark. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln combine some of their components to cast the ritual, and Bezaldooz spends ten minutes arranging the strange extracts and powders as necessary. At the end, an arcane gateway blazes forth, providing passage to Argent. With Rrowthar, the Shields of the Sorrowfell step through the gate.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell and Rrowthar arrive in a glowing circle, carved into the tiles of the ground before them. They are in some manner of walled courtyard, flanked by statues of heroes long gone. Behind them is a heavy set of stone doors; before them is a pool of water. At the far end is a raised platform bearing a robed female statue with an outstretched, glowing hand. Between the circle and the pool stands an ancient man, clad in robes and bearing a quarterstaff. Evidently Obanar, he greets the Shields and welcomes them to the city of Argent. As he does, the doors behind the Shields crash and shudder as something pounds against them. Obanar mutters that the gate will hold.

Rrowthar quickly makes introductions, and Obanar explains that there will be time to discuss matters once the group gets to a place more conducive to polite conversation. However, he is interrupted by a spray of stone as two great holes bore upward from the ground. Two large, bullet-shaped creatures, recongizable to several of the party as bulettes or “land-sharks,” emerge. The Shields immediately descend upon the creatures, while Obanar and Rrowthar rush across the mall to the female statue with the glowing hand. Obanar begins performing some manner of magical ritual over the statue.

Meanwhile, Bosabrieln and Bezaldooz keep the bulettes at bay with spells while Peren, Torinn, and Valna descend upon one of the beasts. As they do, a large, serpentine lizard emerges from the tunnels left behind by the bulettes and begins advancing upon Obanar. Torinn immediately recognizes the beast as a basilisk, capable of turning enemies to stone with its gaze, and shouts warning to the rest of the Shields. As the basilisk advances upon Obanar, Rrowthar turns to confront it.

As the Shields continue to fight the bulettes, three men of stone emerge from the ground and join the fray. The Shields largely ignore them, attempting to fight off the bulettes, and finally bringing down the first of the landsharks. Rrowthar snarls at the basilisk, driving it back and forcing it to hesitate before striking, allowing Obanar to continue his magical works. While keeping the largely uninjured bulette at bay, the Shields focus on the stony humanoids. Rrowthar manages to keep the basilisk busy while avoiding its lethal gaze, particularly as the Shields manage to blind the beast with potent magics. Finally, as the second bulette enters into melee with the Shields, they slay the creature, sending it toppling to the ground. As the tide of battle turns, the Shields manage to slay the stone-men as Obanar completes his ritual, driving off the force battering the gates and sealing the bulette tunnels granting access to Argent. As the Shields are about to engage the basilisk, Rrowthar leaps into melee and begins ripping at the thing with his claws, while Obanar makes short work of it with an icy blast and a crushing telekinetic grip.

As the Shields recuperate, Obanar explains that Argent is under attack. With a wave of his hand, the reflecting pool forms a map of Argent. An angry red dot pulsates over a great tower in the city. Obanar explains that invaders have entered the city, and he must restore the protective wards by accessing the Guardian’s Tower. Meanwhile, Rrowthar will lead the Shields to the invaders so that they may be repelled and the city saved. The Shields agree, and take a moment to gather themselves before delving deeper into the city.

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Revenge of the Giants, Part 1

Earthday, Harvester 20, 552 CY (50 AN)

Their missions complete, the Shields of the Sorrowfell and the Mourners of Saerun Road return to the Purple Man village. The Mourners of Saerun Road begin taking their leave, saying their farewells to the purple tribesmen. They then thank the Shields for their assistance and similarly say their farewells. Valna takes the opportunity to hug each as they leave, and Peren takes the opportunity to flirt again with Prulove Soundinghorn of the Mourners. She rebuffs him, suggesting that he “ought to stick to [his] swords,” and casting a knowing glance at Valna, she further suggests that “the best way to get over someone is not to get under someone else.”

After farewells are exchanged and the Shields’ sending stone is returned, the Mourners of Saerun Road filter out of the room and presumably make for the portal chamber to return to Sigil. The Shields of the Sorrowfell, however, decide to stay a little bit longer, no doubt partially fueled by the desire to participate in the villagers’ festivities over the newly-cleared top level of Skyfall delve.

While the Shields and the villagers are feasting and drinking, Bosabrieln takes the opportunity to speak with She of the Dying Light. He learns that her mother was the previous leader of the village when they lived in the woods to the east; when a large ooze, impervious to their weapons, attacked the village, her mother died in the conflict and the villagers were forced to flee. She further explains that she, as with many members of her family, are considered chosen by the Sun, as marked by their flaming red hair and predisposition to psychic talent. When Bosabrieln mentions that the Shields have previously met a Bone Man in their travels, she warns him about cavorting with the other colors — particularly Bone Men — and she also explains about the fourteen races of men. She subsequently learns that the colors of dolm, jale, and ulfire do not exist where Bosabrieln lives.

As Bosabrieln tells her about himself, she seems fascinated by the benign deities and commonplace magic of his world. Conversation continues until Bosabrieln makes the suggestion that they relocate to elsewhere, and she suggests they go for a brief walk through the mountains.

Several of the others note they do not return until late the next morning.

During the night, Bezaldooz takes the opportunity to examine Peren’s helmet — The Helm of Seven Deaths — and try to break the curse on it. After about an hour, he is successful, and Peren can again remove the helmet.

With celebrations ended the next day, the Shields take their leave and approach the portal to return to Sigil. When the guard concentrates and the gate opens, the Shields are pleased to be back in relatively civilized lands.

After speaking with guards and the receptionist at the Planar Trade Consortium offices, they are informed that Estevan is in the office, and they are sent to him. He congratulates them on their job well done, gives them an astral diamond as payment, and tells them that he will be in touch if he requires work done in the future.

With the day ahead of them and no demands on their time, the Shields decide to go shopping in the Market Ward before bedding down at the Silver Tankard in the Temple Ward. The innkeeper, the angel named Aratha, remembers the Shields, and says that she will waive their fee if Bosabrieln will grant a performance later in the evening. He agrees.

While Bosabrieln is preparing for the night’s concert, the rest of the Shields rest and eat in the inn’s common room. Although the others certainly notice him, Peren is particularly interested in the man cleaning the bar; despite his vapid expression, he seems somewhat interested in the Shields. He finally sits with them and introduces himself as “Scruffy,” the janitor. He notes that the Shields are known, even in Sigil, and he cryptically notes that “the first taste is free.” When the Shields ask for clarification, he purchases them drinks and offers to drink to their health. Peren refuses, but Torinn readily drinks his drink. Bezaldooz also deigns to take a drink, and Peren definitely suspects something is afoot when Bezaldooz finds himself sluggish and unable to walk. For that matter, Torinn seems particularly inebriated given the amount of alcohol he had. After Torinn helps Bezaldooz upstairs to his room, and Valna has similarly retired to bed, Peren speaks with Scruffy, determining that he is offering his services. The implication is that he is some manner of poisoner or assassin. Peren agrees to take him on.

Meanwhile, Bosabrieln continues his performance well into the evening. As the crowd dies down, he finishes and goes to speak with Aratha. He talks a little of traveling, and asks about her; she explains that she was once an angel of the goddess Sune on the world of Toril, but that she began questioning her parameters and fell. All things considered, however, she left her service on good terms.

As things progress, both parties decide to retire to Bosabrieln’s room. Aratha pauses first, whispering something to one of the staff, and then the two go upstairs. When they arrive in Bosabrieln’s room, they find that a spread of food has been prepared. Then they retire for the evening together.

The next morning, everyone awakens and breakfasts in the common room. As the rest of the Shields inquire about what happened last night and who is the strange person breakfasting with them, Peren introduces the group to Scruffy and indicates he will be adventuring with them for a time. Once everyone is satisfied, they leave the Silver Tankard and return to the alleyway to return to Scandshar. As they approach, Bosabrieln presents the desert rose and the portal opens, returning the Shields to the Sorrowfell Plains.

Once the Shields arrive back in Scandshar, they discuss what to do. Bosabrieln indicates he wishes to send a message to Vianibrar, while the others wish to look for work. As such, Bosabrieln goes to find a quiet little watering hole where he can perform the Sending ritual, while the rest of the Shields go to find Scarlet Jax in the hopes that she may have some manner of paying job for them. Bosabrieln gives the rest of the group the other sending stone in case contact is required.

Bosabrieln finds an appropriate spot and casts the ritual, sending a message that he is back in Scandshar and wishes to speak with Vianibrar. Shortly thereafter, he is approached by three figures — Scarlet Jax and two of her “boys.” She indicates that she missed his show the other night, and she asks if the offer of a copper piece for a kiss still stands. He agrees to this, although he tells her that there is no charge for her. They kiss for a little while, and Scarlet uses the opportunity to attempt to unfasten the choker from around Bosabrieln’s neck, but he notices the action and grabs her hand. She shrugs and says that one cannot blame her for trying. She then takes her leave, although before she exits, Bosabrieln invites her to the show he plans on performing tonight.

Meanwhile, the Shields of the Sorrowfell arrive at the Troll and Fish. Scarlet Jax and two of her associates are missing. They take seats and order ale. Peren addresses the large goliath at the bar, asking if Scarlet Jax is around and if there is anything that needs to be done, as the Shields are in search of work. He answers that she is not around, and they would have to wait for her to return.

After a bit of waiting, Bosabrieln receives a mental response via Sending from Vianibrar, saying, “I am in Duchy Jepson. I believe the Headmaster wishes to speak to the lot of you when you have a chance.” Bosabrieln then uses his sending stone to contact the rest of the Shields of the Sorrowfell, relaying this information.

Satisfied that they will find work elsewhere, the Shields of the Sorrowfell take their leave of the Troll and Fish and begin walking to rejoin Bosabrieln.

As Bosabrieln waits for his companions, Ekaterina enters the bar and joins him. They speak briefly about events — Ekaterina has been doing well, although she has been keeping her head down after the Shields’ business with the Menagerie of Peacocks — while waiting for the rest of the Shields to arrive.

As the Shields are walking the streets of Scandshar, a carriage pulls next to them. The door opens to reveal the Lady Léopoldine de Rais, whom Peren saved during the primero game. She says she wishes to speak with him alone, and although the Shields are wary, they agree. She agrees to drop Peren wherever they are meeting. The rest of the Shields continue to walk across town while Peren rides.

In the carriage, Lady de Rais indicates that she owes Peren her life, and not wanting to be in anyone’s debt, she offers to help him and his fellows in any way she can. She gives him a point of contact and drops him off at the inn where the rest of the Shields are meeting.

Reunited, Ekaterina is introduced to Scruffy and the group makes certain that everyone is fully aware of all the information at hand. Bosabrieln explains that the Headmaster wishes to speak with them in Duchy Jepson, implying that he has some manner of task for them. With nothing further to do in Scandshar, the group decides to leave for Duchy Jepson. Before leaving, Bosabrieln asks the barkeep to contact Scarlet Jax and let her know that his show will be relocated to Duchy Jepson.

The group transports by magic circle to Duchy Jepson. Upon arrival, they are treated as old celebrities, given ready access to whatever they need. The Shields make their way to the Wizard’s Tower to meet with the Headmaster, noting from a distance that the sailing ship hanging from the side of the tower is gone. Along the way, they are stopped by a lovely young woman with a black parasol. She indicates that Magister Remegni wishes to meet with Bezaldooz at his earliest convenience. The rest of the Shields inquire about the young woman, about whom Bezaldooz feigns ignorance, before they continue to Headmaster Jepson’s office.

When they arrive, they give greeting, and Bosabrieln presents the Headmaster with another talking gecko, this one from the ruins of Carcosa. The two creatures begin communicating, and the Headmaster seems amused. The Shields also ask about the missing ship, and the Headmaster indicates that Adeptus Spellweaver is on an errand — apparently, there is some manner of transplanar slave trade perpetrated by the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. It stretches to Rockulon Prime, and the Shields’ acquaintence Dr. Dagger Nazareth was apparently helping Spellweaver reach the place.

The Headmaster is also introduced to Scruffy, and seems to examine him for a long while.

With pleasantries out of the way, the Headmaster gets down to cases. He explains that giants have been sighted in distant settlements in the Hoarfrost Ridge. They appear to be mobilizing en masse. Reports even suggest that some distant settlements have been attacked. The Duchess Jepson and the Wizard’s Tower have no particular reward in mind for getting to the bottom of these events, but aiding the inhabitants of the Sorrowfell Plains will no doubt bring its own reward. Also, salvage rights are a distinct possibility.

During the conversation, Bezaldooz attempts to sneak away to visit with Magister Remegni, but is spotted as the rest of the Shields wish to know what he is doing. He explains to the Headmaster that he has business with Magister Remegni, but says he will stay.

With the Shields agreeing to this endeavor, they say they will probably start investigating on the morrow. Bosabrieln, however, has plans to put on a grand spectacle that evening. The Headmaster recommends the Addled Alchemist as a potential spot, and since Bosabrieln is looking for thespians, he recommends inquiring with gnome illusionist Boovdoc Thespianoratory with the Wizard’s Tower.

With their discussions ended, the Shields go to the Addled Alchemist to acquire rooms and make their preparations. Afterward, Bezaldooz goes to speak with Magister Remegni.

When Bezaldooz knocks on the door, it opens and Bezaldooz shuffles within. Bent over a desk is the severe frame of Magister Remegni. He greets Bezaldooz as the door closes behind him. Remegni proceeds to explain, in a somewhat roundabout way, that he sent initial contact with the Lady Jansaadi Claasen — the mysterious woman of Bezaldooz’s acquaintance — in the hopes of recruiting him. As the bounds of mortal life are not enough to achieve Mastery of the Art, Remegni sought another path — vampirism. Remegni indicates that he recruited Bezaldooz not just for his keen mind but for his sojourning ways. As it is inevitable that the Wizard’s Tower will eventually learn of this duplicity, Remegni hopes to find another property where he and his students may continue their magical research. If Bezaldooz is able to find an appropriate site, he will be rewarded.

Bezaldooz, for his part, is amenable to the idea of searching for a base for Remegni and his ilk. He agrees, and says he will do the best he can.

Meanwhile, Peren, Torinn, and Valna find respite at the Addled Alchemist. Scruffy, for his part, starts cleaning the common room as if he works there. While they rest, Bosabrieln goes and finds Vianibrar, also staying at the Addled Alchemist. Bosabrieln reveals that he has been wondering about his past — who was his mother and why did Vianibrar choose him as a student? Vianibrar reveals that, a long time ago, he traveled with Bosabrieln’s father, Arhuil. Arhuil went through an iconoclastic phase, as some elves do from time to time. Arhuil and Vianibrar found themselves in Scandshar, and Arhuil had a fling with a local harlot by the name of Amandine Fenn. When Arhuil learned that she was with child, this amused him as a way to thumb his nose at those in Nainimdul. Amandine died in childbirth, and as Arhuil insisted upon keeping the child, Vianibrar requested that he be able to take over the child’s education as recompense for his part in these events. Arhuil agreed, likely expecting Vianibrar to never collect.

Bosabrieln is shocked to learn that his meeting with Vianibrar when he was young was not just subject to chance. Vianibrar further explains that none of it was left to chance — he saw the heavy signs of fate around the boy, and hoped to help the boy along. He admits that he was motivated, in part, by previous dealings with the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks — their sudden rise to power was unnatural, and he is certain they have fell designs for the Sorrowfell Plains. He hoped to not only train the next generation of bard, but to forge someone capable of confronting them. He also subtly manipulated events around the rest of the Shields to bring them together, although he apparently had nothing to do with Bezaldooz, who arrived by happy accident.

Bosabrieln asks about his mother, and Vianibrar says that she worked at a brothel called the Sisterhood of Sharess. Despite the name, it is not a temple of sacred prostitutes, but a high-class brothel. He indicates it still exists, at least when last he heard.

Despite learning that he was manipulated, Bosabrieln is pleased, as his potent destiny suggests that he may achieve even the loftiest of goals. He even notes to Vianibrar that Vianibrar may well be the consort of a deity some day.

Bosabrieln also takes the opportunity to ask about where Vianibrar got the participants in his charade in the primero game back in Scandshar. Vianibrar notes that the retinue of “Princess Jawahir al-Taqiyya” is merely composed of local prostitutes and rentboys — Vianibrar has gathered a network of contacts in his long life. He recommends doing the same, or hiring actors, or whatever he might need for his designs.

Satisfied, Bosabrieln decides to spend some time with Vianibrar. He then takes his leave and makes arrangements with the proprietors of the Addled Alchemist to host a show that evening. They begin preparations, including building a makeshift stage.

Bosabrieln then travels to the basement of the Wizard’s Tower to speak with Boovdoc Thespianoratory; Scruffy accompanies. Several students seem to be engaged in rehearsal for some manner of avant garde performance. The instructor, a short, frenetic, gnome woman, is directing them. Bosabrieln interrupts to introduce himself and ask for Boovdoc Thespianoratory, whom the woman reveals to be herself. After a little back-and-forth, with some interruption from Scruffy, Bosabrieln gets down to cases and reveals his request — he wishes to borrow several of the students to dress themselves in body paint and masquerade as the multicolored human natives of Carcosa. Since the alien colors of dolm, jale, and ulfire cannot be replicated, Bosabrieln will take nine students to represent Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Purple, Red, White, and Yellow humans. A tenth will require magic to appear as a transparently-skinned Bone Man. He offers to pay. She and the students agree to these terms, and begin preparations to appear with Bosabrieln later that evening.

Evening falls, and the crowd begins gathering as Bosabrieln is set to begin. Word has traveled quickly; the whole town, including the Duchess, seems to be in attendance. He creates a grand spectacle — calling the Carcosan “natives” to the stage, he begins to recount the Shields’ adventures in Carcosa before recounting other tales of their exploits in the Sorrowfell Plains. Bosabrieln segues into a description of the Shields’ battle with the white dragon Vilustuminen the White; at the climax of the tale, Bezaldooz sets off a fireworks display emulating the appearance and serpentine movements of a white dragon. Bosabrieln responds by pulling out his wand, and as he sings at the apparition, it explodes in a dazzling light display.

The crowd goes absolutely wild. The raucous performance gives way to a town-wide party. People drink and carouse, and Bosabrieln and his mentor Vianibrar are noted to retire to their rooms with the Carcosan “natives.”

The next day, everyone awakes to find the town strangely clean despite the previous evening’s festivities. When the Shields have fully gathered, they make their way to the Wizard’s Tower to speak again with Headmaster Jepson. He congratulates Bosabrieln on the previous night’s performance, saying he watched it from the Tower, and then they get down to business. The Headmaster charges them with investigating the borderlands and the foothills of the mountains for any giant activity.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell and Scruffy start heading for the mountains, passing through farmland and over dirt paths. The farmers are excited to see such celebrated heroes wandering through, and speak with them briefly as they pass. As they approach some of the forests, they see smoke rising in the distance. They start approaching, and see that the smoke is originating from a clearing in the forest. A huge boulder blocks the view of the ground, but the trees in this area appear to be on fire, generating intense heat despite not being consumed by the flames. Scruffy scales the rock and surveys, seeing several creatures amidst the flaming trees. Three creatures appear to be large beings of living flame, accompanied by two large creatures of moving rock. A man-sized humanoid, clad in armor and wreathed in flame, is with them. Five man-sized motes of flame antagonize a large, leonine humanoid; the creature appears to be clutching a scroll to its chest. It is wounded and is weakly attempting to fight against the creatures.

Battle is joined. Peren moves around the side of the large rock and is intercepted by the flaming, armored humanoid. The rest of the Shields, determining that they likely ought to help the enormous leonine humanoid, send Bezaldooz around the other side of the rock, prompting him to use the portal gun he retrieved on the Sentinel to open gateways on both sides of the battlefield. Torinn and Valna leap through the gateway, joining the leonine humanoid in its desperate battle against the fiery motes. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln, meanwhile, use their magics to antagonize the fire and earth creatures while Scruffy jumps down from the rock to engage them in melee.

As the fire creatures begin setting more of the meadow ablaze, Peren manages to defeat the fiery humanoid as the lion-thing, Torinn, and Valna destroy the flaming motes. Sufficiently freed, they turn their attention to the other elementals. Although potent, the elementals cannot withstand the combined onslaught of seven combatants and fall one by one.

Once the creatures are slain, the fires throughout the wood dissipate, returning the forest to normal. The creature introduces itself as Rrowthar, a creature known as a “Torrian” from the city of Argent. When asked how the Torrian came to fight these elementals, it explains that it was attacked while seeking the Shields of the Sorrowfell. It then gives the Shields one of its scrolls, reading:

Stand forth and be recognized! The invitation has been given, the choice has been made!
As heroes of your realm and warriors without equal, you have been chosen for the singular honor of serving the great and ancient city of Argent and becoming a champion of all that civilization encompasses. The ritual scroll provided will take you to Argent, and to your destiny.
A new threat gathers, and it has been too long since new champions last walked Argent’s hallowed streets. The borderlands stretch thin, and the world stands defenseless. An ancient tradition has been set aside so that this call could go out.
Accept this honor, this duty, this privilege beyond measure. Argent needs you. The world needs you. Do not allow the foundation to fall.
— Obanar, Last Guardian of Argent

The other scroll is apparently a portal ritual allowing the Shields to access the city of Argent. Unlike most gate circles, Argent is accessible anywhere in the multiverse. Rrowthar proceeds to explain that its master, Obanar, wishes to meet with them. The Torrian knows little of Obanar’s wishes, only telling them that the city is mostly abandoned now, with the other Torrians scattered. He advises them to move quickly.

As they proceed to arrange themselves and use the gate ritual, Scruffy takes his leave to clean the forest damaged in their battle.

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The Tatters of the King, Part 4

Earthday, Harvester 20, 552 CY (50 AN)

Having recuperated after the harrowing fight with the constructs, the Shields of the Sorrowfell decide to enter the next room. Peren scouts ahead; hearing five creatures within the room, he opens the door. Amidst the junk of this room are several broken tubes, each leaking a pale-colored mist. A rime of ice has formed on the surfaces within the mist. Amidst this are several ooze-like creatures — four red amoeboids, covered in compound eyes and sucks, and one, translucent, protoplasmic entity. Seeing these plasmic entities, he decides to rush into the room. Torinn quickly joins him, and the two warriors go to work attempting to hack apart the amoeboid creatures. Peren quickly disables one of their number and withdraws as Torinn is surrounded by the things. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna position themselves at the door to cast magics from the relative safety of the doorway.

As Valna reenters the room to engage the oozes, Peren leaps back into the fray as all five of the things surround Torinn at his urging. Undaunted, he continues to cleave into the creatures with his axe while Peren harries them with his blades and the rest of the group menaces them with spells and prayers. Despite the strange psychic aura of menace the amoeboids seem to project, the battle is over quickly, with all five creatures collapsing in swiftly-melting puddles at the Shields’ feet.

As the Shields rest, Bosabrieln is about to contact the Mourners of Saerun Road on the Sending Stone when he finds that the Mourners’ cleric, Wilkul, is attempting to hail the Shields on the stone. Bosabrieln gives greeting, and Wilkul quickly explains that he has made some manner of pact with a tribe of green men. They are running salvage here, although they appear to come from a lower level. Their leader, Cathorso, indicates that they answer to a leader by the name of the Traveler of Roads Untrod. Cathorso has further requested that all the travelers come to meet with the Traveler, who has come to the top level. Wilkul explains that the green men seem trustworthy, although he does not know what they will do when they reunite with their master. He briefly describes their capabilities — they fight with spears, mostly, although the leader also uses a shortbow. He says they have time to decide, but when they contact him again, he will be in the presence of the green men.

The Shields briefly discuss and say they will accompany the Mourners to meet the Traveler of Roads Untrod. Bosabrieln contacts Wilkul again and states their intentions. They all decide to meet at the central column in the middle of this level of the dungeon.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell, the Mourners of the Saerun Road, and Cathorso and his tribesmen all meet in the middle of the ship. After brief introductions are made, Cathorso and his men lead the Shields to one of the rooms the Shields have yet to investigate. He opens the door and reveals four humanoids and a large, black, blob-like creature. Some of the Shields note its similarity to a black pudding as they enter.

Cathorso and his six hunters move to the other side of the room. As he passes one of the four green men in the room — a strange man with stringy hair, rotten teeth, a white monocle, and a patchwork hide coat — he passes something to him and then activates a small drone which buzzes around his head.

The man in the monocle and patchwork coat steps forward, revealing himself as the Traveler of Roads Untrod. Bosabrieln parlays with him, and the Traveler swiftly reveals his goal to use the outlanders as sacrifices in his sorcerous experiments. As no clear compromise presents itself, the Shields of the Sorrowfell and the Mourners of Saerun Road prepare to battle the green men of the lower depths, as well as their black ooze.

Bosabrieln chants a war rhythm while another of the Shields shouts a warning to not attack the ooze with weapons, as it will likely split into smaller segments like a black pudding. Magic should be safe.

Quickly, battle is joined. Prulove Soundinghorn of the Mourners casts some glamour that prompts several of the hunters to rush to the far corner of the room, searching for gold that does not exist. She keeps them in place with eldritch illusions, keeping several of the enemy combatants engaged and out of the fight. Torinn and the Mourners’ Quotumal Goldheart, both dragonborn, move to engage the Traveler — as Torinn knocks him to the ground, he shouts to his associates to cover his escape and activates a small, metallic pack at his belt. He disappears.

Peren briefly engages Cathorso before returning to the other side of the battlefield. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln, as well as Norros Babausong, the Mourners’ tiefling warlock, primarily focus on the ooze. At the same time, Indrak Kingpost, the Mourners’ assassin, engages some of the cultists. As Cathorso takes shots with his arcane technologies, he is quickly dispatched by the might of the group. Although the black pudding manages to menace several of the warriors, particularly Torinn — but also including some of the green men, as it seems uncontrolled without the Traveler — the spellcasters make short work of it, causing it to dissolve into a caustic puddle of ooze. With the monster and the groups’ leaders gone, the combined might of the Shields and the Mourners make swift work of the remaining hunters and cultists. Prulove keeps several of them occupied attempting to find illusory gold, while the warriors, priests, and magic-users take care of the remaining cultists. The green men do not flee or surrender, and when finally one skull-masked cultist remains, Bosabrieln gives him the opportunity to surrender. He refuses, launching into combat despite being outnumbered ten to one. The ensuing onslaught of spells injures him before Indrak deals the killing blow.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell and the Mourners of Saerun Road search the area, scavenging a little alien technology and recovering a sack of 3,000 gp. The Mourners take the alien tech, saying that they have been quite successful in their delve; they give the sack of gold to the Shields. Both groups then rest before performing a final sweep of the last few unexplored rooms. Finding nothing, Wilkul suggests that they do one last sweep of the top level before reporting their findings; the Shields agree, and both groups find nothing remaining on the top level of Skyfall delve.

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The Tatters of the King, Part 3

Waterday, Harvester 19, 552 CY (50 AN)

The Shields of the Sorrowfell make their way through the silent halls of Skyfall Delve. They approach the next room to find the door already open, revealing the grey-skinned, bulbous-headed humanoids within. They appear to be milling about, partially engaged in reverence of the trough before them. A large tank on one side of the trough is leaking a faintly-glowing green goo and a hot, faintly-glowing sand. Bezaldooz and Torinn quickly move into the room, with Torinn engaging one of the humanoids while Bezaldooz menaces them with spells. As Peren enters the fray, the other grey-skinned humanoids rush to engage the two warriors in melee, with their leader leaping over the pit to engage. Peren’s sharp eyes swiftly determine that the trough reacts to things placed within, burning or electricuting them somehow. As Valna moves into melee and one of the creatures falls, some of the humanoids move to engage Bosabrieln and Bezaldooz. Bezaldooz’s quasit servant, Bonatos, touches the humanoid engaged with Bezaldooz, possessing it with a demon and sending it after the humanoids’ chieftain. Bosabrieln, however, is forced to hold his own against the savage, grey-skinned humanoid. Meanwhile, Peren, seeing an opportunity, shoves two of the creatures at the trough; one manages to catch itself on the edge and tumbles to the ground, shaken and injured but still in fighting condition, while the other stumbles backward into the trough. Immediately, a flash of light overtakes the creature, badly burning it. It survives and manages to escape the pit, rejoining the fight. However, it is quickly slain.

As the creatures regroup on Bosabrieln’s position, he finds himself overwhelmed, but is quickly rescued by the timely intervention of Peren, Torinn, and Valna. The assembled group quickly slays another one of the grey-skinned things and then takes down the leader. The remaining two creatures do not even have the chance to flee or surrender, as the Shields vanquish them so quickly.

After resting, the Shields move to the room next door. As they open the door, they see two large constructs. One, roughly conical in shape, hovers slightly above the floor and bristles with attachments resembling rifles as well as two tentacles. The other, a bit more domed in shape, features tentacles and wheeled treads. It appears to be sifting through garbage as the Shields approach.

The floating construct perceives the Shields first, generating a smoke screen and then launching some manner of grenade into the hallway. It detonates, sending the Shields stumbling throughout the hallway and sending Torinn cascading into the room. The construct then pulls him closer with a tractor beam, and proceeds to shoot at him with a rapid-fire beam weapon. In the chaos, Bezaldooz conjures a wall of flame skirting the wheeled construct and blasting its chassis with the extreme heat. As the Shields struggle to regain their footing after the opening assault, the second construct moves from the flames and grabs Torinn and runs him over, knocking him unconscious. As the Shields attempt to regroup, an alarmed Bosabrieln rushes into the room in an attempt to help Torinn. However, the floating construct reacts, bringing the bard closer with its tractor beam and then assaulting him with a volley of beam blasts. Bosabrieln, too, falls quickly before the savage assault. Knowing that they must save their comrades, the other Shields rush into the room. Quickly, however, their attention is divided; Peren moves to menace the floating construct, while Bezaldooz and Valna move to attack the large, wheeled construct. The thing starts attacking Bezaldooz as Valna revives Torinn, forcing the construct to deal with the renewed threat from the dragonborn. Meanwhile, Peren is faring poorly alone against the hovering construct. Valna rushes around the wall of fire and prays to heal Bosabrieln, menacing the hovering construct with spells. As Torinn moves to engage the hovering construct, Bezaldooz is left alone with the other as it begins to savage him with its tentacles. The floating construct uses its tractor beam to shove Bezaldooz into his own flames, and then the wheeled construct grabs and crushes him. He flees, but the thing pursues, sending tendrils into the hallway to grab him. He loses consciousness, and the wall of flames falls.

As the thing turns its attention to the other group, they scatter in an attempt to rally and present a less obvious target for its guns and grenades. Bosabrieln revives Bezaldooz, who finds to his surprise that Bonatos is on his way away. Bonatos congratulates him on his swift recovery, and suggests that he was going to retrieve help. Bezaldooz angrily orders him to return to him.

As the hovering construct moves within its own smokescreen, the desperate battle continues with Torinn and Valna menacing the thing. Bezaldooz manages to catch both constructs in a well-placed fireball, and finally, the combined might of the Shields sends the hovering construct crashing to the floor. Able to turn their undivided attention on the wheeled construct, they make short work of it. Exhausted, they search the wreckage and find a piece of alien technology. Then, they rest, determining that they will likely hit one more room before they must retreat and gather their strength again.

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The Tatters of the King, Part 2

Waterday, Harvester 19, 552 CY (50 AN)

Having rested following their encounter with the strange, grey-skinned humanoids of the wrecked vessel, the Shields of the Sorrowfell, the Shields move forward according to the plan discussed between the Shields and the Mourners of Saerun Road.

Upon coming to the next room, they pry open the door to find what appears to be some manner of large storage room or armory. Most of the cases are broken or empty, but a few remain. One such case, centrally located in the room, evidently holds some strange sculpture — an astrolabe made out of mummified animal parts. The case is surrounded by four wizened figures clad in robes and aged bandages. These four mummies, as they appear to be, seem somewhat surprised at the approach of the Shields.

Peren and Torinn waste no time rushing into melee with the gaunt creatures. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Valna proceed to menace them from afar with spells. As Peren and Torinn severely wound the mummies, Bezaldooz sends his quasit, Bono, to attack the mummies. Bono touches one and channels a demon into it. The possessed mummy rushes forth and attacks the mummified astrolabe. A surge of energy erupts from it as a portal opens above, saturating the area with falling meteors. Both the possessed mummy and Bono die in the blaze, and though Peren and Torinn are similarly caught in the rain of falling stars, they manage to evade the brunt of it. The other three mummies, however, are injured by the assault.

The fight quickly draws to its inevitable conclusion afterward. Although defended by weapons and potent psychic powers, the mummies fall one by one until the Shields of the Sorrowfell finally kill their priest.

The Shields proceed to investigate the area, finding a few remnants that have not been destroyed or looted. They manage to find a pair of gauntlets, and lightweight set of strange armor, and two different firearms. All four items utilize the strange technology of the wrecked hulk in which they find themselves. Satisfied, the Shields of the Sorrowfell rest. Bezaldooz summons Bono again during the lull.

As they prepare to investigate the rest of the ship, there is a faint rumbling underfoot. It grows closer, more insistent, as it seems an earthquake is building. Finally, the floor trembles and bursts forth, as a huge worm erupts from the far side of the room. The beast bears a color the Shields have never before witnessed, appearing to them as a wild, clashing morass painted across the worm in a solid color — some strange and unsettling blend of green, red, blue, and purple, combined into an unholy whole.

As the Shields prepare themselves, Bosabrieln notes that the beast bears a superficial resemblance to the dreaded purple worm of the Underdark from their home world. Like the purple worm, it appears capable of eating just about anything, and it bears a poisonous stinger on its posterior.

While Bosabrieln and Bezaldooz stay well out of harm’s way, Peren and Torinn are forced to enter into melee with the hungry beast. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln manage to keep it relatively immobilized with spells, preventing it from moving while allowing Peren and Torinn to stay mobile around it.

As they hack at the beast, it shudders its massive bulk at them, occasionally finding purchase and knocking them aside. It lashes out with its hungry maw and poisonous stinger, although it is less successful. Peren and Torinn manage to maneuver just beyond its reach, at least until it slams its maw on the spot where Torinn stands. Its head whips back, revealing that it has swallowed him whole.

Despite the loss of Torinn, the group fights onward, noting moments later that the great worm is being electrocuted from within — evidence that Torinn still lives. Within a few more seconds, the beast vomits him back onto the field, apparently having found him somehow unsavory.

Despite the beast’s formidable size and strength, the combined onslaught of weapons and sorceries finally brings the beast low, causing it to teeter precipitously on the edge of the pit it formed before finally falling back into a lower deck on the ship.

The group is swiftly contacted by Wilkul Chorster of the Mourners by way of their Sending Stone. He asks if they are all well, as he just felt a rather large earthquake. Bosabrieln explains that all is well — a great worm erupted from the depths, but the Shields managed to dispatch it. Peren also asks, largely out of curiosity for he and his friends’ bet, how the Mourners fair — they indicate that all is well with their group, and they have primarily encountered the strange, bulbous-headed, grey-skinned men that seem to inhabit these ruins, as well as a group of ooze-like creatures.

Satisfied, the Shields indicate they will likely rest after investigating another room or so, and the Mourners indicate that this sounds like a good idea. After deactivating the Sending Stone, the Shields decide to briefly rest before continuing their investigation of the bizarre ruin of Skyfall.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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