Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

In Our Dry Cellar, Part 3

Godsday, Harvester 11, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Our Dry Cellar, Part 2

Godsday, Harvester 11, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Our Dry Cellar, Part 1

Godsday, Goodmonth 11, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 8

Waterday, Goodmonth 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

All told, the procedure takes about fifteen seconds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 7

Waterday, Goodmonth 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 6

Godsday, Goodmonth 4, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He deigns to remain silent on the matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 5

Godsday, Goodmonth 4, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 4

Moonday, Goodmonth 3, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 3

Sunday, Goodmonth 2, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expedition to the Black Moor, Part 2

Starday, Goodmonth 1, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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