Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 7

Starday, Richfest 1, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn awaken and breakfast before meeting Captain Kalaes at the Citadel. Confident in their preparations, they head to the Citadel. He asks if there are any further developments to report, and they indicate that nothing further has transpired since yesterday. He then reminds them of their mission and leads them to the merchant caravan awaiting their departure.

The journey is uneventful. After a week traveling with the caravan, the group finds themselves in Vonseloth on Reaping 1, the following Starday. Having no business in Vonseloth and needing no further supplies, the group sets out on foot to Graywall.

The trek is a hard one, taxing to the group, though they manage to persevere. On the second day of their walk, they find the road running next to a sheer cliff face, looming about twenty feet above them. As they walk, they hear voices ahead, hidden around a bend in the cliff. They quietly creep and find a group of three men, dressed as hunters, interrogating a bound goblin in the roadway. Peren notices that two others hide in a thicket atop the cliff, and that they wear brooches bearing the mark of the Broken Chain. Informing the others, they quickly develop a battle plan and move. Torinn and Peren immediately set upon the Broken Chain cultists while Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Emma launch spells upon the cultists. Bosabrieln requests that one is left alive.

The cultists on the ground enter into the melee with their swords while the cultists atop the cliff fire arrows upon the mercenaries on the ground. On contact, a glass vial on these arrows shatters and releases a blazing blast of alchemical fire upon the party members. Nevertheless, they quickly dispatch the foes on the ground.

Turning their attention to the cultists on the cliff, Bosabrieln attempts to force one to blunder off the edge of the cliff, though he manages to catch himself on the edge before he falls. Bezaldooz keeps him pinned with a bolt of energy, though the cultist regains his footing and the two fanatics return fire with another volley of exploding arrows. Torinn then quickly scales the cliff face and charges at the man, kicking him off the side of the cliff. He lands painfully after the twenty-foot drop, and is knocked unconscious shortly thereafter. Peren scales the cliff after him, and with the aid of Torinn, the two keep the last cultist busy while Bezaldooz dispatches him with another bolt of arcane energy.

After searching the fallen cultists — the group finds 180 gold pieces as well as several arrows, both mundane and alchemically-treated — the group binds the surviving cultist with rope, rests for a moment, and sees to the goblin. After he is untied, Emma prays over him, healing his wounds. Speaking very little, he says only that his name is Govaan and that he is a mercenary returning to Vonseloth after a pilgrimage to the goblin monuments of Six Kings. He was captured by these hunters and interrogated, though he does not know what they were seeking. After everyone introduces themselves — and he remarks that Bosabrieln’s surname of Zivkovic as a Vistani surname — he thanks them and takes his leave, giving them a silver necklace as thanks. As she often does to travelers, Emma gives him a hug before he leaves, and she follows it with a kiss on the cheek. Somewhat confused and embarassed, he thanks the group again and takes to the road. The group then turns their attention to the battered cultist.

Peren slaps the cultist in an attempt to awaken him, and Bosabrieln decides to greet him. Standing over him menacingly, Bosabrieln learns through his questions that the cultists worked for Demise and a man named Captain Warrick — some members of the group recall him as a guardsman in Scandshar who was found to be a member of the Broken Chain, and so fled to parts unknown. Demise ordered the cultists to not interfere with those seeking the Ashen Crown, though Captain Warrick disagrees with her. The cultists were not expecting the group and did not mean to interfere with them. Peren and Emma ask if he will renounce the Broken Chain, and though he says he will, they can tell he is lying. Bosabrieln ultimately says that the man can go if he will take a gift — a journal and a quill — and promise to write in it. The man sheepishly agrees, and once he is untied, he hesitates for a moment before running. The rest of the group continues moving to the northwest.

On the third day, the group finds a razed village, though they determine this to be the work of raiders rather than Broken Chain cultists. They find nothing of value and cannot determine any useful clues from the remnants, only that the raiders are likely still about.

After all the clues of the third day, they note horns in the distance. After traveling for a time, they notice smoke from an encampment. Moving quietly along the trail, they come across a lone gnoll sentry armed with an axe and a bow. He guards a nearby camp with some other humanoids gathered around a fire. The group dispenses with talking and ambushes the sentry. However, another gnoll — robed and brandishing some sort of holy symbol — warns the group to surrender and their lives will be spared. He then unleashes some guttural chant and Peren, who initiated the attack upon the sentry, suffers blinding pain as his flesh starts to peel. Heedless of this threat, battle is joined. The gnoll sentry is swiftly defeated as two orcs from the camp launch themselves into the fray. A large, black shape moves from the camp and takes cover behind a rock, though the group does not get a good look at it. The group manages to force the gnoll priest to retreat, focusing their attention on the orcs. However, as the weakened orcs fall, the gnoll priest returns with the thing that took cover — a barbaric minotaur in scale mail, armed with an axe. The weakened and battered gnoll priest is swiftly defeated by Peren, leaving only the minotaur. As it is locked in combat with Torinn, the others hold it in place with their magics. Emma calls holy fire upon it as Peren returns to the group. Among the five, the minotaur is swiftly defeated. After resting and recovering a sizable collection of gold and jewelery, the group returns to the road.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 6

Earthday, Wealsun 27, 552 CY (50 AN)

Upon awakening the following day, the group waits until it is time for their meeting with Professor Nephret. Peren and Torinn hang out in the tavern, while Bosabrieln and Emma peruse the market. Bezaldooz eventually makes his way to the market after Torinn knocks his breakfast off the table, and the gnome is the only one who makes a purchase: a riding dog for a bargain 50 gold pieces.

As early afternoon approaches, the group reconvenes and makes their way to meet Professor Nephret. They arrive again on the campus of Morgrave University and arrive at Professor Nephret’s apartment. They are greeted by her, and introduced to two elves the Aereni tribe — Lady Dannae Ylyan and her servant Jaenus. Peren recognizes the Aereni as a tribe of elves who study death and funerary traditions.

The group sits down to tea and scones — though only Bosabrieln and Bezaldooz partake, as do Professor Nephret, Lady Dannae, and Jaenus — and discusses their findings. Bosabrieln retells the tale of their descent into Ashurta’s tomb, while Professor Nephret and Lady Dannae explain a little more about the Ashen Crown. The artifact was originally forged by the elves, but the goblins adopted it for themselves and added another component — Ashurta’s Blade. When Karruuk’s Circlet, Ashurta’s Blade, Zaarani’s Solitaire, Murkoorak’s Orb, and Lurtaan’s Cord are joined through the Rite of Arkantaash, they form the Ashen Crown, which gives power over death. The Rite of Arkantaash is taught by the Crown itself; meditating upon the components in a sacred space can convey the ritual.

When questioned, Lady Dannae explains her interest based upon its elven history and her interest in death artifacts. She asks if she may see Ashurta’s Blade, and after examining it, she offers Peren 3,000 gold pieces for it, which he declines. Shortly thereafter, Lady Dannae and Jaenus take their leave. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn similarly take their leave shortly thereafter.

After Peren explains about the Aereni elves, the group decides that something is not right with Lady Dannae. They decide to speak with Captain Kalaes at the Citadel tomorrow to inform him about the presence of another faction seeking the Ashen Crown. They spend the rest of the afternoon seeking information. Bezaldooz finds no further information on the Ashen Crown at Morgrave University; it appears that the group is fairly well-informed. Torinn asks around and hears only good things about Captain Kalaes; though many consider the nobles somewhat decadent and corrupt, Captain Kalaes is universally respected and is considered trustworthy. Bosabrieln, Emma, and Peren ask for information regarding Lady Dannae, and determine that she is an elf noble with the Ulyan family. She is exceedingly wealthy, though she travels often as part of her research into the nature of death. She has also hired explorers and academics to aid in her research. However, as they ask around a bit more, they learn that she is not actually a member of the Ulyan noble house. She and her servant Jaenus are part of a death cult, and she is known by the magical name Demise. She is also known by the alias Dreus Matrand in some circles, indicating she is the patron who hired orc mercenaries to find the Slaying Stone in the ruins of Kiris Dahn. She has ties to the Broken Chain, though she is not actually a member of the group. After the group informs each other of these revelations, they decide that they must speak with Captain Kalaes the following day. They then spend the rest of the afternoon hanging about the Rusty Razor in preparation for their meeting tomorrow and their sojourn the following day.

The next day, they awaken and breakfast before traveling to the Citadel. Along the way, they are met by a messenger who leaves a package for them, courtesy of Professor Nephret; Bosabrieln opens it to find a key and a letter. The letter reads:


I’ve made a terrible mistake. Lady Dannae Ulyan is, I fear, not who she claims to be. She could be a threat to even those as resourceful as you. I’m afraid for my own safety, so I’ll be leaving Sorgforge tomorrow if possible.

Before I go, I want you to have copies of all my notes and tell you all I know. I’ll be spending the day preparing for my departure. Please meet me tonight, at 8 bells, at my apartment, Shava House 19. We’ll talk more then.

The attached key is to a wall panel hidden behind my bed’s headboard. I’ll keep what I mean to give you there until I meet you again. Use the key if something goes wrong. If I haven’t seen you before I leave, I’ll try to get the information to you somehow.

Gydd Nephret

After discussing this turn of events, the group decides to continue to the Citadel and try to meet with Professor Nephret afterward.

The group arrives at the Citadel and states their business; within twenty minutes, they have an audience with Captain Kalaes. They explain Lady Dannae’s interest and what they have learned about her; Captain Kalaes seems troubled, and says their claims are extraordinary, but he thanks them for informing him. He tells them to be aware of any further claimants to the Ashen Crown before dismissing them.

As the clouds gather and the rain starts heavily, the group makes their way to Shava House to check on Professor Nephret and make certain she is well. Finding her door ajar, they draw weapons, assuming battle formations, and enter. As they move into the apartment, they notice that it is in a state of disarray. Lady Dannae steps from a doorway, though before she can speak, the group realizes that her form is an illusion, hiding an undead monstrosity underneath; they decide to immediately attack. As they flinch to do so, two animated corpses with leathery wings grafted to their sides swoop down from the balcony to attack; soon, the battle is joined by three more shambling corpses. With the group pinned down by the grasping, biting undead, they are unable to move forward and confront the Dannae-thing. It strikes them with fear as it reveals its horrible, rotting visage, but the group still fights. When one of the corpses is finally felled, Peren leaps through the fray to confront the Dannae-thing. This allows Emma to finally enter the apartment and call upon Pelor to scourge the undead, forcing them to flee. They do so, and as they are stunned by holy power, the party redoubles their efforts. The Dannae-thing quickly falls, followed by the remaining undead creatures.

After taking a moment to rest after the ordeal, Bosabrieln goes to Professor Nephret’s bedroom to look for the hidden wall panel. He finds it and unlocks the panel with the key from the package. The cache contains a stack of notes about the Ashen Crown, as well as a hastily-scrawled note reiterating that Lady Dannae and Jaenus are members of a death-cult known as the Skullborn; elves who practice necromancy in the pursuit of immortality. The rest of the group searches the main area, finding signs of struggle although it is obvious that the area was hastily cleaned afterward to make the struggle less obvious. Peren also finds a crumpled piece of paper reading, “Dannae is Demise. Why Broken Chain?”

Their search of the building complete, the group leaves and finds a guardsman. They inform him of their findings, and he walks through the rain in search of other guardsmen. They return and immediately secure the apartment. The group explains their business with Captain Kalaes, and that they wish to report this matter to him; they are escorted by two guardsmen who help transport the body of the Dannae-thing to the Citadel.

Upon arriving at the Citadel, they again wait for an audience with Captain Kalaes. Arriving from a meeting with other officers, they briefly explain about the body of the Dannae-thing, which he examines before taking them back to the meeting room. They explain about going to Professor Nephret’s house and finding her missing, with her apartment filled with undead waiting in ambush. He again admonishes them to be careful, and that he will see what he can do in the meantime. He further indicates that he will see them the following day before they leave.

After they are dismissed and leave the Citadel, the group decides there is nothing further to do, so they everyone spends the rest of the afternoon in preparation for tomorrow’s journey.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 5

Moonday, Wealsun 24, 552 CY (50 AN)

After gathering themselves following the last kruthik assault, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn investigate the chamber and determine that the egg chamber lies down the tunnel adjacent to the tunnel they entered. They establish an order and start moving.

After stooping and crawling through tunnels, they come to another open chamber. This chamber is filled with slime and kruthik eggs, as well as the skittering of tiny kruthiks. They note that something shiny hangs off a mucus sheet, and several adult kruthiks are hiding in the chamber. As Torinn steps into the doorway, the creatures rush forward to attack.

Only one makes it close enough to attack Torinn, but it manages to block the party in the entryway. Despite the swarms of kruthiks before them, Torinn manages to clear a path, and both he and Peren make their way into the chamber to confront the hive lord. Bezeldooz, Bosabrieln, and Emma hang back to provide support.

The battle is unexpectedly brief. Most of the smaller kruthiks are quickly destroyed, but the hive lord and a flying kruthik remain, as does a swarm of small kruthiks. As they focus their attentions on Torinn, the others manage to use the distraction to their advantage, handily ending the kruthik threat. The group then makes its way through the chamber, destroying all the eggs they find, but keeping one so that Bezaldooz can deliver it to the university. They also find a small, protective talisman — the shiny object hanging from a mucus sheet — as well as a torn pouch containing two healing points as well as 2 gold pieces and 38 silver pieces.

Convinced that they likely ended the kruthik threat and found all that was valuable in the tomb complex, the group moves through the kruthik tunnels until finding the entrance chamber. As they move to leave, however, they hear quiet voices ahead.

Peren scouts ahead to peek into the crumbling basement which intersects with the tomb. He sees five hobgoblins — four in leather armor armed with shields and longswords, and the fifth in scale armor and armed with shield and spear. Three, including the spear-fighter — who appears to be the leader — ride on bipedal, reptilian creatures recognizable as Clawfoot mounts.

Peren retreats to notify the other party members of the group, and after contemplating trying to find another exit, they decide to confront their foes.

The strike is sudden and decisive. As the group fans out in the room, they hammer the hobgoblins. Several die within seconds, and one of the Clawfoots is similarly killed in the melee. The boss turns to retreat, and a second (now riderless) Clawfoot turns to run with the pack. Peren charges in pursuit, hoping to capture a live Clawfoot to use or sell. The rest of the group follows and a well-placed magic missile, courtesy of Bezeldooz, kills the hobgoblin leader. However, attached as he is to the stirrups and saddle of his Clawfoot mount, his lifeless body is dragged out of the building as the Clawfoot runs away. The second, riderless Clawfoot is successfully knocked unconscious and captured alive. Bosabrieln attempts to calm it as it awakens, but it tries to attack him and the group is forced to knock it unconscious again.

The battered, dirty, slimy group drags their unconscious Clawfoot around in an attempt to appraise it. Asking around, they learn that a Clawfoot can fetch 680 gold pieces, and they determine the location of a stable that deals in Clawfoots. Bosabrieln returns to the inn so that he may bathe before the meeting, while the others wait to deliver the Clawfoot.

The group meets at the stables and Bosabrieln explains the situation to the Stable Master, offering to sell the Clawfoot. The man says that it is injured and obviously somewhat vicious; given the work he would have to do to make it sellable, he’s only offering 50 gold pieces for it. Bosabrieln talks him up to 60 gold, and the group accepts the deal.

Returning to the Rusty Razor inn, the group goes to clean up and rest while Bosabrieln regales the inn with tales of their adventures in the tomb complex. Everyone in the tavern is suitably impressed, and the barkeep offers them the day’s room and board for free.

The group then spends the rest of the afternoon drinking in the tavern, along with some gambling and general merriment.

The next day, the group awakens and goes downstairs to the tavern for breakfast. While discussing what they should do now that they don’t have any gainful employment, a messenger — likely a college student, by the look of him — arrives, looking for them. He indicates that a professor with Morgrave University, a woman by the name of Professor Gydd Nephret, would like to talk to the adventurers about the recently-discovered goblin tomb. They agree to meet her later, and send the student on his way.

A little later in the day, the group travels to the Morgrave University campus to find Professor Nephret. After asking around, they find her in a plaza near Shava House, the campus dormitories. A charming, bubbly, young half-elf, Professor Nephret introduces herself and introductions are made all around. She expresses scholarly interest in their findings in the goblin tomb. They explain what they found — that the tomb was dedicated to someone named Ashurta, that the complex was honeycombed with kruthik tunnels, and that it was guarded primarily by undead. Professor Nephret explains that Ashurta was one of the great goblin warchiefs in this region, long ago — probably just after the Dawn War, on the edge of prehistory. Ashurta, along with Karruuk, Lurtaan, Mukoorak, and Zaarani, controlled pieces of a legendary artifact called the Ashen Crown. She also explains that the journal they found appears recent — Bosabrieln explains the goblin corpses and how it appeared that there was a recent battle. Professor Nephret asks if she may keep the journal, which the group allows, and she further asks if she may examine the sword Peren carries. He agrees, though when she asks, he does not let her keep it. She finishes by asking if they may meet in two days so they can further discuss this discovery and her findings; the group sets a meeting for her apartment at Shava House, and they part ways.

The group spends the rest of day resting for the first time in a little while. Bezeldooz takes some time to research gnomes at the campus library, though he does not really find anything he did not already know. Bosabrieln similarly returns to campus, though in his case, he plays some music for the students and spends the night at Shava House with a young boy he meets.

The next day, the group notes that Bosabrieln did not return to the inn last night, and speculate on the matter as a rather out-of-place man of military bearing enters. He salutes and indicates he is a representative of the Citadel. He presents an official document and says that Captain Saj Kalaes wishes to meet with them later in the day, around the third watch. The group agrees, and the man directs them to the Citadel, indicating that they should also inform their fifth member of the development. He bows and leaves.

The group considers this development, and when Bosabrieln enters, they ask what he has done. He indicates he has done nothing to draw Citadel attention, so what have they done. However, they ultimately determine the meeting would have likely gone differently if they were in trouble.

Finally, they make their way to the Citadel in the afternoon. They are greeted by a gnomish clerk, who checks their appointment and summons Captain Kalaes. After a bit of waiting, Captain Kalaes enters, an older man with a facial scar and military bearing. He summons them to a meeting room and invites everyone to sit.

He explains that no one is in trouble, that he merely wishes to discuss their findings in the goblin tomb complex — namely, the artifact they found. That sword is part of an artifact known as the Ashen Crown, and it is being sought by a goblin faction known as the Wordbearers. Unlike the tribal goblins on the plains, the northern goblins are vaguely organized, forming the city-states of Darguun. However, they are torn by factionality; the Citadel and the noble houses of Sorgforge hope to stabilize the situation by throwing their support behind the Wordbearers, as the Wordbearers are the most moderate faction of goblins. If their rule is legitimized, Darguun may become a more civilized place. However, before this can occur, the Wordbearer’s rule must be legitimized. To this end, they are seeking the Ashen Crown; as an artifact of the ancient goblin empire of Dhakaan, it establishes a connection to the goblin kings of old. The Wordbearers are seeking the components of this artifact. He also explains that there is no payment; service is its own reward, but a boon from the noble houses of Sorgforge can have certain benefits. He then says that he will refrain from explaining more until the group decides if they want the job. He leaves them to discuss.

After a bit, he returns, and the group has decided to accept the job. He explains that the Wordbearers know the group has the artifact, but they figure they can collect Ashurta’s Blade once they have the other components. Presently, they are headed to the goblin monument of Six Kings, near the city of Greywald, hoping to seek two of the components that rest there. The group is to offer their aid in recovering one of the artifacts, though they are not to reveal their allegiance to the Citadel. They may develop whatever cover story they wish. The Captain also explains that they know all this from an agent on the inside, a doppelganger named Tikulti. He indicates that they will travel by merchant caravan to Vonseloth, and then cover the rest on foot. The caravan leaves in three days, and the Citadel can cover the costs of any equipment they need before the mission. The group agrees to meet back at the Citadel in three days.

As the group leaves, Bezeldooz takes the opportunity to speak to the gnome at the front desk. He learns that the gnome lived in Vonseloth before moving to Sorgforge and joining the city-state’s military.

The group then rests for the rest of the day, considering what to do next and what they may possibly discuss at the following day’s meeting with Professor Nephret. As night draws near, the group decides to make friends among the local bar patrons. Peren and Torinn go to bed alone, though Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln both find partners for the evening. Emma, in typical fashion, does likewise — though rather than carnal pursuits, she manages to convince a new friend for an impromptu sleepover.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 4

Sunday, Wealsun 23, 552 CY (50 AN)

After the harrowing experience, the group takes a second to rest on the stairs before pushing open the door to investigate the next room. Inside, they find a room lined with alcoves. The center of the room features a grate set into the floor. At each corner of the grate sits a statue of a weird, catlike entity with six legs and two tentacles emerging from its back. Water falls from the ceiling into the grate — apparently caused by erosion rather than any natural feature of the tomb complex. Standing atop the grate are three figures, one humanoid and two bipedal, reptilian things. The group astutely notes that they are undead, and additionally notes that they are hard to see not because of the water, but because of a distortion effect from the statues around them. They also note that they have been seen, but that the rotting things in the water have not moved to them. Additionally, the group notes that three of the remains in the alcoves are moving slightly.

Bosabrieln tries to parley with them, and when that yields nothing, the group decides to move. Peren moves toward the door, opens it, sees a hallway, and realizing that he doesn’t know what comes next, closes the door and returns to his position. Torinn moves along the same path, but is interrupted when the undead creatures rush at him. The humanoid, an undead hobgoblin, throws globs of its own flesh as the reptiles move in to bite. Small pieces from the remains in three of the alcoves move into the room, and a kruthik flies down from the ceiling.

As the battle is joined, the crawling pieces of flesh from the alcoves are quickly dispatched, followed by the reptilian undead. The kruthik manages to claw and bite Torinn until he loses consciousness, and attempts to drag him away to feed. However, between Bosabrieln and Emma, he is revived and the kruthik is destroyed. Overwhelmed, the undead hobgoblin falls last. The group finds nothing of value in this room, but the group determines that the four statues are depowered. Since their eyes appear to be made of amethyst, they remove the stones before going further.

The group moves through the hallway to the next room. In it, they find four doors, two alcoves with sarcophagi surrounded by bone piles, and a central stone cauldron. The cauldron is enormous, being roughly 10 feet across, and firmly attached to the floor. It is filled with bubbling, agitated blood.

The group moves to investigate the room. As they do, Bezaldooz investigates the cauldron. He notes that runes around the cauldron read, “The blood of my enemies slakes my thirst and that of my servants and sword siblings, now and for all time.” When he explains this to the group, one of their number recalls that goblins sometimes drink blood to celebrate victory, and “sword sibling” should mean “honored ally.” As the others move to the alcoves, Bezaldooz moves to the cauldron, and finds he has the most irrational desire to drink from it. Determining it is harmless, he sneaks a drink when no one is looking. Meanwhile, everyone takes positions around one of the sarcophagi, and Torinn moves to open it. He notes pressure behind it, but still opens it. Bones explode outwards, knocking him down. Just as that happens, three of the four doors open, revealing small tombs and a hobgoblin skeleton and some form of fleshy hobgoblin undead pour out. Several skeletons form from the mishmash of bones surrounding the sarcophagi. Torinn manages to quickly dispatch the skeletons surrounding him, and though Bezaldooz is quickly surrounded, he vanishes when he is first struck, allowing him to escape. Though the hodgepodge skeletons are quickly dispatched, the hobgoblin skeleton and the fleshy undead are much tougher and better armed. During the battle, a mysterious scream emanates from the room, forcing everyone to panic and scatter in all directions before tripping and falling. Despite this, they manage to defeat the skeleton and undead after a protracted battle. However, as they do, they become aware of the presence of a ghost — the invisible thing that screamed at them during their battle with the undead. Since the ghost loses visibility at intervals, they have difficulty fighting it, but Emma finally manages to dispatch it when Bosabrieln blunders into it, and it appears to strike at him.

The group then travels through a hallway to find Ashurta’s tomb. They are relieved to have navigated the entire tomb complex, but Bosabrieln realizes that they have not yet found the kruthik nest, which means they will have to crawl through the kruthik tunnels to get there.

The group decides to return to the town proper and complete their business before returning to the tomb the following day. Bezaldooz takes his flying kruthik corpse to Morgrave University, and his contact is thrilled. Then, they spend the rest of their time in town before retiring for the evening.

The next day, they return to the tomb complex for what they hope to be the final time. They move into the entry room, and seeing four kruthik tunnels, they eventually decide to take the one next to the double doors. Torinn moves first, followed by Emma, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Peren. They crawl through the dark, humid tunnels before coming to an intersection. Choosing to go right, they loop around before finding themselves in the entrance chamber again. Climbing into the tunnel next to the doors again, they crawl forward, taking the straight lane in the intersection this time, and crawl until coming to a fork in the tunnels. They take the left fork until they realize that it leads into the puzzle room with switches on the floor, labeled in Common. Backtracking, they take the right fork and crawl forward.

Torinn drops the sunrod into the room they find, a cluttered, rubble-filled chamber that was probably an old tower foundation. He has only a little time to note this before the kruthiks attack.

As he manages to fight his way out of the tunnel and stand, the others follow suit. Torinn dispatches a few of the hatchlings and manages to injure the bigger ones. Once Peren gets into the open, he engages a few before he is felled. The others throw magic, and once Emma manages to revive Peren, he leaps into the fray again until all kruthiks lie dead, the smell of vinegar permeating the cavern. Figuring that the egg chamber must be close, the group takes a moment to gather themselves before moving to the (hopefully) last chamber.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 3

Sunday, Wealsun 23, 552 CY (50 AN)

The group awakens in the Rusty Razor, and sees to breakfast before returning to the tomb complex beneath the goblin slums. During breakfast, they are approached by a gnome whom Emma recognizes as Bezaldooz, a wizard who used to perform research at the temple in Jepson. After introductions are made, he explains that he spoke to Molric Torranol and wishes to help with the kruthik problem. In addition, he explains that he seeks samples of the flying kruthiks on behalf of Morgrave University.

After a brief discussion, the others allow him into the group. They finish breakfast, and then collect themselves to return to the slums.

Once again, the group presses into the slums, as several goblins start their respective days. Again, the goblins attempt to avoid the heavily-armed mercenary group as they travel the streets.

They once again arrive at the crumbling tenement and make their way to the basement, where they find the shattered tunnel into the tomb complex. As they enter, they explain some of what they found to Bezaldooz. He finds a battered flying kruthik cadaver and sets it aside to retrieve once they exit the tomb; they indicate that they may be able to retrieve some kruthik eggs, as well. Peren asks if he can read Goblin, and he says that he can. He takes a few minutes to prepare the Comprehend Language ritual and then he looks over the inscription in the entrance to the tomb. It indicates that the tomb belongs to Ashurta, keeper of the Blade of the Ashen Crown, that he has influence over devils or fire elementals, and that he has fought against Far Realm incursions. Based upon the tales of the Far Realm incursion through the Living Gate, it is likely that the tomb is centuries old. Additionally, the Goblin journal they found last time indicates that the person who carried it was a member of something called the Kech Volaar, the Wordbearers of Darguun. The goblins came to the passages seeking “Ashurta’s Tomb” and “the Blade,” and that the goblins had a key to the tomb’s entry doors. They surmise that this is the same key they recovered last time.

The group then leaves the entryway, returning to the room with runic tiles upon the floor. They explain the puzzle to Bezaldooz, and how the southern passage was only revealed after they solved the puzzle with the help of the leather scrap they found in the Goblin journal. After further discussion, they decide to take the revealed passage, leaving the eastern door for later.

As they traverse the corridor, Peren notes a pressure plate in the floor. They note it and move to the door, which they open.

Opening the door reveals a large room. To the left — the eastern portion of the room — lies another set of double doors and two statues, one in each corner. To the right, or the west, lies a dais statuary, two stone boxes, and a large sarcophagus. The center of the room is dominated by a four-sided statue of a hobgoblin in salute. The group moves to investigate the statuary in the northwestern corner, and they note gleaming, yellow gems in the statues’ eyes, but as they examine the statue, the motes of light illuminating the room are extinguished. They hear the crashing of rubble and the shuffling of feet as a gruff voice calls to them from the western side of the room, calling them defilers and usurpers. Something attacks Peren and Torinn in the dark, and Bezaldooz illuminates his orb, revealing two cadaverous hobgoblins advancing on them. They wield chains, and one appears to be the thing that attacked in the darkness. Everyone takes positions, and as a sunrod is used, the whole room is illuminated, revealing three other zombified hobgoblins. Two are slower and more necrotized, while the last bears heavy armor and a ceremonial blade. By his bearing, it is possible that he is Ashurta, or some other important entity to this tomb complex.

Battle is joined. Though the group is initially surrounded, the Ashurta-thing is held at bay by Bosabrieln’s evil eye, and Emma draws upon the power of her faith to repel and weaken the tide of savage undead. From there, the battle goes swiftly; one by one, the undead drop. Though Emma falls and nearly dies during the fight, they manage to revive her and end the fight with no casualties. They attempt to interrogate the Ashurta-thing, but he crumbles to dust before they can make an appropriate inquiry. They do find eight amber gems in the shattered remains of the four statues in the corners of the room. They also find a key on the Ashurta-thing, and this appears to open the stone boxes. In the boxes, they find a total of 54 gold pieces, as well as a skull mask and a wide belt. After examination, they determine that the skull mask and the belt are both magical, and Ashurta’s blade is likewise, apparently having the power to reform itself as several types of blades.

After resting, the group decides to return to the puzzle room and try the other route.

Proceeding through the double doors, they enter a stairwell. Scouting ahead, the group finds a small room at the bottom of the stairwell, and another set of stairs heading back up. The room is designed to resemble a stylized dragon’s mouth. The stairs appear to have loose mortar in the stone, and in the room itself, some of the floor tiles appear as though they open. Other ceiling tiles have mortared holes that could yield for spikes or darts of some kind. Four tiles in the center of the floor read, “open,” “close,” “up,” and “down.” They press each in turn, and though they hear a grinding sound, nothing happens. Peren jogs across and examines the door at the top of the other set of stairs. As he opens it, a mechanism grinds and the trap springs to life.

Immediately, the stairs flatten into a ramp. Some floor tiles fall open, revealing an enormous grinding ball underneath the room. Those that do not are hit by spikes from the ceiling. The tiles in the middle of the room rock violently. The group quickly determines that the trap has no “ending” mechanism, merely resetting after a set schedule, though they are keenly aware that they have no idea when that schedule might end. As they attempt to maintain their footing, kruthiks boil out of the gaps in the floor and start clamboring the walls to attack them. As most of the group tries to defend against the kruthiks, Peren — now separated from his companions by the violent rocking and grinding of the room below — dispatches the kruthiks that attack him, and after losing his footing, climbs back up the stairs and begins working to pull the locking rods out of the door hinges. The others set about maintaining their footing until the trap resets. Bezaldooz, Emma, and Torinn fan out into the room after losing their footing, though they find safe haven as they manage to disable some of the spikes in the ceiling. Bosabrieln falls into one of the pits and is ground by the ball before he manages to climb a rope thrown down by Torinn. Finally, after about thirty seconds, the trap shudders and grinds to a halt. The spikes retract, the pits close, and the middle floor tiles stop rocking just as Peren opens the door. The group moves to the stairs and briefly rests before pressing onward.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 2

Starday, Wealsun 22, 552 CY (50 AN)

The caravan arrives in Sorgforge early on Wealsun 22. After receiving payment, selling some supplies, and purchasing the Traveler’s Chant ritual, the group begins searching for Molric Torranol.

First, they arrive at Tain Foundry, but the guards indicate that Molric may be found at the Slag Pit, the company watering hole. One of the guards leads them next door and heads into the back room. He returns saying that Molric will be out in a moment.

A burly, bald dwarf and a willowy hobgoblin enter, introducing themselves as Molric and Olaakki, respectively. The group indicates that they heard about Sorgforge’s kruthik problem from Molric’s cousin, and would like to help. Molric and Olaakki explain that kruthik attacks have intensified in the slums, and both foundry workers and goblin refugees under Olaakki’s care are dying. Additionally, some witnesses claim they have seen flying kruthiks, an unprecedented development. Molric and Olaakki offer 100 gp for the job, and the group accepts. Olaakki gives them a map showing the location of the suspected kruthik hive before departing.

After finishing their food, they take residence at the Rusty Razor, a nearby inn. They then prepare themselves for the trip into the slums.

For the most part, they are ignored. As the goblins see a heavily-armed contingent of adventurers coming through, they make themselves scarce. Only a goblin prostitute propositions them as they hurry to their destination. They finally find their way to the crumbling tenement noted on the map.

In the basement, they find a tunnel that opens into an old tomb complex. The tomb is lit with magic motes of light and bears goblin carvings on the walls. There is evidence of a recent battle — likely kruthiks against goblins, Peren notes — and a few burrows in the walls and floor — kruthik tunnels, most likely. The floor is strewn with rubble, and a ten-foot pile of skulls sits in the middle of the room. As the characters investigate the room, kruthiks boil from the tunnels. Though they are swift and vicious, the group manages to make swift work of them. Amidst the bones, they find a pack with a journal written in Goblin, and a few scattered items. Torinn finds that an old battle standard next to the pile of skulls is a battle standard of might, an item that bolsters all who stand beside it in battle. Bosabrieln discovers that the journal contains a scrap of leather depicting a stylized hand with an arrow pointing down.

After resting, the group moves to the next room, using a key they found in the pack to open the rusty double doors. The next room bears a few kruthik tunnels as well as statuary and words written upon the floor. After investigating the scrap of leather, the group depresses the tiles bearing the words “right,” “hand,” “down,” and “open.” The devil statue against one wall of the room withdraws into the floor, revealing a secret passage. The braziers in the room go out, the light replaced by motes of light. However, the sound attracts kruthiks; fortunately, the group took positions at the kruthik tunnels and makes swift work of them. After searching the room and debating whether to enter the rusty double doors or enter the secret passage, the group decides to return to the inn and rest.

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 1

Moonday, Wealsun 3, 552 CY (50 AN)

As Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn decide what to do next, Shaward Torranol, mayor of Dawnslight, enters the tavern, apparently seeking them. He says that between their work and the Platinum Claws, the town holds no more work for them — the goblin threat is currently suppressed, and all is well. However, he recently received a letter from his cousin, Molric, indicating that he is looking for able men and women willing to help Sorgforge with its kruthik problem. Apparently, Sorgforge suffers from persistent kruthik infestation that attacks the townsfolk. Peren recalls that kruthiks are reptiles forming a hive structure in the structure of highly vicious ant-like reptiles. Their blood smells like vinegar, and acts as a mild repellent to kruthiks; they are cunning enough to avoid areas where large numbers of kruthiks have died.

After discussion, the group decides to go. Shaward says he will arrange for them to travel with the merchant caravan when it leaves, particularly since the caravans always need guards. After leaving, Shaward returns to say that everything is set; the merchants will pay for guards and offer room and board on the way to Sorgforge. The caravan leaves in a couple of days.

The group spends the next few days preparing for the journey. The caravan finally starts its eighteen-day trek on the morning of Waterday, Wealsun 5.

Most of the trek is uneventful. The group trades tales with the merchants and their workers, and spends most of its time on watch. Peren typically scouts ahead.

On the morning of Freeday, Wealsun 14 (or late Earthday, Wealsun 13, depending upon one’s point of view), Emma is keeping watch when she hears distant rustling through the grasses of the plains. She awakens her companions and the group goes to investigate when it is confronted by a gnoll raiding party. They make short work of the gnolls before returning to sleep. The next day, they sell the arms and armor they managed to take from the gnolls.

On the evening of Moonday, Wealsun 17, the merchant caravan camps and is shortly joined by a Vistani caravan. As everyone participates in the revel, a young girl summons Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn to the matriarch’s vardo.

The matriarch introduces herself as Zinnauvial of the Zivkovic clan and offers them tea and scones. She then proceeds to read their fortunes with the tarokka in a divergent cross pattern. She draws the five of Coins, the eight of Coins, the Mists, the Darklord, the nine of Coins (reversed), the nine of swords, the Marionette, the Artifact, the Horseman, the ten of Swords (reversed), and the eight of Stars (reversed). She interprets this to mean that the group is currently in a situation brought about by corruption in high places. The group will find itself on an unexpected journey — perhaps a job they find will actually lead to another adventure. Finally, they will find confrontation with a powerful enemy, but the outcome should be favorable. Overall, they are influenced by the coming of darkness or madness in the distant past. A pawn with a powerful agenda and a remarkable item — perhaps mundane, but probably magical — has influenced the plans of this dark power. After the current situation, the future may bring calamity, war, or the banishing of the great evil. Zinnauvial indicates that the presence of so many cards from the greater deck of Fate suggests that they are destined for great things. She also reads their tea leaves before they leave, and reinforces this fact. She also suggests that Bosabrieln is fated to join the Zivkovic clan.

After taking their leave, they meet Leolann Zivkovic, a fast-talking young human with the Vistani, and decide to play a game of Three-Dragon Ante with him. With a 50 gold buy-in, the game ends with Bosabrieln out, Emma with only two gold pieces remaining, and only Peren and Torinn in the lead. Leolann walks away with 70 gp more than he started, though everyone takes it good-naturedly.

The group continues to revel until sleep overtakes them. Bosabrieln spends time with Zinnauvial to learn about the Vistani and receive the Vistani Blooding ritual.

The next morning, the merchant caravan and the Vistani caravan prepare to part company. The Vistani say that Bosabrieln will travel with them for a couple of days to learn their ways. In the meantime, they will send Leolann and his pet monkey, Juju, with the group to help guard the merchants’ caravan.

On Earthday, Wealsun 20, they find Bosabrieln awaiting them by the side of the road, somehow ahead of the merchant caravan. Leolann bids farewell to everyone and heads on foot to catch up with the Vistani.

The Slaying Stone, Part 4

Sunday, Wealsun 2, 552 CY (50 AN)

After three days, Bosabrieln, Leogold, Peren, and Torinn return to Dawnslight with Emma’s body. It is early evening when they arrive, though they note that the village appears to be at ease. The group brings Emma’s body to the Temple of the Golden Harvest and leaves her with Leogold as they go to the inn to eat and rest.

Upon arriving at the inn, they find a beautiful eladrin maiden telling tales while a stern-looking deva in priestly vestments listens. Two new faces may also be found at the bar — a heavily-armed human woman and a similarly heavily-armed shifter man both drink. Among themselves, the group recognizes the Platinum Claws, a rather famous adventuring group in the area. Peren recognizes the two fighters as former gladiators in the Scandshar arena.

At a break in the story, Bosabrieln speaks to the deva, who introduces himself as Mathas. After hearing a little about their exploits uncovering corruption among the nobles in Scandshar, Bosabrieln explains about the travels of himself and his adventuring companions, as well as the recent death of their comrade Emma. Mathas says he knows the ritual to raise the dead, and would be willing to use it if he can be reimbursed for the components.

After Peren and Torinn buy drinks for the two warriors — the human named Blank and the shifter named Cliff — the groups converge and trade tales. Mathas repeats his offer, and the group agrees to pay him to raise Emma. Before he leaves to go the temple, he tells the eladrin that he is leaving, and she joins the table. Her name is Sariel, and she indicates that she has known Mathas for a very long time. Likewise, Blank and Cliff were slaves in the arenas of Scandshar before Mathas and Sariel bought their freedom.

After tales have been traded, everyone decides to retire for the night. Peren and Torinn sleep in the vicinity of the temple, while Bosabrieln is prepared to awaken early to check on the proceedings.

Early the next morning, Emma opens her eyes again. Though groggy, she is well, and everyone is glad to see her. She meets Mathas and thanks him, and Bosabrieln arrives shortly thereafter. The group pays Mathas the 500 gp required for components. After a bit, everyone regroups and prepares to go to Treona for payment. They once again thank the Platinum Claws for their help, and the Platinum Claws say they plan to go to the former town of Kiris Dahn to search the ruins. Bosabrieln mentions the the brass dragon they met, and the groups wish each other well. Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn then travel to Treona’s tower to receive their payment.

Upon arrival, the group finds an orc mercenary standing outside the tower, demanding entrance. After a brief melee, the orc is defeated. Peren binds her and the group brings her into Treona’s tower, where they interrogate her upon awakening. She indicates that she and her fellow orc mercenaries were hired to retrieve the Slaying Stone by an elf from Sorgforge named Demise. She knows nothing beyond that. After deliberation, and the orc’s promise to avoid them in the future, the group decides to set her free without her weapons, with Torinn having appropriated her handaxes and greataxe.

Treona then introduces the group to Kiris Alkirk, one of the last nobles of the Kiris line. The group shows Treona the broken pieces of the Slaying Stone, and proceeds to describe their adventures in Kiris Dahn, focusing upon the dragon that held the artifact and the fellow Kiris noble (and lycanthrope) who was left behind. Treona and Alkirk thank the group and Treona gives them 10 gp and a ring that she says was last appraised at around 250 gp.

After visiting the merchant to sell the ring and gather supplies, the group returns to the tavern to contemplate their next move.

The Slaying Stone, Part 3

Earthday, Flocktime 27, 552 CY (50 AN)

Throughout the watches during the night, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn are uninterrupted. However, shortly after waking, they are attacked by a goblin patrol passing through. They quickly dispatch the goblins and move on their way.

As they move through town, they are spotted and move quickly to avoid notice. Making their way to the hot springs, they recognize where a burrow has been made. They announce their presence and enter to find a large, imposing brass dragon. The dragon requests that they state their business, but as they flounder over what to say to convince the dragon to give up its stone, it sends them away so that they may reorganize.

The group decides to make its way to the Kiris Estate to see what they can find, and then return to the dragon’s lair. Finding their way to the Kiris Estate, they encounter the goblin guards and are making short work of them when they are confronted by a hobgoblin riding a large drake. After the hobgoblin attacks Torinn, the group kills the drake underneath its rider, and manages to make short work of him and the other goblins in the mansion. The ritual indicates that there is no stone in the mansion, though they do find 200 gold pieces throughout the mansion, which they split amongst themselves. The group is then determined to return to the dragon.

With renewed vigor, they manage to convince the dragon that their intentions are pure; they mean no harm and only wish to take the stone to their patron so that it may be destroyed. The dragon finally agrees, on the condition that they no longer bother it, and then presents the slaying stone to them. They thank it and take their leave.

The group makes for the edge of town, but are surprised by the orc mercenaries among some of the homes. The fight is brutal, and though Peren manages to swiftly defeat the group’s leader, and the assembled group defeats most of the mercenaries, all but Bosabrieln are quickly defeated. As a last resort, Bosabrieln uses the slaying stone on the orc shaman, causing him to messily dissolve. When all seems lost, Leogold Spiritforged appears, apparently having followed the party after hearing about where they were headed. He manages to get some of the party members back on their feet as he joins the battle. A goblin, apparently victimized by the orc mercenaries, also enters the fray. Among the lot of them, they manage to defeat the orc mercenaries, though the unnamed goblin and Emma both die in the conflict. Amidst the personal effects of the mercenaries, the group finds 420 gold pieces and an enchanted lute that Bosabrieln recognizes as the Mac-Fuirmidh Cittern. Battle-weary, the group builds a makeshift litter for Emma’s body and starts the journey back to Dawnslight.

The Slaying Stone, Part 2

Sunday, Flocktime 23, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn enter the tavern. Noting an older woman waiting there, they get something to eat and drink before they go to speak to her. The woman introduces herself as Treona, and indicates that she has heard of the members of the group, reciting their names and deeds before she is cut off. After introductions are made, she explains that she and her associate, Kiris Alkirk, who is currently not present, are refugees from Kiris Dahn. Kiris Dahn was abandoned and overrun by goblins eight years ago. After relocating to the group’s room, Treona explains the rest of the story. Many years ago, the nobles of Kiris Dahn commissioned the manufacture of eight slaying stones, magical devices that could automatically kill anyone within five miles of the town. As such, any individual attempting to attack the town could be killed instantly. These eight stones were all used in various incidents, but Treona recently read that a ninth was manufactured and never recorded. Presumably, it still exists in the ruins of Kiris Dahn. Treona wants the group to find the stone so that she can destroy it. If the group must use it on their adventure, she at least wants them to present the pieces to her so that she can see proof that it was destroyed.

Treona explains that the town is overrun by goblins, so the group must gain entry and keep quiet. She provides them with three ritual scrolls and the necessary components to perform a ritual that detects the stone. She also gives them a map of Kiris Dahn and explains that it is most likely to be found in the Library, the Shrine of the Moon, or the Kiris Estate. Treona further explains that a rival wizard, a woman by the name of Dreus Matrand, has hired mercenaries to look for the stone for some unknown purpose. Treona explains that she has heard Dreus is a human or an elf, but she does not actually know which is accurate. When they ask about payment, she explains that she can give them about 250 gold pieces, plus they can keep whatever they find.

After discussing, the group agrees to seek the slaying stone. They spend the rest of the day purchasing provisions and preparing. The next day, they set out for the ruins of Kiris Dahn.

It takes them three days to reach the town, and once they do, they wait until nightfall to sneak into it. They enter from the north, creeping through the forest and across the river. They then manage to sneak through town, and initially finding the Kiris Estate, they decide that it is too well guarded and try the library instead. Upon entering, they hear several goblins in the next room. Organizing themselves, they kick open the door and attack.

Surprising the goblin soldiers within, the group manages to cut through them. Even when the well-dressed goblin in the room starts ripping pages out of the library books, throwing magical attacks, and summoning small ooze creatures, the group manages to quickly dispatch him. Treona’s ritual indicates that the stone is not present. However, when the group searches the library, they find an abandoned wing with several bookcases pushed aside. Brass scales litter the floor, and a stone wall panel sits upon the ground in front of a small alcove marked with claw gouges. Also, among the goblins’ things, they find a mace which Emma takes and recognizes as a Holy Healer’s Mace.

Sneaking through the town, the group decides to try the Shrine of the Moon in the temple district. Though the place is empty, they spot a man within. Dressed as a noble, albeit with ragged, well-worn clothes, they beckon the man to speak to them. He explains that he is a resident of Kiris Dahn, and as far as he can tell, the last human resident. He was deposed in a power play by the rest of his family. When they ask about the slaying stone and the strange clues and detritus in the library, the man begins to explain what he knows when goblins run to the porticullis at the south corridor. Their leader brandishes a silver sword and shouts to “Kill the rat man! Them too! KILL ALL RAT MANS!” As combat is joined, goblin troops break through the double doors to the north, as well. Then, the noble appears to completely lose it, and turns into a man-rat hybrid creature whom the group recognize as a wererat.

The group easily manages to defeat the goblin troops, but their leader and the ratman take a little more effort. Even so, the group manages to take them down, carefully ensuring that the ratman, the goblin leader, and a goblin with a strange brand of a closed eye on his face are taken alive. After resting, the group performs the ritual and finds that the slaying stone is not there. However, they find that the goblin leader’s longsword has value, and Peren takes it.

The group then starts to interrogate their prisoners. The nobleman, having turned back to human form upon losing consciousness, apologizes for his loss of control, and says he will explain everything if he is allowed to leave. The group agrees, and he says he heard that the slaying stone was in the library long ago. He has also heard about a brass dragon in the area. He overheard the goblins saying that it dug something up and left, but he claims that it dug a lair by the hot springs. He thanks the group for letting him leave, and then quickly departs.

The goblins, meanwhile, explain that they were hunting the wererat and didn’t expect to find multiple people there. They know nothing about the slaying stone or the dragon, and they can give little tactical information regarding the Kiris Estate. Finally, they do explain that a group of orc mercenaries has been looking for a stone, and that is where the brand originates; the orcs interrogate and brand people, but seem to have little luck finding the stone. Not wishing to give away their position, the group then executes the two goblins and decides to stay the night in the Shrine of the Moon. As Torinn starts becoming sweaty and feverish, possibly from the bite the ratman gave him during the fight, Emma takes care of him through the night and manages to cure the infection.