Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 13

Waterday, Reaping 12, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The group agrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 12

Sunday, Reaping 9, 552 CY (50 AN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 11

Sunday, Reaping 9, 552 CY (50 AN)

After resting, Bezaldooz takes some time to perform some ritual magic, transferring the enchantments on the magic dagger and spear found in the tomb complex to Torinn’s greataxe and Triflik’s Blade, respectively.

With everyone rested, the group prepares to continue forward. There is a door to the southeast (the one through which the group entered the room), a door to the northeast, and a set of double doors to the west. The group decides to head west.

The cavern opens into a larger chamber. A subterranean river flows across the chamber, separating the connecting caverns from the chamber on the other side. On the other side, two ten-foot-tall ledges rise. Pale goblins in ragged clothing, armed with stone weapons, stand at attention. One hisses as the group approaches, and the battle is joined. Bezaldooz opens with a tremendous fireball, killing several goblins and wounding a few others. Emma, Peren, and Torinn wade across the river. The battle is swift; the primitive goblins are overwhelmed by the display of force, and none survive.

By the battle’s end, everyone makes it across save Bosabrieln, who refuses to get wet by wading in the river. He offers payment if someone will carry him, but Emma returns to him to do it for free.

About halfway across, Emma loses her balance and both fall in the river. They emerge a few seconds later, coughing cavern water. Bosabrieln changes as the group rests.

After checking both ledges, the group notes that the rubble in the northwestern corner appears loose enough to move. After about twenty minutes of clearing rubble, they emerge into a large cavern. Slopes lead into a larger complex, where several rotting, mutated creatures stand in reverie around a large, glowing, octagonal pool — likely the Moon Pool where Zaarani’s Solitaire may be found. The creatures on the lower level do not seem to notice the group as they enter; indeed, they are almost trance-like, listening to the occasional ravings of their leader. Peren notes that the creature wears a gem around its neck, and suspects that it is Zaarani’s Solitaire. After the group discusses their plan of attack, they move.

Disturbed from their religious awe, the mutants move to attack. The smaller ones fall quickly. Two smaller creatures bristling with spines move from their ledge to move into position; one falls and hits the ground. Both wade into the Moon Pool and begin launching volleys of spines ath the party. Two of the bigger ones — the same tentacled creatures that attacked the group earlier in these lightless caverns — move into melee. After hanging back, their leader does the same. All three fall within seconds, as the party’s gambit proves sound. A small, vicious mutant, and the two spine-throwers, takes a little longer to defeat.

When the last spine-thrower is left standing and the group prepares to advance upon it, a light bobs from a side tunnel. The group is initially nervous at the thought of another onslaught, but they are instead greeted by the Wordbearers. The two groups make short work of the remaining creature.

Everyone rests briefly. A search of the pool reveals a few precious objects thrown into it. Yeraa reports that the Wordbearers successfully recovered Lurtaan’s Cord, and Peren shows Yeraa Zaarani’s Solitaire. Her reverence for the object is obvious.

As the group continues back to the surface, they come upon an unexplored door. Finding a room with a fiery vent and several fiery ghosts, they make short work of them before continuing to the surface.

Dawn approaches as the group arrives at the surface, and Yeraa asks the rest of the Wordbearers to scout ahead. When they are out of earshot, she formally apologizes to the group for not trusting them, and says they have fully proven themselves to be brave and honorable. She asks if they would do her the honor of accompanying her to Graywall to find Murkoorak’s Orb, and they agree — right as the dead approach.

Approaching from the south are four shambling corpses and a man in plate armor made of fused bone. His face is unseen, but the beard hanging below his mask and the halberd he carries successfully identifies him as the unidentified Broken Chain captain the group met on the road to Six Kings. What flesh can be seen, however, is now necrotized, and his halberd glows with a dark light.

The onslaught of spells indicate the beginning of battle. Yeraa enters the fray first, followed shortly by Emma, Peren, and Torinn. When everyone engages the undead captain, he lashes out with dark, fiery energy. His cadaverous minions fall quickly, soon leaving the engagement between him and everyone else. Peren, Torinn, and Yeraa all lash out with their blades, but he manages to hold himself together well. Soon, however, whatever magic allows him to unleash the worst of his black energies gives out, reducing him to melee combat. He feints several times, leaving himself open to offer devastating attacks, but only Torinn is bold enough to take the bait. Peren leaps forward to slash at him, then hangs back — but a misstep gives the captain the opportunity to strike a crucial blow at the elf, sending his unconscious body flailing across the ground. However, after this, everyone redoubles their efforts, and the captain falls before the onslaught of steel and magic. The glow leaves his halberd as he does so.

Peren is given a healing potion, and the group takes a moment to catch its breath.

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Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 10

Starday, Reaping 8, 552 CY (50 AN)

Entering through the door to the south, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn find themselves in a short hallway leading to a more open chamber. The chamber is strewn with rubble, and odd shadowy patches that seem to ripple underneath the shine of the sunrod. Bezaldooz does not quite recognize them, but he knows they are some sort of hazard and should be avoided. The chamber also has two places where the floor has crumbled, revealing a lower level. Peren notes that a shadowy, translucent figure lurks in one of the rubble-strewn pits.

Torinn moves into the room first, where he is immediately attacked by two other ghosts with a hobgoblin shape. The original, shadowy ghost from the lower level also rises through the floor to attack him. As everyone moves into position, carefully avoiding the shadowy patches on the floor, they start attacking the ghosts with weapons and spells. Emma calls upon the power of Pelor to drive back the vicious undead, and they fall back.

Swiftly, it is finished. Peren finds an ornate dagger in the lower chamber, but otherwise, there is nothing to be found. After resting and using the sending stone to check on the Wordbearers’ progress, the group presses onward.

As the heroes make their way through the tunnels, they see a small, ghostly shape. As they approach, they see it resembles a goblin. It looks at them and hisses, its almost translucent skin revealing a skeletal visage. It then runs and floats down through the floor.

At the end of the tunnel, a ten-foot wall leads into another chamber. Peren sets up a rope from his climber’s kit, and waits for everyone to climb. Torinn goes first, and is again beset by ghosts — this time, the ghosts are small, resembling goblin warriors like the one seen in the tunnel.

The others start to climb, and Bezaldooz is beset by a rotting, mutated thing that resembles a hobgoblin with tentacles sprouting from its back. It lashes out to strike him with its tentacles from over ten feet away. Similarly, another rotting hobgoblin thing appears, this one with only wicked claws. It jabbers at Bezaldooz, rending his mind with its words, and though he is reeling, he still draws upon his fey glamour to disappear.

With everyone in the chamber, the fight continues. Torinn keeps pressing the attack against the three ghosts, while the tentacled thing engages Peren. Between it and the jabbering thing, they manage to savage Peren, but he endures and returns the punishment, cutting deeply with his swords. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln throw spells, while Emma sears the undead with holy power. When the tentacled thing falls, the jabbering thing raises it again, until it is again slain and lies still. The jabbering, rotting mutant falls next, and finally the group manages to discorporate the ghostly goblins that have been attacking Torinn.

After a rest, the group climbs down into a small chamber with two tunnels. Choosing the left tunnel, they start to clear it. After about five minutes of work, they start to hear the sounds of battle on the other side of the chamber. After another five minutes, they break through to an octagonal room resembling a barracks. Stone benches and worm-eaten canvas draperies decorate this place, and in the center, three, small, mutated creatures with two mouths and four arms each attack a force of three, ghostly goblins. The group watches — Peren and Torinn place bets on which side will win — until one of the mutants rushes forward to attack Torinn. He attacks the beast, but after one of the creatures falls in combat with the ghosts, the others scatter, running into a tunnel to the north. The ghosts then engage Torinn. Bosabrieln keeps one, apparently the leader, at bay with his evil eye, while Torinn and Peren begin attacking the other two. Though the incorporeal ghosts are difficult opponents, the group easily dispatches them.

Once they have a chance to look at the room, they note that the western door is sealed with iron bars. A mummified beast resembling a flayed gorilla with huge hands is splayed across the door, impaled by a dusty spear that is jammed into the door. The group also notes some art objects in the room — namely a horn with gold accents as well as some bloodstone playing pieces with a gameboard — which they take. After Emma prays to Pelor to sear blasphemous undead — suspecting that the mummified beast is undead, which the lack of movement or reaction suggests is untrue — she pulls the spear from the door. Bosabrieln determines it to be magic, and after it is cleaned, Peren takes it and begins using it in place of the silvered, magical longsword they took from the goblins of Kiris Dahn.

After resting, communicating with the Wordbearers, and accumulating their acquisitions, the group examines the northern passage. Odd, maddening runes line the rubble-strewn passage, which only has a small passage to the west. Bezaldooz determines that the runes are warnings of the dangers ahead, and the group decides to check the eastern tunnel. They determine that to be the righthand passage from the previous room, choked with rubble as the left passage was. Finally, Torinn breaks the bands on the door and the group presses onward.

After passing through another tunnel and a larger chamber, the group comes to a somewhat large chamber with another ten-foot cliff leading down into a lower area. To the east lies a tunnel and to the west lies an open door. The group sees lights bobbing in the lower area, as two of the small things with two mouths and four arms wander with torches. A large creature, resembling a flayed gorilla with enormous hands, patrols nearby. Upon seeing the light of the sunrod, the creature rushes the cliff, scales it, and charges forward at Peren. He reaches out to grab Torinn, but Peren lashes out and parries the massive hand. The group assails the massive creature as the two things in the pit fire volleys of crossbow bolts; the creature lashes out only once before it is slain. Peren and Torinn then rush into the pit, finding that the next room contains another of the small mutants and a large, mutated creature resembling a hobgoblin with tentacles sprouting from its back and no eyes lurks there. It lashes out with its tentacles at Peren and Torinn.

Despite the efforts of the mutated creatures, soon everyone jumps down the cliff — though Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Bezaldooz’s dog Wilson sort of tumble and fall rather than jump — and engages the creatures. The large mutant dies first, followed by two smaller ones. The last flees into the eastern tunnel.

The group then communicates with the Wordbearers, and both determine that rest is needed. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn close the doors, finding themselves in a small chamber with doors to the west and northeast, secure the perimeter, and prepare to rest for a few hours before continuing.

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Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 9

Freeday, Reaping 7, 552 CY (50 AN)

The next morning, the group awakens. After breakfast, they continue onward toward Six Kings.

After some walking, they find the area where Captain Kalaes indicated the Wordbearers can be found. A white outcropping of rock leads the group to a cave nestled among the tall cliff faces. A band of hobgoblins and goblins meets the group; by their look, they are likely the Wordbearers. They look displeased.

A female hobgoblin — clad in chain with a bastard sword slung across her back — appears to be the leader. She assesses the group, frowning, as anonther hobgoblin among them — by his tattoos and rapier, he is likely Tikulti, the Citadel’s doppelganger agent — whispers to her. She finally addresses the group, offering to purchase Ashurta’s Blade and send them on their way.

Among Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn, they determine that she does not wish to appear weak by accepting aid, nor does she wish to leap into things hastily. They convince her that they can aid her with their strength of arms and knowledge, and they further suggest that accepting their aid would not be weakness, but wisdom.

She ultimately agrees with their argument, and Tikulti suggests that the groups should bond in the amalorkar, a sporting ritual combat. The groups agree and the hobgoblins and goblins begin padding their weapons for the engagement. Tikulti shows the group how to pad their weapons as the leader, Yeraa, prepares a circle with magical ash. The rules are that a fighter loses if he or she loses consciousness, is pushed from the circle, or is struck without quickly returning the blow. The first side to win five bouts is the winner.

The groups prepare to field their champions for ritual combat. Torinn faces Yeraa, and after an arduous battle, manages to strike her without her returning the blow. Bosabrieln next faces Akitani, a female goblin barbarian. She swiftly charges at Bosabrieln, who loses when her strike disrupts his concentration, preventing him from returning her strike with his magics. Emma spars Govaan, the little goblin they saved on the road to Six Kings, and though he is a skilled rogue, he eventually cannot return her strike. Peren faces Jezirpa, who waits for Peren to come to him. Peren charges him, and though he does not knock the hobgoblin warrior from the ring, he does manage to interrupt his strike with one of his own, defeating him when he cannot return the blow. Bezaldooz engages Murdaak, a hobgoblin mystic, who is swiftly defeated when Bezaldooz hits him with a Magic Missile empowered by his orb — the waves of fear send Murdaak fleeing from the ring. Finally, Peren faces Ulkuuz, another hobgoblin warrior. This time, he charges at him and knocks him from the ring.

With the group having won five bouts against the hobgoblins, the hobgoblins are quick to accept such skilled combatants. Yeraa is more reserved, but proceeds to explain that they wish to enter in the caves and tombs beneath Six Kings through the cave behind them. Yeraa expects to find an obelisk which will transport them deeper into the caves. She hopes to use this obelisk so the Wordbearers can travel deeper into the caves and find Lurtaan’s cord. Meanwhile, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn will seek Zaarani’s solitaire in the upper passages, hopefully clearing a path to the Moon Pool. This should neatly also provide a return route for the Wordbearers and the others to return to the surface together.

After the day’s battle, they agree to camp in the small pass in the shadow of Six Kings. Bosabrieln does speak with Yeraa about bardic lore, as Yeraa sang while fighting Torinn, and the others mingle with the hobgoblins. Yeraa also gives the party a sending stone to stay in contact throughout the caverns.

The next day, everyone awakens, eats breakfast, and begins to penetrate the caves. After clearing some rock falls, the party arrives in a larger chamber containing four large, communal sarcophagi and a large, central obelisk covered in runes. The runes are Goblin runes. The groups fan out to investigate, determining from nearby pictographs that the obelisk is indeed a teleportation obelisk. Bezaldooz also determines that the obelisk is tainted with necrotic energy, and that activating the obelisk will likely have ill effects on both sides of the teleportation effect. Yeraa agrees, saying that the stone does seem tainted with dark energy, but that they still plan to use it — and since it appears to only work for goblins, the other group cannot use it. After exchanging farewells and allowing Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn to take positions, Yeraa touches the obelisk, chants, and the hobgoblins and goblins disappear.

Amidst the rubble and debris in the room, old bones clatter to life as a surge of dark energy escapes the portal. The area is suddenly filled with the din of battle. Clamboring goblinoid skeletons manage to pummel on Bosabrieln while a fast, shadowy skeleton casts globes of dark energy at Bezaldooz. Despite the swiftness of their attack, everyone has relatively defensible positions and manages to hold their ground. As skeletons fall, the group is able to move and breathe a little more easily. Finally, Emma stops attacking with her mace and blasts of holy energy, instead moving into a central location and calling upon the power of Pelor to smite the undead creatures. Goblin skeletons crumble while the larger skeletons are frozen in place. Peren and Torinn engage the survivors while Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln throw their magics at the survivors. Emma moves into melee with the shadowy skeleton, and the fight ends swiftly.

After the group has taken a moment to rest, they contact the Wordbearers through the sending stone and establish that they have teleported to room deeper in the complex. It is tainted with dark energy and they fought several ghouls, but everyone is fine at the moment.

Content that all is well for the moment, the group prepares to press forward.

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Seekers of the Ashen Crown, Part 8

Waterday, Reaping 5, 552 CY (50 AN)

The fifth day is uneventful, and since the group is now accustomed to the peculiarities of the road through the Hoarfrost Ridge, they find the trip to be simple.

On the sixth day, the group finally sees the towering figures of Six Kings in the distance. As they travel, Peren notes a disturbance in the nearby foliage — the passage of six or more humanoids, probably weighted with armor or gear. They keep to the road, but track the disturbance to a group of eight heavily-armed humans, hiding in ambush along the road. They bear the symbol of the Broken Chain. As Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Emma, Peren, and Torinn approach, the humanoid in black plate armor shouts, “Leave none alive! For the glory of the Broken Chain, their deaths shall serve our cause.”

Both sides approach cautiously, cutting through the boulder-strewn woodland. Bezaldooz hides in a thicket and steps off his dog; he starts by flinging a silvery bolt at the robed humanoid bearing a quarterstaff of bone. As the Broken Chain cultist in scale armor approaches a rather large boulder and hides behind it, the others begin to move toward him. Soon, battle is joined — Peren and Torinn move to the man in scale and try to take him down swiftly. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Emma throw their magics at the advancing cultists, trying to defeat them while forcing them to stay under cover. Two die in this onslaught, while the warrior in scale is finally felled by Bosabrieln, Peren, and Torinn. The robed figure — a wizard, if his spellcasting abilities are any indication — manages to catch the three with a blast of necromantic energy, but they are able to press the attack. Peren rushes into melee with the two surviving bowmen, hoping to catch the necromancer if Bezaldooz does not finish the job, and Torinn engages the leader in black plate. Peren is flanked by the swift archers who switch to their short swords, while Torinn is flanked by the halberd-wielding man in black plate and one of the surviving warriors. The warrior and the necromancer are both killed by the spellcasters, and though Peren manages to inflict grievous injury on the scouts, they manage to bring him low. Torinn, however, manages to stay with the armored man despite his power. As the healers return Peren to his feet, he manages to dispatch the bowmen, though one fells him again with his dying blow. As for the man in black, it is only through the use of healing potions that the man in black stays in the fight as long as he does, and he is eventually killed through the group’s concerted effort.

After stabilizing Peren, the group searches the cultists and finds some gold and assorted gems. After some fussing and refitting, Torinn manages to get the armor to fit decently enough, so he takes it for his own. Peren indicates that, before he fell, he saw some goblinoids through the trees, evidently watching the battle. After some discussion, the group decides to follow the tracks, if they find any.

Following the tracks through the woods, the group comes upon a group of six hobgoblin warriors and two goblin archers. Having heard the group, they are prepared to meet them. Their leader, a hobgoblin in leather armor with two notched scimitars who introduces himself as Chib Naersaar, demands the group’s notes on the Arkantaash and threaten to kill them if they do not return to civilization. Peren merely replies, “Kill them.”

The battle is quick and decisive. The hobgoblins form a knot around Torinn, giving Torinn and Peren an opportunity to engage the fighters. The snipers keep firing upon Peren and Torinn, though they are quick enough to avoid the worst of the arrows. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Emma throw spells at the distracted warriors. The leader falls quickly, and the warriors follow. With one of the snipers falling beneath the brunt of magic, the last goblin sniper falls as Peren and Torinn move to engage him.

Finding nothing of value among the corpses, Peren and Torinn torch the bodies and the group makes camp nearby to rest the night.

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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.

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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:

Friends,

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.

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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.

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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.

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