Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Recognition of a Man, Part 1

Godsday, Needfest 4, 553 CY (51 AN)

There is a brief moment of confusion where Bosabrieln looks around for Vianibrar, having just heard him a handful of seconds ago. It isn’t long before his gaze settles on the coat settled over Vianibrar’s harp and rapier that his mind finally parses what he’s seen. He bundles the coat and Vianibrar’s things, careful not to shake out the dust, raises his face to the sky and howls, tears streaming down his face.

The others are kind enough to give him a minute, but there’s still more to be done. Moridal puts a hand on his shoulder and brings him back to the present, and the group sets out: Ashurta, Barnabus, Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Gloomblight, Moridal, Peren, the Shield Guardian, Torinn, and Torugar fan out into the city.

It takes several hours, but they manage to slay or chase away the dark elf invaders. (The invaders are clearly demoralized by the coming of the sun; they know something terrible happened at city center, and their ability to creep through shadows is curtailed by the dismissal of their goddess.) The Shields of the Sorrowfell run into a guardsman — Torinn recognizes the man who left the note at their inn room several weeks ago — who indicates that he has not heard from Captain Bole, but he expects the Shields will be exonerated in the aftermath of this. He’ll keep in touch as the week proceeds.

After hours pass and their bloody work is done, they leave one dark elf assassin alive to be questioned by the authorities. They also divide some of the things they found, including some ritual components and a handful of riches. They give most of the assassin’s gear to Moridal, while Sleet takes her boots of elvenkind (as well as the goddess’ silk, for which he pays). Torugar takes the goddess’ dagger, Cold Heart, as well as a few other items for safekeeping or disposal. Sleet flies off to try to organize disaster relief — he ends up bringing food and Vonseloth clerics throughout the following week — while Gloomblight leaves to complete reports and other business. Torugar wanders off into Scandshar, but says he will no doubt return later in the week.

The Shields of the Sorrowfell and Moridal wander towards The Troll and Fish to go drinking. When they arrive, they see Jax’s goliath and minotaur associates dumping dark elf corpses outside the bar. When they enter, it seems Jax’s gang is all here, including Scarlet Jax herself. Bosabrieln was worried she didn’t make it, but she says they didn’t stick around; they fought their way through dark elves and started trying to evacuate. When it was clear the emergency was over, they returned.

Over drinks, the group discusses matters. Scarlet Jax makes several jokes about turning in the Shields for the bounty. Bosabrieln asks Moridal if Vianibrar ever discussed funerary plans. Moridal responds that he said they should bury his body in the square of Nainimdul and erect a stone obelisk over it, a middle finger raised against Nainimdul and the world. Bosabrieln agrees.

The group drinks and talks until the Shields decide to head to bed. Moridal heads off to find Gloomblight while the Shields find a vaguely secluded spot in the street to cast Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion and sleep for the night. (For the most part. Bosabrieln doesn’t sleep all that well.)

The next morning, and throughout the next week, the Shields of the Sorrowfell are called into meetings in front of Parliament to determine what just transpired. (In addition to the deaths of Bonatos and Vianibrar, other notable casualties include Captain Evell Bole, Count Finlay Brissot, Darstina Tallcrippler, as well as the surviving members of The Platinum Claws: Sariel, Cliff, and Blank.) Key players are the Countess Saoirse Brissot (abolitionist and wife of the late Count Finlay Brissot), Lady Victoria Loveless MacBeth (leader of the Scandshar branch of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks under the name “Lord Key”), and a surprising showing from Vicomtesse Laughter Markosian Helltalon. While the Helltalons are known for supporting the clerics on Temphill, Laughter specifically makes an ecclesiastical argument for the Shields’s actions: they are too powerful for a mere mortal city to regulate, and we must trust in the gods to have the people’s best interests at heart.

Speaking of the gods, Laughter Helltalon also notes that a literal goddess of slavery has walked the streets of Scandshar, so it seems a prudent time to revisit the slavery question. If they are so corrupt a drow death goddess can walk their streets, is that not a message from the gods? In addition to the general opposition of House MacBeth, House Kardec and House Silversgleaming also seem to be generally opposed, but the idea of emancipation has gained a significant amount of traction.

Meanwhile, during the week, Bezaldooz summons a new familiar: a familiar spirit from the Feywild, taking the form of a strange little spider named Goruthrel. It is a much kinder and gentler presence than Bonatos for certain.

Bosabrieln organizes a feast to meet up-and-coming minstrels in the city, as well as various notable personalities in Scandshar. The Shields pitch in and he ends up having an attendance of about 1,000. It’s a wild time.

Torinn also purchases more pitch to blacken his armor. He also notices rumors on the street, the occasional onlooker calling his axe “Drusilla God-biter.” He cannot remove the black stain of blood from the blade where he struck the killing blow to Kiaransalee, no matter how hard he tries. (For that matter, is the stain spreading?)

During the week, Torugar finds the Shields of the Sorrowfell to exchange some of their goods for coin. He likewise delivers something — he apparently spoke with the storm giant Dessa and somehow smoothed things over, so he presents her belt of storm giant strength to Torinn. Likewise, Moridal informs them that there is to be a wake for Darstina Tallcrippler and Vianibrar in Duchy Jepson next week, once the Shields’ tasks in Scandshar are complete.

On Moonday, Fireseek 3, Bosabrieln finds himself ambushed in a temple of Corellon by a random, frizzy-haired human woman. He sends his guard contingent away to speak with her, and the group eventually reconvenes at The Perfumed Garden. The visitor inadvertently introduces herself as Ribbon, a compatriot of Barnabus Sleet and Pete Loudly. She has apparently been trying to track the Shields of the Sorrowfell — first for the bounty, then when she realized they were also anti-slavery and trying to dismantle the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. Ribbon has apparently been trying to infiltrate the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks and assassinate Victoria MacBeth, with mixed success. (Bosabrieln, for his part, reveals his own personal aspirations to have sex with Barnabus Sleet.) During the course of the conversation, Ribbon speaks with a companion on her magic ring to join Bosabrieln and Ribbon; within a half hour, a slender, silver-haired elf woman named Sapphira joins them. She seems a little perturbed that Ribbon used her real name and didn’t warn her to come in disguise, but her irritation soon passes, and she is pleased to meet Bosabrieln.

Towards the end of their meal, Ribbon invites Bosabrieln back to their inn room, and he agrees. However, the drunken Bosabrieln falls asleep in short order, and his guard contingent eventually comes to take him to his own bed, leaving Ribbon and Sapphira to their own devices.

By the end of the week, Parliamentary inquests are ongoing, but the Shields of the Sorrowfell are allowed to leave, and their names are cleared. Their bounty will be redistributed to public works and the rebuilding effort. (It sounds as though the bounty on the Scandshar Six will similarly be redistributed, although their legal status is a little murkier.) Bosabrieln has plans to perform some manner of ceremony for Vianibrar in Nainimdul, but first, they will attend the wake in Duchy Jepson. (They want to speak with Lord Key, or assassinate her, or whatever the case may be, but they decide that can wait for now.)

With that, the Shields of the Sorrowfell disembark for Duchy Jepson on Earthday, Fireseek 6, arriving at the teleportation circle. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Peren check in with the Duchess while Torinn goes to investigate the secret sanctum in the basement of the Wizard’s Tower.

Once finished, Peren heads to the Headmaster’s office to examine the spelljammer parked outside. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln arrive shortly thereafter to catch up with the Headmaster and exchange news. When they exit, they run into Torinn and reconvene, eventually heading to The Addled Alchemist. Meanwhile, Peren manages to determine the workings of the spelljammer helm, and suspects he could attune it and operate it.

Since Ekaterina has not been seen since Torinn told her to leave, Bosabrieln contacts her by sending, saying, “Mayhem in Scandshar over, names cleared. Your choice, come back when you feel it is time.” She merely responds with a simple and noncommittal, “Noted. My condolences.”

The next evening, Freeday, Fireseek 7, the Shields gather at The Addled Alchemist with several of the faculty and staff from the Wizard’s Tower. There is one face they have not seen before, a halfling dressed as a farmer or shepherd. Bosabrieln makes introductions, and she introduces herself as Myrtle Manygoat. Over the course of the conversation, he learns that she was friends with Darstina Tallcrippler (he suspects they were lovers), and that Darstina left instructions with Myrtle a couple of weeks ago should something happen to her. Myrtle was to direct the Shields of the Sorrowfell to a Chernog Bogdanović in The Lady’s Ward, Sigil. She gives an apartment address.

The wake is as raucous as one might expect, with people trading Darstina and Vianibrar stories. Despite the sorrow, it’s a fine time, and many baudy stories tumble out as the drinks flow.

The Shields leave early the next morning, Starday, Fireseek 8, arriving at the teleportation circle at Vianibrar’s house. Torinn waits behind with his Shield Guardian while Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Peren begin the short trek to Nainimdul.

When the trio reaches the town square, Bosabrieln takes up an old Elvish hymn. Many of the townsfolk come to his beautiful singing and join in, clearly understanding why he’s here. Once a large segment of the town has arrived, he takes the opportunity to chide them for not recognizing Vianibrar — regardless of their attitudes toward the cities of Men, this problem would have come to them eventually, and so they should be thankful that someone out there was paying attention. This lecture loses the crowd, but he manages to gain audience with Simsel, a representative of the Tree Council, the governing body of Nainimdul (and one with which outsiders and halfbreeds are not allowed to meet; Bosie has never even seen the Tree Council, and he used to live here). Bosabrieln discusses plans for Vianibrar’s monument, but Simsel refuses a stone obelisk. He is willing to allow Vianibrar’s remains to be interred in the town square, outside of tradition, but the monument must be living wood. Bosabrieln tries to make demands to make it notably phallic, but Simsel refuses. Bosabrieln finally concedes a pine tree, to which Simsel agrees. He says the arrangements should be complete in a day or two. As for Vianibrar’s house, they will let the forest overtake it in time. The teleportation circle is to be dismantled, which Bosabrieln says he will do; Simsel grants his request.

The Shields spend the next couple of days at Vianibrar’s house. While Bosabrieln still conjures Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, he deigns not to sleep within it while they’re here, instead staying in Vianibrar’s house. Simsel summons the Shields on Sunday, Fireseek 9, for the ceremony. A couple of elf women — shamans or druids by their mode of dress — sing to the dirt to move it, and inter Vianibrar’s clothes, caked in the dust of his remains. Bosabrieln says a few words, the women cover the clothes, and they then plant a couple of seeds over the site. They begin singing to the seeds, and over the course of an hour, they grow into a twisting, intertwined pine tree.

Satisfied, Bosabrieln takes his leave, as do the rest of the Shields. Back at Vianibrar’s house, they spend one more night before Bosabrieln locks the door, and they discuss what to do next. The Shields decide to investigate this Chernobog fellow, so they teleport to Scandshar, and use the (now somewhat wilted) desert rose to access Sigil.

Arriving in Sigil, early on Moonday, Fireseek 10, they decide to head for The Lady’s Ward. They quickly surmise they are again being followed by cranium rats, but after some deliberation, decide to proceed with meeting their contact anyway. They arrive at a nicely-appointed apartment block, complete with a doorman. Bezaldooz sends his spider to scout, but with the blinds drawn, it is able to discern very little. Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, and Torinn go upstairs while Peren waits outside and tries to hide in an alley using materials at hand. Torinn waits on the stairwell while Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln go upstairs. They knock on the door and are greeted by a staid tiefling dressed as a butler. As they are circumspect about their names, he tells them to wait a moment and closes the door. They wait; the peephole briefly darkens, and Bosabrieln feels something probe his mind. The door then opens revealing a red-haired nobleman with a pointed goatee. He apologizes for the spellcraft, but notes that one cannot be too careful. He would take it they are the Shields of the Sorrowfell, and invites them inside. They call up Torinn, who sends a message to Peren, summoning the surprised Peren inside the apartment.

Before long, they are all in the man’s apartment. He introduces himself as Chernog Bogdanović, and before they proceed, he asks if they were followed. They explain their cranium rat problem, and while he doesn’t think it’s connected, he performs a brief gesture and incantation before he seems to “skip,” as if he gained a few extra seconds the rest of the room did not. He says they should be reasonably secure, and Bosabrieln offers to use Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion as a secure meeting place. They agree.

Once within, Chernog Bogdanović explains that is not his real name; he is instead Bogdan Dorgumir, a name Peren recognizes as an old member of the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks — no longer with the organization — whose name is only occasionally mentioned, and usually with a degree of hushed disdain or loathing. (Or perhaps, fear?) Torinn pointedly asks if Bogdan is a vampire, to which he replies that is a complicated question: he is vryloka, a living vampire so turned by the Red Witch. A vampire as Torinn means, however? Likely not.

Bogdan explains that the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks performed a purge of its ranks about fifty years ago, right around the Cackledread War (the Peacocks call it, appropriately enough, “The Purge”). Apparently, anyone who had sensitive information but was not trusted to keep it was violently purged from the Peacocks — disappeared or mind-wiped as so often happens to their enemies. Bogdan caught wind of this and thought himself to be on the list, so he proceeded to engineer his own disappearance. He created the persona of Old Tom, and relied on the fact that the Peacocks were disorganized enough to each assume the other took care of him. The gambit paid off, and he has been invisibly roaming the streets of Scandshar as Old Tom for fifty years, quietly building his own information network in that time.

Darstina Tallcrippler apparently learned of his information network and pulled at that thread, working her way up the food chain until she surmised his secret. Of course, by the time she made it to him, he had thoroughly investigated her and was certain she was someone he could trust. Knowing that the Shields were like-minded souls, they both decided to bring them into this secret, as Bogdan has relevant information.

A moment of panic: Bosabrieln tells Bogdan that the Esteemed and Omniscient Peacock Lord apparently perceived him when he performed a legend lore spell on the creature. He does not know if he is being watched. Bogdan says he will deal with that, as there is little that can be done about it now.

Regardless, Bogdan has information that may be of interest to the Shields. The Shields are no doubt familiar with Bree and Eric Goldenear, members of The Law of Fives during the Cackledread War. They apparently had a third sibling, a Bryant Goldenear. While Bree and Eric joined a wizards’ cabal and became war heroes, Bryant joined the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. He was a somewhat ruthless sort, deadly with a blade. When the Purge came, he disappeared.

In the fifty years since the Purge, Bogdan has located him, possibly the only other living member of the Purge. The Peacocks apparently had him imprisoned in the Asylum for the Mentally Disturbed managed by one Dr. Daclaud Heinfroth in the land of Dominia. He has resided there for the past fifty years.

Of course, it’s hardly as simple as all that: Dominia is located in a distant reach of the Shadowfell known as the Domains of Dread. Dread Domains are strange places, prisons designed for the most wretched monsters the multiverse has to offer. However, when they are imprisoned, the Domains of Dread drag their whole domain into the Shadowfell, residents and all. Those for whom the place is a prison become darklords, veritable masters of their domain but unable to escape. It is notable that such a place is truly a prison — difficult to enter, but even more difficult to exit. A darklord can seal the domain against intrusion, and more importantly, against anyone leaving. They are effectively cosmic roach motels.

It is worth noting that Bogdan has performed a fair amount of research about the Domains of Dread, but has never personally visited one. That’s why he’s been seeking a group he can trust: he does not think he could infiltrate the Asylum by himself, but a crack team like the Shields probably could do so and retrieve Bryant Goldenear so that they may learn his secrets — secrets so important that he could neither be allowed to walk free nor could he be killed. He likewise notes that he does not know in what state Bryant might be found; he could be dead by now for all he knows, although he suspects he is still around.

As for infiltration, Bogdan knows of three routes, in addition to anything the Shields might be able to devise. A ship called Mercy travels on a circuit of the Shadowfell, traveling from port-to-port to pick up those being sent for treatment at the Asylum. It is entirely possible the right tout in Sigil might know a portal allowing access to the Asylum, if one is diligent enough to find the proper portal. Finally, the Vistani are said to know the secret ways in and out of the Domains of Dread, so it is possible they could convince a member of the Vistani to lead the way.

Unfortunately, once one gets inside, it is entirely possible that one must fight one’s way back out again. Darklords frequently know if someone arrives in their domain, especially by use of a spell, and so can close the borders. In that case, the darklord must be slain to reopen the borders, although they do not have to be permanently slain — if a vampire darklord is defeated and takes two hours to reform, for example, then they have two hours to leave the domain before the creature closes the borders again.

Bogdan doesn’t have any more information, although he requests they inform him of anything they learn. Likewise, he would be interested in seeing Bryant again, assuming they are able to retrieve him.

For further information, Bosabrieln casts legend lore on Dr. Heinfroth, receiving the following: “Heinfroth, darklord of Dominia, monster of his own making. His sorrow in Gundarak made a creature never before seen.” Of that information, Bogdan recognizes Gundarak, another Domain of Dread ruled by one Duke Gundar before being overthrown by one Dr. Dominiani and eventually annexed by Barovia, ruled by the infamous Count Strahd von Zarovich. Armed with that information, the Shields decide to take their leave.

After discussion — including a side discussion as to whether they ought to hunt and kill these damn cranium rats — the Shields decide to forgo further research in lieu of action. (They’re unlikely to infiltrate the place quietly after all, so they might as well plan for stealth but assume they’re going to go loud in the Asylum eventually.) Since Bosabrieln is blooded into the Vistani and has Vistani contacts, they decide to go that route. Bosabrieln contacts Zinnauvial Zivkovic, the matriarch of his family, with a sending, saying, “Long time, sister. We’re in Sigil. Need family contacts. If there’s anyone you know, names would be appreciated.” She responds, “Be safe, brother; the reading from seven months ago nearly comes to pass. Olga Zivkovic is telling fortunes in The Hive, the Slags.”

They start walking. While walking through the Guildhall Ward, they are interrupted by a parade of 50-some people, women wearing mourning veils with signs proclaiming they are commemorating the Battle of Widows on some unrecognized, backwater plane.

They eventually make it through the Guildhall Ward and the Clerk’s Ward, finally reaching the outskirts of The Hive. The Slags are a blasted mess, appearing like a warzone. They find two fiends scrapping in an alley and decide to not get involved. Shortly thereafter, an angel wreathed in black flame takes on an entire pack of gnolls; the Shields again wisely decide to avoid getting involved. (Although Peren decides he likes this lawless place.) Searching eventually yields a tent city in an alley, and quiet inquiries lead them to Olga Zivkovic, a young Vistana with a cigar in her mouth reading tarokka for one of the desperate souls at her table. Her left eye is light, the other is dark.

When she finishes her reading, Bosabrieln approaches, explaining his plight. She says she will do it, but she has a task she wishes to complete before she leaves Sigil. Her brother, Vata, fell into gambling with a powerful devil called Tetposmeton — an Amnizu, usually leading legions of Hell, this one is cutting deals with the desperate in Sigil. He apparently bet his soul, lost, and was slain. She requests they retrieve his soul from the devil so that he may avoid the clutches of Hell. Bosabrieln agrees. Tetposmeton apparently runs a gambling den in the Shattered Temple District, on the outskirts of The Hive.

Before leaving, Peren asks for his fortune to be told. He pays 10gp and she flicks ash into her ash tray, reads it, and informs him, “You will see a criminal die with fruit in his mouth.” The Shields take their leave to find Tetposmeton.

They wander the rough-and-tumble streets of The Hive for a time before arriving in the Shattered Temple District. This place looks burned and blasted, apparently being several blocks of bombed-out ruins. A few furtive souls wander here, grabbing building materials before quickly leaving. As the Shields walk toward their destination, one of the following cranium rats attempts to contact Torinn’s mind. As the Shields decide they have had enough of this and proceed to massacre the rats, another couple of hordes of rats boil up from the cracks in the buildings. More startlingly, Torinn feels something else contact his mind, asking in an even voice, “What do you know about the rats?” Bosabrieln and Peren notice someone large — twice the size of a normal man — and robed creeping in a nearby alley. When Torinn runs to engage the hooded figure, he finds himself staring into the face of a massive mind flayer, easily twelve feet tall. As the Shields lay waste to the rats and the mind flayer, the wounded creature projects into their minds, indicating it just wishes to talk. Peren refuses and deals the killing blow, kicking off a wall to sever the beast’s head.

With the rats and mind flayer dead, the Shields continue on their way. They eventually reach a building with some activity centered around it. Out front, three figures guard it, acting as bouncers: they are scaly, simultaneously dragon-like and fiendish. Two are green and carry swords, while the blue one carries a staff. They speak in Draconic, and when the Shields state their business, they seem skeptical, but the blue one sends the green one inside. After a moment, he returns and says the boss will see them.

Inside, the dingy environs look like a drug den, full of desperate people trying to make deals and win money. Holding court at the far end of the room is a grotesquely fat devil with stubby wings and a wide, toothy grin. He waves the Shields over to him, and in an overly-friendly voice, gives greeting: he is Tetposmeton, and has apparently heard of the Shields. Bosabrieln matter-of-factly explains their business, but Tetposmeton is already wheeling and dealing. They disagree with his price of 10,000gp for the boy’s soul, thinking it excessive (although as Tetposmeton notes, despite their claims to the contrary, the boy clearly means something to them, otherwise they would not be here). He offers to trade the boy for the seven souls in Peren’s helmet, and after some discussion, they agree. He has one of his servants fetch a “hag bag” (whatever that is), and uses it to retrieve the souls from Peren’s helmet after a bit of study. He hands over the boy’s soul coin for the Shields to do as they like with it.

Bosabrieln leaves, with a disgusted Torinn leaving shortly thereafter, but Peren remains to ask what else Tetposmeton can offer. As he has access to all manner of things, Peren asks him to acquire a carpet of flying and a Daern’s instant fortress. Peren notes he will not be staying in Sigil, but he plans on returning here, so Tetposmeton ought to go ahead and collect those objects anyway; they’ll fully agree on price when Peren returns.

The Shields leave the Shattered Temple District without further incident — apart from Peren spearing an errant cranium rat when they inevitably return to tail the Shields, this time traveling high upon the buildings to avoid the Shields’ offensive capabilities — and they quickly arrive back in the Slags. Olga is surprised to see them return so quickly, and when Bosabrieln reveals Vata’s soul coin, she asks if it is possible to restore him to life. Bosabrieln agrees, undertaking the rites to break the enchantment on the coin and then casting resurrection over the meager remains Olga has on hand. A surprised and bewildered Vata appears from the remains, thankful to be back and released from the nameless torment of the coin. Olga gives him a blanket and thanks Bosabrieln profusely.

With that, she says she will need a day to prepare, but should be ready to leave tomorrow morning. Bosabrieln tells her he will be staying at The Silver Tankard if she wishes to meet up with them tonight.

Satisfied, the Shields head to The Silver Tankard. Aratha greets them heartily, but quickly surmises that all is not right with Bosabrieln. The pair adjourn to a table to talk while Bezaldooz, Peren, and Torinn all get a table together and prepare to rest for the evening.