Shadows of the Past

Into the Stockades
Session 55: Year 977, on the 7th - 14th of Novos

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The party reached the city a day later, and were greeted by a pair of city guards wearing an unfamiliar uniform. They said that Captain Soma had disbanded the militia and found funding to keep the city guard up and running, though right now they were severely undermanned and unable to stop the rival Hangsmen and Birdseye gangs from turning the city into a battleground.

They handed the bandits over the to the men and headed to Emberfell Excursions, seeing that it had been emptied out and closed down in their absence. Next, they visited Captain Soma, who had taken the former militia headquarters as his own. He welcomed the party in and paid them the bounty for Honus, and let them know of the recent events in town.

He said that currently he’s on the hunt for a man called The Treasurer, who knows how the gangs are moving their funds, and more importantly, where the funds are, and Soma hopes to use the knowledge to take their money and force the gangs out of the city. His best agent, a woman named Bimm, was out and about looking for him.

He said that it’s best for the party to lie low for the time being, as the gangs weren’t happy with their previous interference and he couldn’t guarantee their safety. Soma also mentioned that he’d likely have some work for them in the near future, as his guard is short on men and he thought he would need some good fighters before long. Soma pointed them toward a relatively safe inn called the Riverden, where he would make arrangements, and would call upon them there shortly.

Over the next few days, the party went about their business, trying to keep a low profile. They learned that Bastion’s Bazaar had been postponed due to the problems within the city, and that Faowyn would hang around until she found out when and where it would be next. The others found out that Soma’s friend Broddic Borse had his tavern, The World’s End, burned down, likely by the Birdseye gang, and the man himself had since gone missing.

Elsewhere, they discovered that most of the other Emberfell Excursions employees had transferred to the Liras Avanor location, though Pitto and Togonia remained behind. The rest of the city was strangely quiet, with most people staying inside to avoid the erratic behavior of the gangs, who had started openly attacking each other (and passersby) in the streets during the day, taking advantage of the few guards available to police the city.

Late at night on Novos 13th, a message was delivered to the party at the Riverden from Captain Soma, who claimed he had found the Treasurer and was offering 1000 gold to the party if they would come first thing the next morning to extract him.

The next morning, the party met Captain Soma, who explained the situation. His agent, Bimm, had found a credible source who said that the Treasurer was actually hiding in plain sight – he had been arrested some time ago and was currently in the city’s own prison, the Stockades, located under city hall, and the party should head there immediately. The only clue they had for his identity was a strange tattoo or brand on the back of his neck.

Upon their arrival, the party talked to Warden Prenderson, who explained that they couldn’t simply go grab the Treasurer, as the Stockades had broken into riots some weeks ago on the lowest level, where their target was said to be. Each day they would lower food and water down to them, but otherwise were allowing the prisoners to run free until the guard had the manpower necessary to restore order.

He marked which areas of the Stockades were being used by which gangs, and gave them a map to use while inside.

The party decided to forego any cleverness or disguises, and simply donned some standard issue prison blankets to cover their armor and weapons, and had the Warden lower them into the center of the Stockades while most of the prisoners were occupied with the day’s food delivery.

Being cautious, the party soon realized that many of the Hangsmen gang members were the same men they had recently had arrested for attacking the caravan, and that the men could likely identify them if they wandered too close. Eventually, they were discovered, but managed to scare off the poorly armed men once they realized the party was fully armored and armed.

Handing out treats for information, they came upon Captain Jacoby, now imprisoned here, who had recently tried to drown them within the reservoir below the city. He attacked Janos and Corvus, and after they subdued him, pointed them toward the only unknown variable in the Stockades, a serial killer known as Arnott the Disembowler, who kept to himself.

The party realized that a man as clever as the Treasurer, who was wanted down here by not only Soma but the gangs, could have disguised himself as such a character, and they pushed their way through the kenku of the Birdseye Gang to his cell, where their suspicions were confirmed. They offered him the only chance he would have for survival, to leave with them before the gangs realized where he was, and that the rumors of his location were already circling around on the streets above.

Realizing that their conversation had been overheard by one of the sly kenku, he quickly agreed, and followed the party as they headed toward the elevator in haste. Along the way, both the Birdseye gang and Hangsmen gang began to pin them in, now aware of the Treasurer’s identity, and, backed against the elevator waiting for the doors to open, were forced to fight the bravest of the gang members who tried to take the Treasurer’s life before he escaped.

Holding their ground, Corvus and Wyverna kept the gangs at bay, while Quinn cleared the main hallway of attackers with a giant fireball sent down a much smaller corridor. When the elevator arrived, the party quickly forced the Treasurer inside with them and shut the doors, rising up and out of danger.

Or so they thought.

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A Caravan in Need
Session 54: Year ???, on the ??? of ???

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As they left Azru’s tower and the swampland behind, the party realized that a lot of time had passed in the outside world – whether simply due to the tower’s nature or the tampering of the chronomagical hourglass – they didn’t know, but the stars had moved, and Corvus and Faowyn guessed that at least a month had passed, maybe more.

On their way out, they found strange lizard tracks leading deeper into the swamp, but unsure of the date or the state of Liras Menevol, their curiosity was not piqued and they continued on their way at a brisk pace.

After a week of retracing their steps toward the city, the party came across an abandoned caravan in the middle of the road, a couple days outside of Menevol. At first glance, it appeared to have been attacked by orcs, but a close inspection showed that it was likely a large group of humans, who had taken off into the woods nearby.

Wyverna investigated the inside of the caravan, which had been ransacked and looted, and found two small boys hiding under the floor boards. They said that men had come and their mother and father had told them to hide and be quiet, and that the men took their mother away. Insisting they were kept out of sight, Corvus quickly buried their father’s body nearby to spare them the image.

After feeding the children and calming them down, Wyverna easily found the trail the men took into the forest, leading the caravan’s horses, and without a discussion, they decided that they had to look for their mother and bring her back, if possible. They asked the children to hide again, just for a short while, and then Faowyn led them through the forest.

A few hours later, they came across the bandit’s camp, full of what seemed to be members of the Hangsmen gang and the Menevolla militia, though they were filthy and wearing only pieces of the official uniform. The party counted nearly ten or so bandits, with no sign of the mother, and spread out, waiting for dark.

Wyverna approached first, trying to get a feel for the hostility of the situation, which was quickly realized when one of the bandits spotted her and called for their boss, Honus. A larger man, Honus explained that this was his group of mercenaries and he was wanted for some heinous, violent crimes, so they’d better not mess with him.

The party then messed with him, leaving the treeline to corner the bandits and subdue them. Scouting ahead, Janos peeked into the house, realizing that there were many more men inside and using the opportunity to ignite Demas and send him inside, scaring the others out. As they took the bandits out, one by one, Honus managed to corner an injured Wyverna, but a timely powerful spell from Janos saved her, and killed the mercenary leader. The others quickly surrendered, and inside they found the woman, who accused the men of having their way with her.

Unwilling to outright murder the men for their crimes, Corvus then demanded they immediately renounce their part in the Hangsmen gang, which they did, and the men were all bound together and led back to the caravan, where the family was reunited. The next morning, the party led the family’s caravan back toward the city, along with the bandits and Honus’s head, to collect the reward.

The next day they came across a courier headed from the city to Sra Lussa, who said that the date was Novos 7th – nearly three months had passed while they were inside Azru’s tower. Faowyn realized that she had likely missed her chance for Bastion’s Bazaar, while the others realized they were likely now unemployed, after missing for so long.

The courier mentioned that the militia had been disbanded by Captain Soma, and since then the city had broken out into gang warfare. Even worse, Prince Ranton’s ship was intercepted on the way back to Liras Avanor, and it was rumored that the empire of Issalin was behind it, which would mean certain war.

Wyverna took the opportunity to send a letter to the military academy of Sra Lussa, requesting some students be sent her way, if possible, hoping that it would be enough to save the city.

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Tower of Azru, Part III
Session 53: Year 977, on the 3rd of Augos

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Barely escaping the slaad with their lives, the party took a few minutes to rest in the next room while Azru’s mirror once again mocked them. Azru claimed that his search through other planes of existence for a cure to Risham’s poison had failed, and he was now forced to try and slow down its effects by tinkering with chronomancy – time magic – one of the taboos of the magical world.

The room held a giant hourglass, floating in the center on an axis, allowing it to be tilted either way. While Quinn and Janos investigated its use, Azru warned that tampering with chronomancy could have consequences. Just then, a door opened, releasing a giant animated construct of gears and clocks and hourglass parts, an enormous time mechanism with whirling blades.

The construct had control over time, the party soon realized, as it zipped around the room with lightning speed, too fast to catch, hurt, or defend against. Willing to take the risk to save their lives, Quinn took control of the hourglass, tilting it the other way, which slowed the machine down to a crawl, allowing the party enough time to rip it apart. They then set the hourglass back to normal, hoping the side effects would be minimal.

Within the debris of the creature, they found a few magical clocks which would allow them to briefly turn back time for a second or two, when absolutely necessary.

The next room was locked, but a quick request to Keybert gave the party entry.

Inside was a large fountain with geysers shooting up with strange chimes, while streams of water came down from invisible sources. A small water sprite leaped from geyser to geyser, joyfully. Azru claimed the room needed no explanation, and the mirror went blank.

Looking through the invisibility spell, Quinn realized that there were a dozen other sprites in the room, all standing on top of pillars, urinating (?) into the fountain.

Inspecting the exit, the party realized the door was alive in some way, a large stone face was built into the architecture, and there were no hinges, handle, or device to open it as far as they could tell. Above the door was the phrase “let running water flow from this mouth”, and the party tried everything they could think of, pouring water into it, giving it potions, until they realized the door could speak, though it would only answer questions.

Corvus took a swim in the fountain to see how the sprites would react, letting them jump around and on top of him, while Wyverna briefly attempted to subdue one in hopes that it would help them out. Finally, the party realized that they had to make the door speak the password, and Wyverna asked “what a river has” to trick the door into opening.

The next room appeared to be Azru’s private study, a dimly lit and quaint room of endlessly tall bookshelves, comfortable chairs, and scrolls. Quinn managed to find a handful of useful rituals, while Wyverna found an invisible book, reflected only by a nearby mirror.

As they inspected it, Faowyn realized that it was a carbon copy of the “unique” journal she had come across which had led them all to Azru’s tower in the first place, complete with identical notes and tips written within the margins. The only difference was an additional piece of parchment in the back which detailed some sort of spell to be cast “in case of emergency”, surrounded with doodles of skeletons.

Faowyn and the others began to suspect that perhaps they did not stumble upon the tower by chance, but that the journal (one of many, possibly) had guided them here intentionally.

The next hallway held several open vaults which could have once contained a massive amount of wealth and magical items, but now held only dozens of skeletons, collapsed on the floors. Azru’s mirror explained that he had no other choice now but to resort to necromancy in an attempt to save his own life, and he had to create the journals as maps to lure adventurers to his tower in order to practice on them, as he was in dire need of bodies and souls to experiment on before attempting anything on himself.

Then, the mirror cast a spell, bringing the skeletons to life, though Quinn’s fireball and Faowyn’s “emergency” spell made short work of them.

When the skeletons fell, the exit revealed itself, opening into a strange laboratory of some sort, filled with undead creatures and parts, strapped to tables, chained to walls, some still unalive, clawing to break free of their restraints. Azru’s mirror told the party that he was so close to something, not only an escape from Risham’s poison, but an escape from mortality, and that he had been so foolish until now, not realizing that there are no lines that shouldn’t be crossed in magic, that the purest form of magic is unrestrained, where everything is permitted.

Leaving the laboratory and climbing a spiral staircase. The architecture had changed dramatically, now covered with skulls and bones, and the air became frigid and stale. The mirror thanked Risham for showing Azru the way, and apologized for any hardships he had brought upon him, and that he now appreciated what he had been forced to discover, in his own desperation.

At the top of the stairs was a sarcophagus, slightly ajar, filled with a bubbling black, putrid ooze. Janos said that with his limited knowledge in dark magic, he believed that Azru had transformed himself into something nefarious.

The door opened to the top of the tower, a large cathedral ceiling of clear, shined stones, covered in ice. In the center of the room was one last mirror, in front of a small pedestal which held a small icy blue skull, aflame, glowing with magical energy. Mere feet away were a handful of other adventurers, frozen in blocks of ice, their hands stretched out toward the skull.

Faowyn thought that she had finally found the Blinking Eye, and Corvus had to restrain her from taking it immediately. Janos and Quinn inspected the skull, realizing it was full of dark magic, and then the mirror came to life. It was Azru – or at least, it had been – but now there was a ghastly, pale figure, more skeleton than human, with glowing blue eyes. He introduced himself as Zaxxrammas, and said that he was giving the party a choice – either take the magical item for themselves and use it to gain power and wealth, or destroy it and kill Zaxxrammas, as his life force was tied to it.

Without hesitation, Corvus leapt forward and swung his magical axe at the skull, shattering it in a massive magical explosion, which knocked the rest of the party down (and shattered the frozen adventurers, as well) with the blast.

As the party recovered, the mirror came to life again, this time with Zaxxrammas in real-time, instead of the recordings they seen so far. He laughed at them for their attempt to kill him, admitting that the magical item was not in fact his life force, but a test for the greed of the adventurers who have made it thus far. He said that until today, every adventurer had tried to take the skull, and he is intrigued by the party’s decision to destroy it and do “the right thing.”

Faowyn explained that she had come only for the Blinking Eye, and that they had no need for the wealth or treasures he held – they only wished to leave.

The party soon realized that Zaxxrammas had watched them throughout the entire tower, and he thanked them for being so entertaining. Through the mirror, the lich handed Wyverna the guest book from downstairs, asking them to please sign it to commemorate the occasion, and he would gladly hand over the Blinking Eye and show them the exit.

Not wanting to interact (or sign anything) with a lich, the party eventually agreed, signing the book and handing it back through the mirror. The lich then laughed, and disappeared, shattering the mirror as it faded away.

Still trapped, the party used a ritual to find the hidden exit, which lead them out of the same trap door they had used to enter the tower. The party slammed the door shut, covered it with rubble, and laid on the ground, exhausted. They noticed that the area seemed much more overgrown than it had been the day before, the black guard’s armor now covered in a thick layer of moss., and even the air seemed cooler, as if fall had come.

After a short while, they decided to leave the tower area for a safer place to spend the night, and within moments of entering the swamp, they came across one final mirror. Zaxxrammas appeared, thanking the party for their entertainment and offering them an invitation to his newly constructed tower in the Duskmire, should they ever desire to either destroy him or gain the riches they were denied today, and he recommended they sign the guest book this time.

Then, the lich reached through the mirror and dropped the Blinking Eye into Faowyn’s outstretched hand, and just like that, their quest was complete.

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Tower of Azru, Part II
Session 52: Year 977, on the 3rd of Augos

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The party had no concept of how much time had passed, as the tower seemed to have some kind of strange magical aura within it – sometimes it seemed things were moving slower than normal, sometimes too fast, it was hard to keep track.

Moving onward from the puzzles and traps they had seen so far, the party then came to a strange open doorway with a sink and drain nearby.

Above the door were the words “No outside food or drink”, and they found that they were unable to pass through without emptying their packs of all rations, potions, and consumables of any kind. Inside, they could see what seemed to be a laboratory filled with potions and a strange cauldron.

Once inside the laboratory, a mirror activated and Azru appeared, looking much healthier, and he admonished Risham once again, saying that he had easily cured the poison within him, but doing so had taken the creation of a lot of unsafe experimental potions, which now lined the walls. Azru had placed a spell on the exit, which would only allow someone through once they had drunk one of his many potions left on the shelves on the wall, all unlabeled.

Consulting her journal, Faowyn crossed off a handful of potions which were marked with skulls and other warning signs, and the party each chose one to drink.

Quinn drank a strange rainbow colored potion, which began to teleport him erratically around the room.

Janos drank a fiery potion, which caused him to burst into flames and emit a flaming aura (which he didn’t mind so much).

Corvus drank a strange clear liquid, which immediately caused him to cough up blood and weakened him.

Wyverna chose a cloudy blue potion, which caused her to float in mid-air, a foot above the ground.

And Faowyn drank a bright gold potion, which immediately shrank her to two thirds of her size.

After they passed through the exit, the party realized that the effects were not going to wear off any time soon.

The next room was a large art gallery of some kind, with enormous paintings of giant creatures on the walls. One was a large statue with a sword, similar to one at the end of the hallway (which had no sword, strangely). Others were a giant spider, a giant bat, an enormous centipede, a gargantuan castle-devouring worm, as well as a large snake, panther, and a tiny little bunny in a meadow.

Azru appeared in a mirror, explaining that these were the creatures he used to develop his antidotes to Risham’s poison, and that afterwards he put them into this paintings as so not to waste them. He pointed to a set of three switches in the middle of the room, saying that if Risham remembered the perfect arrangement of lights within his study then he would know exactly what combination of switches to leave on/off to escape the room.

The party began to push and pull the switches, and each combination brought a different painting to life, releasing the creatures within into the hall, attacking them. As they desperately tried to fend of the magical painting monsters while also trying to escape, Corvus realized that the statue’s sword might be the key, and entered the painting to retrieve the sword, placing it within the statue’s hands in the hall, opening the door. Quinn quickly entered the painting as well, opening the painted door in the image and finding a tiny chest, locked, which had been magically hidden within.

Leaving the hallway, the party finally came to a room where they could rest. It appeared to be a normal dining room, and as they sat to catch their breath, food was magically placed upon their plates. The mirror told them to enjoy their dinner, and to please not make a mess. They ate the food cautiously, but it appeared free of any poisons or ill-will. Before leaving, Janos managed to lockpick a cabinet, taking a handful of potions for the party to use going forward.

The next room was small, filled with a single chest, upon which sat an animated key. The mirror insisted that Risham apologize to “Keybert” for an offense unknown to the party, and the party tried to communicate with the key to determine what had been done. After a few attempts, Faowyn was able to coax Keybert into opening the chest by playing a few songs and apologizing on behalf of Risham, and inside they found a handful of powerful gems. Keybert then decided to join the party, hopping into Faowyn’s sack.

The next room was prefaced by a mirror of Azru on the wall, who admitted that he had not actually cured the poison, and that he needed to reach other planes to look for a cure there. In his travels, he discovered a strange creature who enjoyed a particular type of puzzle, and the next room would include the puzzle as well as the creature, who was not particularly patient.

Entering, the party came face to face with a slaad, a powerful creature from the astral plane with a taste for puzzles and mortal flesh. Quinn was able to communicate with the creature in primordial, and realized that Azru had promised the creature that any visitors would dazzle it with an amazing puzzle, or that he could devour them whole. Both doors were sealed shut tight, the exit barred with enormous stone slabs too heavy for even Corvus and Wyverna to move.

Both the party and the slaad were eager to begin, and the slaad tossed a couple of chests at them which contained strange magical triangles, meant to interlock into images on the floor perfectly. As the slaad watched, salivating with hunger, the party worked hard to complete the images, finally locking the pieces together. Unable to comprehend the solution, the slaad angrily tried to redo the puzzle, throwing the pieces around in a fit. Quinn politely reminded the slaad about the exit, and it effortlessly threw the door open, slamming it shut as the party quickly left the creature’s violent tantrum, and sending them into a strange new room.

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Tower of Azru
Session 51: Year 977, on the 3rd of Augos

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Descending down the stairs under the trapdoor, the party suddenly felt themselves walking up, and exited into a small antechamber within a (seemingly) fully intact tower, furnished and dimly lit. A strange mirror sat in front of them, which sprang to life, showing the visage of a wizard claiming to be Azru.

The mirror functioned as a recording device, and the party soon realized that the message was not meant for them, but his former apprentice, a wizard named Risham, who Azru accused of poisoning him so that he could enter the tower after his death to steal all of his magical treasures. His fate sealed, Azru said that he would spend whatever time he had left turning his tower into a dungeon of unspeakable horrors, designed specifically so that Risham, with his intimate knowledge of Azru and the tower, had the slightest chance to survive, in which case he was welcome to all of Azru’s treasures.

If, however, any others had come in search of his belongings, they would certainly perish. Azru then asked everyone to sign the guestbook, an old, dusty tome which the party saw already held the names of hundreds of other treasure seekers who had come searching for Azru’s magical items over what seemed to be a hundred years or more.

Unable to leave the tower, the party considered their fate sealed, until Faowyn mentioned that she had expected something of the sort (further enraging them), but there was no other way to get them to join her, and they were her best chance to claim the magical item which waits at the end of the tower. The journal she had discovered, she said, would guide them through the tower.

With no other choice, the party continued on.

Entering a small library, they quickly realized that in order to pass through, they had to be carrying a book, as “only those who appreciate the finer things in life” could advance.

Next, they came to a large pit filled with bones, which were falling from holes in the ceiling. Another mirror came to life with Azru’s image, welcoming them to the disposal, where the bodies of previous adventurers were sent (had to keep them somewhere). The rest of the message addressed Risham, who he was sure was coming, and clarified that each puzzle would be related closely to their shared experiences (usually focused on Risham’s flaws during them).

A strange lock on the door opened only when a puzzle was solved (two close a bargain, one rebukes it), which Wyverna opened with one of the arm bones taken from the pit, realizing it meant a handshake.

The door opened to a spiraling hallway with another mirror, which warned Risham of the pain and dangers to come. Deadending at a strange wall, Quinn and Janos were able to determine a hint of plasmata magic, and Faowyn found in her journal a passage which guided them to paint the wall red with their own blood. Once finished, a strange abomination of blood crawled out of the wall, taking the forms of all whose blood it held. Trying to calm the creature, Corvus extended a hand, and realized too late that the creature longed for the lifeforce of the living. The party sprang into action, attacking the creature until finally it melted into blood and disappeared, though the bloody wall opened into another hallway.

Inside was a strange life-size chess-like game board, which Wyverna recognized as an old game called Dragon’s Lair. Azru appeared in a mirror and cursed Risham for the poison, which was working much quicker than he had expected. The game, he said, was one Risham had refused to learn, and that he and his allies (which he assumed the party was made of) would have to take the place of the pieces.

Stepping onto the board, each member of the party learned what they could do as their piece without “breaking the rules” and taking a large magical shock from the board, and the game began. Strange magical constructs appeared opposite them on the board, and the party had to move and attack as the pieces they represented.

Eventually, they were able to corner the opposing Maiden and win the game, which reset the board and freed them from its magical grasp, allowing them to continue.

The next room simply held a large six-sided die, and the mirror showed Azru in bad shape, lying on the floor, looking sickly. He said that he had created this elaborate puzzle for this room, but he didn’t have the energy to finish it, and that he needed to look for an antidote to the poison that was doing him in. So instead of a puzzle, he simply had the die set to explode if the party didn’t roll a number of 3s on it within the time given.

As the timer started, the party began to quickly pick up and roll the enormous die, with every 3 recorded on the walls above in glowing blue runes. After a minute or so, everyone but Faowyn and Wyverna had rolled enough 3s, and the die exploded with the remaining magical energy, flooring both of them and opening the door to the next room.

Exhausted, the party took a short rest, dreading what might come next.

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Faowyn's Quest
Session 50: Year 977, on the 27th of Jularon - 3rd of Augos

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The next morning, Faowyn lead the party out of the city towards the northeast, and shared some of the details of her quest. She was looking for a magical item said to reside within an ancient wizard’s tower near the city, and she had come across an old journal of clues and information that should lead them through the tower and to her prize. The rest of the party was welcome to whatever treasures and wealth they came across, which was rumored to be a a fortune.

She had a map to guide the way through the dangerous orc-infested lands and dark swamp between the city and the tower, and although she did mention that there was a rumor of a black guard protecting the tower’s entrance, Faowyn claimed she had a plan to take care of that, if true.

Over the next few days, Faowyn led the party north and east, away from the relative safety of Liras Menevol. It wasn’t long before they found signs of the orcs said to roam the lands there, and though going around their territory would be the best idea, Faowyn insisted that they go straight through, that she was unable to spare the time necessary for a lengthy detour. To help them on their way, Faowyn sang an ancient elven song which seemed to speed their progress and lift their morale.

One night, Corvus caught an orcish scout who had been stalking them along their journey, and were forced to end its life when it wouldn’t surrender. After that, the party took extra care in their traveling, choosing to navigate an old forest of dead trees rather than risk an encounter with the orc presence clear in the canyons and mountains nearby. They found several old, broken traps within the forest, and assumed that once this had been a battleground of some sort.

Eventually, Faowyn led them to the swamplands, consulting her journal to find the signs necessary for locating the wizard’s tower. She gave more details of the journey to ease the worries of the others, letting them know that the tower was said to be of a powerful wizard named Azru, who had died long ago, and she was not expecting much resistance once inside the tower itself.

At one point they came across what seemed to be an old stone marker, which pointed forward to Johurdst, and behind to Mnenvoldt. Using a ritual to understand the language, the party realized that it was written in an old dwarven dialect similar to the stonesworn language they had encountered on Meddes.

Finally, they came upon an enormous felled tree, carved out and filled with a path of stones, which led them through the marsh and to the remnants of an ancient stone tower, now a pile of rubble barely ten feet tall. Surrounding it were the signs of what had once been other, smaller stone buildings, also reduced to debris.

Carved into a crumbling stone archway were stonesworn words reading Outpost of Johurdst.

A sound caught the party’s attention, and they caught sight of a black guard patrolling the area. Having seen what a black guard could do, the party tried to urge Faowyn to avoid it, but she insisted that this was the one and only way into the tower of Azru, and engaged it. Corvus and Wyverna charged in as well, while Quinn and Janos tried to keep their distance.

The black guard’s armor was nearly impenetrable, and within seconds it had easily knocked most of the party aside. Faowyn produced a strange sword, black as obsidian, similar to the black guard’s armor, and with a strong attack, broke a small chunk of the black guard’s armor free. Seeing the weakness, Corvus, Wyverna, and Faowyn tossed the sword back and forth as each was in position, doing their best to avoid the guard’s brutal attacks while they slowly chipped away at it.

After a few minutes, seeing her chance, Faowyn took the sword from Corvus and charged in, slicing the guard’s armor in half and dropping it to the ground. Suddenly, their foe’s armor turned old, ancient, and rusty, shrinking and breaking away as if it had been there for hundreds of years. Satisfied with the impressive combat prowess of their new ally, the party took a short rest as Faowyn located the tower’s entrance, a trap door under a pile of rubble.

With no idea what might be inside, the party drew their weapons and entered.

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The Wyndarri Poet
Session 49: Year 977, on the 26th of Jularon

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As the party arrived at Emberfell Excursions the next morning, they were greeted by a group of militia members exiting Camodian Frell’s office. They recognized one of the men as the man who had locked them in the reservoir the previous night, and learned he was Captain Jacoby, the current leader of the Menevolla Militia.

Inside, there was another unexpected sight. Sitting atop Camodian Frell’s desk was a beautiful female elf, her hair a strange snowy white, her eyes an impossible, glowing green. She was dressed in expensive leather armor with gold trim, and had a strange, rune-laden curved longsword at her side. A brimmed hat sat low on her head, as she casually strummed a beautifully carven lute.

The party had heard of the Wyndarri Poet seen in town, and some had seen her already from a distance, but now, seeing her in person, they understood some of the strange claims. Her eyes were mesmerizing, glowing pools of green ocean, and every movement, however slight, was smooth — unnaturally fluid and effortless. She gave a smirk and a wink, and the party could hardly believe that such a delicate, charismatic creature had managed to open the Shadow Gate, as the rumor said, or, to be honest, had ever been in a fight at all.

Camodian Frell introduced her as Faowyn of Featherfall, and asked the party to explain the previous night’s actions. Afterwards, he said that Captain Jacoby had come that morning to extort the company, and implied that the party had crossed some lines which the militia could simply not ignore, and they demanded the arrest of Wyverna, Corvus, Quinn, and Janos, as well as a hefty fine from Emberfell Excursions.

However, Faowyn had apparently been aware of the party’s doings the night before, and had arrived at Emberfell Excursions in just enough time to present a solution. She managed to convince Jacoby to forego the arrests and instead take an enormous bribe, which she paid herself, with the promise that the party would shortly be leaving the city and causing no more problems.

With the company’s wealth low due to the recent troubles at the docks and warehouse, Camodian Frell accepted the offer, and said that Faowyn had an expectation in return. In fact, she had used the gold to hire Emberfell Excursions, specifically the party, to accompany her on a quest for an item she had located, a week out of town.

Not seeing much of a choice, the party accepted, and agreed to leave immediately.

Before going, Camodian Frell asked a favor of his own, to check on the whereabouts of Captain Soma, the previous head of the Menevolla Militia (and before that, the city guard), as there had been an understanding with him for not interfering with Eynn’s business here. Camodian Frell felt that if Soma could be found, the two of them could sort things out while the party was out of town, allowing Emberfell Excursions to smooth things over with the militia and keep the company up and running.

The party, along with Faowyn, who insisted on tagging along to make sure the party didn’t skip out of their agreement, arrived at Captain Soma’s house to find it had been broken into, and Soma was missing (for some time, according to a neighbor). After some investigation, they discovered that Soma had been committed to a mental hospital in the city, and they went to find out why.

Corvus and Wyverna dressed down, posing as relatives of Soma, and were able to chat with him in the dining hall. He appeared heavily sedated, but they were able to gather that he had been admitted against his will and blamed Jacoby, who had used the recent death of his son (who they learned was a member of the Soaring Eagles, Colard Soma, killed in Silverwatch by the Birdseye Gang to send a message to Soma) to justify removing Soma from duty. He seemed upset at the current state of things, and said that if they could bust him out of the hospital, he’d get to work dismantling the corrupt militia and arresting Jacoby.

The party returned later that night to break him out. Faowyn stood watch out front, playing songs to attract a crowd and provide a distraction, while the others snuck in the rear of the hospital, climbing the wall to access the grounds. Wyverna and Corvus climbed up and through the window, releasing Soma, as well as a large number of other patients he insisted on breaking out as well. They reluctantly helped the other patients down, who began to cause trouble and alerted some of the orderlies in the area.

As soon as the guards were alerted, the party insisted on leaving, before they were identified, and helped Soma over the wall and to freedom. He insisted on first going to the World’s End Tavern, run by Broddic “The Arm” Borse, where he had a drink, thanked the party for their help, and started working on plans to get the loyal militia members back on his side and to oust Captain Jacoby from power. He told the party that it would better if they lay low for the time being, and he’d send word if he could use their talents in any of the upcoming struggle.

Satisfied, the party left for the Anchordrop Inn, along with Faowyn, with plans to leave the city first thing in the morning.

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The Reservoir
Session 48: Year 977, on the 20-25th of Jularon

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Jularon 20 – 25th:

After the last-man-standing competition, the party brought Togonia, Horace, Coscia, and Abaddo on board, as well as Pitto, an old acquaintance from the days of Silverwatch Fort.

As the week went on, Janos and Quinn dug into the financial ties of the other companies who had taken over the warehouse and docks, and made a series of strange discoveries.

Through a series of shell companies, one single entity, a janitorial company named Ondorra Indentured Services, had taken over nearly the entire area north of the river, for the week leading up to the end of the tournament.

Janos looked further, realizing that the company also owned much of the city’s real estate, including the Hangsmen base of operations, and much of the militia holdings.

Quinn set a series of arcane trackers on some of the goods, which seemed to be transported through the city by a series of tunnels, which Janos discovered to be the old sewer system, and after confirming Quinn’s suspicions, mapped out the routes.

From what they could tell, it looked like all of the ships and warehouses were suddenly clearing out their goods, moving them to a single location which seemed to be a large empty reservoir, underground, in the middle of the city. And just that morning, Gershel, the dock’s foreman, was found dead along with his assistant – loose ends being tied up, it seemed.

Wyverna agreed with the threat – it seemed that something was indeed about to happen, and happen soon, with the end of the tournament being the next day. As Corvus came back on the night of the 25th, the party donned their gear and headed out.

Following the map, the party arrived at the reservoir, but were unable to find an entrance. A quick investigation of the area found one particular building out of place, newer construction, seemingly inserted where an alley should have gone, labeled Enlightened Lamps Company.

Knocking at the enormous double doors brought a call for a password to enter, and the party forced their way in.

Inside was a nearly empty room, besides a large fireplace on the opposite wall, and a table with four people, playing cards. They were armed and two of them wore the familiar colors of the militia. The party easily overpowered them, and tied them up, while Janos discovered that the fireplace held a secret entrance to the sewers below.

Once in the sewers, Quinn was able to track one of the moving goods, and the party discovered a heavily used path in the stone, where many carts and items had clearly been transported. A few minutes later, they came across a pair of thugs moving a cart filled with strange vials. Corvus and Wyverna tackled and silenced the thugs, while Quinn inspected the cargo, discovering that it was the illegal magical narcotic, arcone.

Infuriated by their participation in the drug trade, Janos threatened the thug, who gave up the location of the reservoir.

The party entered the reservoir as quietly as possible, and saw a veritable warehouse in place on the upper level, crates stacked upon crates, as well as dozens of thugs and militia members and a kenku, who were moving many of the crates through gates above. Below was a strange golden minotaur statue, nearly twenty feet tall, engraved with a quote from one of Thorne’s tales.

An alert sentry spotted the group as they entered the reservoir, and a man wearing militia garb, apparently in charge, stepped forward and assessed the situation. He said that they were all dead men if Lo’Haarash caught them, and that he’d take care of this himself.

He told the others to get out of here, and then he activated the reservoir controls, locking the other doors and filling the room with water. The thugs dumped large crates over the side, which burst, revealing angry and confused bullywug creatures, apparently meant to be sold in the city.

The man threw the key to one, which swallowed it, and then he left with the rest of the thugs, sealing the party inside with the creatures and quickly rising water.

Climbing atop the remaining boards of the broken crates, the party was able to fight the bullywugs off while Janos tried to stall the control mechanism, until they found the key inside one of the deceased creatures and were able to shut it off completely. They opened the gates and tried to follow the thugs, but soon realized that they had gone into the militia headquarters, and they would likely be arrested if they tried anything.

Going back to the reservoir, they inspected the remaining goods, finding a lot of crates labeled Fancy Feast of Crows birdseed, as well as illegal perishable goods such as narcotic mushrooms, and empty metal cages which now only contained some old children’s clothes and toys.

The party realized that the minotaur statue had been moved in here from a larger gate, and once opened, followed it for nearly an hour until they realized they were directly under the river of the city. Inside, they saw another, identical minotaur statue, which was said to be a present from Issalin to the Valanorian empire.

The party was concerned that the minotaur statues had been swapped, and that something nefarious was afoot, and alerted one of the games organizers. The kingsguard were brought in, and told the party to head home and that they’d take care of the situation. Reluctantly, the party left, heading back through the tunnel and into the lamp store, noticing that the thugs they had left restrained there and in the sewer had since been found and apparently released.

Unsure what they could do without overtly challenging the corrupt militia, the group decided to rest on it and they headed back to the Anchordrop Inn.

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New Recruits
Session 47: Year 977, on the 20th of Jularon

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Jularon 20th:

In the afternoon, Quinn and Wyverna headed down to the docks to find out why Emberfell Excursions wasn’t allowed in their warehouse, while Corvus and Janos headed to the arena to look for some new recruits.

Quinn and Wyverna noticed that there were a lot of new faces at the docks and warehouses. The Menevolla militia seemed familiar with them, though by appearance they seemed to be vagrants, thugs, and, Wyverna suspected, possible members of the Hangsmen gang.

In their normal spot was a strange ship, the Flying Serpent, which was said to have priority for the dock and also the warehouses this week. Inside the warehouse where the Emberfell goods usually sat, were strange crates filled with new weapons, with the company names burned off the wooden planks.

After talking to the foreman, a fat sloppy man named Gershel, Quinn and Wyverna began to suspect that someone with a lot of power (and money) had bribed the foreman and most of the warehouse owners, to have them drive out their own customers to make space for these new mysterious goods coming in this week.

A few more questions and they were told that things would be back to normal next week, leading them to believe that whatever was happening would collide with the end of the games, scheduled for that weekend. They also heard the name Lo’Haarash, who was said to be in charge of the recent changes. With that, they headed to the arena to fill in the others.

Corvus and Janos had shown up at the games in search of new recruits, and split up to double their chances.

Corvus headed up to the stands to hobnob with some of the moneyed spectators who were betting on the games, trying to figure out who they were expecting to do well. He was told to place bets on an archer named Togonia, and a strongman named Horace. He also heard that there was said to be a Wyndarri poet in the city, an ancient order of magical sword-fighting bards, thought to have been nothing but myth.

Janos headed to the practice area below the stands, and saw a familiar face immediately – Coscia, from Silverwatch Fort, once a member of the Amazing Minotaurs, and then Crazy Crow’s assistant at Silverwatch House. She and her friend (and former teammate) Abaddo were preparing to compete in a last-man-standing event in the middle of the arena, and Janos mentioned that if they did well, there might be some work waiting for them.

As Quinn and Wyverna arrived and shared the news of the docks, Corvus and Janos shared their own prospects, and the group decided to keep an eye out for the new talent. Corvus and Janos volunteered to enter the competition to get a firsthand account of the fighters, while Quinn and Wyverna stayed in the stands above, using hand signals to show Corvus and Janos which fighters they should engage and size up.

Twill Tweed gathered the fighters below the stage beforehand, and begrudgingly allowed Corvus and Janos to compete, quietly begging them not to destroy the entire arena this time. The competition granted points per round still fighting, as well as bonus points for occupying certain areas of the arena, which caused most of the conflict.

Though Togonia was indeed a skilled archer, and Horace proved to be a tough foe, Corvus and Janos were too much on their own, and easily cruised to a dual-victory, with Corvus taking the prize with the bear’s share of points available.

As the dust cleared, Twill Tweed announced the point totals, and the party compared notes as Corvus took the stage for his victory.

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Sleepy's Hollow
Session 46: Year 977, on the 18th - 20th of Jularon

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Jularon 18th and 19th:

After recuperating from fighting the troll, the party found a clearing and slept. The next day, they used the sun to head in the general direction of Liras Menevol, becoming lost a few times in the forest that seemed to go on forever, but eventually finding tall golden towers in the distance to use as a landmark.

As the sun was setting, the party emerged from the forest to the location of the towers, which they saw now were enormous corn stalks, nearly 100 feet tall, surrounded by a pumpkin patch covered in pumpkins that were 5, 10, even 15 feet around.

Before they could process the spectacle, an old man called to them from a nearby farm house. The man’s name was Loren Loo, he said, but friends called him Sleepy. He offered seats to everyone and served them some stew, along with some extremely potent spiked Pumpkin Rice Cider, and shared his story.

Sleepy’s farm was once a prosperous vegetable patch specializing in pumpkins, but recent pests (giant insects, he said) had ruined his crops (and killed his two dogs), and he was desperate for help when a man named Crane came by, selling a concoction called Miracle-Gro 2, which he poured all over his farm. The crops came back to life, growing to enormous sizes.

He told the party that they could crash at his place that night, that the judges for the Harvest Fest are coming by first thing to judge his giant pumpkins, and he’d love for them to be around to see his prize winning pumpkin. The party agreed and spent the rest of the evening with Sleepy and his cider.

After the party was sufficiently intoxicated, Sleepy asked for a small favor in return for his food, cider, and lodgings. Though the Miracle-Gro-2 had worked, it had worked too well, and some of the weeds in the farm had also grown enormous, come to life, and displayed violence, attacking Sleepy when he came near.

He asked the party to whack the weeds, if they wouldn’t mind, and they begrudgingly accepted.

Sleepy drunkenly climbed atop the largest, 15 foot tall pumpkin, where he would direct the party as they worked. The party donned their gear and weapons, stumbling drunkenly out into the field, ready to fight.

Moments later, enormous plants broke out of the ground and attacked, pulling them in close as giant toothed maws tried to devour the pumpkins (and the party). Each pumpkin that was eaten exploded in a shower of Miracle-Gro-2, which sank into the ground, and, unfortunately, brought back to life whatever had been buried below.

As the weeds were whacked, the Miracle-Gro-2 revived a handful of skeletons, reminding Sleepy of the rumors that this had once been a graveyard. In addition, the concoction brought to life several of his scarecrows, an enormous skeletal cyclops, as well as his two recently deceased dogs, Ichy and Body.

Then, brought back to life by Crane’s potion, came the Threadless Horseman, an undead minotaur, the buck-naked terror of the night, riding bare, bare-back, stripping the flesh from his victims just as his clothes were once stripped from him, in cruel, irony.

Finally, the plants and undead were slain, and the largest pumpkin survived. Sleepy and the party quickly passed out, exhausted.

Jularon 20th:

Early the next morning the party headed back to Liras Menevol, with some nasty hangovers. In the city, everyone was preparing for Thorne’s Games, a celebration of Thorne Silvershot and his Games of Thorne in Silverwatch Fort, where any up and coming adventurers were welcome to join and compete to honor the fallen hero.

Camodian Frell was pleased with the amount (and freshness) of troll’s blood brought back, and paid a considerable reward to the players, mentioning that the tale of their troll slaying (or frightening off) would spread and help the Emberfell Excursions business.

Speaking of which, Camodian Frell said that there were issues that had come up in the last few days which needed attention. The Emberfell Excursions warehouse lease at the docks for their merchandise was not being honored, and the company could not store or send out any goods. Quinn and Wyverna volunteered to head down there later that day to check on it.

Also, it had become evident in their absence that Emberfell Excursions would need some employees familiar with a sword to protect their goods going forward, and Janos and Corvus were given the task of heading to the games in the center of the city and keeping an eye out for any skilled combatants that they could hire as new recruits. Though not thrilled to once again be part of any tournament carrying Thorne’s name, they reluctantly agreed, and the party headed out.

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