- the party continued speaking with human resistance and specifically emeric
- Alina noticed Fae was tending to someone who was, presumably, injured in the next room and tried to convince Fae to allow her to see the patient. Fae seemed hesistant, but went to ask. When she returned, she told Alina she had been summoned.
- Emeric took Tisroc and Glitch to his mansion after they learned many of the lizard men had suddenly left it. Upon finding the proper room in the basement, Emeric began to adjust the summoning circle. He had told Tisroc that the only way to reverse his "condition" would involve speaking directly to the entity to which the vow was made.
- As they began the ritual, some of the lizard men found them and threatened to interrupt it. Glitch had found a shovel like his in a hole in the corner and, upon retrieving it, began to hold off the attackers.
- Tisroc finally managed to pull the demon to the surface of the circle - which was now something like an ice-covered pool. As he spoke his words to defiance to the being below however, Emeric stabbed him in the back, causing him to collapse into the circle. Glitch saw Tisroc fall, but not exactly what had happened.
- A moment later, the demon burst from the circle and, forcing its way thorugh the ceiling of the chamber, out into the streets above. Emeric told Glitch that if he didn't bury Tisroc, the demon would roam free and uncontrolled forever.
- Glitch put Tisroc in the hold he'd found, and covered his body with the soil which had been dug up - seemingly for this purpose specifically.
- Meanwhile, Alina was speaking to a mysterious figure lying on a darkened bed. Its voice was female and it asked Alina to perform the last rites. It wasn't until the ceremony was almost complete that the room began to lighten and Alina could see the figure's form lying on the bed - unmistakably that of Bast - before it disappeared in a burst of radiant light.
- There were tremors. Lava was beginning to well up from beneath the earth into the city, which was already nearly 1/3 engulfed. A chaotic battle was raging all over the city - gnolls, hobgoblins, kobolds, giants, humans and some jackal-like beings were all fighting each other. There were no clear sides.
- At the highest point in the city, the figure of Set stood surveying the chaos. Across town, another figure - a jackal-like humanoid was floating some feet off the ground, making its way toward the hill. Glitch and Alina were also heading that way.
- Tisroc awoke submerged in something like a strange, dark ocean - a tiny pinpoint of light lay far below him. Filled with the conviction that this light was important, he dove toward it only to encounter a massive squidlike creature which defiantly declared that "this world" belonged to it.
- Alina an Glitch engaged Set & the jackal figure on this hill just as a massive dragon burst through the ceiling above, adding to the chaos of an already unfathomable battle.
- Tisroc descended to touch the glowing sphere he had seen before.
- The world around Alina, Glitch and the other combatants began to shift. The mountain crumbled away revealing a vast plain surrounded by mountains - aspects of the landscape occasionally flickering through various states of health and decay. A solid black sphere appeared before them, immediately capturing the attention of Set and the jackal.
- Tisroc had engaged the squid-monster and had managed to move the globe away from it, but had grabbed ahold of him in the process. After some struggle, he managed to free himself.
- Alina began injecting light into the black sphere using her magic, and the sphere reacted violently. Set and the jackal were fighting each other over it and the jackal eventually gained it when Set was distracted by Alina - it was as though he recognized her. He even claimed to have killed her already.
- Wisdom's form began to grow uncontrollably in response to the darkness as Set bore down on Alina. She fired two more bursts of light: the first at the sphere and the second at her attacker, and suddenly the world ceased to exist.
- Tisroc finally made it to the surface with the globe to find himself standing in an open, grassy field which was, even as he saw it, dissolving into a blank, white nothingness. He stood there alone for a few minutes and then other figures began to appear - figures he knew. Alina and Glitch were there of course, but there were others. Emeric, A harpy that had tried to kill them, the massive dragon (now comical in size because it was no larger than they), as sphinx they had rescued, a wise-woman's granddaughter, a constable, a barmaid and others. They were the last remnants of a now-dead world.
- Tisroc looked down at the now crystal clear globe in his arms and understood: It was a new world. Void. Formless. Full of potential.
[end story arc]
- Party continued with their new lizard companions, though their relationship was a bit tenuous.
- the group was split by some kind of illusion as the lizard men began walking through the corridor walls and eventually even the party found themselves somewhere wildly improbable.
- the party continued through a variety of unusual locations including an outdoor(?) garden lined with worn deific statues, a massive library dedicated to esoteric demonology and the burial site of an ancient being responsible for the creation of Glitch and the other automatons.
- eventually, they ended up in a large bronze chamber filled with gold where a giant minotaur was waiting for them - promising only death at the labrynth's center. After the insuing battle, the group dove out through the opening behind the cracked, bronze throne as the chamber collapsed and found themselves once again in the Deep Road corridor. They were shortly joined by Kthkash, the lizardmen leader, and one other of his group.
- Kthkash began speaking of a dragon they had fought together and asked how the party managed to esacpe from it. The group was confused, but Kthkash seemed to be a bit warmer to them due to this "event", and they decided not to push it since they would need his help to enter the city. They also decided that perhaps not everything was as it seemed in the labrynth so little could be safely trusted or doubted.
- the group continued to Makarth where even Kthkash was surprised at the "security measures" being taken. The party was forced to surrender their weaponry before they would be granted entrance to the town and the number of armed reptiles on active duty was surprising.
- just inside, they were approached by a young boy selling apples. Tisroc found this odd since he clearly didn't have any apples on him and there was no realistic way for him to acquire them deep underground.
- After conversing with him further, the boy led them through some back alleys of the city to a hidden room where they encountered members of some kind of human resistance group - among them was a man called Emeric...
- once back in Belurn, the party quietly returned to First Light to get some rest.
- the next morning, Marl came to talk to Tisroc - the menacing army was approaching and he thought he knew a way to circumvent the Stone Door by going through the mines.
- Alina was troubled by some and the realization that Nephthys' power had left her. She insisted they go to speak with Danhon, a local priest of Anubis.
- While they were speaking with him, they heard a sudden roar as Perol's barrier gave way. Running outside, they saw the monstrous army pouring into the city.
- As they descended from the crypt entrance where they'd met Danhon, they saw Perol and a few of his mysterious followers running toward them.
- the Thoth-like figure they had seen before suddenly flickered into existence ahead them. Its presence seemed to surpress the light around them to a degree, and it seemed to be drowning in the thick, black sludge which was oozing from its eyes, mouth and various wounds.
- Perol's men began surrounding the figure and invoking some sort of ritual as it lashed out at them.
- When the encounter began to go poorly, Perol knelt and invoked another sort of rite, which seemed to dilate time as it called forth another being. The figure that appeared was tall and muscular with the head of a donkey. Like the Thoth-like being, it was surrounded by faint, glowing runes and it, too, oozed a black viscous liquid - though to a much lesser degree as it bled only from wounds in its forarms. As the figure approached, it didn't seem to walk so much as blur and fade from one position to the next.
- The new figure ignored Perol and his supplications, making some comment that he was of no more use. Instead, it approached Alina. It showed her the masses of people cowering in buildings all around them and told her that he cared nothing for them - but that he would save them if she would swear her allegiance to him.
- Alina skeptically asked who he was, a question to which he only responded "I am the only one left." Tisroc, however, recognized his form immediately as that of Set.
- After Alina's rejection, the figure departed suddenly and the roar of battle poured back into their senses. They ran with Marl toward the mines.
- At the mines they discovered most of the town taking refuge in this slightly-more-defensable area. Feeling there was nothing more they could do to help the citizens of Belurn, they followed Marl deep into the mine shafts. As they located the gap Marl was sure would lead them to the Deep Road, the party knew that whatever was to befall the poor people hundreds of feet above them was already happening.
- The group climbed up and through the hole into a hewn chamber, and collapsed the wall behind them. They then followed the corridor out to the Road.
- They traveled for some time before having to deviate into an adjoining natural cavern due to a cave-in. As they tried to circumvent the rubble, they encountered a group of reptilian humanoids fighting off some giant scorpions. The group decided to aid the lizard men.
- After the battle, they learned that their new "friends" were from a place called Makarth - a city deep under the ground. They'd been scouting when they were cut off by something that arrived in the tunnel and reshaped it into an impassible maze.
- It took only a little more conversation for the group to learn that Makarth had been Gullow - apparently "reclaimed" by a large tribe of these lizard men who felt their territory was rightly theirs. Humans still dwelled there, however, and the leader told them he would ensure they were granted entry if they could help he and his men return.
- As the rasping growling continued issuing from the new gash in the earth, a black mist began to rise from it, lit from within by flashes of white light and accompanied by a listless voice
- The party attempted to flee the area, but the ground beneath them began to break and collapse and it was only by some incredible good fortune that they survived.
- After some recovery, the party continued on their recon mission. The camp on the plateau seemed to be composed of several hundred hobgoblins, gnolls, some kobolds and even a few giants - all being directed by some jackal-like humanoids.
- They also found some oddities within the encampment - most notably a strange and supernatural form near the back of the camp. It hovered motionless above the ground, oozing a thick, black liquid from its eyes and down the long bird's beak which protruded from its head. Light seemed actively surpressed in the area, yet the being cast several unnatural shadows and seemed covered with subtlely shifting runes. It reminded Tisroc of some kind of avatar of a deity called Thoth, but Alina was quite certain it could not be an avatar - or, if it was, it was severely cursed or distorted by something.
- After gathering their information, the set out for Belurn once more. When they arrived, however, they found the city cavern sealed off by a prismatic force wall.
- Using Glitch's innate teleporting abilities and some of Tisroc's magic, they were able to get back inside where they discovered the city had been sealed and all but taken over by a man called Perol - a local tailor who, apparently, had some rather impressive magical talent as well.
- Alina heard some commotion outside the following morning, and went to investigate. She discovered a scout who'd returned to town with the tale of a massive army gathered about 1 day away from the city.
- The group reassembled and spoke with the scout and the Director of the settlement (who seemed intent on not causing a panic).
- With some convincing, the scout agreed to take the party out to a point near where the force was reportedly gathered.
- The going was difficult and in the dark among the rocks near the plateau, they got separated. Tisroc ended up falling through a thin rock shelf into the lair of a deceased dragon, now infested with tiny but aggressive lizards with and electrical affinity.
- The crash and the insuing chaos alerted the rest of the party to his location and predicament, but unfortunately also gained the attention of a nearby hobgoblin patrol which the party was forced to fight off.
- As the battle ended, the brief moment of silence was cut short by an echoing, hollow growling sound coming from the lair.
- with the help of the sphinxes, the party continued their journey over the Jagged Crown mountains toward the settlement called Belurn, the Stone Door. From there, they intended to take the tunnel road down to Gullow.
- during the journey, Alina realized she had contracted some kind of infection - probably as a result of her injuries from the rats of the Tanir tunnels. She was able to shake off the illness in a couple of days, however, and there was no real problem.
- they party did realize, however, that they would need to be more careful with their supplies of water from now on as Alina informed them that creating it magically was no longer easy.
- upon arriving at their destination, the sphinxes wished them well and thanked them again for their previous aid.
- as the group entered the settlement, they spoke with some sort of guardsman about the town and recent events.
- they learned that the structure which was being built outside the town was the work of "The Avatar" - a creature sent by Anubis - who had said the settlement needed a proper temple and that the temporary walls they had noticed were constructed to help fend off an attack by a force of hobgoblins and gnolls which they'd resisted a few weeks earlier.
- they also learned that the Stone Door itself had been sealed about 3 years ago. Apparently it was "no longer safe" and that some reptile-like savages had come out and attempted to raid the settlement.
- the group entered the town, heading toward an in called First Light. as they crossed an open marketplace, Glitch noticed another automaton standing motionless near its center.
- Glitch approached and examined the figure - it was in quite a state of disrepair.
- as he looked at it, the automaton seemed to wake up, and began talking with him. Glitch asked the other golem to come with them, and the group continued toward the inn.
- the group enjoyed some food, relaxed for the evening, and talked with one of the miners who had been present when the lizard-men attacked.
- Alina later went to see the mines and the Stone Door - listening to see if she could hear anything like what was described by the miner. She could not.
- Tisroc and Glitch went to the debris field outside town to scavenge for materials with which to repair the damaged automaton.
- party continued deeper into the tunnels, saw more bodies - some seeming to have been dead longer than they had been lying in their current location.
- found open are with zombies crawling out of a well. fought some, attempted to keep more from emerging.
- noticed approaching massive swarm of insects, took cover in a nearby building
- building contained a passage back to an altar room to some unidentifiable deity. a woman's body was lying at the foot of the altar in a pool of blood.
- the party was unable to keep part of the insect swarm out of the building, and Alina eventually fought it off by setting herself on fire - relying on her faith to save her from the flames.
- once the swarm had passed, party continued deeper into the tunnels.
- encountered a group of people attempting to fight off more zombies, aided
- continued into the deepest parts of the tunnels, found a long street that seemed to narrow as they went until rats burst out of adjacent buildings in a giant swarm.
- the party fought off some of the rats, but generally made a run for it in the direction they were heading - this took them to a place where the street narrowed into a more natural cave tunnel which terminated in a cracked opening into a large cavern.
- inside the cavern was a short man they'd seen before, when he noticed them the skeletons of the bodies that lay around him shrugged off their flesh and began shambling toward the party.
- in the midst of the resulting chaos, the party noticed the giant ooze-like demon clinging to the ceiling. It slid down, opening a huge jagged-toothed maw in an attempt to devour them.
- as they made their escape, the entrance to the cavern collapsed, sealing itself off from the rest of the tunnels.
- the party returned to the Sandstone Tower, discussed what they had encountered with each other, and made ready to leave the following morning.
- the next day, they saw to one or two errands in town, and then met the sphinxes to continue on their original journey.
Lord Verran had been summoned to a political meeting at a rival's estate, only to be involved in a sudden attack by a group of unknown assailants. The presence of Verran and his lance was probably all that prevented the entire place from being destroyed in the assault, but their victory explained nothing of the motives behind the attack...
Margaret Graham was always a little afraid of her grandmother and so was not particularly happy about the fact that she and her brother would be staying with her for a few days while their parents went on a little vacation to a neighboring state. Despite the fact that her 3 cousins were also to be staying with them, she didn't expect to have much fun - and it turned out to be even worse than she expected. As she slept in her grandparents' old bedroom the very first night, the ghost of her deceased grandfather appeared and pleaded with her about things she couldn't quite understand. Worse still, his visit was revealed to be disturbingly prophetic the following day as the farm itself began to take on nightmarish characteristics...
- The party calls for Rynbel and requests that she visit the Vigilants' HQ and attempt to find out what was going on.
- The rest of the party head down to the Temple of the Stars. After knocking on the door but getting no answer, Tisroc causes the sound of bells to erupt inside the temple until the door is finally opened.
- The high priestess denies any knowledge of anything occuring in the tunnels involving her brothers, sisters or followers.
- The party returned to the Sandstone Tower where Honch asked them what they would do about the giant. The group asked him to explain or elaborate on what the giant was or what he meant, but he didn't seem able to.
- The group gathered their gear and headed down through the city.
- About halfway down, the group encountered a rioting mob of individuals who seemed to be moving upward through the streets, burning structures as they went.
- The group avoided the mob as best they could until they encountered a group burning down a house and yelling angrily at the man inside.
- The group decided to intervene. Glitched battered some of the men with his shovel. Alina attempted to douse some of them with water, but found that conjuring it had become very difficult. Ultimately, they were driven off after Tisroc wandered into their midst and shot fire from his hands into the sky, which was more than sufficient to scatter them.
- The party continued and eventually encountered what Honch must have referred to as "the giant". It was a massive, 50-foot-tall woman. She glowed with a faint light and was blindfolded with a strip of cloth in the center of which was a glowing rune. She was gracefully but randomly weilding a massive halberd and wherever it struck a building, the stone and wood exploded in a shower of debris.
- The group decided the giant needed to be stopped.
- Tisroc and Alina decided that it might be some kind of summoned or conjured being and that perhaps the blindfold was some form of anchor. Tisroc gave Glitch the rapier they'd taken from Naglish's body, and he teleported up to the giant's shoulder. He started to fall, but as he did he managed to cut the blindfold which fell from the giant's face.
- The giant's eyes were glowing white orbs. Her expression became angry and her voice boomed "you are all guilty!" Beams of light seared from her eyes to the city streets and buildings, exploding stone and wood wherever she looked.
- Tisroc reacted by conjuring a blasting wave of sand which he directed at the giant. The sand pierced her glowing eyes. As she stumbled and attempted to wipe the grit from them, she began to fade into nothingness saying "you have all betrayed me; my people, my world, have forsaken me"
- The party continued to the Tunnels where they encountered the horror Tovi had told them about - the bodies of dozens of people littered the ground just inside. Among them were some wearing priestly robes and the purple capes of the Vigilants. However there was something strange about them - Alina was able to determine they had certainly been dead for weeks...
- Rynbel showed Tisroc The Array - a sensitive monitoring device showing shifts, trends and relationships between various aspects of magic.
- The wizards pointed out the erratic behavior of the representation of the Water aspect. Also, they have noticed some aberrations in Fire, Cold, Conjuration and Transmutation.
- A tremor shook the Tower; Honch (the butler) informed them that it was caused by an explosion in the Upper Halls. The blast had killed three prominent members of the Merchant Guild. He also told them that the cause of the explosion was fleeing the area, heading in this direction.
- Upon questioning, the wizards told the group that Honch is what they call a Puremind - a rare type of individual who can pull information from some aether of the cosmos, especially relating to partiularly consequential events.
- The party goes down to the street where they see a group of the Vigilants running downward; Alina also heard a voice call out for someone called "Garkov".
- In the street, two of the Vigilants were standing watch over the body of one of the men fleeing the scene of the explosion whom they'd shot in the back with a crossbow. Upon closer examination, it turned out to be Olin.
- The following morning, the group returned to the Ledge looking for Tovi, but the place was empty.
- Tisroc spent most of the day researching magic, attempting to expand his knowledge.
- Alina visited the Temple of the Stars where the priest presiding over the daily service was speaking about being watchful against the evil that had crept into the city and how the faithful must drive it out. It reminded Alina of the rhetoric she heard in Rynthis after the high priest's death.
- Alina and Glitch visited The Lodge where they spoke to a man about crafting a special bow for Glitch.
- Alina and Glitch returned to the Sandstone Tower where they attempted to occupy themselves while Tisroc studied.
- Honch came to tell them that they had a visitor just before there was a knock on the front door. Upon answering, they found Tovi, nearly in tears, pleading with them to do something about the Priests and Vigilants who were killing innocents down in the Tunnels.
The group slept through the rest of the night undisturbed. The next morning they discussed the nights' events with Olin and Tovi over breakfast. The tavern owners seemed very concerned at the existance of such a creature in their part of town.
Tisroc had heard about a place in the city called the Sandstone Tower. It was reputed to be home to a group of wizards, and Tisroc was interested in what he might be able to learn from them. After they finisehd their morning meal, they decided to head that direction.
The tower itself was a large, cliff-side structure. It was so massive, in fact, that the group wondered how its foundation supported it. They were greeted at the iron gates by an elderly caretaker called Honsh. He asked them why they had come and directed them inside.
The large entry hall was full of books and objects which could only be described as "wizard-y". They were, in fact, a little over-the-top and played to every myth or superstition about magic one might hear among the common people. Tisroc had even begun leafing through a book about "dangerous magical creatures" when Rynbel descended to meet them.
Rynbel was a young woman, perhaps in her early thirties, with dark features. She asked Tisroc what he thought of their wondrous hall and the artifacts in contained. Tisroc attempted to be diplomatic, but couldn't in good conscience endorse what he had found fully. He instead suggested that perhaps some of her materials weren't completely accurate. She frowned at this and asked him if he might elaborate on his criticisms. He did so. It wasn't until after 10 of 15 minutes of needling him that her expression softened, and she welcomed them into the tower. She explained to him that this room was a kind of competence test for would-be associates, and she looked around the room with some satisfaction at its tackiness. Anyone who embraced anything they found here was most likely not worth their time.
Rynbel and her colleagues Nalves and Oldesule explained their scholarly nature and their pursuit of knowledge - particularly knowledge of the arcane - and they showed him their massive libraries dedicated to all of these things. Tisroc realized the vast depth of what he could learn in a place like this, and they offered him access to everything they had if he would be willing to do something for them. What they wanted was for him to take some time to write down his experiences, adventures and observations. They explained that much of what they had learned had involved building and combining the experiences and observations of wizards who had come before them.
Tisroc agreed to write his experiences down for them, and he was directed to a small room with a single chair and a desk with a nice leather and iron bound book and a quill and ink well. The walls of the room were lined with bookshelves closed and locked behind glass doors. Tisroc sat down, picked up the quill and set it to the first blank page of the book and began to write - and he wrote uninterrupted for 8 hours. As he closed the back binding of the book after completing the last page, he felt as though he came out of a daze. Tisroc had no recollection of exactly what he wrote, only that it was the truth of his life and experiences - not down to the smallest detail, but surely everything that would be relevant from a scholarly perspective. Tisroc turned the book over and went to open it, only to discover that it would not open.
Rynbel then entered the room and thanked him for his contribution. He asked her about the book and its unwillingness to open, and she explained that the books would not open for just anyone, and that they were only used in certain circumstances. She explained that knowledge of the life and thoughts of a person should be private and not accessible to just anyone. She placed his book on one of the shelves and locked it.
The group spent what remained of the day at the tower. Tisroc began studying some magic that might make their travels easier. Alina, however, was worried about something else. She'd never had a chance to tell Tisroc about what Melna had told her back at the Crag. She hadn't figured out how to say it, but now was the time. She went to him and said he should send time in this vast repository of knowlegde looking for information about demons and the pact he'd made - specifically how the pact might be broken and, most importantly, what might happen if it was. Melna, she told him, seemed to think that if he undid the oath, it might effectively end his life.
That revelation made a terrible kind of sense to Tisroc. Of course Alina was right - he needed to concentrate on this. He needed to know all he could. Tisroc told the wizards of the Sandstone Tower about his problem, and asked where they might look. The wizards admitted they hadn't heard of a story such as his before, but they pointed him in the direction of similar things.
The reference they found the most closely tied however, wasn't where they were looking at all. It was in a historical reference from the world before it began to dry out. In the ancient forests of Kethir were said to dwell beings called Verdant Princes - fey creatures known for capriciousness and trickery would had some ability to bind fate into powerful oaths, holding both sides to the bargain. Assuming they did once exist, however, they had long since died out with the lush forests in which they dwelt...
It was just after nightfall when the group approached the gate of Tanir, The Summit. This settlement was built in a spiral around the one of the highest peaks of the Jagged Crown mountains and was all but inaccessible to the rest of the world. The forest they had landed in seemed very dry, but it was the largest stand of trees any of them had ever seen. As they walked across the bridge and toward the gates, it occured to them that this was more wood than they had ever seen in one place.
The guard in the gatehouse was a man called Hanley. He came down through the cutout door in the main gates to speak with them, asking them who they were, where they came from and why they had come to The Summit. Upon warning them not to cause any trouble, he saw no harm in letting them in. The party asked Hanley if he knew of a place they might find a meal and some shelter, and he directed them down toward the lower areas of the city - to Tovi's Place.
There were very few people on the streets at this time. They passed only a couple of pedestrians and a man pulling a large handcart. When they were about halfway down, however, they were hit from behind by a large man in a heavy cloak running through the street. He collided with Tisroc, and both of them fell to the ground. The large man regained his feet as quickly as possible and continued running. As Alina and Glitch helped Tisroc back to his feet, they listened and looked for any pursuers or anyone else, but saw nothing.
Near the bottom of the spiraling streets, they found one of the larger buildings of the area with a large wooden sign which read: Tovi's Ledge. The road continued downward a little ways, and then began to slope back upward for a few hundred feet before coming to and end. From a cliff-side alleyway near the lowest part, Tisroc noticed a small figure watching them. As he took a few steps toward it, the group saw the figure dart across the road into an alley adjoining the mountain. The group walked down to the place to discover a large, round hole into the mountain. Carved into the worn stone above were the words "Tanir - Lower Halls". Some dim torchlight flickered deeper inside, but the tunnels they stared into were very dark. As they contempated entering to find the spying figure, a voice called to them from further up the road - someone on the porch of Tovi's place.
The group returned to the tavern's entrance and met a man called Olin. He advised them not to enter The Tunnels - it was a dangerous place, especially to the uninitiated. After a brief conversation, he invited them inside the establishment.
There were perhaps a dozen people in the tavern - some card players, some people in deeper conversations, some people simply enjoying the evening. A young, red-haired woman sat at the far side of the bar - on the counter itself - idley strumming a lute. As they entered, Olin called to Tovi, who set down the instrument, slid off the counter to the floor behind it, and came around to ask what they all would like.
They party spent the rest of the evening talking with Olin and Tovi about themselves and the settlement, asnwering questions and asking some of their own. Alina in particular spoke with Tovi for some time, and later in the evening, eventually drew out of her something interesting about the local religious climate. Tovi (and apparently, Olin as well) didn't care too much for the local Pharonic clergy of The Temple of the Stars. They also mentioned another entity - called Skadi - who seemed to be a sort of legendary "hero of the people". They described this figure as local inspirational folklore, but Alina noted some rather religious undertones. By the time the conversation was over, Tovi had all but admitted (somewhat reluctantly) to the existance of a cult of Skadi in the city.
Before the conversation could come to a natural end, however, the sound of loudly peeling bells exploded in the tavern hall. By this time, most all of the patrons had left and Tisroc had gone to bed. Tovi exclaimed in surprise and Alina ran to the front door. Outside the sound seemed quieter, though like it was coming from somewhere above them. "Tisroc!"
Alina ran up the stairs with Glitch behind her and burst through Tisroc's door to find him grappling with a dark figure - the dark candlelight illuminated the room just enough for them to identify the harpy digging its claws and fangs into the struggling wizard. They had seen this one before.
The resulting combat was rather chaotic. The struggle between Tisroc and the creature in the darkness made targets difficult to discern and hit. Alina accidentally clubbed Tisroc on the back of the head as the harpy unexpectedly shifted. Tisroc was bleeding badly and when it raked its claws across his head, he lost consciousness and fell to the ground. As he collapsed, the harpy turned it's attention to Alina. Glitched noticed a strange, black smoke beginning to rise from Tisroc's form as Alina blasted the creature with a potent beam of searing light, hurling it back against the far wall. Winded and covered with viscious burns, the creature leapt through the broken window in which it had come and soared away into the night.
Alina quickly returned to Tisroc's side, manifesting further miracles to heal his injuries. When Tovi and Olin arrived, it was already all over. They were shocked that someone had broken in and attacked their guests. They offered the party a different room and went about boarding up the window.
After the remnant of the kobold tribe had been driven out of the settlement, the party discussed what to do next. They had acquired some new information from Melna, but Gullow was a long way away and they were all but out of provisions. Further, Drakol was now in even worse shape than when they had arrived and it would be some time before they were back on their feet - much less had enough surplus to spare for their trip.
The group ultimately decided they would stay for a time and continue helping to restore the settlement. Almost a week later, a small contingent of the kobold tribe returned - this time under a banner of truce. They seemed interested only in Alina, asking her if she knew where Durtaxsteingakila had gone. Apparently they had come looking for this thing(?), but had found the human settlement instead. Tisroc told them later that he thought they may have been alluding to the legend of the Dragon.
Weeks went by. Between the party's magic and prodigious amounts of physical labor, The Crag was well on its way to recovery - though it had a long way to go yet. It was at dawn about 6 weeks later that the group was awakened by a nervous guard calling them to the bridge area.
Upon arriving, they found Radley waiting (rather uncomfortably) with two of the creatures Tisroc had identified as sphinxes. One of them was the creature they had rescued on their way to the settlement, the other looked very similar, but was slightly larger. It addressed them, asking for the feather they had been given. When Alina produced it, Thesaeya stepped forward, reached out and took hold of it, but kept it out-held toward the party. The larger sphinx spoke again, thanking them for their favor and asking what they would have the sisters do in repayment of this debt. After some questions and conferring, they asked if the sphinxes could take them to Belurn, the human settlement on the far side of the mountains. The sphinxes agreed and said they would appear at dawn the following day to depart.
The party then began making ready, saying their goodbye's and attempting to gather the provisions they could. Radley and the others were somewhat loathe to see them go, but seemed to understand.
At dawn the next day, they departed. They had been flying high above the mountains for a couple of days, stopping at night to rest, when the larger sphinx - called Marshalla told them that she and her sister required more rest than a simple sleep could provide. Below them was another human settlement which the party knew must be Tanir, The Summit. Marshalla asked if they would mind spending a couple of days there while she and her sister recovered.
It was after dark, so the group felt relatively safe with a close landing. They touched down in a dry but living forest on a plateau near the spiraling peak-city of Tanir. It was nearly midnight as they approached the large gates of the city's lowest level.
Second avalanche. Fought kobold tribe. Pushed an Umber Hulk into a river. Maybe demons.
The party began telling the man who had approached them - a guard captain called Radley - who they were and why they were there. He gave them a nominal welcome and began to suggest what they should do. Alina was sent to The Hall to aid in tending to the wounded and he asked Tisroc to have his guarding help with the digging effort - breaking up the rocks and moving them out of the settlement. Tisroc also alerted the captain to a particular shelf of rock above that looked as though it might break off soon.
Radley also lead Tisroc to a place above the settlement where he had seen a strange print and asked him if he'd seen anything like it before. In truth Tisroc had. He told the captain that he'd seen the print in the mud a few days ago, but wasn't sure what it was. The captain seemed concerned because the location of the print happened to be a perfect overlook of the settlement - almost as if whatever it was was watching them.
Later, as Glitch and some of the other men of the down are picking through some fallen rock, Tisroc notices a hissing sound that he alerts Radley to. Before they could return to the scene, however, a large section of rock crumbles and falls down into a hole and steam begins to bellow out, burning everything it touches. With it came strange partially-visible steam-like creatures that began attacking those present. Glitch fought them off fairly well, but could do little about the steam rushing out of the opening. It was nearly an hour before it stopped. Inside they could see the remains of a house which seemed to have collapsed through into and angled tunnel heading down into the mountain.
Meanwhile, Alina had been assisting in the Hall, tending to the wounded and using her miracle capability on the most gravely injured. During this time, she met a young girl called Senya who was also helping treat the injured. Senya was upset because she was concerned about her grandmother who lived near an old shrine inside the mountain. Unfortunately the tunnels leading in had partially collapsed, no one could get in and excavation priorities were elsewhere.
The group decided they should try to get in to help her - she may be someone they would want to talk to. Glitch was assisting with the primary excavation efforts during the day, but decided to begin clearing the tunnel at night - still, it was going to take some time. Tisroc used his gaseous form ability to float in through some of the cracks to bring food to the woman and to inform her of their intentions. Eventually, the whole party is able to meet with her.
The woman was called Melna. She was a short, broad woman and was a keeper of the shrine in the main chamber of the caves. The shrine was a statue of a large, winged, female figure holding a disc over her head. Well, not "holding" exactly -he disc was simply suspended in the air between the statue's raised hands. The shrine was dedicated to Nephthys.
Tisroc tells Melna of his problem and, after taking some time to think about it, offers him the following information:
Melna says she thinks there is hope for his future. The oath that was made was sort of "bent" or "stressed" on its binding. As such, it is perhaps more pliable. It may be possible for the oath to be "bent" again, or even completely undone. To do this, however, would require "unsaying" the words of the oath in the presence of the entity with which it was made.
She also told him she knows of a man called Emeric who resides in The Deep. He knows much about the denizens of the Hours of Night and she believes he has even had dealings with them. She warns them to be careful, however - he is not the type she would trust.
Melna then asks to speak with Alina privately. Tisroc begins to head down the tunnel with Glitch, pondering this new information. Melna and Alina meet up with them at the tunnel entrance just in time to hear the canyon in which the settlement resides fill with echoing sound of dozens of horns from the surrounding mountains.
The human population having left, the Party then set about deciding what to do about the gnolls. On the one hand, they wanted to show their sincerity by offering a little help but they weren't sure that another encounter with the tribe would be prudent...or safe. The group therefore decided to fill the spring pool with water and to leave a notice which would indicate its temporary nature.
The party decided to head north out of the Dead Forest as they had originally planned. Running low on provisions, they decided to risk travel across this area of the March but they decided they would avoid the oases where the gnolls, hobgoblins and whatever other power had arisen might gather - relying instead on their magic to produce the water they needed.
On the 5th day through the March, the group begins no notice a foul smell on the air - like something dead and rotting. As they continued, the stench grew stronger until they came upon a massive battlefield. Remains of hundreds of armor-clad figures littered the ground, picked at by desert carrion birds and other small scavengers. As they moved into the battlefield and began to look around, they noticed a group of jackals on the far side, moving in their general direction.
The figures turned out to be gnolls and another grotesque humanoid creature which Tisroc guesses are hobgoblins. Tisroc began to look through possessions - it seemed that nothing of note had been salvaged from any of the corpses. A few of the hobgoblins had some small packs with moldy but edible rations.
As they investigated the scene, they noticed the jackals moving closer and eventually noticed they were eyeless - they had seen jackals like this before. They were considering this when Tisroc happened to glance behind them and saw a blue-robed figure only 5 feet away. He was tall and dark, his head was like that of a jackal but he seemed well groomed and refined. He had a crimson scarf around his head covering his eyes. Before he could react, the figure spoke, asking them what had happened here.
The party, startled, responded that they didn't know what had happened or why. The figure seemed mystified. He told them that he had watched these tribes for many years and what he saw here was not consistent with his knowledge of them.
The group asked the figure who he was and he obliged them, informing the party that he was called Oorshal, and that he was "one of the last three". The party told them that they had heard a rumor that someone who looked like him was unifying the tribes of the March and that maybe this scene had something to do with it. This seemed shocking to the figure. He mentioned something about the others seeking to supplant him. He asked them many other questions about this rumor, but that was all they knew.
Oorshal seemed disturbed. He suggested that the party leave the area as quickly as they could and advised them not to linger in "cursed places" such as this.
The party continued north toward the Jagged Crown mountains of the north. When they reached the foothills, the turned east to head toward the Sula river that they would follow to The Crag. The foothills were rougher going, but offered a bit more cover and shelter. It had been a few weeks since they set out when they finally encountered the river and began the final leg of their journey.
The trip up into the mountains was arduous even when following the riverbank. They would often have to deviate from the river and head up into the rocky areas above before coming back down to rejoin it. In addition, they were running out of provisions and had been operating on half-rations for some time. Tisroc attempted some fishing with sparse results.
They were still a few days from Drakol when they were forced once more from the river side. Climbing a narrow path to a pass between rocky peaks, they began to hear an echoing screeching sound accompanied by a metallic rattling. They were still contemplating this when they were suddenly met by a huge creature that resembled a lion with a falcon's head and wings. "You are not welcome here!" it growled and began approaching. When they told it they only wanted to pass through, it asked them with what they would pay the "toll". When they could apparently offer nothing it wanted, it decided to attack them, but the group was able to drive it off.
Upon reaching the crest of the hill, they saw the source of the noise: There were 4 of these creatures (one of which they had already seen) in a basin below them. Leading down to this depression were rock ledges something like massive stairs. One of the creatures was bound with a metal collar connected to a chain which the largest of the group was holding, attempting to drag it along. The bound creature looked a bit different than the others - its head was humanoid instead of falcon-like. Its shrieking cry echoed through the canyon and, when it saw the party it cried out to them: "help me!"
The resultant combat was rather savage. The group did alright fending off two of the creatures, but the larger one proved to be quite powerful. It had all but shredded the metal plates from Glitch before Alina got its attention by attempting to heal and free the bound creature. After a brief standoff in which the party was able to regroup and Alina was able to restore a part of the bound creature's strength, it decided to flee as its companions had done.
The bound creature was called Thesaeya - one of the Sphinxes. She thanked them for rescuing her from her captors and rewarded them by giving them one of her feathers. She told them that they had the gratitude of her and her sister though they had certainly made enemies of the other detestable creatures.
The group asked Thesaeya a few questions, but she didn't seem to know much about anything that might be happening outside of the mountains - of Oorshal or any of the others. She was able to tell them that they could probably reach the mortal settlement in perhaps a couple of days.
The party continued on their journey and, sure enough, about 2 and a half days later come upon The Crag. As they looked out over the settlement, they could immediately tell something was not right. The movements of the people seemed rushed and there was an air of urgency and danger. They had only just moved into the settlement when they were approached by a man who began asking them who they were and all but ordering them in different directions - there had been a massive rock avalanche less than 24 hours ago and the town was still picking up the pieces. Anyone not injured was required to assist where needed.
The group decided they would make their way to The Crag. Tisroc attempted his uber Locate Water spell again, and got a rather bizarre result - a water source indication which seemed to flicker a few days to the north. As they approached, they could smell cooking meat and near the peak of a slope between some piles of boulders, they were stopped by a man with a crossbow who asked them who they were and why they were there. The group told him and the other man present that they were travelers and, after a few questions, they were welcomed into the camp.
In the valley on the other side of the hill there was the remains of what was once a verdant oasis. Dessicated trees lined a scorched valley, amongst which there were about a dozen tents and about 35 people, some of which were children. They accepted the hospitality of the people there, and spoke with them for a while, learning several things.
The inhabitants of the valley were the remnant of a village further west called Rulloc. Rulloc's well had dried up and they were forced to leave. They were making their way toward Adther but had in mind to stop at this oasis and possibly settling here. Upon seeing its state, however, they decided that would be impossible. Unfortunately, before they were able to continue on their way, they were attacked by a group of gnolls. After that, many of their able-bodied men were injured, they'd used up more supplies and would be severely slowed down - so they were kind of stuck.
Alina spoke with the village's leader, a man called Gilad, and asked if they might want her to help with their wounded. He accepted her help, but didn't realize what she was about to do. Over the next couple of hours Alina healed all of the injured people in the camp and had become quite a bit of a local celebrity.
The group spent the next day at the camp as well, resting up a bit, enjoying some real food and waiting to see if the camp had any further trouble with the gnolls, who were thought to still be in there area. Alina also discovered that the spring - which was now little more than a trickle - seemed to have some sort of persistent, very faint magical aura. This was puzzling to herself and Tisroc.
That evening, they were approached by Gilad who wished to go out on a recon mission and asked if they might help fill in during their absence in the even of trouble. They agreed. When Gilad and his men returned, they seemed troubled. Come to find out, the gnoll camp in a nearby valley was much the same as theirs - containing a number of elderly, non-combatants and cubs as well as a number of injured adults. The majority of men present wanted to go attempt to wipe them out, but Gilad wasn't sure how he felt about killing the non-combatants - and killing their able-bodies would certainly doom them in much the same way.
At this point, the group interjected, suggesting that Tisroc try to go and talk to them, to see if some compromise could be made. Under some protest, the men present agreed to try it.
Accompanied part of the way to the gnoll camp by friends, Tisroc made his way to the camp. He was initially beset by a group of gnolls who, despite (or perhaps because of) his passive posture in approach, began pushing him around and growling incomprehensible questions at him before the "leader" approached. He was a massively huge gnoll who walked with a bit of a limp. He growled at Tisroc for a while and Tisroc began trying to communicate by drawing on the ground - trying to indicate where other water sources might be found. The leader however, lost patience, pushed him down, growled angrily at him and eventually stormed back into camp - only to return a few minutes later followed by a hunched figure in a ratty cloak that hobbled rather slowly up to him and asked him, in common, why he had come.
Tisroc was relieved to be able to actually communicate with one of them directly, and he began explaining the situation. The elderly gnoll, in return, proceeded to tell him of their troubles. They had been part of a tribe which had been at war with a rival tribe of hobgoblins for nearly a century, but now that war was over. A new power had risen - powerful beings resembling jackal-like men - and dominated the hobgoblins, insisting that the gnolls unite with them for some unstated purpose. Those that had refused were forced to flee the Salt March and were attempting to find a new life in the Dead Forest, but water was difficult to come by - the only meager source they'd found was possessed by the humans.
Tisroc returned and the group formed a plan: they would create enough water for the now-healed human village to continue on their journey to Adther, then the gnolls could come and occupy the dying oasis and the two need not wipe each other out.
The party passed this plan on to Gilad who agreed that it was a good idea now that he knew it was a possibility. The human tribe packed up and, after profusely thanking the group for all of their help, headed out into the waste once more.
Naglish, the ghost of an abandoned prisoner, had waylaid the party. He was threatening Tisroc with revenge for wrongs perpetrated against him by the noble house to which Tisroc was attached. As Alina attempted to talk him down, the ghost animated the chains of the dungeon to begin attacking and attempting to bind Tisroc and Glitch. Alina's line of reasoning was not able to satisfy the ghost, but it did convince him that his attack on the party wasn't worthwhile. He eventually ceased manifesting and disappeared into the ether, but not before piercing his ghostly sword through Tisroc's heart. The metaphysical attack seemed to affect Tisroc's mind and eventually caused him to fall unconscious.
After reviving Tisroc and taking a few moments to recover, the party headed up to exit the citadel. Alina decided to take Naglish's remains out of the citadel and bury them. Upon entering the great entry hall, they called up to Selkin that they were leaving. As they approached the exit, however, they were attacked by a group of hobgoblins who began firing upon them from the far side of the drawbridge.
Glitch immediately ran out to engage them and Alina followed shortly, but Tisroc (who was already worn down from previous encounters) decided to hang back in the entry hall. It was at this point that he was ambushed by Jask, one of the bandits. Putting a dagger to Tisroc's throat, he demanded the gem Selkin had given to the party. Tisroc willingly gave up the ruby, and Jask took off - running past the hobgoblins and out of the area. Not too long afterward, there was a great impact upon the citadel from some unseen source which caused the rotten drawbridge to give way, taking a few hobgoblins with it as it fell down into the gorge. After the hobgoblins had been completely routed, the party contemplated how to get down with the bridge missing, eventually deciding on the use of Tisroc's Feather Fall magic.
The party camped at the base of the citadel, recovered the rest of their strength and began discussing what to do next. Selkin and the remaining bandits bid them fairwell as they left the area. Alina was able to bury Naglish's remains and the group began planning what to do next. They contemplated traveling to Adther, The Dead Forest, to see what had become of the refugees from the abandonded settlement, but the information they had gained from the epitaph in the crypt mentioned the settlement called Drakol, known as The Crag. Perhaps more could be learned there...
party levels to 6
The group spent the rest of the night speaking with Selkin, planning their assault on the occupied citadel the next day. Their plan involved an initial phase wherein after they were noticed by the flying creatures, they would lure them into the ruin of the village below the citadel, taking shelter under bits of rubble, forcing the creatures to land an engage them on the ground. Hoping to take out a decent percentage of them at this point, they would then take their chances on the spiraling ledge which led up to the citadel gate where they would make their final assault.
Selkin told them that the area that contained the ruins was about 3 hours to the north, so they would need to leave the following morning if they planned to being their assault after the midday rest. Upon approaching the shallow pass which lead into the village area, Selkin signaled to a scout he'd had posted. A slight creature descended from the cliffs above the village and joined the group. Her name was Mira. She was heavily cloaked and wore gloves and goggles. Tisroc seemed to get the impression that she wasn't human. Mira reported to Selkin that she'd heard some commotion the evening before last, but wasn't sure what it was about. Further, the prior morning, she had observed a band of hobgoblins enter the area and then move out of the far side of the valley. She suspected that they had some interest in the citadel, but she hadn't seen them since.
Selkin reviewed the plan with Mira and his men, and then they jumped into action. Sure enough, the flying humanoid creatures noticed them almost immediately and descended from the citadel. The group fled into the village and, by employing some geurilla techniques and with some considerable good fortune, they were able to kill several of them before the remaining ones fled. After a moment's regroup, they hurried to the pathway which led up to the gate of the citadel.
They'd made it about a third of the way up, when the second wave came out to meet them, this time somewhat more coordinated. An initial group began flying around near the pathways, pelting the groups with arrows while a couple others performed flyby maneuvers, attempting (and sometimes succeeding) to grab members of the party and throw them off the ledges. Finally, two of the creatures flew out a bit further away, and began to sing a haunting sort of song. The song pried open the minds of several of the bandits, causing them to walk off the ledges toward the source of the sound, ultimately falling to their deaths.
The group was finally able to make it to the top and enter the citadel. The inside of the citadel was very tall and hollow. There was a large statue of a robed man in the middle of this vast circular entry chamber, and there were many doors and balconies on multiple levels. Skirmishes inside were brief and somewhat sporadic. Selkin told his (remaining) men to spread out and find the statue with the rubies. The party began looking around also.
Tisroc found a barricaded door which he suspected led downward, but decided against opening it right away. The group ultimately ended up joining Selkin and his group on one of the higher floors - he had found his statue. It was a massive, brass carving of some demonic creature. It did, indeed, have two fist-sized ruby eyes. One of the bandits was attempting to pry them out when they all felt a brief pounding that caused them all to freeze. Tisroc began questioning Tisroc as to whether defacing the statue was wise, but he seemed rather unconcerned. When the bandit had actually pried the first gem loose, a terrific impact was felt by all present, nearly knocking some of them over. When nothing further happened, Selkin smiled. Tisroc asked if they would wait a while before prying the other gem loose - to give him and his friends time to find what they were searching for and leave. Selkin agreed.
The party descended into the sub-levels. The first one they found seemed to have been some kind of laboratory. It contained the remnants of rotted tables and broken glassware as well as several skeletons that had been bound to some of the larger tables. At least one of these skeletons was decidedly inhuman - being nearly 8 feet tall and possessed of a canine-like head.
The level beneath this was a dungeon area, full of crumbling stone walls and rusted metal gates. It was generally empty, but there was the remains of one skeleton still chained to the wall in one of the cells. This skeleton had rotted clothing and what looked like some kind of leather or hide armor and a rusted old rapier still in its scabbard fasted to its side.
Descending from the dungeon led into the crypts. They followed some winding passages around until they found their way to the newest graves - which were about 600 years old. It was here that Tisroc found the grave of Lord Artal Al'Kim that his mentor had mentioned:
"Here lie the mortal remains of Lord Artal Al'Kim - If only his spirit knew such rest."
Underneath this in smaller text was the following tale:
"Artal bargained for some favor with a demon called Acklex. Coming later to regret this decision, he sought the counsel of Makalo, the wisewoman of Drakol, and gifted of Nephthys. Unfortunately, she informed him that, since his oath had been made in full knowing and without hesitation, its binding would not fray. His soul would sadly overbalance Ma'at. Let his fate be a caution to all who seek unnatural gain."
Tisroc wanted to examine the remains of the body and, after some convincing of Alina, got Glitch to help him remove the nameplate and the stone sarcophagus. The remaining bones were frail and disjointed. The burial clothes were all but dust. The skeleton did bear a brass ring which Tisroc supposed to be a house seal and some rather unusual protrusions on its head above its eyes.
After having seen all they could find, the group began heading out. As they were crossing the dungeon, however, a glowing, incorporeal man appeared before him. Drawing a ghostly rapier from his side he proclaimed to Tisroc: "Allakim! I have much vengence to repay, and I'm afraid the responsibility falls to you!"
The party camped at the oasis and headed out the next day. During the late morning shortly before they were to make camp, they entered a large flat expanse of the eastern Salt March. The quality of the sand covering ground and the fact that the sun was directly ahead of them and low in the sky combined to produce a near blinding effect. They were unable to hold their eyes open for more than a second or two, and though the terrain was easily traveled, their pace was slowed. They decided to tie themselves together to keep from being separated.
They had been trudging through this dazzling field for about half an hour when their heard a strange howling sound coming from somewhere ahead of them. As they continued they heard the sounds of clawed feet tearing through the sands around them and they found themselves under attack by a pack of dog-like creatures.
The party was doing their best to fight off their attackers, but they found determining the creatures' locations to be difficult at best in the dazzling light and they were being pushed around by the continuously circling and attacking beasts. About half-way through the fighting, Glitch was pushed into a large, jagged crater he was unaware was in front of him. This had the side effect of dragging Alina to the edge of the pit and pulling Tisroc down into it by the ropes that bound them all together.
As Glitch righted himself at the bottom of the pit, a massive, purplish serpent-like creature emerged from the sand in front of him and let loose an echoing shriek which had the immediate effect of frightening the remaining dog-creatures away. Glitch began attacking it, but Tisroc and Alina decided to run for it. Cutting themselves loose and getting out of the pit, they called for Glitch who had, by this time, managed to anger the beast to the point that it had him in its mouth. He twitched and immediately disappeared from its jaws, appearing on the edge of the crater next to them. The group made a run for it as the creature began to slither up the edge of the crater after them.
The party traveled for a couple more days, entering the bounds of the Dead Forest. Tisroc discovered that there was no magically-discernable water source in the area where the village of Duront was supposed to have been, but after some travel, they did find a sign indicating it was nearby. The group proceded to the edge of the village. They didn't see much movement or any lights aside from a large bonfire on a terrace on the far side. This seemed strange, but they decided to check it out.
As they made their way across the village, Tisroc caught a glimpse of someone behind them - maybe a few people. As they approached, they noticed movement on the terrace and they could see several men holding crossbows at its edge. At this point, Tisroc stopped, turned around, and yelled for whoever was behind him to come out. There was a loud bellowing laugh from behind him on the terrace, "Well Jask, you seem to be losing your touch." it said as a man skulked out of the shadows, "leave these alone - they don't have anything good anyway." Then the voice addressed them, "Please, friends, come and speak with me." as it gestured toward a slope which led up to the terrace where he stood.
Upon entering the light of the bonfire, they could see the man who had called to them. He looked a little unusual - his skin had a golden hue and his eyes were a vibrant blue. Tisroc recognized him as having some genie ancestry. The man, called Selkin, asked them why they had come to this abandoned village. When they mentioned the citadel, he seemed to become suspicious until they told him their full motives. At this point, he disclosed to them a little more fully.
He too, was wanting to go to the citadel, but he and his company were after a pair of large rubies said to be set into the eyes of a statue in one of the upper halls. There was a problem, however. The site had become home to a nest of vicious, flying creatures that had some skill with bows. His group had tried to enter the citadel several times, but were driven off each time. Selkin suggested that they should ally their powers. This seemed like a good idea to the group, and they spent the rest of the evening strategizing how they might approach their common problem.
The party reunited the following day as the As'Kim estate. Elmnal had gone to the Hall of Sands for an emergency session due to the previous night's events. When he returned, they exchanged some information.
Elmnal told them of some surprising political events. It seems that Sasha Odala (acting head of House Odala) had resurrected a tabled motion put forth some years ago by one of the lesser houses to mandate government sanctioning of all magic - the reason cited was the "magical" mayhem that had just befallen the city. What was particularly surprising about the discussion that followed was Emir Revnii's support of this motion. House Revnii had long been on good terms with House As'Kim who was, for obvious reasons, vehemently opposed to such meddling. A vote on the issue was to be held the following dawn, and it looked as though this proposition may pass into law this time.
In turn, the party told Elmnal of the cloaked figures they'd seen in the alleyways around Tisroc's apartment where one of the fires started and of the abandoned house they'd tracked him to as well as the encounter with the man outside it. Elmnal seemed interested and decided that the three should take him to the place so that they could investigate it more fully in daylight. If they found anything, perhaps it could relieve the political panic and keep the sanctions from passing.
The group proceded across the city to the abandoned house and carefully entered and descended through the large hold in the floor into the basement. After some searching, they found an area of the stone floor which was actually disguised wooden floorboards, and they were loose. They had just pried them up to see nothing but packed earth beneath them when they heard an ominous laughing from above them. "So you did return", the voice said, "Jigav said you would. I personally though you wouldn't be so stupid." At this, several thugs jumped down through the hole in the floor/ceiling above them while others pelted them with drugged darts.
The resulting skirmish was intense, but rather brief. The party was able to hold their own against the thugs, but there were simply too many of them and they were only able to shake off the darts' effects for so long. Eventually, they were overwhelmed.
When they awoke, they found themselves in a shallow basin somewhere obviously outside the city. Night had passed. It was after dawn and the heat was picking up. Their hands were bound and around the edge of the basin were cloaked figures. They were then addressed by an uncloaked woman who basically simply threatened them to stay out of the way. She then seemed somewhat startled to see Elmnal's unconscious form among the group. She hissed to the man standing beside her that she wasn't informed that he was among them. Tisroc recognized the woman as Sasha Odala.
The woman then disbanded the gathering and, with another thinly-veiled threat to "stay out of it", she left them in the basin. Several of the cloaked figures around her seemed to protest at the abrupt and anti-climactic ending to the gathering - the party guessed that they wanted blood - but she silenced them. As they were walking away, Tisroc noticed one of the cloaked figures had a snout like that of an animal protruding from the shadows of its cloak. After the figures disappeared, Elmnal began to regain consciousness.
It took the group a little while to determine where they were, but eventually they were able to find their way back to the city. It was approaching mid-day, however, and the oppressive heat had all but caused them to pass out by the time they reached the As'Kim estate. They all needed rest. Elmnal pointed out that he had missed the vote and that it had almost certainly passed.
After they had rested, they learned that this was, in fact, true. The state of Alina's temple was also somewhat chaotic as the death of the high priest had left a man called Sulab in charge and he was taking it upon himself to begin a crusade against whoever had attacked the temple - going so far as to call for "holy warriors". These factors, combined with Elmnal's prior mentioning of a location to investigate far to the east, led the party to believe that now as a good time to leave The City.
They spent the rest of the day recovering and gathering supplies for their journey. The next day, they headed out. Before they left, Elmnal gave Tisroc a secret spell - something unique to House As'Kim. It was a sort of oasis-detecting spell, lasting all day, and constantly indicating the direction and distance to the nearest significant water source within a 180 degree arc.
Mere hours after they had left the city, they encountered what seemed to be the remains of a patrol of savage humanoids - probably gnolls. There was known to be a tribe of Gnolls in the Salt March, but they were thought to be far to the north and none of the party had ever seen one. The creatures had met with a violent end, and were probably killed by each other or some other force bearing weaponry.
They camped to wait out the midday heat and continued on that evening. It was a while after dark and they were very close to the oasis to which they were headed when they entered an area littered with bones. It seemed to get significantly colder as they traversed this area, and after a short time they began to hear strange, disembodied whispers: "Water...", they said, "Water..." At this, they began hearing footsteps around them, and skeletons began walked out of the darkness and into the shadowy light cast by their lantern.
The group began smashing the skeletons but they kept coming. Then Alina got the idea to try giving them what they wanted. Concentrating, she used her miracle-working abilities to create a deluge of water over a couple of the skeletons. There was a loud hissing sound and they collapsed into the sand. Tisroc, seeing this success, created a cloud of mist around the area and when the skeletons entered it, they became inert for a moment, before collapsing back into the sand.
After this encounter, the party continued on to the oasis. It was a very small area, possessed of only a little grass and a few trees. It was home to a small spring which slowly fed a pool of water which in tern flowed out into the waste and was swallowed by it perpetual dryness.
|Saturday September 18, 2010 at 12:00pm||new campaign, d&d, sandstorm, game session notes||Comments (0) »|
Game: Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e, Sandstorm, Unearthed Arcana
Characters: Alina [Sheri], Glitch [Adam], Tisroc [Tony]
It was an evening in late spring. Alina, an acolyte of the Temple of the Sun, was to meet Tisroc, a young, local wizard at an inn called Mavani's. She had told Tisroc she had a book that may be of some help to him.
Alina happened to know that Tisroc had a small problem - his soul had been inadvertently bargained away by his parents in exchange for his mortal life when he was very young, and since he learned of this he has been tireless searching for a way to undo what had been done. Alina herself had lost her mother some years ago and knows her to be living happily in the Offering Fields - and it troubles the acolyte to think that anyone's immortal soul could be stolen from them so unfairly.
Glitch was a guardian "assigned" to Tisroc by one of the few others who knew of Tisroc's dilemma: Elmnal, his mentor in house As'Kim. As the inn was only just down the street from Tisroc's second-floor apartment, and as he would likely simply stand outside anyway, Tisroc decided Glitch should remain at his residence. Tisroc made his way down the street to Mavani's Inn. It was mid-evening by this time - after dark - but it was still quite warm.
The inn was relatively empty at this time, so the innkeeper, Erik, noticed him as he entered, giving him a hearty wave and calling out his greeting. Both Erik and Loren (Erik's wife) were friends of Tisroc's and were almost always jovial and outgoing. Their 7-year-old daughter, Isha, however, was somewhat less so.
Tisroc had taken a seat at one of the many empty tables when Isha approached him. "Good evening," she said, her expression dour, "...so far. What would you like to eat tonight? I'm fairly certain none of it has been poisoned." Tisroc asked for some bread and cheese with some dates (meat being rather expensive), and Isha informed him that it was probably moldy, but she'd check.
Alina arrived sometime later with a large, leather-bound book. Its weight was such that it took some effort on her part not to slam it down onto the table. The book, she explained, was full of religious tales and fables - several of which contained instances where demons were out-witted by particularly clever or pious mortals. She had hoped something in its pages might be helpful to Tisroc.
Tisroc doubted that anything in the book would be relevant enough to his cause, but he agreed to look through it anyway. Isha returned a bit later with his food, remarking that it appeared he hadn't been "stood up" after all. by this time, the Inn was beginning to become more crowded and the environment was no longer conducive to their discussions. Tisroc and Alina decided to return to his residence to continue their discussion. The two were walking back down the street toward his apartment when they heard a loud pop from further north in the city and saw a strange, spiraling flame erupt into the sky. For a moment, they simply stared at it, unable to comprehend what they were witnessing - then they heard the sound again, from another place in the city. Then again in another.
Tisroc began sprinting down the street, Alina behind him, when there was a loud boom from the street in front of him, which sent tendrils of flame out to the surrounding buildings - including Tisroc's apartment building - and a spiraling column into the sky.
After the first pop, Glitch had moved to the apartment window and so when the flames erupted in front of him, the firelight illuminated a shadowy cloaked figure in an adjacent alleyway. Tisroc and Alina saw a pair of similar suspicious figures moving along a parallel street.
Glitch leaped out of the apartment's window into the street, causing several nearby people to gasp in shock. The cloaked figure took off running away down the alleyway. Tisroc heard some nearby shouts accusing Glitch of starting the fires and, subsequently, heard his name mentioned under suspicion.
The party took off down the alley after the cloaked figures, and saw a group of three of them gathered at a dark intersection. When they were spotted, however, the group took off. The party gave chase, but the figures eventually split up. Deciding to stay together, the party followed one of the three up to a large, abandoned mansion in a largely ruined part of town.
The group approached the building, climbed the front stairs and, when no conflict came, kicked the door in. Taking a look around, the dark and debris-filled room, Tisroc noted the rotted state of the floorboards. While he and Alina might possibly be able to negotiate it without falling through, Glitch almost certainly could not.
As they were discussing this, Tisroc suddenly exclaimed in pain. Looking around, a cloaked figure was holding a hollow reed which he had used to fire a poisoned dart into Tisroc's neck. Alina immediately leaped into action, jumping off the porch and clubbing him in the back of the head with her mace before he could get away. The figure collapsed, unconscious. Upon examination, he was an ordinary looking man in a dark cloak. He had a reed in his hand and a pouch of darts on his belt. He did have a strange tattoo on the back of his neck - an image of a black serpent. Alina recognised this as the symbol of a demon lord called Set. As she looked over the unconscious body, she told the others, "I don't think this is the one that went into the house."
Tisroc decided to put his magic to use. He assumed a gaseous form and began floating around the house. He found no trace of the cloaked figure, but he did find two other automatons - very similar to Glitch, in fact - standing in the basement. When he returned as assumed his solid form, he and Alina decided to move over to a large hole in the floor to look into the basement with the help of a magical light Alina had manifested.
This plan may have been helpful if the floor hadn't given way, dumping the two into the basement. The automatons called out: "Why have you come into the darkness?" Tisroc gave them an answer, but it did not seem to satisfy them. "You are not welcome here!" they shouted, raising swords and beginning to attack.
At first, Tisroc thought to flee and ran for the stairs, but Glitch had jumped down into the basement and engaged one of the automatons in combat with his large shovel. Alina had pulled out her mace and attempted to bash the other with it.
The three fought off the robotic beings as best they could, Tisroc providing some magical support to the physical combat the other two were engaging in. When both automatons had collapsed, they looked around at each other. Before they could suggest a further course of action however, they heard footsteps on the stairs outside.
Tisroc began running up the stairs into the house. Alina and Glitch stood and waited. The dark prevented them from making out more than the silhouette of the figure that appeared. They could see a tall, thin form, unhooded and with long hair. The figure seemed to stair into the house and then down through the (now larger) hole in the floor before simply turning to walk away. By the time Tisroc reached the entry hall, the figure had gone.
Confused, the party left the building. The unconscious man they had tied up and left outside was gone. Looking out over the city to the east, they could see the dim glow of fires.
They hurried back east to aid the firefighting effort. Tisroc's apartment, however, had burned to the ground - along with several other buildings. By the time the fires were brought under control, dawn was approaching.
Alina returned to the temple to find that it had been attacked and several of the priests killed. The attackers sounded like the cloaked figures they had seen earlier. The high priest himself was gravely injured and his wounds seemed to resist the miracle healing.
Tisroc returned to the As'Kim estate to speak with his mentor and ask if he could stay there for a day or two. Elmnal obliged, also mentioning something else to him: Elmnal had found an old genealogy record of a man called Lord Artal Al'Kim. The record mentioned that he had "come to regret a deal he'd made with an evil power". The record comes from a time when the house resided in a citadel in what is now the Dead Forest - and his grave is certainly located in the catacombs beneath it. Elmnal isn't sure if there would be anything helpful there, and certainly a journey into the Dead Forest would be very hazardous, but it's the best lead he could find.
Later, after the fires were out, Glitch returned to what had been their apartment building. He had been staying out of sight during the firefighting efforts, trying not to draw attention to himself. In the wreckage of the building, he was able to find Tisroc's spellbook - damaged, but mostly intact.