Eberron - The Age of Worms

Concluding Sharn

Mol, Eyre 23, 993 YK

The party trekked down into The Depths beneath Khyber’s gate. They spent hours in the excess heat, working their way through tunnels and save systems. Along the way, they encountered a group of cultists that believed they were on a holy quest. Ixen convinced them that the party was only there to help and the cultists let them pass. After some time and more work, they arrived at Duur’sharaat. Ekhaas told them what history she knew of the city as they entered as close to the fortress as they could.

The city was in ruins and, in places, on fire. They discovered that the streets radiated some magic that cooled the air to acceptable temperatures. Additionally, the roads seemed far more intact than the buildings. As they explored the city, the party found remnants of the old Daelkyr Wars: corpses, rusted armor, and some magical equipment. They also found a series of smaller tunnels beneath the city that appeared to have been dug out magically.

Cautiously, they continued on toward the fortress, soon finding themselves at an old Dhakaani temple. Siegfried recognized the holy symbol as similar to the ancient symbol of the Sovereign Host and Dark Six… but with an addition to the symbol representing sixteen gods instead of fifteen. Ekhaas explained that the old Dhakaani worshipped the Nine and Six and One, but she knew little else. Inside, they found sixteen statues. Fifteen clearly represented the nine gods of the Sovereign Host and six represented the Dark Six. The last statue was vague in its design and purposefully carved in such a way to obscure its features with deep gauges. Before it sat a small, metal reliquary with the symbol of the Church of the Silver Flame emblazoned on it and burnt offerings within. Graffiti, written in common, was found on all of the statues except this last one and Rohagar found recent tracks entering and departing the temple.

Upon their departure, the party noticed a group of human cultists speaking with a group of dolgaunts a distance down the road. Since they hadn’t been noticed yet, Ixen snuck up to eavesdrop on the conversation. The cultists informed the dolgaunts that they had encountered the party in the tunnels previously. They thought it was important to find the party and bring them before “Her Holiness”. The dolgaunts gave an order in Daelkyr and both groups dispersed. With the knowledge that both cultists and aberrations were on the lookout for them, the party began to sneak through the city, avoiding patrols and bystanders. At one point, they found a note on the ground addressed to them that indicated which way they should go to avoid the patrols and they began to follow chalk-drawn arrows on walls.

After a few minutes, they found themselves in the middle of a street with cultists hailing them from behind and aberrations approaching from the front. A voice whispered to them from down an alley and they quickly ducked off the road. In front of them was a dead-end that they quickly tested and found to be an illusory wall. On the other side of the wall was a small, makeshift hut cobbled together from scraps and ruinous debris. There they met Irik, a svirfneblin artificer who had been leading them away from the search parties. He gave them potions to shrink them so they could enter his hut, which was filled with trinkets and inventions, as well as a full alchemist’s lab. They entered the tunnels beneath the city from there and he led them to a safer spot where they could talk: a building that had been converted into a storage chamber for the dead bodies that littered the streets since the Daelkyr Wars.

There, Irik explained a bit about his history… and the party quickly determined that he had, perhaps, gone a little mad over the years. They did know that he does not get along well with the cultists and that he thinks the party is pretty interesting and nice. They decided to take some rest in this shelter before heading back out into the city in an attempt to reach the fortress without being spotted.

Mol, Eyre 23, 993 YK

The period of rest didn’t last long. They were soon disturbed by something that Irik called “The Pulse”, a low hum accompanied by a low rumbling. Upon its completion, the thousands of well-maintained corpses in the city began to rise. The party, along with Irik, scrambled from the building in which they were hiding and decided they had to flee toward the fortress. During the flight, they found the animated Dhakaani bodies combatting the aberrations and cultists in the streets. After saving some cultists and discovering that the Dhakaani soldiers were not undead, they made their way to the cultists’ camp where their paladin leader welcomed them.

This paladin claimed she was the reincarnation of Tira Miron, holy warrior and founder of the Church of the Silver Flame. Siegfried was able to tell that she had a bright, divine aura surrounding her amidst the hazy, dark aura that seemed to pervade the area. Despite this, something was clearly off about the paladin. Her armor looked like it was made of muscle and sinew; her sword crafted from bone and flesh, an eye carved into the pommel… that seemed to follow any observer. Tira appeared to be fully devoted to the Silver Flame, but was unable to notice the strangeness of the condition of her possessions, regardless of how hard the party tried to show her. It soon became clear that Tira and her followers were being manipulated by the wizard Xisor, who masqueraded as her arcane councilor. In truth, he worked for Ilthane and had studied summoning under one of The Gentlemen.

With Irik’s help. The party quietly collected evidence against Xisor and discovered that he had a means of opening the fortress. It involved the blood of a powerful celestial creature transformed into an aberration, but also required a specific key: the sword of Mhashak Raal, which the party happened to acquire from Raal’s corpse in the Glitterhame mine a few months back. Unfortunately, they were moments too late to stop Xisor from summoning the creature. An angel bound in supernaturally cold chains appeared in the summoning circle at the same time that Tira appeared to become charmed. Xisor struggled to contain the creature, who convinced Siegfried (having recognized his Aasimar blood) to read the inscriptions on his chains to release him.

Upon its release, the angel developed wings of fire and shattered the protection spells Xisor had put in place to contain it. The angel identified itself as Numiel, Prince of Fire, who the party quickly realized was a fallen archangel. After a prolonged battle in which Ekhaas was able to command the reanimated Dhakaani soldiers, Numiel was slain, Xisor fled, and the fortress was opened. Before entering, the party found Tira’s sword near the edge of the crevice. When Josephine picked it up, it tried to seize control of her mind, but a powerful energy within her threw off the magic and she dropped it. While everyone discussed what to do about the sword, Ixen kicked it off the ledge.

Zol, Eyre 24, 993 YK

Siegfried, Rohagar, Josephine, Ixen, and Ekhaas awoke within the fortress with no memory of entering. As they moved through the fortress, they began to experience memories of other individuals: people that had lived in the Dhakaani Empire. Siegfried had memories of Dagii, a female hobgoblin priest. Rohagar had memories of Goresh, a male bugbear gladiator and blacksmith. Josephine has memories of Belaluur, a male hobgoblin honor guard. Ixen had memories of Chetiin, a male goblin daashor. Lastly, Ekhaas had memories of Kashta, a female hobgoblin duur’kala. The memories gave them insight into the fall of the city of Sharaat and the tragedy that unfolded within the fortress walls in its final days of glory.

In exploring the lower level of the fortress, they were attacked by a still-living occupant of the fortress. This was a magically-enhanced bugbear berserker that had been guarding the Emperor, Dabrak Riis, 9000 years ago. One of the memories explained that the piece of the Ashen Crown they were searching for was Murkoorak’s Orb, an artifact that had been designed to preserve Dhakaani history. They rightly reasoned that prolong exposure to the artifact could result in unnaturally long life, especially when combined with the magic that had been placed on the berserker. The party found their enemy to be nearly unstoppable and was forced to hide in the fortress, making as little noise as possible while they searched for the Orb.

Throughout the fortress, they acquired a number of items to aid them, including a pair of gauntlets that granted Rohagar equal strength as the berserker. Finally, they discovered the Orb in the lower level… as well as Dabrak Riis. They confronted the Emperor, contending with both he and the berserker simultaneously. Ixen removed the Orb from its amplifying pedestal while the other defeated the two combatants. While the Emperor was killed, the berserker found itself freed from the magic that bound it to the Emperor’s command. The party decided to let him live, a man out of time, and he chose to continue the only existence he had known: life within the fortress walls.

When they exited the fortress, they found that Xisor had returned in their absence and captured Gin, Tira, and the other followers, but Shan had departed to find help. They destroyed the device that Xisor was using to coordinate his aberration allies, allowing the others to fight back effectively. Though the wizard nearly escaped by using the sword Ixen had kicked down the crevice to open a portal elsewhere, Shan’s timely return with Lyssa, resulted in Xisor turned to stone. The party settled their debts with Daask and even made an agreement to work together with both Daask and the Kech Volaar to rebuild Sharaat.

Wir, Eyre 25, 993 YK

Returning to the surface, the party met with Dr. Jones. Here, Hohenheim informed them that his transformation was progressing more rapidly and he wouldn’t be able to adventure with them until it was taken care of. The party was informally inducted into the Societas Liber and made aware of its suspicions regarding the Dragonmarked Houses. Jones indicated that he suspects Merrix d’Cannith of planning something big, but he’s not sure what exactly. The darker dealings of the other houses were presented in a dossier. Though the party was suspicious, they agreed to look into these concerns should the opportunity present itself. Hohenheim stayed behind as they departed, but provided them with a means of communication.

Meanwhile, they received an invitation from the Daughters of Sora Kell to attend a summit of influential individuals at the Great Crag. They made arrangements with Hakou’s crew to pick them up in Vralkek in a few weeks. Ixen acquired a translation of the draconic journal from the Glitterhame before departure. After that, they traveled to Greywall, Droaam by way of Lightning Rail and Orien Caravan.

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Gearing Up
Or, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Sul, Eyre 22, 993 YK

While Hohenheim conjured an ice floe in an attempt to stay out of the water, Ixen thought he saw something beneath the waves. Gin pulled Ril out of the water and onto some flotsam as the party regrouped. While the others discussed their situation, Ixen decided to investigate the dark mass down below. He swam underwater and let himself begin to sink as the shape grew larger. It soon became apparent that he was looking at a ship, a small frigate, which was rapidly rising from the water. He noticed it seemed to be protected by a bubble. Ixen passed the bubble’s threshold and discovered that there was a breathable pocket of air, so he glided down to the ship’s deck. The ship’s captain appeared to be controlling the water surrounding the ship magically. Seconds later, the ship broke the water’s surface, surprising the party.

The ship’s captain, named Hakou, brought the party aboard his ship. On the way back to Sharn, the party watched as large chunks of the laboratory they had been in teleported out of thin air and crashed into the water, only to be sucked back up, along with a considerable amount of water, into a spherical portal before disappearing. Hakou and his crew also discovered that the party was planning to trade with Chance shortly. He had lost a bet to chance some time ago and had something of his taken as payment. So he offered them a deal: if the party provided a distraction for him at the casino, he would enter and recover what he needed. Then, should they ever find Hakou at a port in the future, he’d provide them with one free ride wherever they needed to go. They agreed to the deal.

While on the ship, Hakou’s ship doctor, Sawbones, inspected Gin and was uncertain if he could surgically remove the infection without the risk of killing Gin. He noted that the growth seemed to be charged with a considerable amount of negative energy. The party resolved to take Gin to a local church and see if they could do anything. Before the ship docked, Rohagar started following a wispy apparition on deck that coalesced into an image of Freki. She found that she had a connection to her deceased animal companion’s spirit.

Once back in the city, Josephine, Siegfried, and Gin headed to a church to inspect Gin’s injury. There, it became apparent that the consecrated ground weakened the magic that kept the wound festering. They were able to successfully heal Gin while in the church, but suspected they would need powerful divine magic outside if they needed to do this again. Meanwhile, Rohagar went to speak with Orchok, Sharn’s resident Gatekeeper. She told him about her vision and the Age of Worms, which greatly concerned him. He recalled a tale from long ago about a prophecy foretelling a great catastrophe, but couldn’t remember details. He promised to send the information to the elders back in the Shadow Marches with expedience. As a whole, they then went to House Deneith to recount their recent foray underground and what they had learned. Tasra d’Deneith thanked them for their worked and provided them with a token they could present at any Sentinel Marshal outpost to get Tasra and Lalia’s help if they ever needed it.

Elsewhere, Hohenheim went to House Cannith in an attempt to market the communication device he discovered as his own. On entering, he had a brief vision of dozens of mangled, dead bodies strewn about the floor and a bearded man asking him, horrified: “What have you done? What have you created?” He was quickly snapped out of his reverie. The House wasn’t altogether too thrilled at the prospect of breaking Sivis’ monopoly on communication magic. He then turned to Dr. Jones, who told him not to speak in the Houses and to meet him at another location in the city. There, Hohenheim found that Jones was rather irritated at the fact that Hohenheim had discussed the Societas Liber in the Houses and in front of House members that weren’t aware of the society’s existence. He asked to meet Rohagar, who had now heard of the society and who could be a useful source of information within Tharashk. Hohenheim agreed to set up a meeting and then tried to market the communication device again. Jones was not pleased that Hohenheim seemed to be disregarding the ideals of the organization. They had a disagreement during which Jones decided it was not beneficial to have Hohenheim as part of the society anymore. They did not part on good terms. Afterward, Hohenheim made his way to a classy restaurant with the intent to dine and dash. As he had taken no steps to disguise himself, however, the city guard that still believed him to be a changeling terrorist quickly apprehended him. He soon found himself in the Black Arch, a prison in Sharn designed to house dangerous mages.

Mol, Eyre 23, 993 YK

The party noticed his disappearance in the morning and read a newspaper indicating he had been captured. Gin, now healed, came up with a plan. He dug out his old King’s Citadel identification papers, changed the name to his father’s name, and altered his appearance to look like his father. Claiming that the King’s Citadel was pulling rank and was transferring the “terrorist” to their facilities, he was allowed to see the prisoner. Before Hohenheim could really speak, Gin beat him unconscious and slung him over his shoulder. Accompanied by two city guards, Gin brought Hohenheim back to the docks and slyly transferred him to Hakou’s ship without the guards’ involvement.

The party, minus Hohenheim, then returned to Chance to complete their deal. Ril was traded for Hohenheim’s equipment in full. They then spent an evening gambling and came out with a few hundred extra gold. At one of the tables, a barbarian that was not used to gambling lost his entire fortune to Siegfried. The barbarian flew into a rage, smashing the gaming table and grabbing a young woman, before attempting to flee from the casino. Some guards, with the help of Josephine and Ekhaas, managed to stop him. The commotion caused was enough for Hakou to enter unnoticed. The casino awarded Gin, Ixen, Siegfried, and Rohagar chips that would let them bet at the high roller tables. Josephine and Ekhaas were thanked for stopping the barbarian with spa and hotel packages.

Zol, Eyre 24, 993 YK

After the party took inventory of their belongings and rested, they made their way back down to Shamukaar and met with Shan. Then they began their trek down into the Depths in search of the Ashen Crown.

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Visions

Siegfried found himself on a deserted battlefield field in Karrnath. A man faced away from him. As Siegfried approached, he could feel heat emanating from the man and could smell smoke in the air. He grabbed the man’s shoulder and the person turned around, revealing the fence that Hohenheim had tried to get his items from. The figure burst into flames before Siegfried—the stench of burning flesh filling his nostrils. The man collapsed to the ground and crawled toward Siegfried, repeating the phrase “You did nothing.” As Siegfried watched, the face burned away, being replaced with a woman’s face, decayed and turning to ash beneath the flames. It was the face of his wife, dead in Siegfried’s past, alive in their current time. She, too, echoed “You did nothing.” Siegfried watched his wife burn to nothing before waking up in the water.

Rohagar sat in front of a campfire back in her village in the Shadow Marches. Her grandfather sat on a log, staring at the fire, absentmindedly poking at the wood. No one seemed to notice Rohagar, but when she shook her grandfather to get his attention, he began whispering something in a hoarse voice: “Worms…” The ground began to rumble and countless black worms wriggled their way up through the dirt, latching on to Rohagar’s family and tribe, biting them and sliding under their skin. She watched as the worms multiplied, pouring out from every orifice. Her father rapidly decayed in front of her, becoming another worm-infested undead. A terrible crack boomed in the sky and a voice spoke. It sounded like thousands of worms writhing together to create a deep and raspy voice that said “THE AGE OF WORMS HAS BEGUN”. As a sense of dread filled Rohagar, she awoke in the sea.

Hohenheim was at the House Cannith enclave in Metrol, on the Day of Mourning, watching the Creation Forge in action. He remembered overhearing two magewrights discussing the fact that Merrix d’Cannith himself was at Metrol that day. He had arrived suddenly, but rumor had it that he was planning some new experiment that day. No one knew what it was, but they were all excited to see what he would do. Hohenheim also remembered being warned that Merrix was looking for him… and not for anything good. He then found himself floating in the water.

Josephine stood in a vast, white expanse that was filled with a bright light. Before her was a great winged angel. Quickly, she knelt out of respect. It was difficult for her to look at the angel—her eyes hurt when she glanced at it and her head began to pound. The angel began to speak, and Josephine’s ears started to bleed. Another woman joined them and she knelt next to Josephine. She spoke on the angel’s behalf, indicating that mortals are not capable of fully perceiving the angel before her. Doing so would likely kill Josephine. The angel wished to tell Josephine that she is on the right path and that there is a broken sword that needs to be reforged. It may yet be important in the fight against evil. The angel came up to Josephine and placed two fingers on her head. She came to in the water.

Ixen floated in… nothing. It was not light, nor dark. There were no shapes, nor abstractions. There was nothing. The Woman in White appeared in front of him, her face still obscured. She apologized to Ixen for having to meet like this; she would have preferred another way, but she had been struggling to contact him until now. The Woman explained that she is a vestige, lost in the Void, like the others he contacts, only she is there by choice. She turned herself into a vestige to escape a terrible evil. She seeks her rightful vessel and asked for Ixen’s help. He agreed. There was little else she would tell him—The Woman was still uncertain that she could trust him, but granted him knowledge of her seal. Ixen woke up face down in the water.

Gin lay on his back in the water, the growth on his neck still throbbing. He glanced around and saw the others… and a flash of white in the water. He turned, but saw nothing. As he started to slowly swim to the rest of the party, he noticed the flash next to him. Though he looked quickly, all he saw was water. He turned back to continue on and saw the reflection in the water. It was the Well-Dressed Man in a fine suit, his hair slicked back, looking intently at Gin. He smiled wide, showing his gleaming teeth, before the water broke and the reflection was gone. Gin snapped out of it and paddled over to the others.

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Down the Rabbit Hole
Curiouser and Curiouser

Sar, Eyre 21, 993 YK

It was a chaotic fight. The Gentlemen beat a quick, but ultimately unfazed, retreat. The party took care of the dolgrims and rescued Kaziim, but were unable to pursue the Gentlemen and were left voiceless. Uncertain of their next step, they decided to speak with Brom again, in the hopes that he may have more information on the Gentlemen. On the way there, a group of Emerald Claw members approached the party and inquired about purchasing the dead bodies they were carrying. Though Ixen and Hohenheim were interested, the rest of the party was less enthusiastic and dragged them away. At Shamukaar, the party bargained with Brom, offering the bodies of his comrades for information. He agreed and told them all he knew about the Gentlemen.

Brom knew that the Gentlemen seem to stay in the Closed Circle. He’d never been inside, but he knew there was a password that only the Gentlemen seemed to know. All he could recall about it was that they always drank from a small vial hung around their necks before entering. He also mentioned that the Tarkanans don’t work for Aubrecker—it’s a mutual arrangement. The scientist is rumored to reside down in The Depths, but he’s never met the man or even seen him. The only one who has any real contact with him is Thora Tavin.

With that information in hand, the party prepared an ambush for the Gentlemen outside of the Closed Circle. After waiting for a few hours, the Gentlemen approached with a handful of dolgrims. Gin, disguised as a vagrant, made his way up to one and distracted him with a magic trick. While he did that, the others lassoed the two remaining Gentlemen. After a short tussle, the party managed to retrieve the vials from the necklaces and also shatter the magical glass flasks that contained their voices, allowing them to speak once more. Yet again, the Gentlemen fled, but the party achieved their goal.

Three party members drank from the vials and each one received a mental image, sound, or concept. All three stepped up to the door and projected their part of the mental password. The rune deactivated and the door opened. The large beast within gave no fuss when they entered. The main room contained dozens of biological experiments. Ixen stumbled across some animal that appeared to be part bird, part marsupial. He took it with him as a pet and named it George. Rohagar found a hidden room that contained a large pool of glowing water and a number of other liquid-filled vials. Siegfried located a hidden compartment in the wall held a single vial of clear liquid. The party stored these away to investigate later. Knowing they needed rest, the party returned to Shamukaar. Brom was nowhere to be found and they were told his friends had come and picked him up. The party slept and planned for tomorrow.

Sul, Eyre 22, 993 YK

In the morning, the party returned to the Closed Circle. There, Ixen inspected the large rune in the center of the room and determined it was a teleportation circle of some sort. After some deliberation, they used it. They found themselves in Aubrecker’s laboratory, pitch black except for a dull glow coming from some hallways. Aubrecker spoke to them via a magical intercom. He thanked them for returning Kaziim and told them to surrender and he would make their capture painless. Naturally, they refused, and were confronted with five identical-looking Gentlemen floating in the air, each surrounded by a murder of crows. They simultaneously became invisible and the attack began. While the majority of the party fought, Gin went in search of the missing Changeling, Ril, and Hohenheim sent a furtive filcher to explore the facility. It took time and cunning, but the party eventually realized they were only fighting one Gentleman—the other four had been an illusion—and they defeated him.

Aubrecker sent the other Gentlemen to capture the party, but they didn’t seem to be obeying his orders. Hohenheim’s furtive filcher had, moments prior, stumbled across the two Gentlemen in a one-sided conversation with Ilthane, the black dragon, via crystal ball. He instructed them to ignore Aubrecker and to kill the party. He also indicated that his own boss, Dragotha, had learned the party was after the Ashen Crown and he wanted to prevent them from obtaining the information it contained. The two Gentlemen did not directly engage the party. Instead, they headed down a hallway and released a horde of worm-infested undead. Aubrecker enacted quarantine procedures, which shut off the main teleporter. Gin returned with an unconscious Ril and the party made a dash for a set of closing doors at the other end of the main room.

Through the doors, they found themselves in a large, multi-tiered cylindrical chamber that extended vertically for as far as the eye could see, disappearing into shadow. Catwalks allowed movement from the outside to the center column and spiral staircases circled the column to move from level to level. The circular wall was covered with hundreds of humanoid specimen in large containment tubes. Siegfried and Josephine found and apprehended Aubrecker as he was trying to escape using a one-man, single-use teleporter in the central column. The entrance doors had almost closed, but the Gentlemen used magic to pry them open, allowing the horde to enter. Gin was infected by a spell that caused a vile growth on his body, filling him with pain and rendering him weak. Meanwhile, Hohenheim had discovered Aubrecker’s research and a communication device that had records of a conversation with a man who referred to himself as the Benefactor. Pretending to be Aubrecker, Hohenheim asked the Benefactor for help and was told that he would try to help Aubrecker, but there was some sort of interference.

Hohenheim then inspected the emergency teleporter and figured he and Ixen could modify it to teleport everyone out… but it would take time. Aubrecker was tied up and the rest of the party contended with the Gentlemen and the shambling horde of undead. While they were distracted, Thoon arrived and teleported Aubrecker to safety. As the horde closed in, The Gentlemen introduced another enemy: a worm-infested, now undead Fenn. The worg attacked, viciously, being buffed by The Gentlemen from afar. At the same time, something began warping the fabric of reality around the room, causing metal to bend and twist, as the edges of the room started to curl inward toward the central column. In order to buy Hohenheim enough time to modify the teleporter, Kaziim mounted the undead Fenn and steered him into the horde. As a final act, he grabbed ahold of a Siberys shard given to him by Siegfried. His aberrant dragonmark given to him by Aubrecker activated and he died in the ensuing explosion. Kaziim’s final words were asking Hohenheim if his sacrifice settled their debt, which Hohenheim said it did.

As the explosion rocked the facility and the warping of reality had almost reached the party, Hohenheim activated the teleporter. The modified teleporter ripped a large chunk of the central column out of the facility, party along with it, and deposited them in mid-air over the Hilt of the Dagger River. They tumbled through the air before crashing into the water and falling unconscious.

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The Package

Sar, Eyre 21, 993 YK

After spending quite a bit of time under the influence of the eyepiece, Ixen collapsed and fell unconscious. Rohagar managed to get into his room and recover both his body and the lens. Meanwhile, Brom woke up, having healed his wounds. He found himself spiked to the table, being dragged topside with the bodies of his fallen comrades. When the party questioned him, he refused to give them the information they needed unless they could deal in Shamukaar. Reluctantly, they agreed, and began heading back toward the tavern. Along the way, they encountered Rohagar with Ixen slung over her shoulder. Upon seeing Brom, Ixen snatched up his crossbow and fired a bolt into the dwarf. This only served to further antagonize the prisoner.

They soon reached Shamukaar, but were not permitted to bring dead bodies in. Hohenheim, Siegfried, and Gin went inside while the others waited outside with the bodies. Brom stayed at Shamukaar, confident that the Tarkanans would be around to pick him up. The party then confirmed that the monocle allows them to see special, hidden, writing that the Daelkyr used to use thousands of years ago during the Daelkyr War. The downside is that using the monocle affects the wearer’s mind, causing vivid hallucinations. After some examination, they realized that the monocle was made from an actual creature’s eye. Using it, they began searching for the symbol they had recovered from the dead dolgaunt. On the way, Ixen attempted to sell the corpses of the aberrant individuals and found a potential buyer, but some of the party objected and they continued on.

It wasn’t long before they found the symbol written on the entrance to a cave tunnel. A plan was devised. Gin took the form of Raven, the dead Tarkanan boy, while Hohenheim disguised himself as Fileon, the leader of the Tarkanan cell they had fought. The Gentlemen are waiting for Tarkanans and the party intended to give them just that. They decided that they needed a code word in the event that things went south; “package” was chosen. The others waited in the wings while Hohenheim and Gin prepared for the meeting. When the Gentlemen showed up, they came with a retinue of dolgrim bodyguards, some of which were guarding Kaziim, who was being held in chains. Hohenheim, as Fileon, approached the Gentlemen and asked: “Do you have the package?”, unintentionally uttering the code word.
Ixen, overhearing it, fired his crossbow, striking one of the Gentlemen. The injured dolgaunt doesn’t get hostile, instead he beckons toward Ixen and the others in the back. Slowly, cautiously, they approach. Each of the Gentlemen pulls a glass flask from their vest pocket, opens it, closes it, then returns it to the pocket.

That’s when the party realizes they can’t speak anymore. And the dolgrims attack.

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The Plot Thickens
Of Mice and Betentacled Beasts

Zor, Eyre 19, 993 YK

The party soon ventured to Dragon Towers to speak with a few different Houses. Josephine and Ixen accompanied Hohenheim to House Cannith, where he tried to figure out why the dragonshard pieces he recovered wouldn’t have a magic aura anymore. Everyone he talked to seemed to believe that it was impossible to have a non-magical dragonshard, as the shards are physical representations of raw magical energy. After causing a bit of a commotion in one of the laboratories, he was asked to leave. On the way out, he swiped an unidentified potion. As he arrived in the lobby, a sickly-looking individual stumbled into the House Cannith complex. It was Nayan d’Cannith, the missing House member they had learned of at the city watch tower. It was apparent, however, that this man was missing his Dragonmark. He had no recollection of where he’d been, nor did he seem to realize that his mark was missing. House Jorasco medics rushed to the scene to take care of him.

Meanwhile, Rohagar and the others were at House Tharashk, seeing if their tracker, Maxis d’Velderan, had turned up any information on Kaziim. He indicated that he was able to gather information about his previous whereabouts and followed his trail. It appeared as though he had been abducted and taken down to Khyber’s Gate, at which point, he was unable to follow any further. He lost his trail in the twisting tunnels beneath the city. They thanked him and departed. Outside, they noticed a hooded individual, bearing an aberrant dragonmark, walking toward House Phiarlan. Suspicious, they began trailing the man. On the other side of Dragon Towers, Hohenheim and company left the building and began asking around to see if anyone knew who dropped Nayan d’Cannith off. They were told it was a shifter in a hooded cloak. They spotted a hooded figure across the way and met up with the others who were already following him.

They all arrived at House Phiarlan together, just a few moments after the individual entered the building. The shifter approached the desk and gave a letter to the secretary, which was then passed to an aide carrying mail to other offices. Hohenheim quickly sent a furtive filcher to retreive the letter. As he was doing so, the hooded figure reached inside his cloak and removed an Eberron dragonshard. Acting quickly, Siegfried cast a spell to hold him in place while Rohagar disarmed the man. House Deneith guards were quickly called and the man was apprehended and bound. After some close examination, it was obvious that the man was not in control of his body. He was unresponsive to stimuli and of little help to the investigators.

Hohenheim offered his help as part of House Cannith and the Deneith guards accepted and thanked him. Hohenheim studied the dragonshard, noting that its magical aura was weaker than he would have expected from a shard that size. He gave the shard back to the guards and the party quickly departed upon learning that both the city watch and a contingent of Deneith members were on their way. Once outside, and away from prying eyes, they read the letter that Hohenheim had swiped. It read:

“Deliver this message to the rest of the Houses:

Have you noticed any of your members going missing? Do you care for yours as we do ours? You didn’t care about Nayan d’Cannith, did you? Look what happened to him. This is your future. We will tear down the houses piece by piece.

We are coming for you.

Thora Tavin"

Realizing that the Houses were in danger, they headed to the House Deneith enclave, where the Sentinel Marshals were heading up the investigation in conjunction with the Sharn City Watch. There, they met Lalia d’Deneith again. After producing the letter and offering their assistance, Lalia agreed to give them status as adjunct investigators and had temporary badges made for them. This gave them access to information and allowed them to be recognized as aiding in the investigation. They proceeded to read through the information that had already been collected. Josephine found a list of known House Tarkanan associates while the others looked for info on anyone who may have the necessary background or expertise to give or take dragonmarks from people. One name stood out: Dr. Rudolph von Aubrecker, an ex-Karrnathi scientist that had been tried for war crimes in Karrnath for his experimentation on dragonmarked individuals. He fled Karrnath before his capture and had made it to Breland before his trail went cold. Hohenheim also discovered that a rough sketch of his face was included in a document identifying him as a suspected changeling that may be involved. Hohenheim, followed by the others, left House Deneith as quickly as they could following this discovery.

Hohenheim remembered hearing Aubrecker’s name once before in the Societas Liber, so he made a quick stop in at House Cannith to see Dr. Jones. Rohagar followed him and wouldn’t let him speak alone. Despite Hohenheim’s attempts to get him to talk, Dr. Jones retained his cover, refusing to speak of, or even admit the existence of, the secret society. Finding no help there, they returned to the group. It was decided that they would venture down into Khyber’s Gate in search of House Tarkanan and Kaziim. Having already left their previous inn, they found a new one in the Adventurers Quarters. Gin lead them back down to Khyber’s Gate. They stopped in Shamukaar, where they asked Daask to set up a meeting with a House Tarkanan representative two days from then. Then, they returned to their inn and slept.

Far, Eyre 20, 993 YK

The next day, they returned to Khyber’s Gate. Rohagar used her Dragonmark to locate a kama, which led them to a weapons shop. Ekhaas was fairly certain that the small kama on display was Kaziim’s. The owner said that it was a new acquisition and that he got it from a weapons dealer named Brom. Josephine recognized the name as one of the known House Tarkanan members. Outside the shop, Hohenheim found a torn piece of Kaziim’s cloak with some of Fenn’s fur on it. Rohagar’s wolf, Susi, caught the scent and began following it. On the trail, the party noticed they were being tailed from the shadows. Hohenheim sent a furtive filcher to investigate and found a cloaked individual. Open trying to dig through its pockets, the figure noticed the filcher, and revealed itself as a dolgaunt, before destroying the homunculus. It fled further into the network of tunnels as the majority of the group ran toward it.

Hohenheim, on the other hand, bolted away from it. He ran in the direction that Susi had been going and quickly found himself in front of a small building with large, stone doors covered in a complex, circular rune that seemed to shift as he looked at it. Above the doors was an inscription in draconic that read “The Closed Circle”. The party returned, having lost the dolgaunt, in time to see Hohenheim attempt to open the doors, only to be blasted with a powerful arc of electricity from the rune. Susi seemed to smell Kaziim’s trail leading to the doors. Upon further examination, Hohenheim and Gin were able to disarm the trap on the door. They opened the door to find a dimly-lit, but empty, laboratory inside. A few sharp-eyed party members spotted something moving within the shadows that blanketed the ceiling. They soon discovered it was a humongous tentacled creature that was as wide as the room. Any item they threw up into the air was grabbed by a tentacle and pulled into a toothy maw. Hohenheim fed it the mystery potion he’d stolen from House Cannith, but this only seemed to make the creature faster.

Without entering, they began to fire on the beast, which then began a slow descent. The party retreated a little way from the building, only to watch as the tentacles began to curl and squeeze out of the doors. It reached out to grab the party, but the tentacle slammed into an invisible wall. They discovered a ring of runes surrounding the building that was keeping the creature trapped. The group devised a plan to try and teleport the creature outside the runes, in the hopes that the runes would prevent it from re-entering the building. Things did not go well. The beast snatched Hohenheim and Sigfried, who only barely managed to escape its clutches, while Josephine and Rohagar attacked its extremities, but only seemed to deal superficial damage to it. They retreated further away and the creature retracted its tentacles back into the building, once more taking position on the ceiling.

While they were standing away from the building, the cloaked dolgaunt from earlier attacked Hohenheim. The party quickly dispatched it. In its pocket, they found a piece of paper with a single symbol on it. They disposed of the body by feeding it to the creature in the Closed Circle building. To make sure that no one noticed they had broken in, they reshut the doors and the trap reactivated. Hohenheim figured out that the trap was keyed to another rune on the landing before the door. A password in three parts had to be provided at the same time. Doing so would disarm the electric trap and send a message to the beast within to not attack those entering the building. Disarming the trap also disarms the messaging system, however, meaning the beast will attack if they don’t provide the password normally.

Uncertain what to do about this, and clear that they needed the password to enter safely, the party decided to wait and meet with House Tarkanan. Ixen left a summoned raven waiting outside the Closed Circle building, in case anyone came by. Hohenheim and Sigfriend questioned some of the locals about the building. All they managed to gather was that the people who use the building are too well-dressed for Khyber’s Gate and that most residents of the slums instinctively avoid the building and its inhabitants. Once back at Shamukaar, the party waited out the night.

Sar, Eyre 21, 993 YK

Over night, Ixen saw a scene unfold at the Closed Circle through his raven’s eyes. A handful of short and stubby creatures, dragging clubs and communicating through quick, sharp squawks and grunts spread out through the area. After finding it clear, they signaled to the shadows. Floating mere inches off the ground came three dolguants in exquisite formal attire. They did not speak a word, but smiled ominously through a set of razor sharp teeth. As they reached the door, they made no noise or motions, only waited for a moment. The rune on the door flashed once and faded, then the doors parted and the dolgaunts levitated into the building with the doors shutting behind them. Unfortunately, Ixen’s latest binding had affected his mental state. He was now paranoid, believing there to be a secret organization out to get him and anyone could be a part of it. Believing this, he did not inform the rest of the party of what he had seen, for fear that they may be part of the conspiracy.

The group as a whole ventured down into the tavern and bought a round of drinks to wait the couple hours until their contact showed up. Two hours later, Lyssa entered Shamukaar with three individuals: a grey-haired halfling bearing an extensive aberrant dragonmark and his two human bodyguards with smaller marks visible. She introduced the man as Fileon, another name that Josephine recognized from the list of known Tarkanan members. The meeting didn’t last long once Fileon noticed Rohagar’s prominent dragonmark. He refused to deal with the Dragonmarked Houses or any of their associates. As he made to leave, an aberrant-marked dwarf entered the room. He had the arm of an ogre, far too large for his body, where his left arm should have been, a reptilian eyes with a smattering of scales around it, an elven ear, and a number of other skin types and appendages that didn’t seem to match. He whispered something to Fileon, handed him a note, and left. Fileon departed immediately after reading the note. The group waited a moment before Hohenheim summoned another furtive filcher and sent it to investigate. He heard the following conversation:

Fileon: What do you mean he didn’t make the meeting?

Brom: I mean no one ever showed. We don’t know what symbol we’re looking for in this drop.

Fileon: Shit. And they said this one was some sort of trained assassin. We could use him.

Brom: I agree. You think they’re reneging on the deal?

Fileon: I wouldn’t think so. The good doctor seems to be as invested in this as we are. I can’t say I know what those things he hangs around with are thinking but… doesn’t seem like them. Maybe someone is interfering with his business.

Brom: The Marshals?

Fileon: Maybe. [To rat] Zae, tell Thora we’ll look into it. I’ve got my own suspicions. [To Brom] Come on, let’s see if we can find The Gentlemen without the symbol.

Brom: Ah…

Fileon: What is it, Brom?

Brom: Do we have to?

Fileon: We’ve business to conduct.

Brom: With them? They creep me out. They never talk. Just… smile. It ain’t right, man.

Fileon: Would you rather we try to find Thoon? I don’t think we’re getting in his place without the password and I don’t know that anyone but The Gentlemen know it.

Brom: Thoon? No. No. Let’s go find The Gentlemen. [As they depart] This business doesn’t feel right, Fileon. I don’t like this.

Fileon: Neither do I, Brom. But we’re making the Houses pay for their crimes. That’s what’s important here.

As they left, the furtive filcher stole the note from Fileon’s pocket, which read:

Fileon,

We were supposed to receive word from Dr. Aubrecker about the newest addition to our family, but the messenger didn’t arrive with the symbol for today’s drop. I will be trying to contact the doctor shortly. I don’t expect any treachery on his part, but we should be cautious nonetheless—someone may have interfered with his business.

Thora

With this information and Gin’s input, they deduced that the symbol they had found in the dolgaunt’s pocket was something used to indicate the location of a drop. Gangs and criminal organizations would often draw the symbol somewhere to tell another party where to meet. In order to find out more about Kaziim’s disappearance, and believing that the Tarkanan members would have a better idea of where to look for the symbol, the party decided to follow Fileon and Brom. While tailing the two, they noticed a number of rats that seemed to be watching them. The trail led them to a plain wooden door in one of the tunnel walls. They listened at the door and heard this conversation:

Mara: Are you sure they’re to blame?

Fileon: No. I’m not. But I’ve got this nagging feeling that they’re involved.

Brom: What do we do about ‘em?

Fileon: Nothing for now. We’ve got to find the symbol first.

Raven: Assuming they haven’t called it off.

Fileon: Yeah, assuming that.

Mara: The monocles?

Fileon: Yup.

Mara: Here.

Brom: I’m not wearing that again.

Fileon: You don’t have to. Raven will do it.

Raven: Nope.

Fileon: Raven will do it.

Raven: [Sighs]

Mara: Do we need to watch out for The Jackal?

Raven: Mara!

Mara: Sorry… I wasn’t thinking.

Fileon: It shouldn’t be an issue. Raven’s been trying to follow his movements. Someone hired him to try and find one of our targets, but he lost us once we got down here. Shouldn’t be a problem.

Zae: [Raises Hand]

Fileon: Zae? …weapons.

The two groups conversed from opposite sides of the door for a little while. The party tried to get more information about Kaziim, but it didn’t seem to be getting them anywhere. All the while, a considerable amount of rats had begun to encircle everyone outside. Hohenheim figured out that one of the room’s occupants, which he suspected was a little girl, seemed to be in control of the rats and was able to use their senses. Josephine, frustrated with the lack of action, stepped up to the door and yanked it open. The Tarkanans, having had time to prepare, were ready for an assault. It was a difficult battle, but Ixen’s assassination of the little girl mid-battle seemed to be a turning point. Two of the remaining Tarkanans were taken out by a fireball conjured up by Hohenheim, while Mara and Fileon escaped. Brom’s head was severed from his body… but it was soon discovered that it had reattached itself and he was healing rapidly.

The party recovered a number of magic items, including one of the monocles the Tarkanans had been speaking of before the fight. Ixen tested out the monocle by placing it to one of his eyes, which resulted in him viewing a twisted, nightmarish version of reality. He took it all in stride and proceeded to return to Shamukaar, barricading himself in his room, as he believed that Susi was a multi-eyed creature from some distant, alien dimension that was chasing him. Rohagar followed Susi and Ixen, while the others prepared to head topside with the unconscious Brom and the two corpses. They attempted to speak with one of the corpses to obtain information, but the spell unfortunately failed.

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Out With a Bang

Zor, Eyre 19, 993 YK

Hohenheim, still unconscious, was taken into custody and the remainder of the group followed the officers to the city watch headquarters. On the way, Siegfried discovered a note that had been slipped into his pocket. The note was from Chance and read: “Find my missing man, Ril, and return him to me. You have one week.” It seemed that their plea to Chance hadn’t fallen on deaf ears after all. When they arrived at the watch tower, they spoke with captain Vick and convinced him to let them speak to Hohenheim in his cell. Hohenheim told them to speak with Dr. Jones at House Cannith in the hopes that he could do something to get Hohenheim out of jail.

The party left Hohenheim, but before leaving, decided to speak with Vick about his “dealings” with Chance and the Tyrants. After some urging, he admitted that the watch sometimes looks the other way when the Tyrants ask them to. They are specifically turning a blind eye to the abduction of a changeling known as Ril because the Tyrants wish to deal with it themselves. Also while in the tower, Rohagar was approached by a woman seeking help. She recognized that Rohagar was in House Tharask and asked her to help find her missing husband, Nayan d’Cannith. He’d last been seen at the park in Dragon Towers when the two were having lunch. Rohagar told the woman that she’d look into it. The party deduced that kidnappings were becoming an issue and that they may all be related. So far they’d heard about two shifters from Daask, Kaziim and Fenn, Ril, and now Nayan d’Cannith.

They made their way out of the tower and headed to House Cannith to meet with Dr. Jones. There, they told him of Hohenheim’s plight, while leaving out the specifics of his arrest. Jones apologized, stating that the House’s policy was not to interfere in the duties of local law enforcement. If a member of the House breaks the law, they are dealt with like any other criminal. The party also asked him about Nayan d’Cannith, but he didn’t really know the individual well and had only vaguely heard about the situation. He also mentioned that he wasn’t surprised the Houses weren’t doing more about it, as he feels they don’t do enough for their members.

On the way out, they were stopped by Dalen d’Cannith, who apologized for Merrix’s behavior the last time they’d met. He didn’t know why Merrix had refused to help Hohenheim, but he wasn’t about to let a House member be turned away so quickly. He gave them a copy of Hohenheim’s House credentials and told them to come to him if they needed any help. He asked if he was going to regret helping Hohenheim. “Probably” was the answer they gave him. Meanwhile, Hohenheim was busy breaking out of jail. He spent time prying a bar off of the cell door and had begun squeezing his way through the newly-created gap.

The party returned to the city watch tower. While they attempted to bargain with Vick for Hohenheim’s release, he extricated himself from the jail cell. Also, as the party made to depart, a hooded shifter entered the city watch tower and pulled forth an Eberron dragonshard from his cloak. With stilted speech, he said “Now you will see what House Tarkanan can do.” At which point, his partially-concealed aberrant dragonmark began to glow hotly and the dragonshard flickered. A brief moment later, the man exploded. Fire and arcane energy erupted forth from him, tearing his body apart, and causing a great amount of damage to the nearby area, reaulting in a number of injuries and deaths of city watch officers and civilians.

Hohenheim, seeing this as an opportunity, decided to reveal his escape to the remaining city watch. Not only that, but he took credit for the attack that had just taken place. They attempted to recapture him, but during their attack, Hohenheim cast a spell to disguise himself as a changeling while out of sight, and then feigned death after he was injured. Believing him to be dead, the House Jorasco medics bagged him and tagged him and took him with the other victims to the local morgue. There, Hohenheim regained consciousness, disguised himself as a halfling, stole a lab coat, and departed the Jorasco facility, meeting back up with the party after they gave statements to the city watch testifying that they didn’t realize Hohenheim was a changeling.

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Up In Flames
Death of a Salesman

Zor, Eyre 19, 993 YK

Josephine, Siegfried, and Gin headed to Chance to see if they could find out where Hohenheim’s items were taken and if they could get them back. They spoke with a night manager who, while clearly lying, indicated that Hohenheim had been arrested by the city watch and his items confiscated by them. He suggested any further inquiries be directed to the district’s watch captain: Jeremiah Vick. As a final effort, they insinuated that they would be willing to make a bet to have his items returned and they asked the night manager to pass their request along to Chance.

Hohenheim, Ixen, and Rohagar first made their way to the House Cannith enclave in the Dragon Towers district. There, Hohenheim attempted to get another set of House identification papers, but was caught in a set of lies and turned away by the orders of Baron Merrix d’Cannith. Unable to get his House papers, and thus unable to requisition items from the House, Hohenheim headed to a local magic shop and discovered that the items he wished to purchase were illegal in Sharn. Finding himself out of options, he returned to the Dragoneyes district to search out a black market dealer. There, he and Rohagar ran into Siegfried, Josephine, and Gin. Ixen had gone off on his own to locate an elven fletcher. After quite some time, he managed to find a shop that was closed for the night. Ixen then returned to the inn.

Hohenheim and the others found a black market dealer, but he was unable to provide Hohenheim with the magic items he needed in as short of a timeframe as he wanted. Rohagar prevented Hohenheim from purchasing the illegal drug Dreamlily, but on their way back to the inn, Hohenheim ditched the party and returned to the dealer from whom he purchased two vials of Dreamlily.

Far, Eyre 20, 993 YK

The rest of the party awoke to find that Hohenheim hadn’t returned. They were fairly unconcerned about his anticts, but Ekhaas was worried about Kaziim’s continued absence. Splitting up, they tried a couple different avenues of locating him. Josephine, Ekhaas, and Gin went to check with the city watch and filed a missing persons report with a rather disorganized and bored officer. He had little information for them, but said that if they wanted, they could check with Captain Jeremiah Vick for more information. He could be found patrolling in Dragoneyes. Rohagar, Ixen, and Siegfried went to House Tharashk and hired a tracker/Inquisitive to search the city for any sign of Kaziim and Fenn.

During the night, Hohenheim also asked around and found a member of the Tyrants that seemed to be able to locate his lost goods. While the others were out, Hohenheim met with the individual at the inn. The fence found the majority of his items and told Hohenheim to have payment ready in three hours and they’d meet at the inn. During his wait, the others returned. Together, they waited the remainder of the time. Most sat at a bar across the street, drinking, and waiting for what would likely be an entertaining show. Ixen and Josephine stayed near Hohenheim.

At the agreed-upon time, the fence returned with three bodyguards and four city watch officers. Hohenheim tried to charm the fence, but the man was prepared and did not succumb to the spell. He called the city watch over, mentioning that coercive spells are illegal. The officers asked to see Hohenheim’s identification, which he was unable to produce. As they were about to arrest him, Hohenheim set the fence ablaze, burning him to death. The four watch officers tackled Hohenheim, beat him unconscious, handcuffed him, and dragged him off, leaving the rest of the party in the street, stunned at the events they had just witnessed.

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The Arena
Or, We Will Rock You

Zor, Eyre 19, 993 YK

While the majority of the party was exploring Khyber’s Gate, Hohenheim was meeting with his colleague, Dr. Jones. After speaking at length regarding various topics, the two parted ways. Hohenheim then decided to try to make some quick money at a casino in the Dragoneyes district known as Chance. He prepared an infusion in the bathroom to help him cheat, downed a considerable amount of martini, and played a few games of Shifting Sands. At a particularly inopportune moment, his stomach gave way and Hohenheim vomited all over the gaming table. He attempted to flee from the casino without paying his debts and was dragged into a back room where he was beaten until he met with the casino’s owner, also known as Chance. Hohenheim was beaten unconscious, stripped of all his belongings, and then sold to Daask to pay a dept that the Tyrants owed.

And so it was that Hohenheim found himself the seventh participant in the Six Stones game being held by Daask in Khyber’s Gate, fighting for his freedom from servitude. Siegfried, not having seen Hohenheim recently, was surprised to find him in the arena. The two participants fought hard and cleverly against the other participants and the ever-changing battlefield conditions. In the end, though, Siegfried was turned to stone and Hohenheim managed to come out on top. His victory set him free and allowed him entrance into the Winner’s Circle, an exclusive meeting room for former Six Stones champions, community VIPs, and Daask members. Once Siegfried was returned to flesh, the party explained the situation to Hohenheim.

Once in the Winner’s Circle, Hohenheim met the shifter explorer named Shan, who often guides individuals down into The Depths. After some haggling, they agreed on a price: 60gp up front, 5gp per day, and 5% of any findings. He asked Daask to write up a contract and told Hohenheim to meet him back at Shamukaar the following day to sign it. He did indicate that if it wasn’t signed the next day, he considered himself free to take any other contracts that may come up. The party then returned to the surface.

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Raising the Stakes

Wir, Eyre 18, 993 YK

Hohenheim vanished into the city to meet with Dr. Jones while Kaziim and Fenn set out to follow him. The remainder of the party searched the city for any clue that might lead them to a piece of the Ashen Crown.

Gin, Ixen, Josephine, and Ekhaas all found their way to a surprisingly intelligent and civilized ogre named Karg at Morgrave University. They conversed with him for a little bit and asked if he knew anything about where the artifact may be located. He searched through some of his texts, finally locating the information they sought in A History of Durasharn by Tasker d’Sivis. The book indicated that archaeologists had discovered it within the High Citadel, an old Dhakaani royal palace that had been sealed off in the Depths along with most of Duur’sharaat by Galifar I when Sharn was built on top. Initially, he was reluctant to give this information to the party, as he knew the citadel was in Daask territory and he owed them a considerable dept. Should the party fall on Daask’s bad side and Karg’s part in their quest be discovered, Daask may not be forgiving. They promised to not divulge his complicity to Daask and Karg then gave them the information.

Meanwhile, Rohagar searched for leads with her House. The Tharashk enclave hadn’t heard any rumors about the Ashen Crown, but given its description, they directed her to the Gatehouse in Carosten Park, where a small sect of Gatekeepers were said to live. Before she departed, Rohagar received a message from one of her House Phiarlan contacts: an old escaped bounty of hers, a Shifter named Xanth, that was recently spotted in the Depths. Tucking that information away, she made her way to the Gatehouse. There, she met an orc druid that she recognized as Orchok, the druid the party had freed in Darguun and later tricked. He didn’t appear to recognize her at first, answering what questions he could. Orchok knew a bit about the Ashen Crown.

He explained that Jazaal Dhakaan had built the artifact as a repository of knowledge for both the Dhakaani Empire and the Gatekeeper druids near the end of the Daelkyr Wars. The Gatekeepers wanted a way to preserve their traditions for future generations in a better way than their oral stories. Jazaal’s artifact let both allied groups store large amounts of knowledge about the Daelkyr and their invasion, but the Ashen Crown was lost when Jazaal died. His great artifacts were taken by others who were far less careful than he had been and their exact whereabouts were lost to time. Orchok hadn’t heard anything else about it, but suggested that Rohagar find an ogre name Karg at Morgrave University. She thanked him and began to depart when he politely asked that she please return his amulet if she ever sees it again, indicating he knew exactly with whom he had been speaking. Rohagar then met up with the others who had just spoken with Karg and everyone exchanged information. They all returned to the inn and slept.

Zor, Eyre 19, 993 YK

With no sign of Hohenheim, Kaziim, or Fenn in the morning, they readied themselves for a journey down to Khyber’s Gate to look for information. Gin advised them that it would be best to look capable and strong, but not to go overboard, as many of the inhabitants below would take that as a challenge. He also suggested that they refrain from taking any valuables with them that they weren’t okay with being stolen. After storing some of their goods with Rohagar’s House, they followed Gin beneath the city and down to Khyber’s Gate.

The city beneath the city filled a massive underground cavern. The buildings were built into the cavern walls, with networks of side tunnels extending outward with other shops and homes further into the walls. The city was tiered, with the top level being the largest in diameter, progressing down with each tier, until the bottom level consisted of buildings on the cavern floor, connected by streets and a system of catwalks spreading from roof to roof. The air was laden with dust and smoke. Most of the inhabitants were what the topside city would call “monstrous”. There were goblinoids, trolls, ogres, shifters, changelings, kobolds, and plenty of others down in Khyber’s Gate. Humans, Dwarves, and other standard humanoid races were the minority.

Uncertain where to begin, the party found the first tavern they could and tried to eavesdrop on conversations, listening for anything that might be of interest. Gin and Siegfried coaxed two shifters into telling them about some individuals that had gone missing recently. They were all members that had recently joined Daask. Rumor had it that one of Daask’s rival organizations was doing it to dissuade new members from joining. The missing members had been recruited at a Daask-owned tavern known as Shamukaar. With this newfound information, the party figured that Shamukaar would be the best place to learn more about Daask or find a way through their territory.

Shamukaar was a much nicer establishment than they expected to find. It was well-lit, clean, large, and even peaceful. At the entrance was a sign written in multiple languages indicating that violence and theft within the tavern would not be tolerated by Daask. The minotaur wielding a mighty warhammer standing inside was a good deterrent. They asked the friendly changeling bartender if he knew of anyone that might be able to lead them into the Depths. He remembered one individual that usually hung out with the “winners”. When asked what he meant, the bartender was surprised to find that the party hadn’t come to place a bet on the game. Every few nights, the tavern holds a game of Six Stones that anyone can place bets on. Hoping to meet the guide, the party went to speak with the bookie.

The bookie explained the nature of the game to them: seven participants enter the arena. They are not allowed to have any weapons or equipment aside from standard clothing. No magic may be used during the competition or in preparation beforehand. In this arena is placed a cockatrice that is set loose to attack the participants. No one is allowed to harm the cockatrice or to physically harm each other. Tripping and grappling is allowed. From time to time, other objects may be placed in the arena to add complications or provide assistance. The game continues until the cockatrice has turned six of the seven participants to stone. The last man standing is the winner. Ixen immediately placed two platinum pieces on an elven woman with 10:1 odds.

The party considered trying their hand at the game to get to meet the guide, but didn’t know what happened to the losers. The bookie explained that participants can purchase an oil of Stone to Flesh that will be used to revive them afterward or they can agree upon a “second” as collateral. A second individual agrees to be collateral. Should the participant fail, he will be revived after the game, but the second will be turned to stone in his place. In either event, anyone who remains stone after the game becomes property of Daask. After purchasing an oil of Stone to Flesh from the bookie at a “First Timer’s price” of only 200gp, Siegfried entered the competition.

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