Eberron - The Age of Worms

The First Trial: The Great Hunt, Part 1

Sar, Dravago 21, 993 YK

The day of the first trial, the party made their way to the village surrounding the Great Crag. There, they rented a set of three wyverns to ride to the northern edge of the Watching Wood.

Arriving shortly before dusk, the party found the Dark Pack at a small outpost camp site. They were told that the Great Hunt would begin at a sacred place that outsiders weren’t allowed to know the location of. The party was blindfolded and led through the forest. Ixen opted to leave his pack at the outpost to retrieve it when he returned. After some time walking, they found themselves in a small grove, surrounded by large menhirs positioned in a circle around an even larger monolithic stone. All of the stones had druidic carvings on them, but Ixen also noted a binding seal on the central stone. Zaeurl told the party that while they were accompanying the Dark Pack on the hunt, they are not hunting… but are, instead, the hunted. She tells them there are other things as dangerous as the Dark Pack in the forest and that surviving them is as much the trial as escaping the werewolves. Her rules are simple: stay within the confines of the forest and last until sunrise.

At this, a haggard-looking woman approaches the stone circle. She’s stopped by one of the werewolves, but in a blaze of motion, tears his heart from his chest. In a moment, she enacts some ancient law of the hunt, joining it and having her choice of prey: Gin. No werewolf will touch Gin through the night. Zaeurl reveals the woman to be Sora Maenya and the hunt begins. Each party member is separated in the forest and chased away.

Siegfried
After escaping a short fight with two werewolves, Siegfried tried to locate his companions. He failed to notice a large hole in the ground before it was too late and fell a great distance into a buried temple. Taking some time to explore it, he discovered it was a temple to the Dark Six and, more specifically, was a place where individuals had worshipped a creature known as Camazotz Sun-Eater, a massive and fiendish vampire bat that awakens under six full moons and feasts for three nights before returning to a deep slumber. He found the skeleton of a long-dead follower of the Silver Flame that had tracked the creature to the temple and had a plan to trap it within the temple until a way of killing it could be devised. A series of mirrors had to be repositioned to reflect light onto a refractive surface and a crystal had to be swapped to produce the right kind of light. His life was cut short before he could set the trap, but all the components were still accessible.

As Siegfried decided to leave, Camazotz returned from his nightly feast. Using the knowledge he had gained from the corpse’s possessions, Siegfried confronted Camazotz. He used a lantern that produced true sunlight to hold the beast at bay and took advantage of the creature’s hypersensitivity to sound to disorient it. Camazotz was intelligent, however, and spoke with Siegfried briefly. During this conversation, Siegfried discovered that the Orb of Dol Azur once rested within the temple. He had little time to learn more as Camazotz intended on devouring him. Siegfried set up the trap, but found he had no means of escape, the ladders that once hung down from an occulus in the temple’s ceiling having long since been shattered. Feeling a strangely familiar warm sensation within him, he called upon this wellspring of power. Two blazing wings of fire sprung from his back, allowing him to fly out of the temple before it was too late. He completed the trap and caught Camazotz within the temple.

Volik
The monk dashed through the woods, pursued by Zaeurl herself. Surprisingly, he stumbled across a woodsman that directed him to a sanctuary a short distance away. He shouted a warning to Volik, but Volik was unable to hear the whole message. Zaeurl caught up to him before he reached the sanctuary, but drawing on his monk teachings, Volik managed to supernaturally frighten Zaeurl away long enough to reach the sanctuary. The place was a large clearing surrounded by a wooden palisade wall. An open archway led beyond to a longhouse, the dull glow of a fire visible through one of the windows. Above the arch was a sign that was carved in Sylvan that read: Welcome are all those who seek sanctuary. He who sows discord may not tread on this hallowed ground. The design of the arch and the positioning of the longhouse made clear to anyone who understands Druidic that the place was built as a ward against evil.

Upon entering, Volik found five individuals already within: A mother, father, and daughter, an older man in a cloak, and a middle-aged dwarven man. They were apparently being hunted as well, but seemed a bit wary of trusting him. Before he had much of a chance to get his bearings, the sanctuary was surrounded by dozens of Silver Flame Templars. The leader threatened to burn the longhouse down, even killing innocents within, unless they handed over the werebeast within. Though Volik tried to reason with the man, he found himself in combat and quickly outnumbered. He retreated into the longhouse and attempted to figure out which of the occupants was the lycanthrope. The dwarf swore it wasn’t him and seemed particularly concerned with his own safety. The older man not only denied it was him, but pointed to the family of three. Volik could tell he was hiding something and was probably just passing blame off on whomever. When Volik spoke with the family, he found them defensive and uncooperative, thinking they were being accused.

The mother questioned where the sanctuary’s guardian was, which reminded Volik of the woodsman. He dashed out of the longhouse and bypassed the Templars, making his way back to where he had seen the man. There was no sign of the woodsman when he arrived, but he found his massive axe buried in the ground. Taking the axe, he returned to the sanctuary, making as much noise as possible on the way in the hopes of leading the werewolves to the conflict. On his return, a couple of the knights came after him, but as they left the sanctuary exterior and entered the forest, their visages changed. Their knightly images crumbled to ash, revealing the twisted skeletal and wooden forms of undead that had been consumed by nature. Volik quickly realized that all the knights were undead creatures. He darted past them and back into the longhouse, where he found the occupants already fighting amongst themselves. The cloaked man strode out of the house and yelled to the knights that the lycanthrope was the little girl. He said he would bring her to them as long as they let him go. At that, Volik struck the man to subdue him. In doing so, he found the man was also undead, but this time a ghostly apparition. There was little time to analyze what had happened, as the act of violence appeared to break the sanctuary’s ward, allowing the undead knights to approach the longhouse. The dwarf fled out the back, but found there was no escape at the back wall. As the attack began, the guardian returned. The mother and father gave him their daughter, “Zae”, to keep safe. He transformed into a werebear and barreled out of the sanctuary, protecting the girl with his own body. On the way out, she dropped a small toy: a wooden carving of a wolf. Volik picked up this keepsake and helped draw the attention of the head knight.

Once the werebear was out of sight, he followed, but found no trace of them. He did, however, find an old human skeleton buried near where he’d found the woodsman’s axe. As he inspected it, an arrow embedded itself into the tree next to him. Zaeurl had returned for her prey. Thinking quickly, Volik held forth the wooden toy he had recovered. Hesitantly, she took it and told him to show her where he had found it. When they returned to the longhouse, Volik found it in ruins, having long-since burned to the ground, the forest having reclaimed it. Zaeurl followed him in silence. She turned away from him, telling him he had earned a reprieve for the night, and then left.

Ixen
Always curious, Ixen managed to hide from his pursuers a short distance from the camp and lose them temporarily. He doubled back and inspected the starting camp, still guarded by two werewolves and the Dark Pack’s druid. Ixen was able to gather that Zaeurl had used the binding seal on the monolith and was channeling the abilities of the Lord of the Hunt. With his newfound information, Ixen stalked back into the forest, eventually being rediscovered by Zaeurl’s son. Failing to make the werewolf fetch a stick, he dimension doored away, stumbling across an abandoned mill fort, on top of which slept a massive spider known as Tauler. He managed to sneak into the fort, avoiding the spider and drawing its attention to the approaching werewolves.

After Tauler chased the werewolves into the forest, Ixen investigated the fort, locating a locked chest within and a small hoard of dragonshards on the roof. He returned inside the fort to find a bag, having left his at the outpost, when Tauler returned. Ixen used a simple illusion to draw the spider away, affording him enough time to steal the dragonshards and get a short distance away. Using a bigger illusion, he tricked Tauler away, allowing him to return to the fort and open the chest. Inside it, he found a magic staff with orcish runes and an outdated map of the forest that indicated there were six stone circles within the forest like the one they had started at. Ixen decided to follow a dried-up streambed to the closest.

The stream opened into a valley that split in two. Down one of the valley branches, he could hear Ekhaas calling for help. When he approached, he found Ekhaas caught in a large, black spider web amidst a sea of smaller webs. Cutting his way through, Ixen made it to Ekhaas only to find she was an illusion and he had been walking through fine spider webs, entangling himself in the process. Descending from one valley rise was Tyulqin, the sibling to Tauler. Ixen quickly extricated himself from the webs with a Wand of Burning Hands, hiding himself in the forest as Tauler came striding in to pick a fight with his sister. Ixen soon came to the stone circle he had been looking for. As he approached, he could feel the staff he had acquired begin to thrum with energy. As he pointed the staff at each menhir, the silver circle carved into the stone would gleam. He touched the staff to one circle and became immediately dizzy, as though the world was spinning. When it stopped, the staff seemed to have lost some of its energy, but he had found himself transported to a nearly identical stone circle.

Gin
Believing himself to have little ability to escape from Maenya, Gin climbs a tree a short distance from his starting point and awaits her arrival. She finds him in due time and makes her way up the tree, while he chooses to stay put. Unsatisfied with how quickly she discovered him, she tells Gin that she wants fun and flings him from the branches. He begins to run, not knowing what else to do.

At one point, he saw lantern lights in the distance and approaches, only to find that the lights were actually Will-o’-the-Wisps. They swirled around him for a moment, apparently communicating with him in a language he did not understand, then began to lead him through the woods. They brought him to a hidden and shaded grove with one tree much larger than the others. A humanoid figure began to crawl down it. Its limbs bended backward and its pale skin was covered in patches of dead, grey feathers that molted as it moved. The creature’s head was that of a barn owl, stark white, with deep black eyes. As it turned its head to Gin, it sounded like the snapping of a bundle of twigs.

This is Deadfeather. He thrives on riddles and will engage any travelers in a test of wits. He had six riddles, one for each full moon. For each riddle answered correctly, he would reveal a truth to Gin. If he answered all six correctly, Deadfeather would grant a wish. Gin was unable to answer the first two and felt his health sapped with each correct answer. Deadfeather, sensing his trouble, offered him the ability to contact one creature of his choice and consult on the riddle… for a price. He asked for a memory, for Gin to tell him the tale of something precious from his past. Gin chose to relate the story of Hohenheim setting himself on fire in the Darguun arena, as he felt a sense of companionship with his friends at the time. As he finished the tale, he found that the memory faded from him, but only enough that the details were blurry and that he could sense he had lost something that once gave him joy. It was a nagging sensation at the back of his mind.

Having given the memory to Deadfeather, he chose to contact Ekhaas. Though she was hiding from werewolves, she managed to help him solve the next three riddles. He used his questions to learn that Deadfeather is a fey from Thelanis, that there are six sanctuaries within the Watching Wood and that the laws of the Great Hunt prevent anyone from harming a creature within the circle for the first hour after they enter it, and lastly that Sora Maenya’s greatest fear is Sora Teraza. For the last riddle, Deadfeather offered to place the wish back on the table… for a price. If Gin chose to forgo a truthful answer after the riddle and gave Deadfeather “one minute of his time”, then the wish would be the prize for a successful answer to the riddle. Gin agreed and answered the riddle correctly. Thinking carefully, he wished to have “a vision of the past that has information that could help stop the Day of Mourning”. Deadfeather stepped up and tapped Gin’s forehead, the vision coming to him.

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There Will Be A Test Afterward

Zor, Dravago 19, 993 YK

The party found itself standing in tepid ankle-high water in a small cavern, face-to-face with the Daughters of Sora Kell, as the black receded. The three sister hags studied the party intently and spoke with them, answering questions and posing their own. They discovered that Teraza had foreseen their arrival and this was why Katra had sent them invitations, but the sisters were even unsure why the group decided to come. They did ask if the sisters knew anything about the potential murder of one of the guests. Teraza prophesied a confusing clue:

“Two in one. Soon one and done. In shadow and storm, he would tread, knowing what lies ahead. Seek the face of devotion, for when it seeks you, his fate is sealed.”

Teraza then offered to tell the party members how they would die. The only one to take her up on this offer was Ixen. Her prophecy of his death was this:

“Black is your death, fueled by hatred and vengeance. Laid low by the ghost of grief. You die alone. Not a hero’s death. Something quiet.”

While Ixen pondered that, hoping to use the knowledge to avoid his death, Gin managed to anger Sora Maenya and draw her ire. Katra had a private conversation with Josephine, intimating that there were a number of parties interested in her and that everyone was trying to manipulate her. Siegfried then decided to ask the sisters about Ashurta’s Blade, which also sparked Maenya’s anger, though Katra quelled it briefly. The Daughters indicated they knew exactly where the blade was located and could help the party find it, if they ask for their help. The price? Complete three trials for their warlords. Each of the warlords of Droaam was tasked with coming up with a trial and the party can choose any three to complete. If they do so and succeed in the trials, the Daughters will give them the information they seek. The party agreed and the Daughters returned them to the entrance hall.

THE MAJORITY OF THE INTERACTION WITH THE DAUGHTERS OF SORA KELL CAN BE READ IN THIS FORUM POST.

Far, Dravago 20, 993 YK

The following morning, they met with each of the warlords. The potential trials were:

Gorodan: Kill a specific giant in Xen’drik.
Sheska: Spy on a political rival in Cazhaak Draal.
Tzaryan Rrac: Steal the Shield of Galifar from Sheshka and give it to him.
Kethelrax: Investigate missing kobold miners.
Zaeurl: Accompany the Dark Pack on the Great Hunt, two nights from now.
Ghyrrn: Help the gnolls kill a minotaur lord that is using bargaining with “dark gods”.
Drul Kantar: A mystery. He would only tell the party what the trial was if they accepted first.

Volik met with Sheshka to find out more information regarding the Shield of Galifar. The meeting was tense. Sheshka remaining fairly tight-lipped about it. He tried to appeal to her sense of morality, but found persuading her to aid them to be difficult. The only real information he got was obtained when she slipped up and mentioned the Shield of Galifar was in an ossuary. Ixen later indicated that there is a location in Cazhaak Draal referred to as the Ossuary, and is often used as a prison of sorts, as far as he knows.

Erring on the side of caution, the party decided to pick ones from individuals they already seemed to know decently well: Kethelrax, Zaeurl, and Ghyrrn. Each time they accepted a trial, the name of the warlord was carved onto the backs of their left hands. Given that Zaeurl’s was the only one with a time limit, they decided to tackle it first. In the meantime, they figured it best to continue investigating the potential murder. At one point, they began to suspect Helkashtai might be the target and, unable to locate him, sought a way to tap into the scrying foci the Zil had been surreptitiously handing out. Lacking the arcane might to do so themselves, they had to find someone else with the capabilities. They settled on asking the Valenar. The elves agreed to help… if Siegfried dueled their warrior delegate, Saer Vordalyn. He agreed and went out into the rain to combat the elf. The battle was difficult and Siegfried almost lost, but managed to take his opponent out.

Following through on their deal, Niath Iraenele used a ritual to tap into the network of scrying crystals. She used Gin as a conduit to allow him to take control and peruse the crystals, trying to locate Helkashtai with the limited time they had. He had to randomly target crystals, not knowing who possessed which one. In his scans, he heard Midian Mit Davandi speaking with the Darguun delegates. He also contacted Tzaryan Rrac, who briefly took control of the scrying from Niath and Gin, offering knowledge and power, but Gin turned him down. They finally found Hekashtai as Ambassador Jorasesh met with him. Though the time they had left to scry was short, they heard Jorasesh mention that he had recently visited with House Phiarlan and Lyrandar, who possess the Mark of Shadow and the Mark of Storm, respectively. They deduced that Teraza’s clue may be pointing to Jorasesh.

Uncertain what to do with this information, they warned Jorasesh that his life might be in danger and began to plan for their first trial. At the same time, Ixen accidentally interrupted Zaeurl’s son in the middle of him stalking Drego Sarhain through the halls. The elf was not pleased and took special note of Ixen, insinuating that he would make the Great Hunt interesting for Ixen.

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First Night's Feast

Zor, Dravago 19, 993 YK

The caravan finally arrived at the Great Crag. They were greeted by the warlord Drul Kantar, acting as the personal envoy of the Daughters of Sora Kell. He indicated that a great feast would be held in the evening. Most of the delegates were led to their own rooms by armored ogre guards, but Drul Kantar personally escorted the group after Ghyrrn departed with the rest of the gnolls. They asked the Drul why they had been summoned to the meeting. Though he wasn’t sure, he had some theories that they were wanted here for something other than the conference. In particular, he knew that Sora Teraza had requested all but Volik and Ixen, while Sora Katra added them to the invitations. He gave them a knowing look before he departed. The room was cramped and uncomfortable. They quickly determined it was a prison cell that had been adjusted to act as guest quarters. The party rested for a few hours before readying themselves and making their way to the dining hall.

The massive stone doors, covered in different languages and runes, parted for them and revealed the beautiful dining hall. Various foods and drink were prepared at long tables lining the walls of the hall. Once everyone had located their assigned seats and were sitting, Sora Katra appeared in the center of the hall, commanding powerful illusions. She spoke of Droaam as a nation once divided, now solidified under the rule of the sisters. Droaam seeks to be recognized as a sovereign entity and has brought delegates from foreign lands to discuss this potential. Though she did not threaten, she cautioned the listeners to not spurn Droaam, or they might become the very nightmares the eastern nations believe them to be. She concluded by introducing the remaining warlords:

  • Gorodan, the Ashlord, a massive Fire Giant.
  • Sheshka, Queen of Stone, a regal medusa.
  • Tzaryan Rrac, an ominous masked figure of ambiguous race.
  • Kethelrax the Cunning, a kobold chieftain and folk hero.
  • Zaeurl, leader of the Dark Pack, an elven werewolf.

With that, Sora Katra vanished, leaving the delegates to converse with each other and the warlords. Volik made rounds to each warlord, showing them a sign of respect. Gorodan Ashlord seemed irritated and cold, making little effort to conceal his attitude. The Valenar elves eyed him up, watching him intently. Zaeurl and her pack confronted Minister Luala and Drego, apparently holding a grudge against the church about the Silver Purge, an event well before the beginning of the Last War. Siegfried and Ixen began by meeting with Kethelrax, who greeted Ixen warmly, assuming Siegfried was an apprentice. He asked Ixen to help figure out why a number of kobolds had gone missing in the byeshk mines, delaying the latest shipment to Graywall. Lastly, he cautioned Ixen about Sheshka, saying that she may have ulterior motives.

Sheshka set up a meeting with Breland for the following morning, before meeting Volik. He asked her about Ilthane the Black, but she didn’t recognize the name. She did tell him that Sora Teraza is said to have a library that chronicles the lives of everyone on Eberron and, if it’s true, that it might be the best option if you’re looking for someone. Siegfried and Ixen then spoke with her, seeking to learn how a medusa’s petrified victim can be returned to normal. The only surefire way was something she called the Heart of Stone, said to be the actual heart of Orlassk. Meanwhile, Gin deduced that the Zil gnomes might be handing out scrying focuses in the form of gemstones.

Volik decided to speak with Tzaryan Rrac, the only warlord to have come alone, without aides, servants, or guards. He read Volik’s thoughts throughout the conversation, allowing Volik to avoid writing everything down. Remaining mysterious and shady, he offered Volik his voice back as well as great power. Despite the temptation, Volik turned down the offers. Rrac simply said that he would be waiting if Volik changed his mind.

The party regrouped, sharing their information. They asked Drul Kantar if they might set up a meeting with Sora Teraza, only to discover that she is already waiting for them. As they left the dining hall, the arcane lights flickered out, drowning the entrance hall in supernatural darkness. They heard a scraping and a shuffling, accompanied by the clacking of wood on stone. Then, amidst the black, Sora Teraza’s two gleaming red eyes peered out from under her cowl and her voice rasped out, “You’ve finally arrived.”

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Twilight Palace and Journey to the Great Crag

Zor, Dravago 12, 993 YK

The gala began with simple refreshments in the lobby’s large foyer. The party mingled with some of the guests for the first hour or so. Gin met Sir Roderick of Aundair, a genial knight. Siegfried discovered that Mallora was at the gala, one of the Karrnathi party. Josephine was immediately met by a young man from Thrane named Drego Sarhain, who relentlessly flirted with her and always seemed to find her at the most inopportune moments. During the latter part of the evening, the group received a message from an unknown source that read “Someone at this party is going to die” but gave no further information. They spent a bit of time investigating, but gathered only a little. The Zil Gnomes seemed to know that there were at least three intelligence operatives at the party. Sir Roderick and Prince Oargev ir’Wynarn had a brief scuffle that Josephine and Gin helped defuse.

After gambling for a while, and losing a good bit of gold to the blank-faced Helkashtai, Siegfried cozied up to Saila Elorenthi d’Phiarlan, owner of the Twilight Palace, though Saila appeared to have additional interest in Siegfried that he ended up rebuffing. She left the party early in response. Mallora, witnessing the encounter, seemed to figure out something about her deal with Siegfried, and spoke to him with veiled threats. Lord Tharsul of Karrnath then spoke with Siegfried, asking questions about Mallora, somewhat suspicious of her, though Siegfried chose not to give him any real information.

Gin met a lovely young Brelish lady by the name of Nyrielle… who ended up being another Dark Lantern that was quite upset he had introduced himself directly to Lord Beren ir’Wynarn using “his real name”, Destir. In reality, Gin had been using his father’s name, but she didn’t know any better. In order to explain the discrepancy, he decided to be truthful and explain how he is from the future. Nyrielle now believes that he is the worst liar in the history of the Dark Lanterns.

For a good part of the evening, Ixen spent his time as a bear, amusing the audience alongside Phiarlan entertainers. Later, he brushed against Ambassador Jorasesh from Riedra and was overcome with fear for a moment. He later shook the ambassador’s hand, receiving a pounding headache for his troubles, as the sigil of the White Lady flashed in his mind.

As the evening wrapped up, Siegfried gruffly began to question why the party was bothering to investigate a possible death when their chief task has been to recover the piece of the Ashen Crown in Droaam. Josephine stopped him from leaving and chastised him, asking what has turned him into this kind of person. It soon came to light that Josephine’s original mission, when she met the group on the lightning rail in Zilargo, was to find Siegfried. The Sovereign Host seemed to feel that Siegfried had a darkness in him that was holding him back—that he could be a great force for good if he could only be fixed. Begrudgingly, Siegfried agreed that maybe they should look into the potential murder.

With the majority of the delegates having left, the party returned to their suite, where Ekhaas accosted them, excited that she had figured out what the pieces of the Ashen Crown in their possession actually do. Karuuk’s Circlet helps the wearer to uncover history, granting them insight into the history of people, objects, and places. Murkoorak’s Orb was designed to preserve history, allowing the user to store memories and information within it and prevent the ravages of time from affecting physical objects in its vicinity. Another of the pieces, Lurtaan’s Cord, should allow someone to retrieve memories from the Orb if they weren’t the one to place them in. After learning this, the party went to sleep for the night.

Far, Dravago 13, 993 YK

Upon waking, the group departed the Twilight Palace and met the rest of the delegates in the Calabas courtyard, where a caravan of eight carriages awaited. Rohagar approached the party, having been absent for some time. She informed them that Orshok, the gatekeeper orc they’d met twice before, had been waylaid on his way to her clan and needs her help. He’s waiting for her at the Forest of Flesh, in western Droaam, where he believes something is happening that relates to the party’s quest. She bade them farewell, promising to seek them out when she can. She took Irik’s coin with her so that the group has a way of contacting her, even if it’s a bit roundabout. Rohagar departed and the group found that the delegates had already taken spots in individual carriages, along with a few newcomers that hadn’t encountered yet, including a monk by the name of Volik.

Forced to split up and sit in different carriages, the group did so reluctantly. Siegfried and Volik found themselves sitting with the Cyrans, Gin chose to sit with the Riedrans, Ixen with the Zil gnomes, Ekhaas wanted to question the Valenar elves that had joined, and Josephine ended up sitting with the Thranes at Drego’s behest. It is quickly discovered that Volik received an invitation much like the group’s and it has since had their names added to it, though he finds Siegfried’s name is missing, instead listing one Darren Arkalis. Gin learned a decent amount about Riedran culture and philosophy, but had no luck getting anything useful out of Helkashtai.

Soon, they all regrouped during a break and everyone met Volik. They discovered that their original invitation had multiplied into one for each person, including all of their names. Siegfried was replaced with Darren Arkalis on all of them. Josephine became suspicious. Though mute, Volik managed to communicate that he had lost his voice because of The Gentlemen and that he has a personal score to settle with Ilthane the Black, who massacred his monastery. He’d also been having visions of Cyre’s destruction. He joined the group, given their similar interests and equally mysterious invitations.

The first day’s journey was interrupted late by an ambush at Korlaak Pass, where the caravan was attacked by harpies and gargoyles. Many of the delegates’ aides, servants, and guards died in the battle, but none of the delegates themselves. That night, Ghyrrn met with some of the Dark Pack, werewolves in Droaam serving the warlord Zaeurl. They had hunted down some of the surviving harpies that fled near the end of the ambush and had tortured one for information, learning that the harpies had been fed information by someone that they didn’t consider a Droaam native. Volik had also witnessed Drego briefly vanish by some magic, but was found outside of camp relatively quickly.

Dravago 14 – 18, 993 YK

The remainder of the trip to the Great Crag was uneventful. Josephine prodded Siegfried for a bit of information, asking him about the Orb of Dol Azur and seeing what he planned to do with it, then speaking with him about the name Darren Arkalis. He confessed that it was “someone he once knew” that people are better off not knowing. The question of time travel arose again and, this time, as they discussed the future, Volik was listening from a short distance away. Josephine promised to help Siegfried try to solve whatever problems he was facing and felt that he should tell the group about it, as she’s sure they would be willing to help. He remained unconvinced. Meanwhile, Gin spied on the Brelish party and heard a story about Lord Beren’s brief encounter with Sora Maenya during his youth—and how she slaughtered his friends. Heavy black and vast storm clouds began to let loose over the savannas and the Great Crag, the lone mountain looming in the distance.

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Beginning Graywall

Wir, Dravago 11, 993 YK

After two weeks of travel, the party arrived in Graywall. During the journey, they read through the recent translation of the draconic journal that had been acquired at the base of the Glitterhame mine. It had entries dating back through three generations of dragons. The journal indicated that a line of black dragon guardians watched over a Gatekeeper seal beneath the mine, holding back Dyrrn the Corruptor. Thousands of years ago, the hobgoblin general Aal’drash claimed to be the herald of the Age of Worms. He escaped a possible death at the hands of his lieutenant, Mashaak Raal, and was never seen again. The latest true guardian found a mate and sired a child, but was worried that her mate was not honest and that her child had been affected by the maddening influence of the Daelkyr. Before she was able to investigate, the Kundarak mining on the other side of the mountain caused an accidental cave-in, killing the guardian and leaving an inexperienced and mentally unstable young dragon to take over—the very same one the party killed.

Upon arrival in Graywall, the party decided to stay at the Twilight Palace, a hotel-like facility managed by House Phiarlan and House Ghallanda, in hopes of investigating the possible illicit dealing of the Phiarlans for the Soceitas Liber. They discovered that a rival adventuring party, hired by Midian Mit Davandi, is currently in Graywall also seeking the piece of the Ashen Crown in Droaam. Gin found where they were staying and also noticed a cloaked individual watching the party from the shadows. Siegfried encounters Mallora again and is offered a deal: she will tell him what she learned about his wife if he gets her actionable information on the Orb of Dol Azur. Though cagey, he tentatively agrees, but later informs Josephine of the deal. Having arrived at night, the party returned to sleep, meeting Lady Sailla Elorenthi d’Phiarlan, proprietor of the Twilight Palace and acquiring a magic bell to summon a butler named Belvedere. They are told that the Twilight Palace is hosting an evening gala the following night and the caravan from the Great Crag will be arriving in the morning after. The party sleeps, resolved to make preparations for both in the morning.

Zor, Dravago 12, 993 YK

Knowing they would likely be combating aberrations in their search for the Ashen Crown, they made their way to Tooth and Steel, a forge run by an oni named Szalas Jal. They commissioned a number of weapons and a shield, paying Szalas with the corpse of a chimera they killed in the arena. In speaking with him, they learned he was familiar with the legend of Ashurta’s Blade, the piece of the Ashen Crown that had once been located here. It went as follows:

“Graywall once held a Dhakaani outpost and nearby was a fortress with grand armies of one arm of the empire. It was here that the byeshk used to combat the Daelkyr and their ilk was mined. One day, it is said, a single Daelkyr strode into the land. She was known as Skerra of a Thousand Cuts. They say that every soldier poured forth from the fortress and surrounded her. They say that every warrior wielded a byeshk weapon. They say that no one but Skerra left that field in one piece.

Ashurta, one of the six emperors of Dhakaan, learned of the army’s defeat at the hands of this creature. Unwilling to send any others to their deaths, he came to face Skerra alone. He wore no armor, knowing that Skerra’s hands could rend the strongest material in two. With him, he carried but one weapon: a blade forged by Taruuzh as part of the Ashen Crown—a dagger that grew in Ashurta’s grasp. A lone warrior, he walked into Jhegesh Dol, which Skerra had claimed for her own. No one knows precisely what happened afterward. Skerra has not been seen since, but neither was Ashurta. Legend has it that the conflict between Skerra of a Thousand Cuts and Ashurta sundered Jhegesh Dol, its two halves now in different locations."

They left Tooth and Steel, offering Szalas Jal a job at the Arcane Forge back in Sharaat once Irik’s teleportation circle is complete. Siegfried stumbled across a former Karrnathi soldier that fought under him and, despite the soldier’s attempts to spark conversation, he remained cold and told the soldier to forget he ever saw him. Josephine went in search of information on the Orb of Dol Azur and met an itinerant hag named Jabra, who traffics in rare and exotic goods. She heard a rumor that the Orb has the power to see into a man’s soul and snatch it, but is told that if anyone would know more about it… it would be the Daughters of Sora Kell. Rohagar and Gin spent some time tracking down Tolri, a female tiefling and member of the Swords of Liberty, a terrorist organization in Breland. While the rest of the party headed to the gala, Rohagar ended up chasing Tolri through Graywall after discovering she was planning to murder the Brelish delegate with an explosive. Luckily, she was stopped, and Rohagar met Xorchylic, the illithid governor of the city. He asked her to hand the prisoner over to him, instead of House Tharashk, offering to fulfill the contract himself, but Rohagar politely declined and the two parted surprisingly amicably. Rohagar then headed to the gala where the rest of the party was located.

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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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