Eberron - The Age of Worms

[CUTSCENE] Ilthane Taketh

Far, Lharvion 20, 993 YK
196 days until the Day of Mourning

Ur-Han sits cross-legged on a small rock outcropping overlooking the Plaguelands. The air is crisp and clean this evening. As the sun begins to set behind the mountain chain that forms the valley ridge, a dark shadow passes in front of the light. The stone giant blinks and leans forward. Gliding down from one peak is a great, black winged beast. Two horns protrude from its head, spiked and flared. Its scales gleam, yet seem to absorb the light, rendering the creature unseen when it passes through a shadow of the mountains. Its lengthy tail whips back and forth in the air, but seems to taper of into nothingness, just wisps of shadow that vanish in the air.

Ilthane the Black extends his four claws outward and dives. He lands with a force that shakes the ground, smashing a dozen or more statues, and driving the air away from the dragon in a powerful gust. Pulling his wings back, they melt into his body, and he shapeshifts into his human form. He doesn’t have long to wait as the ground a few feet away ripples and liquefies into mud, the medusa Miraj Vizann rising from the earth. Miraj steps out of the puddle that instantly resolidifies. He stops, seeing the shattered stone soldiers, and shakes his head.

“We would ask you to be more careful next time. The Stone Heart has plans for them.”

Ilthane bites back a response, instead simply saying, “My apologies.” Miraj nods, keeping his eyes safely pointed away from Ilthane. “Have you seen the Oracle? Do you know if he received my message as well?”

Miraj sneers. “Had I seen the Oracle, he would not be joining us.”

Movement behind one of the statues catches their eyes and they turn toward it as a creature slinks forth seemingly from thin air. Standing only five feet high while hunched over, the spines along its back come up another foot. Each appendage ends with a four-fingered claw. Its face is elongated and when it opens its mouth, each jaw has two rows of sharp teeth. A lengthy touch swings out of its mouth and licks the air, before drawing back in. It gazes upon the two others with a large, singular eye.

“The Oracle of Cazhaak Draal is present, as requested.”

Miraj turns to it. “I am surprised to see you outside your hole. Not afraid to stand in my presence.” With swiftness, he turns his gaze upon The Oracle, who merely laughs.

“The Oracle is present, but is not here.” It takes a few strides forward, walking through one of the stone statues. Clearly an illusion.

“Coward!”

Ilthane turns to both of them, growing inches as he does, his eyes returning to their draconic state. “ENOUGH!” The two others face Ilthane, not so much in fear as surprise. “You were not gathered here to continue your petty squabbling. There are more important matters at hand.” He takes a breath and returns to human size. “The Elder Brain is no more.”

“Yessss, The Oracle has seen it.”

“And the Stone Heart has felt it.”

“I have come to present myself to you as Dyrrn’s disciple. I will be your leader from here on, in the Elder Brain’s stead.” There’s silence as the two figures regard Ilthane, but say nothing. “Have you nothing to say?”

“You are no leader of mine. The Stone Heart has not been under Dyrrn’s command in ages. He sees no reason to be so now.”

“The Oracle does not wish to agree, but must. The Lord of Eyes owes no allegiance to the Corruptor. Nor I, you.”

Ilthane closes his eyes in frustration. “I had foreseen this and yet am still awed at your insubordination. The Enemy grows stronger still and yet you fight amongst yourselves and allow them to carry on unhindered.”

Miraj waves a hand dismissively. “They are being tried by the Queen of Stone as we speak.”

“I am not speaking of them! The Enemy! The one, true enemy!” Ilthane stops, disgusted with the conversation. “Enough of this. I need not explain myself to the likes of you.” With a quick thrust of his hands, he carves a glowing sigil in the air. One hand transforms back into his claws and it juts forward toward Miraj, who is held in place. His eyes go wide and he tries to turn his gaze on Ilthane, but doesn’t have the time. The same sigil appears beneath Miraj and blue-black flames spread up from it, beginning to consume the medusa, before vanishing a few seconds later. Miraj remains standing, but becomes relaxed and complacent.

The Oracle cocks his head. “What have you done to him?”

“I have made him mine. As I will you.” Ilthane turns to the illusion, his other hand becoming a draconic claw.

Smiling, the Oracle reminds Ilthane, “The Oracle is not present.”

“I don’t need you to be.” With another swift motion, he traces the same sigil and opens his claw. The Oracle’s illusory appearance flickers as he attempts to dispel the magic… but it doesn’t. The flames spread over and through the illusion, consuming The Oracle where he truly resides in the same fashion as Miraj. Ilthane takes a step back, as if surveying his work. “There. You will be my Testament.” The fire spreads outward, encircling the three individuals, and they vanish.

Up on his rock outcropping, Ur-Han sighs as he reaches for his crook and incense. He slowly pats a boulder. “Don’t worry. I will fix them.”

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Law & Order
The Trial in Cazhaak Draal

Far, Lharvion 20, 993 YK
196 days until the Day of Mourning

Gin hastily removed Castellan’s head, stole the note that had been delivered to the medusa, and fled into the city before the guards arrived. The rest of the party at the restaurant waited for the guards and submitted themselves to due process of the law. Their equipment was removed and they were arrested, kept in holding cells to be questioned. Gin met with another contact of the Cult of Sight Unbound and delivered the head, being promised that they would speak to the Oracle to set up a meeting. He also investigated the note to Castellan, which read: “ILTHANE THE BLACK, DISCIPLE OF THE CORRUPTOR, SEEKS AUDIENCE WITH MIRAJ VIZANN, DISCIPLE OF THE STONE HEART. PLAGUELANDS AT LAST LIGHT.” Returning to Althaea, Gin informed her of the situation and she, in turn, told him that the party would likely have to face trial for Castellan’s murder. She identified the six council members that would oversee the trial and judge the party:

AdrastosMaster of Growth, a medusa.
RasmusMaster of Tides, a minotaur.
TurannosMaster of Labor, a medusa.
DiantheMistress of War, a medusa.
IoannaMistress of Architecture, a medusa.
OpheliaMistress of Word, a goliath.

Though Althaea could do nothing to directly help the party, she provided Gin with a writ of patronage, allowing him to travel relatively unrestricted through the city. After forging a set of non-magical writs of patronage as backups, he set out to get as much information as he could about the council members in the hopes that the party may be able to use something to their advantage. Someone had begun to fast track their trial, making sure it would be completed at the end of the day, giving Gin enough time to investigate 4 out of the 6 nobles. Using a network of homeless in the city, he learned that Rasmus is a fairly neutral party, unaligned with any factions, and admires cunning. Ioanna is also neutral, but the Order of the Sacred Stone has been trying to court her, unsuccessfully. She abhors inelegance and has a distaste for the Dhakaani architecture on top of which the medusa city was built. For the last two, Gin felt it important to try a personal touch, so he set up meetings with Turannos and Ophelia.

Gin offered Turannos the same thing he had Althaea: vengeance against the Cult of Sight Unbound. Being no fool, the medusa was aware there would be a price for this “gift”, and Gin merely inferred that he’d like Turannos to vote in favor of his companions during the trial. Midway through the conversation, Gin realized that one of the medusa’s servants had partially-petrified skin, indicating that Turannos was likely already a member of the Order of the Sacred Stone. He shared a brief drink with the man before seeking out Ophelia. He found her in a garden tucked away in a lesser merchant district, near the goliath tamers. She was in the middle of some oration with an audience of younger civilians, so Gin waited. At the end, she met with another individual: Nimira, the Noldrun clan duergar with whom they had fought and later liaised during their brief journey into Khundrukar. Nimira departed without noticing Gin, and he took the opportunity to speak with the goliath councilor. He realized that Ophelia seemed to maintain a neutral stance, holding the law itself in high regard and being assured that the outcome would be just, so long as there was no tampering by the Order of the Sacred Stone.

With only limited time remaining, Gin gained access to the rest of the party and provided them with what details he could. They were shortly brought to the acropolis palace for their trial. The court itself was circular and tiered. In the center, at the bottom, stood the party. They were unshackled, but heavily guarded by multiple medusa and gnoll guards with basilisks for extra measure. The next few tiers were audience seating for those with noble patrons. The uppermost tier sat the six council members, as well as Sheshka, positioned just slightly higher than them. Once everyone had arrived, the chamber was sealed, and the trial began.

The party was allowed to open with their account of the events. They held to their story that they were unaware of the identity of the individual that instigated the attack against Castellan and, ultimately, killed him in the ensuing battle. Their combat with Castellan was purely self-defense. It was clear that some of the council wasn’t buying their argument completely. This worked both for and against them. Adrastos seemed to feel that Castellan’s death was a good thing, and voted in favor of the party. Rasmus had an inkling that the party wasn’t telling the truth, but respected their clever plan, and voted in their favor. Turannos, having heard of the party’s previous exploits, questioned the absence of Gin (as Destir) and whether or not he could be the shapechanger seen attacking Castellan. Ultimately, despite Gin’s offer, he voted against the party. Dianthe was on the attack from the beginning, bringing up the party’s status as foreigners and noting the weapons they brought with them. She was quick to vote against them. Ioanna spoke little, asking only whether or not they felt that what they did was just. She voted in their favor. Ophelia, as the last council member, was uncertain what she believed, so she asked the party if they had given the council the entirety of the truth, and not simply cleaved to the letter of the law. Ultimately, she voted against the party, believing them to have manipulated the law to their advantage.

With the council tied, the final vote would be cast by Sheshka. She looked the party over, making sure they were aware that the punishment for this crime would be death if they were found guilty. Her ruling was that she found the party…

…guilty.

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Conflict in Cazhaak Draal

Zor, Lharvion 19, 993 YK
197 days until the Day of Mourning

Siegfried and Josephine worked their way down the hillside to engage the medusa attacker and his allies. They needed only to hold him off for a few moments until the guards could arrive on the scene. Attacking from either side, the two held them at bay. The medusa narrowly avoided Siegfried’s attempt to blind it, and then fled when the numbers were no longer in its favor. The medusa’s allies were swiftly defeated. Siegfried noticed that some of the individuals had been partially petrified and had daelkyr markings on the petrified portions of their bodies. Asking around, the party learned that the medusa was named Miraj Vizann. He was formerly a noble of the city, but disappeared for roughly a month, before returning and building a political opposition to Sheshka. He believes that the medusae should have more freedom than their already great freedom, and that he has been chosen by the Stone Heart to lead the world into a new age. He, and his followers, comprise an organization known as the Order of the Sacred Stone. They have recently become terrorists and Miraj was stripped of his title and belongings.

Gin, Ixen, and Ekhaas continued their conversation with the stone giant Ur-Han and aided him in spreading incense around the petrified soldiers. Gin tried to read the thoughts of the petrified army, to test and see if they were dead, and could only make out the sound of rock grinding, breaking, and shifting. It is certainly not a thought he expected, nor would he expect to be able to read the thoughts of someone fully petrified. Ekhaas told them a tale that spoke of a stone plague spread from Cazhaak Draal, that may have petrified the Dhakaani army here and, though she doubts it is contagious, she wouldn’t rule it out given that some of the petrified individuals aren’t Dhakaani in origin and are much newer. On the way back to the city, Ur-Han told them a bit of his past. He came from Xen’drik with Gorodan the Ashlord and resided in Vralkek for some time before moving north to Cazhaak Draal. He wasn’t interested in the things that drove Gorodan and preferred to be in the mountains where he could speak with the stone. Ur-Han doesn’t stay in the city, but rather in small caves that dot the valley around Cazhaak Draal. He offered the party his aid should they seek it.

Once the party had regrouped, they decided it might be best to find a way to resist petrification, given the prevalence of creatures in the area with such abilities. Seeking out an apothecary, they found a woman named Marissa, in the lesser noble market district. She sympathized with their plight, but was unable to sell them a potion to resist petrification. Since the medusas of the city use it as a legal tool for punishment, anything that would combat that is strictly prohibited to civilians unless they have a noble’s patronage. She began packing up and the party was approached by a shady figure with large, bulging eyes that appeared to have been surgically implanted. He offered them information and items to combat the medusas in the city, specifically including Miraj Vizann, but his “master” requires a donation: a pair of freshly-acquired medusa eyes. The party agreed to the trade, though certainly did not trust this man. He asked that they come back at first light and he would provide them with something to help them acquire a medusa’s eyes.

Far, Lharvion 20, 993 YK
196 days until the Day of Mourning

The first thing the party did in the morning was return to the alleyway to meet their contact. He gave them a small bottle of clear liquid and said to write a message on the alley wall when they have the eyes and someone will find them within an hour. Afterward, they decided to write a letter to Sheshka, asking for an audience so that they might apologize for not taking her challenge and offer their services while in the city. They made a short journey up the central plateau, to the main palace gates and delivered the message to the two medusa guards. On the way back, they asked around, and the party learned that the contact belongs to the Cult of the Unbound Sight, which has some enmity with the Order of the Sacred Stone. They also learned that the cult has been stealing people’s eyes in the city.

Siegfried deduced that Althea, the blind priestess at the Temple of the Shadow, may have been a victim of this cult and the party went to ask her some questions. She confirmed that the cult had attacked her and stolen her eyes and was clearly angered by them. The party implied they may have a means of helping Althea get vengeance and she said she could make it worth their while, even offering her patronage. Their initial attempt at persuading her nearly ended with disaster when they asked for a name of a medusa whose eyes they could steal. After some rephrasing, they convinced her that they meant no offense and she did offer an option: the medusae in the Order of the Sacred Stone are known to use powers illegally, and Sheshka would like to make an example of them, though has had little opportunity to do so. Recently, there was a medusa by the name of Castellan that had petrified a goliath tamer for nothing more than an insult and managed to skirt the law with a loophole. Should the party find a way to provoke him into an attack, they may be able to invoke a right of self-defense, should the law come for them. She refused to give them patronage in advance, worrying that a failure would result in a reprisal from Castellan or the law.

The party thought on this and came up with a plan, which they then executed. They made their way to a merchant district, where Castellan was overseeing some shipments. Gin changed form to look like Siegfried, while everyone else remained at a local restaurant. Gin provoked Castellan and fled to the restaurant, allowing Castellan to give chase. Once inside, he visibly changed form and hid, to allow any onlookers to see that Siegfried was being framed. Castellan, finally arriving, attacked Siegfried as expected. He failed to petrify Siegfried and the party took Castellan down with relative ease, saving themselves and other restaurant-goers from danger.

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Arrival in Cazhaak Draal

Mol, Lharvion 16, 993 YK
200 days until the Day of Mourning

Returning to Xor’chylic’s chambers, the party was dismissed from his presence so as to allow him time to digest the information he’d acquired from the Elder Brain. Gin decided to leave the assassin with the Dark Lantern agent stationed in Graywall to transport the elf back to the King’s Citadel for questioning. After dropping him off and picking up their weapon commissions from Szalas Jal, the party decided to retire at the Golden Dragon Inn. There, they noticed Midian Mit Davandi’s rival adventuring party sitting at one of the tables. Gin, using detect thoughts, determined that the others were waiting for the party to get closer to their goal before making any moves. Essentially, they wanted the party to do the majority of the legwork. The party concocted a plan to divert Midian’s team to the Whispering Wood instead of following them to Cazhaak Draal.

Gin disguised himself as Rohagar and stayed at the bar with Siegfried. Ixen went around town for a bit. While out, he came across a kobold messenger that asked a couple questions and was taking careful notes of what Ixen answered. Ixen returned to the inn shortly and pretended to deliver a message to Rohagar relating to new information they had uncovered about the Ashen Crown. Gin, as Rohagar, “accidentally” dropped the note on their way upstairs.

Meanwhile, Siegfried received a note on the bottom of his beer glass saying simply “Where is he?”, likely referring to the assassin they had been asked to drop off at the Inn. Glancing about the common room, he spotted two elves partially cloaked in shadow. Realizing they were likely members of House Phiarlan, he tried to draw them out. He headed to the restroom and waited as one followed. In the adjacent hallway, he discovered that the elf following him was Sailla d’Phiarlan, masked by illusion. She seemed to know nothing about the assassination and came to deliver a document to Siegfried, prompted by Mallora. The document was a set of Order of the Emerald Claw enlistment papers for Leliana Arkalis. Siegfried took his leave and went to blow off steam at the Tharask training ring and at the arena, but found no satisfaction in the violence. On his return, he noticed a hooded warforged at a table and found it to be Hydra. The two said little to each other and Hydra indicated that the Lord of Blades had no qualms with the party.

The following morning, the party packed up the wyverns, leaving the Husk of Infinite Worlds at House Tharashk with Rohagar, and headed to Cazhaak Draal.

Zor, Lharvion 19, 993 YK
197 days until the Day of Mourning

The flight to Cazhaak Draal was relatively uneventful. Along the way, they spotted a veritable army of petrified humanoid figures. As they approached the city, the wyverns found it increasingly difficult to stay aloft and were forced to descend and land, walking the last ten miles or so to the city. The party was able to determine that there was some magical affect impeding flight emanating from the city’s general area and extending for miles. Such magic requires either a singular, powerful source or a series of repeated magical applications.

Getting to the city required crossing a lengthy stone bridge in the shape of a massive snake. Once inside the bustling metropolis, the party had many options available to them. Choosing to avoid any direct mention of the Ossuary, they searched out a city guide and asked for a map that included many historical locations. Siegfried chose to investigate the largest temple to the Dark Six in the area, while Ixen and Gin headed back out the city with a caravan to explore the petrified army referred to as the Stoneghosts.

They spent some time investigating the stone soldiers, finding the bulk to be Dhakaani in origin, but also finding many individuals that predated the Dhakaani and some that were far more recent. The Dhakaani were generally faced in the direction of the city, as though marching on it, while others were fleeing away from the city when turned to stone. At no point did they find any evidence to suggest the petrified individuals moved, as many rumors seemed to suggest. After some time by themselves, they encountered a stone giant named Ur-han that seemed to be meditating amidst the Stoneghosts. He indicated that he considered the Stoneghosts his flock and believed their souls were trapped in restless. He does what he can to soothe them.

Siegfried, in the meantime, made his way to the temple of the Dark Six. He briefly spoke with a blind medusa priestess who asked him why he had come. During their conversation, there was a mighty crash outside and he could hear screaming and running. Upon investigating, he saw a man striding through the city, accompanied by four others. This man raised a hand toward a stone building and clenched his fist. The wall closest to him immediately shattered and crumbled. He called to those listening, saying “Your queen cannot save you. Join us or become the stone foundation on which our new world is built.”

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Return to Graywall

Mol, Lharvion 16, 993 YK
200 days until the Day of Mourning

The party arrived back at Graywall, much to the joy of Ekhaas (who had bet Ghyrrn that they would return). It was clear that the city walls had been scathed with some corrosive substance and there was damage to portions of the city. Ekhaas explained that there had been an attack during their month’s absence. A large, black dragon assaulted the city one night, roughly a week ago. It was repelled by Xor’chylic and the Gnoll Brotherhood, but was not defeated. It vanished after a short conflict, neither side using more than a fraction of its strength.

Xor’chylic, aware that the party has returned, requested their presence at his throne in the Karda. Cern gave everyone one last warning that he does not trust Xor’chylic and would recommend against letting him consume the Cerebrum Prime. He departed then for Vralkek, to the south, in the hopes that Hakou’s ship still remained, waiting for him. Rohagar noted that without Orschok, her tribe back in the Shadow Marches was without a Gatekeeper representative and that they would have no knowledge of what transpired in the Forest of Flesh. She determined to leave for her old village when next she gets a chance, but would check in with her uncle at the House Tharashk enclave first.

The rest of the party decided to use their remaining two psychic healing potions to revive the comatose mercenaries that were hired by the Benefactor: Brick and Sel. They did so at the House of the Nine—the only temple to the Sovereign Host in Graywall. Upon waking, they were able to tell the party some of their suspicions. They believed that the Benefactor was a member of one of the Houses, given a number of his connections to them. Sel also indicated that she knew someone else who worked for the man: a woman named Pearl, who helped pull off the heist of House Kundarak Bank of Sharn for the Benefactor. Josephine gave the two a small amount of money, knowing they had only taken the job because they had been in great need. As a whole, the party made sure not to mention the recovery of the Husk of Infinite Worlds. The two mercenaries thanked them and offered their aid in whatever capacity they could provide for the next few days while they stayed at The Broken Sword.

While at the House of the Nine, they met with Ilde, a female dwarf and one of Josephine’s fellow Sovereign Swords. She wanted to make sure that Josephine was safe, as the Swords hadn’t heard from her in a while, and also wanted to check on her progress with Siegfried. The two parted ways after chatting. Her presence helped to kindle the divine essence of Numiel in Josephine that had remained dormant since his demise. She found herself able to conjure a molten warhammer into her hand, though she didn’t experiment with its capabilities.

After gathering their belongings, the party made their way to the Karda, to speak with Xor’chylic. They hoped that he might be able to revive the comatose assassin. Ghyrrn had already taken the gnoll, Jharl, to Xor’chylic. When they arrived, Xor’chylic congratulated them for defeating the Elder Brain… but wanted to make sure that he was truly defeated and that he hadn’t sent hollow-minded puppets back to Graywall in retribution. He delved into the minds of the party, though Josephine was protected in part by her divine patron. They did their best to hide information about the Husk of Infinite Worlds from him, in case he had nefarious plans for it, though they are uncertain how successful they were.

Their meeting was then interrupted by the Daughters of Sora Kell, who pulled the party into their otherworldly lair to have a conversation.

CUTSCENE

Sora Katra’s voice, smooth as silk, echoes from behind you. “Welcome back, travelers afar. We have much to discuss.” Xor’chylic has stopped, frozen in place. The buzzing at the back of your mind has ceased, along with the rest of the room. From the shadows behind Xor’xhylic’s marble throne steps Sora Teraza, her bright red eyes piercing the darkness beneath her hood. With a crunch and a crack, as though she tore through stone, you see Sora Maenya pull herself through a ripple in the air. Katra smiles behind you and snaps her fingers. With a wave of nausea, you feel yourselves tipping backwards and, as you ready to contact the hard floor, you drop into a sea of brackish water. Instinctively, you pull yourselves back up… to find you’re once again in the lair of the Daughters of Sora Kell—sickly tree in the center of a marshy cavern lined with hundreds of skulls burning like dying embers.

With a wave of her hand, Katra’s magic washes over you, drying your clothes and armor. “Forgive me for the abrupt interruption. I’ll return you to your meeting with haste. But first you must understand. A shadow fell on this place seven suns past.”

[MAENYA] “A black and hollow creature—wings, and teeth, and hate. Not like its kin, its soul did ablate.” The tree seems to cast a shadow on the cavern walls, playing out a scene for you: a great winged beast over a city, blacking out the moons, spreading its darkness across the city walls, before pulling back.

[TERAZA] “And a knowledge forbidden from most. To a great madness from beyond, it does play host.” The shadows reform into a man reading a tome, a sigil familiar to Ixen and Volik tracing itself out behind the man, as wings spread from his back like blood creeping out from a body lying on the ground.

[KATRA] “As in all good stories, his power comes in three: darkness, death, and deformity. One has been consumed, two more still to be doomed.” The shadow play changes again, displaying the three Gentlemen. One disappears in a black ink-like streak. The second hovers above the familiar sigil. The third twists and changes shape into an amalgam of other images, before returning to its original form.

[THE DAUGHTERS] “But take heed and beware. His power is without and within. To destroy the power without is to give him power within, while power once within has become power without.”

Katra steps forward. “Your enemy has come to our doorstep and announced himself. He has found we are not the trifling obstacles he may have believed. Mad he may be, but senseless he is not. His kind are intelligent and cunning. I doubt he will attack us again, having felt our riposte, but we cannot protect you outside, nor would we were we able. Your lives are your own and your fate is in your own hands.” Teraza chuckles in the back. “Make no mistake—he has made an enemy of the Daughters of Sora Kell—and we will not sit idle while he stalks our land. I may a promise to you and now I fulfill it. You seek the Fortress of Jhegesh Dol. Teraza has directed you to the key needed to open its doors. I will show you the doors.”

She waves a hand in the air above the dying tree. The cave ceiling seems to open, revealing two distinctly different landscapes, joined at the center by a Dhakaani fortress. On the left is a hazy and dark swamp, trees half-submerged in still water. On the right, a stair winds its way up rocky switchbacks nestled in a mountain valley. The scene comes together at the image of a fortress bisected and mirrored on either side. The fortress itself seems to fade from view, growing more translucent with each passing moment. “Jhegesh Dol. Once a fortress on the border of Droaam and the Shadow Marches. Now in neither land and in both at once. It lies in the realms of Shadow and Ethereal, torn asunder, twisted, and transported from the conflict between Ashurta and Skerra. I can, for a time, bring the doors back into this world, anchoring them at new focal points tied to those realms.”

She pauses, then turns to Teraza, as though for approval. Her sister nods slowly, but assuredly. Katra continues. “But Jhegesh Dol is not easy to enter. Once the doors are here, they will only last a short time. You must have the key to the fortress and you must enter both doors at once. I know not why, only that my sister says it must be done as such. I will not bring the doors to our world until you are ready. I am told you venture to Cazhaak Draal soon and will return with the key. When you do, you may find me at the Crag, and I will open the way for you at that time.”

[GIN] What happens if we enter the doors, and her spell clock runs out?

[KATRA] “You would be trapped where Jhegesh Dol resides, Shadow or Ethereal, unless you have a means of traversing the planes.”

[GIN] How long a time?

[KATRA] “I can hold the doors in place for one hour with ease. Each minute past that is an increasing risk.”

[GIN] do you know what we might face on the other side of the doors? And might you have a means, or a device that can help us traverse the plains should we get trapped, or know of something that may be able to help?

[MAENYA] sneers “Does it matter what lies on the other side? If you are strong, you will prevail. If you are weak, you will die. Would knowing change this?”

[TERAZA] whispers “There is strength in insight and power in knowledge.”

[KATRA] “The best stories have clever heroes, powerful patrons, and secret weaknesses revealed at opportune moments. Know, for now, that when last this world saw of Jhegesh Dol, it held within its walls only Ashurta and Skerra. Neither has been seen since, but one or both may yet survive.” She looks to Teraza again, before continuing. “Walking the planes is not done with ease. We have nothing to provide you should the doors be closed once more. Your journey back must be your own.”

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The Forest of Flesh

Wir, Nymm 11, 993 YK
233 days until the Day of Mourning

Arriving in Graywall, the party split up to gather resources and prepare. Gin took the water skin to the hag shopkeeper Jabra, who conducted a ritual that provided a vision of the assassin. Clearly male and humanoid, the individual was shown to have the ability to transport himself with some manner of teleportation magic. Volik found his way to a reclusive monastery of the Flayed Hand, an order devoted to the worship and ideals of The Mockery, one of the Dark Six devoted to vengeance and pain. Proving himself worthy for training, Volik promised to return once the party completed their task in the Forest of Flesh.

The rest of the party gathered supplies and spoke with a bartender at the Broken Sword, who informed them that a handful of expatriates had headed into the Forest of Flesh within the past few weeks, but hadn’t been seen since. They were associated with the Swords of Liberty, a terrorist group that Gin and Rohagar had helped track recently. As a last stop, the party checked in with House Tharashk, letting Rohagar’s uncle know that she was missing in the Forest of Flesh and that they were heading in to find her and Orschok. A House Orien caravan was hired to pick the party up in a week’s time. The House also provided the group with a partially-complete map of the Forest, with notes written by both House Tharashk and the Gnoll Brotherhood. Curiously, the gnolls seemed intent on warning the reader about the tryll, a breed of rodent with a remarkably high reproduction rate.

Once the party felt they were ready, they prepared to use the Staff of the Woodlands to travel along a ley line into the Forest of Flesh. As they began, they felt something grip their minds and hold them in place. Within moments, a contingent of Flayer Guard entered the area, escorting Xor’chylic to the party. He indicated that he had vital information for the party before they headed into the forest. Bringing them back to his fortress in the center of the city, he explained some of his past to them. The illithid governor once lived in Blackroot, the daelkyr structure within the Forest of Flesh. He was one of many mind flayers in the colony, but managed to free himself and his kin, Thoon, from the tyrannical control of the Elder Brain. Xor’chylic knows of Dyrrn and the Gentlemen, though he knows them better by their daelkyr titles: the Voidbound Deceiver, the Harbinger of Xoriat, and the Corrupted Scion.

He was willing to provide the party with more information, but required that they kill the Elder Brain before he does so. He required this not as payment for information, since he wanted the daelkyr defeated, but because he does not wish to give the Elder Brain any more information in the event the party is captured and their minds consumed by the Elder Brain. To further facilitate this, he gave the party a selection of items to aid in their journey, and then removes their memories of the conversation, distilling the memories into a liquid that can be consumed to regain the memories. Additionally, the party left Ekhaas behind with the Ashen Crown piece to keep it safe. They left a note for themselves to consume the liquid once they arrive at Blackroot, regaining their memories without allowing the Elder Brain too much time to prepare a strategy.

When they teleported along the ley line, they found that it crumbled and dissipated partway into the Forest of Flesh, unable to hold its energy in the unnatural aura created by the forest. The party was forced to trek through the flora until they arrived at the tower, all while the Elder Brain attempted to connect to their minds.

DATE/TIME UKNOWN

Once at the tower, they regained their memories and entered. Inside was a circular room with an extraplanar obelisk situated in the center. Upon touching it, both Ixen and Gin began to seize and have otherworldly visions, including an emerald light pulsing far out in the midst of a stormy sea. They soon realized that the obelisk existed in non-Euclidean space. They discovered additional rooms branching out from the central chamber as they made rotations around the obelisk. Choosing one, the party battled its way through a hallway filled with a tar-like substance and a column composed of eyes and teeth that ejected blinding spittle. Through this all, they were contacted by Rohagar, through the spirit of Freki. She warned them not to come after her, that the Elder Brains wants people to come to Blackroot. Orschok spoke to Ixen through the Elder Brain’s connection, telling him that the party can’t let the brain consume their minds.

After passing to the next room, they discovered a man being held captive by four dolgrims. They freed the man before he could be placed within a fleshy pod. Siegfried recognized the man as Adric, the Karrnathi soldier he had encountered in the Broken Sword before heading to the Great Crag. He explained that he had been a member of the party that had entered the Forest of Flesh recently. They were hired by a man they knew only as The Benefactor to retrieve an item from the tower: the Husk of Infinite Worlds. Each member was promised a new life away from the nation they came from. Adric said his party was killed and he fled, running into Rohagar and her party, who were also captured shortly thereafter. He doesn’t know what happened to them after they found their way to the Husk.

Bringing Adric along, the party investigated the pods, finding half-transformed experiments in some, including the black worms that convert creatures into undead. Further in, they found a room positioned above the initial obelisk room, but left it untouched. In another area, they located a library of sorts, containing four brains, floating in fluid, and a plethora of scrolls, liquids, and other items. They spoke with the brains, gather general information, before the Elder Brain contacted them through the brains. Siegfried, having had enough of subtlety, dropped a brain-eating slug in each tank, killing the brains.

Taking some items from the shelves, including a book familiar to Ixen from Xur’s library, they found a communication hub that connected to four Daelkyr: Belashyrra, Lord of Eyes, Orlassk, the Stoneheart, Kyrzin, the Formless Prince, and Skerra of a Thousand Cuts. Kyrzin “requested” that the party bring Rohagar to a set of ruins within the Shadow Marches. Orlassk was shown to reside somewhere in Cazhaak Draal, the same city housing the Ossuary and, presumably, the Shield of Galifar with which Sora Teraza told the party lies the key to Jhegesh Dol.

Skirting the whispering flowers, that they found were able to communicate with each other and can pass visual and auditory information, the party worked their way into a laboratory containing more flesh pods. Inside of one, they see Cern, the first mate of Hakou. After rescuing him, he informed them that he ventured into the Forest of Flesh in search of mind flayers to hunt, after the party never showed in Vralkek. While he was wary of continuing, he agrees to help the party. Shortly thereafter, they found a room housing a number of daelkyr symbionts and they proceeded to try to attach the creatures to themselves. In the process, Adric is revealed to be an intellect devourer in disguise. The creature had consumed his brain and it continued to masquerade as Adric, leading the party to the Elder Brain.

After Gin and Volik attempted to bond with the symbionts, the party proceeded to the Elder Brain’s lair where it awaited them. It spoke to them, offering them free passage out, claiming that all it wanted at this point was to survive. Though they attempted to goad it into attack, it appeared immobile and unable to come to them. After descending into its chamber, the Elder Brain showed its true might, having been feigning its weaknesses to some extent. The party fought the Brain, accosted by multiple massive tentacles and continuously assaulted by mental attacks. The Elder Brain had left the sentient symbionts within easy reach of the party, using them in combat as willing hubs for its psychic attacks. Despite a valiant effort, the party was unable to best the Elder Brain. Unconscious in its lair, the party was dragged into the synaptic fluid the Elder Brain floated in and their minds were connected to the Elder Brain.

It constructed an elaborate simulated reality that the party’s minds were connected to. It blocked their memories from them and manufactured new identities for them within the new world. Over time, with the aid of Xorchylic (though they didn’t know that at the time), they came to discover their true identities and recover their memories. While within the simulated reality, they learned that the Elder Brain was studying different faiths and was communicating with some other entity. Upon breaking out of the simulation, the party managed to disconnect themselves and kill the Elder Brain. They investigated the other bodies connected to the Elder Brain and found a few other individuals alive: Jharl, the gnoll that accompanied Rohagar and Orschok into the forest, as well as the remainder of Adric’s party (Estril, Sel, and Brick), and also the elven assassin that had been tracking the party. Unfortunately, Orschok was already dead. They managed to disconnect most of the comatose survivors without trouble, but lost Estril. Healing magic was unable to revive the others, so they were left in Cern’s care while the party continued their search for Rohagar.

Having killed the primary controller of the aberrations in Blackroot, they found the complex to be somewhat docile, encountering little to no resistance anymore. Using the communication flowers, they discovered a room that appeared to be shaded in the same red hue as Freki had been appearing. Traveling to this room, they found Rohagar frozen in time as she stood close to a malfunctioning Husk of Infinite Worlds. The Husk was open and, at the time, contained a naked singularity that was warping light and time. Realizing that the room as a whole was suffering from this time dilation, they exited in hopes of finding a way to shut the Husk off and free Rohagar.

After consuming a number of liquid memories from the “library”, Josephine learned that the Husk of Infinite Worlds is used to mutate creatures by swapping in aspects from alternate realities. She also learned that the Husk is powered by four, immense, sentient star-like entities. Additionally, Ixen recovered a Daelkyr book that once belonged to the kobold charlatan Xur, which appeared to be Ilthane’s personal notes on how to turn Dyrrn the Corruptor into a vestige in order to circumvent the Gatekeeper Seals that keep him bound within Khyber. The party also recovered a divination beacon that Adric’s party had carried into Blackroot.

After some searching, the party found the stars located within an artificially-created and controlled manifest zone to Xoriat, the Plane of Madness. It took some effort and persuasion, but they managed to shut off the Husk and retrieve Rohagar. From her perspective, her entire journey through the Forest of Flesh had taken less than two days, though she had been missing for weeks. As they left Blackroot, Ilthane took control of the communication room, sending them a message, indicating he was coming for vengeance. Before departing, the party disconnected and removed the Husk of Infinite Worlds to keep it out of the hands of the Daelkyr. The party rested in Rohagar’s old campsite on the way out, then exited the Forest of Flesh… over a month after they entered.

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Questions and Answers

Zol, Nymm 10, 993 YK
(234 days until the Day of Mourning)

In the morning, Ixen used the staff to transport the group along the ley line back to the Great Crag, draining the line in the process. Upon arrival, he could feel the presence of two other lines at the Crag. They saw that the delegates were packing up their belongings and getting ready to depart with the gnolls and learned from Drul Kantar that Ambassador Jorasesh had been murdered in their absence, stabbed while out at the market. They asked the Drul if he could acquire some more information about the murder for them and to let the Daughters know they had completed their trials and were awaiting an audience with them. He agreed to do so and would get back to them.

They met with Kethelrax to let him know of their findings at the mine. He thanked them for their help and said he would ask Sora Katra for forces that could defend the mine once those within were cured. When questioned about his involvement, Kethelrax proudly admitted that he had sent the posters to the mine to bolster their confidence in the face of recent harpy attacks, but he said he hadn’t sent the healing potions. Volik could tell that something about Kethelrax’s story was fishy, but they departed soon after speaking with him, heading back to their room to rest and discuss their next steps.

While speaking, they were startled by the appearance of Sora Teraza, though no one could remember seeing her enter or become suddenly visible. She told them that Sora Katra would tell them where Jhegesh Dol was located as soon as she returned from dealing with some business, but that Teraza herself would tell them what they needed to enter Jhegesh Dol. In her words, the key to entering Jhegesh Dol lies with the Shield of Galifar. She was well aware the party had already heard of the Shield and knew to find it within the Ossuary in Cazhaak Draal. Volik questioned her about the vision of Cyre’s demise he had seen, but Teraza appeared confused by the question, often believing that Cyre was already destroyed. Ixen clarified that she likely gets the order of events confused because of her vast oracular abilities

The party helped her leave, around which time Ixen began to hear someone humming a familiar tune down the corridors of the Crag. They gave brief chase to a grey-hooded figure, who only Ixen could see, until they ran into a dead end and the tune faded away. Not sure what to make of that, the party decided to continue on. They figured that they didn’t know how long it would take to acquire the piece of the Ashen Crown if they first have to search out the Shield of Galifar. Given that, they figured that Rohagar’s disappearance was more a more pressing issue.

For the sake of expedience, the party purchased a set of three wyverns from the goliath merchants at the Crag, intending to fly to Graywall and acquire the weapons and shield commissioned from Szalas Jal, then use the staff to teleport along the ley line running through Graywall to the Forest of Flesh. As the delegates departed, Nyrielle indicated to Gin that he should meet her at the King’s Citadel to discuss the Specter. After minor preparations, the party flew off toward Graywall, stopping at the midpoint to hunt for food. That night, Volik saw a figure on a hilltop in the distance.

Wir, Nymm 11, 993 YK
(233 days until the Day of Mourning)

The party made their way to the hill, finding the remains of a camp fire and a discarded water skin. They packed up their findings, understanding that someone has been following them, and resolving to try to divine some answers once they arrive in Graywall.

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The Third Trial: Under Siege

Wir, Nymm 04, 993 YK – Sul, Nymm 08, 993 YK

While still at the Great Crag, Nyrielle contacted Gin, passing him a note that indicated an assassin his father had been tracking, known by the codename of Specter, was in the area. She didn’t have time to talk, but told Gin to find her. Purchasing a drake and covered wagon, the party then departed for the kobold mines in the Byeshk Mountains. Along the way, they hunted a tribex to feed the drake and, in the process, Siegfired discovered that his summoned steed seemed to have been changed by his recent bond with the spirit of vengeance.

They arrived at the mine early in the day. Searching the exterior, they found the buildings abandoned and the wagons dismantled and burned. They managed to follow some track to a large mass grave a little distance away. They expected to find the missing kobolds there, but instead discovered only one kobold along with a handful of other humanoid bodies… each dressed to resembled a member of the party: Ixen, Josephine, Ekhaas, Gin (as Destir), Volik, and Rohagar. Clutched in one of their hands was a note that said: “We did what you told us to, but we lost ‘Siegfried’ inside the mine.” Each member of the fake party was killed with a single dagger wound to the base of the skull. Gin was aware that this matched the typical MO of the Specter, but didn’t inform anyone.

Uncertain what to make of the situation, the party cautiously entered the mine. They soon found that the kobolds had trapped the mine in anticipation of being assaulted and that one kobold in particular was moving around, harassing them when given the opportunity. The party noticed two things of note along the way: posters of Kethelrax in a war pose telling the kobolds to stand and fight, and sets of healing potions that had been laced with hallucinogens. After capturing the errant kobold, Nivan, they learned from him that the remaining kobolds were holed up on the bottom floor and had rigged a section of the mine to collapse if they were attacked. Though Nivan escaped, the party eventually found the fake Siegfried and realized that someone had drugged the kobolds, then sent the fake party to attack them in order to turn the kobolds against the real party. What they didn’t know was why. Having tried to parlay with the kobolds that had barricaded themselves away, but finding that it seemed to be a losing battle, the party retreated back to the surface before more harm could be done and slept the night.

Mol, Nymm 09, 993 YK

Come the morning, the party packed up their supplies and made to leave… only to set off a trap attached to their carriage. An explosive detonated, destroying the cart, killing the drake, and scattering the party. In the moments that followed, an assassin attempted to kill the party, but was quickly outnumbered. Instead of risking capture or death, the assassin used some form of magic to walk into the shadow of a tree and vanish. The party licked their wounds and salvaged what they could from the carriage before hiking toward a nearby ley line that Ixen had felt with the Roadwarden’s Staff he found in the Watching Wood. They arrived at the ley line at night, using the rest to recharge the staff’s energy. Overnight, Volik spotted someone flying on a wyvern from the general vicinity of the mine heading back toward the Great Crag.

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The Second Trial: From Hell

Sul, Dravago 22, 993 YK – Wir, Nymm 04, 993 YK

After resting up, they found Ghyrrn and readied themselves for the second trial. It was a four day journey on foot to Turakbar’s Fist, a mud ziggurat built in the Droaam plains. As they closed in on the ziggurat, they could feel Rhesh Turakbar’s presence in the land. Plants grew thick and thorny within a few miles of the location and animals became restless, hungry, and angry. The primal essence of the land began to seep into the party’s minds, twisting their thoughts, if only slightly. Once they arrived, the majority of the gnolls scouted the nearby land and set up a defensive perimeter. The party entered the ziggurat with Ghyrrn and Ghost, his lieutenant, to kill Rhesh Turakbar.

The minotaur lord was found completing a ritual in the center of an open chamber, hooked chains hanging from the ceiling, and walkways positioned over spiked pits. The white ape servants of Turakbar spotted the party as the doors opened and the battle ensued. The lord felled Siegfried after a lengthy fight, only for Josephine to revive him at the brink of death, but took considerable damage himself. He opened a gateway to an extradimensional space: an infinite iron bridge surrounded by flames and occupied only by his skeletal minions. With Turakbar’s demise as Ixen’s magic thrust him into one of his own spiked pits, Ekhaas was almost lost in the hellish otherworldly space as the gate began to close, but was rescued in the nick of time.

The party recovered Rhesh Turakbar’s weapon, Heartcleaver, in addition to skinning an abyssal ritual tattoo off of the minotaur’s back. They quickly left the vicinity of the temple, hoping to get out of range of the tainted atmosphere it was exuding. Some distance out, they were almost attacked by a hyena still filled with rage. Before it could do anything, though, it vanished as the air around it shimmered and rippled. Moments later, it reappeared as a bloody piled of flesh and bone in a nearby location. A message arrived from Hohenheim and then Dr. Jones shortly thereafter, indicating they were testing the teleporter being installed in Sharaat. Unfortunately, it was clearly a failure. One critical element was needed for the teleporter to work properly: a beacon that they could focus on for the purposes of scrying or divination. The party also learned that contact had been lost with Rohagar a few days prior. There had been no word from her in the Forest of Flesh in some time and they were beginning to worry. They resolved to look into her disappearance after completing the third trial.

Before they slept, they used the powers of Murkoorak’s Orb to delve into Heartcleaver’s past and discover its purpose and abilities. They learned it was an ancient glaive created for the champion of Yeenoghu and Baphomet, two Demon Overlords from the dawn of time. It was a powerful weapon and Siegfried intended to wield it to help him in his quest for vengeance. As he began to connect with it, he received a vision of a flame that spoke with him and grew into a humanoid shape. It claimed to be a spirit of vengeance from Shavarath, the plane of eternal war, that was a part of his aasimar soul. The being warned Siegfried about the power he wanted to wield, telling him that vengeance isn’t a cudgel to strike down your foes with force; rather, it is a scalpel that cuts where your foes will hurt the most. The spirit offered Siegfried the power he needed and Siegfried accepted, taking the spirit fully into himself and giving up Heartcleaver.

After another long trip back to the Great Crag, the party sought out Drul Kantar, knowing he would give the weapon to the Daughters of Sora Kell for safe keeping. Meanwhile, Volik contacted Tzaryan Rrac. He initially tried to extort the oni for information, which the warlord found insulting and, because of which, nearly left having struck no deal. At the last moment, Volik relented, giving Rrac the ritual tattoo skinned from Rhesh Turakbar in exchange for information about Ilthane and his plans. Tzaryan Rrac explained to the group that Ilthane comes from a line of black dragons that were once protectors of Eberron, but faltered somewhere along the way. Ilthane’s connection to Dyrrn has driven him mad over the years and he believes that he can make the world a better place with the black worms the party has encountered before. The Gentlemen are truly Dyrrn’s tools, though they answer to Ilthane at the moment. Tzaryan Rrac offered to tell Volik where Ilthane is only if he was given the Shield of Galifar. Volik told him where the Shield was located, and said they might consider getting it for him. Rrac made it clear that the party had used up his good will and anything less than the Shield itself would get them nothing from the oni.

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The First Trial: The Great Hunt, Part 2

Sul, Dravago 22, 993 YK

Siegfried
Having escaped from Camazotz, Siegfried headed off back into the forest in search of his companions. After some time following a stream, he ran across Ekhaas who was beating a hasty retreat from a large group of pygmy tribal creatures made of thorns and other plant life. The two managed to lead the creatures into a trap and into a repeat confrontation with the werewolf that had been set ablaze by Siegfried early on in the night. After another application of flame and blade, the savage creatures were destroyed and the werewolf retreated once more. Stealthily, Siegfried and Ekhaas found their way back to the beginning circle where only the lupine druid remained. He made no effort to attack or otherwise hinder the pair. When Zaeurl returned with a few of the pack, it became apparent that the unspoken rules of the hunt were such that the hunted can’t be harmed while within the circle.

Ixen
After teleporting, Ixen found himself in a darker part of the forest. The first major landmark he came across was a dead tree, away from which all branches of the nearby trees pointed. In its vicinity, he noticed the darkness encroaching on his vision, even obscuring his darkvision. Additionally, he had to fight off a sense of hopelessness and despair, but managed to do so. Shortly, he stumbled across a dead werewolf, its throat torn out. Venturing onward, he attempted to save a werewolf from the magical despair that seemed to be pervading the woods, preventing the werewolf from killing itself. Unfortunately, when they discovered Josephine further in the forest, she attacked the werewolf on sight, killing it. Together, they made their way from the darkened area and back to the circle that Ixen had arrived in, using it to teleport away once more.

Gin
Deadfeather’s granted vision was that of twelve dragonmarked individuals trekking through a jungle, their destination unknown to Gin. Some expressed concerns over their mission, unsure of whether or not what they sought was worth the danger. Ultimately, though warily, they decided to trust their patron, Merrix d’Cannith, knew what he was doing. After the vision faded, Gin found himself alone once more, Deadfeather nowhere in sight. He made his way back into the forest, a couple hours having passed since he first encountered Deadfeather, though it had seemed like barely half an hour. He began trudging along in search of another safe haven.

As he approached a circle of standing stones, he was discovered by Sora Maenya, who proceeded to tear her way through the trees to get at Gin. With a bit of luck, Gin was able to evade her long enough to reach the circle and the safety of its magic. Maenya, knowing she was not allowed to harm him for the first hour while he remained inside, lured him close to the edge and then began to telekinetically pull him out—sticking to the letter of the law. Moments before Gin would have found himself in Maenya’s grasp, the world spun and he was teleported to another standing stone circle… having swapped places with Ixen. In her frustration, Maenya transformed into a hawk and quickly departed in search of Gin without gaining much information from Ixen.

All
After a bit more exploration, nearly everyone found themselves back near the origin circle. Siegfried and Ekhaas inside it, Ixen and Josephine approaching from one direction, and Gin arriving from another. As Gin walked forward, Maenya swooped in as a hawk and landed in front of him, catching him seconds before he could reach sanctuary. She made it perfectly clear to him that she could kill him in an instant if she wanted to… before releasing him. The group survived their nighttime trial and learned a bit about the history of the Watching Wood. They trekked back to the outpost at the edge of the woods and retrieved their wyverns, flying back to the Great Crag. There, they slept for the better portion of the day.

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