The Seven Cities

Sessions 52 (Season 2, Episode 17 -- Penilan 25, 102 RA)
Unexpected Solace

Penilan 25, 102 RA: Old CormorellStar.jpg
They stood in a large, round, domed room, perhaps 50 feet in diameter. A sturdy wooden stairway spiraled upwards along the wall to a large, metal double-door some 30 feet above them. The heart-sinking, hopeless chill of the Nemesis lay heavily on the air, making it hard to breathe. The floor of the room was carpeted with bones. The bones were shifting and rattling in an agitated wave. A deep, rasping voice spoke to them in elvin, echoing through the chamber from all directions.

The hollow voice told them that they did not look like pilgrims. It sniffed at them accusingly, and responded to their attempted justifications by asking why they, Kalyx especially, smelled “like that hypocrite, Bexlornillexiphal.”

The party didn’t know what to make of that, but Ink was able to pick up from context that they must be near the resting place of Persephone, the legendary first and last queen of the elves of Lobenahl. When They sought to reassure the ominous voice that the group was here to pay respects, the bones rippled again, and began pulling up and coalescing into the form of a truly enormous skeletal dragon.

A silver dragon, by the look of it. A silver that must have been ancient when it died, perhaps during the Blood Wars when the followers of Khalipanofax hunted the silver and bronze dragons to near extinction.

The skeletal wyrm was draped with the translucent memory of flesh and sinew. It’s massive head swayed ponderously above them, seeming to sniff at them. Ar length it told them that it did not believe them, but that it would let them pass to be judged by the temple’s next guardians. It then collapsed into a layer of bones, and its voice told them to climb the stair and cross the causeway.

At the top of the wooden stair stood a double-door made of steel, and inlaid with what could only be mithril, the mining of which was, of course, the foundation of Old Cormorell’s legendary prosperity. The mithril was etched in the guardian tree (avenlorae) symbol of the royal house of Lobenahl. At the edges of the mithril inlay, the metal was growing dark and tarnished-looking. Thinuan, tainted mithril that absorbed the souls of those slain while touching it.

Cautiously, they pushed on the great steel doors, which opened almost noiselessly, onto a raised stone causeway some thirty feet above the streets of the cursed, dead, city of Cormorell.

The city was vast. Far larger than any of the Seven Cities of Mokiir, and larger, even, than the great coastal metropolis of Jen. A relic of the old empires, though it had belonged to none.

The sky was overcast and what little snow had fallen there during the winter still lay in drifts throughout the city. The air was bitterly cold, and oppressively quiet. A faint, shadowy pall flowed and drifted through the streets, despite the utter stillness of the air. The broken, pock-marked buildings of the city rose row-by-row up the hill to the north, on which stood the black and withered spires of the royal palace, obscured, at that distance, by the strange, shadowy mists that rose up from the streets. And, surrounding it all, a great dome of…something. Some invisible force made visible by the buildup of the black mists along it’s inner surface.

The ancient stone causeway stretched some 60 feet to a large, round, domed building ahead of them. Other causeways were visible to the left and right, connecting the central structure with other towers like the one they’d just left. The dome of the central building was made of some manner of glass, or perhaps crystal, shining cleanly and defiantly against the otherwise sorrowfully corroded surfaces of the rest of the city.

At intervals along the causeway stood life-sized stone statues of elves, humans, and ashai, clearly once people of import in Cormorell, At the end of the causeway was another great double door, above which, atop an arch, stood a giant, stone statue of an armored warrior, massive sword thrust downwards into the lintel above the door. In front of the door stood a large, unassuming hacholan man, in a plain brown robe, far too light for the frigid weather.

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Sessions 50 & 51 (Season 2, Episode 16 -- Penilan 25, 102 RA)
Flight from Victory

Penilan 25: Morning at the Bent Spire 7_swords.jpg

It took everything they had, but, when the fight was over, Anteraline lay in ashes and Baltherius, reduced to mist form, fled the Reception Hall, flowing dowards through his dark tower.

Immediately, Sa Ra Ink strode across the debris-strewn room, summoned Their ethereal ritual book, and began scrawling arcane symbols on the floor. Knowing the wizard was working magic to effect their escape, the rest of the party picked themselves up, brushed themselves off, searched Anteraline for treasure, and prepared to guard Ink until the ritual was complete.

The party had broken out the windows and started barricading the doors to the audience chamber when, resonating through the tower came the sonorous voice of Baltherius: “Enemies stand in the Grand Reception Hall. Go, my children! Slay the orc and the Coldheart, ancient traitor to our cause. Bring the others to me.”

Moments later, the first vampires tried to enter the room by transforming to mist and wafting under the door. Having foreseen this problem, the party had set out the magical candle given to them by Grams Millfort a few days earlier, which prevented the vampires from remaining in mist form. This shunted the vampires painfully back across the threshold of the room, preventing their entry.

Soon enough, there were four greater vampires pounding and smashing against the doors out of the stairwell, and what sounded like dozens of lesser spawn clawing and scraping against the door to the outside.

Eventually, the doors gave way, but somehow, improbably, they defeated all comers. Eirlys locked blades with a massive vampire wielding a wicked-looking battle axe. Another vampire spread through the room as a swarm of rats, chittering and scrabbling distractingly at everyone. Two other vampires slid through the room’s shadows, lashing out where they could at the bodies and minds of their foes. Soon enough, a mob of wild, slathering vampire spawn spilled in from the outer causeway.

All of the spawn of Baltherius sought to separate and distract Ink from Their ritual, and to slay Eirlys. All of the spawn of Baltherius fell.

The final throes of the battle ended when one injured and shambling vampire retrieved from the floor below a magical orb, seemingly made of solid darkness and radiating the corruption of the Shadowfell. Apparently following the orb, a great, dark mass of wraiths, muttering mad imprecations and suggestions sought to enter the audience chamber directly through the floor.

But they were stopped by the subtle light of Grams Millfort’s magic candle. In frustration, the vampire tossed the orb across the room, trying to move it out of the candle’s light. Reacting with lightning speed, Kalyx swung her staff just so, knocking the black crystal out the open window, plummeting towards the rocks below. With a mad shriek of despair, the vampire leaped out the window after the obviously valuable and powerful orb. A heartbeat later, a flood of shadowy wraiths poured out the side of the tower as well. Two heartbeats later, the orb and vampire had smashed against the rocks below, the latter unable to regenerate itself in even the overcast daylight. The wraiths, freed from the orb’s lure, fled the obscured sun as well, melting into the mountainside to await cover of darkness.

There was stillness then, save for the winds blowing mournfully through the stones of the Bent Spire, and Ink’s measured chanting.

The party waited. Minutes passed. They caught a glimpse of a wyvern, ridden by a cloaked figure, circling the tower, and they kept away from the windows. They tended their wounds.

A flash of pale yellow light came from Ink’s ritual circle, and the arcane symbols shone with power as a hole opened in space, leading from Baltherius’ audience chamber to a dark room in an unknown (except to Ink) place. Before they could question Them, Ink shouted that the portal would close soon, and ushered them all through. As they went, Baltherius burst back into the room just in time to see the portal snap shut behind them.

Penilan 25: Morning in Old Cormorell

They appeared in a large, circular chamber with a domed ceiling, the cracks in which allowed dim sunlight to fall in beams upon a floor strewn with bones. Eirlys, recognizing the feel of the place, turned darkly to Ink and asked in disbelieving tones, “You took us to Cormorell?”

Ink agreed that They had done so, just as the bones scattered on the floor began to quiver with unnatural life.

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Sessions 49 (Season 2, Episode 15 -- Penilan 24-25, 102 RA)
The Bent Spire

Penilan 24: Early Evening — The Ruby Vale, M’ziir, Fort Pendred, Avenking_of_pentaclesrws.jpg
After speaking at length with the Kaenti and sending word to D’kath laying out the details of the army marching their way, the party teleported to the Mage’s Guild Tower in M’ziir.

After checking in briefly with Archmage Edratha, they borrowed horses and sped north to Fort Pendred. As they went, they noted that the waters of Lake Aven were higher than usual for this time of year. When they reached Fort Pendred, they were greeted by Housemaster Kessel, who informed them that Magistrate Pendred was in conference with the Kaz’Kazzar and his advisers.

Deciding that they did not wish to risk encountering any of the changelings at this time, the party went directly to the Water Room, shut away in the far corner of the increasingly remodeled and modern deeps under the Fort. There, Sa Ra Ink spoke briefly with the elemental guardians of the weirillen rei, who granted the party passage.

Before diving into the Waterways, Ink performed Their ritual, allowing everyone to breath and move well underwater. Thus guarded against drowning, the party leaped into the water, and were immediately whisked away by a frighteningly fast and disorienting current.

The passage through the Waterways was…jarring. Tied together by a long rope, they sped through pitch black tunnels, with Sa Ra Ink choosing their path as the others watched for danger and kept the party from being tangled in or dashed against the rocks and outcroppings as they rushed by. Eirlys, noticing that they were skimming along the edges of the Feywild, and exerted her will to keep them from suffering time displacement as they crossed between the planes.

Near the end of their journey, in an area of what seemed ominously, but briefly, like open water, Sardis sensed…something…something overwhelmingly vast and ominously angry slowly bearing down on the. No-one could see anything, but as the looming threat grew closer, Ink hurriedly chose their next direction, and they sped off as fast as they could paddle.

Soon they were gripped by another powerful, rushing current. Moments later, they were unceremoniously spewed up and out of a subterranean geyser, and onto the stone floor of Flori’x’s cave beneath Aven.

Hovering, cross-legged, purple, and nude, a few feet from the rushing water, was Flori’x, the naelus. Sitting with similar eerie nonchalance on thin air at equidistant points around the edges of the cavern were three other seemingly gendered naelus of different peculiar hues.

Flori’x welcomed them cordially and introduced himself to Sa Ra Ink’s new companions.

They spoke briefly about the naelic inquisitors that had come, as Flori’x put it, to cleanse Naelus of his corrupting influence. The Inquisitors had not yet gained access to Aven, as the driuds forbade it. But Flori’x feared that it must soon come to violence. He mentioned to Sa Ra Ink that They might very much benefit from speaking with the Inquisitors.

They chatted about some other things, but, eventually, they got around to the sacred spear shaft, the Karkana, which Flori’x retrieved for them from a suspiciously small alcove in the cavern wall.

The sacred object was wrapped in unadorned silk. Nobody wished to unwrap it, for even just being in the same room with the Karkana brought on a feeling of aged bitterness, like a once-mighty warrior, past their prime, living in glorious memory and hateful of their crippled present. The party took the artifact with gratitude, and stowed it away for future use.

With Flori’x permission, the party took their rest overnight in the sacred caverns of Aven. Lulled to sleep by the rush of the waterways.

Penilan 25: Early morning — Aven, and The Bent Spire
Leaving Flori’x’s sacred cave, walking unmolested, but not undisturbed past the squelching, rank, twisted creatures that guarded the nearby tunnels, the party found a small, open cavern in mana’era in which to open a portal to the Bent Spire. Which they did.

Upon opening the way, Sa Ra Ink sent a blazing torch through in the hands of his unseen servant. The light through the mystical gateway illuminated…a medium-sized and fairly unremarkable room with high ceilings and quality masonry for walls.

Nothing happened.

Having only a short time before the portal closed, the party leaped through the gateway and into the unknown reaches of the Bent Spire, lair of the vampire lord and sorcerer priest Baltherius.

The room they landed in had several doors, a permanent teleportation circle, and a large stone statue whose head nearly brushed the ceiling. Nobody was surprised when the statue began to move. There were, however, slightly surprised when, instead of attacking, it greeted Kalyx politely as The Stormborn, and asked the party to please step out through the indicated door, follow the bridge to the right, and wait in the room beyond the door. Baltherius, the behemoth intoned, would be with them shortly.

Somewhat bemused, the party did as they were asked, filing cautiously past the stone golem, and out onto a long, stone walkway with low rails that spanned the gap between all three of the Bent Spire’s towers some forty feet above the craggy outcroppings below. The angle of the bridge was such that they could not see much other than the outsides of the towers and the side of the mountain, so they hurried across as the bitter cold winds pulled at their clothing. As they went, several of them noticed that the broken tops of the towers seemed, each, to be battered by small, violent blizzards. They had a moment to wonder about this before the door into the next tower opened, apparently of it’s own accord, and they walked trepidatiously into a sumptious, yet tasteful throneroom.

The room was being tended and tidied by a handful of unseen servants, as though it had not seen use recently. The windows were of dark stained glass that allowed only dim, shaded light inside. In sconces along the walls, blue-flame torches sprang to life, giving the chamber an overall brightly-lit yet quite ominous cast.

As they stood, waiting for the trap to spring, a small automaton waddled out from a storeroom and offered them refreshments. They declined, but in short order the automaton returned to the room with two weary, wan, downtrodden looking goblinoids bearing a folding table and some bread, wine, and six glasses. The goblinoids set things up and then left without ever raising their eyes. Nobody partook.

The party explored the room. It seemed to fill most of this floor of tgis tower, with the doorways leading to the storeroom, the bridge they’d come in by, and a special stair leading both up and down. Their arcane senses detected a great deal of magic all around the Bent Spire, including a fearfully concentrated mass of necrotic energy directly below them, and the faint trace of an incoming teleportation ritual from back in the direction they’d come from.

About five minutes later, Baltherius entered the room. The well-dressed, pleasant, well-spoken eladrin vampire made a gesture of peace as he greeted the very-on-edge Kalyx, who stood by the entrance to the throneroom poised to do immediate violence. Warden Bal, as she’d known him, welcomed her gently, like as to a prodigal but beloved daughter, and slowly, non-threateningly, eased himself into the room, past Kalyx, making introductions with the rest of the party as he took for himself a glass of wine and mounted the room’s high seat. Baltherius was followed by a grim and sadistic-looking Anteraline, wrapped, as always, in chains.

It was difficult to not be lulled by Baltherius’ charming, easy manner. He spoke to them at length, as might a weary-but-benevolent patriarch, pleading with them to depart the tower in peace. They could not, he said, hope to prevail, as their best possible outcome in attacking him must inevitably be his escape, while their worst was their own deaths. He urged them with seeming wisdom to think of the bigger picture. The eldest, the primordial forces, asleep since time before time, we stirring and preparing to make war on the gods. How, he asked, could they not see that his Queen, Khalipanofax, though perhaps not their friend, was, at the very least, the enemy of their enemies; as, indeed, the primordials must be the enemies of all the civilized races of Erat.

He practically begged Kalyx, who he spoke proudly of as a pupil grown beyond his teachings, to take her companions south to seek out her bloodright. The “true” Blood Lord, he said, waited for her in Jen. More, he confided, the cults of the primordials sought to create a god-slaying weapon from the ruins of the Jade Queen’s ruined temples to the south near Kozun and the Shogunate.

What cared they, he asked, for the heritage and rule of a handful of weak-blooded tieflings? What was Mokiir but the last, withering vestiges of a cruel empire sunken for centuries in the greed and corruption of hell? Why would they waste their lives in defense of this kingdom founded on darkness, violence, and pain?

He spoke gently, and seemed genuine in his concern for both them and the wold. He only descended into spitefulness when Eirlys, who he deemed a traitor and murderer, spoke to him of honor and trust. Beyond that one outburst, Baltherius, vampire lord, Mage’el Tem, and Priest of the Sixth Circle of the Queen of Secrets was the very picture of gentility and hospitality.

But he could not convince them.

The sorcerer priest heaved a weighty sigh when he saw that his words would not move them, and did not even bother standing from his seat until after the fight was underway, seemingly reluctant, even then, to resort to ugly violence.

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Session 48 (Season 2, Episode 14 -- Penilan 22-24, 102 RA)
The Survivors of the Ruby Vale

Penilan 22-24: D’kath
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The party met with the Kazzar’s war counsel, and dined with the Elder Queen herself that night. They were given lavish gifts from the royal armory, and spent the entirety of the 23rd seeking out, acquiring, or making various enchanted items, steeling themselves against the anticipated battles to come. Perhaps of greatest note: Sa Ra Ink journeyed back to Fort Pendred to create a safe room for Kaijo (against changeling intrusion), and to construct a powerful magic staff using the reworked draconic holy symbol as the head. While there, They gave Kaijo a dozen potions to help see him through the night of Nemidahl, as well as the magic ring of mindshielding they had obtained from Gram’s Millfort.

Ezra and Sa Ra Ink oversaw transportation (via teleportation circles at the Church of Tulvar and the Mage’s Guild) for the experts from M’ziir who were to come and help whip some shape into the D’kathi Waaz Ora’adz. Specifically, Akra and some of the experienced Shade members, and Sardis’ rival, Vinduur, along with some other GrauBerg Hacholu.

Vindicating the intelligence gathered by the party, reports came to the palace on the night of the 22nd, saying that the western watchtowers had been attacked by dragons and wyverns with riders. The soldiers at the watchtowers had been expecting such an attack, thanks to the party, and so, though the towers had still been lost, few soldiers were slain, and those few had taken several wyverns out with them.

Once the party had rested, finished equipping themselves, and discussed their course of action, the party set out.

Penilan 24: D’kath, the Greybane Mountains, and the Ruby Vale

The party traveled by tree stride to a ridge just above the Ruby Vale Waypoint. It took most of the day, but when they emerged they found themselves looking out over the quiet, winterbound expanse of the Vale itself. Some fifty miles long and half as wide at its mouth, the valley might reasonably have taken days or even weeks to fully explore. Fortunately, Sardis was keen eyed and spotted everything they were seeking within just a few moments.

Perhaps fifteen miles east, perhaps a bit more, the smoke of a few remaining campsites could be seen. Even for Sardis it was impossible to see details, at that distance, but he said that the remaining camps were being maintained in an area that could easily have been the camp for a large army within the last few weeks. To reinforce the guess, a pair of wyverns could be seen circling the area, as though on patrol.

At the same time, several party members spotted a handful of Kaenti hidden among the ice, rocks, and stunted trees downslope. Eirlys confirmed that the kaenti were stationed just about where the hidden Guild Waypoint should be.

Wary of being seen, the party briefly stepped back through their tree portal, giving Sa Ra Ink a chance to work a concealment ritual, that would help the party proceed secretly until they wished to be noticed. Thus hidden, they returned to the Ruby Vale and crept down the rocky, rubbley slope until they were within a whisper’s distance of the kaenti.

The reveal went…reasonably well. The kaenti guards didn’t immediately attack, and the conversation with a male warrior named Ulkar, resulted, ultimately, in the party being lead, under guard, into the hidden recesses of the Waypoint to speak with Shaman Amerku, who was apparently the one in charge. Indeed, the party, aided by Eirlys’ reputation, was successful enough at navigating the kaenti’s labyrinthine code of etiquette that even Sardis, hacholu and thus anathema to the kaenti’s honnor, was allowed to enter the presence of the Shaman, albeit disarmed and totally nude.

Shaman Amerku was old, wizened, and clearly in poor health. She sat, huddled among furs at the back wall of the spacious, enchanted Waypoint’s interior. After a moment of clear distaste at the presence of an orc, her manner abruptly changed and she apologized when she learned that Sardis was of the GrauBerg. She apologized again, with additional significance, when she learned that his uncle had been Krothach.

it took some time. The party wanted intel and information about the army that the kaenti confirmed had been camped in the valley. The kaenti, politely, declined to acknowledge any reason they should help. Eventually, though, enough of an understanding was reached such that Amerku dismissed all the other Kaenti save Ulkar from the room, wishing to speak with the strangers directly about forbidden subjects.

The old shaman revealed then that, about a year ago, dragons, wyverns, and Aechellan soldiers descended on the vale. Kaenti have a grudging respect for Aechellan’s, but it was the airborne draconic attacks that made the real difference. Fully half the tribe was slain in the initial attack.

At first it seemed that the invasion was intended just to slay the Luock Reil and drive them from the valley. It became apparent, soon enough, that the enemy also sought to steal a sacred artifact that guarded by an order of kaenti monks in a secluded cave at the edge of the vale.

Even among the tribe the nature of the artifact was a secret, known only to the elder Shaman and the Nomkara, the kaenti monks who guarded. Amerku, admitting to her desperation in hoping to reclaim some of her tribe’s lost kaen (honor), revealed to the party that the sacred object was the head of a spear; one half of the powerful artifact that had been broken as part of the ritual that had ended the The Redemption Wars, caused the Blighting of Khalipanofax, and made the Blessed Lands into the life-filled, magical wonderland that they now were.

The Aechellans and Dragons had slain all but one of the Nomkara who guarded the artifact, and had, Amerku believed, taken the spearhead north to the cursed city of Old Cormorell. Whether the weapon had been used to destroy the Litch King Shadriel, or given to him in exchange for passage through his lands, or for some other purpose, the shaman could not say; but a few weeks later, thousands of goblinoids, tribes from the Ahluvogran wastes devoted to the Queen of Secrets, began gathering in the Ruby Vale. It was clear to the aged kaenti that the old stalemate between the Litch King and the Ahluvogran had been ended, else the goblinoids would not have been able to come south.

The last anyone knew of the sacred spearhead, the Dazskana, the last of the Nomkara had lead a band of select warriors north in an effort to retrieve it. None had returned. This had been almost a year ago.

All this information lead to a request, and an offer. Her people, Amerku promised, would tell the party everything they knew about the army that had been amassed in the Vale. Everything from their numbers, to their organization, their time of departure, their marching speed, and their internal struggles. In return, the party would go north, and retrieve the sacred spearhead from wherever it had been taken.

It was clear to all of them that making this request was indeed an act of desperation. The old Shaman and Ekurinyok Amerku were both clearly deeply shamed by the asking, but willing to sacrifice their own honor to recover some part of their tribe’s.

The party discussed the offer. In their discussion, they realized that, in all probability, the scroll that Thala had been given by Sardis’ uncle Krothach, and then given to the strange naelus, Flor’ix, had described the hiding place of the Korkana, the shaft of the Sacred Spear. Sa Ra Ink felt relatively certain that, if They had the shaft, they could use it to locate the head of the spear. They accepted the shaman’s offer of information in exchange for retrieving the stolen artifact.

The last of the daylight was spent learning all they could about Khalipanofax’s army, and sending the information back to Ezra and the rest of the defenders of D’kath via Ink’s magic. Ink also took a moment to send a telepathic message (which turned into a clear, startling, two-way telepathic link) to Flor’ix back in the caves beneath Aven.

Upon inquiry, the strange Naelus confirmed that not only did he still have the sacred scroll, he also had the Korkana itself. He said they were welcome to have it if they wanted to stop by and get it. Reading between the telepathic lines, Ink gleaned that things must not be so simple. Flor’ix, when pressed, admitted that Aven might be difficult to enter, as, besides Sa Ra Ink’s feud with High Druid Willup Blackbriar, there was also the small matter of several Naelic Inquisitors who had come to…address the problem of Flor’ix on behalf of Naelus. The Inquisitors were outside Aven, being denied entrance, and entire place was on lock-down.

“Still,” said Flor’ix, “You’re welcome to the magic stick if you can make your way to me somehow. I’m not really using it.”

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Session 47 (Season 2, Episode 13 -- Penilan 22, 102 RA)
The Vampire, the Queen, and the Miller's Daughter

Penilan 22: The Witching Hour — The Millfort, Laketown, D’kath
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With Sa Ra Ink’s magic’s assisting them, the party approached the Millfort silent as moonshadows. That is, except for Eirlys, who grumbled all the way about how they shouldn’t need to sneak in to rescue people from vampires in their basement. Nonetheless, as Ink worked Their magic to unlock the Millroom door, it seemed they had successfully avoided raising any alarm—until they got inside and found the Millforts’ younger daughter, Jenna, standing in her nightgown, in the dark, just…looking at them, head cocked to one side.

The young human wanted to know who they were, and why they were there, but did not seem overly afraid. The party was frank, telling her that there were vampires in her basement, and that they’d like to get rid of them, if she could show them the way down. The young human thought for a moment, then agreed.

As Jenna lead them down the cold, stone main hallway thorough the old fort, a voice called to her from behind a closed door. Her mother, Lisa Millfort, was calling from her sleeping chamber asking what Jenna was up to. Jenna put a finger to her lips and frantically gestured the party towards a door down the hall. As the girl made her excuses to her mother, the party slipped inside the indicated door, just before Mrs. Millfort’s door opened.

Once inside, the party found themselves face-to-face with Grams Millfort, who, after lighting a magical candle near her bedisde, sat up in her bed, blankets held to her chest, seeming far more curious than alarmed. The old human nodded, unsurprised, when the party hastily explained that they were hunting vampires and hiding from Mrs. Millfort. Gramma Millfort, whose name was Annaz, admitted that she’d suspected that her granddaughter, Agela, had been helping either vampires or devils to hide in the old fort’s secret basement level. She went on at some length about a suppose curse on her bloodline, which she claimed to be that of Ronzaral, a tiefling house out of Adrideor. She spoke of her father who had claimed that, as a child, he had been told the secrets of his Ronzaral blood by an Adridran tiefling who had come to investigate her family’s old redoubt, Fort Ozol.

This story matched with Sa Ra Ink’s knowledge of the history of the Millfort, which had indeed been a holding of House Ronzaral before The Schism, which separated Mokiir from the Adridran empire. The Mokiiran branch of House Ronzaral had been “paled,” a tiefling euphamism for forced interbreeding with humans to dilute an enemy’s bloodline.

The old woman seemed unduly pleased that Ink seemed to believe and even corroborate her story, and she reached into her bedside stand, pulling out a clearly magical ring, that she claimed was the signet ring of the Ronzaral bloodline. Ink noted aloud that the Ronzaral house ring had, notoriously, been missing since the Redemption. Grams Millfort asked the party if they were certain they could stop the vampires. Satisfied that they were confident, she mused aloud about how she didn’t really want to give the ring to any of her grandchildren, except, possibly, Jenna; especially if they all ended up as vampires. And so, after extracting a solemn pledge that, if the party was ever in Adideor, they’d return the ring to House Ronzaral, and tell them that the Mokiiran branch of the family still remembered their heritage, the wizened old human gave the ring, called the Crown of the Dream King to Sa Ra Ink, nodding with satisfaction.

The party decided that the ring should go to Sardis, to help guard him against vampiric mind control. Grams then told them how to open the secret door to the basement, and asked them to go so she could return to her rest.

*Penilan 22: The Millfort Celler — a few hours before dawn*

As the party made their way past the Millfort family, Kalyx had been feigning unconsciousness in the basement, listening in on an argument between Jonas, the young vampire who had brought her, and Warden Chain, who she now knew to be Anteraline, Sur’maga to the Sorcerer Priest Baltherius.

Anteraline had seemed pleased, at first, that Jonas and Minara had successfully captured the Stormborn, but had grown wroth with the young, former-human when she had learned that Minara had acted as decoy for the pursuing party. It seemed that Minara alone, of the vampires residing beneath the Millfort knew the ritual for using a teleportation circle. Anteraline demanded to know exactly how Jonas expected them to transport Kalyx back to the Bent Spire where Baltherius waited to receive her. She made further comment, as she slapped her subordinate around, that “the attacks” were supposed to begin tomorrow night, wondering how, if the party killed many of the vampires in the sewers, they would be able to successfully draw the adventurers of the Queue into the city sewers and cull their numbers before “the army” arrived in a few days. Thinking that this was valuable information, Kalyx kept still and played possum, even after she sensed Sa Ra Ink’s knock ritual happening above.

But vampires are difficult to sneak up on. Before more could be revealed, both Jonas and Anteraline abruptly stopped their argument, clearly aware that someone was attempting to sneak down the stairs to their secret lair. Silent telepathic orders were given, and the two vampires, along with a handful of their lesser spawn, scattered, presumably to hide and ambush the interlopers.

Kalyx, badly wanting to know where her enemies were hidden, tried to watch Anteraline go while sustaining her ruse of unconsciousness. Unfortunately, Anteraline noticed her moving, and the fight started heartbeats before the rest of the party made it all the way down the stairs.

The good guys won. Despite facing both Anteraline, Jonas, and over a dozen lesser vampires, the party survived, allowing only Warden Chain to escape them. But escape she did, despite Eirlys, fueled by grudges unfathomable to shorter-lived races, making a mad, teleporting dash up the stairs after her.

When the fight was over, the party regrouped, freed the food-slaves they found in one of the antechambers, and searched the old basement for treasure, loot, and clues. They found one of many decoy coffins, the nicest of them, full of coin, and a predictable trap that Sa Ra Ink handily avoided. Finished with the macabre cellar, the party lead the slaves upstairs and out of the Millfort without alerting the residents, who were awake and arguing audibly in another room.

The food-slaves confirmed and elaborated somewhat on the things Kalyx had heard. The vampires had been planning to begin striking at D’kath from the sewers beneath the city. The hope had been to draw many or most of the adventurous types and Tulvaran priests into the sewers to hunt the vampires, thus softening the city for the coming army. They related something about dragons, and strikes against the D’kathi watchtowers in the next few days. The party thanked them, the freed slaves thanked the party, and both groups went their separate ways: the peasants back to their homes in Laketown, the heroes back to their magical steeds and chambers in the Kazzar’s palace.

Penilan 22: Morning — The Kazzar’s Palace, D’kath

By the time they reached their chambers in the palace, dawn was breaking over the eastern Greybanes. The party had just enough time to bathe, eat, and dress before Ezra came to escort them, exhausted from a night without rest, to be presented before Kazzar Liran’Sulazzin Az’Kathaz.

The ancient (by modern standards) tiefling ruler struck a grand figure with her crown-like array of great, sweeping horns radiating out over the back of her solid, carved-stone throne. She greeted the party respectfully, each by name and title, and asked them to share with the D’kathi Court what they’d found in the Greybane Mountains, though the group was certain she’d already been briefed by Hallendra.

When they had completed the presentation about their days investigating the wyvern attacks, the Kazzar thanked them graciously, and began to ask them to return to the mountains and to follow up on their discoveries, specifically in and around the Ruby Vale. Before the request had been fully accepted however, Sa Ra Ink interjected, telling the Kazzar that they had more to share with the throne.

The party went on to explain what they had been up to overnight; about the vampires in the sewers and the Millfort; about Anteraline and the other unrepentant veterans of the Redemption Wars who, as part of some mad pact with Aechell, seemed to have been planning to undermine the city’s security by loosing vampires into the sewers and streets; and about the references to an army that would, supposedly be arriving sometime before Nemidahl.

As they told their tale, a nervous murmur arose from the courtiers in the great hall. It seemed made of equal parts surprise, fear, and outrage. It silenced abruptly when the Elder Queen rose from her throne and descended the steps from her dais, approaching the party, each in turn.

She asked them pointed questions, staring each of the in the eyes as they answered, clearly seeking to discern their earnestness and honesty. Apparently satisfied, she returned to her throne, and declared D’kath in preparation for war.

She called Ezra forward, asking him how quickly he could organize the denizens and visitors of the Queue into something like the Waaz Ora’adz of Okorian and M’ziir. Ezra said he would do his best to impose some order within the few days they seemed to have, and asked for permission to call on aid from M’ziir to do so. The Kazzar commanded that the Waaz Ora’adz be created as quickly as possible, and authorized him to do what was needed to make it so. She appended her decree by stating that discussions regarding a branch of the Free Laborers’ Guild in D’kath would be formally begun once the immediate crisis was over.

She then spoke again to the party, thanking them formally and telling them that the throne was in their debt. She repeated her request that they investigate the Ruby Vale as soon as they were rested from their night’s travails, and, she added, after they had fully briefed her war counsel on the details of everything they had discovered over the past week. She asked that they do so immediately.

The party, neither foolish enough to deny the Kazzar her requests, nor blind or deaf to the benefits of earning the Elder Queen’s increased favor, agreed to help in any way they could, and departed to the palace’s War Room to share their knowledge.

NEWS AND RUMORS: D’kath
The word in the streets and taverns is…

  • The Thieve’s Guild has been infiltrated by a dark menace from the Shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir.
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of a dark menace from the shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir
  • The Blood King is able to see, hear, and even appear anywhere in Mokiir at will. He knows when anyone speaks his name.
  • The cult of the dead god Khalipanofax is seeking to find a foothold in Mokiir.
  • Aechell has made common cause with the cult of Khalipanofax and the wyverns of the Greybane Mountains are now in the service of the Church of Aerus.
  • An army of Aechellans, wyverns, and dragons of unknown providence marches on D’kath and will arrive within the week.
  • M’ziiran heroes from the Unification War have come to aid in the defense of D’kath.
  • The M’ziiran heroes are worshipers of a strange god with the body of a dragon, a voice like thunder, and eyes like the sun.
  • The ancient primordials stir in their slumber and will soon awaken to make war on the gods.
  • The stirring of the primordials has awakened an ancient god with the head of a dragon, eyes like the sun, and a voice like thunder. Some in D’kath have heard it’s voice twice now.
  • Vampires roam the sewers under D’kath
  • Great black shapes have been seen in the night skies around D’kath. They have evaded the griffon patrols. Some say they are vampires, some say they are dragons, others say they are spirits from the Shadowfell, harbingers of the worst Nemidahl in decades.
  • The touch of the Shadowfell on the dreams of the godless is growing stronger. Night terrors have turned murderous and things grow worse as Nemidahl approaches. The priests are saying that it will be the worst Nemidahl in decades.
  • Minor skirmishes have broken out between the Grau Berg Orcs of M’ziir and the Blood King’s forces stationed there.
  • There will be no truce with Darakor, and Mokiir will find itself at war with all the other nations of the west.
  • The once-mighty nation of Adrideor has been suspiciously quiet throughout the troubles of the last few years, they must be in league with Aechell.
  • The City State of Beygin, realm of the Sapphire King, has been suspiciously quiet throughout the troubles of the last few years. They must be in league with Aechell.
  • Kazzar Ren’Raatha Az’Ebbezuur has proposed marriage to the Blood King.
  • The Astrologer’s Guild has been abolished by the Guild Counsel at the insistence of the Shepherds
  • Undead normally plague the hills and mountains north of D’kath, but in recent months have been unusually absent.
  • The undead necromancer who rules the dead city of Old Cormorell has been defeated. This explains the quietude of the dead in the Greybanes.
  • The orcs of Maelechar have departed, en masse, to the north, leaving their dark homeland empty and unguarded.
  • In the fell wastes of Maelechar, a group of heroes have prevented a dark cataclysm from starting in the cursed orcish city of Ur Ta Shaal.
  • The Mules are setting up a chapter in D’kath.
  • A pair of strangely-dressed young humans have approached several adventuring parties in the Queue over the last few days with some sort of hot tip. Every party they’ve met with has slipped away quietly overnight in pursuit of some unknown and fabulous treasure.
  • The Aechellan forces turned back by the Ashai and the Dwarves are regrouping in New Cormorell and are preparing to attack Azeth.
  • The Blood King’s army is massing along the western front, split, mostly, between M’ziir and Azeth.
  • There is a hovaian coravar on the Silverstream River that has befriended a dragon and turned pirate.
  • Kazzar Liran’Sulazzin has disbanded the City Guard and the streets will now be patrolled by treasure hunters and gladiators like Okorian and M’ziir.
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Session 46 (Season 2, Episode 12 -- Penilan 22, 102 RA)
Sewer? I hardly know her!

Penilan 22: After Midnight — In the Queue, D’kath
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The party rushed out of the Cooked Spoke, just ahead of the crowd of would-be investigators and adventurers, all of whom were prepared to jump straight into a fight. Nobody worried much about the City Guard after just one clap of thunder, as such things were relatively common in the Queue.

In the unlit alley behind the tavern, they found Kalyx’s staff, and the distinct metaphysical odor of vampires. There was also some sign of a brief magical struggle, but between the barely-contained crowd from the Spoke and the difficulty inherent to tracking on cobbled streets, it seemed for a moment that Kalyx had disappeared without a trace.

But for a faint, barely detectable…smell?…feeling? Sa Ra Ink couldn’t quite quantify it, but, when They focused, tuning out the hubbub of Sardis wrangling the crowd back inside the tavern behind Them, They could sense…something. A trail that smelled of Kalyx and resonated inside the powerful holy symbol They carried in Their beltpouch.

The party set out, insisting that the eager young adventurers that wished to join them remained behind. Following the strange…connection…between Kalyx and the emblem of Aegeonexifal, Sa Ra Ink lead them to a sewer, and down.

Shortly after entering the sewer, Sardis started seeing signs of physical passage. This was important as, to the best of their knowledge, the vampires could not transport Kalyx’s body, unconscious or dead, while traveling in their mist form. One of them must be carrying her. Unfortunately, the footprints lead in one direction, while the metaphysical trial lead in the other.

Talking it over, they decided that a metaphysical trail might actually be easier to fake for magic-wielding vampire devotees of the Goddess of Deception than would be a physical one. Thus, they chose to follow the vampires footprints.

They followed for some time, passing a blockage in the main sewer channel that left them sloshing through an inch of sewer water as they tread upstream along the right-hand walkway. With Sardis’ keen eye, and Sa Ra Ink’s observation of sewer vermin, they were able to follow the vampire’s trail to a large, open, cistern with large pipes flowing into it and chains dangling from some maintenance area far above. The room was large enough that they could not see the ceiling even when the wizard cast Their light into the room.

They thought it likely that trouble lurked ahead in the large room, but saw nothing for it and proceeded in anyway.

Sure enough, standing on a raised walkway on the far side of the cistern room stood Minara, the young woman and vampire who had taken Kalyx aside at the Crooked Spoke. As they entered, she began monologueing. Something about “how good of them to join her,” and “did they think they would truly be able to catch up to Kalyx,” and how they “couldn’t hope to defeat the master” or something like that. There might even have been a good ol’ fashioned “join us or die” on it’s way, but Sardis shot his bow at her instead. Naturally, a fight ensued.

At some signal from Minara, nearly two dozen wild, savage lesser vampires emerged from the sewer pipes and down the chains from the ceiling. They howled and slavered and sought immediately to swarm the party.

It worked for a while. There were just so many of them. Sardis spent most of the fight fending off six to eight lesser vampires while Eirlys and Sa Ra Ink fought Minara. In the end though, Sardis, with a little help from Ink, smashed his way out of the mob and sprang at an unsuspecting Minara, warpicks a blur of whirling motion.

For a second, when she became heavily wounded, the party thought Minara had disappeared. But they found the invisible form of the incapacitated vampire and Eirlys removed her head. Just before the killing blow fell, Minara wheezed out a threat about how the party could never hope to prevail overall. Eirlys assured the young vampire that, at the very least, she could destroy her.

When Minara was slain, the lesser vampires who hadn’t been destroyed all either fled or fell dead, presumably having been created by Minara.

But they could not find any sign that Kalyx had ever been in the room.

Sa Ra Ink, wanting answers, placed the vampire’s head in a magic circle and worked a ritual to make her talk. The animating spirit of the dead human girl was sobbing and begging for release when they brought her back. Sa Ra Ink was able to learn that her master, Baltherius, as well as his Sur’maga, Anteraline, had instructed Minara and Jonas to capture Kalyx alive if they encountered her. When asked where, she cried that Jonas had taken Kalyx to the Millfort (which was just what it sounded like) just outside Laketown on the Lazlo River.

Having gotten the information they needed, the party left the vampire’s corpse to molder, and returned to the surface. Once at street level, they found an out-of-the-way alley and Sa Ra Ink worked Their ritual to summon inky black flying mounts for them all, plus a couple extras, just in case. As they flew up and out over D’kath, they hoped not too many people would spot them.

Penilan 22: Outside the Millfort, Laketown — the witching hour
It took them only minutes to reach Laketown, and only a couple more to locate the Millfort. They set their mounts down nearby, but well out of sight. Eirlys and Ink stayed put while Sardis krept up to the Millfort, scouting ahead.

Walking all the way around the building, it was clear which part was the single remaining story of the old stone fort, and which was the newer wooden mill addition. There were only a couple of doors, all, seemingly, locked. But, just as Sardis was about to report back to his companions, he saw a faint light moving through the cracks of a closed shutter.

Peeking through, Sardis saw a teenaged human girl creeping into what was a four-person bedchamber. She had a candle and was clearly trying to return to bed without waking the other three occupants, two of which smelled of night-sweat and illness to Sardis.

Before the girl could reach her bed, a stern whisper came from the doorway, calling to “Agela” in a stern whisper. Sardis could barely make out what must be the girl, Agela’s, grandmother, a wizened old human who asked Agela why she had been up. Agela explained that she’d been to the privy, but neither “Grams” nor Sardis was convinced.

Through some intuition born of his hunter’s senses, Sardis became quite certain that young Agela was somehow in cahoots with or service to the vampires that the party had come to find, and that Gramma Millfort was suspicious of her granddaughter. Despite her suspicions, the old woman let it be. As the nervous girl climbed into her bed and blew out her candle, Sardis crept away to report back to his companions. They’d found the right place.

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Session 45 (Season 2, Episode 11 -- Penilan 21-22, 102 RA)
The Changeling Conspiracy

Penilan 21: Afternoon in D’kath
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As Kalyx and Sa Ra Ink left the workshop space they’d borrowed at the Temple of Tulvar, they were approached by an acolyte who informed them that Bishop Muravese wished to speak to them.

They found the Bishop, an unremarkable middle-aged human, in his office studying a thick, dusty old time that appeared to be written in draconic. The bishop, who had lent them use of his workshop in the first place, was very curious about what they’d gotten up to. He, and, it seemed, others in the church, had heard the undertones in the thunder that had rumbled across the sky and had recognized it as divine in nature.

Kalyx, honestly, disclaimed worship or certainty as to the identity of the (demi?)god who had responded to their reforging of the amulet, though she did share the name Ageonexiphal, and admitted that she believed him to be her ancestor. When asked, Sa Ra Ink produced the re-purposed amulet.

Bishop Muravese was clearly nonplussed, curious, and mistrustful of Sa Ra Ink. He stared at the amulet for a long time, but declined, ultimately, to touch it. He offered Kalyx support and counsel should she need it in the future, and warned her, none too subtly, against false friends, with a meaningful glance towards the strange wizard with the facial tattoos. Kalyx and Sa Ra Ink left the Temple of Tulvar and heades back to the Kazzar’s Palace.

Meanwhile, Sardis and Eirlys were concluding their meeting with Lobbus Lighttouch at the Explorer’s Guildhall.

The halfling Guildmaster had heard their tale and asked shrewd questions, though he hadn’t pressed on the touchy subjects. He thanked them for their work, and offered that if the party wanted to follow up on any of the leads they’d discovered in the Greybanes, and if they were willing to treat the work as a Guild contract, he’d make it an exclusive contract and tip no-one else off. That offer, he said, would be good until noon on Penilan 22nd. After that, he’d let the contracts out as he saw fit, though Eirlys knew that he’d have a tough time finding takers for an expedition into the Greybanes this close to Nemidahl.

Lighttouch also let them know that Pony had joined the Guild as a Ranger the day before. And warned Sardis that while the Guild frowned on unreasonable violence or murder between members (or, on Sardis’ case, contractors), he could make no guarantees, especially if Sardis wasn’t under contract, like now.

The halfling also asked about Kalyx. Or, “that eladrin-dressed human girl,” as he put it. It seemed that another pair of human “kids” in similarly strange garb had been seen around the Queue the last couple of days, and Lighttouch wondered if they knew each other. Sardis and Eirlys promised to ask Kalyx about it.

Finally, the little Guildmaster mentioned that he’d heard that Sardis has been in Okorian the previous year when a dragon escaped the Great Pit ridden by an escaped halfling gladiator (or something like that). He went on to mention that there had been rumors of halfling river pirates with a pet dragon over on the Silverstream River. He was curious to know if Sardis thought there might be a connection. Sardis admitted that he had indeed known Dora, but shrugged about the rest. Lighttouch let it go at that, but asked them to let him know if they heard anything else about it, and reminded them to let him know about the Greybane contracts before noon the next day.

As Sardis and Eirlys headed back to the palace, they were brought up short by the sound of divine thunder rolling across the winter sky. Sardis commented that perhaps they oughtn’t allow Kalyx and Ink to go off alone together in the future.

Penilan 21: Dinner time – Back at the Kazzar’s Palace – D’kath

The party reconvened in the palace, ate dinner, and talked about all the many things going on. They discussed the situation with the Blood King and the heir of Azeth; they discussed the peculiar alliance of Aerus and Khalipanofax; they discussed Kalyx and her demi-god-esque great granddragon; they discussed what they would do next.

At some point, Ezra stopped by to catch them up on the local news, and to hear about their days in the Greybane Mountains. He had little to report that they didn’t already know. The Aechellan envoy had departed without any actual outbreaks of violence, but also without any meaningful assurances of peace. Aechellan forces were amassing in New Cormorell and Mokiir prepared for an attack near Azeth.

Ezra was in the room when a royal page came by to inform the party that they were to be formally presented at court before Kazzar Luran’Sulazzin Az’Kathaz in the morning after breakfast. Most of the party had already seen to finding presentable attire for the pending occasion. Ezra promised Kalyx that he would find her something before breakfast.

Ezra departed, and the party had resumed discussing their options, when Sa Ra Ink, who had been reviewing their books, looked up and declared that they must speak to Pendred as soon as possible. A moment’s discussion lead to the realization that the party’s discoveries about the Blood King being the Bastard of Azeth might have triggered a dangerous crisis of loyalty in their dragonborn friend. The party quickly devised a plan for traveling to M’ziir and back all in one night.

To do so, they had to make use of Bishop Muravese’s offer of support sooner than expected. Kalyx asked and received permission from the bishop to use the Temple’s teleportation circle to return from M’ziir. Permission was conditioned on her promising yo destroy her copy of the circle’s sigils once she and her companions had used it, and to make no copy, and to let no-one else do so. She swore by her blood and ancestors to do so, though neither she not the bishop were aware of Sa Ra Ink’s ididic memory.

Thus equipped to return, Sa Ra Ink teleported the party from their suite in the Palace to the circle in the Mage’s School in M’ziir.

Penilan 21: Evening – M’ziir

Archmage Edratha was eager to hear the party’s news. She had learned some of their story from Pendred, but wanted to be filled in on the details. After they quickly updated her on the state of things around D’kath and the Greybane Mountains, she let them know that Magistrate Pendred was at Fort Pendred, overseeing preparations for the Kaz’Kazzar’s stay there during the peace talks, which were to commence in the new year. She lent them horses to speed them on their way to speak to the their former leader.

It took them only a couple of hours to reach Fort Pendred. Once there, they found the Magistrate in his study.

Pendred looked terrible. Bloodless and wan, though “pale” didn’t really apply in the traditional sense. He paced, bare-chested and clearly troubled, clasping bloody bandages around his right forearm, where the Blood King’s tattoo was etched.

When they walked in, Pendred beckoned them to close the door, then stared at them searchingly, each in turn. Abruptly, he pulled a dagger from his belt, and cut his arm, letting a few drops of his blood drip onto his desk. He then took a pinch of salt from a small bowl and sprinkled it on his blood. Nothing happened. Pendred looked at them all, then handed the dagger to Eirlys, challenge in his eyes.

He refused to speak to them until each had performed the same ritual, letting and then salting their blood. Once all had done so, with no notable result, the great dragonborn relaxed, visibly, appearing, all at once weary beyond words.

He confirmed with Sa Ra Ink that the study was secure against evesdropping, something they had seen to early in the fort’s still-incomplete remodeling. Then, he began to explain.

His story began somewhat obliquely, asking Ink and Sardis if they remembered Ebor, the Slave who had aided them in Okorian. He went on to describe having been troubled, in the year-and-a-half since they’d left the City of Pits, by Ebor’s account of his life in the Pale Quarter, and his sister there. Pendred had, a few days ago, managed to, quietly track down the sister.

Suspiciously, the sister had described Ebor as being dead some time ago. Pendred had, however, had recent word of Ebor still serving in the Pits of Okorian. As the inquiry had gone on, Pendred had grown increasingly suspicious. The inquiry became an interrogation, the details of which Pendred left unsaid.

He shuddered as he revealed the dark secrets that he, with the help of his Castellan, Kessler, had uncovered.

The sister had turned out to be a doppleganger, or changeling. One of a race of shape-shifting humanoids that had long since been thought extinct, or near enough. The changelings were able to take, and maintain, even for a time after death, the shape and bearing of anyone, with the oldest and most skilled said to be able to fool even close family and lovers. In times past, vast inquisitions had taken the lives of thousands in pursuit of changeling infiltration based on mere rumors. The entire race had been reviled and hunted to the point where most claims of encountering one were now dismissed as rumor. Though, the wisest sages were always quick to point out that there was truly no way to ever know if a such a race was extinct, or merely very careful. One of the only sure-fire tests was the salting of blood, which, if performed on a true doppleganger, would steam and bubble and wither.

Pendred went on to explain that, from “Ebor’s” “sister,” he had learned that Ebor himself was also a doppleganger. As was Hallendra, and countless others in the Kaz’Kazzar’s entourage, including the Blood King himself. In fact, Pendred whispered, many, if not most, of the dozens-at-least of changelings that made up the Blood King’s people could, and often did, operate in the role of any number of the people they were imitating. This, Pendred claimed, explained not only the Isra’Asiel’s rumored ability to be anywhere he wanted at any time, but also his lightning-fast conquest of the Seven Cities in 101 RA.

The nation of Mokiir had been unified under and by a cult of changelings.

Pendred believed that they were worshippers of Subher, though he couldn’t say how broadly known the conspiracy was even within the Subheran church itself. In fact, he worried, it was impossible to know who was aware or, worse, how many people in Mokiir were actually changelings.

The magistrate went on to say that he believed that the actual Bastard of Azeth, Israfel, or Isra’Asiel, or whatever his name might actually be, was being kept alive and imprisoned in the dungeons of Queen Serra’Fal Az’Ebbezuur’s palace in Besselpoor. He believed the Bastard had been kept alive for future use in marriage ceremonies wherein his blood would be essential.

Pendred wanted the party to go and rescue the Bastard of Azeth. He clearly felt that his honor had been impugned in a deep and meaningful way by the deception of the supposed Blood King. He didn’t think he could get away to make the rescue attempt himself without tipping off the changelings. He asked the others to do it. They were the only people he felt he could trust.

The party didn’t know what to think. Sa Ra Ink checked Pendred for Ix’iilan possession, and confirmed that, whatever else might be going on, the Magistrate was not inhabited by one of the tentacled spirits that had taken control of so many during the troubles of 101 RA. Still, Pendred seemed more than a little out of sorts, and not at all his usual, steady, thoughtful self.

After some deliberation, the party decided that it was not yet the opportune time to attempt a rescue. Just planning for and traveling to Besselpoor would likely take them too long to achieve the rescue before the end of the Winter Truce. More, given their collective recent activities, and Fort Pendred’s important role in the upcoming peace talks, it seemed likely that the changelings and their allies in Besselpoor would be extra alert to suspicious doings. Sa Ra Ink counseled Pendred to patience. Let them finish their business around D’kath before pressing this concern.

In the meantime, all agreed that the most important priority would be to keep the changelings from realizing that they’d been found out. The group set up a call-and-response. “Mushroom” and “Blackberry,” either in response to the other, would confirm their identities when in doubt.

With that, the party made their way back to D’kath, by way of the church of Tulvar, asking Pendred to see that the horses were returned to High Mage Edratha.

Penilan 21: Near Midnight – D’kath

Upon arrival in the teleportation room of Tulvar’s hight temple, Kalyx openly burned the note with the teleportation address, so that the temple guards could report to Bishop Muravese that it had been done.

As they walked down Temple Hill towards the city, they decided to head over to the Queue to see if they could track down the rumors of young humans dressed in the eladrin manner favored by Kalyx. The sorcerer believed that several of her fellow Seekers might be in town, and worried that they might be accompanied by one of the Wardens. She suspected Warden Bal, based on Mother Mire’s warning.

So they started at the Crooked Spoke, where they were greeted warmly by Marlow, the tavernmaster.

As luck would have it, they started in the right place. In a corner of the large commonroom was gathered a sizable group of what were clearly young adventurers, listening raptly to a pair of similarly young humans dressed in anachronistic eladrin fashion.

When the pair saw Kalyx and her friends, the girl, Minara, whispered “Liaru Ordoh,” elven for Stormborn, and both looked as though they’d seen a ghost. After a long moment of silence, they politely asked their listeners to give them some space, and invited the party to join them.

Once everyone was seated, Kalyx introduced Minara and the boy with her, Jonah, and began asking the pair pointed questions about why they were in D’kath and where their warden was.

The two denied that any Warden was with them in the city, and seemed truthful in that, though still somehow evasive. They seemed extra uncomfortable with the party present, so when they asked Kalyx to step outside into the alley to discuss things more privately, the young sorceress obliged them.

It surprised no-one but Marlow when, a few minutes later, a deafening crack of thunder slammed through the tavern, and the doorway into the alley shattered inwards in splinters.

NEWS AND RUMORS: D’kath
The word in the streets and taverns is…

  • The Thieve’s Guild has been infiltrated by a dark menace from the Shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir.
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of a dark menace from the shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir
  • The Blood King is able to see, hear, and even appear anywhere in Mokiir at will. He knows when anyone speaks his name.
  • The cult of the dead god Khalipanofax is seeking to find a foothold in Mokiir.
  • The mountain towns and holds around D’kath are being harried by wyverns much more than is usual for this time of year.
  • Minor skirmishes have broken out between the Grau Berg Orcs of M’ziir and the Blood King’s forces stationed there.
  • The touch of the Shadowfell on the dreams of the godless is growing stronger. Night terrors have turned murderous and things grow worse as Nemidahl approaches. The priests are saying that it will be the worst Nemidahl in decades.
  • There will be no truce with Darakor, and Mokiir will find itself at war with all the other nations of the west.
  • The once-mighty nation of Adrideor has been suspiciously quiet throughout the troubles of the last few years, they must be in league with Aechell.
  • The City State of Beygin, realm of the Sapphire King, has been suspiciously quiet throughout the troubles of the last few years. They must be in league with Aechell.
  • Kazzar Ren’Raatha Az’Ebbezuur has proposed marriage to the Blood King.
  • The Astrologer’s Guild has been abolished by the Guild Counsel at the insistence of the Shepherds
  • Undead normally plague the hills and mountains north of D’kath, but in recent weeks have been surprisingly absent.
  • The undead necromancer who rules the dead city of Old Cormorell has been defeated. This explains the quietude of the dead in the Greybanes.
  • The orcs of Maelechar have departed, en masse, to the north, leaving their dark homeland empty and unguarded.
  • In the fell wastes of Maelechar, a group of heroes have prevented a dark cataclysm from starting in the cursed orcish city of Ur Ta Shaal.
  • The ancient primordials stir in their slumber and will soon awaken to make war on the gods.
  • The stirring of the primordials has awakened an ancient god with the head of a dragon, eyes like the sun, and a voice like thunder. Some in D’kath have heard it’s voice twice now.
  • The Mules are setting up a chapter in D’kath.
  • A pair of strangely-dressed young humans have approached several adventuring parties in the Queue over the last few days with some sort of hot tip. Every party they’ve met with has slipped away quietly overnight in pursuit of some unknown and fabulous treasure.
  • The Aechellan forces turned back by the Ashai and the Dwarves are regrouping in New Cormorell and are preparing to attack Azeth.
  • The Blood King’s army is massing along the western front, split, mostly, between M’ziir and Azeth.
  • There is a hovaian coravar on the Silverstream River that has befriended a dragon and turned pirate.
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Session 44 (Season 2, Episode 10) (Penilan 20-21, 102 RA)
What In Prison Meant

Penilan 20: Unknown time — In the Dungeon of Subher Swords08.jpg
They fell about eight feet into a foot-and-a-half of water in a pitch-black stone room. Leboch hit his head. Everyone else took bumps and bruises, but was well.

When Ink made light, they could see that they were in a large, lightless, prison cell that reeked of mildew and char. The water was scummy and undrinkable. It was cold. A dull klaxon sounded in the distance. An alarm, they assumed, as they searched for easy egress. There was none.

Shouting came from the cells on either side of the hall that lead from the door of the party’s cell down to a T intersection some 40 feet distant. Clearly other inmates. Frighteningly, they seemed terrified of the party’s arrival, shouting for help and mercy, though none could see what hat come splashing into the great cell at the end of the hall.

Soon enough, a door opened somewhere beyond the T intersection, allowing light, and a man shrouded in a shadowy cloak to enter. The man, whose face was obscured by some magical property of the cloak he wore, approached the party’s cell.

The Faceless Man asked who they were. Sa Ra Ink refused to say, demanding, instead, to know where they were and who the Faceless Man was. The Faceless Man pressed only a little before turning and walking away.

He left them there for long enough that, being magically inured to cold, everyone got a quality rest once Sa Ra Ink magically purified the water.

During the hours of rest, Sa Ra Ink performed other magicks, and the party learned what they could about their surroundings.

The cell was clearly designed as a kill room for beings that might cross through just as the party had, with the pool of water adding extra danger for creatures of fire. Beyond that, the cell was also magically locked, magically warded against escape, and guarded against teleportation out. The prison was quite thorough.

Sa Ra Ink spent some time apparently communing with the prison walls. They learned of its construction, and then witnessed something that seemed, to them, to be the disposal of the body of the High Priest of Subher, whose temple They gleaned this to be. They also saw a body, washed up in this room, who turned out to be one of Kalyx’s “siblings,” slain in the raid that had cost the lives of so many of them.

Shortly after everyone finished eating their…breakfast?…soggy rations after a soggy sleep; the Faceless Man returned.

He asked them who they were and why they were there. Sa Ra Ink refused, again, to answer, but the rest of the party introduced themselves. Sa Ran Ink went on to pointedly asserted that the high priest of the Faceless Man’s order had been slain in secret. The Faceless man turned and left again.

Another eight or so hours passed.

Penilan 21: Unknown Time – Dungeons of Subher, D’kath

Their next visitor looked the same as the previous two. But when he grew close, he pulled back his cowell revealing himself as Ebor the slave who had befriended the Shade in Okorian.

He spoke in a hushed whisper, greeting Sardis, and, eventually, Sa Ra Ink, once he recognized the much changed wizard.

The (former?) Slave offered no explanation as to how he came to be wearing the robes of a Subheren priest. But he assured the party that he would get word of their imprisonment to Hallendra as soon as possible. He rushed off quickly as though fearing to be caught.

Some time, perhaps eight or so hours later, Hallendra came to see them. She greeted Sardis and As Ra Ink mildly, and introduced herself to those she had not yet met. She assured them that she was working towards their release, and asked them to cooperate with the Subehren clergy’s efforts to keep their secrets when the release occurred. They would have time, she said, to share information once the party was properly installed as guests at the Kazzar’s palace.

Just a few hours later, the party was being lead out of the dungeon with sacks over their heads. Their ears were muffled, and they were lead up many staircases and around many turns…surely more than was strictly necessary…and into some manner of carriage. In good time, and away from prying eyes, they were installed in a suite in the palace.

Penilan 21: Mid-Morning— the Royal Palace of D’kath

After cleaning up, and having breakfast, they were joined by Hallendra, who asked for a full report.

The party told her almost everything, leaving only the personal details such as their night spwnt with Mother Mire and the part where Sa Ra Ink challenged a god. The telling took quite some time, and when they were through answering Hallendra’s astute questions, it was almost lunch.

The even wizard took her leave, saying that she would report to the Blood King and return to them on the morrow. In the meantime, she suggested, they should see about any business they might have around the city, and prepare to be presented to Kazzar Luran’Sulazzin Az’Kathaz on the next day.

Penilan 21: Afternoon — D’kath

The party spent the afternoon debriefing, and dealing with business around the city. They divvied up their loot, and calculated it’s value. Most of the party spent at least a little time shopping around the Queue. While there, Sardis and Eirlys stopped by the Explorer’s Guild to pay their share on the contract, and to share the information they’d gleaned.

Meanwhile, Kalyx, with the help of Sa Ra Ink, worked at turning the powerful amulet of Khalipanofax to other purposes. She removed two of the heads and had the metals reworked just enough so that the green dragon beneath took on the shape and form of an extinct bronze dragon. She let the work, and the vision, be guided by the memories that rumbled in her blood.

And something spoke to her.

The voice, rolling through the murmuring thunder that growled around the snow-laden roofs of D’kath. It seemed…startled. Unsure of what was happening. But it recognized her. Knew her in a way deeper than she knew herself.

It spoke of an island in the Dragon’s Teeth, wherever that was, implying that her origens could be discovered there. It spoke of itself, in the first and third person simultaneously, and suggested that she seek out the House of Lorn in Jen. It warned her to beware the Sapphire King.

When the communion was over, the pendant of Ageonexiphal pulsed with power, and Sa Ra Ink was giving her a thoughtful, disconcerting look.

NEWS AND RUMORS: D’kath
The word in the streets and taverns is…

  • The Kaz’Kazzar wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow that allows him to influence the minds of those around him.
  • The Thieve’s Guild has been infiltrated by a dark menace from the Shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir.
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of a dark menace from the shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir
  • The Blood King is able to see, hear, and even appear anywhere in Mokiir at will. He knows when anyone speaks his name.
  • The cult of the dead god Khalipanofax is seeking to find a foothold in Mokiir.
  • The mountain towns and holds around D’kath are being harried by wyverns much more than is usual for this time of year.
  • Minor skirmishes have broken out between the Grau Berg Orcs of M’ziir and the Blood King’s forces stationed there.
  • The touch of the Shadowfell on the dreams of the godless is growing stronger. Night terrors have turned murderous and things grow worse as Nemidahl approaches. The priests are saying that it will be the worst Nemidahl in decades.
  • There will be no truce with Darakor, and Mokiir will find itself at war with all the other nations of the west.
  • The once-mighty nation of Adrideor has been suspiciously quiet throughout the troubles of the last few years, they must be in league with Aechell.
  • Kazzar Ren’Raatha Az’Ebbezuur has proposed marriage to the Blood King.
  • The City State of Beygin, realm of the Sapphire King, has been suspiciously quiet throughout the troubles of the last few years. They must be in league with Aechell.
  • The Astrologer’s Guild has been abolished by the Guild Counsel at the insistence of the Shepherds
  • Undead plague the hills and mountains north of D’kath.
  • The orcs of Maelechar have departed, en masse, to the north, leaving their dark homeland empty and unguarded.
  • In the fell wastes of Maelechar, a group of heroes have prevented a dark cataclysm from starting in the cursed orcish city of Ur Ta Shaal.
  • The ancient primordials stir in their slumber and will soon awaken to make war on the gods.
  • The stirring of the primordials has awakened an ancient god with the head of a dragon, eyes like the sun, and a voice like thunder. Some in D’kath have heard it’s voice twice now.
  • The Mules are setting up a chapter in D’kath.
  • A pair of strangely-dressed young humans have approached several adventuring parties in the Queue over the last few days with some sort of hot tip. Every party they’ve met with has slipped away quietly overnight in pursuit of some unknown and fabulous treasure.
  • The Aechellan forces turned back by the Ashai and the Dwarves are regrouping in New Cormorell and are preparing to attack Azeth.
  • The Blood King’s army is massing along the western front, split, mostly, between M’ziir and Azeth.
  • There is a hovaian coravar on the Silverstream River that has befriended a dragon and turned pirate.
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Session 41, 42, 43 (Season 2, Episode 9) (Penilan 19-20ish, 102 RA)
Gods in the Greymire (Parts 1 -- 3)

PART 1

Penilan 19: 102 RA — Just past midday at the Greymire WaypointHigh_Priestess.jpg

Sardis attacked the dragon.

More accurately, he charged the dragon, grabbed Leboch’s foot just before it slipped beneath the surface, and pulled the hacholan warrior back up onto the pier. When the dragon retaliated, Sardis wrestled it up onto the pier too.

The fight proceeded more or less in that fashion, though it was hard won. The party was exhausted from their battle with Pony and the Howlers that morning, and from trudging around the side of Mount Aerulan. All the retainers but Mara were dropped by the dragon’s acid breath before it was over, and only quick thinking by Ink and quick action by Mara kept them from dying. Worse, the dragon healed itself with a prayer to Khalipanofax part way through the battle; the party could see a holy symbol of the Jade Queen hanging from one it’s great horns.

The highlight of the battle, from a spectator’s perspective, came when Sardis, standing on the remains of the Waypoint’s collapsed roof, looped a rope around the dragon’s head and hauled it up against the wall of the rickety shack. After which Ink forcibly teleported the monster inside the Waypoint shelter, and, moments later, Kalyx blasted the thing out through the far wall and back onto the pier.

It was shortly after that when the dragon flew away, retreating, it appeared, towards a small raised hillock about a mile off in the swamp.

The dragon was almost dead, and the party really didn’t want it to get away. They recalled all to well the days they spent harrying and being harried by the black dragon Argaxis in the ruins of Fort Pendred. Giving the dragon time to recuperate was out of the question.

Kalyx blasted it with lightning until it was beyond the reach of her magic. Sardis fired arrow after arrow from his greatbow, sloshing as quickly as he could through the mud and marsh. He even landed a shot or two, but eventually the dragon’s flight took it out of bowshot.

Then Sa-Ra Ink spoke.

It was not clear exactly what was happening, but it was clear that the once-mousy scribe was speaking from somewhere, or someTHING, beyond zeself. Ze’s face changed, pupils fading completely, and stylized makeup somehow…deepening. The face was no longer even vaguely human (or elven, or eladrin), and the voice reverberated across the marsh.

Sa-Ra Ink flung out a challenge. Not to the fleeing dragon before them, but to Khalipanofax herself, fallen goddess of secrets and magic, by name. The wizard called her name into the winter air three times, and called for her servant to return and face them. Kalyx, to everyone’s surprise, cast her own defiance in the face of the “Mother,” in a thunderous voice that echoed against the mountain peaks.

The already eerily still Greymire grew immediately and oppressively silent. The ice that rimed the salt-marsh-pools cracked under the silent weight of the wounded god’s attention. They all felt it, but and for several heartbeats not a living thing breathed. Then, with a roar that echoed in answer to the challenge, the black dragon wheeled in the distance, and sped back towards the party, it’s blood misting in a caustic trail behind it.

Sardis slew thing thing, distractedly, with a single well-placed arrow. Everyone stared at Ink. Even Kalyx, who still thrummed with the rumble of her own draconic power, eyed ze uncertainly. Ink, for ze’s part, stared back at them, unblinking, unfamiliar, and inhuman.

“We must make haste,” intoned Sa-Ra Ink somberly. “Evizinex’s hoard will be worth raiding, but Her eye remains fixed on us, all three of us,” he said, pointing at Kalyx and Eirlys, “and her servants will pursue us with the Jade Queen’s will driving them.”

Kalyx nodded. She too had heard the dragon’s name, Evizinex, whispered on the wind in response to their challenge. Taking a few moments to bind their wounds and rouse the wounded soldiers, the party headed out into the icy salt marsh to pick over a dragon and her worldly possessions.

PART 2
They mounted their magical steeds and rode across the frozen, silent marshland under the gaze of a baleful god. When they reached the dragon’s lifeless form, Sa Ra Ink and Kalyx considered its jewelry for a time before Kalyx decided to take it. She held the Jade Queens symbol before her and gasped when she realized she’d felt it’s power before. It had been worn by Warden Bal, one of the eladrin sorcerers who had…raised her.
She wondered aloud at whether she might safely make use of it. The question was left unanswered as they proceeded towards’ Evizinex’s lair.

The lair was located within a small hill amidst a long-ruined dwarves watchpost, assuredly built by the long-gone denizens of Marak Dür. Access to the flooded, subterranean chamber was through a nondescript hole far too small for a dragon of Evizinex’s size, but enchanted to allow her passage nonetheless.

They defended cautiously, Sardis going first, but found no threats or opposition. Whether that was because the dragon kept no guards, or because all the swamp’s inhabitants were hiding from the gaze of the Queen of Secrets, they could not be certain.

Rather than searching through the murky water in the cave, Sa Ra Ink, who still had not reverted to ze’s normal appearance and bearing, used a now-familiar ritual to lower the water level for an hour. It took most of that hour to find and investigate the extent of the dragon’s hoard. In the end, in addition to the powerful holy symbol they’d found on the dragon herself, they turned up an old and powerful dwarves sword, and substantial monetary wealth, though much of the latter consisted of eleven ancient dwarven ancestor stones and a thousand-year dwarven whiskey preserved in a mithril flask.

Throughout their exploration and looting of the dragon’s knoll, the oppressive attention of Khalipanofax weighed on them, and thr sense of foes appreaching tickled them between the shoulderblades. Sardis assured them that the nearest dangers had hours to travel to reach them, but nobody wished to linger in the Greymire to find out if the ranger was right.

But where to go to escape the envious gaze of the Mistress of Hidden Knowledge? Sa Ra Ink suggested the Feywild, where all gods had difficulty seeing. It would, ze said, be possible to bring the entire group across the get veil if Swamp continued to reach for them.

Which they could all sense. Something difficult to articulate. A distinct feeling of the swamp itself, something primordial…under…the Mire, had, since Sa Ra Ink had issued their challenge to the god, been growing slowly closer in a way that made everyone eager to be away. Eirlys described it as the Feywild growing closer, pressed in towards them by something powerful. Sa Ra Ink’s plan was, apparently, to take them towards that in order to escape the minions of Khalipanofax.

It didn’t sound like a great idea to anyone, but they weren’t exactly spoiled for choice.

So they waited another hour for Swamp to grow close enough to allow the crossing. They waited largely in silence, not wanting the Dragon Queen to be privy to their counsels. They waited, each alone with their thoughts, trapped between the mind-crushing weight of a god’s attention and the stomach churning immenence of a primordial’s approach.

They began the ritual of crossing just as Sardis began hearing the distant cries of wyverns caried on a wind made preturnaturally cold by the approach of something even worse. A dragon, they guessed.

The group sat in a circle, hands clasped, beneath the evergreens that hid the dwarven ruins. Sa Ra Ink asked that Eirlys, as a native to the Feywild, help guide them all across the worlds to avoid the temporal shift that so often resulted from such travels. Soon the scenery began to blur around them as they were all gripped by a profound sense of rushing, at unimaginable speeds, backwards away from each other, though their hands remained clasped and their bodies maintained their relative distances from each other.

The sensation went on for a seemingly interminable several minutes. Suddenly, Sa Ra Ink let out a startled grunt as grasping vines and tendrils reached out from “behind” ze and, before anyone could do more than register what was happening, ze was torn from their circle, vanishing into the blur around then.

And then they all stopped, flattened briefly by perceived momentum, and lay panting on the ground in the Feywild Greymire.

Penilan 19: 102 RA — Half-Past Highmark in the Feywild Greymire

The party sat up inside some sort of sacred grove. The twilight of the Feywild prevailed beneath the boughs of a perfect circle of large cedar trees. A light snow was falling, peppered with flakes that glowed and pulsed like icy fireflies.

Ink was nowhere to be seen. While discussing whether to go search for the wizard, both Eirlys and Kalyx pointed out that finding ze might be a matter of figuring out when, rather than where, ze had gone. All agreed that what they needed most was rest.

But none of them felt safe laying down to rest in the center of what was almost certainly some sort of sacred Feywild grove. They looked to Eirlys for knowledge of what dangers might lie in wait nearby. Eirlys told them that the Feywild Greymire was home to a powerful fey spirit called Mathulial in the elven tongue, or Mother Mire in the Western tongue. Eirlys had never met this being, but the stories of her varied. In some she was dangerous and malevolent, in others, dangerous and helpful.

The party was hesitant to explore outside the grove, for fear of being discovered by Mother Mire. Eirlys suggested that she almost certainly already knew they’d come, and that it would be much ruder to “hide in her parlor,” as it were, “than to seek her out to introduce themselves.” That said, they decided to set out in search of the Lady of Greymire.

They walked out of the grove and, perhaps because of Mother Mire’s influence, or perhaps for some other reason, the Greymire was cloaked in the dark of night. The stars shone above, and occasional glowing snowflakes (or will-o-the-whisps?) flashed around them, but the ubiquitous twilight of the Feywild was gone. In the distance, roughly where the Waypoint had been in Mana’era, were warm-looking lights as of a cabin or hut. Before they could decide how best to cross the night swamp, a massive form resolved from the shadows around them, cloaked and looming.

“Rol,” it said. And again. Eirlys supposed that the great brute, whatever it was, had come from Mother Mire. It gestured them to follow. They did.

As “Rol” walked through the swamp, he dropped small stones behind him. The stones became an even, gravel path that eased the party’s passage to the home of Mother Mire.

Penilan 19ish: The Feywild – Nighttime at Mother Mire’s

Mother Mire’s home was, on the outside, the size of the Waypoint. On the inside it was, surprising no-one, bigger. They were greeted outside by a tall, slender, beautiful ashai woman who introduced herself as Estrid. She sourly, but formally, made them welcome as guests and bade them enter and meet her mother. Rol thumped off to attend to other matters and the party went inside.

Sitting by the fire, knitting, was a very old human woman with a dark, knowing glint in her eye. She introduced herself as Mother Mire, and the young, golden-haired ashai woman tending the fire and food as her other daughter, Alara. The beautiful young lady glanced up shyly in greeting ss Estrid went grumpily into the next room, from which the sounds of a quietly fussing baby emanated. They party exchanged nervous glances as Mother Mire made them welcome, and bade them sit and have tea.

As they sipped their tea, Mother Mire spoke of many things with varying degrees of intelligibility. She spoke of the honor in welcoming The Coldheart, meaning, apparently, Eirlys, to her home. The old fey spirit clearly knew of Eirlys from during the redemption wars.
She also seemed to know of Kalyx, and spoke of the young human’s grandsire, though she never named him aloud.

Mother Mire went on, in a roundabout manner, to describe her gratitude for their slaying of Evizanex, her amusement at their pissing off Khalipanofax, and her apparent certainty that Ink, “their friends,” would be along in due time, though it eas unclear what exactly that meant in a place with no day and night cycle.

As she went on, Alara (who cast shy smiles at Tomas Brighteyes throughout the conversation) brought out a tray of biscuits, offering one to each of them. When the group hesitated, Mother Mire cackled and hailed them as wise in their caution. She reassured them that the biscuits would do them no harm, but that to partake was to seal an agreement between them. If they would pledge to oppose Khalipanofax, Mother Mire would bestow gifts upon them beyond simple hospitality and solace.

Everyone but Leboch and Sergeant Thiele ate a biscuit. The food was simple, but delicious and filling. Once they had all eaten to her satisfaction, Mother Mire spoke with them about getting out of the Feywild, describing a path that involved one of the lost Wintergates of Setheris Om, that, to Eirlys’ surprise, was apparently still active some 50 miles northwest of the Greymire. She then bestowed her gifts.

The gifts were many, varied, and surprisingly, perhaps concerningly, lavish. Some were ephemeral, as with the grant of a mystical sense of direction for each of them (“so you can always fond your way back to Mother Mire’s, my poppet”); some were practical like the suit of drow-weave armor ahe gave to Sardis (“for the warrior who would always go first!”); and some were just plain peculiar, like the pair of ornate brass doorknobs she gave them (“two of them, my dears, one for coming and one for going”). Finally, she offered to improve Kalyx’s enchanted staff, saying that she’d have to keep it “overnight,” and that she would pull power from Kalyx’s dreams to do so.

By the end of the gifting, most of the party was quite drowsy, and Mother Mire ushered them off to bed in another adjoining room. As they headed off to their clean, surprisingly soft pallets, Mother Mire warned them that they might hear odd things in the night, and that, no matter what, they mustn’t interfere with Estrid and her baby. With that, the old woman laughed and the door to the sleeping room shut behind them, leaving them to sleep, exhausted, in the soft, eerie darkness of Mother Mire’s home.

Penilan 19-20ish, 102 RA: “Night” at Mother Mire’s Home

The party slept the sleep of exhaustion. All but Eirlys, who sat, as the elastin do, in silent contemplation, watchful but resting. Outside the room the Sur’Maga could hear occasional movement and the cry of an infant, though the latter seemed, now and again, to emanate from inside the sleeping room.

Some hours after they’d all turned in, Kalyx began to stir in her sleep, as though suffering some disturbing dream. Pulled from her meditation, Eirlys noticed that, across the room, a bulky, groaning shadow hunched and lurched in darkness where Tomas Brighteyes lay. The moaning sounds escalated in time with Kalyx growing more restless on her dreams.

Concerned, Eirlys rose to investigate. When she drew closer, she realized that the shadowy shape was Alara Miresdaughter, straddling Tomas, quietly, and perhaps somewhat literally, fucking his brains out.

Despairing of the yoing man’s judgment, Eirlys had nonetheless decided not to interrupt when, abruptly, a lot happened all at once.

Kalyx sat bolt upright, muttering something about what must be done, and began gathering lightning on her hand. At the same time, Sardis, who had been weakened by the lovers next to him, leaped from his bedroom and tackled Kalyx, shakomg her from her somnulant sorcery with a surprised about.

A flash like lightning and a roll of thunder filled the room along with the sounds of orgasm as everyone released their built up energy. Luckily, nothing lit on fire, though Alara fled the room, naked and cheeks ablaze with embarrassment in the moments that followed.

Everyone woke then, but nobody spoke. They all just stared at Tomas, who seemed to have aged decades in the past few hours.

Soon enough, they returned to their sleep, except Eirlys, who they left to guard them in the cold watches of the strange night.

Penilan 20ish, 102 RA: “Morning” at Mother Mire’s House

They woke to morning sunlight shining in through the fogged windows and slatted walls of Mother Mire’s home, broken by the lurching shadow of Rol moving around outside.

When the came out of the sleeping room, they found Rol standing in the doorway, framed by the Feywild night sky behind him. In the main living area, Mother Mire was again in her rocking chair, while Alara cooked. Estrid, now clearly hugely pregnant, cast a sour look at the party as she took an armload of wood from Rol, deposited it in a box by the fireplace, then retreated again to the adjacent room.

Alara avoided everyone’s eyes, and Tomas avoided Alara.

They broke their bread with the old swamp spirit and her daughters. Mother mire returned Kalyx’s now-improved staff, with a sly comment about the young sorcerer’s dreams.

After breakfast, Mother Mire told them that their friends, by which they thought she meant Ink, or Sa Ra Ink, or whatever, would be arriving soon. Allowing that Mother Mire’s sense of “soon” might be quite different from theirs, the party nonetheless took that as a cue to take their leave.

As they said their goodbyes, heading back out into the swamp, back towards the sacred grove per Mother Mire’s direction, the party thought, for a moment, that they could hear the sounds of a woman going into labor behind them.

PART 3

Penilan 20ish: 102 RA — In the endless night of the Feywild Greymire

Sa Ra Ink awoke on the ground in the middle of a circle of standing stones, within a grove of Feywild trees. A thunderstorm was descending on them, and the surrounding marshlands were undulating, almost bubbling, with the approach of primordial Swamp.

Their companions, fresh from Mother Mire’s, were trudging towards the grove, trying to find Sa Ra Ink, when the storm hit. As the lightning strikes fell, their touch awoke great, shambling mounds of muck and vegetation that moved to block their path.

Meanwhile, a four-headed, primordial hydra burst from the ground and attacked Sa Ra Ink, whose selves had so offended Swamp, betraying the ancient peace as the others had so very long ago.

A fight ensued. The party pressing forward, past the shambling mounds to help Sa Ra Ink, and Sa Ra Ink evading the hydra, praying to themselves for help to come.

As was always the case, the party prevailed, destroying the hydra and sending Swamp, temporarily as always, into retreat.

The party reunited, but uncomfortably. Sa Ra Ink was unsatisfied with the others’ accounts of what had happened in the home of Mathulial, and the others unsatisfied with Sa Ra Ink’s general inability to describe or even, apparently, perceive, the great differences that they had undergone in the past day or two.

Uneasily, they set about deciding a way out.

The Wintergates were tempting. Both the one to the northwest that Mother Mire had told them of, and the one nearer to the Ruby Vale that Eirlys suspected might still be active.

In the end though, they decided to revisit the inner sanctum of Khalipanofax’s Feywild temple instead. Well, re-visit for all but Sardis, who had never been there. In fact, though Sa Ra Ink, Kalyx, and Eirlys had all been there before, they hadn’t been there together, or at the same time.

Nonetheless, they knew it was a way out of the Feywild (albeit through a portal to random destinations), and Ink knew the proper sigils to get into the Sanctum from elsewhere in the Feywild.

So, through some consternation, it was decided, and the wizard set about opening a portal to the Jade Queen’s high Feywild temple.

The primordial forces of earth and fire had been at work over the last year-and-a-half. When the portal opened, virtually all of the room was collapsed into magma. Only a small island of solid stone still remained, with a large portal floating above, flickering rapidly through many seven or eight colors.

With their collective knowledge and experience, they determined the color that would lead them to D’kath, and, putting Sardis in charge, leaped through the portal.

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Session 40 (Season 2, Episode 8) (Penilan 19, 102 RA)
Travel by Tree

Penilan 19: Southern Greybane Mountains – Morning 8wands.jpg
After Pony stormed out, the party spent quite a while discussing how to proceed. They all agreed that investigating the Erathine Glacier Waypoint first was no longer a good option. Not only would it by challenging to avoid the wyverns, it was also an obvious destination such that, even if they evaded the wyverns, there was a fair chance of being found at the Waypoint itself. Unsure, as of yet, about who or what was riding the wyverns, and the agenda of said riders, the party decided to do something unexpected.

After reviewing the different Waypoints they were supposed to investigate, the party decided to go north to the Waypoint at the caldera of Mt. Aerulan, situated where the Briarwood climbed the slopes of the Greybane Mountains. Some debate ensued as to the best way to cross the distance, until Sardis asked why they couldn’t just step from tree to tree, as Ink had arranged during their fight with the howlers.

Ink started to dismiss the notion, saying that the ritual could only create a portal between trees within…sight…
It took only moments for the whole party to realize that though the treestride ritual couldn’t take them all the way to Mt. Aerulan, it could allow them to traverse dozens of miles at a single step, and to do so with virtually no chance of being spotted by the wyvern riders.

Shortly thereafter, the eight of them fled the Waypoint, and followed the nearby ravine into deeper tree cover. After about an hour travel on foot, after which they were all fairly sure that the wyvern riders couldn’t see them anymore, Ink worked ze’s magic.

About a half hour and two magical transportations later, the group emerged from a large cedar tree about a half-hour’s march from the Waypoint at the caldera of Mt. Aerulan.

Penilan 19: Mid-Morning — Mt. Aerulan Waypoint

They approached the Waypoint cautiously. Sure enough, as the wood-and-stone structure came into view through the trees, it had been reduced to a pile of wood and charred logs. Even in snow, it was apparent to Sardis and Eirlys that the Waypoint and surrounding trees had been attacked by fire, from the air, and quite deliberately. Deciding they needed more information, Kalyx, Ink, Mara, and Sgt. Thiele remained at the Waypoint to investigate while Sardis, Eirlys, Leboch, and Tomas set out into the alpine forest to see what else they could discover.

Ink and Kalyx were able to determine, from the feel of the auras and the nature of the destruction around the ruin that the fire that had rained down had been divine in origin. More, Ink could feel that the location was, very subtly, now sacred to Aerus, god of fire and war. All signs pointed to the wyvern riders being Aechellans, and ordained of their god, as strange as it sounded. It was also clear that they had very deliberately sought to disrupt and destroy the Waypoint’s teleportation circle, perhaps three months ago. They found no sign of the Explorer’s Guild expedition sent to look into the Waypoint’s inaccessibility, though that could be accounted for by the dangers of the Greybane’s themselves.

Meanwhile, Sardis and Eirlys found subtle signs of repeated, small caravans passing through the area as recently as a few weeks ago, and dating as far back as last winter. Because of the passage of time and, especially, the snow, it was very difficult to tell how often the caravans came through, but it was clear that, until about three months ago, the caravans had appeared at the Waypoint and traveled east, then, about three months ago, they had started traveling from the west and passing near the Waypoint on their way east.

When the party reconvened at the Waypoint, they drew the following conclusions:

— Someone, likely Aechell, had been using the Explorer’s Guild path through the Greybanes to bring supplies from near or inside Aechell to somewhere east of the Caldera Waypoint.

— The caravans had been small. Not enough to feed or supply any meaningfully large invading force. They had come on horses and mules, not with carts or wagons.

— Based on the signs found so far, the most likely known destinations would be the Ruby Vale or Broken Spire, though the Greybanes are full of ruins and points of interest, so it’s hard to say.

— Probably the caravans had been using the teleportation circle found at the Caldera Waypoint until fairly recently. The party supposed that they had stopped, and destroyed the Waypoint, out of concern that the Mage’s or Explorer’s Guild would stumble upon the caravans if the circle was left functional.

After a little additional exploration to the east of the Waypoint, the party found that the caravan trail split. Some of the caravans (or some part of the caravans), had been diverted towards Mt. Aerulan’s caldera, while the rest had continued east into the mountains. The party decided to investigate the caldera-bound path before continuing east.

The party followed the caravan trail up switchbacks, above the treeline, towards the smoking crater of Mt. Aerulan. As the forest thinned and disappeared, the landscape became bleaker and increasingly riddled with cracks, caves, and rents emitting smoke, steam, and sulfurous fumes. Eventually, somewhat abruptly, after running along a scree-covered slope a couple hundred feet below the lip of the crater, the signs of the caravans just…stopped. The party looked around for anything out of the ordinary and noticed a large crack, tucked up against a bluff, among some large rock formations, suspiciously free of smoke and noxious fumes. Being adventurers, and thus unable to resist any sort of hole in the ground, the party approached. As they did so, several of them sensed the malign energies of the Nine Hells emanating from the earth below.

The crack was almost 10 feet wide, and ran along the base of the cliff for some 60 feet. It was deep, some 200 feet by Sardis’ estimation. For a moment, nobody saw anything out of the ordinary, then several of the noticed, perhaps 5 or 6 feet below the lip of the crevasse, obscured by a rocky protrusion, were some chains, hanging down into the blackness below and connected to some difficult-to-see pulley and crank system.

Sardis, who had been staring, listening, and sniffing intently at the darkness below, abruptly launched into an explanation of what they were seeing. There was a platform, he said, that could be raised on the chains they were seeing. It was meant to be raised and lowered from below; there was no mechanism for raising it from the top. It was likely used for carrying people and supplies between the surface and whatever lay below.

A guard post, he said, lay below. There was at least one dwarf, and at least one devil, and they had noticed that someone was peering down the crack.

The party considered, briefly, going down the hole to investigate, or attack, but ultimately decided that the crack should be noted, not explored for now. As they made their way back to the treeline, hustling when they considered the possibility that wyverns might be inbound, Eirlys spoke of her theory of what lay at the bottom of the crack.

The dead dwarven ruins of Marak Dur lay within the western face of the mountain now known as Aerulan. Marak Dur had been a ruin since the Throck-Dwarf War, five hundred years before the rise of Khalipanofax. What was left of the city was considered, by the Explorer’s Guild largely looted, as many explorer’s had sought out the lost treasures of the dwarves in the centuries since the throck’s had ruined the city with magma. Eirlys’ guess was that, what lay at the bottom of the crack was some distant, unexplored corner of Marak Dur. There was still a Waypoint near the great gates of the ancient city, she recalled, if the party wanted to explore further.

Instead, they decided to follow the supply trail farther east. Quick as that, Ink was drawing sigils on the bark of a great, bare maple tree, and the party was crossing a dozen miles in a single step. As they exited onto the snow-covered and less-wooded slope east of Mt. Aerulan, Eirlys suggested that they make for the Waypoint at the Greymire, a large, icy salt marsh that filled a valley in the direction they were headed. As they made their way east, they could look back and see a pair of what must have been wyverns, circling above the western slope of the Aerulan Caldera.

Penilan 19: Midday – The Greymire Waypoint

As they neared the Greymire Waypoint, the party was only mildly surprised to see it burnt and partially collapsed. Unlike the Caldera Waypoint, this one had not been razed, but, seemingly, only half-heartedly attacked. The mostly-wooden structure was still, in fact, partially roofed, and intact enough to use as a shelter, especially in combination with Ink’s knack for employing nature spirits to build hidden, sheltered campsites.

As Ink, Kalyx, and Sardis sat inside the cabin, seeing to it’s support and working ink’s ritual, Eirlys, Sgt. Thiele, Tomas Brighteyes, and Leboch the Bitter searched the area around the Waypoint for dangers and items of interest. While the eladrin and young Brighteyes explored behind the Waypoint shelter, Sgt Thiele and Leboch checked out front, near the water and around the icy pier.

Just as the ritual ended, there was a shout, and a splash, and several party members caught a glimpse of a large black dragon as it’s head, Leboch in its mouth, pulled swiftly back into the murky water.

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