The Seven Cities

Session 58 (Season 2, Episode 21 -- Penilan 27, 102 RA)
The Binding of Khalipanofax

Penilan 27: Night — The Palace Ballroom, Cormorell

SaRa Ankh of the Sedge and of the Bee ran up to the still glowing circle, their pupiless eyes reflecting the complex sigils; reaching out to hold the powerful knit of magical energies. “She made a mistake… He always does.” They spoke quietly, then to their friends, “Rest while you can.”

With that Ankh threw off their cloak and continued ritualized motions as their words echoed in the chamber. Below their cloak they wore their desert sleeveless shirt and skirt. Complex spiraling tattoos wrapping around Their body, humming with energy. Starting at Their left hand, with each word spoke in the ritual, each of the tiny pictograms turned gold and glowed with power.

Ankh’s unseen servant was not, now, unseen at all. A translucent, phantom-like humanoid with the head of some long-beaked bird retrieved a scroll from ink’s pack and rushed it to Bruel the Raven, then stood before him expectantly. Bruel, understanding, hesitantly began releasing the magics of the scroll while the others tended their wounds, rested, and guarded the entrances to the ballroom.

Soon enough, several of the party noticed that in one corner of the huge, strangely-lit room, spider lightning seemed to crawl occasionally a long the mirrored, crystal wall. When they turned their attention to the strange disturbance, a small, humanoid form, a halfling dressed in ragged robes, appeared from behind a veil of invisibility.

The little man held his hands up in a gesture of harmlessness, and begged the not to hurt him. He named himself Birnis, and, in the manner of the truly mad, claimed to be a follower of The Lady of Storms, here to speak prophecy. The group concluded this to mean that he was a follower of Penelia.

He spoke, over and over, in tones declaratory and breathless by turns, words known to several of them: “The Sun will embrace the Serpent!,” and “The Sun will engulf the Serpent!” Gesturing madly all the while at Ankh muttering arcanely at the center of an increasingly vivid magical circle.

The prophet of Penelia went on, laying alleged prophecy before them with an urgency that brought all of them to sharp, if exhausted, attention…

The Man of Many Things will find his long lost joy;
an island of safety in the Sea of Chaos

…and more…

The Oldest & the Newest see their obstacles removed;
a bastion of order in the Sea of Chaos

…and yet more…

The Sun sets in the west.
And may yet Set in the south.

At this, Ankh’s head snapped up, their pupiless eyes looking straight at the servant of Penillia. “Witness Me”, Ankh said, in an echoing voice, thrumming with power.

And the halfling noded and intoned…

But the Sundered King
The Six
Must be rejoined to stem the coming flood

With this last, he begged to know that they had heard, and understood. Kalyx especially committed the halfling’s words to memory, nodding. Birnis repeated his original mad rant: “The Sun will embrace the Serpent! The Sun will engulf the Serpent!”

And then he leaped to his feet, darted past them to the balcony, and before any of them could do more than start in his direction, he flung himself to the flagstones 30 feet below, where he splattered and was then struck by lightning.

A thunderstorm had somehow crept up on them, and now rumbled and flashed ominously as Ankh’s chanting increased in intensity.

As the party walked back in from the balcony, the space seemed both different and the same. The mirrored ballroom yes, but also something older. Stone, grand columns, hieroglyphs all around. Visible for the first time, though it felt like an immutable and ever-present part of the space, was a small cylinder of light, from the top of the room, somehow peaked beyond the ceiling, casting down into the center of Ankh’s ritual circle.

At this time, the ritual Bruel completed his ritual scroll. There on the floor appeared Ankh’s chest. Without a moment’s hesitation, Ankh’s spirit-servant threw open the lid and lifted up the Kor’Kana, mate to the Sar’kana and other half of the Guardian of the Kaenti. Whether it flew across the room or was quickly carried by the servant was unclear, but with a crack of energy, the Kor’Kana was in Ankh’s hands.

There was a moment of silence as Ankh, floating eerily above the ritual circle, held the Kor’Kana aloft. The power in the room was more than palpable, it was nearly overwhelming. The silence was then broken by Ankh’s words, spoken in Supernal, the language of the gods, but understood by all:

Here we are. Sons of Geb, sons of the earth.
Here we are. Daughters of Nuet, daughters of sky.

Ankh turned to Kalix, their golden eyes spilling with light,

I name you, Isis, Queen of the Throne. Weret-Kekau (The meaning somehow clear in everyone’s head, “the Great Magic”) and Mut-Netjer. ("Mother of Gods”)

Gently, in her head alone, Kalix could feel Ankh’s voice, “I give you, my love, that which you most desire. A chance.”

Ankh then turned to Sardis with the same intensity;

I name you, Haroeris. Hor pa khered.
Horus the Elder.
Horus the Avenger.
Horus the Raptor.

Somehow that last line had particular weight, as Ankh’s voice settled into Sardis’s head and stated simply, “Guide their way”

At this point Ankh turned towards Erlys, pupiless gold staring at pupiless silver,

I name you, Nepthys, former consort of Set. Mistress of the House, Mistress of the Heavens.

The calm voice settled into Erlys head, “Help her protect my Ba (soul)”

Ankh then turned, seeming to yell at the heavens, at the light coming down from the Apex of the pyramid, voice booming with power.

I am Osiris, son of Atem Ra. I am Ankhet, daughter of Nuet.
Pharaoh of the Sedge and of the Bee.
Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Mokiir.
Defender of the Ma’at.
The Foremost of the Westerners,
Lord of Silence.

Here we stand, the Ennand. Here we stand to Judge.
You are a mere shadow of the glory We have been, are, and will be.

Defeat Us, or be Forgotten.

You cracked the door, now I tear it open!

With that, Ankh reached to the heavens, large golden, phantom hands extending up to the apex of the pyramid where the small circle of light laid upon Ankh. The hands tore at the edges of the light, and the room felt like someone was knocking a hole in a damn of power. The light which had been a small trickle to the center of the ritual circle was now a torrent of rushing power the size of the inscribed circle. The room was overwhelmingly bright, and wind whipped Ankh as they floated in the river of light. In the din, Ankh’s voice was clear:

I Call to you Set

With a ceremonial knife none had seen, in the hand opposite the Kor’Kanna, Ankh sliced at their leg, very apparently cutting an artery…

I Compel you Jade One

And at those words, they sliced their other leg. If they had not been floating, it seemed unlikely they could have stood after this…

I Summon you Typhon

Here they slashed at the wrist holding the Kor’Kanna. They would have dropped it if they had not immediately discarded the ceremonial knife and clasped the Kor’Kanna in both hands.

Accept my embrace, or be Engulfed

As they floated now several feet above the circle, an improbably large pool of blood filling, then surging past the boundaries of the ritual circle, Ankh’s eyes glowed like the sun. The final pictograms of the spiraling tattoos flickered from black to gold. The moment stretched out; time seemed to stop. For a brief moment all was frozen, quiet. Those gathered in that frozen moment of time felt like Ankh turned, looked directly at them specifically, and softly spoke, “Old magic, true magic, only comes with sacrifice”

In that frozen moment, Ankh grasping the Kor’Kanna with both hands, thrust the haft through their right eye. Ankh arched back and screamed, as time was rushing by once more. A deep scream of pain, and rage, and challenge. As they screamed, their mouth seemed to distend and widen. The light began to flow into Ankhs mouth. It’s color had changed to the color of jade, shaded in black and white. And as the light flowed into Ankh, Ankh’s skin began to take on the color of green, the color of life and of death. The light filled Ankh, and the golden tattoos beamed. As their scream still echoed in the grand chamber, the light finished filling Ankh; and with that, they collapsed to the ground in the middle of the pool of blood.

When they stood again, they were not Ankh.

A pale, beautiful, elven woman with ebony hair that reflected the fading green light of Ankh’s circle with an eerie, almost living sheen. She rose, naked, from the floor with exquisite grace, and, for just a moment, looked down at herself in tightly-controlled alarm, as though shocked to find herself there, or, perhaps, to find her Self there. She glared down at the golden spirals that twined about her body, an eerie echo of Ankh’s tattoos.

As she raised her head to look at the party with pupiless, jade-colored eyes, the pool of Ankh’s blood drew itself up and around her, forming a close-fitting emerald gown in an elegant eladrin style. A beatific smile softened her features as she spread her arms wide, as though in welcome. At the same time, in the chaotic recursive reflections of the ballroom, appeared shimmering images, echoes of reflections, of huge, draconic heads: black, white, and green. Sibilant whispers echoed through the chamber just beneath conscious understanding.

Khalipanofax spoke to them then, her gaze focused squarely on Kalyx. Her voice was smooth and warm. She was, she said, pleased to see them, and hopeful that they might take a lesson from their companion, Ankh, who had, very clearly, decided that her presence and aid would be needed in the coming times of trouble.

The Jade Queen might have gone on, likely at length, but none wished to give her poisonous words the chance to sway them. Kalyx, with a crackling rage known only to those bearing a lifelong grudge, prepared to unleash lightning upon her “mother” made flesh…

…but Sardis Darathuun went first.

Taking his cue from the tension in the air around Kalyx, Sardis leaped forward, warpicks a blur of motion, seeking to strike down the goddess before anyone could react. before he could close within ten feet, something unseen, save for a blurred, black reflection in a nearby pillar, struck Sardis, and knocked him aside like a toy.

With a hiss of anger, Khalipanofax, clearly done with having her monologues interrupted, spread her arms, hair and gown whipping wildly in the storm winds blowing in from outside, and began to grow. She grew and swelled until she loomed over her enemies. Wings, a tail, and the necks and heads of dragons spread out from her as if coalescing from her own reflection. She towered and expanded until her outstretched wings blocked the flashes from the storm’s lightning, and the horns of her heads dug gouges in the crystal ceiling, showering shards down on their heads. The heroes froze in abject, helpless terror as the dreaded goddess of dragons and secrets roared her rage at them, cursing them for fools, traitors, and ungrateful children.

For several moments, it seemed as though all might be lost.

As the party stood stunned by the dark majesty before them, the Queen of Lies blew out a deadly blast of mixed acid, ice, and poison, bringing several of them to their knees. She began to lay about her with her teeth and stinging tail, shattering the crystal room, and forcing her foes to shake themselves from stupor and fling themselves to the side.

Soon enough, the three companions of Ankh, aided by the Ravens of Sephalia, joined battle, however hopeless it might seem, against Khallipanofax, Goddess of Dragons.

Following their initial terror, the party found the battle closer to possible than they might have hoped. Despite her immense power, despite her dread rage, the enormous Three Headed Dragon was hard pressed by her mortal opponents. Indeed, to her intense frustration, Khalipanofax seemed unable to land any blow at all against Eirlys, who not only turned the Queen’s snapping jaws aside from herself, but deflected some of her blows against others. It seemed impossible, but perhaps, just perhaps, the weary heroes might survive the fight, or, beyond even imagining, snatch a narrow victory from the terrible situation.

As the battle raged on, it became clear to them that the Great Dragon was being handicapped. At moments, rather than diving to bite at her foes, one of her heads would shake as though confused, or murmur something in a strange language. Soon enough, they realized that Ankh was not, as it had seemed, gone, or devoured. Sa Ra Ankh of the Sedge and of the Bee remained, a vessel, having embraced and engulfed the Jade Queen. They were there, working against Her from the inside. Lashing out with Their own magics, pulling back a killing blow, and impeding the Goddess where They could. More importantly, both Kalyx and Eirlys realized that Ankh had somehow bound Khalipanofax to Mana’era with Their sacrifice. To slay Her now would not merely banish an avatar, or weaken her. Killing Khalipanofax here in the Crystal Ballroom would slay her indeed, breaking her upon the rocks of her own former mortality. If they could win this fight, they might rid the world of the Queen of Lies forever.

They redoubled their efforts.

One of the Ravens was slain. Nearly all of the heroes were wounded to near-death. Kalyx herself was almost turned by force back to Mother’s service, which would most likely have spelled doom for all of them.

But there came a moment. Just as they had all begun to fear that they would fail of simple exhaustion before they could defeat the Beast. After the Crystal Ballroom had been cracked, shattered, and broken beyond any hope of repair. As the hope of victory had just begun to fade, the Jade Queen’s efforts moved from pursuit of victory to pursuit of escape.

She almost succeeded. Teleporting, smashing, and attempting to fly out any exits she could, Khalipanofax attempted to flee the losing battle. Knowing, even better than her enemies, that her immortal life was at stake, she tried all she could, cursing them all the while, to flee the Ballroom, and Cormorell, and seek release from the bindings Ankh had placed on her. But she could not. When she tried to flee, Ankh’s will forestalled her. They whispered lies to the Queen of Lies, They turned her from her path, They fought against her from the inside with the last glimmering vestiges of Their own will.

And They succeeded. With a final crack of lightning, Kalyx struck the swaying Dragon Queen down. The flash and thunder hit with such force that all were thrown to the ground. The shriek of Khalipanfax seared their minds as her life was stricken from her.

Everything was quiet then, but for the falling of rain outside.

As they stirred back, they found Ankh, bloody, burned, and broken, laying naked and covered in Their own binding tattoos…gasping out their final breath.

“I was, I am, I will be…”

And then Sa Ra Ankh of the Sedge and of the Bee, bound to Khalipanofax, Goddess of Secrets, Lies, Dragons, and Treachery, broke into motes of glowing dust, faded, and disappeared, leaving only a pile of books, robes, and magical implements behind.

Sessions 56 & 57 (Season 2, Episode 20 -- Penilan 27, 102 RA)
Have Fun Storming the Castle

Penilan 27: Late afternoon — The Temple of the Silver Bow five_wands.jpg

They rested through most of the day. A few hours before sunset, they met with Queen Persephone in the lower gardens to plan.

The Resurrected General apologized, briefly for her display of emotion when she had first awakened and, that done, set about the business of preparing for war. She made it clear that, as they had chosen to bring her back, she expected them to aid her in those preparations.

First and foremost, what she needed, and what she asked the party to help with immediately, was to hold Cormorell. Everything, for her, had started with Cormorell, and she was damned well not going to let it fall to Khalipanofax again.

She asked Koch…Sardis to go with Korpala and two other Ravens into the city to scout and report back. She gave the hacholu a small sheaf of ritual scrolls that would allow them to send messages back to her at the Temple. Sardis and the Ravens left

Next she asked of the party to give her a basic rundown of the current political situation in the Western Lands; recent and current events; and a quick summary of the hundred-and-two years she’d been dead. It took a while, but between the various party members there was an impressive amount of historical lore and experience, and they were able to impart a reasonably good, if not in-depth, overview.

That done, Persephone turned to the immediate and short-term necessities. As soon as possible, she said, she would need Ageon. She secured Kalyx’s promise that she would seek out her ancestor as soon as she could.

The Queen would also, she noted, need to send emissaries to Lobenahl. As they discussed this, and the possibility that Ink and Sardis might move some of the Shade and Grau Berg to Cormorell to help Persephone hold it, a little bird flew into the temple and perched on the Queen’s ear.

A moment later she stood and with urgent intensity, told them that the scouts were reporting goblinoid and draconic scouting parties in the air above and on the ground within the city. They also reported two moderate-sized forces, one moving towards the palace, and one moving towards the Temple. She asked them to please take the three remaining Ravens and attempt to prevent the northern party from taking the palace. They would be, she said, very difficult to dig out if they were able to fortify a position within. The party agreed, and within a half hour they were riding mystical steeds madly through the ruined city while the late winter sun fell towards the clear western horizon.

Penilan 27: Dusk — Crossing Cormorell
They sped through the streets, avoiding patrols where they could and outpacing them when they couldn’t. As they neared the palace, Kalyx and one of the Ravens began to fall behind. At the same time, the group caught sight of a dragon circling the palace, as well as a moderate ground-force made up of several dozen infantry and several large, draconic creatures. The enemy force was clearly also bound for the palace.

It became a race. Soon enough it became clear that the Khalians were splitting their forces, sending the faster half in a rush towards the palace, and the slower at an angle to intercept the party. It also became clear that though Ankh, Eirlys, and their Ravens would beat the enemy to the palace causeway, Kalyx and her Raven couldn’t hope to keep up. The party would be separated.

Operating on the theory that it would be much harder to attack than defend the bridge, Ankh and Eirlys led two of the Ravens in a successful dash to take the bridge. The forerunners of the enemy force split, with the bulk of them rushing across the bridge after them, and a small force of infantry splitting off to intercept Kalyx and her Raven.

Despite being outnumberd almost three-to-one, despite the enemy infantry turning out to be fiends in draconic garb, despite the multiple vicious dragonspawn, the party was quite victorious. Much of their success involved tossing their enemies off the causeway and down into the rushing river gorge.

They finished their foes quickly enough so that the rest of the enemy force, a full phalanx of hobgoblins, had still not quite reached the bridge by the time the fight was over.

Seeking a more defensible position and, ideally, a moment’s rest, the party raced across the causeway, across the ruined palace courtyard, and in through the front gate. Moments before the hobgoblins reached the causeway, Sardis and one of the Ravens came dashing along the edge of the plaza. The two hacholu sprinted ahead of the pursuing foes, attaining the gates just as the last of the sun set behind the western hills.

Coming full circle, the heroes entered the blessed and broken palace at nightfall, having entered the dark palace of Shadriel at dawn the day before.

Penilan 27: Nightfall — The Palace of Cormorell

They caught their breath in the grand, night-dark palace foyer. Through an archway beyond them lay the throne room, the far-end cast in shadows even with Ink’s magelight shining brightly. In the grand tower stairwell above them, shapes flitted about at the edge of the light. Watchers of some kind, they assumed. The party had barely had time to catch their breath, and hadn’t yet tended their wounds when Ankh leaped to their feet and announced that “Set” was being summoned to mana’era at that very moment, up in the ballroom where they had met Shadriel the day before.

For the most part, the party understood that when Ankh said “Set,” they meant Khalipanofax. Ankh dashed towards the stairs and the party dashed after them.

A moment later, Sardis had been hit by an arrow from somewhere on the stairway above, and a flock of strange, small, green draconic devils flooded down the stairs towards them all. The strange creatures harried the heroes, and belched out clouds of choking poison that lingered horribly and wracked all but Sardis with horrible wracking coughs.

Slowed to a near halt by harrying wings and noxious clouds, under fire from a hidden archer above, the party was understandably dismayed when the cry of a wyvern echoed down from the tower stair.

Fortunately, Ankh knew a spell that lured all of the enemies like moths to a flame towards the old, tarnished chandelier that hung above the entry hall.

It worked. The abashai devils flocked towards the center of Ankh’s spell. The archer, a lanky ahluvogren, dropped to the ground level, and a moment later great winged wyvern dropped down from the levels above. All stood, drawn to the strange lure of Ankh’s magic.

The rest was just a matter of picking off the immobilized foes. Ankh risked their life to hold the lure in place while the others faught their way up the stairs inch by grueling inch.

And, when they finally reached the grand ballroom on the third floor, they found a great, petrified skeleton of a dragon blocking the entrance.

Beyond the dragon, they could see a large magic circle, glowing with a dull green light; a young green dragon, no bigger than a draft horse, laying meekly at it’s center. Around it, almost gliding between the pillars of the ballroom, strode a tall, gaunt figure, dressed in dark robes, holding a ceremonial dagger aloft and chanting in draconic.

Both Eirlys and Kalyx recognized the robed figure as Doratha, a former Sorcerer Priest of Khalipanofax and one of Kalyx’s Wardens.

Two of the Ravens died fighting the petrified dragon. While Ankh, Sardis, and Kalyx kept it busy, Eirlys teleported past it, into the room, and began to harry Doratha while a flaming skull screamed through the air belching necrotic blasts at the party.

Eirlys closed with Doratha just as Sardis pushed the skeletal dragon back and the rest of the party rushed into the room. Kalyx blasted the creepy flaming skull out of the air, but not before she and Eirlys recognized its ethereal features as being those of Doratha’s Sur’maga, which implied dark things about the Warden’s recent deeds.

Abruptly, the green dragon sat up, eyes aglow, and a mellifluous voice called for a stop to the fighting, offering a chance to parlay.

The heroes didn’t even pause, and pressed their attack, seeking to not only interrupt the ritual, but to put down one of the Jade Queen’s servants for good.

The sultry voice of the goddess declared a retreat. The ritual was ruined, and the _Sar’kana_must be kept from the hands of the intruders. For indeed, what the party had thought was a ritual knife was, upon closer look, a stone spearhead…the blade they had come to retrieve for the Ruby Vale Kaenti.

Eirlys lashed out at Doratha, seeking to freeze her in place, but the undead eladrin sorceress teleported to the back of the young green dragon, who immediately took flight through the great archways at the north end of the ballroom, up and away from the heroes’ attempted pursuit.

The great, skeletal, stone dragon followed, lumbering across the ballroom, and launching improbably into the sky, despite its fleshless wings.

The party, thoroughly disheartened, saw no way to give chase. Out side the palace, the voice of the dragon could be heard sounding the retreat to the goblinoids still pounding on the palace doors downstairs.

While the rest of them caught their breath and uttered curses at the near-miss, Sa Ra Ankh of the Sedge and of the Bee began shouting instructions, and dropped to their knees within the still-faintly-glowing ritual circle left by Doratha, muttering to themself and hurrying to undertake some manner of ritual, clearly hoping to make use of the magics still bound in the mirrored room of mithril and crystal.

Session 55 (Season 2, Episode 19 -- Penilan 26-27, 102 RA)
Return of the Queen

lovers_tarot.jpgThe sun was touching the western horizon when they left Shadriel’s Palace. In the preparatory hours before they left Sardis and Sa Ra Ankh each spent significant time with Shadriel, planning, plotting, and learning. Sardis secured from the Necromancer, along with historical knowledge about the Order of the Ravens, a letter making formal request to the Ravens sworn to Hous4e Lobenali to aid in the resurrection of Queen Persephone. Ankh acquired a great deal of knowledge, and worked closely with the Necromancer to modify the traditional resurrection rituals for the purpose at hand. The peculiar wizard also found the time to construct several minor magical items, including a golden dragon-head circlet like the one they themselves wore.

As they departed, the Necromancer gave assurances that his undead servants and minions would not trouble them so long as they traveled with light. He also agreed, with a dry laugh and a note of something like glee in his voice, to take his armies to Aechell once free.

With that, they parted ways with Shadriel Lobenali, and traveled back to the Temple of the Silver Bow to resurrect his sister.

Penilan 26: Night at the Temple of the Silver Bow
They crossed the city without incident, though slavering undead haunted their steps all the way. When they reached the Temple, they were welcomed, but caution colored the bearings of the monks and priests in a way it had not before.

The party said that they would share news of their time with the Necromancer at a conclave of the priesthood. They were told that High Cleric Talmerriss was engaged in other bisoness, but that their request would be conveyed.

Several hours passed. While they waited, Kalyx and Sa Ra Ankh both went to pray…or commune…or seek comfort at the tomb of the even queen. Eirlys went to the party’s rooms to think. And Sardis went to find Korpala, head of the Ravens of the Silver Bow.

He found the monk sharing dinner with two other Ravens. Once invited to join them, Sardis somewhat cautiously raised the question of where the Ravens would stand if the party sought to bring Queen Persephone back to life.

It took some doing, but after makeing several arguments to the effect of it being the Ravens’ duty to preserve her life in the first place, Sardis produced the letter from Shadriel, pointing out that the Necromancer was the closest thing to a living Lobenali that existed right now, and that he wished for the queen to be raised. He left them all with the pointed comment that whether or not to return should be left to Persephone herself as part of the ritual, not to a mortal priest, however wise.

A few hours after they returned to the Temple, they were summoned to the second Conclave of the priesthood in as many days.

Their proposal for the resurrection of Queen Persephone was met with tremendous resistance. Contempt, disdain, and even some vitriol colored the words of both Ornorall, who spoke of regretting sharing his lore with them, and High Priest Talmerriss, who was clearly of the opinion that the party had fallen under the dark influence of the Necromancer, just as she’d feared. The rest of the priests were similarly, at first, disposed against them.

But slowly, Kalyx and Ankh, with Sardis and Eirlys chiming in with their support, swayed most of the room. At first it was just Paraneith and Valtesis who seemed to see the party’s point. Eventually, Sorukide was turned as well, though his reasons caused concern for Eirlys. Eventually, the party had made such effective and impassioned arguments, that when Talmeriss, supported by Ornorall, flat forbade the ritual, the other three priests drew their bows against them. Realizing aloud that Korpala, standing still behind her, was signaling the Ravens’ support of the forbidden ritual, the High Priest lowered her weapon and told Ornorall to do the same. Speaking doom to them all, she cast aside her silver bow, forswore her place at the temple, and stalked out. Ornorall, after going below to gather some of his things, followed her.

Quiet settled over the Lower Gardens for quite some time. The three remaining priests were clearly shocked, both by what they’d just done, and what had followed. Soon enough though, there was nothing for it but to begin the long ritual of resurrection.

Penilan 27: Midnight to Dawn—The Temple of the Silver Bow

The preparations took some time, and the long rituals (for there were several) did not begin until shortly before midnight.

Sa Ra Ankh lead Kalyx and Eirlys in nine hours of complex chanting, anointing, wrapping, and cleansing. Sardis watched them, standing guard against any attempted intervention by Talmerriss or Ornorall. The remaining priests stood by as well, unwilling, despite their support, to so flagrantly go against the will of the until-recently head of their order.

The hours of night dragged on. Incense was burned, sacred libations imbibed, candles lit, extinguished, and lit again. As dawn approached, the air in the temple grew almost unbearably hot and dry. The atmosphere was dense with a heavy, thick feeling of power, and something like a note of music too deep to hear thrummed with increasing intensity through the Temple.

Eventually, when the air was so thick that breathing had become painful, when the deep resonance made them dizzy, when their minds and bodies seemed almost ready to give out, dawns first light reflected down into the temple from the crystal dome above, illuminating the upper gardens in a flash of blinding light that brought with it an explosive release of power that flung them all to the ground and unconscious. Everything went black.

Penilan 27: Shortly After Dawn—The Temple of the Silver Bow

When they came to, sunlight was streaming into the upper gardens, and there were no sounds save the babbling spring below, and the sobbing of the elven queen.

Persephone sat, hands covering her face, the remnants of the ritual linens hanging from her, wracked and shaking with sobs. Soon enough, she looked up, tears streaking her face and asked, “How could you??”

She went on to exclaim that if she’d known it was him, she wouldn’t have come back. They shouldn’t have listened to him. Now, she said, she was returned, and (to their surprise), Cormorell was cleansed; but Shadriel was gone, and the Blessing was gone, and with it, the last significant barrier to the Primordials return. “They are coming,” sad the tearful queen, “now.”

Soon enough, the priests began to wake, and after their initial overwhelming awe had subsided to mere zealous reverence for the Goddess Risen, Persephone was guided to rooms where she could clean and collect herself, and everyone could take stock of what had happened.

Outside, it was a beautiful, sunny, late-winter day. The crisp air held the first shadings of spring, and the black ruin of Cormorell now shone brightly, if brokenly, in the sun. The city was no longer tainted by the Nemesis and was, indeed, Blessed as had been all the lands of the west for over a century. Inside, both Talmerriss and Ornorall were indeed gone, and everyone was, though weary almost beyond words, hale and well.

The party, desperately in need of rest and food, returned to their quarters in the pilgrims dormatory. Before they went to their beds, Sa Ra Ankh spoke:

“Friends, now that we are alone I wish to express all that has transpired. We had suspected that Shadriel was up to more than they were letting on. We observed in glimpses over his shoulder, at half opened pages. I had put together that Helios was going to cleanse the city for his sister, and remove himself and his minions to the shadowfell. I did not realize how significant the vacuum of energy was going to be. Ma’at seeks balance.”

“Some of you may have noticed the signet ring used in the ritual. The orb always rolls in circles. In the times of Iskur é-gal-la the twins had been in this same circumstance. Then, the Immortal Meshlamtaea ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and their twin, the mortal Lugalirra ‘Mighty Queen’ were seperated much like Shadriel and Persphone. To save Lugalirra, Meshlamtaea had to give up half of their immortality. So it was again tonight.”

“The signet ring was the Phylactery of Shadriel; half of his immortality. He sacrificed it to help raise Persephone in the old way. Immortal. So she would be raised to be everything the priests hoped she would. To raise her as an avatar of godhood to lead the armies as we hoped.”

“Isis is right,” they nodded to Kalyx, “I should not have kept this from you friends. But the Lich was understandably extremely protective about information about their Phylactery. As to removing the healing energies of the region, I don’t believe the Lich cared, which is why I did not see deception. The fate of the region didn’t matter enough to even be a consideration to him.”

“In one of my lives, the twins were my children; I their mother. Helios and Selene were gifts given and gifts taken from sons of Ares. Ares smashed my temples, he stole my children, and marched them back to his capital in chains of gold. That I will never forgive, and never forget

And here Ankh paused, tears running down their face, though the emotion passed quickly.

“Ares is responsible for this coming war. The new ones, the young gods never understood you should live in balance with the Ogdoad, the primordials. They give them no sacrifices, invite them not into their temples. They anger the titans instead of helping them slumber.”

“This war was inevitable. The orb rolls and the titans stir. Now we have a powerful new general and perhaps our best hope of restoring the Ma’at, restoring balance to Mana’era. We must succeed, lest the Ma’at itself, all creation, slips into chaos, oblivion.”

Session 54 (Season 2, Episode 18 -- Penilan 26, 102 RA)
The Necromancer's Bargain


They sat down to talk with Shadriel Lobenali, Immortal Necromancer, and Litch-Lord of Cormorell.

They spoke for some time about many things. He greeted them each individually. He asked Eirlys if he need be concerned about ill will from her. He acknowledged Kalyx as being a descendant of Aegeon, the former traveling companion of Queen Persephone. And he noted that Sardis looked something like Kochula, the hacholan warrior monk of the Order of the Raven, who had served the Lobenali family and had eventually joined the Grau Berg tribe. The Necromancer seemed by turns nonplussed, annoyed, and fascinated by Sa Ra Ink, at times knowing more about the strange wizard than the rest of the party, and at others clearly confused by much of what Ink said. In fact, the longer they spoke, the more it became clear that Sa Ra Ink and the undead Necromancer held each other in some significant regard. Ink introduced themselves to Shadriel with something approaching a supplicant’s prayer, and Shadriel seemed hungry for understanding about who, or what, Ink was, though he seemed to know much more about it than the party did.

Shadriel expressed something like cold delight at learning that the party had come in search of the Sarkana on behalf of the Ruby Vale Kaenti. It seemed that he had been unsure of how the followers of Khalipanofax had set their barrier around his city. He revealed to the party that priests of three gods had colluded to imprison him, Khalipanfax and Aerus had been known to them, but the involvement of Pennelia’s priests was news. He seemed surprised and pleaded to learn that the party had already obtained the Korkana, and could summon it to them at need. He confirmed for them that the Sarkana might well be locatable using it’s haft, and pointed out that Sa Ra Ink could not, in all likelihood, pass out of Cormorell while the Jade Queen’s barrier held.

They discussed these matters at length. The lich lord, though clearly prone to ennui and melancholy, was perhaps surprisingly mild mannered, though he grew abruptly wroth when presented with questions that seemed, to him, to have obvious answers. In those moments, the masking illusion that gave the dead wizard the appearance of elvin beauty slipped, and the party could see glimpses of the sunken, dead face beneath.

Over the course of the conversation, it became frighteningly clear that the Necromancer’s Palace, or at least it’s interior, was made up in large part of shadow substance from the realm of nightmares. They came to understand that the palace was linked to the lich’s mind directly, and to suspect that it might in fact be his dreams made real. This chilling thought came with the sure certainty that no matter where they were inside the Palace, Shadriel, Lord of Dead Cormorell, would know what they did and said if he wished to.

Eventually, they turned to bargaining. The Necromancer admitted that if they could locate the Sarkana, they might well, using the Korkana, drop the Jade Queen’s barrier. He reminded them, however, that Sa Ra Ink could not depart the city, and thus would be lost to them if they sought the Sarkana directly. He proposed an alternative method of dropping the shield, one that had many additional advantages.

He told them that if they resurrected his sister, the dead elven queen, the energy released—massive amounts still left over from the ritual that transformed the Blighting into the Blessing—could be used to destroy the barrier around Cormorell. Once risen from death, his sister, per force the avatar of the goddess Sephalia, could and would lead the fight against Khalipanofax. She could and would destroy Aechelleth, allowing herself, as Sephalia, to take the place of Aerus as general to the gods, so as to lead them in the coming war against the primordial forces.

The Lich Lord admitted that he had the power to do this thing himself, but that there was no way for him to do so without bringing his sister back tainted by the touch of the Nemesis. They could easily see both his passionate need to have his sister returned, and his, perhaps counter-intuitive but at the same time utterly adamant refusal to see her return corrupted. If they would do this thing for him, he promised, he would answer any questions they might have about themselves, their histories, and the prophesies and events now happening. He would also, he swore, lead his army of the dead against any enemy they wished just as soon as they were free from the City.

The offer was tempting. It seemed to solve so many of the party’s problems.

The catch was revealed when it was asked why the Priests of the Silver Bow could not do this thing. Shadriel was frank, explaining that the priests certainly could, but would not. It was, to their minds, a sacrilege. Shadriel snarled with dark rancor, saying that the priests valued his sister more as a martyr than as a queen and leader.

At this, a black mood fell on the Lord of Cormorell, and he bid the party leave him. He said he would not intrude on their deliberations, and set his servant, Dathshalian, to guide them to their suite, where they might consider his offer.

They departed with alacrity. As they followed the shadowy form of Dathshalian, they were caught by the strange sensation that the palace was, in some ways, being created only where they traveled, and that it in some ways ceased to be where they were not. Despite this unnerving sensation, they found their suite of rooms quite well appointed, and though there was neither food nor refreshment to be found, the accommodations were as comfortable as they could be, given the bleak, dead corruption of undeath that suffused them.

They ate from the basket of magical provisions they kept with them. And they talked. They talked about the situation in the world beyond, and they talked about Shadriel’s offer. They talked about their promise to the Ruby Vale Kaenti, and they talked about their shared desire to see Khalipanofax brought low. They touched, again, on Sa Ra Ink’s strange tendency to refer to people, places, and things using words and names and terms unfamiliar to everyone around Them.

Eventually, they came to the difficult discussion of whether to take Shadriel’s offer, and, if they did, what to do about the priests and monks of the Silver Bow.

As to the former, ultimately, they unanimously decided that the offer was too good to pass up. The legendary warrior queen of the elves was too great a potential ally, and her twin brother too great an asset to be ignored.

As to the latter, the question of what to do about the priests, they had no easy answers. In the end, they seemed to quietly and reluctantly decide that, if it came to it, they would kill the priests to achieve their ends. Though they clearly hoped to find another way.

Their decision made, they summoned Dathshalian, telling him to inform his master that they had an answer for him.

Shadriel, when he arrived and heard their choice, was clearly pleased. He seemed eager to set about preparations, but offered to first answer questions the party might have.

They spoke for a time, gaining more information about various things. What had become of Ageon? What details might he offer about Kochula? What of Thukrix? They learned the forbidden secret of the dragons’ cannibalism. They learned something of the dragon orbs.
They learned that Bexlornilexiphal, the dragon known as the Blood Lord, had once kept several such artifacts in his horde, as well as something the Necromancer called “the moaning diamond.” They spoke for some time about many such things but, in time, they parted company, so that the Lich and the the party members might make their preparations.

Shadriel assured them that he would make their way clear through Cormorell back to the Temple. He gave them the run of his Palace, saying only that it would be clear where they aught not tread, and that if they trespassed, he would do nothing to protect them. He said the same of his library.

In the hours that followed, Sa Ra Ink spent a great deal of time in both Shadriel’s library, and his company. Kalyx as well took advantage of the lore and history in that place. As the hours wore on, and the onerous chill of the Nemesis crept into their weary bones, the party faced the difficult choice of if and how they might find rest before returning to the Temple, or whether they should go that very evening to meet the terms of their dark bargain.

Session 53 (Season 2, Episode 18 -- Penilan 25-26, 102 RA)
The Streets of the Dead

It took them about an hour to prepare. The priests of the Silver Bow gifted the group with a chest full of healing potions, the only protection they could offer to help ease the group’s passing through Old Cormorell.

High Priestess Tallmeriss escorted them to the northern tower of the Temple, crossing another stone causeway in view of the frigid, dead city. In the dark of night, they could see little, save small patches of eerie green luminescence scattered throughout the city, and tiny, faint points of light from several windows in the distant palace. Howls and shrieks echoed occasionally through the night.

Inside the norther tower, Cleric Tallmeriss gave them each the blessing of Sephalia and bid them safe travels. She cautioned them that the undead lay thickest in the center of the city, advising them to choose carefully their route. She also warned that mithril had been used as ornament and reinforcement in much of the city’s architecture, and that long exposure to the corruption of the Nemesis had turned most of the mithral to thinuan, which subtly drew the undead to it. Her final words spoken, she departed, and the party was lowered by Acolytes and monks to the paved floor of the tower by a winched platform.

Before departing, Ink first summoned a group of airborne spirits in the shape of sphinxes, and set them to await the party’s summons at need. They then called up the ink-black steeds that had served the party so well in the past, and laid a charm of obfuscation upon the lot of them, to better guard them from hostile senses as they traversed the dark ruins of the ancient city. Thus as prepared as they were like ever to be, they opened the gates, which acolytes barred behind them, and set out into dread, dead, Cormorell.

They guessed themselves to have roughly fifteen hours to cross the city and reach the Necromancer’s palace. As such, they decided to make their way around the western outskirts of the city, as close to the Ahluvogran barrier as they could, and to trust to stealth rather than to force to keep them safe.

Their conjured steeds’ hooves did not touch the ground, and Ink’s magic muffled and obfuscated them so that they could make their slow way through the lightless streets without being detected.

Where they met danger, they retreated silently and sought another way through the frozen streets. They turned back from zombie hordes unnoticed. They fled, quiet as wraiths, from the watchful eyes of demons perched among the ice-rimed ruins. When a patrol of ahluvograns mounted on draconic steeds crosses their path, the heroes faded back into the shadows and waited for the riders to engage the dead before stealing along silently behind and onwards.

It was impossible to know for sure what time of night it was. Between the winter skies and the black pall that hung over the city, there was no sign of stars, and the sun would not lighten the bleak streets of Cormorell until well past dawn. But well before they believed they had reason for haste, the lights of the palace began to loom large between the crumbling buildings.

They had begun to think they might cross the dead city without raising any alarm at all when a cry of distress arose from inside a nearby building. Everyone flinched at the noise. Even if it was not a trap, as they suspected it was, the noise was certain to draw attention.

Ink was adamant that they move on. But Kalyx flatly refused, and started towards the building. Sardis, with a resigned shrug, followed, got ahead of her, and instructed them all to hang back while he scouted inside the ruin. Ink swore under Their breath and silently summoned the conjured sphinx spirits back from the aether to bear them away if needed.

Inside the ruin, Sardis, creeping towards the noise and light, came upon two dead elves, each with a vicious looking ghoul crouched over them, greedily devouring their dead flesh. One elf remained, backed into a corner, barely holding off a third ghoul. He shot an arrow at the ghoul, successfully pulling its attention.

As the rest of the party caught up, the slavering, saw-toothed corpse leaped across the room at Sardis. It caught the hacholu, but was placed firmly on its ass by Kalyx as the elf, bedraggled and bloody, spoke a horse apology and fled the building out past Ink, who waited in the alley, and out into the darkness of Cormorell.

The party fled. They had begun to hear the moans and screeches of oncoming danger. Not to mention the ghouls that had looked up from their meals, and distant, earth-shaking footfalls that could only be the giant devourer they had been warned of.

With barely a pause to scowl at the fleeing elf, the party leaped on the backs of the sphinxes and, with only a moment’s conference between them, set their steeds in a mad dash for the palace. The time for stealth was past.

As they shot up into the sky above the streets, a great howl rose among the dozens of ruined buildings ringing a great plaza. At the far end of the plaza was the causeway that ran across a vast craig of a moat up to the palace gates. At the nearer side of the plaza stood a 25 foot giant, face drooping with unspeakable hungers, and ribs rising like vast horns from it’s chest.

The devourer lurched towards the party with an ear-splitting moan, and great vulture-like vrock demons launched into the air from the ruins behind them. They leaned forward and willed their spirit-steeds to greater speed. Flying above the buildings of the city, they could see that the hour was later than they’d realized. A lightening had begun in the eastern sky. Dawn was almost upon them.

As they neared the causeway, Ink shouted a warning. They said the steeds couldn’t approach the palace. They would have to land near the middle of the causeway and run the rest of the way. With no time to argue, the party dropped to the ground, leaped from their sphinxes, and sprinted madly towards the palace across the ancient, cracked paving stones; the devourer and vrocks closing behind them.

It was a near thing. Sardis and Eirlys reached the gates first, and began pounding for entry. The great thinuan gates of the palace opened inwards onto pitch blackness. For a moment, Sardis and Eirlys looked at each other, sharing in the absurdity of racing for safety inside the ancient Lich Lord’s stronghold. But they were committed. Crossed the threshold moments before Ink dashed through.

Kalyx had lagged behind, as was now sprinting for all she was worth, narrowly dodging the slashing claws of a swooping demon, and nearly thrown from her feet by the ground-shaking impacts of the devourer’s feet. As the shapes of the city became visible at the first break of dawn, Kalyx leaped through the palace gates, feet ahead of the devourer. Her companions hurried to slam the gates shut, and, for an instant, it seemed that the giant would reach them first. But, just as a massive fist reached for the gates, a faint but true flash of sunlight struck the monster, throwing it back just long enough for the heroes to shut and bar the gates.

They stood there, panting, checking for wounds, silently staring around the utter blackness of the Necromancer’s palace. Gradually, increasing so slowly that none of them were sure they could tell when it started, a faint, greenish light appeared around them, though no source was visible. From one of the deep shadows behind a grand, sweeping upwards staircase, a hissing voice called out, two dim, lamp-like eyes appeared. The voice introduced itself as Dathshallian, and told them that The Master awaited them in the grand ballroom. It bid them follow, and the eyes glided between the shadows, visible only in darkness, but clear enough that they could see it passing up the grand stairway.

They followed Dathshallian, who spoke no further, up the stairs which swept broadly up to the third story. As they climbed, they could hear faint harp music drifting sadly down from above. At a broad archway of polished crystal on the third floor, the eyes stopped, and the vaguest shadow of an arm gestured them into the grand ballroom. As they entered, the music grew louder and was joined by a strange murmer of voices, as might be heard some rooms distant from an elegant party.

The grand ballroom was breathtaking—a vast cavern of a room, with great arches open to the north overlooking the bluffs that fell away to the mighty river Gonu beyond. It was lit by normal-looking torches, widely spaced except near the center of the room. The walls and pillars, floors and ceilings had once been made of, or laced with mithril, covered in a layer of perfect, polished crystal. Though the silversteel had fallen to thinuan, and did not reflect the light in the dazzling way they would once have done, the effect remained quite overwhelming, if somewhat ominous. The moreso for the strange ways that the party’s own reflections seemed to be recast throughout the room, multiplied by hundreds, almost as though they were the source of the faint sounds of distant merriment.

A chair stood at the center of the space, well lit compared with anywhere else in the room. In the chair sat a young-looking elven man. His features were beautiful in the way of his people, placid and sad. His gleaming pale-golden hair hung to one side as he leaned forward and, with the help of two conjured magical hands, played to the end of his harp duet. As he finished, and looked up, the susurrus of voices surrounding them paused and seemed to applaud.

The Neromancer Shadriel stood, dressed in black finery, and gestured his harps into nonexistence. He beckoned them forward, pale and unnaturally…deliberate…in his movements. He spoke greetings to them in a strange melodious voice that still somehow seemed…dry.

He apologized for not having refreshments, offering the excuse that he was not used to entertaining the living. He gestured again and four chairs appeared as though pulled from the floor. He bade them sit, dis so himself, and looked at them expectantly.

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

Penilan 25, 102 RA: Old Cormorell — morningStar.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.

He stepped forward as they approached, and bade them stop. He asked and they told him who they were, and that they had come to pay their respects at the tomb of the Elven Queen. He seemed at first to take them at their word, but recognized Eirlys, “the Cold Heart,” and singled her out. He told her to lay down her sword, and approach him. He took her hand in his, palm to palm, and looked her directly in the eye while asking her again why she had come. Convinced by her answer that she meant no harm or trouble, he told her that she must leave her sword behind, but that if she would do so, she and her companions would be allowed to enter the Temple of the Silver Bow. Eirlys, to everyone’s relief, agreed.

At a gesture from the robed hacholu, the giant stone statue above the doors gave a grinding jerk upwards on it’s massive sword, pulling it out of the doorway’s arch. The steel doors, which matched the ones they’d just passed through, opened quietly inwards.

As the party walked foward, they were shocked and awed by the juxtaposition of the bleak and corrupted city against the interior of the temple. Inside, the air was fresh and clean.
Golden sunlight shone in through the great crystal dome. The chamber they entered was a garden-like gallery full of fruit trees and beautiful growing things, overlooking a lower level made of yet more of the same. A catwalk linked the upper gallery with a platform that thrust out, seemingly unsupported, to the center of the great domed building, hanging over the lower gardens. On the platform lay an elegant sarcophagus made of flawless glass or crystal. Clearly visible within the sarcophagus lay a beautiful, golden-haired elven woman, old enough to show wrinkles and greying at her temples.

Persephone Lobenali, first and last queen of the elves of Lobenahl, lay in state, a great, white bow beside her, a flawless bastard sword atop her, and a starkly black and shining obsidian dagger thrusting upwards out of her chest.

The gardens around them were being tended by perhaps a half dozen people, most wearing simple garments that seemed to indicate acolytes of the temple. One or two may have been simple pilgrims, pitching in to gather food. One of them, a tall, dark haired elven woman in simple green robes, approached them. She wore a sword at her hip, a longbow across her back, and a look of beatific peace on her smooth features.

As she walked towards them, she inclined her head and the massive doors to the dead city closed, shutting away the cursed streets of Cormorell. Indicating with knowing looks and graceful gestures, the silent priestess bid them welcome, and indicated that they might approach the Queen’s crystal coffin.

Kalyx and Ink approached first. They both lay a hand on the casket, and as they did, the sunlight streaming through the dome dimmed, and a slow roll of thunder was heard. A moment later, to everyone’s astonishment, rain began to fall inside the temple. After the thunder came a profound silence. Everyone inside the temple had paused to watch, and listen.

Each member of the party experienced something different, and private, when they knelt before the crystal sarcophagus, but everyone in the Temple could feel that each of them was welcome. This sense was so powerful and palpable that the mute priestess returned Eirlys’ sword to her, with a grave, but kind nod. She then led the group downstairs to the lower gardens.

There they met, working along side the acolytes and hacholan monks, another priest, an ashai woman with an open face and warm smile. She introduced herself as Sister Valteisis, and introduced the mute elven priest that had greeted them as Sister Paraneith. Valteisis bid them be welcome at the Temple of the Silver Bow, and spoke with joyful fervor of their welcome by the Elvin Queen, and the goddess Sephalia, in whose service this temple stood. She made some comment about the coming of the Stormborn at last, and said that the High Cleric, Tallmeriss the Blind, would want to speak with them. Mother Tallmeriss was absorbed in other matters at the moment, so Valteisis offered to take the party to quarters where they might take some food and rest while awaiting the high cleric’s summons.

She walked them out a different door from the one they’d come in, out again into the bleak and sickly city, more oppressive and chilling now in contrast to the gentle, soothing warmth of the temple interior. Across another elevated stone causeway was another tower, inside of which were dormitories. Several levels of monastic cells joined by a central spiral stair.

Acolytes brought them food, mostly fruits, but also some goat. Then they rested. Sardis slept a while. Eirlys meditated, after the fashion of her kind, haunted by memories of the war she’d fought in Cormorell and Setheris Om over a century ago. Ink returned to the garden, making notes in Their books, and taking in the feel of the place. [The GM doesn’t remember if Kalyx slept or spoke to people or what…].

Penilan 25: Temple of the Silver Bow, Old Cormorell — Approaching Midday
An acolyte came to wake them and summon them to the lower gardens to meet High Cleric Tallmeriss and attend a Conclave of the Priestood, at which it was to be decided whether and to what degree the denizens of the Temple would aid the party in their quest to retrieve “something” from in or around the city.

Once in the lower gardens, the party found seats on mossy rocks and amongst the fruit trees. Soon enough, four priests entered and stood, each across the chamber from one other, bracketing the central stair from which High Priest Tallmeriss emerged.

Tallmeriss was a statuesque and grave elvin woman with a silk cloth across her eyes and signs of aging which, in an elf, marked well over four centuries of life. She stood on the central stair, with a stoic hacholan monk behind her. The monk was bare chested, displaying two large raven tattoos on his breast.

Tallmeriss introduced herself, and acknowledged that the party had already met Paraneith and Valteisis. She went on to introduce the two male elvin priests: Sorukide, who had a dour look about him; and Ornorall who bore himself with a haughtiness that one might normally associate with an eladrin lord.

After introductions, and welcoming the party, High Cleric Tallmeriss noted aloud that Eirlys Olwen would never again be known as the Coldheart by the followers of Sephalia. Those of the Order knew something of her actions during the redemption, and could see plainly that the spirit of the God had forgiven the eladrin warrior’s past transgressions.

She then asked that the party explain their objectives in Cormorell. The party answered, with more than a little digression, that they had come to search for a lost artifact stolen from the Kaenti of the Ruby Vale. They described the spearhead, and explained their belief that it had been taken to Cormorell, and their suspicion that it might be being used to anchor and power the mystical barriers that now surrounded the cursed city.

The discussion ranged more than a little, touching on a number of topics, including Kalyx’s ancestry, Sa Ra Ink’s increasingly strange nature, the likelihood that Sardis had the blood of the Order of the Raven in his family, and more. Eventually, the time for a vote drew near.

It seemed clear that, at least Ornorall disfavored helping the party. However, before the Conclave gave it’s final vote, Kalyx spoke to the priests of humility and her simple desire to see the Jade Queen brought low. This turned Ornorall’s heart, and, in the end, the Priests of the Silver Bow voted to provide succor and solace to the party, as well as aid, as they could, in the quest to retrieve the Sarkana.

After the vote, Tallmeriss dismissed everyone but the party, expressing a wish to speak with them alone.

The party sat with Tallmeriss, who descended into the garden and bade them partake of the fruit of the trees there.

They spoke of many things. Talmeriss told them of the Temple’s creation, founded by Thukrix Icewing, with the help of the Necromancer who ruled Dead Cormorell. They spoke in passing of Kalyx’s ancestor Ageonexiphal, who had, the cleric believed, once traveled with Queen Persephone under the simple name Ageon. She told them that the Icewing had prophesied, before departing the Temple, of the coming of the Stormborn, who was, clearly, Kalyx. But mostly they spoke of the Necromancer.

High Priest Tallmeriss seemed certain that the party’s guess was correct, and that the Sarkana, the spearhead they sought, must be half of the broken Kaenti Guardian. She revealed, though Eirlys had already suspected this, that the Necromancer had broken the Kaenti Guardian as part of the ritual that brought about The Blighting. of Khalipanofax. It followed that, if anyone could help them to find the Sarkana, and/or help them understand how to use it, it would be the Necromancer. She also supposed that he would know more than anyone else about the mystical barrier that bound him and his city.

She revealed to them some of the deeper secrets of her Order. Knowledge of the Necromancer’s origins. In life, the Lich Shadriel had been Shadriel Lobenali, twin brother to Lady Persephone Lobenali.

The two had been raised in Cormorell before it fell, now almost 450 years ago. The city had been allied to the Elven nation of Ahlveral, but, for political reasons, the elves had not come to Cormorell’s aid when the goblinoid hordes had attacked. Those hordes had been working on behalf of the ancient green dragon Khalipanofax, though few had realized that at the time. The sacking of Cormorell was now believed to be the first major step in the dragon’s bid for ascendance.

Persephone and her twin brother had been refugees from Cormorell, and lived most of their adult lives in a rural province of Ahlveral. Shadriel had been slain some thirty years after the fall of Cormorell. In all the many tales of Lady Persephone’s adventures, he appears only as a memory, until the Redemption Wars, and the Blighting.

She cautioned them, saying that the Lich’s hatred of Khalipanofax was so terrible, and his lust for vengeance against her so great, that he was willing to blight great swaths of the Blessed lands, slaying thousands upon thousands, to see her fall. The priesthood believed that Shadriel’s ritual would in fact have laid waste to nearly every being west of the Throkkan Mountains, but for the Sacrifice of the Elven Queen, his sister. The faith held that, at the crucial moment, Queen Persephone, trusted and loved still by her undead brother, had taken her own life as part of a ritual that, set against Shadriel’s, had allowed for the death of Khalipanofax’s followers, but prevented the razing of the land that would otherwise have occurred, instead, blessing all the lands where the Jade Queen’s followers had been sufficiently scarce.

The High Priest went on to point out two things that she urged the party to remember: The first was that Shadriel had not brought down the Jade Queen to save the Lands of the West, he had done so out of a deep hatred for the goddess. The Second was that all the stories agreed that Shadriel loved his sister even more than he hated the Jade Queen. This, the cleric said, was the more dangerous truth.

Having spoken with them at length, Tallmeriss asked them if they would like her to send a raven to the Necromancer on their behalf, requesting an audience. They said that they would.

As she parted ways with them, promising to send the raven before she returned to her other duties, she hinted that, beyond having been the first High Priestess of this Temple, she had actually known Queen Persephone back when she was still only Lady Persephone. Despite this, she insisted that if they had further questions they wished to ask about any of these matters, they should speak to Ornorell, who was the Loremaster of the Temple. With that, she excused herself.

Over the next few hours several members of the party sought counsel with one priest or another.

Penilan 25: Temple of the Silver Bow, Old Cormorell — NIghfall
When night fell, a message came from the Necromancer Shadriel. Mother Tallmeriss came in with a large raven on her shoulder, and told them that the bird had a reply. It cocked it’s head at them, and focused one bright, too-knowing eye on them, as if confirming their identities. Then it croaked:

Come tonight. Come to the Palace before daybreak, and I will meet with you.

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.

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.

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

Penilan 22-24: D’kath
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.”

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
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.

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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