The Seven Cities

Session 32 (Tulvan 4 & 5, 101 RA)
The Tower

the-tower.jpg Tulvan 4: Just Before Midnight — In Ganitipantuperan, The Feywild

Bangizi told the party to be careful, not to stare, and enjoy themselves. They agreed to meet back at their point of ingress in an hour. Bangizi said that would leave enough time. With that, they spread out into the stalls, markets, and chaos of the Great Plaza of Ganitipantuperan.

Kaijo and Akra followed Bangizi to a gnomish salon where they could have their scales alchemically dyed the metalic colors more common among dragonborn. Sardis went looking for weapons dealers, eventually finding a friendly and persuasive gnome artificer who specialized in objects of violence. Ink and Thala set out together looking for, and finding, magical components, scrolls, and various items of interest throughout the Plaza.

It was…entertaining. For a brief time, they got caught up in the joyful bustle of gnomish commerce and industry, and were able to forget that they were about to attempt to sneak into the King’s palace and assassinate one of his most valued advisers.

But the illusion did not last long. Soon enough they found themselves climbing through dim tunnels, up and down random-seeming ladders, and into back corridors and caverns until, passing several curious-but-silent gnomish guards, they reached a small, unpresuming chamber with a worn, flat depression at it’s center.

Bangizi had brought Varagindosoli, an apprentice Explorationer, to manage the rope. Before they began their descent into the Palace of Ur, he reviewed their plan and the precautions necessary when crossing between worlds. They must, he insisted, go quickly, without pausing between each party member. He made sure they knew how to reach the ground-floor latrine where he would be waiting to guide them out. Assuring him that they understood, the party helped Thala perfect her magical disguise as Mazzegur, then one immediately after another, fairly flung themselves down the rope and into the Palace of Ur.

Mostly, they made it down okay, except Thala, who fell flat on her ass, and Sardis, who landed in a clatter on top of a weapons rack. Fortunately, the hour was late and the clatter went unnoticed.

Tulvan 4: Just Before Midnight – Palace of Ur

Bangizi trotted off, invisible and silent. The rest straightened their tabbards and fell into step behind Thala, who looked so perfectly like Mazzegur that even her friends had to remind themselves she was not the astrologer.

It was surprisingly easy to move unnoticed through the palace. They kept to high-security, low-traffic areas, adied by Bangizi’s map. They managed to minimize contact with guard patrols, and those they saw didn’t seem to see any reason to question Mazzeguur.

As they drew near the Royal apartments, the magically sensitive among them became aware of a strange, lingering energy that felt like the smell of brimstone and cast an oppressive pall over the party’s already tense mood.

They all braced themselves for disaster when, just as they turned a corner to leave the corridors near the King’s suite, the voice of King Thuz’Imil called out to Mazzeguur from behind them.

Thala considered walking on, but, at Kaijo’s silent urging, stopped, and turned to face the Vassal King of M’ziir, who approached with a smug grin on his face, four of his personal guard at his rear, and a simpering Ran’Imil on his arm.

The King was in a surprisingly good mood; like the dire lion who ate the fairy. He questioned Thala as to why Mazzeguur wasn’t with Martesse in the Astrologer’s tower. Wasn’t he late for their mysterious midnight rites? Thala answered, in a passable Mazzeguur voice, that they were in a hurry for just that reason. The king scoffed and sneered, and ordered Thala to inform Martesse that he would not, after all, need to see her after the nightly ritual, or, he intimated, possibly ever again. With that, Thuz’Imil lead his entourage on, with only Ran’Imil sparing an unreadable glance back in the party’s direction. The party resumed both their breathing and their trip through the corridors of the Palace.

Skillfully avoiding more palace patrols, the party was a few yards from the door to the Astrologer’s tower when, around the corner from an adjoining hallway, came Mazzeguur and two palace guards.

There was one, dead silent, frozen moment of universal confusion before, with a muffled shout, the two groups fell on each other.

The party tried to fight quietly, but despaired of stopping their opponents before an alarm was raised. That was, they despaired until they realized that the other side was also struggling to fight quietly. Before they had time to think this through, Mazzeguur attacked Thala-Mazzeguur, by grabbing hold of her and…changing clothes to match hers exactly so that nobody in the party could tell which was which. Meanwhile, the palace guards dropped their spears, drew knives, and flung themselves at the party with a sinuous agility not native to humans. Clearly, something was unusual here.

The Other Mazzeguur and his guards must have realized it too, because when Kaijo made an extremely convincing, soto-voiced appeal to what seemed to be a shared goal of assassinating Mazzeguur, the other group paused, and everyone tensely backed away.

With a strange shimmer, Other Mazzeguur’s form blurred and reformed into a nondescript human male, who abruptly seemed to recognize Kaijo, despite his dyed scales. The shapeshifting gentleman asked for confirmation that the party was there to kill the astrologers, and, receiving it, walked away, his “guards” in tow, saying that they would leave Kaijo’s crew to it, as they had “bigger fish to fry.”

Kaijo was puzzled by the idiom, but the rest of the party breathed an uneasy sigh of relief. A lack of help from Assassin Team 2 was better than being killed as part of a comedic and somewhat meta mistaken identity crisis.

Gathering themselves, they faced the door to the Astrologer’s Tower. Guessing that the magical lock would give way to Mazzeguur, Thala reached out and quietly, simply, opened it.

Tulvan 5: Just past midnight — Palace of Ur

The Tower was rife with mystical energy fairly reeking of the Shadowfell. It was not difficult for the group, with Thala’s flawless disguise, to make their way up past the magical security and past Martesse’s halfling assistant, Rana.

As they climbed the long, curving stairs towards the Astrologer’s laboratory, they could clearly hear heated words. An argument. Then a subtle shudder shaking the tower, and laying a cold sense of dread over their minds. Frantic shouting. Something above had clearly gone terribly wrong.

When Thala opened the door to the highest chamber, the party faced a large, round room with ceilings some 15 feet high and supported by four pillars set around a great 20 foot glowing circle of power embedded in the floor. Suspended between the two farthest pillars, sustained by sickly blue-purple flames, stretched an ominous vertical plane of roiling shadow—clearly a portal to the Shadowfell.

Also between the pillars stood Martesse, and someone that they hoped was the real Mazzeguur, both with their backs to the door. Martesse was clearly straining with the effort of trying to close the portal, while Mazzeguur shouted in unhelpful terror about whatever force or entity she was straining against: “It’s coming! Close it! CLOSE IT!!!”

Akra was on Mazzeguur almost before the astrologer knew they were there. He fell with barely a shout of warning to Martesse. When M’ziir’s astrologer turned to see her attackers, she sneered that they were fools. Cut her down and release “It,” she warned.

The party tried to split the difference. They attacked her while she was distracted, but Ink also attempted to aid her in closing the portal…to little effect.

Martesse summoned horrible, squelching tentacle beasts from the portal to aid her. Four of the monsters lashed around the room attacking the heroes, but were, one by one, slain outright or driven back into the portal. Slowly but surely the party wore down the astrologer until, finally, she sought to flee, using her magic, and a timely distraction by Rana (who had caught on), to reach the door and the stairway beyond.

As several of the party struggled with Martesse and Rana at the door, a great, looming shadow darkened and began exiting the portal. In a sudden flash of insight, Ink fumbled the mummified toe of Boston Loch from Ze’s pocket and, after dropping it once, kicked it through the portal. The fearsome entity beyond, which Ink claimed was Boston Loch himself, was appeased, and the portal closed.

Meanwhile, Rana had fled to the tower’s rooftop, and Martesse had teleported out the tower’s arrow slit to the palace grounds beyond. With no means of egress save the rooftop or the arrow slit, it seemed that the Astrologer would escape.

Except that Thala, still disguised as Mazzeguur, flung herself against the tiny window, and flung a ball of flame down upon the fleeing tiefling, leaving nothing but scorched and smoldering corpse. Abruptly…it was over.

Except that the alarm had been raised throughout the Palace.

As the group fled down the stairs, expecting to die attempting to fight their way through the Palace, they began to realize that the alarm was not for them. Something else had happened. It was not until later that they learned that a powerful devil had appeared inside the walls as they’d fought in the Tower. Not expecting this sort of attack, the guards and residents of the Palace were in chaos. A chaos that lent itself perfectly to escape.

As the group exited the Tower, Thala lingered and, once the rest were out the lower door, stated bluntly that she could not go with them, and closed the door, locking herself inside. This was the last any of them saw of her as, unable to open the arcane lock they instead fled the Palace with the dozens of others.

Confused, sad, and weary beyond measure, they made their way through the confusion that had gripped all of M’ziir, back to the Pale Quarter to find out what had happened.

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Session 31 (Tulvan 4, 101 RA)
A Dying Light

Tulvan 4: Afternoon

The party gathered in their magically private camp to discuss and plan the assassination of Kalaz’Ikar Az’Guzuur. Despite the plan having been discussed repeatedly, both Thala and Pony seemed mildly surprised when they learned of it. Both questioned, but neither resisted hard enough to alter the party’s possibly questionable trajectory. The wellbeing of the Pale Quarter and it’s downtrodden denizens were, argued White Kaijo, best served by murdering Kalaz’Ikar. And, in the scheme of things, what was one less spoiled tiefling compared to the hundreds who faced death, disease, and starvation if the Blood King took M’ziir by force?

So they pooled their knowledge, and Ink asked the spirits of the city, and they developed a plan.

Kalaz’Ikar was known as a lover rather than a fighter. He loved music, and carousing, and was known as a bit of a playboy. Indeed, it was his inability (or unwillingness?) to keep his dalliances with gentlemen of interest private that seemed to have created the exploitable rift between he and An’Ikar in the first place.

It was decided that the party would leave M’ziir under the pretense of investigating and patrolling the hills north of the City for goblinoid raiders. Once they got within patrol distance of Bokor Keep (House Ikar’s estate outside the City), they would use the rags and scraps gathered by Pony, and darken Kaijo with soot and mud, in the hopes that, at a distance, they might be mistaken for goblinoids themselves. They would approach the Keep, and the village of Bokor, and see what they could glean at a distance.

The journey north went surprisingly smoothly. Pony scouted ahead, and Sardis guided them. Between the two rangers, the party was able to avoid both goblinoids and the Bokoran patrols on the nearby road. Pony’s scouting, combined with the information the party already had lead to the following conclusions:

— Two factions of goblinoids had, until last night, been warring with each other in the hills around Bokor. Hostilities seemed to have ended somewhat abruptly right about the same time as the known change in the behavior of the Astrologers. The faction that had retreated from the area seemed to be the same as that which had attacked the Dead Falcon Mine a few days earlier

— A giant (likely a troll) and it’s dire wolf pets seem to have been driven out of their known lair in the quarry near Bokor within the last day or two.

— Kalaz Ikar and his party-cronies were probably in the quarry…for funsies?

— The goblinoids in the hills may well have seen the party, but probably hadn’t gotten a good enough look to identify them, and clearly weren’t interested in having a fight about it.

The party decided, based on these guesses, to skip Bokor entirely, and to approach the quarry directly.

Tulvan 4: Late Afternoon

As they approached, they heard a distant flute playing a melancholy tune in the late afternoon heat. Wanting to know the lay of the land, they sent Sardis and Pony ahead to scout while the lest lay in wait a distance off.

The bottom of the modest quarry was filled with a small lake. Around a bend in the quarry walls, the rangers could just make out a small camp; perhaps a dozen people drowsing away their hangovers through the afternoon heat. At the nearer, less precipitous end of the quarry stood two teiflings, one clearly a warrior, the other clearly an arcanist of some sort. Bizil’El and Menez’Anir, Kalaz’Ikar’s closest friends from childhood, they guessed. The two were standing on the shore of the lake, at the bottom of the gentle slope that lead down to the lake form this side. They seemed to be fishing.

Atop a small bluff thrust out towards the middle of the cliff, playing his flute, apparently calling up fish from the lake for his friends, sat Kalaz’Ikar Az’Guzuur, Lord of Bokor and husband to An’Ikar, the lady who would be queen. The rangers could not see him clearly, but he seemed peaceful, perhaps a bit sad. Maybe that was just the flute.

As they turned to leave, Pony stumbled on a rock, and was definitely, obviously, noticed by the two fishers. Sardis cursed quietly, but remained hidden. Bizil’El and Menez’Anir called Pony to come closer as they reached for their weapons and laced up bits of loose clothing and armor. They did not seem aggressive, but definitely on-guard.

To her immense credit, Pony played it off perfectly. She cast aside her gobliny rags and approached the tieflings as…well…her freewheelig, drug-dealing, charming self.

Somewhat surprisingly, the tieflings bought it. They called back to Kalaz’ikar, who laughed and suggested she be made welcome. As such, Pony stood with Kalaz’Ikar’s friends and bodyguards, entertaining them, sharing samples of her wares, and thoroughly distracting them while, many yards above and behind them, Kalaz’Ikar looked on in amusement.

Sardis had time to return to the rest of the party and tell them what was going on. The party edged closer, and it was decided that Sardis would attempt to sneak up and all the way around, to where Kalaz’Ikar sat, and murder him as silently as possible. When the inevitable alarm was raised, the rest of the group would rush in and murder the lords friends, and plant the incriminating bracers.

But everything went much more smoothly than expected.

Sardis ghosted up to the bluff without anyone noticing at all. In fact, he got right up behind his target without anyone but Pony seeing him.

When he drove his two warpicks silently through Kalaz’Ikar’s spine, through his neck, and silently drew the dead man’s body down and away into the brush, only Pony saw it. She managed to school her features as she wrapped up her negotiations with the nobles, and turned to depart, leaving them, for a few moments, none the wiser.

Once out of sight, she broke into a run. As she and Sardis reached the rest of the party, urgently whispering that the deed was done and that they needed to go, the shouts of alarm broke out behind them. Kaijo quietly called out for Page who, thankfully, was nearby. He gave the pseudodragon Thuz’Imil’s bracers and urged her to sneak them up to the murder site and leave them there.

Then the party fled southeast, back towards M’ziir.

They went as quickly as they could while still avoiding the goblins of the hills. They were, Pony was quite sure, spotted, perhaps enough to be generally identified, but there wasn’t much for it. None of the group wanted to be caught by Kalaz’Ikar’s friends, or the other Ikar hunters once word reached Bokor.

They made it back to the Pale Quarter without incident. Pony arrived, purposefully, a little after, and from a different direction than the rest of them. She, at least, was definitely going to be associated with Kalaz’Ikar’s death, and they wanted no more sense of connection between her and the rest of the party than was already the case.

As they caught their breath and prepared to meet Bangizi at the “Poop Tubes,” Pony quietly told them that she was going to leave M’ziir for a while. Ostensibly it was because she wanted to create space to help prevent the group from being associated with the assassination. They could all tell, however, that the elf was troubled by Kalaz’Ikar’s death. Still, Pony had never been a member of the Shade, and nobody had expected her to stay involved even as long as she had. With minimal fanfare, the wandering peddler departed, leaving Thala as the lonely voice of discomfort with the goings on.

Tulvan 4: Nightfall

About and hour after nightfall, the party met Bangizi at the sewer outlet at the northern edge of The Muck. The explorationer was disguised as a halfling beggar, and had brought sufficient Palace Guard tabbards to disguise all of the party. He seemed happy to see them, but got down to business quickly.

As they entered the sewers, the cautioned them to step where he told them, to be quiet, and to follow his instructions without question. They agreed.

The trip through the sewers was predictably unpleasant. The wizards cleaned everyone up early and often, but the stench and the filth was oppressive nonetheless. Several times they had to squeeze and crawl through unmentionably gross spaces (through which Bangizi merely crouched), and at one point, they all hid, somewhat horrified, as some large, slimy, tentacled worm-beast squelched it’s way down a nearby tunnel.

Eventually, sections of sewer started appearing as hewn or natural caves, and the light levels increased to the teltale ubiquitous twilight of the Feywild. As the shift happened, gradually, they found themselves more and more in large, dry passages, sometimes with strange, twisted-yet-beautiful architecture that Ink identified as fomorian. Soon enough, Bangizi lead them to a surprisingly broad spiral stair that lead up to a large, well-lit, subterranean plaza.

The plaza itself was multi-tiered, seemingly several levels broken up by random-seeming gaps and haphazard pillars and stairs between levels, all built within what must have once been a much larger chamber. Each level was only about 8 feet high, and the barely-contained chaos spoke clearly of gnomish construction. Throughout the plaza(s) bustled all manner of gnome-friendly denizens of the feywild, many seemingly engaged in trade at shops or stalls, with eladrin conspicuously absent.

The party stopped and tried not to stare. Bangizi grinned, sketched a bow, and welcomed the party to the Great Square of Ganitipantuperan!

Information From the Map of the Palace
- Quarters/Rooms/Suites for all significant residents and guests
- General guard deployment
- General guard patrol timing and info
- Notes that the Palace Guard has recently been doubled in size, with a lot of new faces and new races. This is why you guys might be able to get away with acting like guards just by wearing tabards. Though, you will still need to put Kaijo in black face (or similar).
- Notes that King Thuz’Imil has been at odds with Martesse, his astrologer, for at least a few days.
- Notes that King Thuz’Imil has been consulting a lot with members of the Beziin Az’Neph, or Keepers of the Blood, which is basically an order of mystic genealogists…
- Notes that Mazzegur (Lady Sheraz’Aal’s astrologer) is living near the Lady’s “guest” suite, but that Mazzegur goes, every night around midnight, to spend several hours in the Astrologer’s Tower with Martesse.
- Martesse lives somewhere in the Astrologer’s Tower.
- The Explorationers have never made it very far inside the Astrologer’s Tower. The entry to the Tower is magically locked (Arcane Lock ritual), and there are no guards posed outside. The Explorationers have peeked and noted enough to be certain that the tower has three levels. The lowest is a receiving and meeting area, the middle seems to be Martesse’s quarters, and the top is the astrolger’s Laboratory. The Laboratory has rooftop access. On the roof, and in the workshop, there are Starglasses (read: telescopes).
- The King’s residence is under constant, heavy guard and on serious lockdown both magically and mechanically.
- The portal through which you guys will enter the Palace is in a ceiling of a “Fightdance Room,” which seems like some sort of training/practice room. It’s about a 20 foot drop to the floor of the room. No ladders or ropes are recommended, but Bangizi understands that you guys probably can’t make the fall. He’s offered to bring one of his Explorationer Apprentices along to lower and then retract a rope, if that will be helpful.
- The portal through which you guys will probably have to leave the Palace is through a latrine, which will be a tight fit for the dragonborn and Sardis.

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Session 30 (Tulvan 4, 101 RA)
Preparation

Tulvan 4: Just After Midnight

They pulled The Hand’s body inside Tanner’s home. When the Mules, led by Danae, showed up at Wetstone moments later, the party kept it simple by telling them that unknown assailants had slain Tanner, and that they would be sought out and punished. Or something like that. People seemed to buy it, though Danae seemed suspicious. Kaijo announced that a funeral would be held for Tanner in the Boneyard in the morning, and the crowd more-or-less disbursed. It was apparent that the Palers who’s homes and camps sat on Old Warwick were less than pleased at the loss of the neighborhood hero.

The party set about looting the bodies, and Tanner’s house. They found various dwarven artifacts that they decided to bury with the dwarf. His money and gems, they took, figuring such things would do him no good in the halls of Mother Mariduer. From Radyran and the Hand, they took several healing potions and a dagger, clearly enchanted, with a hilt, grip, and pommel sculpted to look like twisted tentacles. When seen sidelong, the tentacles seemed to writhe. Nobody thought for a moment that it was anything but bad news, and it was given to Thala to keep safe until further study could be made.

They examined the Hand’s corpse more closely than most. Where they expected to find an Ix’ill brand, they instead found a faint, long scar on the inside of her forearm. Cutting it open, Pony and Ink withdrew a truly unpleasant…stringy, twisted, tendony tentacle…cluster? It was gross. It was clearly something that had been somehow implanted into The Hand, and, like the dagger, bore further study.

Weary in every way, the party returned to their camp to get some rest.

Tulvan 4: Early Morning

First thing the next morning, Tanner was laid to rest. An lot of the Pale showed up, and many of them glanced or glared with hostility at the group while Ezra said words as close to dwarven tradition as any there seemed able. Billcoch Stonewall, added some surprisingly somber (and sober) words as well. When the crowd began disbursing, the party briefly explained to Ezra an Amanda what had actually happened at Wetstone. Both Keepers seemed relatively unsurprised to hear of the depths of the Hand’s betrayal, but agreed to watch for signs of further infiltration as the last handful of proper Shade members were integrated with the Mules.

Thala and Ink then sat down with the cursed Ix’iil dagger and the gross Ix’iil…implant? To work a ritual that might tell them more of the objects’ origins and nature.

The investigation of both objects took a substantial toll on Ink. The strain showed on ze’s face, and more of the strange, inky beetle-images ran across ze’s features as ze whimpered and groaned through the rituals. By the end of each, ze seemed certain of the following:

The Hand had received both the implant and the dagger from Ralaban the Grey, the human leader of M’ziir’s Thieves’ Guild. It was not clear where Ralaban had gotten either object, but Ink could tell that the dagger was special, powerful, and one of only seven made by who or whatever guided the hand of the Ix’iil. The wizards burnt the implant after the ritual was done. It probably didn’t actually scream as it burned.

The party agreed that the dagger was too dangerous to keep around. They wrapped it kn several layers of sackcloth and leather, and gave it to Amanda. They asked the former Keeper to take the filthy thing to the druid Zaxorii in Aven. They were told to ask Zaxorii to give the dagger to Goord, who, they knew, considered the Ix’iil a hated plague. At the same time, they tasked Ezra with walking the Pale Quarter to try and ease tensions between the Mules and the mercenaries from L’Ekar.

Tulvan 4: Morning

After that, Thala went back to the Grey Manse to gather some supplies.

Sardis went over to the sewer outlets to check on his pube-trap. Sure enough, he was pretty sure that someone(s), likely the Hand and Radyran, had passed through that outlet just last night. The Ix’iil clearly used the sewers to get in and out of the city. Classic, but gross.

Pony went off into the Pale, and possibly the City proper, to look for good materials for disguising the party for their assault/infiltration of Bokor Keep, estate of House Ikar.

Meanwhile, Kaijo, Ink, and Akra met with Bangiziplitizikin to discuss the party’s immanent infiltration of the Palace of Ur. Or…perhaps now the Palace of Imil, if the King followed traditional naming conventions for tiefling nobles.

Bangizi reported, in the first place, that there had been some change in the behavior of the astrologers. It wasn’t clear exactly what, but, now that two astrologers prowled the palace, they had changed behaviors abruptly overnight, speaking differently and with different people, or so it seemed.

Beyond that, he provided the group with a hand-drawn, but reasonably detailed map of the Palace that showed troop positions and patrols; the living quarters of significant persons; and some notes on magical security. It was not, the explorationer cautioned, perfect or exact, but it was one hell of an advantage to have when infiltrating a large, unfamiliar structure.

Bangizi agreed to meet the group by the “poop tubes” around nightfall. He said he could lead them through the sewers into Ganitipantuperan, and then into the Palace of M’ziir through a planar breach above the Castle of King Bevinigiangapilatini. Bangizi also agreed to do his best to gather palace guard tabards for as many in the party as he could, though, looking doubtfully at Kaijo and Akra, he said he could not promise to find six in appropriate sizes.

Thus, they had a plan for a busy, busy day and night.

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Session 29 (Tulvan 3rd - 4th, 101 RA)
An Entirely Predictable Trap

Tulvan 3: Late Afternoon

After receiving the note from “Glass,” the party split up to attend to tasks around the Pale Quarter. Ink stayed behind to work on books and logistics for the Mules. White Kaijo met with Captain Chur’Aal to discuss matters of strategy. Thala set about traveling around the Pale Quarter using her magicks to see that there was ample potable water.

Pony and Akra wandered the Quarter running a traditional Good-Cop/Bad-Cop routine, reestablishing some of the Shade’s credibility in terms of their traditional protection services and fees.

Meanwhile, Sardis went to The Wall in search of some hypothetical ingress to the City proper from the Pale Quarter other than through The Gap. After some time, and some observation, he came to believe that the Ix’iil had been using one of the sewer outlets that gave the Muck it’s name. To confirm his suspicions, he patiently braided a length of twine using pubic hairs from the outflowing sewage, and strung it across the pipe so as to break if anyone crawled through.

As twilight fell, everyone in the party heard gongs ringing out from the City proper, declaring the marriage of Ran’Imil Az’Guzuur to King Thuz’Ur, who would, now be known as king Thuz’Imil Az’Guzuur, in the tiefling tradition.

The party made their way back to the central Mule camp shortly some hours after full dark fell, expecting to share a meal and discuss their midnight meeting with Glass at Wetstone. Instead, shortly after the gongs rang the end of the evening watch (read: around 9pm), their planning was interrupted by the sounds of war horns sounding away to the east of M’ziir.

It took only a little discussion to ascertain that the horns were those of approaching friends rather than invaders. Lady Sheraz’Aal, then, leading her forces out of L’Ekar to join the forces of M’ziir and her liege lord, King Thuz’Imil. Probably.

Less than an hour later, the force, perhaps 700 strong, including some 200 light cavalry, marched around to approach the Pale Quarter from the west, not far from the Grey Manse. Captain Chur’Aal beckoned to the party to accompany him, along with Danae and Divinter, to meet the four leaders of the L’Ekaran forces.

Botro, Lady Sheraz’Aal’s hobgoblin bodyguard, clearly in command of L’Ekar’s forces, strode forward ahead of his three lieutenants: Billcoch Stonewall, the bluff and bellicose dwarven man already familiar to most of the party; Fanderall Stonestep, a peculiarly bulky male elf clad in full-plate armor; and Katalina Tenstrokes, the provocative human woman who had been among those the party had encountered on their return from Fort Pendred.

As the group approached, Thala noted aloud that Fanderall was known to her as the leadder of a mercenary company called the Fanderian Cavalry, while Katalina was known as the captain of the Lightning Corps, a company of skilled light infantry for hire.

Chur’Aal, greeting Botro with insults and derision enough to make everyone there, except Botro, cringe. Billcoch was delighted to see Kaijo and Akra in particular, and explained that he’d been given command of the L’Ekaran irregulars and conscripts. Introductions were made all around.

As Thala blatantly took to creep-flirting with Fanderall, the others discussed the disposition of L’Ekar’s forces.

Botro told them that Lady Sheraz’Aal, and her astrologer, Mazzegur, had been “invited” to stay at the palace, while Botro had been instructed to join his forces to the Mules under Chur’Aal. As Chur’Aal lorded it over Botro, the hobgoblin gritted his teeth and explained that they’d also brought several carts of food and supplies with them, significantly more than would be needed by the L’Ekaran forces alone, assuming the battle for the City didn’t last more than a day or two. Nobody expected it to.

Chur’Aal, seemingly bored, ordered Kaijo and the rest of the party to help Botro’s forces get settled in and the supplies stored, making sure to add that Kaijo should demean Botro at every opportunity. As he, Danae, and Divinter walked away, Kaijo insulted Botro, following quickly with an apology once Chur’Aal was out of earshot. It seemed obvious that Botro understood, and that everyone there thought Chur’Aal quite the tool.

The next few hours were spent integrating the new forces into the Mule camp and around the Pale Quarter. Nobody was happy about it, but the mercenaries seemed stoic, and the irregulars not much less resigned than the Mules and remaining Palers. Billcoch just wanted a drink.

The job was barely done (indeed, Ink stayed behind to help finish up), when the time came to go to Wetstone.

Tulvan 4: Midnight

Old Warwick around Wetstone was quite crowded these days with the addition of those who had dwelt west of where the Bulwark now stood. Adding a handful of L’Ekaran troops to that had made things even worse. But, by midnight, most of the Pale had settled down for the night.

When the party reached Wetstone, Tanner was outside stacking and sorting rocks in the dim light of a few torches. He nodded a greeting and suggested that Kaijo come inside to talk while the rest “had a look at the materials” out in the yard. They did as he suggested, though Sardis decided he’d better have a quick look around the outside of Wetstone’s low wall.

Tanner let Kaijo enter his windowless house first. Kaijo, not really all that surprised, quickly noted that Glass was not there, but not quite quickly enough to avoid the ambush entirely. Before he had time do do more than defend hiself, the Hand appeared in a shadowy corner of the dimly-lit room and attacked. To Kaijo’s horror, Tanner, always a stalwart friend of the Shade, began barring the doors to prevent Kaijo’s escape.

Outside, Sardis’ patrol of the wall revealed two goblin archers, hidden and poised to strike. Sardis raised the alarm in time to keep his companions from being caught unaware, even as Radyran, apparently in league with the Hand,

The fight outside the walls was almost enough to keep the party from rushing to Kaijo’s aid. Meanwhile, Kaijo, trapped in a room with an immovable dwarf and an unstoppable assassin was hard pressed just to stay alive. Fortunately, his instincts kicked in and he was able to force open one of the doors to Tanners home, allowing his friends to come to his aid.

In the end, one of the goblins escaped, running off to report to, presumably, his Ix’iil masters. Radyran was slain in the rubble of Tanner’s yard.

It was not until Tanner had been felled that the party realized that he had been possessed by the Ix’iil, as one of the semi-corporeal tentacled spirit-orbs that they’d driven from so may other victims ghosted from his body to make a last desperate attempt to help the Hand escape.

Which she nearly did. Though Kaijo kept his life by a hairs-breadth, the party managed to trap the hand inside Tanner’s home (which quite nearly burned-down), bleeding from many wounds. In a last desperate attempt, the assassin cloaked herself in whatever strange magics fueled her powers and leaped desperately out the door opened momentarily by the Ix’iil spirit as it’s dying action.

Invisible, but slowed by injuries and magical chill, the Hand quite nearly disappeared into the night.

But then quite nearly careened into Sardis, who had stalked all the way around the outside of Wetstone chasing the goblins. Sardis shot an arrow point-blank into the Hand’s thigh, stopping her cold, if not, quite, dead.

Her last words were a snarled warning that the party would never survive the days to come, spoken in the moments before she opened her own bowels in a ritual suicide all too familiar to Kaijo.

The party had mere moments to orient and collude on a story before the crowd of Palers and Mules, Danae and Divinter leading them, closed around Wetstone, demanding an explanation.

Just before people started showing up to investigate the ruckus, Page the pseudodragon appeared, with a note and looking…chagrined? The party could not read the note until later, as it was written in that peculiar tiny-handed supernal script. Once they handed it over to Ink a while later, they could read that it said: “It’s a trap! The Hand & Radyran!”

(Everyone should get an extra 150Xp)

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Session 28 (Tulvan 3, 101 RA)
Blah, blah, blah...

Tulvan 3: Morning

As dawn broke, Danae came to the party and gave them a handful of magical items, along with 900 gold pieces as their “pay.” Clearly these had been some reserves and resources she’d been holding in reserve.

Stiffly accepting the gifts, the party let her know they would be heading into the city. She told them to get a pass from the quartermaster before attempting to enter the Gap.

The quartermaster, a halfling woman named Benni Longpool who had stood in the Shade, gave them some encouraging words that showed she remembered their service to the Pale, and bid them good luck.

First, they went to the Mason’s Rest in Crafter’s Row to seek put either Bangiziplitizikin the gnome or some word from the Shepherds. Fortunately, they found the Explorationer in the rooms that Kaijo had rented (and now renewed) for several days.

Bangizi seemed delighted to see them, and eager to talk about the deal he’d brokered for them with BevinigiAngapilatini, king of Ganitipantuperan. He revealed that the king had agreed to let the party make use of the Explorationers in return for a promise of future, indefinite reciprocation. After a long pause, and some quiet discussion of gnomish culture, the party agreed.

They talked about where and how the Explorationers could get people into the Palace of Ur. They learned that Thuz’Ur’s bedchamber was well protected, both magically and physically, and that Bangizi was, so far, the only Explorationer who had managed to get inside, and they’d seen the end result of that. He supposed that Thuz’Ur’s private chambers would now be even more well guarded, and he didn’t believe that he could get into that room again anytime soon, certainly not through the Feywild. In response to the big dragonborn’s disgruntlement over this, Bangizi admonished White Guy Joe to calm down and enjoy the advantages that they did enjoy.

Bangizi said that he could probably get 5 or 6 people into the Palace though. He cautioned that there was only one way in (through a portal in a ceiling of some room?), and only one way out (through a latrine) that he knew of. After some lengthy discussion, the party decided that the best use of the Explorationers, for now, was to gather information.

Bangizi joyfully departed, promising to collect for them information about the happenings in the palace, as well as battle plans, troop dispositions, and information about Thuz’Ur’s personal fighting style, abilities, and defenses.

Tulvan 3: Late Morning

Back in the Mules camp, after returning their City Pass, they met again with a much more sober Captain Chur’Aal.

Chur’Aal was still, well, churlish, but somewhat less so. Kaijo spoke frankly, and revealed a shocking amount of information about what was actually going on. He explained that the party believed there might be more than one “Blood King” in Mokiir, and that the Ix’iil and Astrologers seemed more likely to be connected to an unknown individual than to King Isra’Asiel of Azeth. He revealed to Chur’Aal that Danae and Divinter were allied with the Ix’iil. Somehow, through blunt disclosure and a bit of good luck, it seemed that Kaijo earned Chur’Aal’s trust. Maybe even a modicum of respect?

In any case, it was enough so that Chur’Aal offered to take the remaining Shade on, along with the party, as part of his personal fighting force. He clarified for the party that, while they were technically under Danae’s command within the Mule’s command structure, they worked for him.

They left with Chur’Aal mulling over his new distrust for his mother’s astrologer, Mazzegur, and encouraging the group to keep up the good (for non-tieflings) work.

Tulvan 3: Midday

With Chur’Aal’s blessing, the party returned to the Grey Manse. They met with Ezra and Amanda, and told them pretty much everything, except the identity of the party’s contacts inside the Palace. It took some doing, more to convince Amanda than Ezra, but the two remaining Keepers agreed to try to talk the remaining Shade into joining with Chur’Aal.

The question arose of what to do with/about the Grey Manse in the meantime, and it was suggested that maybe they should invite the haunting spirits of the Manse into the tunnels below to help discourage interlopers if the Shade joined Chur’Aal and the Mules.

The group also went to visit the unfortunate Lander Ebben, who had been imprisoned in one of the Grey Manse’s holding pits for nearly three weeks, quietly (and sometimes loudly) losing his mind ever since he was captured while selling Ix’iil Tonic on the Stalls.

Ebben was clearly degenerating mentally. He raved and ranted about how He had arrived. In the dwarves’ old city. HE had come. He was here. And maybe another here was…also here? Or, there? They’d passed through shadows, and He wanted his toe back, and He was among the dwarven ghosts, and She was helping him, and so was she…
Etc, etc, etc…
And then he started moaning and bleeding from various face-holes.

Ink, Pony, and Thalla eased him to a dreamless sleep with herbs and magic, and the party returned to their camp.

Tulvan 3: Afternoon

Back at camp, they ate some lunch, and learned that Thuz’Ur had kicked all the Shepherds out of M’ziir. Which…struck everyone as exceptionally foolish. They spent some time among the Mules and denizens of the Pale Quarter, quietly and gently letting it be known that The Shade was still there, beaten but not broken, watching and protecting, recovering and adjusting and looking for opportunities to keep the Pale safe.

Not long after, the party was visited by a tall, somber, nondescript human who introduced himself as Brandon Ebbs, and who was quickly revealed to be a clandestine Shepherds Agent. He’d received a note left by Kaijo at the Mason’s rest letting anyone looking for the PCs know to find them in the Mules’ camp. He spoke about the politics of the situation, and mentioned the Coven, which the party immediately inferred as synonymous with The Astrologers. True or not, it was clear that the Coven was a shadowy group who sought power and influence in Mokiir, and that the Shepherds opposed them.

Shepherd Ebbs seemed disturbed to learn that the party, or at least Kaijo, backed Chur’Aal.

He also suggested that they might best exert pressure on the situation in ways other than the assassination of Thuz’Ur, as, unsurprisingly, there were plenty of people working on that project. But his interest in working with the party was very obviously lessened by their lack of direct support for Lady An’Ikar. Before taking his leave, Ebbs asked Kaijo to step away from the rest of the party, and spoke to them without him.

Shortly after Kaijo returned, carefully not asking what had passed between his crew and the Shepherd, a fairy courier appeared with a note, written in draconic, apparently by Glass, saying that he knew who’d framed him and killed Wease. he asked that they meet him at Wetstone at midnight so he could talk things through with them.

They figured that it was either real, or a trap, and that either way they should go and check it out.

NEWS AND RUMORS
  • The Blood King wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow which enslaves the will of those who look upon it.
  • The Blood King of Azeth is actually a changeling posing as the heir to House Azil. The true heir escaped and is behind Aechell’s aggression.
  • The Blood King of Azeth is freeing the slaves in the cities he conquers, and is ending the tyrannies of the Elder Bloodlines.
  • The Blood King of Azeth has taken D’kath, and Okorian, and his armies will arrive outside M’ziir within the next few days.
  • The armies of M’ziir are not likely to be able to withstand more than a day or two of assault by the armies of the Blood King. Thankfully, the armies of Queen Ren’Raatha Az’Ebbezuur should be coming from Darakor any day now.
  • The armies of Darakor are never coming. Queen Ren’Raatha has allied with the Blood King already.
  • King Thuz’Ur has gone utterly mad, seeing gnomes everywhere, and blaming them for M’ziir’s questionable readiness for war.
  • The Gap has a functioning, if rudimentary, gate now.
  • King Thuz’Ur has increased the bounty on gnomes to 500 gold pieces
  • King Thuz’Ur is executing his family, friends and advisers on a daily basis.
  • King Thuz’Ur executed his cousin, Shepherd Aran’Ik, for treason a few days ago, and plans to execute Aran’Ik’s sister, An’Ikar Az’Guzuur.
  • The Ikar family has fled M’ziir.
  • Edur Bennigan, king of New Cormorell, has been executed by Aechelleth, who, through some unknown magic, projected the king’s death into the sky for all in the Blessed Lands to see.
  • The God King of War, Aechelleth, is behind the Blood King’s success.
  • The Blood King is Aechelleth in disguise.
  • The hills and mines all along the Gandoran range are overrun with goblinoids and giants.
  • The late Queen Amra’Ur’s family, the Ebbezuurs of Darakor are pretty unhappy about her being executed.
  • King Thuz’Ur has shut M’ziir to all trade from Azeth, D’kath, and Okorian. The Shepherds’ Guild is not pleased
  • The Pale Quarter is being converted to a defensive bulwark, with an earthen rampart running north to south along it’s eastern edge.
  • Sheraz’Aal Az’Zoran, lady of L’ekar and mother to Chur’Aal Az’Guzuur is marching her troops towards M’ziir to support Thuz’Ur and resist the Blood King.
  • Lady Sheraz’Aal has summoned aid from her family in Shek’zur to aid in the battle for (or against) the Blood King.
  • Lady Sheraz’Aal still hates Okori’s (people from Okorian) 21 years after her husband’s death in a skirmish over territory, and will never join the Blood King so long as he is allied with that city.
  • Palers who did not enlist in the Mules and who aren’t otherwise possessed of useful skills are being made slaves.
  • The Ix’iil are actually running the Mules
  • There has been a huge uptick in goblinoid raids in the Westcrook and Northcrook, outside M’ziir. The Blood King is implicated.
  • The Shepherds are planning a coup, having decided that all the nobility of Mokiir is corrupt (in a bad way).
  • The Shepherds have increased recruiting.
  • King Thuz’Ur’s Court Astrologer, Martesse, has prophesied disaster for M’ziir, and all of Mokiir, should Isra’Asiel take the throne.
  • The Blood King has slain the Court Astrologers in Azeth, D’kath, and Okorian.
  • Several members of the former street gang The Shade are now working for Lady An’Ikar Az’Guzuur
  • Thuz’Ur will wed the widow Ran’Imil, hated sister-in-law of Lady An’ikar. Ran’Imil will be Thuz’Ur’s fifth wife.
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Session 27 (Tulvan 2-3, 101 RA)
Danae, Slapped

Tulvan 2: After Sundown

The party approached the Pale Quarter from the West, splitting up to creep through the Boneyard and to the Grey Manse, where a sullen Idaaran let them in.

Amanda and the rest were not happy to see them. Ezra had gone missing, and the Hand hadn’t been seen since she’d been prevented from killing Ink. The group was under even more suspicion than when they’d left, especially when they told the Shade that Ezra had been taken captive by Chur’Aal, and that their next plan was to go and talk to Danae, who was actually still one of the good guys, really, because Ezra said so, look, you can tell from this note written in a “language” that nobody but Ink can read, and, oh, could they use that old tunnel up to Danae’s tent?

Amanda basically threw up her hands and acknowledged that if Kaijo’s crew wanted to wipe out the Shade, they could probably do so all on their own, so why argue. She went on, though, to say that the party could sleep in the Manse, and use the tunnel, but that, after that, they would not be welcome or allowed back at least until Ezra had returned. The party accepted the terms, then whistled up Page, asking the tiny pseudodragon to warn Danae that the party was coming later that night. They then settled in for a kip, planning to head for Danae in the quiet hours after midnight.

Tulvan 3: The Witching Hour

Ink woke up to a note laying on ze’s chest. It said, in Supernal, “I will take you into custody when you come. It will be okay.” Judging by the handwriting, the note had been written by who or whatever had written the ineffective note to Ink in Danae’s logbook while the party had been away. Who or whatever it was had been about Page’s size, but humanoid. Perhaps a fairy? Nobody could say.

But they gulped, gathered their things, and headed out, down to the end of the secret passage. As they went, they stowed their best gear in Pony’s bag of holding, and equipped lesser swords and bows. They didn’t want to lose their best gear when Danae arrested them. Y’know, just in case this was a trap.

They went to the end of the corridor, past the first set of lockable doors, to the locked and barricaded trap door that used to lead to Carracle’s Stall. Amanda and the Idaaran unbarred the way, and warned the party again that it would be closed behind them, permanently.

Kaijo sent Page up to warn Danae, then knocked an old secret knock.
For a while, nothing happened. Kaijo slowly pushed his way up, through the trap door, leading the group into Danae’s spacious tent.

The entrance to the tent was closed, but there was a great tear in the tent near where they emerged. Danae was standing with her back very pointedly to the trap door, which was casually screened from the rest of the tent by a pile of Danae’s belongings and equipment.

After they’d all clamored loudly out and closed the trap door behind them, Danae spun in apparent surprise, called for the guards, and had them disarmed, arrested, and hauled before Chur’Aal Az’Az’Guzuur. As they walked to the luxurious command tent, they were struck by how many familiar faces appeared among the ragtag mules. By the time they reached Lord Chur’Aal, they were all spattered with mud, shit, and gobbets of spit. Nobody threw food, no matter how rotten. The party followed Kaijo’s lead and knelt when they entered the tent.

The Captain of the Mules had clearly been roused from his bed. He sat in a command chair garbed in a loose dressing gown. Danae stood on his left, and Divinter on his right. When Red Hands entered, he’d almost pointedly greeted Danae as one might a lover. The astute among the party noted that Danae rebuffed him as one might an inconvenient display of affection, rather than an unwelcome one. The guards were sent away from the tent to provide privacy.

Chur’Aal conducted himself with a sort of insouciant, narcissistic cruelty that was almost a caricature of a spoiled, young tiefling noble. He asked after each of them, but mocked, teased, and ridiculed them at every opportunity. When presented with his mother’s letter, he stepped behind an ornate curtain for over half an hour to read it. It was clear from the sounds they heard that Chur’Aal was taking some time to indulge carnal pursuits with some guest behind the curtains, and clear from his increasingly intoxicated manner when he returned that he’d indulged in other ways as well.

At first he pretended his to take his mother’s message at face value (it had been written in code), but quickly left off his harassment of the parties and got to the point.

Chur’Aal seemed fascinated by the options presented by Kaijo for betraying Thuz’Ur, and thoughtful at the notion of possibly marrying Ran’Imil out from under the doomed king, or after his death if it could be arranged. He welcomed the party’s support in opposing An’Ikar, and seemed simultaneously irritated and pleased that his mother was bringing her forces to M’ziir. He also wanted to know if they party had any notion of what his mother meant when she said that Mazzegur had told her that Darakor was waiting on the Fullness of Fate before acting. They did not.

It took a bit. They all had to swallow their pride, and Kaijo had to show his tattoo and say his name a lot, but the group convinced Chur’Aal, over Divinter’s objections, and Danae’s professed doubt, to hire them on. Given his ultimate impatience and apparent intoxication, the party wondered how much he’d even remember of the conversation the next day, but Chur’Aal said he would consult with them further later, and assigned them to Danae’s command.

Danae led them out of the tent, Divinter glaring as they went, and out to where Ezra was being held.

Danae left them before reaching Ezra, and told them to meet her back at her tent when they were through. Several of them caught a glimpse of an unfamiliar fairy tending to Ezra’s wounds before zipping away at their approach.

Ezra was naked in the stocks, and had obviously been badly beaten. One of his eyes was swollen shut, several of his ribs were broken, and his mouth was a ruin. Despite this, he greeted the party warmly.

They released him, and tended his woulds as best they could. After conferring for a moment, agreed to take him to Ohma at his tent near the Bulwark. On the way, Ezra shared a great deal.

He explained that Danae had, apparently deliberately, been infested with an Ix’iil spirit. Through some discipline or magic Ezra didn’t understand, she had cordoned the spirit off inside her own mind and was able to shield her true thoughts from it without letting the entity know. She could even, with great effort, deceive the spirit (which saw and heard what she did) into believing she was doing, and saying, and seeing things differently than she truly was. This had allowed her, through means he was not able to fully disclose, to communicate in secret to him about her state. She was, he assured them, still quite loyal to the Shade, such as it was, and to the wellbeing of the Pale Quarter and its denizens. She was also gathering tremendous knowledge about the Ix’iil, though much of it was still trapped in her mind for the time being.

They got Ezra to Ohma, who somberly greeted them and took charge of the broken bard. The throck assured them that he would retun Ezra to the Manse. Ezra assured them that he’d talk to Amanda and the remaining Shade for them.

And the group returned to speak to Danae.

Their meeting began with some very real seeming harsh words between Kaijo and the former leader of the Shade. Then, unexpectedly, Ink strode forward and slapped Danae hard and loudly across her face.

That’s when things got weird.

Ink’s blow caused a strange, now familiar inky image of a stylized beetle to flow across Danae’s face. Then time slowed down, the torches in the tent grew viscous and dim, and everyone in the tent had the abrupt experience of a shift in their perceptions that the wizards would later describe to them as stepping towards the Shadow realm, plane of nightmares and lost souls.

They saw a ghostly, tentacled mass, about the half Danae’s size, fly violently out of her and away from the tent. Apparently slapped out of her. They also saw Danae’s shadow grow and expand, seemingly possessed of ominous bat-like wings and great curving horns. Then, in a dreamlike tone, as they all sat stunned, Danae, who had fallen to ground, gasped and began to speak.

She gasped and seemed near panicked. She confirmed what Ezra had said, and warned them that, while the spirit had left her for a moment, she didn’t know how long she had to speak plainly before it returned. She said a great deal, much of it senseless and muddled, and most of it quite disconcerting, before warning that the spirit was returning, and that she couldn’t be entirely sure if she could cordon it off in her mind successfully again or not.

Abruptly, the strange spell was broken, time and light and thought returned to normal, and Danae stood up and punched Ink, hard, across ze’s face. She told the group to find tents, set up near her, and report in the morning.

DANAE’S SECRETS
  • Danae says: Don’t trust The Hand or Radyran, they were traitors all along.
  • Danae says: Beware the astrologers. It’s been them all along. They are waiting for the Fullness of Fate.
  • Danae says: A man name Jim will be coming. But not soon, probably. When he comes, keep him involved; don’t let him leave.
  • Danae says: The Fairy will write more notes, and can tell if Danae can be trusted. Be careful with the fairy, they can’t do without her.
NEWS AND RUMORS
  • The Blood King wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow which enslaves the will of those who look upon it.
  • The Blood King of Azeth is actually a changeling posing as the heir to House Azil. The true heir escaped and is behind Aechell’s aggression.
  • The Blood King of Azeth is freeing the slaves in the cities he conquers, and is ending the tyrannies of the Elder Bloodlines.
  • The Blood King of Azeth has taken D’kath, and Okorian, and his armies will arrive outside M’ziir within the next few days.
  • The armies of M’ziir are not likely to be able to withstand more than a day or two of assault by the armies of the Blood King. Thankfully, the armies of Queen Ren’Raatha Az’Ebbezuur should be coming from Darakor any day now.
  • The armies of Darakor are never coming. Queen Ren’Raatha has allied with the Blood King already.
  • King Thuz’Ur has gone utterly mad, seeing gnomes everywhere, and blaming them for M’ziir’s questionable readiness for war.
  • The Gap has a functioning, if rudimentary, gate now.
  • King Thuz’Ur has increased the bounty on gnomes to 500 gold pieces
  • King Thuz’Ur is executing his family, friends and advisers on a daily basis.
  • King Thuz’Ur executed his cousin, Shepherd Aran’Ik, for treason a few days ago, and plans to execute Aran’Ik’s sister, An’Ikar Az’Guzuur.
  • The Ikar family has fled M’ziir.
  • Edur Bennigan, king of New Cormorell, has been executed by Aechelleth, who, through some unknown magic, projected the king’s death into the sky for all in the Blessed Lands to see.
  • The God King of War, Aechelleth, is behind the Blood King’s success.
  • The Blood King is Aechelleth in disguise.
  • The hills and mines all along the Gandoran range are overrun with goblinoids and giants.
  • The late Queen Amra’Ur’s family, the Ebbezuurs of Darakor are pretty unhappy about her being executed.
  • King Thuz’Ur has shut M’ziir to all trade from Azeth, D’kath, and Okorian. The Shepherds’ Guild is not pleased
  • The Pale Quarter is being converted to a defensive bulwark, with an earthen rampart running north to south along it’s eastern edge.
  • Sheraz’Aal Az’Zoran, lady of L’ekar and mother to Chur’Aal Az’Guzuur is marching her troops towards M’ziir to support Thuz’Ur and resist the Blood King.
  • Lady Sheraz’Aal has summoned aid from her family in Shek’zur to aid in the battle for (or against) the Blood King.
  • Lady Sheraz’Aal still hates Okori’s (people from Okorian) 21 years after her husband’s death in a skirmish over territory, and will never join the Blood King so long as he is allied with that city.
  • Palers who did not enlist in the Mules and who aren’t otherwise possessed of useful skills are being made slaves.
  • The Ix’iil are actually running the Mules
  • There has been a huge uptick in goblinoid raids in the Westcrook and Northcrook, outside M’ziir. The Blood King is implicated.
  • The Shepherds are planning a coup, having decided that all the nobility of Mokiir is corrupt (in a bad way).
  • The Shepherds have increased recruiting.
  • King Thuz’Ur’s Court Astrologer, Martesse, has prophesied disaster for M’ziir, and all of Mokiir, should Isra’Asiel take the throne.
  • The Blood King has slain the Court Astrologers in Azeth, D’kath, and Okorian.
  • Several members of the former street gang The Shade are now working for Lady An’Ikar Az’Guzuur
  • Thuz’Ur will wed the widow Ran’Imil, hated sister-in-law of Lady An’ikar. Ran’Imil will be Thuz’Ur’s fifth wife.
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Session 26 (Tulvan 2, 101 RA)
Ten Ogre Ears

Tulvan 2: Early Afternoon

Out of nowhere, Pony appeared! It seemed that she’d been watching from a distance for a while, but they didn’t get the whole story until after the fight with the ogres was done.

Speaking of ogres…fighting ogres isn’t easy.

But the party sure made it look so.

The dragonborn basically just…charged up the middle,facing down the enormous alpha ogre and one of the smaller ones, while the wizards magically delayed the two that were following Sardis towards the party’s right flank. With the left flank covered by Pony, the party’s line held and, other than a surprisingly drawn-out game of Kick-the-Ogre played between the wizards, they made pretty short work of the whole lot.

Even Akra didn’t go down.

Afterwards, they brushed themselves off, caught up with Pony (who informed them that she’d been in the area following up on rumors of a one-armed eladrin), and idly explored the surface level of Fort Pendred

It turned out that several members of the party knew a lot of the history of the cursed ruin. Upon considering some of the legends, the group concluded that the stories of mystical wells in the lower levels seemed awfully likely to relate to the stories of mystical wells in places like Gar Gorran and Aven.

The party spent quite a while at the Fort, most of that time was spent by most of the party in sorting, appraising, and packing (mostly into Pony’s magic bag, but some on the horses) the substantial trove of valuable trade goods they’d found in a ruined tower.

Sardis, encouraged by Pony mentioning that she had indeed found some sign of an eladrin-sized humanoid in the area around the Fort, combed the worn flagstone floor for any indication of Glass.
And found it.

It seemed that someone about glass’s size had come out from the basement of the fort, and returned there at least once in the past several days. Naturally, Thala (with Ink following), wandered downstairs to have a look.

They only went as far as the first landing, and couldn’t really see much other than what appeared to be a large room with some columns in it. Probably fortunately, the rest of the party dragged the two wizards away from the lower levels, though not before Ink left a piece of parchment with ze’s signature spiral design, and a used quill, on the landing. Just in case Glass happened by.

After some general discussion about the probable value of coming back later to explore this ruin further, the party headed out, ogre ears in-hand, back to L’ekar to quickly claim their bounty, fetch a letter, and sell their trade goods, all in the hope of returning to M’ziir before nightfall.

On their way through the parched hills, scrub, and stunted trees, they spotted a trio of riders a few hundred yards off, headed their way. As the riders grew closer, the party recognized Avosh, the dragonborn mercenary, a human woman who looked like some kind of pirate, and an unfamiliar male tiefling with a thick magical rod. They also noticed a third rider (an eladrin, it turned out) riding quietly out towards their flanks.

The tense encounter began with the tiefling, whose name was Baranks Az’Ragazi, introducing himself and making small talk about Fort Pendred. Quickly enough it came out that Baranks was leading a party of six adventurers, including Avosh, Katalina the pirate, two eladrin, and a halfling, out towards Fort Pendred to clear it of a “group of bandits” and some ogres. Even before Baranks called off the eladrin and halfling, who had been sneaking up on the party’s flanks, it was apparent that Baranks and his people had been sent to kill them.

Avosh, despite the elder eladrin’s clear disdain, successfully convinced her companions that the Hill Crew were much more trouble than they were worth.

Which left the twelve of them awkwardly waiting for each other to leave.

Eventually, they reached an agreement. Nobody wanted to fight, but Baranks’ crew wanted some payout, and the Hill Crew wanted to know who had hired the other crew to kill them. It seemed simple enough to trade ogre ears for information.

They learned that Baranks and his people had been hired only a couple hours ago, by a halfling calling himself Ladro Piper, who had displayed Thieve’s Guild connections. Ladro was known to several party members, though Kaijo commented that he had thought that Ladro had quit the guild. Baranks, smiling, agreed that he’d heard the same, as well as that the halfling had left for an apprenticeship of some sort.

After that, they pretty much parted ways amicably. Baranks’ crew decided they would head up to the Fort anyway, just to check things out, and the Hill Crew rode off to L’Ekar.

There, Pony quickly sold off the trade goods they’d found, and Kaijo stopped by the Keep to inform Lady Sheraz’Aal’s Captain of the Guard that they’d killed the ogres, but had failed to salvage any ears. Fortunately, the Captain believed him, but denied him the bounty. He handed over the letter from the Lady of L’Ekar, and shortly thereafter, the Shade were on their way back home.

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Session 25 (Tulvan 2, 101 RA)
The Lady of L'Ekar

Tulvan 2: Midday

As the body of the Blackfist burned down to ash, the party went to the Shepherds’ Outpost to ask who held the command in L’Ekar. At the Outpost, a Shepherd named Markus Brakes told them that Commander Brightfoot was extremely busy and not around. He did offer to deliver her a message. Kaijo asked him to tell her that:

the White Dragonborn says he has news of the Shepherds in M’ziir, and the new ruler of M’ziir. The dragonborn will be at the Mason’s Rest in Crafter’s Row, or at Mama Cat’s in the Pale Quarter, if the Commander wishes to talk.

Then the party headed for L’Ekar Keep to seek audience with Lady Sheraz’Aal.

The Keep was just one squat tower, surrounded by a wall and a handful of outbuildings. The small courtyard, dusty and baking in the midday sun, was clearly not meant to hold so many. Mercenaries, Shepherds, militia, and members of Lady Sheraz’Aal’s household guard all busily moved about, shoulder-to-shoulder, carrying supplies, and messages, standing in line at the smithy or as part of the long queue of petitioners seeking audience with the Lady. With a sigh, the party settled in for what looked like an hours-long wait.

Kaijo, never one to dilly dally, picked a fight instead.

Well…he had Akra start one. Specifically with a burly, surly-looking dwarf standing in front of her in line. A shove, a few insults, and abruptly Kaijo was stepping in to breakup a fight between the two. Not interested in a peaceful resolution, the dwarf turned his ire on Kaijo. Naturally, as soon as trouble started, a ring of onlookers began forming, deforming the queue. Few seemed upset about this, as placing bets on a fight between a giant albino dragonborn and a boulder of a dwarven mercenary was much more interesting than anything else they’d been doing.

Kaijo, fighting unarmed against a dwarf with neither patience nor a concern for fair play, got much the worst of the fight. The stocky man repeatedly bludgeoned the dragonborn to the ground with his shield, while Kaijo mostly rapped his knuckles against the dwarf’s armor. Still, with his typical bullheadedness, Kaijo just kept standing back up, demanding that his opponent surrender.

Eventually, after Kaijo landed a punch or two, the dwarf, announcing himself as Billcoch Stonewall, fell from punching to laughing, and both parties agreed to get an ale instead of finishing. Which, naturally, threw the entire booing, shouting crowd into an uproar, as everyone tried to claim that their favored combatant had won the fight. Nobody seemed to have bet on a draw.

Billcoch wanted to go with Kaijo to the Lark and Bone immediately, but Kaijo insisted through the tumult that he and his friends had to see the Lady of the Keep first. This apparent reneging nearly began another fight, until Pony smoothly intervened, offering to buy ales for Billcoch until Kaijo could catch up and make good. Appeased, the dwarf left the courtyard with the elf, just as Lady Sheraz’Aal’s captain of the guard came out from the Keep to restore order.

As the rest of the guard left off their arguing and began calming the crowd, the Captain announced that, due to the ruckus, the Lady Sheraz’Aal would see no more petitioners that day. As the crowd thinned, the Captain came to the party and asked them to follow him inside.

The party, sans Pony, followed, through a narrow stone corridor pierced by arrow slits and murder holes, into a small receiving hall. Six guards, plus the Captain, a hobgoblin bodyguard, and a cloaked and hooded adviser stood flanking Lady Sheraz’Aal Az’Zoran, who sat on a modest but elegant stone throne, carved in patterns suggestive of a spider’s web or a bat’s wings.

The Captain and his soldiers divested the party of their weapons, and the group bowed. The lady greeted the party cordially, and commended them, with amusement in her voice, on clearing the path to an audience with her. She seemed amused, and impressed, and perhaps a little as though she had already heard something of what had passed in the impromptu bazaar earlier in the day.

Somewhat surprisingly, the conversation quickly turned frank, and the Lady sent her guards out of the hall. Her bodyguard, Botro the Hobgoblin, and the cloaked person to her right, remained.

The conversation was lengthy. The Lady clearly wished some way to ensure her son’s safety, or, better, his rise to power. She was also clearly insightful and cautious, displaying interest and astute understanding of most of those present, though she clearly thought little of those who spoke roughly.

Ultimately, she seemed to believe (especially after Kaijo displayed his Blood King tattoo), that the party had King Isra’Asiel’s ear, and that they had some power to strike bargains on his behalf. She did want assurances that Isra’Asiel wouldn’t seek to take her hostage as leverage against her home City of Shek’Zur. She also displayed a great interest in Lady An’Ikar’s apparent willingness to work with the Blood King in return for his favor.

Considering this, Lady Sharaz’Aal proposed a mutual blood oath:

In return for Kaijo’s promise that he would personally support Chur’Aal as the next king of M’ziir over any other, she would she would write a letter, instructing her son to allow the Blood King into the City, and insisting Chur’Aal release one prisoner of the party’s choice, and that he preserve the wellbeing of the Pale Quarter.. Kaijo agreed, conditioned on Chur’Aal remaining faithful to both the Blood King and the preservation of the Pale.

White Kaijo and the Lady of L’Ekar, over and against the quiet but clear objections of her hooded adviser, each bled, and swore.

Seemingly satisfied with the bargain, the lady inquired as to Kaijo’s thoughts regarding the disposition of her forces. She was torn between remaining in L’Ekar and seeking to join the Blood King as he passed through, versus marching to M’ziir and betraying Thuz’Ur at an opportune moment. After a brief discussion, they agreed that marching to the City was the better strategy. The Lady sighed in apparent frustration. There was, she said, a small tribe of ogres that had been raiding the outlying farms around L’Ekar. While they hadn’t been able to do much harm with so many warriors massed in the village, she feared that if she marched to M’ziir, they might wreak genuine havoc. Might, she inquired, the party be willing to pop up into the hills northwest of the village and take care of them?

They agreed once she’d offered them 50gp per ogre-ear they brought back.

With that, she asked Botro to show the party out, and gracefully excused herself upstairs and out of sight.

As he lead them back into the oppressive heat of the courtyard, Botro turned and quietly admonished the party to beware the Astrologers.

Whatever that meant.

Wasting no time, the party returned to the Lark and Bone, where waited a drunk dwarf (who was appeased when Kaijo bought him one more), and their horses (who had been tied up outside, as the stable was already overcrowded), but no Pony. The elf had left a message with Billcoch, who told them she’d said they should press on, and she’d catch back up with them later. Concerned, but not willing to wait, the party rode off into the hills, to a ruined keep about 2 hours away on horseback, or about an hour by magical horse.

Tulvan 2: Mid Afternoon

At the first sight of the ruin, the party retreated back down the path and hid their horses. Then Sardis crept up the arid hillside, ghosting between stunted trees and giant boulders, to see what he could see.

He returned saying that he’d seen three ogres, the nearest of which seemed to have smelled him for a moment, and the other two of which had been “bathing” and “fishing,” respectively, in the muddy, stagnant water of the fort’s moat. He’d also heard at least two more ogres, seemingly in some kind of struggle, inside the ruined walls.

They developed a plan. Sardis would take the magical horn they’d captured from the goblinoids at Dead Falcon Mine, and sneak into the old fort through a crumbling gap he’d spotted in a wall at the base of a turret. Once inside, he’d blow the horn, which, hopefully, would serve both to alert the party to rush the keep, and to draw all the ogres inside so that, once Sardis had fled, the ogres would have to fight their way back out against the combined might of the party. A bottleneck at the gate, they reasoned, would tip the odds in their favor.

The plan went…pretty well. Sardis made it inside, unnoticed, though he had to stifle a gasp when he peered around a corner to see a truly massive female ogre, lasciviously and idly rubbing between her splayed legs, as she lay, naked, waiting for the departing male ogre to send in one of the others to continue servicing her.

Sardis didn’t speak ogre. But…it was…pretty obvious what was going on.

Trying to distract himself from the shocking sight, Sardis blew his horn good and hard.

The party came running. The ogres came running too. Only…the ogres were a lot faster than anyone had reckoned. Sardis had to flee up a steep, narrow stairway that led out to the ramparts, and leaped desperately off and into the moat, just inches ahead of two ogres who, thankfully, were slowed tremendously as the squeezed and pushed themselves by main force up the human-sized steps and over the ramparts, quite nearly crushing Sardis beneath them.

Meanwhile, the other ogres, ran out the front gate to catch Sardis outside…though the first to do so set off the wrong direction around the fort at first. Naturally, everything changed when they spotted the approaching party, who found themselves charging uphill at five angry, if confused, ogres.

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Session 24 (Tulvan 2, 101 RA)
Red Hands and the Blackfist

Tulvan 2: Morning

In the morning, everyone but Thala (who said she had to study) headed for breakfast in the common room…
…where they found Divinter Red Hands, dressed in his Pale Quarter Defense Force uniform. He was sitting at a table with three others: Marta Blunter, Ebbin Rag, and Valen Tangles, all from the Thieves’ Guild.

Divinter, in his typically jovial fashion greeted the party as though he was surprised to see them. He asked how they’d been. What they’d been up to. Y’know…small talk. The kind of small talk that made it very clear that neither the Theives’ Guild nor the Mules were likely to welcome the party back to M’ziir. He expressed his smarmy and sarcastic sympathy for the demise of The Shade, and reassured them that Danae seemed to be thriving in her new role as Lieutenant to Captain Chur’Aal.

He did seem impressed, for lack of a better term, when Pony one-upped his condescending attitude by telling him that they had been hired to deliver a message to Lady An’Ikar in response to his asking what they were doing in the City proper.

In the end though, the thin veneer of jocularity faded, and Divinter made it clear nobody from the Shade was welcome in M’ziir. He suggested that they leave town, and said, flatly, that if they were seen in town again, they’d better have Glass’s good hand with them as a token of their improved attitudes.

As he and his buddies casually got up to leave, Red Hands dropped casually that Ezra had been captured. Just in case they felt like risking their own lives might be worth it.

When they left, the thieves dispersed casually into the streets, while Divinter snapped his fingers to a small squad of Mules, who fell in behind him. The party sat down for a sullen breakfast, disrupted by Thala, who came downstairs wondering loudly what everyone’s problem was.

Ink abruptly excused ze’self…coming back a few moments later, showing them ze’s accounting book, in which was written a message in supernal, ze thought in Ezra’s hand:

“Caught me. Hurt but okay. Danae safe. Talk to her.”

The party contemplated this as they left the Mason’s Rest, headed out of town to L’ekar.

Tulvan 2: Midday

With their magical mounts, the party reached the trading post of L’ekar within just a few hours, avoiding the main road, and the bandits there. With a small effort, Ink was able to make the mounts appear…pretty much like normal horses, allowing them to ride very near the city without raising too many eyebrows.

The village of L’ekar, truly not much more than a trade outpost most of the time, had been transformed into a swollen, bustling, raucous camp, full of traders from Azeth, D’kath, and Okorion who had been turned away at the gates of M’ziir. With so many merchants, came huge numbers of merchant guards, and Shepherds. Many of the Merchant guards were little more than mercenaries, many of whom seemed to be obtaining employment bolstering the mustered forces of Lady of Sheraz’Aal, who everyone knew had been gathering her troops and levies and holding them in L’ekar. Apparently, the word that there was work in L’ekar for sellswords had spread, which had, in turn, drawn even more mercenaries.

It was, in other words, bloody chaos in the streets. Fights erupted all over, and even the Shepherds were having a difficult time maintaining the sanctity of commerce. With all the bustle, hubub and noise, even White Kaijo passed with minimal apparent comment. The party decided to take advantage of their anonymity, and split up to cover more ground.

Sardis and Akra used their rare anonymous downtime to grab a drink at a nearby, very crowded tavern called the Lark’ and Bone. Thala got excited about shopping for ritual components, while Kaijo, Ink, and Pony explored the impromptu market, gathering information and learning what there was to learn.

Overall, the impressions and chatter…the scuttlebutt, if you will…had mostly to do with the influx of mercenaries and merchants. It was clear to everyone that Lady Sharaz’Aal had, as rumored, not only withheld her troops from the defense of M’ziir, but was levying troops from the surrounding farms, which, when added to the mercenaries, made for a sizable force.

The same rumors they’d heard in M’ziir were rampant in L’ekar. Many seemed to believe that Sheraz’Aal was planning to throw in with the Blood King.

But Kaijo, trained as a battle commander in the south, intuited differently. He saw a massing of soldiers and peasants, armed and waiting, but without a clear purpose. They were neither preparing L’ekar’s modest keep for defense, nor preparing to march anywhere. By any military reckoning, Lady Sheraz’Aal could only be said to be…amassing…

From the snippets he picked up, he realized that the Lady of L’ekar likely had no idea what she would do. Rumors called her fearful for her son, Captain of the Mules in the Pale Quarter. Kaijo reasoned that the Lady was gathering a force in the hopes of acting opportunistically in aid of Chur’Aal Az’Guzuur. It also seemed fairly clear that she simply did not have a good sense of what was happening inside M’ziir.

The numerous Shepherds in town was also peculiar. As a rule, Shepherds only enforced official, sanctioned trade, and the impromptu bazaar of L’ekar was clearly not Shepherd sanctioned. Nonetheless, Shepherds could be seen moderating and managing interactions throughout the tents, carts, and shanty’s where they could. It seemed that King Thuz’Ur’s closing M’ziir to trade had elicited some backlash.

Meanwhile…Thala was being hunted.

Sardis saw them first. A group of four hacholu passing through the dust and heat outside the Lark and Bone. He stood, abruptly, leaving a confused Akra seated with the remnants of his ale, while he followed the hunters, who he recognized as Groroch Blackfist and several others who had left the Graubergh tribe in pursuit of a powerful weapon that they believed would help their people drive the Aechellans out of the Grey Peak mountains.

Thala noticed them too. Not with her eyes, with with a tense, skin-crawling sense of…wrongness…that she associated with the dark orcs she was born to. Looking, panicked, around herself, she caught a glimpse of a great, angry looking hacholu, rank with the corruption of the Nemesis, pushing towards her through the crowd. With a muttered word and a flashed gesture, she disappeared, invisible, away from the orcs, hoping to find her friends.

Sardis, following the hunters, saw this…and at the same time realized that the Blackfist, Groroch of the Graubergh hacholu, had fallen into darkness. Realizing this, and realizing that Groroch’s followers seemed unaware (or in denial) of his condition, Sardis decided to act.

He called out to the Blackfist, something between a greeting and a challenge. Almost immediately, Groroch’s followers, who had fanned out through the camp looking for Thala, began converging back towards their leader, who stood perhaps 50 feet from Sardis.

Meanwhile, the crowd around the two big orcs began thinning quickly. It seemed that no-one wanted to be caught between the two.

Groroch almost seemed glad to see Sardis at first, but grew immediately suspicious when Sardis glared balefully at him, bow in-hand, arrow knocked. Groroch asked Sardis about a scroll, and someone named Krothach. He asked Sardis about an orc wizard that that they’d been following. Sardis refused to speak to Groroch of Thala, or the scroll, and more or less told the big, fell orc to go to hell. Eventually, the two warriors were shouting at each other, and Groroch challenged Sardis to fight.

Sardis loosed an arrow at Groroch, adding insult to injury…or…well…adding insult to near-miss by choosing to put the Blackfist down like a beast instead of fighting him hand-to-hand with respect.

Groroch’s hunters were about to join the fray, but Kaijo and the rest of the party, who had been wading through the crowd towards the fight, stood between them, firmly, but non-lethally holding the hacholus’ attention while Sardis and Groroch came to blows.

Which…Ink pretty much ruined by restraining Groroch with magic while the party put him down as Sardis had originally intended. None of the other orcs was killed during the fight (though a couple were pretty badly injured), and they stopped fighting, somewhat sheepishly, with an air of guilty relief.

The aftermath of the battle was chaotic. Sardis and the rest of the hacholu were reluctant to touch the corrupted body of Grorogh, believing it cursed. Akra, not caring, picked it up and hurried towards the outskirts of town as the crowed re-formed and the Shepherds started closing in.

Once outside of town, the party gathered to burn the body, while Sardis spoke to the four hunters who’d been with the Blackfist. Thala summoned a sphere of flame, and held it atop Groroch’s limp form. As it burned, Ink spoke words of repose and true death, which included some strange pictographs appearing amidst the rank smoke and cinders, culminating in a strange image of a beetle, after which the air around the corpse eased. It still reeked like the Nine Hells, but the sense of tension lessened.

A pair of Shepherds approached them part way through, and observed, at one point suggesting that they stop the burning because of the smell, but otherwise simply gathering information about what had happened. They seemed satisfied that the fight and death had not had to do with trade, and so only stood by to watch the body disposed of.

Sardis informed Groroch’s followers that after the Black Fists had left to follow Krothach, the Graubergh tribe had been set upon by slavers. He shamed them with the knowledge that the loss of the spears to Groroch’s mad quest had doomed the tribe. For the most part, the half-orcs (or…whatever) seemed distraught and cowed by the news. One of them admitted to Sardis that they had slain Krothach, in a cave to the Northwest, and that they had…learned from him that the sacred scroll had been given to an Orcish Wizard from M’ziir. He cast oblique looks towards Thala as he said this.

But the hunters departed without further incident, headed back to the Grey Peaks to discover what was left of their tribe.

NEWS AND RUMORS
  • The Blood King wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow which enslaves the will of those who look upon it.
  • The Blood King of Azeth is actually a changeling posing as the heir to House Azil. The true heir escaped and is behind Aechell’s aggression.
  • The Blood King of Azeth is freeing the slaves in the cities he conquers, and is ending the tyrannies of the Elder Bloodlines.
  • The Blood King of Azeth has taken D’kath, and Okorian.
  • The Blood King’s army marches on M’ziir and will arrive within the week.
  • The armies of M’ziir are not likely to be able to withstand more than a day or two of assault by the armies of the Blood King. Thankfully, the armies of Queen Ren’Raatha Az’Ebbezuur should be coming from Darakor any day now.
  • The armies of Darakor are never coming. Queen Ren’Raatha has allied with the Blood King already.
  • King Thuz’Ur has gone utterly mad, seeing gnomes everywhere, and blaming them for M’ziir’s questionable readiness for war.
  • The work being done to block The Gap is not finished.
  • King Thuz’Ur has increased the bounty on gnomes to 500 gold pieces
  • King Thuz’Ur is executing his family, friends and advisers on a daily basis.
  • King Thuz’Ur executed his cousin, Shepherd Aran’Ik, for treason a few days ago, and plans to execute Aran’Ik’s sister, An’Ikar Az’Guzuur.
  • The Ikar family has fled M’ziir.
  • Edur Bennigan, king of New Cormorell, has been executed by Aechelleth, who, through some unknown magic, projected the king’s death into the sky for all in the Blessed Lands to see
  • The hills and mines all along the Gandoran range are overrun with goblinoids and giants.
  • The late Queen Amra’Ur’s stillborn child was a bezoar.
  • The late Queen Amra’Ur’s family, the Ebbezuurs, are pretty unhappy about her being executed.
  • King Thuz’Ur has shut M’ziir to all trade from Azeth, D’kath, and Okorian. The Shepherds’ Guild is not pleased
  • The Pale Quarter is being converted to a defensive bulwark, with an earthen rampart running north to south along it’s eastern edge.
  • Conscriptions in the Pale Quarter have enlisted nearly every healthy adult into service as defenders of the city. The consripts are called “Mules”
  • The King’s distant cousin, Chur’Aal Az’Guzuur, was given command of the Mules.
  • Sheraz’Aal Az’Zoran, lady of L’ekar and mother to Chur’Aal Az’Guzuur is withholding her troops from the defense of M’ziir so that she can join with the Blood King when he arrives in return for her son being made King (or at least Regent) of M’ziir.
  • Sheraz’Aal has eyes everywhere in L’ekar, in the tradition of the Zoran’s of Shek’zur.
  • Lady Sheraz’Aal has summoned aid from her family in Shek’zur to aid in the battle for (or against) the Blood King.
  • Lady Sheraz’Aal still hates Okori’s (people from Okorian) 21 years after her husband’s death in a skirmish over territory.
  • Palers who did not enlist in the Mules and who aren’t otherwise possessed of useful skills are being made slaves.
  • The Shade has been driven into hiding by the militarization of the Pale Quarter
  • Members of the Shade are being executed on sight.
  • The Ix’iil are actually running the Mules
  • Danae, former leader of the Shade, has joined the Mules and is now hunting down her former associates as a lieutenant of Captain Chur’Aal.
  • The Mules Headquarters is set up on what was once the Stalls of the Pale Quarter. Danae’s tents are set up directly over the secret passage to the Grey Manse.
  • There has been a huge uptick in goblinoid raids in the Westcrook and Northcrook, outside M’ziir. The Blood King is implicated.
  • The Shepherds are planning a coup, having decided that all the nobility of Mokiir is corrupt (in a bad way).
  • The Shepherds have increased recruiting.
  • A small band of half-orc warriors has been asking around after an orcish Wizard.
  • King Thuz’Ur’s Court Astrologer, Martesse, has prophesied disaster for M’ziir, and all of Mokiir, should Isra’Asiel take the throne.
  • The Blood King has slain the Court Astrologers in Azeth, D’kath, and Okorian.
  • Members of the former street gang The Shade are now working for Lady An’Ikar Az’Guzuur
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Session 23 (Tulvan 1, 101 RA)
The Palace of Ur

Tulvan 1: Late Morining

After leaving Emmirus the Alchemist’s shop, the party made it’s way towards Crown Hill and the Palace of Ur. To their mild surprise, they were given passage through the gates, both to the Hill, and to the palace, with minimal bother. There seemed to be a great deal of traffic, due largely to the preparations for war, obvious all around. The guards seemed harried and couldn’t be troubled to attend too closely, making it easy to get by on the thin excuse of Pony’s letter and some dwarven antiques to sell. Though, to be fair, the latter was an earnest pursuit.

The Palace courtyard was in chaos. On top of the clanging, shouting, crashing, and hammering of soldiers preparing for war, there was obviously some additional ruckus involving the moving of much furniture, and luggage, and the fussing of many servants and seemingly important personages.

The guard who had escorted them in bade them wait, out of the way near the wall, while he summoned a page, who ran off with a promise to return with haste.

The party waited around for nearly 45 minutes before the page returned. As they’d waited, they’d managed to attract the attention of several people potentially interested in the ancient dwarven daggers and armor they’d brought back from the tainted Temple of Bafomet in Garr Gorran. When the page came back, he beckoned to Pony and told her to follow him to speak to Lady An’Ikar’s factor.

The rest of the party waited there for Pony to return.

They sold the dwarven antiques. They watched and twiddled their thumbs and listened and played word games. Eventually, Kaijo, out of boredom as much as a desire to gather information, started wandering about the courtyard, lending a hand where he could.

He learned a great deal, and did so without telling anyone his name!

It turned out that the hubbub on top of the wartime preparations was largely the Ikar family vacating the Palace. It seemed that Lady An’Ikar had taken the execution of her younger brother, Shepherd Aran’Ik, poorly, and was removing her entire household to their estate in the Northcrook. That explained the palpable tension between the king’s soldiers and the Ikar household guards, a handful of each having been glaring at the others since the party had arrived.

Kaijo also had the opportunity to meet Lady An’Ikar’s son, Baal’Ikar Az’Guzuur, who spoke to the great white dragonborn with an interesting blend of politeness and haughtiness, simultaneously showing off his knowledge of dragonborn culture and his own sense of self-importance.

Almost unnoticed, the party was approached by an unusually whimsical and capricious teifling, bearing herself as a noble despite being dressed as a bar wench, who turned out to be Lady An’Ikar’s sister-in-law, Ran’Imil Az’Guzuur. Lady Ran’Imil’s arrival was accompanied by a distinct and slightly awkward sense that the rest of the folk in the courtyard suddenly couldn’t see or hear anything that was happening around the party. Naturally this meant that everyone was paying very close attention. Lady Ran’Imil demanded to know…various things…from the party, and then asked them to please accompany them on a tour of the palace walls, so that she could show them the stonework…which she insisted was quite noisy.

They followed her up a stair, through some passages, and weaving between various columns, pillars and doorways. As she walked, she spoke by turns as though she wanted nothing more than their approval, off-set by imperious demands and declarations. At one point, Thala found her ramblings so amusing that she literally fell to the ground laughing. Ran’Imil seemed unperturbed by it, but did place her sharp-heeled boot painfully on Thala’s shoulder, inflicting significant pain on the orc while she expounded on other things. Thankfully, the party was able to distract her with questions about the business in the Courtyard, which took her away from Thala, before the orc was upset enough to become violent.

Only a few of Ran’Imil’s questions seemed directed at gathering information about the party, who they were, why they were there, and why they helped defend the Dead Falcon Mine the night before. Many of her comments made it very clear that she despised the “murderous, murderess; her disgusting sister-in-law,” Lady An’Ikar

As the increasingly uncomfortable tour continued, an voice abruptly called out to Lady Ran’Imil, commanding her to stop and account for her actions.

Lady An’Ikar had appeared to save them.

She made apologies for her sister-in-law’s behavior, asking their understanding as poor Ran’Imil had simply not been the same since her husband and son passed away.

For a moment it looked as though the two women might come to blows. But An’Ikar dismissed Ran’Imil (as well as her own two servants), and the madwoman departed, grumbling as she went.

Lady An’Ikar spent a few minutes speaking with the party, thanking them for protecting her interests at Dead Falcon Mine, and giving them a substantial reward for doing so. As she handed out the small pouches of gold (she had already had her factor reward Pony), she clasped each of their hands solemnly, asking their names as though committing them to memory.

When she reached Kaijo, last of all, she held contact longer. Unnoticed by any of the others, she reached her fingers gently up his sleeve, in a manner which, if not for the circumstances, might have seemed an erotic invitation. As it was, her fingers gently, but clearly, brushed the tattoo, still raised and irritated, that he’d taken as his token of allegiance to the Blood King.

With that, she took her leave. It was only later that Kaijo realized that she’d slipped a note into his pocket.

After that encounter, the party returned to the Courtyard to wait for Pony.

Not long after they’d returned to their empty barrow, a great, howling cry echoed across the Courtyard from somewhere up on the wall, above the party’s heads. The courtyard grew abruptly quiet as the shouting continued, along with a terrible crashing ruckus and clamor, and everyone strained to get a view of what was happening…

Soon enough, they all saw King Thuz’Ur, naked as the day he was born, roaring in rage, charging and bounding along the top of the walls, dodging construction, and staging, and piles of lumber and stone, swinging his truly enormous…greatsword…in a wild effort to slay a halfling, dressed in the livery of house Ur, who was frantically fleeing the king’s wrath.

The halfling ducked and dodged, zigged and zagged, his way between and through the various obstacles on the wall, while Thuz’Ur smashed his ungainly way through them, shouting all the time about GNOOOOOOOMES! The small man was lucky to be so nimble, as he was a hair’s breadth from bisection a handful of times in just the few seconds that the party watched the chase.

Things came to a crashing conclusion when the halfling leaped from the parapet, flinging himself out over the courtyard to grasp a rope being used to raise a palate of stone to the wall by way of a swiveling crane-arm. The halfling landed just above the palate, and the King, blinded with rage, flung himself out, swinging his sword at his foe as he flew.

The king’s sword severed the rope where the halfling’s neck would have been had he not dropped onto the palate. As the rope snapped, the King narrowly grabbed the end still attached to the crane-arm, leaving him swinging above the courtyard, his…sword…dangling in one hand as he roared for someone to catch the gnome!

Meanwhile, the halfling disappeared, and the palate of stones fell to the ground with a horrible, rumbling crash.

The Courtyard flew into chaos. Servants and soldiers hurried about, some attempting to help the king out of his predicament, others searching through the rubble for the halfling, who surely must have been crushed as the stones fell.

Only Thala (or was it Sardis?) noticed the tiny flicker of light and distortion that showed where the halfling—who was, by virtue of his turning invisible, almost certainly a gnome after all—fled beneath an archway to take shelter among a pile of unused construction materials a few yards from the ruckus he’d caused.

It took the party a moment to realize the gnomes predicament, but several of them gathered around to investigate the terrified little man. It took another moment for them to decide to help him escape the Courtyard, but no time at all for Akra and Kaijo to muster a loud and distracting tussle, which distracted the guards and servants long enough for Thala to turn the gnome invisible.

Gnome in tow, Kaijo and Akra apologized for their misconduct, and the group let themselves be escorted out of the courtyard by the palace guards, leaving word for Pony (who still hadn’t returned) to find them at the Mason’s Rest down on Crafter’s Row.

Which is where they went next.

Once there, they rented an entire room to themselves, paying handsomely for the privilege. Finally, in the private room Thala let drop the veil of invisibility in which she’d wrapped the gnome.

He said his name was Bangiziplitizikin, and described himself as an “explorationer” from the Gnome city of Ganitipantuperan (gan-EE-tee-pan-TOO-puhr-on)), which seems to be built inside the hill which lays in the Feywild parallel with M’ziir.

He explained to the party that the gnomes of Ganitipantuperan have been desperately working to keep the gates of their city open, which efforts seemed to lie behind the unclosability of The Gap. It turned out that the gates of the gnome city lay in the Feywild parallel to The Gap. When the Guzuurs attempted to close the Gap, it wreaked havoc on the gates of Ganitipantuperan. When the gnomes cleared their gate, it broke the Gap back open. Or…something like that.

In any case, Bangizi also asserts that the gnomes of his city have indeed been working to undermine King Thuz’Ur’s authority and sanity for quite some time, and seems delighted at how well it has worked. It was unclear to the party whether the efforts to drive Thuz’Ur mad were driven by frustration or some agenda involving the Gap….
…or perhaps the other way around?

Either way, it seemed clear that the gnomes did, in fact, not only exist, but that they were indeed bent on tormenting Thuz’Ur, which made his bounties seem a lot less unreasonable.

One thing was clear: the gnomes wanted Thuz’Ur out, and the Gap open, which made them, at least circumstantially, potential allies.

To that end, Kaijo and Ink drafted a letter to King Bevinigiangapilatini (beh-vin-EE-jiuhn-gap-ih-lah-TEE-nee)proposing an alliance between the gnomes of Ganitipantuperan and the Blood King of Azeth against their common enemy, Thuz’Ur Az’Guzuur.

After the gnome had departed, Kaijo reached into his pocket and read Lady An’Ikar’s message, which read:

I know of your master.
I know of your goals.
The churl should believe, with his mother, that benefits accrue to him with admission of the newcomers.
He will admit them if you convince him. Offer the madwoman as a bride.
When I ascend, your service will shelter your people,and mastery shall fall as you will.
/bq).

They decided that this meant that Lady An’Ikar knew they were working for the Blood King, and that he wanted to find an ally within the City that would let him in without a fight in return for his support taking the crown.

It seemed that An’Ikar felt that Chur’Aal and his mother, Lady of L’Ekar, should be convinced that Chur’Aal would be made king if he simply…let the Blood King in through the Pale Quarter and The Gap. And that the party should take on this task, using Lady Ran’Imil as a carrot if need be.

Considering this, the party decided that, on the morrow, they would journey to L’ekar, a mere few hours ride away if they used their last magical steed scroll, and seek audience with Lady Sheraz’Aal Az’Zoran of L’Ekar.

That afternoon, Pony, who had been kept waiting, and then held in a long meeting with Lady An’Ikar’s factor, caught up to them at the Mason’s Rest, and the group caught her up on what had happened.

NEWS AND RUMORS
  • The Blood King wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow which enslaves the will of those who look upon it.
  • The Blood King of Azeth is actually a changeling posing as the heir to House Azil. The true heir escaped and is behind Aechell’s aggression.
  • The Blood King of Azeth is freeing the slaves in the cities he conquers, and is ending the tyrannies of the Elder Bloodlines.
  • The Blood King of Azeth has taken D’kath, and Okorian.
  • The Blood King’s army marches on M’ziir and will arrive within the week.
  • The armies of M’ziir are not likely to be able to withstand more than a day or two of assault by the armies of the Blood King. Thankfully, the armies of Queen Ren’Raatha Az’Ebbezuur should be coming from Darakor any day now.
  • The armies of Darakor are never coming. Queen Ren’Raatha has allied with the Blood King already.
  • King Thuz’Ur has gone utterly mad, seeing gnomes everywhere, and blaming them for M’ziir’s questionable readiness for war.
  • The work being done to block The Gap is not finished.
  • King Thuz’Ur has increased the bounty on gnomes to 500 gold pieces
  • King Thuz’Ur is executing his family, friends and advisers on a daily basis.
  • King Thuz’Ur executed his cousin, Shepherd Aran’Ik Az’Guzuur, for treason a few days ago, and plans to execute Aran’Ik’s sister, An’Ikar Az’Guzuur.
  • Edur Bennigan, king of New Cormorell, has been executed by Aechelleth, who, through some unknown magic, projected the king’s death into the sky for all in the Blessed Lands to see
  • The hills and mines all along the Gandoran range are overrun with goblinoids and giants. The Shepherds are hard pressed in the South and West Crooks.
  • The late Queen Amra’Ur’s stillborn child was not a monster, but a bezoar.
  • The late Queen Amra’Ur’s family, the Ebbezuurs, are pretty unhappy about her being executed.
  • King Thuz’Ur has shut M’ziir to all trade from Azeth, D’kath, and Okorian. The Shepherds’ Guild is not pleased
  • The Pale Quarter is being converted to a defensive bulwark, with an earthen rampart running north to south along it’s eastern edge.
  • Conscriptions in the Pale Quarter have enlisted nearly every healthy adult into service as defenders of the city. The consripts are called “Mules”
  • The King’s distant cousin, Chur’Aal Az’Guzuur, was given command of the Mules.
  • Sheraz’Aal Az’Zoran, lady of L’ekar and mother to Chur’Aal Az’Guzuur is withholding her troops from the defense of M’ziir so that she can join with the Blood King when he arrives in return for her son being made King (or at least Regent) of M’ziir.
  • Palers who did not enlist in the Mules and who aren’t otherwise possessed of useful skills are being made slaves.
  • The Shade has been driven into hiding by the militarization of the Pale Quarter
  • Members of the Shade are being executed on sight.
  • The Ix’iil are actually running the Mules
  • Danae, former leader of the Shade, has joined the Mules and is now hunting down her former associates as a lieutenant of Captail Chur’Aal.
  • The Mules Headquarters is set up on what was once the Stalls of the Pale Quarter. Danae’s tents are set up directly over the secret passage to the Grey Manse.
  • There has been a huge uptick in goblinoid raids in the Westcrook and Northcrook, outside the City. The Blood King Isra’Asiel is implicated.
  • The Shepherds are planning a coup, having decided that all the nobility of Mokiir is corrupt (in a bad way).
  • A small band of half-orc warriors has been asking around after an orcish Wizard.
  • King Thuz’Ur’s Court Astrologer, Martesse, has prophesied disaster for M’ziir, and all of Mokiir, should Isra’Asiel take the throne.
  • The Blood King has slain the Court Astrologers in Azeth, D’kath, and Okorian.
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