The Seven Cities

Session 41 & 42 (Season 2, Episode 9) (Penilan 19, 102 RA)
Gods in the Greymire (Parts 1 & 2)

PART 1

Penilan 19: 101 RA — Just past midday at the Greymire WaypointHigh_Priestess.jpg

Sardis attacked the dragon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Sa-Ra Ink spoke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penilan 19: 101 RA — Half-Past Highmark in the Feywild Greymire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penilan 19-20ish, 101 RA: “Night” at Mother Mire’s Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penilan 20ish, 101 RA: “Morning” at Mother Mire’s House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penilan 19: Mid-Morning — Mt. Aerulan Waypoint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penilan 19: Midday – The Greymire Waypoint

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

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

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

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Session 39 (Season 2, Episode 7) (Penilan 19, 102 RA)
The Howlers

Penilan 19: Southern Greybane Mountains — After Midnight 6crx.jpg
The party and their retainers spent the night preparing for the arrival of the howlers that had been dogging their trail since M’ziir. Predictably, they made heavy use of Ink’s ritual magic, taking care to time things properly based on Sardis’ impressively precise sense of when the howlers would arrive. With hours to prepare, they felt confident setting up an ambush outside the Waypoint shelter, leaving their soldiers inside guarding the Ix’iil dagger. Eirlys and Kalyx “hid” behind a small stand of trees in front of the shelter to draw the howlers’ attention, while Sardis and Ink, the former behind a tree and the latter…as…a tree…took positions high on the bluff above the shelter.

Penilan 19: Southern Greybane Mountains — Dawn
When the howlers came, the pack split into three groups. One dropped into the ravine to avoid the magical overgrowth Ink had summoned to guard the approach. The second group struggled through the dense underbrush to attempt a frontal assault on the Waypoint. Meanwhile, the great Alpha Howler, with her rider, attempted to traverse the ledges along the bluff that ran behind the Waypoint.

In the end, it really wasn’t much of a fight.

Ink and Sardis, between them, managed to slow the Alpha and her rider down, eventually separating them and putting the rider magically to sleep. This allowed Sardis to make his acrobatic way through the trees down to the rider where he beat the sleeping foe to within an inch of her life before hogtying her and rejoining his companions.

Meanwhile, Eirlys and Kalyx made relatively short work of the small howlers until Ink teleported down to them to help out with the Alpha.

Soon enough, they were pushing howler corpses down into the ravine, and trying to decide what to do with the Alpha’s rider, who, it turned out, was their old companion, Pony the itinerant drug-peddling elf. Pony had clearly turned to the Ix’iil, though Ink assured the rest of them that she seemed to have been turned unwillingly. Against Sardis’ grumbled protests, the party resolved to try to save Pony’s life, and extract the Ix’iil spirit in her.

The ritual was surprisingly harrowing. They all participated, leaving their soldiers to keep watch. While Ink lead them through the chanting, demanding complete focus from the group, several of them dimly noted that the soldiers were trying to get their attention, clearly concerned about something external to the ritual.

As Ink’s chanting reached a crescendo, a sickly, purplish-grey mist poured out of Pony’s mouth, eyes, and nose, and into the wizard’s hands, where ze…pushed it…out of the world somehow. She almost expired due to the sheer trauma of the ritual, but they managed to hold her stable long enough to get her inside the Waypoint.

Which they did in a hurry, because wheeling overhead were a pair of wyverns. With riders.

Once inside the shelter, they revived Pony to ask her about what had happened to her in the last year and a half.

It was clear that Pony was not happy to see them. It became clear quickly that she had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the assassination of Kalaz’Ikar Az’Guzuur, and thought poorly of the party about it. More, it seemed she blamed them somehow for her being taken by the Ix’iil.

She had been taken in Arkassin about six months ago. Apparently she had laid low, traveling out to Beygin and Adredior for a while, and had only come back to Mokiir, whih she thought of as home in the spring of 102 RA, shortly after she’d heard that the siege of Darakor had begun. She’d stayed out of the Cities for a while, and had just started braving occasional trips into Arkassin when they found her, asleep in her room at an Inn.

They’d tortured her for a while, though she didn’t say so in so many words, and that’s the last she remembered clearly, though she did learn some things from those who’d done it.

Putting together Pony’s patchy memories and their own discoveries from the raid on the Thieve’s Guild in M’ziir, the party started to put the story together. Apparently, Kalaz’Kazar’s cronies, Bizil’El and Menez’Anir—who had met Pony on the beach when Sardis assassinated the Lord of Bokor at the quarry—had hired the Thieves Guild to find Pony and learn who she was working for. The Guild, being more or less a facet of the Astrologers and Ix’iil, had taken Pony, pumped her for information, and turned her into a weapon to use against the party. They had set her to hunt the daggers, and Ink specifically.

Throughout Pony’s telling, she and Sardis bandied harsh words back and forth, the hacholu seeming to think Pony should be grateful to the party for sparing her life and saving her from the Ix’iil, and Pony seeming to blame Sardis most of all for her predicament, including the bleeding pick-wounds she currently bore. There was clearly no love lost between the two, and Pony’s attitude soured further and further as the conversation wore on.

Eventually, Pony had had enough. She demanded her arrows back from Sardis, and accepted the gift of a healing potion from Eirlys as she gathered her things to go. She said she’d rather brave the Greybane’s and the wyverns alone than spend more time with Sardis “Darathuun”, and promised him that, then next time they met, she would kill him. As she packed up, she cautioned young Kalyx about the party, and cautioned the party at large about the Ix’iil. “They’ll never stop,” she warned, and reiterated to Ink that they were coming for ze specifically.

Sergeant Thiele, leader of the party’s retainers, watched Pony depart with a concerned look, and asked what was next, while Tomas Brighteyes looked stricken. Lebon Bitterman grumbled to himself about ungrateful elf bitches, and Mara the Wit kept her peace.

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Session 38 (Season 2, Episode 6) (Penilan 17-18, 102 RA)
A Giant Detour

Penilan 17: Afternoon 3_wand_reverse.jpg
They spent the afternoon preparing to leave. They determined that they would bring four of their guards with them, and Ink assured them all that ze could keep them all magically warm, so nobody bothered to pursue extra warm clothes. Instead of live mounts, they determined that Ink’s magical steeds would be preferable, being both faster and without need for care, warmth, or feed.

Before full dark had fallen, Eirlys had gone to the Explorers’ Guildhall to meet with Artoss and Master Lighttouch. She signed the Guild Contract, and the Guildmaster told her which of the Waypoints were known to have been attacked. Meanwhile, Sardis and Ink worked together to magically retrieve several vials of alchemical antivenom from Sardis’ contact in M’ziir; wyvern’s being notoriously possessed of a venomous sting.

Lord Zorin’Oze and Ezra were off to the Kazzar’s feast that night, so they bid the young Lord of Zoran farewell and thanked him for his hospitality before turning in early. They intended to set out before dawn if they could. Before they went to bed, Ink wrote a brief letter to Hallendra: “Unfortunately, my associates and I will not be able to address any concerns in M’ziir over the next few days at least, as we plan to attend to some business in the Greybane mountains.”

Penilan 18: Early Morning
They broke their fast on rolls and leftovers from the kitchen. As expected, the Lord was still abed, but Ezra woke early to wish them luck and report that the feast had been nice enough, but largely uneventful. The party and their retainers gathered in the courtyard of the Zoran manse while Ink busied zeself with various rituals before setting out into the pre-dawn of the D’kathi winter.

They left D’kath through the northgate towards the Lake Town, riding Ink’s magical steeds across the top of the snow, though they discretely detoured around Lake D’kath instead of riding across it.

The first Waypoit they wished to investigate was some 75 miles to the northeast, as the wyvern flies. Though their magical mounts could have pressed to cover the full distance within their 12 hour lifespan, Eirlys cautioned them that they would not like to be caught out in the Greybane mountains at night, even this far south in the range, if they could help it. So, they planned to make for a nearby Waypoint within an easy day’s ride, and start fresh for the ruined one on the morrow.

They discussed the howlers that had followed them from M’ziir. Even their mundane horses had outpaced the Ix’iil wolves on the road to D’kath. It seemed unlikely that the monsters, whatever they were, could keep pace with the faster magical steeds the party now rode. Still, to be safe, Ink placed an enchantment on them that masked their trail and discouraged eyes from seeing them as they traveled. if that didn’t shake their pursuers, nothing would.

Penilan 18: Midday
Unfortunately, even an eladrin memory can falter. Or perhaps the paths had just changed in the time since Eirlys had last visited the Waypoint they were seeking. Regardless, part way through the day the eladrin faltered and they had to double back. Fortunately, Sardis spotted a shortcut through a craggy pass, getting the party back on track.

Unfortunately, Ink can’t resist a mystery. As they rode between upright rock formations, the wizard spotted a cave opening with some clearly dwarven runes chiseled into the pillars carved to either side. Riding a bit closer, ze noted a small pyramidal stone monument covered in runes and placed just 30 feet or so into the cave. Predictably ze dismounted and crept inside to investigate.

Just as predictably, the cavern was occupied.

The hill giant, apparently unhappy at the intrusion of his home, came charging towards Ink and his armed escort, bellowing incomprehensibly in the tongue of giants. Sardis, Eirlys, and several of their retainers caught up with Ink in time for everyone to be discouraged from persisting by the entire tree being swung at them. To make matters worse, sounds from deeper in the tunnels resolved into the shouts, and then the persons of two juvenile hill giants (each only about the size of Sardis), come to help papa drive off the invaders.

The party was already feeling a mite squeamish about killing kids (even giant kids), when Kalyx, who had remained outside with several retainers to keep watch, shouted that they had incoming. Mama Giant, it seemed, had returned from her hunt.

With no real motivation to remain save Ink’s curiosity about a dumb old dwarven monolith, the entire party beat a fighting retreat, hopped onto their magical horses, and rode off in search of the Waypoint.

Penilan 18: Evening
They found the Waypoint just as the sun went down behind the eastern peaks. The structure itself was a simple, unmortared stone hutt, with one door and a smoke hole in the roof. It was set against a cliff, one wall opening into a very small cave (more of an overhang), on one side of a large ravine through which rushed a modest creek. There was, as promised, wood and a place to build a fire. It wasn’t much, but it was warm, and would keep the undead away while the party slept.

An few hours after full dark, they started to hear the howls.

Despite all their measures. Despite being fast and near untrackable, the howlers grew closer as the night wore on. Sleeping in shifts, the party tried to get a full-night’s rest while simultaneously preparing for the attack that Sardis said would come not long before dawn.

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Session 37 (Season 2, Episode 5) (Penilan 16-17, 102 RA)
Unsolicited Advice

Penilan 17: Evening cups07.jpg
It took a few minutes, some apologies, some coin, and a quick repair by Ink to soothe the tavern owner (one, Marlow by name) and the dangerous-looking patrons of the Crooked Spoke Tavern. But soon enough, the party was on their way to an Inn called the Hidden Bier to find a private dining room where they could talk with the somewhat-mysterioius tiefling who had “rescued” them from the writhing shadows in the alley.

Once in the private room, with drinks and some food, the tiefling and Ink both began working rituals to guard the conversation from evesdropping and intrusion. Before either could finish, Kalyx abruptly grabbed one of the crystals being used, tapped it on the table sharply, grunted, and a rumble of thunder rolled through the room. Everyone but Sardis could tell, with certainty, that any effort to scry, spy, or enter the room would trigger a thunderclap and likely be impossible. Everyone but Sardis stared at Kalyx. She shrugged.

The sketchy tiefling finally introduced himself as Alzin. He was exceptionally ugly, and chewed sourleaf such that his teeth and gums were dyed a gross russet. He made what seemed to the party to be a fairly mediocre attempt at misleading them as to his affiliation, but they fairly quickly concluded that he was a member of the technically-disbanded Astrologers’ Guild.

To his credit, once he realized his cover had utterly failed, Alzin didn’t bother to prevaricate much. He carried on with his original narrative; to wit: that the party was concerning themselves with the wrong son of Tafel’Asiel. He was frank in that the Astrologers knew, and had known for some time, that the Blood King was the Bastard of Azeth, not, in fact, the legitimate heir Ra’Asiel. He suggested that the question they should be asking themselves was “What did Israfel Az’Nul do during the more-than-a-year between when he assassinated Kok’Abiel, astrologer of Azeth, and when he returned with an army and turned the City of Azeth against itself?” More, Alzin went on, “How did he successfully convince even most of the City that he was Ra’Asiel, and what might any of it have to do with how he managed to conquer six of the seven quarrelsome Cities of Mokiir in less than a year?”

He told them that, as far as the Astrologers could discern, the Bastard had fled through the Weilleren’rell, the waterroads after killing Kok’Abiel. He seemed to have taken the elemental ways to the Silverstream River near Dabin, then taken a ship to Rook’s Landing, and then to Beygin. Beyond that, nothing was known of Israfel until he’d appeared in the throne room at the Palace of Night on the evening of The Succession.

The party listened with moderate curiosity. Though they seemed at least as interested in why Alzin would help them, and in why he thought they oughtn’t just kill him? Alzin seemed surprisingly unconcerned, pointing out that they were in a crowded in and that the party couldn’t afford trouble. Still, he did halfheartedly seek an assurance from Kalyx that he would be allowed to leave unharmed in return for the information he shared. As for his motives in helping them, he pointed out quasi-enigmatically that different people or groups within a single organization often have differing agendas, beliefs, and methods.

They did let him leave unharmed.

And then returned to the manse of Zorin’Oze, only to find Ezra fairly bursting with news from the Court of D’kath.

Penilan 16: Near Midnight

Ezra revealed (interrupted briefly by a drunken Zorin’Oze, who confirmed Ezra’s tale and then awkwardly tried to get Eirlys to sleep with him) that there had been no audience with Kazzar Luran’Sulazin because the Aechellans had appeared at Court.

The Aechellan envoy, lead by Father Commander Martin Aulgrade, had come to “…formally reaffirm in these troubled times the ancient peace between D’kath and Aechell.” Several of the tiefling nobles had snickered at the use of the term “ancient” to describe the peace, as there had been war in their grandparents’ lifetimes. Regardless, the Kazzar had greeted the Aechellans courteously. There had been gifts, introductions, and the royal herald had announced plans for a feast to honor the Aechellan envoy to take place on the morrow.

Which, proclaimed Ezra dramatically, had been when Kaz’Kazzar Isra’Asiel had appeared. The High king, complete with ruby diadem and large, curving horns, had pushed his way from the back of the great hall and announced his delighted welcome of the envoy of D’kath. It had caused, needless to say, quite a stir, and the Aechellans had been downright stunned.

So, concluded Ezra, there was to be a feast on the evening of the 17th, and, well…if the rest of them wished to be invited, he supposed he could see to it. At least for Ink and Sardis, that was.

Nobody was interested in the feast, but they did question Ezra closely about the size and shape of the Blood King’s horns in a manner that would have made any respectable tiefling blush. The smiling bard, understanding their interest once they’d filled him in on their discoveries from the evening, clarified that the Kaz’Kazzar’s horns had not been ram-shaped, but more like a goat. Still, from the description, it was clear that they were now substantially larger than Ink and Sardis recalled, and moreso that could be accounted for by the simple passage of time.

Everyone went to sleep shortly thereafter, but not before Ink sent a brief, magical message to Kaijo back in M’ziir. “Can you confirm the location of the Kaz’Kazzar,” asked the wizard. “Expected to arrive here day-after-tomorrow,” came the reply. Plenty of time, assuming the High King traveled through the mage guild circles.

Penilan 17: Morning
The morning passed with more discussion over breakfast, and the party decided, somewhat halfheartedly, to investigate the likely Weilleren’rell entrance beneath D’kath, in case they decided to pursue the mystery of the Bastard of Azeth. To that end, after confirming that Eirlys didn’t know where it could be found, Sardis and Kalyx left the manse to see if they could discover anything.

Meanwhile, Ink and Eirlys gathered their things and set off to the Queue for their midday meeting with Lobbus Lighttouch, head of the Explorers’ Guild.

Penilan 17: Midday at Kathazan Square
Sardis and Kalyx explored Kathazan Square, the great central plaza of the City. The busy square was lined mostly with municipal government buildings, great stern, stone structures entirely function over form. Outside several of the buildings stood rows of stocks complete with prisoners serving out their sentences, which, in the chill of the D’kathi winter, seemed to consist largely of exposure. Several permanent gallows stood nearby, currently empty.

Scattered across the square were five large, ice-rimed public fountains where people from around D’kath came to gather, trade gossip, and fetch water. At the center of the Square was a sixth fountain, larger than the others, in the center of which stood a great, bronze statue of a bold looking tiefling noblewoman, with a crown of swept-back horns, hand outstretched as if summoning the fountain’s water from the depths below the City.

Somehow, even in the frigid Penilan air, the fountains still flowed. Sardis and Kalyx tasted the water, felt it’s energy, sniffed it. They listened and breathed at the drain grates that peppered the icy square. They got a lot of stares.

In the end, they concluded that the City’s water must come from an elemental font, likely connected to the Weilleren’rell. Curious, they returned to Zorin’Oze’s manse to see if D’kath’s Lord Az’Zoran could point them in the direction of the public utilities building.

Penilan 17: Midday at the Crooked Spoke
Meanwhile, Ink and Eirlys returned to the Crooked Spoke to speak to Lobbus Lighttouch, Head of the Explorers’ Guild.

When they reached the tavern, the barman, Marlow, greeted them as old friends, commenting that Ink’s repair had rid his doors of a squeak that had troubled him for years! Business at the Spoke was moderate around lunchtime, but the music was good, with the halfling bard who had been there the night before strumming way lazily on a lute by the fire.
To Ink’s mild surprise, Eirlys strode purposefully towards the halfling whose face broke into a wide grin when he saw her.

Guildmaster Lighttouch was fair-haired for a halfling, with exactly the sort of roguish charm one would expect. The sur’maga and the bard clasped arms in greeting, as Lighttouch exclaimed that he’d thought he’d seen her with that bunch of ruffians last night! And that he knew Artoss was a new face, but why wouldn’t she have said something when she was at the Guildhall yesterday?

Ink learned that Eirlys was not only a current member of the Explorers’ Guild, but that she’d been a well known and successful Guild Ranger until a few years back. As they all sat down for a drink and meal, the two Explorer’s exchanged news and stories, though not, Ink noted, without a healthy dose of mutual, cagey evasion.

Once things had settled down a bit, Lighttouch grew more somber. It was, he said, bad out there. He asked if Eirlys would consider coming back. She declined politely, and conversation moved on to Ink’s interest in introducing the The Waaz Ora’adz model to D’kath, particularly in the queue.

Lighttouch seemed…perhaps suspiciously bland on the idea, pointedly noting that currying favor with him personally wouldn’t prove the value of a Fight Club to the Queue or the Guild. Ink was somewhat nonplussed by the blunt display of apparent uncorruptability.

Into the break in conversation, Lighttouch pointedly noted that, right now, the Guild was struggling and not in a position to help much anyway. It turned out that when Lighttouch had said it was “bad out there,” he meant that the Guild had lost a number of Rangers and Waystations in the past few months. Wyverns, allegedly. But fire-breathing ones, which, everyone knew, was simply not a thing.

Eirlys and Ink understood. Eirlys asked if Lighttouch would like her and her companions to see if they could do something about the problem. Or, at least, learn more about it. Ink figured aloud that if the Guild could be returned to its normal, thriving business, perhaps the issue of the Waaz Ora’adz could be made more of a priority.

Lightfoot, apparently surprised and overwhelmed by the generous offer of help, accepted gladly. Though standard Explorer’s Guild contract rates would apply, of course. He invited them to stop by the Guildhall and sign off with Artoss if the rest of their companions decided the job was worthwhile.

Penilan 17: Afternoon at Zorin’Oze’s Manse
Back at the manse, Kalyx and Sardis found Lord Zorin’Oze in his sitting room with Hallendra, the Blood King’s elvin advisor who Sardis had known back in Okorian.

At Hallendra’s request, Zorin’Oze excused himself. Hallendra greeted Sardis warmly (for an elf), but was rebuffed to mere politeness by Sardis apparent mistrust and caution. Nonetheless, though she had hoped to find Magistrate Pendred with them, the elvin mage put forth the High King’s request for Sardis and his companion’s assistance.

King Isra’Asiel was, she said, concerned about the rumors of unseasonal wyvern activity in the Greybane Mountains. The wyverns had ever been creatures of the Jade Queen, and any change in behavior warranted attention. Hallendra stated frankly that though this request could not be made officially at this time, for political reasons, her King would be very grateful to the group, who had done him excellent service in the past, if they would investigate the situation.

She departed politely, leaving the two most awkward members to discuss the situation. Kalyx was eager to investigate anything touching on “Mother.” Sardis grudgingly admitted that, though he did not trust the elf, King Isra’Asiel had done well by the Grauberg in the past.

When the other two returned to the Manse, Eirlys confirmed that she knew exactly where the public utilities building was, but all four of them agreed that investigating rogue, firebreathing wyverns sounded like more fun than trudging through sewers searching for secrets about the High King’s past.

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

  • The Kaz’Kazzar wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow that allows him to influence the minds of those around him.
  • The Thieve’s Guilds has been infiltrated by a dark menace from the Shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir.
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of a dark menace from the shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir
  • The Blood King is able to see, hear, and even appear anywhere in Mokiir at will. He knows when anyone speaks his name.
  • The cult of the dead god Khalipanofax is seeking to find a foothold in Mokiir.
  • The mountain towns and holds around D’kath are being harried by wyverns much more than is usual for this time of year.
  • The Grauberg orcs have wiped out the goblinoids in the hills outside M’ziir.
  • The touch of the Shadowfell on the dreams of the godless is growing stronger. Night terrors have turned murderous and things grow worse as Nemidahl approaches.
  • There will be no truce with Darakor, and Mokiir will find itself at war with all the other nations of the west.
  • Beaten, the Kaz’Kazzar will bend a knee to Ren’Raatha of Darakor, who will be the new Kaz’Kazzar.
  • The Astrologer’s Guild has been abolished by the Guild Counsel at the insistence of the Shepherds
  • Undead plague the hills and mountains north of D’kath.
  • The orcs of Maelechar have departed, en masse, to the north, leaving their dark homeland empty and unguarded.
  • In the fell wastes of Maelechar, a group of heroes have prevented a dark cataclysm from starting in the cursed orcish city of Ur Ta Shaal.
  • The ancient primordials stir in their slumber and will soon awaken to make war on the gods.
  • The Mules are setting up a chapter in D’kath.
  • The Wild Hunt haunts the highways of northern Mokiir, preparing to carry away the souls of those who fall in the impending battles with Darakor and Aechell
  • A diplomatic envoy from Aechell reached D’kath on Penilan the 15th, the day before a dimplomatic envoy from M’ziir.
  • The Wild Hunt followed the envoy from M’ziir all the way to D’kath
  • A powerful sorcerer has come to D’kath with plans to take over the mage’s guild.
  • The Kaz’Kazzar has come to D’kath to treat with Aechell and forge an alliance against Darakor and the rest of the nations of the Blessed Lands
  • The fisherfolk of Laketown north of D’kath have been losing people to the Wild Hunt the last few nights.
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Session 36 (Season 2, Session 4) (Penilan 16, 102 RA)
The Blacksmith's Tale

Penilan 16: Midday
Kalyx arrived in D’kath by way of the teleportation circle at the Mage’s Guild. High Mage Edratha had funded her travel as a favor to Magistrate Pendred. pents08.jpgTo the best of her knowledge she’d arrived in plenty of time to rendezvous with the rest of the envoy, and to meet with Emmirus the Alchemist, who had put her off in M’ziir, but invited her to find him at the Alchemist Guild hall in D’kath.

As she made her way out of the Mages’ tower, she could hear the whispers of “sorcerer” and “dragonblooded” following her through the halls. She never heard her name spoken, but it was clear that her inborn magical talent was apparent, and uncomfortable, for those whose mastery of the arcane came only through years of tedious study.

She arrived at the manse of Zorin’Oze Az’Zoran shortly after the rest of the the party. They had passed through the Clerks’ Plaza shortly before midday, and had bathed and joined the young Lord for lunch. They discussed politics, the presence of the Aechellan emissaries in D’kath. They discussed the Slavers’ Guild and Kazzar Liran’Sulazzin. Zorin’Oze revealed himself to be a generally jovial, charming, elitist, foppish, cunning, basically good-natured …tiefling noble. Though his clearly genuine affection for Sur’maga Eirlys seemed to translate to a general warmth towards the rest of the party.

Penilan 16: Afternoon After a lunch and a brief respite from their travel, the party split up.
Ezra took a couple of guards to present himself to the Kazzar at Court.
Kalyx begged off to meet with Emmirus.
The others waited as Ink conducted a ritual, mumbling in a strange tongue and “listening to the whispers of the City.” The wizard seemed certain that the smith, Genvien, was operating in the Quester’s Quarter (or, the “Queue”), and that the Aechellans had already shown an interest in her shop.

Meeting with Emmirus was…enlightening for Kalyx. She was met with some disdain by the halfling Hallmaster, and had to make repeated attempts to even get in the door. Once there, Emmirus treated her as though she were an annoying petitioner for an apprenticeship. He excused the two of them to a private, warded laboratory, where, he explained, they could then speak freely.

First, Kalyx wanted to know why Emmirus wouldn’t meet her in M’ziir. Simply enough, the scarred alchemist explained that there were simply too many eyes and ears watching them both in M’ziir, which seemed reasonable enough.

They proceeded to a cagey conversation involving a lot of answering questions with questions. The upshot was that Kalyx learned the nature of the artifact that she and the other Retrievers had been trained to fetch: a scroll. A simple, but powerful and rare scroll. Emmirus explained that Khalipanofax, “Mother,” who was quite apparently not actually destroyed in the Blighting, had refused to commune with any eladrin since the end of the The Redemption Wars. The “Wardens” she’d grown up with were the surviving eladrin Sorcerer Priests, who were desperately trying to make contact with their god, who simply would not speak to them. The scroll, they’d hoped, would allow them to do so.

Emmirus claimed to not know what had happened at the Village, or where the Wardens and slaves had gone. He did, however, hint at other, deeper knowledge, including, perhaps, more about her own past, The Island, and The Voice she’d felt rumbling within her. But, he said, they should continue the conversation at a later date, lest the arouse suspicions.

With that, he ushered her out, loudly proclaiming her unfit for alchemy, and giving her a good slap to make it convincing. Kalyx left the Guild Hall to meet up with her companions.

Despite the increased urgency caused by the news of Aechellans interest in Genvien Arrol, the party didn’t go directly to Arrol’s Warworks. They wandered the Queue for a time first, and even paid a visit to the Explorers’ Guild Hall, where they rendezvoused with Kalyx.

At the Hall they met the Hallmaster, a dwarf named Artoss Hookhand, whose hands both seemed to be quite intact. Artoss was gruff, but friendly enough, and engaged in friendly banter with the group, commenting that they seemed like the sorts who might make good money through the Explorer’s Guild. Unfortunately, he also informed them that Guildmaster Lobbus Lighttouch was far to busy to meet with them any time in the next week or so.

Fortunately, the party was able to leverage their titles and prestige, with a nudge from Ink’s mind-altering whispers, to convince Artoss to set up a meeting for them at the Crooked Spoke Tavern in the afternoon on Penilan the 17th.

The group spent another few hours exploring the Queue and poking around Jehnahn’s Market. Sardis was almost cited and arrested for public urination, but managed to intimidate the guard who’d caught him into letting it slide.

Penilan 16: Evening

The party didn’t approach Arrol’s Warworks until the shadows had begun to lengthen. The shop was busy, with what seemed to be at least three forges running in a walled area behind the store proper. The party perused the store, eventually gaining the attention of a sales clerk, whom they asked about speaking directly to the Master Smith, Genvien Arrol.

They were put off, assured, delayed, and, eventually, directed to the Mastersmith’s mother, Annabelle Arrol, a robust, middle-aged human woman with a rosy-yet-businesslike disposition.

The elder Arrol also tried to put the party off, but was eventually induced to arrange a meeting between her daughter and the party, but only after normal business hours.

As they waited, the party grew suspicious.

Then they met Genvien Arrol, and understood.
The burly, but otherwise somewhat unremarkable young human woman shuffled in, shoulders slightly hunched, and whispered a greeting. As she invited the party into one of the small, private consultation rooms in the rear of the shop, it became quickly apparent that the master smith was just…painfully shy.

Once in the private consultation room, the party, with surprising deftness, managed to broach the subject of the Azethi Succession.

Her first notable reaction was one of fear. It seemed as though several Aechellans had been by earlier in the day, asking, obliquely, about the same evening. She seemed fairly shaken to be asked the same questions by officials from M’ziir.

But, as they coaxed the story from her, they found that her tale was, in it’s details, not much different from Jorin Remms’ version.

They learned that Genvien’s master, the dwarven smith Loras, who had turned against her and the palace guards, had not been himself since he’d returned from Tor Endull two weeks before the succession.

They also learned that Genvien had seen the Prince of Azeth many times, and that he’d had large, curling ram’s horns, remarkable due to their size and shape, very different from the more typical horns of the Aziil bloodline.

Finally, they learned that the tiefling, Fate, whom Genvien had fled Azeth with, had almost certainly been the prince, and that Genvien knew it, though she had been careful not to say so outright as part of the telling.

Penilan 16: Nightfall

As the young smith finished her tale, full dark was settling in around D’kath. The party was reassuring Genvien, obliquely, that her tale would remain secret, and discussing the ordering of some custom goods as a thank you and explanation for their visit, the true purpose of which they had been careful to obfuscate all day. Just then, Kalyx, Ink, and Eirlys all felt, and then saw, a small, raven-sized blur of energy, which resolved into a small mass of writhing tentacles, hovering near the ceiling behind Genvien. A familiar of some sort, and seemingly connected to the Ix’iil in some way. The familiar, revealed, fled through the wall and away.

Sardis, Ink, and Kalyx bolted to their feet, and rushed out of Arrol’s Warworks to give chase, while Eirlys lingered to reassure the Arrols and complete the transaction necessary to everyone’s cover.

Once into the well-lit but winding streets of D’kath’s Queue, the party became sparated. Ink and Kalyx, unable to give pursuit based on pure athleticism, each sought to anticipate the familiar’s path and cut it off. Sardis, meanwhile, kept the spirit in sight and attempted to run it down.

Eventually, Sardis, closing the distance, noticed that the familiar had darted down an alley full of a suspicious, writhing darkness. Thinking better of charging through, Sardis instead smashed directly through the back-door of the neighboring tavern, not slowing until he’d passed fully through the building, smashing through another door and into the alley beyond the darkness. And also directly into a robed and hooded tiefling, knocking the suspicious stranger to the ground.

Ink and Kaylx caught up, from different directions, and a tendril of writhing darkness lashed out at the sorceress, driving her briefly out of the present and into her darkest and most painful memories.

Ink sought to control the darkness with ze’s magic; meanwhile the tiefling stranger was loudly proclaiming himself an ally, and asking to be allowed to help.

Cautiously, Sardis let the wiry tiefling stand. Upon rising, he called out in a strange tongue, summoning a great, blindingly bright orb of light into the dark alley. The light flashed brilliantly, then faded. When it was gone, the shadows and the Ix’iilan familiar had disappeared as well.

The angry barkeep was still there though. Him and a half-dozen rough-looking adventurer-types who had taken exception to the damage to their favorite tavern.

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

  • The Kaz’Kazzar wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow that allows him to influence the minds of those around him.
  • The Thieve’s Guilds has been infiltrated by a dark menace from the Shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir.
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of a dark menace from the shadowfell that seeks to control Mokiir
  • The Church of Tulvar is a front for the Cult of Subher
  • The Blood King is able to see, hear, and even appear anywhere in Mokiir at will. He knows when anyone speaks his name.
  • The cult of the dead god Khalipanofax is seeking to find a foothold in Mokiir.
  • The towns and farms around D’kath are being harried by wyverns much more than is usual for this time of year.
  • The Grauberg orcs have wiped out the goblinoids in the hills outside M’ziir.
  • The touch of the Shadowfell on the dreams of the godless is growing stronger. Night terrors have turned murderous and things grow worse as Nemidahl approaches.
  • There will be no truce with Darakor, and Mokiir will find itself at war with all the other nations of the west.
  • Beaten, the Kaz’Kazzar will bend a knee to Ren’Raatha of Darakor, who will be the new Kaz’Kazzar.
  • The Astrologer’s Guild has been abolished by the Guild Counsel at the insistence of the Shepherds
  • Undead plague the hills and mountains north of D’kath.
  • The orcs of Maelechar have departed, en masse, to the north, leaving their dark homeland empty and unguarded.
  • In the fell wastes of Maelechar, a group of heroes have prevented a dark cataclysm from starting in the cursed orcish city of Ur Ta Shaal.
  • The ancient primordials stir in their slumber and will soon awaken to make war on the gods.
  • The Mules are setting up a chapter in D’kath.
  • The Wild Hunt haunts the highways of northern Mokiir, preparing to carry away the souls of those who fall in the impending battles with Darakor and Aechell
  • A diplomatic envoy from Aechell reached D’kath on Penilan the 15th, the day before a dimplomatic envoy from M’ziir.
  • The Wild Hunt followed the envoy from M’ziir all the way to D’kath
  • A powerful sorcerer has come to D’kath with plans to take over the mage’s guild.
  • The Kaz’Kazzar has come to D’kath in secret to treat with Aechell.
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Session 35 (Season 2, Episode 3) (Penilan 13-16, 102 RA)
The Road to D'kath

Penilan 13: Early morningchariot.jpg
Sardis, Ink, and Eirlys left for D’kath at first light on Penilan the 13th. They traveled as part of an envoy lead by Ezra, head of the Free Laborer’s Guild, and accompanied by an escort of ten warriors from the Shade, the Magistrate’s Guard, and the Grau Berg hacholu. Pendred remained in the City at the order of the Kazzar, and Kalyx remained in the hopes of having her meeting with Emmirus the Alchemist, and promised to catch up to the rest of the group in D’kath later.

In the days between the raid on the Thieves’ Guild and their departure, they had processed those captured in the raid, and Sardis had gone to speak with his grandmother, Tamok Kazan. He asked her if she had any recollection of meeting refugees from Azeth in the spring of 101 RA. The ancient hacholu did indeed recall meeting a teifling nobleman, calling himself “Fate,” whose associates had skirmished with Grau Berg warriors before Fate had talked everyone down. She described Fate in much the same way Mage Edratha had, adding that he was “honey tongued, but black of heart.” This he shared as the party traveled.

The envoy left from L’ekar and made good time, reaching the crossroads town of Ressik shortly after nightfall on Penilan the 13th.

Penilan 13: Night in Ressik
That night, the party stayed at an inn called The Sheppherd’s Rest. Before they went to bed, Sardis had to break up a fight that almost started when one of the townies accused one of the Grau Berg guards of cheating at dice. The fight was avertwd by some quick thinking and a round of drinks, but Rollauch the hacholu was sent home in shame (quietly) because Sardis and the rest of the group were pretty sure he actually had been cheating.

Around midnight, Sardis, Ink, and Eirlys were roused from their rests by the bone-chilling sound of distant howling. When the sound repeated, instilling them all with a vague but palpable sense of dread, the three briefly conferred with Ezra before leaving the town to investigate.

The howling continued, circling Ressik at a distance, so they let Sardis lead them in doing the same. They looked for clues as to the nature of the sound while seeking to keep it on the other side of the town for the time being.

Eventually they spotted tracks. They followed the tracks, and examined signs that only Sardis could see, and felt the strange, nauseating energies that seemed to linger where the “howlers” had been. Together they determined that the things out there were some sort of far-realm-twisted wolves, or possibly worgs. There was a small pack of about a half-dozen that seemed to have followed the party to Ressik. More concerning, one of the howlers was much larger than the others. A great beast the size of a horse and, apparently, ridden by a humanoid of some sort, likely an elf, human, or ashai. The more they heard the howls of the twisted, likely spined or tentacled creatures, the more convinced they were that they did not wish to encounter the creatures at night on open ground.

They returned to the Shepherd’s Rest and, after a brief discussion with Ezra, agreed that they must assume that this pack of howlers was indeed following them. They decided to leave before daybreak. All signs suggested that the howlers would be unable to keep pace with their horses. They would ride hard for Linz the next day and hope to draw the howlers away from Ressik.

The townsfolk of Ressik slept poorly that night, and when the party rose the next morning, murmurs among the bleary-eyed townsfolk, as well as the party’s guards, spoke of the Wild Hunt prowling the cold winter nights of Mokiir.

Penilan 14: Ressik to Linz

The howlers dogged their trail all the way to D’kath. But the party managed to stay ahead of them. They rode hard for Linz on the 14th. With Ezra using his inspirational words to lend speed to their travel, they reached the trade outpost only a few hours after nightfall, though their mounts were quite weary by the time they stopped. Along the way they managed to spot and avoid an attempted ambush by goblinoids in the hills south of Linz, though afterwards they all wondered if it mightn’t have been less work, and more good to Mokiir to simply fell the raiders.

When they stopped in Linz on the night of the 14th, they learned that Aechell was sending an envoy to D’kath, likely to arrive around the same time as the party. This caused them all some concern, but there seemed to be nothing for it.

That same night, Eirlys received word by fairy courier from Zorin’Oze Az’Zoran, confirming that the party was more than welcome to stay with him at his townhome in the City for the duration of their stay. Genial inquiry into the nature of Eirlys’ connection to the D’kath Zorans lead to the revelation that Eirlys had been a slave to Zorin’Oze’s household since the days of his grandparents, having been freed by Zorin’Oze’s father in his will in gratitude for decades of loyal service. The party learned that Eirlys had sold herself into slavery following the Redemption Wars, during which she had served as Sur’Maga to one of the Sorcerer Priests of Khalipanofax. The party’s shock was only somewhat lessened when they learned that Eirlys had slain her mage during the battle of Setheris Om, where the Sorcerer Priests had raised a vast army of undead from the crypts beneath the eladrin necropolis.

Nobody rested easy that night, though the night was apparently free of the howlers’ baying.

Penilan 15-16th: Linz to D’kath

The next day’s travel was relatively uneventful, but when they stopped in the village of Alz for the night, they again heard the Howlers haunting the night.

Fearing an ambush on the sometimes precarious road to D’kath, the party found a Sheppherd-guarded merchant caravan to travel with for the final leg of their journey. As they traveled beside and overlooking the Lazlo River, the howls of their pursuers echoed through the hills and canyons on and off throughout the morning, causing dire whispers among the Shepherds and merchants.

When they arrived at the gates of D’kath around midday, those with the caravan seemed relieved to see the envoy go their own way.

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

  • The Kaz’Kazzar wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow that allows him to influence the minds of those around him.
  • The Kaz’Kazzar will arrive in M’ziir soon to prepare for the negotiations to begin at the new year.
  • The Thieve’s Guilds has been infiltrated by a dark menace from the Shadowfell and seek to control Mokiir.
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of Subher, god of assassins and thieves.
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of a dark menace from the shadowfell seeking to control Mokiir
  • The Church of Tulvar is a front for the Cult of Subher
  • The Blood King is able to see, hear, and even appear anywhere in Mokiir at will. He knows when anyone speaks his name.
  • The cult of the dead god Khalipanofax is seeking to find a foothold in Mokiir.
  • The towns and farms around D’kath are being harried by wyverns much more than is usual for this time of year.
  • The Grauberg orcs have wiped out the goblinoids in the hills outside M’ziir.
  • The touch of the Shadowfell on the dreams of the godless is growing stronger. Night terrors have turned murderous and things grow worse as Nemidahl approaches.
  • There will be no truce with Darakor, and Mokiir will find itself at war with all the other nations of the west.
  • Beaten, the Kaz’Kazzar will bend a knee to Ren’Raatha of Darakor, who will be the new Kaz’Kazzar.
  • The Astrologer’s Guild has been abolished by the Guild Counsel at the insistence of the Shepherds
  • Undead plague the hills and mountains north of D’kath.
  • The orcs of Maelechar have departed, en masse, to the north, leaving their dark homeland empty and unguarded.
  • In the fell wastes of Maelechar, a group of heroes have prevented a dark cataclysm in the cursed orcish city of Ur Ta Shaal.
  • The ancient primordials stir in their slumber and will soon awaken to make war on the gods.
  • The Mules are setting up a chapter in D’kath.
  • The Wild Hunt haunts the highways of northern Mokiir, preparing to carry away the souls of those who fall in the impending battles with Darakor and Aechell
  • A diplomatic envoy from Aechell reached D’kath on Penilan the 15th.
  • The Wild Hunt followed the envoy from M’ziir all the way to D’kath
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Session 34 (Season 2, Session 2) (Penilan 10, 102 RA)
News and Clues

pagewands.jpg

Penilan 10, Mid-Morning

Naturally, with a little while to spare before returning to the primary raid site, the party decided to work some quick necromancy. After some ten minutes of ritual preparation, Ink’s face took on an eerie cast and he asked questions of the corpses of Avel’Emaz Az’Dazuur and Divinter. The reluctant corpses sputtered, choked, and coughed out the following information:

Avel’Emaz was killed by the Thieves’ Guild because he’d come and threatened them. It seemed that Avel’Emaz’s cousin, Bizil’El, known childhood friend to the late Lord Kalaz’Ikar, had sent Avel’Emaz to threaten the Guild because Bizil’El was displeased with the Guild’s progress “questioning the elf.” The party inferred that “the elf” in question was poor Poney, who no one had seen in months.

In death, Divinter succumbed to Ink’s authoritative demands as he would not to Pendred’s in life. He revealed the names of the Master’s of the Thieves’ Guild in each of the Seven Cities, including the revelation that D’kath, and now M’ziir, had no Master, and that Darakor’s was unknown.

When asked about the Blood King, Divinter’s corpse gurgled out that, “He was foretold. Kok’Abiel brought him forth. The…Bastard of Azeth.”

Divinter also revealed that he had traveled to D’kath to seek and reestablish lost contact with that chapter, and found them operating out of a bedraggled old warehouse on the edge of the city, in even worse shape than M’ziir’s chapter. They were trying to pick a new Guildmaster, and Divinter bullied them into choosing him and bestowing the dagger on him, though that honor traditionally belonged to the Hand of each chapter. This was shortly after Unification. It seemed that the day’s raid had done away with the heads of two chapters of the Guild for the price of one.

Having completed their macabre interrogation, the party ordered the tiefling’s body returned to his family, and Divinter’s decapitated so that the head could be tarred and put on display outside the Magistrate’s offices. The guards set about the stinky tasks and the party returned to the site of the main raid.

When they returned, Pendred was pulled aside by Shepherd Azira, commander of the Shepherds’ forces in the raid. The two dragonborn discussed what to do with the Guild prisoners. They were soon joined by High Mage Tallis Edratha, and eventually by Eirlys, Kalyx, and Ink.

It was ultimately decided that Ink and the High Mage would screen the guild members for Ix’iil infection. Those who were infected would be freed if possible, executed if not. Those who seemed amenable to adjusting their loyalties would be encouraged to join the Shade or the Mules. Those who were judged too undependable would be sold as slaves, with mutilations if necessary.

In the controlled chaos of the raid clean up, Elder Vindur, who lead the Grau Berg forces in the raid, approached Sardis and the party, making a point of mentioning that he wanted to have a look at the dough-skinned “warriors” who killed his son. Vindur walked away when faced with Sardis’ sick retaliatory burns.

As they all prepared to leave and return to their other duties, High Mage Edratha took the party aside and noted that she had made arrangements for M’ziiran Guardsman Jorin Remms, formerly of Azeth, to visit Magistrate at his office shortly after dinner time.

Penilan 10: Early Evening

That evening, after dining together, the party gathered at Pendred’s offices to meet with Guardsman Remms.

Jorin Remms was a plain man in his late 20s. He had the bearing of a career soldier, but without any sense of passion or special aptitude for the work. He was clearly uncomfortable and intimidated by the Magistrate and other well-known party members. He told his tale and answered questions readily, if somewhat obsequiously.

He had indeed served as part of the Azethi City Guard in 100 and early 101 RA. He admitted to having seen Prince Ra’Asiel several times, but only ever at a distance like most of the common folk.

Jorin had been off duty the night of the Succession on Jehnaran the 5th of 101 RA. He remembers a few hours after nightfall, the city alarms began sounding High Alert. The city had been looking to the Northwest after word of the Aechellan attack on New Cormorell earlier in that day, and had somehow missed the small army of Mercenaries who had approached surprisingly close to Azeth from the south.

Suddenly, in the chaos of the City’s preparation for an unexpected attack, fighting broke out. In the Palace, in the streets, everywhere. The Palace and City Guards had, without warning, turned against each other. In minutes the City had turned to utter, bloody chaos.

Jorin later heard that the army had been Tafel’Asiel’s bastard, come to claim the throne. The guards who turned traitor had been sympathizers, who had been lying in wait since the Bastard’s exile a few years prior. Jorin also found out later that King Tafel’Asiel had been slain in the fighting, but that the Bastard had been too. When things calmed down, Prince Ra’Asiel had changed his name to Isra’Asiel and ascended to the crown. The Bastard’s army never attacked, and retreated south.

Still, Jorin said, as it was all happening, nobody could tell what was going on. Many fled the city. Jorin did not flee, “No, sir, M’lord.” He was asked by a tiefling lord to help escort him and a handful of others out of the City with a handful of other guards. They managed to get a bit into the Grey Peak foothills, maybe 20 miles, before first light, at which time they all parted ways.

When asked about the people he’d helped to flee the fighting in Azeth, Jorin said that besides a handful of guards and servants, his group had consisted of the noble, a mage, a Smith, and several merchants who hadn’t stood out to Jorin.

The noble had been a tiefling, of course. A male with very dark skin and, he thought, large horns. He had kept his hood up, and had made Jorin indefinably uneasy. He hadn’t given a name, and had left for Rook’s Landing with two guards and one of the merchants. They’d been on horses, Jorin recalled. And had gone by way of Dabin.

The mage had been a human male. His name had been Alissar?…Alissand?..Alsalan?…something like that. He had mentioned the Silver Spire mage’s college in New Cormorell, and was headed back there. He’d been a skinny lad, young, dark hair, not bad looking but clearly a mage, “if M’Lords know what I mean.” When asked if he recalled more, Jorin recalled that the mage had carried a staff with a crystal atop that glowed yellow when they needed light.

The Smith had been a young human woman. Genvien. She’d been apprenticed to the Royal Smith at the Palace of Night, Gerrund Loras. Jorin remembered Genvien being more upset than the others. She’d told him that Master Loras had attacked the guards without provocation, and had turned on Genvien when she’d tried to intervene. She’d fled and was headed home to D’kath. She’d been of average height. Short, curly, reddish blonde hair. Her arms had been thick and her breasts small, as you’d expect from a smith.

Throughout his recitation and in response to the party’s questions, Jorin had practically fallen over himself to share whatever he could remember. His eagerness gave pause to several of the more insightful members of the party. How well could they trust the details recalled by one so very clearly terrified of being unable to provide enough information?

When all was through, Jorin asked if he was free to go. Clearly he feared that he might be in trouble with the Magistrate, though because of his leaving Azeth in the way he had, or because of some imagined failing of his recollection, it was hard to tell. Pendred, of course, sent the frightened man off with a few coins for his help, and an assurance to put in a good word on the guardsman’s behalf.

Penilan 10: Late Evening

After Jorin departed, the party discussed their plans over small, warm glasses of the strange, clear “wine” that Pendred liked. It did not take them long to decide that, as expected, D’kath made the most sense as a destination. Everyone in the party had a legitimate reason to go there and ask around the City, and Eirlys said she was on friendly terms with one of the Az’Zorans there.

It was decided that Pendred would arrange an official envoy to D’kath with the purpose of opening negotiations for the creation of a Freeman’s Guild chapter there. The party would come along as either Pendred’s associates, or representatives of other interests in their own respective rights.

The envoy would leave on the morning of Penilan 13th.

While preparations were being made, Sardis planned to speak to his grandmother, Shaman Tamok Kazan, who he recalled mentioning encountering a mysterious tiefling around that time.

Meanwhile, Eirlys and Kalyx, with a brief nod towards subtlety, accosted Emmirus the Alchemist in the streets of M’ziir so that Kalyx could demand to know his connection to the Wardens of her childhood. Emmirus, ever calm and collected, sidestepped the sorcerer’s brash inquiry, but invited the two to meet him at his laboratory at a later date to discuss the matter.

NEWS AND RUMORS
The word in the streets and taverns is…

  • The Kaz’Kazzar wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow that allows him to influence the minds of those around him.
  • The Kaz’Kazzar will arrive in M’ziir soon to prepare for the negotiations to begin at the new year.
  • The wizards of M’ziir’s Mages’ College are recruiting M’ziiran youth to the service of the eladrin
  • High Mage Tallis Edratha has secret and terrible connections to the cursed city of Old Cormorell.
  • The Thieve’s Guilds throughout M’ziir have been infiltrated by a dark menace from the Shadowfell and seek to control all of Mokiir.
  • The Thieve’s Guild in M’ziir has been wiped out by the Shepherds and The Shade.
  • Akra, the Shade’s deadliest enforcer, is secretly an agent of the Thieve’s Guild working to undermine the security of M’ziir and the Pale Quarter
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of Subher, god of assassins and thieves.
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of a dark menace from the shadowfell seeking to rule and control Mokiir
  • The Church of Tulvar is a front for the Cult of Subher
  • The nobles of the Duzuur bloodline are secretly connected to the Thieves’ Guild.
  • Divinter Red Hands, former gladiator and slave, was killed in a raid by the Shepherds and Shade against the M’ziiran Thieves’ Guild
  • The Blood King is able to see, hear, and even appear anywhere in Mokiir at will. He knows when anyone speaks his name.
  • The cult of the dead god Khalipanofax is seeking to find a foothold in Mokiir.
  • The Ix’iil were a front for cultists attempting to bring the worship of the dead goddess Khalipanofax back to Mokiir.
  • The towns and farms around D’kath are being harried by wyverns much more than is usual for this time of year.
  • The Grauberg orcs have wiped out the goblinoids in the hills outside M’ziir.
  • The Shade employs a powerful wizard who can see your lies and the stains on your soul, passing judgment on any who run afoul of the Shade’s justice.
  • The touch of the Shadowfell on the dreams of the godless is growing stronger. Night terrors have turned murderous and things grow worse as Nemidahl approaches.
  • The leader of the Shade, Danae, is a dragon in disguise.
  • There will be no truce with Darakor, and Mokiir will find itself at war with all the other nations of the west.
  • Beaten, the Kaz’Kazzar will bend a knee to Ren’Raatha of Darakor, who will be the new Kaz’Kazzar.
  • The Astrologer’s Guild has been abolished by the Guild Counsel at the insistence of the Shepherds
  • Giants plague the hills and mountains around Arkassin.
  • The orcs of Maelechar have departed, en masse, to the north, leaving their dark homeland empty and unguarded.
  • In the fell wastes of Maelechar, a group of heroes have prevented a dark cataclysm in the cursed orcish city of Ur Ta Shaal.
  • The ancient primordials stir in their slumber and will soon awaken to make war on the gods.
  • The City of D’kath is enchanted by the Mages’ Guild to appear in different locations from month to month.
  • The City of D’kath is protected by the god Tulvar. Those without faith cannot find it.
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Session 33 (Season 2, Session 1) (Penilan 10, 102 RA)
The Defeat of Red Hands

Penilan 10: Pre-Dawn swords05.jpg

Winter’s chill gripped the sewers beneath M’ziir, and the party could see their breath puffing from their mouths as they chased Divinter Red Hands through the winding maze of tunnels, pipes, and fetid water. The former gladiator had fled the scene of the raid, but not before Sardis spotted him and Pendred called for his companions to pursue.

Fortunately, the raid itself had come off flawlessly. The joint effort of the Graubergh hacholu, the Shepherds, the City Watch, the Shade, and a handfull of aprentices from the Mage’s College had paid off. The last straggling vestiges of M’ziir’s Thieve’s Guild had been caught utterly by surprise, and their leader, Ralaban the Gray, had been killed in the initial assault. It seemed likely that the M’ziir chapter of the Guild was finished, if they could only stop Divinter from escaping.

It wasn’t easy. Divinter was fast, and had spent ore time in the sewers under the City than all of the party together, and the son-of-a-troll was fast. Still, Sardis and, somewhat surprisingly, Kalyx, were able to keep up with him, while the rest of the party followed, seeking shortcuts where they could, lead by Ink’s eidetic memory.

Sardis and Kalyx caught up to Devinter just as he dropped out of sight into a great midden pit set below the sewer’s walkways in a large side room. As they advanced towards where his light disappeared into the pit, a strange, alluring purple light appeared above the pit, tugging at Kalyx’s mind invitingly…

And, as the rest of the party approached the room, a great, bloated, tumorous mound of flesh rose from the midden, belching rank odor from it’s toothy barn-door of a mouth, and lashing about it with massive twenty-foot tentacles. An otyugh grown huge and mutated by the strange powers behind the Ix’iil.

For a few seconds things looked grim. The otyugh’s tentacles plucked heroes out of the air mid-leap, and it’s diseased maw nearly devoured Pendred in a single bite. Meanwhile, the Red Hands, clearly allied with (if not truly in control of) the monster skirted the edges of the fight demonstrating how he’d earned his appellation.

But the heroes won out.. Some definitely not at all accidental magical teleportation by Kalyx disoriented their foes and Ink rendered the monstrous otyugh impotent through illusion. T Without his foul pet as support, Divinter went down with relative ease.

Once the battle was ended, Pendred set his followers to guard Divinter before healing him so that he could be questioned.

Divinter was much more willing to talk than anyone expected. At least, he claimed to be when he thought he might be set free in return. Once Pendred clarified that the bargain was for his life only, not his freedom, the Guild Enforcer became somewhat tighter lipped, refusing to reveal information that, he claimed, would render his captivity or death equally horrible. It was clear that he feared his masters more than he feared the end of life.

Still, after some discussion, the party did learn some things before Pendred summarily executed the Red Hands by the simple expedient of decapitation.

Among the more worthwhile bits of information—deemed truthful by Ink, whose face took on a decidedly creepy appearance as he judged Divinter’s honesty through some ritual—was the following:

  • The locations of the Thieves’ Guild headquarters in each of the other six Cities of Mokiir.
  • Confirmation that the powers behind the Ix’iil seek power and control over the people of Mokiir
  • Suspicious dodging around the issue of the Blood King and his background and goals
  • A warning to beware of Akra, reminding the party of how often the black dragonborn had been touched by the tentacles of the Ix’iil.
  • The church of Subher is closely connected to the church of Tulvar, and is helping keep the followers of Khalipanofax from gaining a foothold in Mokiir. And the Thieves’ Guild and Ix’iil are fine with that. Nobody likes the Jade Queen.

After his death the party looted Divinter’s body, finding some magical handwraps, some valuables, an interesting magic ring and, to their great dismay, one of the seven Cursed Daggers of Ix’iil that they had learned about when they’d slain The Hand at Wetstone a year-and-a-half previously. Ink, Pendred, and Sardis all clearly remembered that Amanda had delivered The Hand’s dagger to the druids of Aven for safekeeping. They also remembered how upset the druids had been at being given the task, though they had not declined. Nobody could tell for certain whether this was the same or a different dagger, but Ink suspected ze could find out given time to perform the appropriate ritual.

The only other thing of note in the otyugh’s chamber, clearly a latrine midden for some structure far above, was a tiefling corpse floating slowly downstream towards the lake. A little investigation revealed a pair of magical gloves, and the identity of the deceased. He had been Avel’Emaz Az’Dazuur. Before he’d died, Divinter freely admitted that he’d brought Avel’Emaz, son of a minor noble house, to the otyugh to be disposed of after the young tiefling had been disrespectful to the Guild. It was, Divinter said, an object lesson.

It was unclear if, after Divinter was killed, the party would immediately return to the site of the raid, or linger in the otyugh’s chamber to let Ink conduct macabre rituals on the dead and the dagger.

NEWS AND RUMORS
The word in the streets and taverns is…

  • The Kaz’Kazzar wears a glowing ruby diadem on his brow that allows him to influence the minds of those around him.
  • The Kaz’Kazzar will arrive in M’ziir soon to prepare for the negotiations to begin at the new year.
  • The wizards of M’ziir’s Mages’ College are recruiting M’ziiran youth to the service of the eladrin
  • High Mage Tallis Edratha has secret and terrible connections to the cursed city of Old Cormorell.
  • The Thieve’s Guilds throughout M’ziir have been infiltrated by a dark menace from the Shadowfell and seek to control all of Mokiir.
  • Akra, the Shade’s deadliest enforcer, is secretly an agent of the Thieve’s Guild working to undermine the security of M’ziir and the Pale Quarter
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of Subher, god of assassins and thieves.
  • The Blood King Isra’Asiel Az’Aziil is secretly a worshiper of a dark menace from the shadowfell seeking to rule and control Mokiir
  • The Church of Tulvar is a front for the Cult of Subher
  • The nobles of the Duzuur bloodline are secretly connected to the Thieves’ Guild.
  • Divinter Red Hands, former gladiator and slave, was killed in a raid by the Shepherds and Shade against the M’ziiran Thieves’ Guild
  • The Blood King is able to see, hear, and even appear anywhere in Mokiir at will. He knows when anyone speaks his name.
  • The cult of the dead god Khalipanofax is seeking to find a foothold in Mokiir.
  • The towns and farms around D’kath are being harried by wyverns much more than is usual for this time of year.
  • The Grauberg orcs have wiped out the goblinoids in the hills outside M’ziir.
  • The cursed ruin of Fort Pendred has been reclaimed by the Pale Magistrate, who is rebuilding it in honor of his strange southern gods.
  • The Shade employs a powerful wizard who can see your lies and the stains on your soul, passing judgment on any who run afoul of the Shade’s justice.
  • The touch of the Shadowfell on the dreams of the godless is growing stronger. Night terrors have turned murderous and things grow worse as Nemidahl approaches.
  • The leader of the Shade, Danae, is a dragon in disguise.
  • There will be no truce with Darakor, and Mokiir will find itself at war with all the other nations of the west.
  • Beaten, the Kaz’Kazzar will bend a knee to Ren’Raatha of Darakor, who will be the new Kaz’Kazzar.
  • The Astrologer’s Guild has been abolished by the Guild Counsel at the insistence of the Shepherds
  • Giants plague the hills and mountains around Arkassin.
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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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