The Seven Cities

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 M’ziir 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 High 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
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.

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.
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Session 34 (Season 2, Session 2) (Penilan 10, 102 RA)
News and Clues

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

Tulvan 4: Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 4: Late Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But everything went much more smoothly than expected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 4: Nightfall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Session 30 (Tulvan 4, 101 RA)
Preparation

Tulvan 4: Just After Midnight

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 4: Early Morning

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

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 4: Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 3: Late Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 4: Midnight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Everyone should get an extra 150Xp)

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

Tulvan 3: Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 3: Late Morning

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 3: Midday

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

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 3: Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 2: After Sundown

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

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

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

Tulvan 3: The Witching Hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the group returned to speak to Danae.

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

That’s when things got weird.

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

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

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

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

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

Tulvan 2: Early Afternoon

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

Speaking of ogres…fighting ogres isn’t easy.

But the party sure made it look so.

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

Even Akra didn’t go down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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