Legend of the Leviathan

Session 17: The Gauntlet
"More traps?"


"What if Dr. Pilgrim just gets on my back and I walk down the ramp?" – Ben, before Dr. Pilgrim was sliced in half while riding Spider-Ben.


When we last left the party…

 

The party had ventured into a dwarf dig site in search of the tomb of Uthuk Urkrypt, the High Shaman of the Scarlet Scourge Orog clan who had supposedly access to reincarnation magic. They searched the tomb because a companion of theirs, an Orog from the same clan whom they had rescued, earlier, told them about this magic, where they could possibly reincarnate their recently-deceased companion. However, when they had first arrived at the above-ground location of the tomb, it was beset by a dwarven mining expedition. There they met the brother of Thaldrak – Ben – who had been searching for Thaldrak, following a druidic vision which had led him to work in the mine. They also met the leader of the dwarven expedition, a gnome archeologist named Dr. Pilgrim. They ate with the man, after first hiding their Orog companion, Drothaak (fearing the dwarves would attack him or them while in the companionship of such a being), and in Dr. Pilgrim's office they met a dragon made of paper, named Vessuvithaxx, and learned that Dr. Pilgrim had sought the same mine as them. He sought it for a different reason, though; he believed that the bodies of the shaman were buried with an ancient map that led to one of the five sets of the Nether Scrolls, ancient written artifacts written on literal golden paper. The party and Dr. Pilgrim came to an agreement where the party would make the mine safer and in exchange, Dr. Pilgrim would let them look around. However, the next morning, when they set out in search of Earth Elementals guarding the lower level of the mine, Siras had discovered a false wall. This led them down a two-day journey into the bowels of the Northern Sword Mountains, along which they met a giant named Fribog, who could absorb objects, was traveling to Shanatar and sought to "awaken the sleeper". Eventually, they reached the tomb, but alas, they were too late! The traps had already been triggered; someone had been there, first. They followed a hysterical Dr. Pilgrim to the center of the maze, moving alongside a stream of triggered traps, eventually coming before four open sarcophagi, two piles of bones and a massive stone statue of Baphomet – a goat-headed, shirtless humanoid with two fingers raised to the ceiling. The statue spoke to Thaldrak, and requested him to find those who desecrated the tomb, and said that in exchange for reincarnation, Thaldrak had to kill Dr. Pilgrim. The dwarf refused, and as he did so, the altar's voice faded from his mind, echoing in laughter as the party heard numerous "clickclickclick…" – The traps had reset! 


 


In Brevitis: 

  • The party rested overnight in the center of the maze. Dr. Pilgrim was remarkably upset, and Kay asked him again about the Sleeper. Dr. Pilgrim said that it was a massive creature sleeping beneath the Anauroch Desert, a "walking apocalypse" that had only wrought havoc upon Faerun once in history, thousands of years ago, before returning to it's lair beneath the continent to sleep. Dr. Pilgrim said that a party of adventurer's had acquired a piece of the beast's pancreas for Karsus to cast his 10th level spell, which destroyed The Weave for long enough to end the civilization of the Netheril.
  • During their rest, Siras contacted Lady Silverhand, informing her about the potential theft of the map to the set of Nether Scrolls from the tomb of Uthuk Urkrypt, if it ever existed there, at all. 
  • In the morning, they set out through the maze, aiming to escape out the direction they entered. Thaldrak, Arentian and Zanzibar were all rather unresponsive after sleeping in front of the altar, and only responded compliantly to commands. 
  • Ben threw a bone onto the stairs, causing them to drop into a ramp with many thin, needle-like spikes protruding upward, dangerously. He shifted into a spider and the group decided to get Dr. Pilgrim down, first, instructing the man to mount spider-ben and ride to the bottom. 
  • At the bottom, a blade swung out from the side wall, slicing down the back of spiderben and splitting Dr. Pilgrim in two before slamming into the wall opposite, embedding deep into the stone beside a second similar gash. Dr. Pilgrim was dead. Very dead. 
  • The party made their way through the maze, doing their best to avoid the traps. One magical rune triggered, though, causing Arentian's eyes to start leaking this thick, bluish goop. Siras identified it as the Blight of Blindness, an illness afflicted by the dust used to make runes for certain kinds of frost magics, which results in progressively worsening sight until eventually total blindness sets in. (Curable with Restoration)
  • Once halfway, they approached a room with an Orog ghost. The ghost asked them four questions, to which they could answer two, and two ghosts attacked the party. They easily dispatched the things, but afterward, Thaldrak, Zanzibar and Arentian were still whipped up into a frenzy, attacking spiderben. The others calmed the trio and broke up the fight, and they continued on in the maze. 
  • Eventually, thanks to sharp eyes and quick feet, they made it out of the maze, alive… but not without their wounds. Two of the final traps were laced with some kind of poisonous liquid that infected Kay with an illness they later identified as Willem's Weakness, which made the victim progressively less healthy over time for a few days before stabilizing. (Curable with Restoration)
  • After their rest that night, the compliant, zombie-like mental states of Thaldrak and Arentian ceased, though Zanzibar continued to be sluggish and socially absent. 
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Session 16: Baphomet's Bagatelle
"Kill him. WEAK! He is weak. Kill him!"


"SHANATAAAAAAR!" – Purple giant, shouting at the party


When we last left the party…

 

The party ventured into the dwarven dig site, where they sought the tomb of the Scarlet Scourge High Chieftain named Uthuk Urkrypt. The High Shaman had a legend of reincarnation, and they hoped to reincarnate their friend and recently dead companion, T'avin, killed mysteriously when they passed the ruined Temple of Shar. Prior to that, they had agreed to find two missing monks from Lockridge Monastery, though after the death of their friend and the discovery of Frost Giants in the Shivering Scar, they had reassessed their priorities. The monks had already been missing for more than three tendays, and Alamathar was sick with the Mark of Bane at Lockridge for nearly 7 days, and surely would not survive in time for them to return to cure him. Instead, they decided to prioritize the pursuit of T'avin's reincarnation, and after that, Haxiris' Hideout. 

So there they were, at the entrance of the dig site, standing just behind the head of the project, an old gnome named Dr. Pilgrim – and the brother of Thaldrak! 

 


In Brevitis: 

 

  • Thaldrak was reunited with his brother, Ben. 
  • The party met the leader of the dwarf expedition, a clean-shaven gnome named Dr. Pilgrim. The Doctor wasn't keen on letting them explore the mine unsupervised, and they agreed to an impromptu dinner that evening to discuss the possibility of a trade.
  • During the dinner, the party learned that Dr. Pilgrim was an avid scholar of the region's orc tribes, but had taken a particularly keep interest in the Netheril since learning of a possible map to one of the five sets of Nether Scrolls – and that the map was buried with the High Shaman of the Scarlet Scourge tribe, when it was nearly wiped out by Svirfnebli many years ago. 
  • Dr. Pilgrim kept clockwork devices to protect himself, who he said was given by a wizard friend named Dilp, a leader of the Harpers who had travelled to the Plane of Mechanus, home of the Mordrons. 
  • Together, they agreed to take care of the 3 Earth Elementals who were present in the mine in exchange for being able to scope it out. They agreed to meet the next morning and go with the doctor to the Elementals.
  • The party also met a paper Dragon that the gnome kept behind bars in his office, and when Siras interacted with the peculiar creature, she saw that it had a propensity to changing ink on paper. The doctor complained that the Dragon had caused problems with his notes. The dragon could speak with Siras, and insisted on providing more parchment and ink, but the patterns produced by the drake had no discernable meaning to the woman. She narrowly avoided a spew of ink as the dragon breathed the black liquid all over that corner of the room… and Dr. Pilgrim.
  • Siras messaged Drothaak – whom they had instructed to hide nearby – that they would be proceeding without him. He did not seem happy about that. 
  • The next morning – after a rowdy dwarven celebration of the party's – well, of Thaldrak's – arrival into the camp, Ben and Zanzibar were awoken by the sounds of distant thunderous vibrations. None of the others had heard or felt it, though, and as it had shifted away from their current position, they were not overly concerned.
  • They went into the mine together and halfway to the Elementals, Siras spotted a false wall – the false wall, and the presumed entrance to the tomb. They entered and began an arduous journey into the depths of the mountain in pursuit of the tomb, together with a very excited Dr. Pilgrim, but without Drothaak. 
  • Nearly an entire day of travel went by when they had encountered a giant. The creature was massive and violet-coloured, lumbering from a left passage and absently singing to itself. It had various objects protruding from it's skin, including numerous recognizable dragon bones and skulls. The monstrous being spoke with Siras, who had gone ahead – invisible – to speak to the being before it could run into the party. They tried to hide from it, but it spotted them. It – loudly – asked Thaldrak, Ben and Kay about a place called Shanatar, and told Siras that it was headed there "to find the Dodkong and awaken the Sleeper". When Kay asked Siras to ask more about the Sleeper, the giant answered only "It is near my home, beneath the thousand sands." The giant gave it's name – Fribog – and was fairly insistent on taking Ben with him on his journey. the giant even took Ben's wooden warhammer and absorbed it into his chest, but the party convinced it to leave them alone while they backed down one of the nearby passages. 
  • When they learned from Dr. Pilgrim – who seemed particularly disturbed by the Giant's speech – that they had to pass the creature again to continue their journey to the tomb, Ben came up with a plan to speak to the being and distract it. He asked Siras to come with him and speak for him, and that he would pretend to speak while Siras did the talking. Miraculously this plan worked, though Fribog decided that Ben no longer had a say in whether he would become Fribog's travel companion or not, and the giant plucked the Dwarf Druid from the ground and took him along, continuing to march down the underground passages, in the direction of the dwarf dig site. 
  • Siras trekked after the pair, not keen on losing another ally so soon after he had just joined the party. And good thing she was there, for when Ben tried to shapeshift away from Fribog, the giant nearly crushed him altogether, coming just short of obliterating the druid before being held by a spell that incapacitated the giant, allowing the extremely wounded and exhausted Ben to flee for his life, in the shape of a Deer. 
  • When they finally caught up to the party, they sprinted away until they were certain that the giant's pursuit was no longer a concern. They rested, but not all of Ben's wounds healed; he remained incredibly exhausted from the encounter, and his leg still was displaced from his hip joint. He'd need another few days to heal up to normal, he figured. 
  • They continued onward and eventually reached the tomb, a place marred by strange designs and etchings in the stone of violent, beastly rituals and drawn goat's heads. Dr. Pilgrim had earlier told them that the Scarlet Scourge worshipped Bahamut to create Tanaruks, so they were sure they had arrived.
  • However, at the entrance to the maze, the party discovered that many traps had already been set. Immediately, Dr. Pilgrim began to panic, and sprinted along, following the trail of triggered traps with wails of "Oh no no no no!" until they reached the center. Kay tried to keep an eye on where they were going, but lost track near the end. 
  • When they reached the center, they saw a massive statue of a garguantuan humanoid, holding two fingers erect to the ceiling and donning a beastly goat head, horned and etched with demonic runes. The altar emerged from an opaque black circle, around the circumference of which were four sarcophagi, all of which had already been opened. Someone had beat them to the tomb. Someone had already been here. 
  • Immediately, Dr. Pilgrim began to wail as the rest considered what to do next. As Thaldrak stepped forward onto the black circle, aiming to investigate the open sarcophagi, a booming, beastly voice entered his mind – the voice of Baphomet, the demon lord, demanding that they kill Dr. Pilgrim in exchange for what they wanted — the resurrection of T'avin. Thalrak refused the demon lord, who asked them then to track down those who desecrated the tomb. When the demon lord didn't provide any information, Thaldrak refused again, to which the demon lord laughed, responding "you have made your choice…" and all the traps reset. 

    They had gotten to the center of the maze… but could they get out? 
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Session 15: Passed the point of no return.
"YOU STUPID WIZARD!"


"We should make bringing T'avin back our first priority… We have been gone four days, now, we have to face the truth that it's probably too late for Alamathar…"


When we last left the party…

The party had departed Lockridge Monastery in search of the missing monks Brother Gee and Brother Nesper, in exchange for the Oculus Eye diamond that they could use to save their friend, Alamathar, who had been poisoned by the assassins with the Mark of Bane. On the Eastern edge of the North Sword Mountains, the party departed West, toward Shar's Summit, where the monks were thought to have headed two tendays prior. On the way, the party encountered an abandoned Temple of Shar, which was under Orog occupation. Defeating a half-dozen Orogs, the party spared one for questioning. They learned that the Orog, Drothaak, was under some kind of curse. When the curse was lifted, Drothaak was surprisingly thankful. He had told the party that the Orogs were a raiding party descending from the Scarlet Scourge Clan to the North, and had been cursed by "The Room" inside the temple. He insisted that a book was the key to unraveling the mystery of the curse.

It was from Drothaak that the party learned the Orogs had captured the monks, and planned to sacrifice them to The Room. However, some Frost Giants had encountered the group and took the monks – and their other sacrifices – away. Thus, the party decided to venture onward in pursuit of the giants and the missing monks. They still managed to save another Orog named Vapreek, who set off to retreive the Orog clan to help their cursed kin. 

However, en route to the location of the would-be giant captors, the party encountered a mysterious cave underneath the temple. Concerned, T'avin decided to investigate. However, once he had ventured deep into the mysterious abode, the stone seemed to swallow him whole. Investigating, the party realized that the cave harbored a dark connection to the diety Ghaunadaur, That Which Lurks, or "The Elder Eye". They found a way to open the stone again, but had to fight a drow-shaped abomination made from the shifting stone goop. Shortly after they defeated it, T'avin emerged… bloodied, and missing an eye. When they interrogated their friend about his condition – and the mysterious three-tentacled rod he held in his left hand – he gave only vague, nonchalant answers. They tried in vain to get information from him, or to convince him to rest, as he simply insisted "I have one last thing to do" before venturing off back toward the temple. 

Unfortunately, it would be the last they would see of their friend, alive. When they had finally caught up to him, they came across the very dead corpse of T'avin… smashed by the tentacle rod to bits and pieces. They destroyed the rod and grieved over the loss of their friend. Continuing after the giants, they stopped to have a funeral for the man. There, they learned from Drothaak that his people's high shaman, Urthuk Urkrypt, was thought to have reincarnated from previous bodies several times. The secret to his reincarnation lies buried with the old bodies, somewhere to the south. Drothaak offered to lead the party there, in return for saving his life. 

They continued onward, then, vowing to get T'avin back. They tracked the giants and climbed the mountain to overlook the Shivering Scar, defeating snakes and seeing for the first time, towering over the trees in the valley, giants. Frost giants. 



At the foot of the mountain, the party continued their conversation with Siras Invictus. She told them about the situation in Waterdeep, as per Lady Laeral Silverhand:

  • Several of Waterdeep's largest merchant vessel caravels were destroyed or have gone missing in recent days.
  • An attack on Waterdeep's Sea Ward has left two of the largest Noble Manors in ruins, killing a few servants and one Masked Lord of Waterdeep. There is no clear indication as to what caused the attacks. Boulders embedded in some of the wreckage lead the authorities to suspect giants, though the angle of attack from the sea to the top of the massive Sea Ward cliffs is such that throwing boulders would be nearly impossible, even for a giant.
  • Lord Neverember is making a political push back at Waterdeep with a campaign throwing SIlverhand under the bus for the attacks. This doesn't look good for Silverhand in the Lord's Alliance, particularly given that Grand Duke Portyr from Baldur's Gate has sent a battalion of Flaming Fist to investigate the death of his family member in the House of Wonders.
  • Increasing amounts of Amnian, Calimshani and Thayan immigrants are boiling racial tensions in the region.

Once finished discussing these events, the party agreed that Siras should travel with them. Siras was particularly upset over learning the death of her brother, but was determined to provide assistance in their trials and tribulations against the giants. 

With that, they set out to the south, marching in the direction of the frost giants earlier seen by Thaldrak… and slightly visible through the dim fog. Their feet crunched on the snow or dead grass underfoot, as the cold, musky air entered their noses. Dead vegetation and wet stone; aside from that, there was no other smell. Siras called out to the others, pointing that she had seen a peculiar blackened patch of ground a few hundred meters ahead. Zanzibar used his magical horn to summon Toot, his air elemental companion, and sent the being up above the fog to scout. Toot didn't seem too pleased at two new additions to the party: Siras and Drothaak, while the departure of T'avin was left unexplained. 

As they got closer to the odd patch of ground, they saw that it was not just a burned piece of earth, but in fact, a patch of dark moss surrounding the small entrance to a burrow in the ground, or cave. Immediately upon seeing this, they had a creeping, eerie sensation as the hair stood up on the backs of their necks. 

"Hey guys, I'm gonna go check that hole out, goodbye!" Kay laughed at the absurd thought, "I'm totally gonna go in that cave, there!"

"Yes," Thaldrak said, slowly, looking at the terrain. "yes, I agree with you. Best avoid that." The rest nodded in agreement as they circled the peculiar area. Suddenly, Siras had an idea.

"Can you communicate with him?" Siras inquired, as they circled a wide berth around the moss, gesturing upward and looking at Zanzibar.

"With who, Toot?" Zanzibar's masked face looked blankly at Siras, "Yeah, but only within a certain distance." His voice echoed inside the metal mask.

"Maybe you could have him take a look at that cave?" 

"That's a pretty good idea!" Thaldrak agreed. Zanzibar then looked upward, without making a sound for a few moments, before turning back to Siras.

"He'll do it. I asked him." Zanzibar continued, "He also said that he can see three of the giants, as well as quite a few small huts far to the East." 

But something else had caught Siras' attention, then. The giant in the middle of the Shivering Scar, who they could now see very clearly as the fog parted above the trees, was looking in their direction. Right. In. Their. Direction. 

"Oh, shit." Thaldrak said, under his breath, just as the thunderous footsteps began, and the giant head began to bob above the few trees that obstructed his body. The ground shook as their knees quaked under the tremors, and they turned back. They crouched to sneak, trying to avoid the giant's line of sight while Thaldrak tried to scrape at the snow and dirt behind them as they ran, covering their tracks. But alas, Drothaak and Arentian made quite some noise, Zanzibar, too. Drothaak fell, tripping over a root and landing on a large, dead branch – SNAP! Suddenly, the giant footsteps turned into running, and the sequential boomboomboomBOOMBOOM got louder and louder… they started to run.

As they ran, they discussed forming a plan. What do they do? Stand and fight? One option was raised that Thaldrak could stand and fight the thing, supported by Siras and the others, hoping to defeat it and force it to respect him. They shook off the absurdity of the idea, realizing Thaldrak was likely a tenth of the size of the giant. Arentian raised the possibility of tricking it, luring it near the cave and then ambushing it. But yet again, they decided the risk was too great. They were nearly at the blackened moss cave, then, Siras thinking to investigate whether it was very dangerous or not. As they stopped before the moss, the eerie feeling returned, compounding by the anxiety that came with a Frost Giant running in their general direction. She turned to Drothaak, then. 

"You, run south. Run! Unless you want to die here!" 

"But, but I… oh, oh you know best, then, I guess! You'll catch up to me… later?" Drothaak seemed confused by what was transpiring, but trusted the bard. After all, she seemed to know the most about Frost Giants, and there was something about her face that seemed so trusting to the Orog… Drothaak ran. 

As he ran, his armor clapped together, the sound of metal plates flapping against one another rang over the valley. As Siras kneeled to investigate the black moss – and determined that it held no magical properties – they heard the bellowing voice of the giant echo across the mountains.

"ORC! ORC THING! YOU DARE ENTER OUR VALLEY, ORC THING!? I WILL KILL YOU! CRUSH YOU!" 

"Dammit." Siras said, as the group turned to one another to frantically think of what to do. Do they leave Drothaak as bait and flee, or save their Orog companion and guide? 

"We need him to get to the tomb," Thaldrak reminded them.

"Right, we don't know where it is." Kay agreed. So off they went, running to intersect the giant and starting to think. 

"Wait, can't you distract him with Toot?" Siras suddenly thought. 

"That is… another good idea!" Thaldrak exclaimed, impressed. Immediately, Zanzibar turned to Toot, communicating with him in the whispy, windy language of the Air Elementals. While Toot but up a bit of a fight at first, Zanzibar seemed to convince him of the plan, and the elemental whisped away in the direction of the giant. They continued running, but with eyes on the fast-fading elemental… before they knew it, though, they could see the giant stopping, suddenly, swatting before his nose, greataxe in hand.

"WHAT IS THEES?!" The giant slashed it's axe forward as Toot whipped about his head. "YOU STOOPID WEEZARD! I HAVE TOLD YOU, NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR GAEMS!" He slashed his axe again in an upward chop that sliced through Toot as the elemental dashed to the side and disappeared among the snow. The giant looked between the fleeing Drothaak and in the direction of Toot, then shook his head and turned back the way he came, jogging to the south. "I HAEF HAD IT WITH THESE WEEZARDS!" His voice echoed back across the valley as the party stopped in their tracks, silently celebrating their victory in the deceit. 

Toot caught up to them, half his size, and they were a bit perturbed to see that the giant had hurt the elemental. He showed no sign of pain, though, and floated to sit upon Zanzibar's shoulder, his legs crossed. 

"What happens if he… you know… dies?" Kay asked. 

"Nothing. Nothing really. He'll just be pretty pissed off and then I can't summon him again in a Tenday."

"Will he be alright?" Thaldrak prompted.

"Yea, yea. Takes him longer than us to heal, but he will be alright." Zanzibar nodded, his masked visage bobbing up and down. 

Siras then sent a message cantrip to Drothaak to tell him to return, and once the Orog had rejoined them, they put their heads together to make a plan. What should they do, and where should they go? Haxiris' hideout was to the West, as was the tomb… and their closest shot at getting T'avin back. But, if the monks were imprisoned by the Giants… they'd be leaving them – and consequentially, Alamathar – to their dooms. But what could they really do? They asked each other. At least three frost giants, maybe more! They'd be hard pressed to fight one, nevermind three. And besides, it had been nearly four or five days since they left Alamathar at the monastery… the chances that he'd be alive if they returned would be slim. With heavy hearts, they decided to abandon the monks – for now – and head toward the tomb. They travelled along the Northern edge of the mountains along the Shivering Scar, keeping an eye on the many caves in the region. Eventually, they reached one where they could rest, and they stopped to have a look inside. 

The cave was cone-shaped, and wound into the mountain some eighty or ninety feet. The ceiling was full of medium-sized boreholes, like lava rock once it hardened. Siras made some noise with her flute in an attempt to bait out any danger, so Kay and Thaldrak could ambush it while Arentian and Zanzibar pelted it with spells… but nothing came. Thaldrak went further in, and had a closer look. There, he saw four dangling, white threads, drooping from four of the boreholes. To boot, he saw a peculiar stalagtite that seemed to hang from the ceiling at an odd, unnatural angle, and it looked different than the other stalagtites that crowded the region. 

"Oh, no. There. See that?" Thaldrak pointed at the thing and the hanging threads, alerting the others. 

"I can light it with Faerie Fire," Siras offered, and played a short tune to line any would-be creatures in purplish flame. Immediately, the stalagtite outlined with the purple fire, and they also saw four of the ceiling tunnels light up, as well. The tunnels bored horizontally into the stone, so they could only make out the glimmering, flickering light from within… but the four threads were similarly lined, and retracted quickly to the ceiling above. 

Shortly after that, combat erupted between the party and a piercer and four cave fishers, scorpoin-like hunters originating from the underdark. Thankfully, the party made easy work of the things, and killed them all. Only Zanzibar went down, but he was stabilized by Drothaak. 

The fight was surprisingly difficult, and it had taken a lot out of the group. As they settled down to rest in the cave, being sure that their fire was hidden from the outside valley, Kay took his position near the entrance, idly watching for any movement or activity… particularly that of giants. As he did so, he saw a peculiar sight… a clawed creature with milky, pupil-less eyes skittering about, looking much like a cross between a humanoid and lobster. It moved from tree-to-tree, and even disappeared a few times, only to reappear in the shadows of behind another trunk, leaving behind faint traces of a blackish smoke. It seemed to be searching for something, pattering back and forth as it reached a collection of shrubs, leaned down and gathered it. As it did so, the shrubbery leapt up – literally, it leapt up – and started walking behind the thing. The odd pair then seemed to march back to the East, neglecting the cave and not seeming to notice Kay or anything else. Blinking many times to be sure that he hadn't incidentally fallen asleep, Kay quickly whipped out a piece of parchment and sketched the thing: 

The next morning, once the night had passed without incident – giant or otherwise – Kay heard from Zanzibar that the creature was called a Meenlock. One of the few evil beings from the fey who possessed a poisonous toxin in their talons that could paralyze opponents. They often ambushed and dragged their victims back to their dens, and the victims would never be seen again. What the Meenlock did to the victims was unclear, but they were considered one of the most evil beings of the natural land by many wood elves. 

Glad that the Meenlock didn't disturb them, the party then continued off to the West for some hours, before beginning a rather difficult climb up the mountains, to get to the location of the tomb. By nightfall, they had reached a high point midway up the mountain, an improvised trail between a smattering of fragile boulders and cliff faces. But a storm was brewing, hard rain and dark clouds from the south. The party looked among the possible resting places nearby and opted for a covered slate, stacking up their sleeping bags so that they were protected from the Southern winds. The storm that followed was one of the worst that anyone in the group had encountered; violent winds and hail violently assaulted the group as lightning crashed on distant and close-by peaks, like spears from the sky impaling the stone as the thunder roared angrily above the curtains of rain. They could barely sleep, but with the natural protection from the storm they had chosen, had enough rest between each of them. However, one bolt of lightning landed not 60 feet away, shattering one of the boulders that they could have otherwise chosen as their rest spot. It was good that they didn't, they realized, as they watched the crumbling stone tumble down into the blackness, falling along the mountain's edge.

That next day, the stone was slippery, and climbing was particularly arduous. They eventually made it to the excavation site – a stretching, cubic web of scaffolding among odd shacks and railway tracks protruding from the mountain – but had taken two significant tumbles down the mountainside, eventually landing hard at the bottom nearly a hundred feet below. 

Two dwarves approached them, then, members of the digsite, no doubt. Thaldrak rushed over to greet them, and led them away from the tangled mess of bodies as his friends collected themselves and assessed the damage from the fall. Thaldrak learned from the duo that a Dr. Pilgrim – a gnome archeologist – was heading the digsite, and allowed the Dwarves to keep any precious metals or gemstones that they found in exchange for diligent work and deep digging. He was looking for some kind of artifact or long-lost mystery, they said, but didn't elabourate. 

The party ventured forward, coming to the entrance of the cave, where they saw the back of Dr. Pilgrim as he barked commands to the dwarves "I don't care if there's gold in Mine 2b!…"  

 


In Brevitis

  • The party made it down to the Shivering Scar, where they discovered a Meenlock cave den, and were nearly spotted by a patrolling Frost Giant
  • The Frost Giant tried to pursue the party, and spotted Drothaak, but the party had the genius idea to distract him using Toot. When Toot distracted the giant, he cried out, angrily: "Stupid wizard, now is not the time for games!" before heading back to the other two giants.
  • The party decided to reassess their priorities, deciding that after four days from the monastery (and two days still if they decided to return that moment), that it was too late to save Alamathar. Instead, they decided to head West along the Northernmost mountains of the Shivering Scar, toward the Tomb of Urthak Urkrypt, led by Drothaak. There, they hoped to find magics to reincarnate T'avin. 
  • That night, they rested inside a cave. In the cave, they encountered a Piercer – a creature which mocks the appearance of a stalagtite before falling on it's foes – and four Cave Fishers. They obliterated the creatures and had a restful sleep… though during his watch, Kay spotted a creature they later learned was a Meenlock, an evil being from the Feywild. The Meenlock took an animated shrubbery back with him to the East, and didn't seem to notice the cave or the halfling on watch. 
  • As they continued west, they then ventured to the North, cutting back over the mountains in the shortest route toward the tomb. Once atop the mountain, they noticed a storm brewing on the distant southern horizon. There were few places to rest, and they chose a rocky outcropping protecting them from above, then shielded themselves from Southern winds. That night, they were pounded by a vicious storm of hail, rain and thunder & lightning. One lightning bolt struck within 40' of the party, triggering a rockslide in one of the rocky outcroppings they could have otherwise rested at. Thankfully, though, they were well-protected from the savage storm, and lasted it out the entire night. 
  • On their way back down the mountain, the party slipped on the wet stones – the rain continuing to fall and the wind continuing to blow – falling a total of 100 feet in two painful slides down the mountain. Thankfully, they all survived, sporting only occasional injury from hard and sharp stone. 
  • When they reached the bottom of the mountain, they were in a small valley before the Dwarven Dig Site, and presumably where the Tomb of Urthuk Urkrypt was. Among the fog they could clearly see a few shacks and buildings, as well as a simple cart and rail system and the beginnings of what was undoubtedly a large, complex scaffolding that crawled about the mountain like a cubic spider's web. They were greeted by two dwarves, named B(?) and Nozzal, miners of Dr. Pilgrim's archeological expidition into the mountain. They explained to Thaldrak that the doctor was looking for a great cultural artifact or archeological relic, and allowed the dwarves to keep any precious metals or gemstones they found in the dig. They had been there a total of 6-8 months, and were pretty happy with their situation. They mentioned that they had expected a shipment of half-a-dozen more dwarves with supplies that never arrived, and mentioned that there was Wyvern breeding grounds nearby. They said that they had to scare off a pair of Wyverns by urinating on a hankerchief, the stench of which – according to Dr. Pilgrim – revolted the creatures and sent them packing. 
  • Drothaak - turned invisible by Siras - told them that they had to go into the mineshaft to take the shortest route to the Tomb, which would be hidden behind a false wall deep within the mountain. 
  • The party headed into the mine shaft, entering the core of the archeological dig, where they saw Dr. Pilgrim, the white-haired gnome who was leading the expedition. 

View
Session 14: Tragedia Endogonidia
"T'avin, noo!!!"


"He's… he's gone, Thaldrak. There's nothing you can do." – Zanzibar to Thaldrak, when the group came upon T'avin's dead corpse, beaten to death by the incorporeally-controlled Tentacle Rod


When we last joined the party:

 

The party had agreed to help the monks of Lockridge Monastery – where they had travelled from Ravenstone to bring orphans, en route to deal with giants near Triboar. The monks had two of their order missing – Brother Nesper and Brother Gee – and were willing to give the party their diamond – Eye of the Oculus – to cure Alamathar from the Mark of Bane. Enthoril remained behind to tend the poisoned Battlerager-Cleric, while Thaldrak, T'avin, Arentian and Zanzibar ventured toward Shar's Summit to find the monks. Stopping near the abandoned temple of Shar West of the monastery, the party learned of some Orogs residing in the mountainous ruins. After combatting the creatures, they learned the Orogs were under a curse, and saved two of their kind, Drothaak and Vapreek. From Drothaak, the party learned that the Orogs had captured the monks, but they were given to Frost Giants who had come across the temple before heading South. Knowing then that they needed to head South, the party departed in pursuit of the giants. Camping underneath the ruins, the party rested near a cave marked by a strange symbol they knew to be engraved across the abandoned temple and upon the cursed Orogs – the symbol of Ghaunadaur, That Which Lurks, Elder Eye. Sensing a deep disturbance within the cave, and was concerned that it had something to do with recent events. 

As T'avin's darkened form became featureless within the arms of the darkened cave, the party watched him disappear into the blackness, silently. Moments became minutes as they waited, when suddenly, the stone swallowed the darkness at the same time that the eye carved above what was the cave, shut. What was once a gaping hole in this ruinous mountain was jutting, veined stone. Thaldrak cried out in surprise as the party ran forward to examine the stone, hastily running their hands about the jagged edges, desperately searching for a crevasse or opening. Nothing. Though as they calmed and began to search more thoroughly, they noticed a pattern in the jaggedness. The texture reminded Kay of his map, when spun about the leather ball. Qualith! As he ran his fingers about, Kay translated the message for the others to hear: 

Name one of my subjects…

Immediately, the group began shouting names at the stone, expecting it to give way. 

"Manion!" Nothing

"Zalara Arkenlyl!" Nothing

"​​​​​Eartharran Neirdre!" Nothing

Salsalaniir! Haxiris!" The stone remained, like a silent curtain of slate draped about the mountain and seamlessly blended into it. If there was a door here – and they were sure that there was – it was nearly undetectable. Minutes continued to pass as they discussed how to proceed, thought of more ideas. Suddenly, Kay spoke out of intuition, "Drow?" 

The stone immediately began to quiver and pulse like a jelly being prodded, it sucked into itself as the group leapt back in surprise. The passageway was visible beyond the amorphous mass, but their gaze was transfixed to the thing, now hovering in mid-air as the sludge made a "shloop" sound, pulling away from the stone and ground around it and sucking into a tight, bulbous ball before blasting into a shape – a humanoid shape. The hovering sludge turned black as two prods stretched to make contact with the ground and two others stretched forward, like pulsing, gelatinous arms and legs. The ball stretched vertically into an oblong shape as it suddenly seemed to segment into detailed bits, rhythmically dividing into the recognizable features of a humanoid. First the head, then the features of an arm, a hand… and shortswords! In a matter of three to four seconds, the stone shifted from a blockade to a ball of ooze and back into… a Drow! Standing before the party then, only a few eyeblinks later, was the gritty malice of a one-eyed dark elf, it's facial features warped and sloppy, as if they were dripping mud that had yet to dry. It wore black armor that was similarly slipping away into large droplettes, but the swords in it's hands looked as deadly as real blades… and they were. The thing leapt at Zanzibar and thrust both blades in, tucking its elbows to its torso and pushing the blades in a lower abdominal pierce, slitting easily through the Bladesinger's armor into his body as he cried out in pain from behind his metal mask. Blood dripped down the weapons and spattered the floor beneath him as combat erupted.

Thaldrak leapt in, then, slashing at the thing, followed swiftly by Arentian, Kay and Drothaak. As Thaldrak's weapon sliced into the thing, cutting a line of blacking ooze, Drothaak leapt behind it and tried to grapple it down. It was too fast, though, but not fast enough to avoid the daggers of Kay and frostbolt's of Arentian, both of which smashed into it's chest. They kept at it, as it slashed down at Zanzibar a second time, and the man fell hard to the ground, dying and unconscious. Kay was upon him, though, quickly stabilizing him before tossing another dagger into the side of the abomination. Thaldrak hacked a third time, slicing off it's left arm as it fell with a "SMACK", immediately dissolving into millions of little liquid beads that bounced and further divided, sinking into the unseen cracks and pores of the ground.

"What the fuck?!" Thaldrak cried out, as Drothaak failed, yet again, to grab the thing. But two well-aimed frostbolts of Arentian smashed into it's neck as it raised it's blades to cross-slash at the shocked dwarf, freezing a fair bit of it as the rest splintered into infinitesimal marbles of darkness, scattering across Drothaak and the stone around, splitting until they were the size of dust particles that simply disappeared on the light air or into the walls and ground. The bit that was frozen simply began to melt, slowly, the oozing liquid seeping downward. 

They gathered themselves and watched the last bits of the thing melt away, only realizing after some moments that wet footsteps could be heard echoing down the passage, within. Thaldrak moved a dozen feet into the cave to get a better look, squinting his eyes. In his darkvision, he could make out the blurred silhouette of T'avin limping toward him, and he called out, worriedly. 

"T'avin! T'avin, everything alright?" 

As his sorcerer friend approached, his question was immediately answered. All of them – Thaldrak, Kay and Drothaak… then, eventually, Arentian, gasped in shock as T'avin came into view. The whole left side of his robes were red with blood, the fabric stuck to his skin and drenched with his crimson life. His hands were painted the same colour all the way down to his elbows, but what was most shocking of all was the gaping, gorey hole where his left eye once was. A grizzly gnash across his face stretched from his eye across his nose and to the opposite corner of his mouth, and back, and his right eye was red with blood, bleeding down his cheek and neck. He seemed surprisingly – shockingly – calm, though, as he walked forward, rather slowly. It was only then, in the light of the morning, that they saw what he held in his left hand. A staff as long as his torso, black and twisted, with three tenticles that protruded from it. The tentacles writhed about as if on their own volition, seeming to smell the air and lick the stone, or the blood from T'avin's robes. 

They took many steps back from out of the cave as T'avin departed, and Thaldrak broke the silence, crying out, "T'avin! What the hell happened?! What happened to your eye?! What happened to you?!" 

Kay, too, cried out, more softly, "Jesus, man… what happened?". Arentian simply shook his head, staring blankly beside Drothaak, who continued to step further and further away from the sorcerer. 

"He is taken! He is cursed! Cursed by the woman! Cursed by The Room! Do not trust him, friends!" Drothaak picked up his maul and continued to back away. 

"T'avin, answer my question, what happened?!" Thaldrak insisted again, as T'avin only gave a weak smile, and shrugged. 

"Well, nothing good, obviously." T'avin shrugged again.

"Stop being vague!"

"I… encountered something. And I handled it." 

"But where's your eye?" 

"Yeah, and what's that thing in your hand?" Kay pitched in.

"This, is… nothing. I have to do something, but I am almost done." T'avin continued again, with eerie calmness. 

"He is taken! He is cursed! We have to fight him!" Drothaak shouted again, louder. 

"If you think you're a safe enough distance from me, you're wrong." T'avin said, eyeing the Orog, dangerously.

Thaldrak held up his hand, moving between him and T'avin, and casting a suspicious and concerned eye upon his sorcerer friend. "Relax! T'avin, you have to trust me, here, tell me what happened. How did you lose your eye?" 

"It told me to."

"To cut out your eye?! And you just DID IT?!" Thaldrak exclaimed.

"Yes. I have something to take care of. One last thing. You'll just have to trust me." 

"You can barely walk, man." Kay said, "For god's sakes, you lost an eye. And again, what is that thing in your hand?" 

"Oh this, this is just something… for that thing I need to take care of." 

"STOP BEING SO VAGUE AND TELL ME WHAT IS GOING ON!!" Thaldrak shouted. 

Drothaak took a few more steps forward as T'avin responded, vaguely, again, "You will have to trust me. Have I ever given you reason to doubt me?" 

"Well, no, but…"

"So there. Trust me." 

"T'avin, you're being an idiot. Just tell us what's going on, we can help." Kay pleaded, Arentian standing behind him and nodding fervently in agreement. 

"You cannot help." T'avin said, matter-of-factly.

"Why? Just tell us!" Thaldrak shouted, again. 

"I have to go."

"To the temple?!"

"Maybe."

"T'AVIN STOP BEING SO VAGUE!" 

"Thaldrak, you will just have to trust me. I have to do this. I have to do this, alone." 

"Look, T'avin…" Thaldrak pleaded, the frustration lining the concern of his voice.

"Trust me." And with that, T'avin turned his back to the group and began to quickly walk away, back toward the temple entrance. 

"By the gods…" Arentian said.

"Should we follow him?" Thaldrak asked Kay.

"I don't know, Zanzibar, what do you think?" Kay turned, looking for the wizard, and only then remembering that Zanzibar laid, still very unconscious, at the entrance to the cave. "Oh shit, Zanzibar!" 

"Shit…" Thaldrak rushed over to the man and busted out his healer's kit, laying out the various medical supplies and bandages and doing what he could to tend the wounds of the unconscious man. Moments later, Zanzibar sat up, groaning audibly. 

"What… what happened?" He asked with his thick accent, his voice hollow and echoing from within his metal mask. His featureless visage whipped about as he gathered his senses. "Did you kill it? The thing?" 

"Yes, but T'avin came back," Thaldrak pointed to T'avin, who now stood and appeared to be having a conversation with the staff that he clutched in his hand, and Thaldrak suddenly grew quiet as he listened.

"…you can't have both. Either I take you to the room or take them to you." The tentacles flailed about as T'avin sighed and continued to march onward, disappearing behind a thick brush. 

"By the Dawn, what happened to him? What happened to his eye?!" Zanzibar nearly shouted, quickly standing. "And what's that thing in his hand?!" 

"I don't know…" Thaldrak said, under his breath, his gaze still locked on where T'avin once stood, "but I think he means to go into the temple."

"Come on," Kay said to them, "we have to follow him. Quietly." The group ducked down and followed the rogue into the wilderness, making their way carefully back to the temple. Drothaak voiced his concerns a few times, saying "I only do this out debt. I will not let him kill my kin!" They did their best to be silent, but the armor of Thaldrak clinked about, as did the metal in Zanzibar's, but it was clear that their attempts to be silent were moot when the foreign man fell, and cried out in pain. "Dammit!" Kay hissed, "So much for silently following…" 

Nearly an hour later, as they continued after T'avin's trail, the silence of the frigid mountainous region was broken by a cry of surprise, followed by a blistering streak of light which illuminated the sky – a ray of fire. "T'avin!" Thaldrak cried, as he sprinted forward at a breakneck pace. The others followed, not far behind. They ran through the brush, snapping branches and kicking over small boulders as the terrain whipped them when the passed. The sounds of combat grew more intense, and were peppered with small explosions and cries of pain from their companion. After a minute, the sounds grew quieter, but they ran onward. Fifteen minutes of hard running and they suddenly heard a sickening sound – like a whip cracking the air and – SPLAT – spattering against something wet and soft. Thaldrak's belly flopped as he felt the blood drain from his face and arms, and Kay flinched, expecting what came next. 

They burst into the next small, rocky, slanted clearing to a horrific sight. The smashed corpse of T'avin, being battered and slashed by the three tentacles of the rod he held from his now-severed left hand, smashed from the elbow up. The torso was a concave pool of blood and guts, intestines spilling into a soup of gear, robes and gore. Of his face, only his eye, brow and hair were still visible, but painted entirely with his lifeblood. His legs twisted at uneven angles, severed at his shattered hips, and his right arm appeared broken in several places. And the tentacles kept pounding, with a quick, rhythmic – SPLAT-SPLAT-SPLAT

Thaldrak burst forth, tears and spittle flying from his face, pale with grief and denial. "T'AVIN, NOOO!!!" He rushed at the tentacle-rod-thing and slashed down at it, his sword clanging against the metal as T'avin's severed arm bounced about with the impact, remaining latched onto it. It was as if the rod held the severed limb, and not the other way around. The tentacles turned, then, seeming to recognize a new victim, and lashed angrily and violently toward Thaldrak, two of them missing him but one drawing a thin gash across his forearm. He cried out in surprise and leapt back, hysterically shouting to the rest. "Do… DO SOMETHING!" 

Kay scanned the scene, his adrenaline sending blood surging into his brain as he frantically looked for any positive to this catastrophic event. As Thaldrak shouted, he noticed, then – faint cracks, slivering up the metal bit of the rod. After Thaldrak shouted, Kay trying to get a better view of the thing, Arentian cried out a spell of Ray of Frost, sending two lines of icey blue smashing into the rod. Kay's eyes widened as he noted the cracks crawl further, splitting and branching across the metal. "It's… it's working. Keep striking at it, keep striking!" 

Arentian sent out half a dozen more rays in quick succession, each striking the rod cleanly as it finally began to splinter and audibly crack… then suddenly, with one last – SPLAT – as the final tentacle fell upon the dead corpse of T'avin, the rod shattered. Like a glass pillar, the rod itself exploded into shards that sailed across the clearing, many of which embedded themselves in T'avin's corpse, while the tentacles suddenly dropped, splashing to the ground into a wet mess, melting, it seemed, much like the Drow they had just encountered.

"T'avin… T'avin…" Thaldrak, still hysterical, ran forth and buried his knees into the bloody gravel, protruding his healer's kit with shakey hands. "No… no no no no… T'avin, wait, I can… T'avin…" His arms dug about the gore sickeningly as he – in shock – tried frantically to find something to fix the impossible situation. 

"Thaldrak…" Kay began, softly.

"He's gone." Zanzibar finished. "Mate… he's gone. He's dead." And Zanzibar stepped forward, placing two hands – one on each of the Dwarf's shoulders – as they began to shake violently with sobs.

"How could you do this to me, T'avin, why?! Why did he do this?!" Thaldrak raised his tear-streaked face to the heavens and shouted in pain. 

"Stupid…" Kay said again, "T'avin, you stupid, stupid, stupid…" 

And they stood there, silently, grieving for their friend.


When some hours had passed and they were finally ready to begin again, Thaldrak searched through the mess to see what he could recover. He took something personal from T'avin's effects to remind himself of his now-dead friend, and a piece of his body, knowing that resurrection was something they had seen – of the Hanlon Razor – and heard of, from the guild. He instructed Kay and Arentian to go through the rest, and take what they thought was useful. 

"I am sorry for your loss." Drothaak said, "But… I might be able to repay my debt." 

Thaldrak – who was crouched on a rock in silent sorrow, looked up from the divination card bearing T'avin's likeness that he had been staring at for the last fifteen minutes. "What?" He asked, softly.

"Urthuk Urkrypt." 

"What?" T'avin said, more loudly, and Kay, Arentian and Zanzibar lifted their heads to listen to what the Orog was saying. 

"Our high shaman. Urthuk Urkrypt. Of the Scarlet Scourge. He comes back, they say, now three generations or more. Reincarnated. Urthuk Urkrypt can reincarnate. I can take you."

"What?" Thaldrak said, again, "To your clan?" 

"No. To tomb." 

"How… how would that even help?" Kay asked him.

"Urthuk Urkrypt's first tomb. South. I can take you. Or to clan. Maybe you can pray, maybe Urthuk Urkrypt will reward you for saving our kin. But they do not like those who are not orc." 

"Wait… if Urthuk Urkrypt is your high shaman, than what is in his tomb?" 

"Old bodies. Previous bodies. His secret." Drothaak answered, quietly, looking over his shoulders with clear anxiety, as though he was uttering a silent curse that no one should speak. 

The group then began a tough debate – what to do? They had a responsibility to rescue Brother Nesper and Brother Gee, and, in turn, Alamathar… but what of T'avin? Was Alamathar doomed anyway? And what about Haxiris' hideout? And what would the orog do once they had rescued their kin? It was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately, after a tough discussion, they decided to continue onward to save the monks, contact the monastery via Zanzibar's sending spell, before letting Drothaak lead them to the tomb and then heading themselves to Haxiris' hideout. 

Off they went, then… trekking silently and thoughtfully back into the mountainous wilderness, leaving the damnable temple – and whatever abomination was responsible for T'avin's ultimate demise - behind them. They stopped only when they reached a fair clearing, to have a soft-spoken funeral for the fallen sorcerer. They burned his remains and Thaldrak said touching words. It was as if the sun itself had listened, as the firey ball disappeared behind a black cloud and never emerged again, dusk slipping quickly into a cold, cold night. A night for grief, a night for rememberence, and a night that only grew colder in their hearts, with the somber sorrow of funeral pyre before them. The adventurer's wouldn't soon forget the day of Tarsakh 23.


The next day passed quickly as they continued to follow the massive tracks and broken foliage of the giants. The funeral the night before had given them closure, and a renewed sense of purpose. They moved onward and upward, climbing the next few mountain trails with ease and, before they knew it, had reached a high point three-quarters near the summit, and a rocky indentation in the mountain where they (had thought that they) could rest, peacefully.

As Thaldrak set out for first watch, he look some time away from the group to look Southward, into the valley beyond this mountain. The sun set over a near-cloudless horizon, and the shadows Eastern mountains stretched like a blanket being pulled over the snowy mattress of the valley, peppered with dead trees… and… Giants? Thaldrak could see clearly, then, that there were at least three of the massive things, lumbering about in rhythmic patterns as if they patrolled specific areas. He scanned the valley more closely, stopping to examine the map he had been given by Brother Daweii from Lockridge Monastery. The Shivering Scar, this valley was called. He looked about again, and saw some strange creature moving near the foot of the closest mountain. It lumbered from tree-to-tree, moving swiftly and stealthily, it's claw-like appendages gripping the bark as it nearly leapt as if to avoid the snowy ground. It appeared as though it were a walking lobster, perhaps the size of Kay. But something else caught Thaldrak's attention – great soaring birds, their features obscured now as the sun continued to set, a pair of them soaring near the peak of the next mountain over, to the West. He couldn't make out any features of the things, but Thaldrak turned to look straight up, anyway, wanting to make sure that no such creatures circled their heads near this peak. He saw no birds, nor any other creatures, but dozens of little red flowers that peppered the summit, some two-hundred feat upward beyond an arduous climb. Immediately, the dwarf recognized the flowers. Female Dwarf Lillies, they were called. Rare flowers that grew only near the peaks of mountains with just the right humidity. He huffed to himself, and looked back to the group… just in time to see several lithe snakes skittering about the stones, above. They were small, but as Thaldrak moved closer, he saw that there were many… many of the things. The smoke seemed to be stirring them from a nest within the stone, as he called out a warning to his friends. They scattered about, aiming to distance themselves from the fire as Thaldrak shouts became muted by the static hiss of dozens and dozens of snakes that suddenly flowed forth from a thin gap between two mountain slates… and fell to the ground. Immediately, the snakes formed into three clumps that bit and hissed at anything nearby, and the party began stomping and slashing. The combat was quick and choatic, and over quickly. But close to the end, as Drothaak's maul slammed a pile of snakes into mush, the weapon sunk into the stone and a loud tearing sound – RIIIIP – split the sounds hissing and fighting. A sudden WOOSH of air sucked everyone forward toward the point of impact as the air shimmered and wavered, shifting into a coporeal form… of a hound. The thing had a goblinoid face and bright reddish-pink fur, as though it was some kind of a massive, deformed wolf.

"Whoooo summoned meeeeee!?" The thing slobbered more than shouted, as the nearest snake sank it's fangs into the wolven creature's haunch. "You daaare!?" It slobbered and gnashed at the beasts as the party didn't waste time in questioning the confusing occurence. In mere moments, the snakes had been defeated, none of them – aside from Drothaak – sporting any new wounds from the endeavour. 

"Whooo summoned meee?! Who dares interrupt the infinite war of Malglubiyet and Gruumsh!?" The creature's spittle dripped onto the pile of dead snakes as it looked between each member of the party, but no answer came. Kay recognized the thing as a Barghest, a lesser being from the plane of Gehenna.

"We are not your enemies. We don't know what happened." Thaldrak said, insistently, but still gripping his sword, tightly, unsure of what just happened. 

"I must feast! Must grow! Big enough to return!! Have you feasts for me, thennn?" But as silence greated the canine thing's words, it hissed, looking between the five companions, and dashed off to the North down the mountainside. 

Happy to be done with the fighting, they settled down, and finally got some rest. Barghest or not, they had greater problems on the horizon… Thaldrak had spotted giants.

As they headed down the mountain into the valley – now coated by a thick blanket of fog – they noted the few giants that seemed to lurk beyond, their heads protruding from the sea of white. Occasionally, they could even sense the faint tremors of the giant footsteps, a distant – boom-boom-boom. But they were in for another surprise, a hooded figure was making his – no, her – way down the mountain. She was clad in simple adventuring gear, leather armor, and had a deep hood pulled over her face. 

And, as the fates would have it, only a day after her brother's untimely demise, T'avin's sister had - finally – found them.

 


In Brevitis:

  • T'avin ventured into the cave and was swallowed by the stone. Vapreek left the party to warn the Shaman of the Scarlet Scourge Clan about the cursed Orog.
  • Outside, Thaldrak and Kay discovered a riddle upon the stone suggesting that they name one of the servants to Ghaunadaur. They spoke many things, including the names of some known associaties of Alkahest, but it did not open. Eventually, when Kay said "Drow", it opened… or rather morphed into a Drow warrior, who attacked the party. They defeated him, but Zanzibar was knocked out cold.
  • T'avin emerged from the cave covered in his own blood, missing his left eye and sporting grizzly scars slashed across his face. In his left hand, he held a long staff from which three massive tentacles writhed about, menacingly. T'avin refused to tell the party what had happened, saying only that "He had one last task to complete, alone." 
  • Thaldrak and Kay tried to dissuade the sorcerer, but he left them behind. They followed him quietly – or tried to – from a distance. 
  • Once upon the cliff-face, T'avin erupted into combat with the staff and the party raced to catch up to him, calling out. They were too late, however, and when they reached the source of the commotion, were greeted only by a spattered mess of gore … T'avin had been killed by the rod.
  • The party destroyed the Tentacle Rod and grieved over their dead friend. They took parts of T'avin's body in case he could be resurrected in the future. 
  • Once in a clearing South of their position, they held a funeral ceremony for the fallen sorcerer. 
  • They continued South in pursuit of the giants, traversed up a mountain and fought off some snakes. In the battle, a Barghest was supposedly – somehow – summoned from Gehenna.
  • Thaldrak spotted some Frost Giants in the Shivering Scar to the south, and the party scaled down the mountain in pursuit of the monks.
  • En route, they encountered the sister of T'avin, Siris Invictus, who offered to join the party – aid, sent by Lady Silverhand.
View
Session 13: Eye See You
The eye shuts, as the stone collapses like a sealed door.


"Big blue giant lady take them. Take all sacrifices!" – Orog of the Scarlet Scourge clan, freed from his curse by the party. 


When we last left the party: 

 

The party had completed their arduous journey from Ravenstone to Lockridge Monastery, where they delivered the only remaining of the three orphaned children from the town. The monastery was planned to be one small stop on their journey through to Triboar and possibly Haxiris' hideout in the Northern Sword Mountains, but the poisoning of Arentian and Alamathar by the assassins had forced their hand in an attempt to cure their companions. Arentian had already been cured, but Alamathar was still dying from the Mark of Bane poison. Their only hope was to use a diamond to cure him – as they had used their only diamond to cure Arentian. The Monastery had offered them this, a special stone that was of substantial sentimental and spiritual value to the Monastery called the Eye of the Oculus, in exchange for them finding two of their lost order in the nearby mountains. The party agreed, and decided on a short rest at the monastery before venturing forth into the wilderness in search of the missing duo, to get the diamond and save Alamathar. 

As the silent old man removed his hand from Arentian's wound and the last bit of seared, chunky flesh melded seamlessly into his chest, a sudden realization dawned upon the party, aided in no small part by the sudden, violent vomiting of Alamathar on the cold, mossy stone, nearby. Quickly, they asked if the monastery had another diamond with which they could cure their second companion, to which brother Daweii responded with an offer: if they find two missing members of the monastic order, they could be rewarded with the precious stone – the Eye of the Oculus, a gem of particular spiritual value to the group. Unhesitating, the group agreed, as Enthoril guided Alamathar into the Monastery with the help of two nearby monks – who did their best to avoid his spiky armor – while the rest heard of the details concerning the disappearance of the two missing monks. 

Brother Daweii explained that Brother Nesper and Brother Gee had left two tendays ago on a pilgrimage to Shar's Summit, the peak of a large mountain to the West. They venture on the pilgrimage as a spiritual journey of endurance – the monks worship Ilmater, god of suffering, and the trail is sufficiently arduous and difficult. There at the peak - named after Shar, the evil god of darkness and loss - the monks purport that their prayers could be better heard. 

After some discussion, the group agreed to take an evening of rest with the monks before departing first-thing the subsequent morning, following the trail of the others. They entered the lavish monastery, which was decorated extravagantly with the clear superfluous wealth they seemed to garnish from the mines, and sat to dine with the order. When asked about the presence of Enthoril, the group were informed that the paladin had insisted on overseeing the care of Alamathar. They began to eat their dinner, then – an extravagant collection of mountainous hare meat mixed with high-altitude vegetation in a thickly-spiced stew. The dining hall was furnished with simple tables sunken into the ground, upon which the diners sat with their feet falling into a trench-like gap beneath the heavy pine board. Simple wooden bowls and dining utensils adorned the tables, and the eatery stood in stark contrast to the eloquent extravagance of the decor around them. 

"Aren't you concerned about being robbed? Surely the wealth you have, here, would gather attention?" Thaldrak asked brother Daweii in between mouthfuls of the stew. 

"Oh no, you will find that we are quite adequate at defending ourselves, here," The monastery leader began, explaining that they underwent either mental or physical training extensively until such time as monks were given mentorship duties to newly acquired orphans. The place stood primarily as a sanctuary for orphaned and abandoned children of the Sword Coast who could make their way there. Once arrived, they were trained in the Way of the Open Hand, spending their days with either mental rehearsals by book or physical training in the mine. The life was hard, but so was the way of Ilmater worship, the party learned. The monks who venerated the god of suffering, they understood, practiced a way of life that led them through the greatest toils and hardships to better endure daily living, and find happiness by surviving these burdens to those that greeted them the following day.

Continuing the conversation to more productive means, the group then asked about the region – major threats and dangers that were poised by the mountains. Here, they learned that Wyverns and Orc tribes occupied the mountains to the North, though the South was thought to be safer. Brother Daweii offered them a copy of one of the Monastery's maps of the region. He marked the location of Shar's Summit and a Dwarven dig site, where a halfling archeologist named Dr. Pilgrim was searching for cultural artifacts. He explained that the Summit emerged from a small lake, nearby the gnomish village of Ieirithymbul, with whom the Monastery regularly traded in exchange for protection from the Northern Orc Tribes. T'avin also recognized a region of the map where Lady Laeral Silverhand had described the purported location of Haxiris' Hideout to be – among the mountains south of the lake from which Shar's Summit arose. 

During the dinner, T'avin also met one of the female monks, Sister Ni, who seemed enthusiastic at the off-handed mention of her knowledge concerning the regions ecology. She told them of the wildlife that frequented the area, including rare fauna and flora that she was interested in. Much of her enthusiasm was lost on the group, though T'avin seemed to take a liking to the bald woman. He offered her a look through his book on the Ear Seeker Orc tribe that they had discovered near Ravenstone, which she accepted emphatically. 

That night, the group rested. Zephyr Zanzibar took rest in a private chamber adjacent that of the rest of the group, preferring his privacy. A brief discussion was had as to whether they should investigate the man, using the opportunity to perhaps catch a glimpse of him without his armor donned. They came to the agreement, though, that violating his trust posed bigger risks than potential benefits, and they settled in for a restful night in the monastery, sleeping on beds for the first time in nearly a tenday. Arentian joined Zanzibar to try and practice the stretching and balance exercises that he ritualistically performed at the end of each day.

The next morning, the group set out to the West, following the trail of the lost monks. They gathered Climber's Kits from Brother Daweii, as well as new clothes – Arentian taking monk's garb to replace his torn and tattered black outfit – and some new rations. The morning was particularly frigid, and extremely foggy. Their vision was heavily obscured, which made the first hours of their journey particularly holy in the eyes of the god of suffering. Thankfully, though, Thaldrak was a true Dwarf of the mountains, and kept the group marching along the most efficient trails, avoiding pitfalls and slippery slopes where they could. After an hour, Zephyr Zanzibar had commanded his Air Elemental named Toot to blow aside the fog in front of Thaldrak, making the Dwarf's role as leader substantially easier. Midway through their first day of mountainous hiking, they reached a particularly challenging slope down one of the mountain trails. Rocks scattered about under their feet, and they stopped to take preventative measures. Kay came up with the clever solution of binding themselves together at the waste, and it was a good thing, too, as it kept the group anchored to each other.

At one moment, Kay slipped, but as Zanzibar in front of him and T'avin behind him fell forward and backward, respectively, the rope was pulled taut and the halfling was suspended from mid air, his feet kicking about as he gathered his balance, before landing on the slippery (and sharp) stones. They continued onward as such, as the weather cleared and the sun even peaked through the many clouds several times that day, before they reached a good stopping point half an hour from the Abandoned Temple of Shar. They set up camp while Thaldrak assessed the ruins, seeing what he could discern from the stonework protruding out and about the mountainous terrain at that distance.

There were many torn and broken columns, archways and pillars that surrounded the lone mountain ahead, from which a massive, decapitated tower protruded many stories from the mountain itself. Thaldrak figured the structure must continue inside the mountain, and that it was likely quite colossal when it stood undamaged. It seemed ancient, and from what he could tell, clearly not of Dwarven make. Much of the designs and shapes were more reminiscent of elven-make, and the smooth - often due to erosion – edges and contours seemed to clash with the jutting edges and sharp protrusions of the rocky mountains surrounding it. 

They set up camp in a graveled outcropping near a natural stone wall that sliced upward to the mountain peak closest to them, and cycled through their watches, as usual. It was the first time the group had truly gone off the beaten path since their departure from Ravenstone, and they were ready for whatever unexpected events the Sword Mountains would throw their way. During Kay's watch, the halfling heard the sound of raised voices and shouting echoing across the valley, sourced at the abandoned temple. Aiming to have a look, the rogue awoke Zanzibar to cover his watch as he ducked from rock-to-rock, and moved in and about bushes to get a better look. Once closer, he could see the flickering of torch or camp fire from within a busted part of the tower, where the voices arose from somewhere inside the stonework. Shadows of humanoids danced about across the unbroken bits of the wall, while the gravely grating voices seemed to argue among one another in a language the halfling could not understand. He looked about to determine routes around or through the temple, finding three: the easiest of which was a path which keeled down to the valley at the foot of the mountain – a path heavy with green vegetation and wide enough to traverse without much difficulty or climbing experience. The main trail – the one they had been following since departing the Monastery – looped about the mountain to intersect the ruined structure, directly. Finally a third trail – a direct climb marked by pitons laced with dirty red string – zig-zagged up the mountain itself at a steep incline, headed – the rogue figured – straight past the ruined tower and over the temple itself. 

Satisfied with this information, the rogue went back to the camp, and, the next morning, informed the others. That morning was just as frigid as the one before; the light of the dawn did little to chase away the chill that the breath of the night blew into the mountains. T'avin began to suspect that something magical was interfering with the normal weather, as the monks had mentioned that it was unseasonably frigid for this late spring. 

Though the group turned to the concerning matter of the temple – should they circumvent the thing, and continue onward? Or was it possible that the monks could be inside? Knowing full well that the monks would choose the hardest path, Thaldrak pointed out that the most difficult trail led directly past the tower, and was the closest proximity to the voices. Knowing that orcs were in the region, they had begun to suspect that the monks may have come across these aggressive strangers, or were trapped within the ruined temple, itself. However, they decided to loop around the structure, heading down into the valley and circling around to the other side of the temple, whereupon they could determine whether further investigation was truly necessary. 

Thaldrak led them as they stumbled through the forest, T'avin and Thaldrak bumping into a few branches, but T'avin making the most noise as he struggled to move about quietly. After an hour of marching to the foot of the mountain, they reached the green valley where they could easily make their way around and back up to the other side. While here, they saw a lot more wildlife – including deer, wolves, and some rather large rabbits. What grabbed their attention most of all, though, was a particularly ominous cave, marked with an engraving of an eye. Immediately, Thaldrak thought back to something Enthoril had said earlier that tenday – while trapped in Zalara's room, he had seen similar engravings that the Paladin later learned were associated with an evil god named Ghaunadaur, That Which Lurks, or "The Elder Eye". Enthoril himself had said that this was some kind of God of Beholders, and Thaldrak wanted no trifle with any such deity. Thus, the question to enter the cave was answered before it could be asked, and the party marched onward, leaving the entrance behind.

Several hours later the group had arrived on the other side, the trail opposite the temple entrance. It stretched further to a point where the raised voices could be heard by all, and Arentian recognized the language as Orcish. He translated that there were at least two gruff-sounding orcs arguing over the displacement of an object, but they sounded confused and nonsensical. He wasn't certain. Moving to get a better look, Kay scouted ahead and saw a single, massive, Grey-skinned Orc sprawled about on his hands and knees, searching the ground like he had dropped something valuable. His eyes were splayed open widely in a paralyzed expression of surprised; a manic visage of focus. Kay signaled this to the others, and communicated when T'avin got within range of his Message cantrip. 

"They're dumb as bricks," Thaldrak whispered, and the group got closer, not being remarkably silent as Kay flinched when Zanzibar, Thaldrak and T'avin all bumped into one another, loudly. Looking back to the massive orc with his mirror, though, the creature seemed unperturbed, and continued to grasp about at the gravelly earth in search of whatever trinket he had dropped. 

Quickly, they formed a plan to capture and interrogate the creature, possibly learning whether the Monks were in the temple, or whether they could move on and leave the stupid creatures behind. T'avin slammed his bag against a stone pillar on the path near the right, while the others gripped their weapons in preparation for the inevitable strike. As the gear collided with the stone, a rhythmic and annoying CLANG CLANG as objects and equipment banged against one another echoed across the mountains and undoubtedly around the corner to reach the ears of the prone orc. Immediately, he snapped his head up and sniffed the air, pausing only a second before grabbing his massive two-handed battleaxe and roaring "ATTACK! WE UNDER ATTACK!" before sprinting around the corner, spiddle trailing from the corners of his tusky mouth as his eyes splayed wide with bloodlust. His savagery was to no avail, however, as the combined strikes of the entire party annihilated his body, driving him hard into the graveled path. Sword, flail, dagger and spells all struck home, and the beast fell unconscious mere seconds before his battle cry was sung. 

It was not him alone, who charged into battle, though. From an unseen chamber asuredly shallow into the temple ruins, a trio of similarly bulked grey-skin Orog burst forth, their rusted plate armor clattering loudly as they shouted bloodcurdling cries of battle. A short combat erupted between the Orog and the party, though the party held a clear terrain advantage. Their backs were pressed against the mountainside, and as the Orog sprinted around the corner, they found themselves pressed between the vicious offense of Dwarf, Halfling and sorcerer… and a steep, hundred-foot plummet to the piney valley below. Thaldrak's sword bit into grey flesh as Kay's dagger slashed deep into the belly of another, while T'avin sent a scorching ray sailing into the smoldering plate mail as one Orog fell, dead. The other two cried out in surprise and rage as they landed blows on Thaldrak and Kay, black orc blood mixing with the red blood that stained the gravel beneath their feet. Thankfully, though, the combat was soon to be ended, as Zephyr Zanzibar pulled out his spellbook and shouted an incantation, his voice echoing from behind his metal mask as a wall of wind appeared just above the heads of the fighting Orog. They cried out in surprise as the tornado tunnel sucked them backward. Eyes now wide with fear, they clutched at everything they could, but reached only onto each other as they were pulled backward over the cliff, embraced in unison as they plummeted over the cliff to their inevitable deaths, snapping branches and landing with a sickening CRUNCH as their cries ceased, suddenly. 

And then, quick as it had begun, it was over. Searching the two bodies – one Orog unconscious and another dead – Thaldrak examined the brutes for anything valuable, in terms of information or wealth. While they carried nothing but the crude weapons and armor, Thaldrak was struck by a shocking sight. Both of the beings were covered head-to-toe in scars etched across their skin, repeated carvings of an eye. Patched together, the scars were nearly unintelligible unless closely examined, but they were unmistakable to the dwarf while he looked from that distance. He called out to the others, and dragged the unconscious dwarf to sit before a fallen pillar some eighty feet down the trail. Surrounding him was the entire party, as Thaldrak began to take out his healer's kit and patch up the creature's wounds, bringing him to consciousness. 

Immediately, the being began to flail about, roaring and mumbling incoherently as it growled behind bared teeth. T'avin did his best to interrogate the thing, but none of his answers were intelligible. Thinking quickly, Thaldrak suggested that he might be cursed, and remembering that Zanzibar had removed T'avin's curse a few days prior, asked the Bladesinger to do the same to the Orog. Immediately, once the spell had taken effect, the group noticed a substantial change in his behavior. He shook his head and his eyes moved about intelligently from person-to-person in the group.

"What… what happen? Where… where am I? Who you?" He said in jagged common, surprisingly articulate for an orc. The group explained the circumstance, and that they had saved him from a supposed curse, then asked him for an explanation on the temple, why him and his kin were there, and the nature of his curse. 

The Orog introduced himself as Drothakk, one of the Scarlet Scourge orc clan, that the group had heard occupied the northern part of the Sword Mountains, North of the River. He was grateful for being saved by the group, and was willing to answer all of their questions with sincerity. He explained that his tribe had sent out a scouting party to spy on the monastery and for a possible future raid, but while they had broken for camp within the temple, they had discovered a hidden room. The room was supposedly the crumbled ruins of an altar chamber, abandoned save for a single withered skeleton and a massive stone statue of an Elf who overlooked the place. The orog explained – intelligently, but still rather poorly – that once discovering the room, the group had been overwhelmed by a presence, and permanently affixed themselves to the temple. They became obsessed with kidnapping any humanoids of the surrounding area as sacrifices to an unknown god, and severed their fingers before keeping them captive up until the sacrifice was to be demanded. In all, they had supposedly captured a few gnomes, some dwarves and the two monks. However, in a failed attempt to ambush some "Blue Giants", they were discovered by a trio of the Giant-kind, led by a "Large blue giant woman" who took the sacrifices from the Orog and headed South. Helpless, the Orogs then began to sacrifice each other in fierce infighting until only two dozen remained. The party also learned that the Orogs had been visited by a Blue Dragonborn, who had commanded them to round up all the literature of the room so that he could take it away. The Dragonborn didn't seem to cope well with being in the temple, and spent minimal time in the place. Drothakk insisted that a book they had found in the altar room explained the curse, and was determined to find it and bring it back to his tribe's shaman to lift the curse from his people and free them. 

The party had little time to process these new, stunning revelations – concerning the giants and Haxiris – as Drothakk leapt up and ran back into the temple, crying out that he was going to retrieve the book. Deciding it was worth it to wait for the Orog, the group set up for a short rest while they discussed how to proceed. If Drothakk was telling the truth, and they had little reason to think he wasn't, then the monks had been taken prisoner by the Orogs and traded hands with a group of giants… three giants…. FROST giants, T'avin reminded them. They consulted the map as they tried to determine where they should go, and what their next move should be. Alamathar and Enthoril remained at the Monastery, where the Battlerager-Cleric was dying from the Mark of Bane. Their time was pressing, but they had little idea where to find the giants. Their best bet was either Haxiris' Hideout or tracking the Giants back to their lair, and neither option seemed appealing now that they knew the wizard was about.

They waited nearly an hour for Drothakk, when they heard a commotion from within the temple. Shouts of rage and clattering of weapons and armor, followed by call in common – a distant call that grew louder and louder… Drothakk was shouting to them: "FRIENDS, RUN! FRIENDS! RUN!" Before they had much time to react, aside from standing and drawing their weapons, the group saw Drothakk emerge from the mountain with a massive wooden crate in his hands, overflowing with dirty, waterlogged pages and books. Pages flew about as he sprinted out of the temple, turning right and running down the blood-soaked trail to the West. The group hastily followed, but not before Arentian could stop and – at the suggestion of T'avin, Kay and Thaldrak, slick the trail behind them with a sheen of ice from his Ray of Frost spell. They ran for some half an hour, ducking around and zig-zagging about broken pieces of column and stone, through and past the ruins of the temple. Eventually, they stopped, as Drothakk heaved the crate onto the ground and placed his hands on his knees, heaving with exhaustion from the effort of the flight. 

He insisted then that they go through the tattered pages to find "The Book" – but the group agreed to only spend a short amount of time investigating while exposed on the mountainous trail. T'avin flipped through the pages for a few minutes together with Arentian, noting that nearly all of them were written in an ancient Draconic script. From what he could gather, the pages were written a long long time ago, and the temple was Netherese in origin – apparently, it had used to be a mine. Many of the pages were mundane entries from logs describing construction or mining of shafts within the mountain. Nothing about an altar, and nothing about a curse. 

Frustrated, Drothakk threw his hands up in the air in resignation, as Thaldrak suggested that they start back-tracking to a point where they could follow the giants. En route, they passed the trail, where they noted a new Orog form laying sprawled onto the trail where Arentian had iced the path. Checking her vitals, Thaldrak noted that she was still alive, and repeating their process from earlier in the day, asked Zanzibar to remove her curse. He healed the woman immediately after doing so, and as she came to, she was greeted by Drothakk, who launched into a hurried explanation of what had happened in Orcish – or so had Arentian translated. Her name was Vapreek, and while she was substantially less friendly than Drothakk, she agreed to accompany them down to the valley below.

The day was wearing thin as they reached the valley, and they decided to break for camp mid-way through the wooded region, not far from the "Eye Cave" that they had originally discovered. At first glance, they had thought to enter the cave as a safe place to break for camp, but Drothakk shook his head emphatically, pointing to the symbol in fear. Suspecting that the cave – and that symbol – might be playing a greater role in recent events than they initially realized, T'avin suggested the possibility of exploring the cave in the morning. None of the party seemed keen on the endeavor, though, so, unable to ignore the potential threat, T'avin volunteered to go in alone. 

While Drothakk and Vapreek set the camp with Zanzibar, Thaldrak headed into the brush to rally up something to eat, catching two of the massive mountain rabbits they had heard about from Sister Ni at the monastery. Kay stood watch near the cave, where he had an incredibly tense, eerie feeling that crept up and down his spine. He could have sworn that he heard a voice, like a croaking, throaty gasp for air, calling out from within… Come… Come join me… Come to me… Come… The halfling shivered as he ignored the call, repeating his reluctance to explore that particularly eerie place. 

Meanwhile, T'avin and Arentian poured over the books systematically, trying to decipher what they could from their contents. Laying out the literature in chronological order, they had deduced that the temple was originally built and established by the Netherese as a mine for something called Chardalyn Stones. T'avin explained this to the others, reminding them that the Netherese were an ancient civilization of High Elves and Humans who had been launched into a new level of magical power through the discovery of the Nether Scrolls, artifacts which are thought to be chiefly responsible for the existence of modern magic as it is known today. However, the Netherese grew greedy, and a particularly powerful Netherese wizard named Karsus sought to steal the power of the god of magic, Mystra. He was successful in casting this spell – the world's only known 10th level spell which was known as Karsus' Avatar. However, he couldn't control the Weave, and for mere minutes all magic in the world ceased to exist as the fabric of the Weave – the magical tether that founds all arcane existence – unwove entirely. The Netherese - who lived in flying cities at that time, crumbled, as their civilization came to a literal crashing end, most of their flying cities crashing into what is now known as the Anauroch Desert.

They continued to read and learned that the mine was abandoned, but not long after, it was established as a Temple of Shar by some non-Netherese High Elves. The temple seemed to have great success as a place of worship for the dark deity, but it would not last. The temple was soon attacked from within by Drow, who emerged from the Underdark to lay waste to the High Elves. Such was chronicled by one High Elf named Eartharran Neirdre, who was the sole author that continued to pen these written entries after the purported date of the attack. His entries were much more personal, and detailed a vague obsession, some kind of "Magnum Opus". It appeared as though this Eartharran Neirdre was obsessed with using the altar room of the temple to contact an ancient being from the Far Plane to ask of the location of an ancient city named Tel'Quessir. His last entry documents his attempt as a success, but ceases thereafter. 

Drothakk appeared unsatisfied with these entries as being "The Book" that would help free his people, and headed off to sleep his first night free from the mental slavery. Not long before, he had been in a heated argument with Vapreek, who was chastizing the Orog for wasting time with the party instead of returning to the tribe. Arentian told the group that she had apparently planned to venture back to the tribe immediately the following morning. 

But as the morning came – and it did come, frigidly so, coated again with the thick fog – T'avin readied himself for his journey into the cave. The group seemed hesitant to let the half-elf venture into the cave, and watched uneasily, quietly, as the sorcerer walked bravely forward, eventually disappearing around a dark bend in the long, stone passage.

On and on he walked, tensing now and then as he prepared to flee the place at any sign of danger. But no sign came, as he went one hundred… two hundred… three hundred feet into the mountain. Eventually, he rounded a bend and came before a large room, circular and plane. Freezing, T'avin recalled Drothakk's depiction of the altar room in the temple, but reminded himself that this room seemed distinct, different. Specifically, it lacked a skeleton, and a massive statue. Instead, a plain, waist-high pedestal stood in the center of the room, above which a circle hovered, a meter-long in diameter; a black void in an otherwise dimly lit room, orange light faintly glowing from the object and a very faint, small amount of purplish mist or smoke, hovering at ankle-height below. Taking a deep breath, T'avin took a step forward… entering the room. Immediately, he felt a WOOSH as the stone behind him sucked itself close like the shutting of a great maw of a beast, as a orange-red eye, the center brimmed with an iris of blue flame, looked upon him.

Outside, the party continued to watch as they suddenly saw the stone eye above the cave shut, and with it, the stone, melding seamlessly into the mountain, leaving no sign that a cave was ever there. T'avin was trapped, alone, with whatever – or whomever – was occupying that dark, eerie place…


In Brevitis:

 

  • The party rested an evening at Lockridge Monastery, where they learned about the region and received a map of the North Sword Mountains from Brother Daweii
  • They ventured West, following the most likely trail of the two missing monks, Brother Nesper and Brother Gee, to an abandoned Temple of Shar – an evil goddess of night, darkness and loss. 
  • The Temple of Shar was occupied by a group of particularly stupid Orog. The party defeated four of the creatures in swift battle and discovered that they were cursed. Lifting the curse allowed them to speak normally. From one of the creatures, known as Drothakk, the party learned that the Orog had taken Prisoners to be "sacrificed to The Room." However, the surviving prisoners – who had had all of their fingers removed – were given to three "Blue Giants", the leader of the three supposedly being female. 
  • Drothakk told the group that the Orog were cursed from a room with an altar, and he suspected the key to be in a book that was by a skeleton in that same room. Desperate to free his kin, Drothakk went back into the Temple of Shar to retreive all the books, which had been piled into a crate. When asked why the books were in a crate like such, he responded that a Blue Dragonborn – who the party deduced was likely Haxiris – came for less than an hour every tenday to check through the books, though he seemed to fear the temple greatly. 
  • The party – together now with Drothakk - backtracked to a safe place where they could investigate the books. En route, they saved another Orog – a female named Vapreek who Drothakk spent most of the rest of his time talking to. 
  • In the books, T'avin and Arentian learned – and told the others – that the Temple of Shar was originally established by the Netheril as a mine for something called Chardalyn Stones, was abandoned, and then taken on by a group of High Elves who established it as a Temple of Shar. They were attacked by Drow from the Underdark, though, and the temple was again abandoned. However, bits of a journal followed that continuity beyond the attack, of a lone High Elf who spoke of creating a great "Magnum Opus" somewhere in the temple, and that he was successful. This was documented to be over 2.5 thousand years ago.  
  • The party had earlier discovered a cave marked with an eye – and that much of the abandoned Temple was vandalized with similar markings, which were also engraved upon the grey skin of the cursed Orogs. Drothakk was wary of the cave, but T'avin sought to investigate further, personally. He suggested that he venture into the cave, alone, to determine what was inside. 
  • Once deep within the cave – nearly 500 meters, and over a few bumps and curves that separated his view from the outside – T'avin saw a very small, simple altar room. In the center was a featureless stone pedestal raised to waist-height above which hovered a torso-sized ball of black nothingness, emitting a faint orange glow. As T'avin stepped into the altar room, a red eye opened from within the center of the circular void. Meanwhile, outside, the eye marking the cave suddenly closed – as did the stone entrance to the cave itself. T'avin was trapped, alone.
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Session 12: Catch-22
"You have two choices: kill me, or kill S"


"The contract will stay open, unless you kill me or the Client. Your choice is obvious." – The Assassin


When we Last Joined the Party: 

The party was on the road North of Amphail, headed to Lockridge Monastery near Triboar to deliver the only remaining orphan child from the Ravenstone attack – Nincy Nesper. They fought and defeated some trolls, tracking their base-of-operations to be two hours west of the road, two days from Amphail. That night, however, they had learned a dark secret – Arentian had his finger severed and his belongings stolen, as the group discovered that a pair of assassins were pursuing the party for a 100 000 GP bounty. They spent the next days in tense anticipation, fearing ambush at the slightest hint of activity. On the road, they met a traveling mage named Zephyr Zanzibar, who trekked along with his Air Elemental companion named Toot. Engaging the man in discourse, they learned that he was travelling from the High Forest, searching for his mother who disappeared ten years ago. They learned that his mother was none other than Virro Lithelon, a purported high-ranking member of the Wizard's Guild they tracked – and presumed were responsible for the giant attack on Ravenstone. Much more was gained from the discussion with Zanzibar, though, as he told them, too, that the name of the guild was Alkahest, and that his father was Szass Tam, Lich-King of Thay. The party told him the basics of their investigation, and when he learned that they, too, sought Virro, he insisted on traveling alongside them. They now had two traveling ally companions: Alamathar, the Dwarf Battlerager-Cleric, and Zephyr Zanzibar, the Mage.

Setting in for the night after a long afternoon of discussion with Zanzibar, which he finished with a ritualistic set of stretches and flail-maneuvers. T'avin took to pouring over the book he was writing about the Ear Seeker Orc Tribe in the Ardeep Forest near Ravenstone, while Thaldrak and Enthoril tried their hands at learning Giant and Draconic, respectfully. Thaldrak was making remarkable progress with Giant, but Enthoril struggled with the ancient scratches of the Draconic script. Meanwhile, Kay spent his time investigating his map, doing his best to deduce the busy tactile script ribbing over the creased parchment. Arentian, meanwhile, listened to Enthoril lecture the sorcerer about the moral ways, though these lectures were peppered with Enthoril's lessons on the Draconic tongue and often interrupted the flow of knowledge. Zanzibar spent his time in meditation while Alamathar complained about the lack of booze. 

A few hours into the night, Alamathar stood with Arentian facing south along the road, as the pair discussed the journey. Suddenly, though, a crossbow bolt flung into the neck of the dwarf, while another embedded itself deep into Arentian's chest. Immediately, the sorcerer dropped like a sack of bricks, crying out in pain for a split second before the rage-filled howl of Alamathar pierced the night. Immediately, the others awoke, springing up from their bedrolls. Zanzibar cast a spell of Fly on Enthoril while T'avin cast Haste on Thaldrak and Kay. Immediately, Alamathar ran to the first assassin, who was crouched behind a boulder. Her face was covered by a thin mask, a black skull covering her face. He was shortly followed by Enthoril, who used his newfound flying speed to jet overtop the battlefield and reach the rear of the assassin, who was now sandwiched between a raging dwarf and paladin – flying justice! The dwarf slashed at her with his spikes, doing what he could to pin her to the rock, to no avail. She danced about and slashed down at him, one blade shiving between his collarbones as he crumpled, dying, on the ground. Enthoril struck down at the woman, slashing at her forearm and stabbing into her gut. She cried out in pain as the longsword bit through flesh, retaliating in full. Her shortsword found a slot past the man's shield as the blade sunk deep into his bicep, and he suddenly began to tremor, uncontrollably vibrating.

Meanwhile, T'avin spun about as Kay rushed forward to the second assassin. He launched a firebolt straight toward her, as it connected perfectly with her face, sailing clear above the head of Kay. Half of her skeletal mask splintered away, leaving singed skin and a grimace of contorted pain. The woman buckled with dizzying pain after the blow, and regained her strength just before Kay sent two daggers sailing – one missing wide while the other embedded deep into her thigh. She stood straight and with shaking hands scattered about her crossbow bolts, grabbing one specific which she levied toward T'avin and fired… though it sailed clear over his shoulder and disappeared into the darkness. 

Thaldrak rushed forward to Arentian and stabilized the man, as he stood straight, gasping for air. Zanzibar ran past the Dwarf to the assassin firing at T'avin, and cried out an incantation as a 100-foot line of bluish-white light cracked through the night, electrocuting the woman and exploding a tree some sixty feet behind her. Thaldrak drew out his bow and fired, as well, sending arrow after arrow into her knee. She clung to life as T'avin and Kay finished her off – daggers and firebolts flung at her buckled form – but not before Zanzibar cried "Do not kill her!". Just in time, they stayed their blows and sent the woman spinning into unconsciousness. 

Meanwhile, Enthoril was engaged in a bitter blade-to-blade combat, striking out at the woman and nearly knocking one of her shortswords from her grasp. Soon after, Thaldrak and Zanzibar appeared nearby, and she appeared desperate. Quickly, she drew out a dagger, slashing at Enthoril. The blade sunk into his chest and he winced in pain, his hands still trembling. Soon, she was outnumbered, though, and before all was said and done, she had fallen unconscious, sunk with the blows of Thaldrak, Zanzibar and Enthoril, the Flying Justice, himself. 

"Stand back!" Enthoril cried out, "Who has rope?" Thaldrak held out a few feet of hempen rope, his pack still strapped on – as he had needed his healer's kit. Tightly, Enthoril wound a complex binding about her ankles and wrists, Thaldrak tugging at the end to the point that her hands grew pale for lack of circulation. 

Meanwhile, T'avin stood above the crumpled woman on the other side of the road, staring down at her broken form. Remembering Zanzibar's call to spare her, he sought a way to restrict her motility. Looking down at her wounded knee – from which two arrows of Thaldrak protruded – he stomped on the joint. Red blood flowed from the wound as a sickening crunch resounded through the camp, though it was barely audible above the crackling that was the remnants of the tree thunderbolted by Zanzibar. Kay appeared, then, from behind a boulder. He tied the woman with rope, though instead of using brute strength, weaving a knot so elegant that not even T'avin – who stood over the woman – could follow his finger movements. Zanzibar appeared, then, and reached down to feel the woman's pulse a few minutes once the knots were tied. The others had already begun dragging the other woman to the camp, and were examining her belongings.

"She's dead." Zanzibar said, grimly. "I thought I said to keep them alive!"

T'avin shrugged, his eyes opening wide at the accusation, "She was alive when I found her!" 

Enthoril appeared, then, his arms crossed – and no longer trembling. "They have a way of killing themselves! Check them for poison! Perhaps something killed them when you weren't looking. Check the perimeter for beasts, as well!" 

"Holy shit…" Thaldrak's voice resounded from the camp as a low whistle followed. The others dragged the body of the second woman there, joining the Dwarf as he poured over the assassin's equipment. Vials upon vials of poison or potion were stacked upon an empty sack, together with a few blades, bolts and light crossbows. T'avin took the possessions of the dead assassin to add to the pile, which now contained a number of gemstones and gold pieces … as well as two peculiar metal amulets, which appeared to contain thirteen sockets, though only one was filled with a ruby.

More peculiar, T'avin found, was a small scroll case. Taking the object and examining it in his hands, T'avin held it before the firelight. Carefully, he opened it, starting to see a thin, chalky dust. Once the capsule opened a few millimeters, though, T'avin's fingers were forced away violently as the dust burst into the air, spreading ravenously like tentacles that constricted about everyone standing before the fire. Immediately, they coughed and hacked, Arentian – who was doing his best to recover from the brutal assault and gather his senses – fell unconscious, immediately. Alamathar – who had been stabilized and healed by Thaldrak – vomited over a rockface. Enthoril went from person-to-person, muttering a small prayer to Torm as he placed his hands upon them, doing what he could to cure the poison. Immediately, their lungs and vision cleared, as Thaldrak broke the silence "God dammit, T'avin, what did you do!?" 

But the sorcerer was already again preoccupied, as he held a piece of paper in his hands. "Huh. Huh!" 

"What is it?" Thaldrak asked. 

"A note about our dear paladin friend…" T'avin stated, as he held the note for the others to see.

"What? Show it to me!" Enthoril called out, his voice lined with distress. 

T'avin read the note aloud:

  

"What? Mallus Thundertaker? What so I take thunder?" Enthoril balked. The others looked at him, suspiciously, though T'avin's gaze shifted to the other side of the note, where he continued to stare at another would-be message.

"Give me the note," Enthoril began, leaning forward to take it from T'avin's hands. The sorcerer pulled back, eyes wide. 

"Is your name really Enthoril?" T'avin said, curiously.

"What? Yes!" Enthoril responded, frustrated. "Yes! Enthoril! My name is Enthoril!" 

"What is your real name?" T'avin replied. "What is your full name?"

"Enthoril! Enthoril is my name."

"No," Zanzibar cut in, "Is Enthoril your first name, or your family name?"

"Enthoril!" The paladin repeated, his voice rising with ire as his face screwed up with frustration. "My name is Enthoril, really! Why are you not trusting me, I have done nothing!" 

"Do you have a last name?" Thaldrak asked, jumping in.

"My name is Enthoril!" The paladin spun on the Dwarf.

"OK well my name is Thaldrak," The fighter placed his palm on his chest, "I have no last name, just my clan name – Battlehammer." He then gestured outwardly to the paladin, "Do you have a last name, yes or no?" 

"My name is Enthoril! It's Enthoril!" 

"Yes or no!?" 

"My name is Enthoril! Come on, this is ridiculous!" The paladin cried out exasperatedly, his hands thrown wide in frustration. Silence fell over the rest as they looked between each other, though Arentian and Alamathar sat, nearby. Alamathar still hacked, coughing, as Enthoril had no more energy to cure him.

T'avin turned his gaze back to the note, aiming to break the tension. "Huh, this is interesting…"

Enthoril balked, "Come on, give me the note!" Enthoril reached out for the paper a second time.

T'avin took a step back, holding the note behind his shoulder, "I think I'll hold onto this, for now…" 

"What? Fine! Fine! Then you don't get anything else!" Enthoril gestured to the loot splayed out on the ground in a huff and moved toward the massive boulder where Alamathar sat, his arms crossed and brow furrowed. 

Ignoring the paladin, T'avin continued, "There's some kind of coded message written on the back of the paper," He held it aloft for everyone to see. "It will take time to decode…"

Enthoril scoffed yet again, then moved toward the only remaining living assassin, dragging her to the nearest tree and tying her around it, as well as tying her legs into a leash-like rope that he held onto. Meanwhile, Zephyr Zanzibar had taken a shovel from Thaldrak's pack and began to dig into the tree opposite. Thaldrak, Arentian and Kay moved to help him, and after some time, they had dug a two-meter-deep grave into the hilly ground. They dragged the body of the assassin over, and Zanzibar removed two copper coins from a pounch on his belt. He placed the coins over the woman's dead eyes, and they filled the grave half-full. The mage held his hand up, then, stopping the burial, as he placed six more coins upon the dirt. He then motioned for them to continue, as they covered the grave, entirely. 

"Zanzibar," Thaldrak began, once the man had finished a short prayer for the dead woman, "Why do you do that?" Zanzibar's masked, emotionless face turned to face him, glistening in the firelight. "With the coins?" 

"Old tradition. Thayan. They say it stops necromancy. Stops ye being raised back as undead."

"And… it works?" Thaldrak asked.

"No." Zanzibar said, flatly. "Just tradition." He sunk the shovel into the Earth and walked the dozen paces back to his resting place, where he sat, rigidly, against the tree trunk to resume his repose.

That night, little restful sleep was had. During one of the remaining watches, Thaldrak heard a savage roar crest over the southern hill, though he could not pinpoint it's nature. Before they knew it, light was cresting over the eastern horizon as the grey clouds became lit with morning, and the devastation of the battleground became clear. In contrast, their situation was about to become a lot murkier, however, as the assassin awoke. 

The rope tugged at Enthoril's arm as she moved about in her excessive bindings, and the paladin leapt to his feet. "She's awake! She's awake!" He cried out, and the others stirred in their sleep, stretching away the bruised fatigue from their tired bones as they gathered around the excited paladin, and the stirring assassin. 

Her skin was olive and her hair black, matted in blood yet tied tightly into a ponytail that hung down to her mid-back. Her face was elegant, yet covered in scars. Her green eyes, similarly, were captivating with an exotic, dangerous beauty, yet sat like dead stones in their sockets. She chewed at the gag that Enthoril had stuffed into her mouth the night before, her brow furrowed as she looked about her captors.

"Well?" Enthoril kneeled and pressed his face within half-a-meter of the woman, "Who are you?" He removed the gag from her mouth, and she promptly spit upon his face. Enthoril gritted his teeth and pointed to the freshly-dug grave. Her hard eyes flinched, revealing a flash of emotion in a split-second before snapping back to Enthoril, silently cutting him down. 

"Who are you?!" 

"The Garrote." She said. Her voice was a lofty dove, yet it cut through the air like the sharpest of swords splitting silence. "Heartseeker Sisters." 

"Tell us everything," Enthoril began, looking about. He pointed to the note that T'avin held in his hand, "What is that? Who hired you? Who else are you here with?!" 

T'avin whispered to the others, "We already know who hired her, I think…" and he pointed to the S on the letter, "Salsalaniir." Thaldrak and Kay nodded, but Arentian and Zanzibar only stared at the woman. 

"Oh just kill the bitch, already!" Alamathar shouted, between coughs. 

"Let me try," Tavin said, stepping forward and beginning to speak to the woman. "It looks like you failed?"

"I would say otherwise." Her words, while few, said much – her tone ice-cold and calculating. 

"Oh really? Because we beat you. Pretty easily, I might add. Looks like you underestimated us." 

She laughed. Her laugh sounded like ice clattering about a crystal glass, sharp and cold. "Did you enjoy your food, this morning?"

"We didn't eat this morning." T'avin responded, his voice and eyes thin with suspicion. 

"Well… did you enjoy your food, yesterday?" 

Thaldrak turned to Arentian and whispered, "Take the rations to Max. He can smell poison, no?" Arentian's face brightened as he realized this, and he rushed over to grab at the food from the packs, then held it up to Max, who had already begun preoccupying himself with amusing Nincy Nesper. The girl looked at Arentian with cold, dead eyes, "Are we going to kill her too? Is she a troll?" 

"Uhh…" Arentian stammered, "Go to sleep." He held the food toward Max, who sniffed it, but then his nose followed up Arentian's arm to his chest, whereabouts the poisoned bolt had struck him. The Tressym pawed at the sorcerer's chest, his eyes lined with concern. As Arentian looked down, he noticed something shocking. The wound hadn't healed. In fact, it looked worse, infected, even. Purplish-pink lines threaded about his chest and ribs. Immediately, the sorcerer paled, and covered the wound with his tattered clothing – torn from the battle with the trolls, the Calimshani, and the assassins. 

Meanwhile, T'avin's discussion with the assassin continued. "Is the contract over?"

She laughed, "No. So long as I'm alive, the contract remains open. It's a two-sided contract." 

Enthoril interrupted, then, "You, contact the Client for us! Tell him you have us!" She levied a cold, firm gaze upon him. "Who is he?!" 

"We know who he is," T'avin answered his question, then continued talking to the woman. "Why don't you tell us what this means?" He held the encrypted note aloft. 

"No." She said, simply.

"I don't think you're in a position to bargain…" T'avin began.

She laughed, again. "Nothing you do to me will come close to what will happen to me, anyway." 

"Who is the leader of your organization?!" Enthoril asked. "Where are you located!?"

"Faerûn, of course." She gave Enthoril another deadly gaze. 

"Tell us about this code," T'avin asked again. "Do you have a camp? Where is his stuff?" T'avin pointed at Arentian, who pointedly rubbed the wound on his chest.

"He likely flew away with it."

"He? Which he?"

"He." She looked at T'avin, silently. "If you keep me alive, you have no idea what's coming your way."

"He is Salsalaniir!" Enthoril balked, "And fine, send them! We defeated you easily enough!"

She laughed, for the fourth time, "Are you afraid?"

"No!"

"You really should be." She smiled, "You found our amulets, yes?" 

"I presume that's some kind of ranking system?" T'avin inquired.

"Yes. One of thirteen." 

"And your leader… thirteen?" 

"No, no… The Thirteen… he could kill each of you in his sleep. The way I see it, you have two choices, kill me, or take me with you to kill S. Your fate is in your own hands." 

"I'd prefer not to kill her," Zanzibar stated, and Arentian and Enthoril nodded.

Immediately a discussion erupted, wherein Thaldrak and T'avin stated flatly, the choice was clear – if the contract stayed open, The Garrote would send many more, significantly powerful individuals their way. If they killed the assassin, it would remain closed. Take her with them, and they have no guarantee that she would not betray them at the drop of a dagger. Not kill her, and the contract remained open, plus they would have to deal with the dangerous woman.

"Look, the way I see it," Thaldrak said, "If we don't kill her, we're all at risk! Look how well-equipped they were, and they were at the bottom!" 

"No!" Enthoril insisted, "We cannot. They do not follow our laws. They are beings of chaos. If we let them influence our decisions, how are we any better than them?" 

"I agree, I don't want to kill her." Arentian said. Zanzibar remained quiet.

"Look, the way I see it," T'avin began, "If we don't kill her, we are putting the lives of thousands or more at risk. We have the responsibility of maybe the whole of the Sword Coast on our shoulders to find these Wizards and stop the Giants! If the Vonindöd is constructed, there won't be anyone left to make any laws!" 

"That's right," Thaldrak nodded, "If we let her live, the contract stays open. That means anyone and everyone could be headed for us. We wouldn't stand a chance." 

"I don't care! We cannot kill her!" Enthoril repeated, firmly. 

"Look, man," Thaldrak held his hands open, pleadingly, "We don't have a choice! Like she said, we either go take on Salsalaniir, which could be suicide with her at our back, or the whole Garrote comes after us! We won't make it to Triboar! She even said, whatever the Garrote does to her will be worse than death… she wants to die!" 

The assassin's voice cut through the air, "Your fate is in your hands." She repeated. "Kill me, or take me with you to the client. To do otherwise would spell your doom." 

"No, we cannot kill her. I will not allow it." Enthoril said, yet again, placing his fists upon his hips. "It is simple murder, and that is a fact. We are about to pass through Red Larch, we can take her to the mayor there, or the guardhouse! They can exact justice."

"We can exact justice right now! She's an assassin!" 

Arentian looked deeply into the woman's eyes and spoke, "I agree with Thaldrak," He turned to Enthoril, who stared, jaw agape, "I've changed my mind. I've looked into her eyes. She's no longer a person. There's nothing there."

"Everyone deserves a chance at redemption," Zanzibar responded, flatly. 

"But she will get none!" Thaldrak continued, "The Garrote will kill her – painfully – or she will eventually be executed, anyway! This is pointless!" Zanzibar lowered his masked visage to the ground, not responding. 

"You are a dwarf! You are dishonorable! You cannot kill her!" Enthoril commanded, pointing a finger at Thaldrak's chest, then he spun about, facing the assassin. "By the Authority of Waterdeep, you are under arrest!" 

"Whose authority?!" T'avin retorted. 

"Waterdeep!" Enthoril shouted back.

"But… we aren't in Waterdeep…" T'avin let the words hang in the air, defusing Enthoril's previous statement.

"You are under arrest!" Enthoril spun back toward the assassin, who laughed, as he untied her from the tree and began to prepare her for transport. 

"You are a fool who will drown in his own spittle, tears and blood." She spat at Enthoril, and the paladin raised his hand, slapping her across the mouth – though lightly. 

Immediately, Zanzibar's face snapped up as his flail snapped from his belt. "You…" He said, his voice shaking. "Your paladin virtues… are disappointing. You call yourself a paladin?" The man stormed away, toward the cart, and walked to the other side. 

"Fine," Thaldrak said, "Fine. But this is on you! This is all on you. This is your responsability." 

Enthoril nodded as he stuffed the woman's mouth with rags and bound her tightly, hoisting her over his shoulder and bringing her to the wagon. Immediately, when she came within sight of the young girl, Nincy Nesper shrieked out in fear.

"No, no, no! Get the troll away from me!" She scrambled backward, pressing her back against the front of the wagon. From behind her gag, the woman laughed, screwing her eyes into a horrific visage.

"God dammit," Thaldrak cursed, as Arentian climbed atop the front of the wagon and reached for the girl, picking her up and placing her atop his own horse. 

"Why can't we just kill her? Cut her throat?" The girl asked Arentian, who simply buried his face into his hands.

 


 

As they continued onward, the argument followed them. Thaldrak continued to try to pursuade Enthoril that the risk to the group, their mission and therefore the Sword Coast was too great to ignore. However, Enthoril denied this, staying true to his virtues and ideals, insisting that it was murder and murder alone without giving her to an authority figure. 

"If you strike out at her, you will have to go through me!" Enthoril finished the argument with the bitter threat. 

"This is what she's trying to do!" T'avin held his hands wide, "Split the group!" But his cry was met with silence. Immediately, he began to speak to Thaldrak in Message cantrip, conspiring to find a way to deal with the problem before more assassins found them.

Zanzibar apologized to Enthoril, saying that he 'let his emotions get the best of him', and the two exchanged sincere words of forgiveness. 

The next day of travel was met with a tense silence, broken only by the occasional arguing, though no stalemate was broken between the paladin and the other companions. For Enthoril, it was murder non-withstanding – the woman must first stand trial. For the others, it was a matter of life-or-death, success or failure. 

"You have to understand," T'avin said that night, as they prepared their camp for the evening, "Our mission puts so many lives at risk. It's going to put us in so many positions like this. You have to be willing to consider the greater good. Are you willing to perform an evil act for the greater good?" 

"It doesn't matter." Enthoril said, flatly, laying logs over the sparking embers of their fire. "It's murder."

 


 

That night, Thaldrak thumbed his sword, considering the woman. She had spoken out, again, insisting several times that the party would meet their doom, perhaps that night. And Thaldrak didn't doubt it, not unless she was dealt with. He watched as Enthoril tied an elaborate system of knots around her legs, leading to a leash-like rope that he wrapped about his wrist. He had already removed the gag from her mouth, and when he finished, he looked about to the others. "Sailor's knots." He said, pointing. "So if you try anything, she will kick her legs," He tugged at the rope and her legs shot to-and-fro, "and I will wake up!" He rested his hand on the hilt of his longsword. "So don't try anything, or you'll have to deal with me!"

Thaldrak sighed, looking between the woman and Enthoril, who began to take off his armor for sleep. His repose was broken by the sounds of wretching, and Alamathar puked along the side of the cart. 

"Ohh… I'm not te be feelin so good…" The dwarf clutched between the spikes on his armor to his stomach, and lay down underneath the cart, where he curled up into the fetal position. Arentian, likewise, felt terrible. Their wounds had spread, and a fever had taken them. Their foreheads were damp and warm. They had said nothing, yet, aside from the regular griping of Alamathar. Earlier that day, Enthoril had tried, yet again, to cure him, to no avail. 

Turning from the stinking sickness, Thaldrak pulled aside Kay and T'avin, then motioned for the three to speak in message cantrip. Enthoril eyed them from a distance suspiciously and called out, "I've got the rope!" 

Thaldrak asked Kay if he'd be willing to sneak up on the woman and "deal with her", or perhaps shoot her from a distance with a crossbow bolt. The halfling declined, though, saying "I've yet to kill another person," He looked back to the assassin, who seemed forlorn and pale before the dim light of the campfire "I'm sorry, I don't think I can. I'm a thief, not an assassin."

"Alright," Thaldrak said in their minds, "Then I guess I'll have to do it." But he looked over and saw that Enthoril had one hand on the rope, and the other on his sword hilt. Looking between the assassin and the paladin, then to the others, he thought for a moment, imagining drawing blades against the paladin. Part of him wanted to, just to deal with the situation once and for all. He wouldn't hurt the man, of course, but he couldn't be sure that his mercy would be reciprocated. He sighed, and lowered his blade.

"I'll do it." T'avin said, and he drew – for likely the first time – a dagger from his belt. Metaphorical fire blazed in his eyes as he beset upon himself with determination, crouching down – aiming to sneak. He tripped, though, and stumbled over the equipment of one of the others, drawing a loud CLANG. Everyone stirred, and Enthoril's eyes turned onto the sorcerer. Immediately, though, T'avin thought of the possible consequences if he failed, pictured his friends dead, their throats slit by assassin's daggers, as he lunged forward with the dagger, aiming to sink the tip into the woman's eye… but he missed. She moved her head an inch to the left, and the blade sunk into the tree trunk. She cried out, then, and snapped her feet back and forth. The others were about, then, standing before the fire, as Enthoril rose to his feet.

"STOP! STOP!" He cried out, "What are you doing?! STOP!" T'avin's blade lunged forward again, and this time it sank – with a sickening THUNK - into the woman's eyesocket and deep into her skull. Blood poured out over the blade and down her chest as Enthoril cried out.

"Look at what you've done! Why? Why did you do this?!" He drew his blade, though many of the others already had their weapons in hand. The woman twitched about, seizing. 

"It was her or us," Thaldrak said, slowly. Enthoril spun on the dwarf.

"You are murderers! All of you!" He stuck his finger out and spun it between the party, turning to T'avin just in time to see the sorcerer's firey hands shoot a bolt of flame toward the woman's twitching skull, which exploded with a POP as the bloody corpse fell limp to the ground. The rope in Enthoril's hands went slack, forever.

"What's going on?" Arentian said with a shakey voice, crawling out from his bedroll. "Guys? I don't feel so good." He removed his shirt and pointed to the spreading wound at his chest.

 


 

The next days were filled with a tense silence. Enthoril spoke to no one, and rode 70 meters ahead of the rest. He had given Thaldrak specific instructions – if not orders – to listen to certain commands, but the dwarf seemed uneasy, unsure of the paladin's intentions or possible retribution for the actions of the previous night. T'avin, meanwhile, spoke to Zanzibar, and while the pair seemed to reach a mutual understanding, it was clear that Zanzibar did not entirely approve of his actions, though comprehended the necessity. 

Meanwhile, Arentian and Alamathar both worsened as time went on. The silence of their travels was penetrated only by the occasional groans or wretches of the sickly pair, and as time went on, their situation only grew more dire. 

After two days of hard travel, they eventually reached the town of Red Larch. The town was extraordinarily small, and nearly half of the 20-or-so building seemed in mid-construction. All about, men and women were covered in dirt or dust, carrying large pieces of wood or stone, tools hanging from their belts and pockets.

"You!" Enthoril called out to the nearest man, a sandy-haired fellow with no shirt and only overalls covering his body. His arms were covered to the shoulder in brown dirt, and he held several medium-sized wooden planks under his right arm. "Who is the leader here?" Enthoril demanded with urgency.

"Leader? We ain't havin' no leader fer a while, mister." The main looked up at Enthoril, confused. "On accounta the rebuildin'. Not much ta lead! Maybe the priestess is your best bet."

"Priestess? What's her name?!"

"Name?" The man repeated, still confused. At that moment, Alamathar stuck his pointy head out of the wagon and wretched green vomit across the dirt road. The man's screwed up his face with reflexive disgust as he looked back to Enthoril, "We're just be callin' her Priestess!"

"Alright, where is she?"

"Down the road there, mister." The man pointed a few hundred meters beyond. "In fronta the 'ol storehouse!" 

Enthoril charged ahead, leading the others and the wagon to the direction pointed. Immediately, he noticed a half-elf woman coordinating efforts to patch up the second story of some great building, nearby. "Priestess!" He called out, "We are in dire need of your assistance!" 

The woman looked about, spinning around to face Enthoril. Her white dress was filthy with dirt, but her brown hair shone with brightness and her eyes eager with life. She wasn't particularly attractive, but she had a certain degree of goodliness about her. "Oh?" She said, as she glanced between the group. "Who are you?"

"Travellers," Enthoril responded, vaguely, "We were attacked by assassins and two of us are poisoned."

"Assassins?" She said, and her eyes went wide. "I'm sorry, I don't know… we are rebuilding, we can't be of much assistance…" She looked around, nervously.

"Please, just have a look."

"Well, okay…" She walked over to the wagon, where Arentian and Alamathar lay. She examined the pair while Nincy Nesper watched. 

"Are you a troll, too? Are we gonna stab her eye?" The girl looked at Arentian, as the priestess suddenly grew very uncomfortable.

Emerging from the wagon, she made her way to Enthoril, and asked, "Where are you from? Where are you going? Who were these assassins? This is dire, this is not something I can cure." 

"Our mission is confidential." Enthoril answered, authoritatively. "What is wrong with them?" 

"Well," She began, anxiously, showing a clear discomfort with the bloodied group. "The poison… it's… I've seen it. Once. When I worked in the temple in Neverwinter, a noble was nearly killed with something similar. Thankfully we saved him, with a spell of Greater Restoration. It's known as the Mark of Bane."

"You can't do Greater Restoration? We can't get to Neverwinter!" Enthoril quickly began to consider their options.

"No, no I cannot." 

"Is there a priest nearby, or on the road who can help?" Thaldrak asked her.

"Aside from Brother Gee on the road south, no." She said. "A retired member of the Monastic Order from Lockridge Monastery. He has a hut between here and Amphail." 

The party looked at each other knowingly, and groaned. "What?" Enthoril asked. "What is it?"

"We saw a hut when we were looking for the trolls," T'avin explained. "And we traveled past it."

"What about the Monastery?" Enthoril asked the woman.

"It's… possible." She said. "I can't say for sure. But that's your best bet. No one North of here to beyond Triboar could do such magic." 

"Okay, let's go!" Enthoril charged onward, leaving the group in the dust as they still continued to discuss their options. They sighed, and began after the paladin, who still appeared upset by the killing of the assassin.

 


 

For several days, they traveled, doing everything they could to steal time from death, himself. Arentian and Alamathar worsened each day, growing gaunt and pale. Alamathar seemed to have a steady amount of resistance, but was more prone to vomiting than Arentian. The sorcerer simply seemed to be wasting away, growing thin and pale, clammy and tired. 

A day away from the monastery, Enthoril noticed a great bird in the sky, a massive beast as big as a house, clutching something in it's talons… the severed head of a dragon!

Unsure of what he was seeing, Enthoril called out, "A dragon!" Immediately, the group spun into panic, but as they saw the thing Enthoril pointed to, they calmed. It was nearly a dozen kilometers away, far above the mountains to the West. 

Looking at the thing, T'avin said, "That's not a dragon… but it's holding… a black dragon head." They watched the thing sail out of sight over the horizon, and continued onward. Their trail became challenging, as they rode up a steep mountainous incline, headed toward the Northern Sword Mountains. At one moment, the falling tongue of the wagon snapped in two, and they thought they'd have to walk it. But thankfully, Alamathar had a spell of mending, and could repair the wagon. On they went, and by the late afternoon, they were in the lower altitudes of the Sword Mountains. They stood before a thin, wooden bridge, then, and had to figure out a way to cross.

Eventually, they devised a method where Zanzibar would use the spell Tenser's Floating Disc to transport the wagon across, and Enthoril would lead the horses. However, much of the bridge snapped apart, and one of the beasts fell, plummeting to the ground… Alamathar's horse. The dwarf Battlerager-Cleric was too sick to care, though, and the only horse remaining was that of Arentian. Zanzibar cast Fly on Thaldrak – already before to get the dwarf across, once the wagon had made it – and the fighter simply released the horse from his bit & briddle, removing the saddle and slapping it's rump as it headed down the mountainside. 

Enthoril nearly plummeted down to a rocky death, below, but T'avin – acting out of instinct – saved the man with a spell of Haste. Still bitter about the assassin, though, Enthoril made no motion to acknowledge this, and simply just grabbed the only horse who made it across, mounted the animal, and rode ahead of the troupe. 

A few hours onward, they approached the Monastery. It was a glorious sight – two massive buildings of exotic architecture on opposite ledges of two different mountains, connected only by a stretching, thin bridge.

Snow capped the greenery about the place, and the upper-altitudes of the mountains beyond shimmered with the stuff. 

The monastery seemed busy with activity – children and adults moved about, all of them bald and clad in yellow vestments, hauling equipment or carts filled with glistening stones. A trio of individuals had started to approach the party as they walked up the path – that had then turned to stony stairs as they marched onward – to meet the group. 

The group was led by Brother Daweii, who introduced himself as the leader of the Monastic Order. They took the child, Nincy Nesper, who finally learned that her sister was not at the monastery.

"But, but Enthoril brought her here!" She cried out, her eyes brimming with tears. Enthoril stood rigid, a bit perplexed, forgetting the hasty lie T'avin had crafted and told when he had first rejoined the group from Waterdeep.

"No, girl." The man said, looking between her and the group. "I assure you, your sister is not here." 

"But… but…" She burst into tears, sobbing loudly, and falling to her knees. Her hands covered her dirty face as her hair splayed about in a filthy mess, as she had gone unbathed since they departed waterdeep. The two others accompanying Brother Daweii grabbed her – from a distance – and carried the sobbing girl toward the Monastery.

"Brother Daweii, we are in dire need of assistance." Enthoril broke the silence, just as Brother Daweii was about to speak. "We have two who are poisoned, can one of you cast a Greater Restoration spell?" 

The monastery leader considered the question in a long silence, then responded, "Come, I will escourt you to the mines. There you will meditate before the Center Stone. In silence. The Elder meditates, there. Perhaps he can help you."

He led the group into the mine, which he explained was Lockridge Mine, a place where rich minerals were taken from the earth. He gave little more explanation, and led the group down to a massive, illuminated stone. The stone was the size of a giant, and shone with a bluish-white hue. Big parts of it were a crystalline blue, shining with a transluscent glimmer. Within was a few exotic-looking, grey stones, etched with peculiar markings. Brother Daweii motioned for the others to meditate, there, and left them. They took a knee, and did as he instructed. Arentian and Alamathar struggled, and a few times, Alamathar had to vomit over the edge.

After a night of meditation, T'avin noticed a rune etched upon the stone:

They later went up above, back to the Monastery, where The Elder – a deaf, old man – agreed to cast the spell on Arentian, consuming the party's diamond that they had used. When asked whether they had another diamond, the Monastery said that htey had one, but that it was a sacred object. Brother Daweii said that the diamond could be earned if a feat of great suffering was performed for the Monastery. Elaborating, he said that two of their monks – Brother Oh and Brother Nesper – had gone missing on a monthly Pilgrimage to Shar's Summit, one of the tallest – if not the tallest – mountain peak in the North Sword Mountains. If the party could bring Brother Oh and Brother Nesper back, they could be rewarded with the diamond. 

 


 

In Brevitis: 

  • The party were ambushed in the night by assassins. Arentian and Alamathar went down, but the party won out in the end. 
  • One assassin died in the battle, and the other was interrogated by the party. From her, they discovered that: 

    • The assassins were called the Heartseeker Sisters, a lower-ranking duo (13th) of The Garrote.
    • A double-sided contract had been taken out on the party, on behalf of "The Client", who the party figured was Salsalaniir, based off of a note that had been written. On the note, Enthoril was mentioned by another name, and a coded message was written on the back.
    • The party was faced with a conflict – kill the assassin in cold blood and end the 100 000 GP contract on their heads – of The Garrote, who would send more powerful assassins, or take her with them to kill Salsaniir, then pay out the rest of the contract. While most chose to kill the assassin, Enthoril insisted instead on taking her with them through to Red Larch, and possibly the Monastery.
  • T'avin killed the assassin, and Enthoril accused the group of murder. 
  • Arentian and Alamathar had been poisoned by the Mark of Bane, a deadly poison used by the assassins that the party learned of from a Priestess in Red Larch, who was overseeing reconstruction efforts from an attack on the town two years ago by an Elemental Cult. Only a spell of Greater Restoration could cure the poison.
  • T'avin used two scrolls of Sending to contact Lady Silverhand, who said that she could not provide aid for "at least a couple of days due to a developing situation in Waterdeep".
  • Eventually, the party reached Lockridge Monastery. There, they:

    • Met the leader of the Monastery, Brother Daweii, who introduced the place as the home of the Order of the Oculus, home to the Monks of Ilmater, who protect the orphaned children of the Sword Coast.
    • Delivered the dishevelled Nincy Nesper, who learned her sister was not present.
    • Discovered the Lockridge Mine, an old Dwarven gemstone mine run by the monks to maintain the Monastery. Inside was 'The Center Stone', a massive giant-sized gem/rune-stone affixed between the ceiling and floor of the center of the mine the monks used as a point of meditation.
    • Found an elder, who cured Arentian of his ailment. 
    • Were asked to find Brother Nesper and Brother Gee, who had disappeared on a monthly pilgrimage to Shar's Peak, due West into the upper altitudes of the Sword Mountains. The leader of the monastery said that if they returned with the lost monks, they would consider providing the party with the Oculus Eye - a gemstone of great sentimental and historical value to the Monastic Order.
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Session 11: One Hundred Thousand
"That's the name of the guild, mate."


"She said there's a contract on us. We can pay them 100 000 gold. She cut off my finger. She had a really nice voice, though." – Arentian


When we last left the party… 

The companions had left from Amphail, headed north toward Lockridge Monastery. There they were due to deliver Nincy Nesper, the only remaining of three orphaned children from the attack on Ravenstone a dozen days prior by Cloud Giants and the wizard Leduc's Kenku. Departing Amphail, they had found a new ally, but unfortunately, also new enemies. In the town, they convinced a Dwarf Battlerager / Cleric named Alamathar to accompany them Northward. They also had made some new Calimshani enemies, as Arentian's attempt to garner a quick buck – by scaring off some of the foreign fellows for Colt, the owner of Amphail's biggest inn - quickly spiraled into a racially charged situation a hair's breadth from disaster. By the end of the night the Calimshanis swore they'd tell all of Faerûn of the party's "prejudice", and their departure from the town was accompanied by the judging, stony stares of nearly four-dozen of the merchants. Two day's travel North, though, the party had seen signs of trouble. A dead blue goblin, with signs it's lower half had been eaten, and it's right eye singed away with acid. Then arrows – shitty arrows. By nightfall of the second day, it wasn't too surprising when a small band of goblins beset upon the party. What they didn't expect, however, were the three trolls that followed.

The trolls landed along the Southern bit of road with a triple-BOOMPH, behind the wagons and makeshift camp beneath a jutting dirty cliff-face of about 25'. The biggest and burliest of the trolls held a large, door-sized piece of dry wood, splintered and cracked, that he used as a shield. Bits of shingle-sized bark covered his body, and he roared out in the Giant tongue – his command a gurgled, throaty voice to the goblins on the other side of the surrounded party, "Kill the fire-shooter! The others must be kept alive! For the sacrifice!" In response, the goblins just fearfully stared at Thaldrak, barely having time to reach for the rusty butterknives tucked into their belts before Thaldrak and Kay set upon them.

Thaldrak was first, slashing the arm off of one, before Kay eviscerated a second – and third – with two spinning daggers flying from the bushes to the West. Thaldrak finished the job – chopping the remaining arm off of the still-stunned goblin, as the limbs fell to the ground, still clutching the rusty pot and pan he had been banging together mere minutes before. His eyes moved between the kitchenware before he looked up at Thaldrak, his brown skin paling as the black blood pumped from his wounds, and he crumpled to a heap between his two dead companions. Seeing this, the remaining goblin only shrieked a plea of mercy, fleeing Northward along the road. 

Meanwhile, the second-largest troll, a female with cracked and dry skin wearing a wreath of grass, leaves and packed mud, raised a crippled, cortorted twig in the air – a staff in the hands of any normal-sized being – and cried out a gurgle of words in simplistic devotion. Immediately, vines and branches grew forth from the dry, gravel road and reached about T'avin, Arentian and Alamathar, restraining them. The natural bindings came up just short of Enthoril, who sprinted forth and met the biggest troll head-on. Crying out a prayer to Torm, the paladin gritted his teeth and clutched his weapon with both hands, savagely slashing across the creature's side as greenish goop – troll blood – spattered the earth. The beast cried out in rage as it brought it's claws to bare, lashing out with it's free hand, but Enthoril parried the blow. As he did so, the jaw of the beast came down as stinky, sticky troll spittle spattered about Enthoril's armor, mixing with his blood as the creature bit down hard into his arm. 

The paladin's cry of pain echoed through the night, as the smallest of the trolls – an emaciated, juvenile thing – crawled among the boulders and shrubs to get at Thaldrak. He never saw Kay coming, though, as the Halfling sent daggers sailing into the surprised monstrosity's chest. Thaldrak, too, met the Troll with a head-on charge, his blade already wet with black goblin blood. It spilled a minced mix of troll guts not long after, as his muscles rippled and bits of the troll fell underneath his connected blows. Fear was stretched clearly across the beasts face – it seemed to realize, only too late, that it may have overstepped it's bounds. It looked down to the savage grimace of Thaldrak, his stubbled face coated in it's blood, and turned to flee. 

Things were about to get heated, though, as T'avin reached down to his natural bindings and flames erupted from his fingertips, reducing the plant matter to charcoal and ash. To his left, Alamathar and Arentian twisted about the bindings, both in the midst of spellcasting. The dwarf Battlerager-Cleric cried out a prayer to Clangeddin Silverbeard – Dwarvish patron of war and battle honor – while Arentian finished the incantations of a Slow spell, crippling the green, worty monstrosities. Their bodies seemed to creak and slow, their movements became sluggish and weary. Each roar resounded as a loud yawn.

Capitalizing on the sudden turn of events, Enthoril lashed out at the biggest troll, again, calling yet louder to Torm, just as T'avin sent several Scorching Rays blasting into the beasts. Sword bit through flesh as fire singed skin and organs, T'avins spell blasting clear through the board of the biggest beast. With arcane reflexes monks would be jealous of, T'avin sent a second spell of firebolt careening against the side of the smallest troll's head and it stumbled forward. Thaldrak siezed the moment, and slashed away a substantial chunk of the beast's leg. It hopped forward, a third dagger from Kay finding it's way deep into it's back. It turned, leaning and bleeding all over a massive boulder to it's left, desperately trying to slash at Thaldrak. Whatever pain he might have felt, though, the Dwarf ignored, as he roared a triumphant battlecry of finality, dragging his blade across the stones before cutting a sudden vertical slash through the legs – and the entire torso, neck and head – of the troll. The beast shuddered before it peeled away, it's body crumbling under the blow to little more than a pile of guts and burning skin. 

The female troll moved in on the combat, then, as the biggest one turned to face the spellcasters, trembling with rage. It slashed deep lines of blood across Arentian's face, rending flesh and spattering blood onto the dirty earth of the cliff-face behind him. Max desperately tried to bite away at the vines restraining the wizard, as he retaliated with a firebolt, striking the beast square in the chest. It recoiled only to be impaled by the blade of Enthoril, who bore down upon it. Even Alamathar burst into the fray, then, lowering his head to slash at the beast's groin with the half-metre long spike protruding from his helmet. All the troll could do was turn to offer a grimace of pure, utter hatred and malice, before T'avin's second set of Scorching Rays blew the jaw clear from it's skull. 

Simultaneously, the final troll cried a trembling shiver of denial, raising her claws above Enthoril, who seemed helpless as his blade remained in the body of the toppling – now dead – male Troll. As her claws began to fall, however, the space between her and Enthoril seemed to shiver and ripple like the air above a raging bonfire, and in that split second, something happened. Her arms suddenly crunched and retracted, her body shrinking and spouting hair. She fell to all fours as her hands changed – in a matter of seconds – from great taloned fists to the hooves of a pig, her skin grew hair as tusks sprouted from her mouth. She shrank to the size of Max as the Polymorph completed… the troll was now a pig. She oinked and squealed, spinning about and trotting south at full-speed. Not before the party could catch up to her, though. Eventually, T'avin caught up – the animal still slowed by Arentian's spell – and captured it. He held out the Cubic Prison and tried to imprison the thing, but nothing happened. Cursing, he set it aflame as the others caught up to him. 

By now the beast had started to shift back to a troll, the pig-like features growing uglier and coated in warts. As soon as the squeels became words, the thing cried out in giant, "Bugbreath! Where bugbreath? Let me go! Let me live! Me go now! Me go see Bugbreath!" Calmly and menacingly, T'avin told the thing, "Bugbreath is over there, with his jaw torn from his head. You can go join him, soon enough." 

The troll wailed as it lay there, helplessly, sprawled out wide and vulnerable before the party. T'avin continued, asking it, "Why did you want to sacrifice us? Who is the sacrifice for? What is it for?"

Between sobs, the creature answered, "For Vaprak…" and the word seemed to give her strength "Vaprak crush you. For Vaprak to crush all! For Vaprak to give us power to crush!" 

"Who is Vaprak?" T'avin asked, flames lighting about his hands.

"Vaprak destroy you!" The flames spread from his hands to the feet of the beast, as she howled in agony. 

"Who is Vaprak?" T'avin repeated, again, slowly.

"Vaprak the Destroyer. Varpak is god. Best god. Better god than you god. Vaprak will destroy you!" And with that, T'avin let the pyre continue along the beast, igniting it fully as it flailed about for a moment before falling, dead. 

The others checked about the bodies for any valuables or sign of their further intent before gathering the corpses and setting them aflame. T'avin took the staff of the Female troll – and from the moment his hands clasped upon the thing, droll began to flow from his mouth, dribbling down his chin and over the front of his robes. "Dammit!" He bubbled through spitty gurgles, as Thaldrak and Arentian stared at him, their faces screwed up with grotesque disgust. T'avin hobbled over to the Caravan – Arentian at his side, meaning to speak to the girl – and fumbled about the bags for a scroll of Identify. Using it to identify the staff, he determined that it was a Staff of Vaprak and could be used to cast the spells 'druidcraft and entangle', though it was cursed with a Curse of Troll Tongue. Making the best of his situation, he smiled a drooly grin and prodded Thaldrak with the stick, thinking to spread his spittle situation along. 

"What do you think you're doing?!" Thaldrak cried out after the stick connected, and T'avin was disappointed to see the Dwarf's face covered only in the blood of his enemies. 

Not long after collecting themselves after the battle, the party agreed to depart the combat scene to a safer – less smelly – campsite 30 minutes down the road. They left behind them the burning cinders of the slain Goblins and Trolls, the embers glowing like little torchbugs in the night. As they settled in for another attempt at rest, Kay and Arentian decided they would take the first watch. Kay took to the closest, highest tree – a leafless, dead thing that stretched beside a boulder toward the night sky – while Arentian mounted his horse and headed 500' from the camp, aiming to eye the entire circumference of the place. 

The sorcerer's mind was beset with guilt for his actions three days prior, and the events the party had set into motion in Waterdeep. Many had died because of them, he thought, and that thought bore a screwed hole through his heart. Shoulders slumped and stomach icy with sullen regret, Arentian never noticed the assassins coming. The next thing he knew, a frigid blade was pressed against his throat, and his horse stopped, suddenly. Good thing, too, because the blade was so sharp, Arentian figured, that had the horse kept trotting, the momentum would have done the blade's work. 

A paradoxically soft, yet razor sharp female voice penetrated the darkness, then, and while on edge, Arentian couldn't help but admire the beauty of it. "You know," The woman's voice began, "It was incredibly impressive seeing your party dispatch those trolls in less than a minute. A group of skill, competence, and, we thought… smarts?" The last word raised as if it were a question, and several seconds of pause connected it with her continued statement "I'd have not thought you so stupid as to wander off so far on your own." Arentian began to turn then, starting to speak, but the blade quickly – so quickly – moved from his throat to his cheek, and pushed his face forward, leaving a superficial scrape across his cheekbone. 

Arentian tried to learn of his would-be assailants, but they never introduced themselves. "There's quite the contract on your head, you know. One hundred thousand gold pieces? Someone must really want you dead. No one goes to The Garrote for anything but. Though I tell you what, you're a group with no small means, I'm sure. Buy out the contract, why don't you? I'm sure you've got… magic items, treasure… who knows what?" 

Arentian shook his head slowly and insisted that this kind of wealth was elusive to him – and the party. "What's in the bag?" The woman asked. Arentian dug through it and gathered up some items of high value. Among them were his silver ring, and the golden locket in which a drawing of Bree Hodge was depicted. He also unclipped his Robe of Many Things, and held it all out to the woman. She paused as she seemed to inspect it, then Arentian heard her toss it back to someone else. 

"Worthless," She said. Don't you have anything else?

"No," Arentian began, sensing that he might be in trouble, "No, but maybe the others do in camp, that's where most of our stuff is. Maybe I can go back there and get some stuff then meet you back here?" 

"Haha, hardly," The woman said, as she suddenly grabbed at Arentian's hand. Arentian felt her feeling about his ring – the Ring of Sending – as she went on, a dramatic tone of interest in her voice, "You have beautiful hands… and such a beautiful ring!" She finished with, "Do it." and Arentian felt searing pain shoot up his arm as they cut off his finger – his pinky finger. "You have ten minutes." The voice was icy and instructive, "Ten minutes to get your would-be wealth to try to buy out this contract. After that, your own blood is on your own hands… literally" She laughed as she slapped at Arentian's horse, and it began to gallop toward camp.

Arriving back in camp, Kay immediately noticed something was wrong. Arentian no longer wore his cape, and his hand clutched the bloody mess that was his severed pinky finger. "Arentian…" Kay began.

"Yeah, they cut off my finger." Arentian said, his brevity and calmness only alerting the rogue more. "They have a contract on us, they said it's a hundred thousand gold pieces." 

"Wait, what? What?" 

"Yeah, we have to wake up the others." 

"Wait, what?" Kay repeated, "You're not joking? What? It's too early!" 

Immediately, Arentian began stirring the others, shaking them from their slumber.

"Ohh…" Thaldrak moaned, "Will I be getting any sleep tonight?" 

"Assassins cut off Arentian's finger." Kay said, matter-of-factly.

"…Shit." 

Arentian filled in the others, telling them what had transpired. Immediately, Thaldrak flew into a blustering rage, shouting at the sorcerer for wandering off in the night so far from camp. Arentian apologized a few times, then cursed, loudly. "We have to deal with this!" He said, "They want a hundred thousand gold pieces!" 

T'avin looked directly at Thaldrak, drool still rolling down his chin, "We are not giving them the sword."

"I think we should fight them. Take the fight to them! It's inevitable, anyway." Arentian proposed. While they debated the possibilities for a few minutes, they eventually decided it was best, and the whole group set out in the direction of Arentian's encounter. Along the way, Kay noticed footprints among the dirt and pebbles… two pairs of footprints, that seemed to belong to human-sized individuals… that followed Arentian back to camp… 

"Shit," Kay whispered, "I think they heard us talking."

"OK we are definitely speaking with my Message cantrip from now on." T'avin said between spittled slobbers – being still cursed.

When they eventually got to the scene of the incident, Kay noticed a flurry of activity, then footprints leading – running – to the South, away from their location. A dirty parchment was left coiled in a roll, tied with a garrote wire and placed under a fist-sized stone. A few tense moments passed as the group considered it. Having little time for patience, Arentian grabbed the thing and threw off the garrote wire binding, unrolling it.

"No, wait!" T'avin slobbered, "It could be…"

Arentian turned around the scroll to show the others – a heart had been drawn in the parchment, in blood.

Immediately, T'avins look of concern shifted to laughter as he said, aloud, "They wrote it with your finger!" 


That night, the group got little sleep. This was made worse with the fact that Alamathar, who took the second-last watch, fell asleep, failing to awaken Enthoril for the final watch. As the morning sun crested over the hills of the eastern horizon, shining on the mountains, Thaldrak shouted, 

"How could you do that, you stupid dwarf! There are assassins after us!! We could all be dead thanks to you!!!" Alamathar apologized profusely, and reluctantly, Thaldrak eventually accepted.

They had decided to double-back the next day, and check out the lair of the trolls. Though after a few hours' trek, Arentian spotted the two assassins tailing them, and the group decided it best to continue Northward. T'avin made a map depicting the location so they could return, and they headed back to the road, then onward North.

The next two days passed with tension so thick it was as though they were swimming. Each twitch, each movement, each gust of the wind was a possible Click of an assassin's crossbow or twang of a bowstring. Though two days passed without event, and Thaldrak noted at least three other traveling bands along the road, two Southward of them, heading North, and one Northward, heading South.

On the second day when the sun was highest in the sky, the party noted a mage approaching them on the road, headed South. They stopped as they took in the peculiar appearance of this individual, but more notably, the peculiar nature of his companion. The man stood alongside a wind elemental, and seemed to be arguing with the thing. He made little progress in the steps he took between sentences, gesturing dramatically as he spoke. His voice didn't seem too audible, but his attire was most odd. He wore red studded leather armor, and a read cloak and hood. Covering his face was an iron mask, darkened rectangular slits leaving room for sight, words and breath. When they approached, T'avin recognized the language he was speaking as Auran, a dialect of the Primordial tongue spoken by creatures of the Elemental Planes of Existence. The others noticed something, too – the symbol of a rising – or setting – sun behind several hills was depicted on the mask in red paint or pigments. Immediately, they recognized this as the sign of Lathandar, one of the Goodly Gods and patron to the temple in Ravenstone razed by T'avin.

Once within hearing range, Thaldrak called out a greeting to the man.

He raised his hands skyward and responded in a strange, foreign accent "I mean no trouble and I am no threat! I mean only to pass."

"Where are you headed?" Thaldrak asked.

"To Waterdeep. House of Wonders. Supposed to be meeting someone there who knows somethin about me mum."

The party looked to one another, uneasily. "Who's your mum?" Thaldrak asked.

"Well, actually, I should ask ye. She's been missin' for ten years, and I'm looking for her. Her name is Virro, have you seen or heard anything about her?" 

The party had to try hard to not show the shock or surprise on their face. They discussed among each other, and eventually decided to spend more time speaking with Zephyr Zanzibar. The man sat with perfect posture and his unrecognizable facial features – because of the mask – while the party spoke with him. 

T'avin took the lead in talking to the man, as they figured the information they could get from him would be quite sensitive. T'avin appealed to the man's familial troubles – Zephyr Zanzibar said that his father abused him and only his mother – Virro – was there to support him. They learned from Zephyr Zanzibar:

  • Virro disappeared from the High Forest, where he lived with her, ten years ago.
  • Virro saved him from the abuse of his father and took him to the wood elves in the High Forest. Zephyr Zanzibar refused to speak about the nature of the abuse, but spoke darkly of the event, depicting it as 'something unimaginable'.
  • Zephyr Zanzibar is a Half Elf Bladesinger.
  • Zephyr Zanzibar has been traveling the last two years looking for Virro. He learned from someone named Balthazaar Viscari in Mirabar that a dwarf woman named Talia could provide him information on his mother's whereabouts, and that she could meet him at the House of Wonders in Waterdeep.
  • Virro was a part of the guild, named Alkahest, but the guild disbanded years before they moved to the High Forest. Virro's activity in the guild preceded her relationship with Zephyr Zanzibar, according to him. 
  • Virro is approximately 140 years old.
  • Alkahest had a vested interest in the acquisition of artifacts from ancient, fallen civilizations. Their primary affixed interest, he learned from his mother, was of the Netheril. They were searching for "their magnum opus", but his mother refused to talk of it.
  • Virro had told her son that Alkahest had found some miraculous artifacts in the Anauroch desert, but had been disbanded "long ago" because of "lack of funding and resources to be cohesive".
  • Zephyr Zanzibar was unsure of the overall motive of Alkahest.
  • At their home in the High Forest, Virro had three maps similar to Kay's, in that they were similarly encrypted and vague, written in multiple languages and with the tactile language of the Illithid – Qualith – providing further information if the map is wrapped around a spherical object. 

The party told Zephyr Zanzibar about Virro's connection to the guild, and of their investigation (though did not mention the giants or the Vonindöd). Zephyr Zanzibar asked the party if he could accompany them, and they agreed. Once they said this, Zephyr Zanzibar disclosed a secret of his own, to facilitate and reciprocate the trust to the group. Once T'avin had garnered from everyone a promise to keep this information between them, Zephyr Zanzibar told them – via T'avin's message cantrip – that his father is Szass Tam, Lich-King of Thay.


In Brief:

  • The party easily defeated the trolls and goblins, though one got away. T'avin burned the creatures to a crisp, assuring against their regeneration powers. He learned the creatures were seeking "worth sacrifices" to a god named Vaprak the Destroyer.
  • Thaldrak found the tracks of the beasts, and they later spotted a hut likely belonging to the band. 
  • Arentian ventured too far from camp, and was beset upon by a pair of assassins. They told him there was a contract for [your] head, but that he had 10 minutes to buy it out – for 100 000 GP. When he offered them his most valuable items, they declined, but kept them, anyway. They cut off the Ring of Sending from his finger – taking the digit with them. The party decided not to offer them anything, but the assassins seemed to have heard their discussion, and left.
  • Kay figured that the assassins were likely from The Garrote – a very serious band of assassins known for playing both sides of the fence.
  • As the party ventured Northward along the road, they had seen signs of the assassins tracking them – at least that first day. They ran into a mage – Zephyr Zanzibar – who kept his skin and face covered with an iron mask and red, studded leather armor, and who travelled with an air elemental he could summon 4h/day named Toot. He was looking for his mother, who went missing 10 years prior. They befriended the man and learned that he was the son of Virro, that the name of the guild was Alkahest and that Alkahest was known for collecting magic items – particularly, artifacts from the Netheril. He asked to come with the party, and they agreed.
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Session 10: Sandstorm
"We will never forget this!"


"You… it was you! Why… why did you do this? Why did you do this to me? I did nothing wrong! You are terrible… a terrible person!" – Doolie, to Arentian, after Arentian tried to trick him into abandoning efforts to build a Calimshani Temple in Amphail.


  • After defeating the cocky guard, Thaldrak walked over to the party, clutching a bag of 50 GP in his hands, granted by Captain Catherine Crimson for the killing of the Hill Giant and Rust Monsters. Once their congratulatory pats on the back ceased, the party began discussing how they should proceed in Amphail. Should they investigate this Dwarven War Cleric and former Battlerager? Where should they sleep? And did Enthoril have anything more to say about the last days he was trapped in the House of Wonders? 
  • Apparently so. Hardly pleased that he was stuck in the room for several days in isolation, nor that he emerged to accusation of instigating the incidents at the House of Wonders, Enthoril expressed his discontent. "How could you leave me there!" He began, "I had the keys, but neither worked!" His companions responded by explaining, things had gotten bad - REAL bad – after that first fireball, and there were many innocents who died. They had – thankfully – found the Master Key in the room of the Hanlon Razor, which they passed on to Silverhand. Enthoril nodded, and explained that while he was trapped in the room, he investigated what he could. The furniture was charred to a crisp and everything flammable reduced to ash, but he still observed the many, many runes etched across the stone walls of the room. He told the party that many of the runes were religious in nature. It appeared as though Zalara was rather devout… she paid tribute to a dark Drow diety by the name of Ghaunadaur… otherwise known as That Which Lurks, or The Elder Eye. He explained the diety was a dark, malevolent being that hardly counted as a real god… mostly because he was known to kill his own followers. Enthoril said that the god was mainly taken as a patron by Warlocks. Continuing, he mentioned that he had an uneasy feeling in the room.
  • Eventually, he was freed by Lady Silverhand and Mos. They then urged him on to reunite with the party, giving him a letter from Dame Commander Brenlin and giving him a Gryphon to expedite the journey. Enthoril then shared the letter with the party: 

  • Shocked and frustrated at the revelation that they weren't completely free of the eyes of the Arch Duke Portyr of Baldur's Gate, the party moved on to more pressing matters — where was that damned cleric? 
  • Turning to the nearest man to ask directions to the dwarf, T'avin had a brief conversation with the guard of a wagon that was heading south to Waterdeep. The guard – named Rik – asked the party of news from the city and road, to which they only mentioned to be careful of the Thay. The man seemed to have reservations about whether the Thay were good or bad, but once T'avin told him about there being truth to rumors, he said only "well, if a competent band of travellers such as yourself think the Thay are bad, then I'm sure'n believin it." and the wagon left, the guard racing to catch up to the rolling wood vehicle. 
  • They went on to the tent indicated by Rik, a ramshacke circus tent across from a massive statue of a whinnying horse. They then stood in the quieting square – the inns and taverns around them beginning to bustle with indoor activity – arguing about whether they should obscure their identities or not. Enthoril was convinced they should take other names, and even questioned the wisdom of taking a new party member. He decided that they should go by the names Mister [first letter of their names]. Thus, Enthoril became Mister E, Arentian Mister A, Thaldrak Mister T, and T'avin Big T, while Kay was… Mister Kay.
  • At that moment, the old, battle-scared dwarf – completely smashed and draining last sips from his bottle - came stumbling forward from his tent, rambling some drunken nonsense. Immediately, his inebriated charm clutched the hearts of T'avin, Thaldrak and Arentian, though Enthoril's reservations only doubled. "We all know," Enthoril began, as the Dwarf continued to slur through a story to Thaldrak about Mithral Hall, "that alcohol is the enemy of adventure." Arentian balked, "What are you talking about?" The silver-haired sorcerer began, "Alcohol starts the greatest adventures!" They continued the comical social exchange for some time, but eventually, agreed to hire on the enthusiastically drunk Dwarf, who promised them he would be a useful asset.
  • Content with this, the party made their way to the biggest inn – and the one indicated earlier as a good place to stay, by Rik – known as Colt's Finest. The massive, three-story establishment loomed over the statue stallion – which was inscribed "The Great Shalam" – and a bustle of activity roared inside. Arentian made his way in, first, giving the Nesper child some food and – before the disapproving stares and condescending remarks of one female patron – slipping some alcohol in her soup to help her sleep. The rest joined shortly after, sitting at another table not far away. It became clear almost immediately that there were two economic classes at the rambunctious establishment – the very wealthy and the common folk. Plates came as either a few silver pieces or 25 gold apiece, and the price of drink equally as bimodal. T'avin elected for a fire brandy while the others stuck to a simple ale. As they ate their boar and sipped their alcoholic beverages, they sampled the coversation in the busy brasserie. They noticed that nearly half of the tables were taken by exotic-looking folk with big bellies, colourful clothes and turbans, and exotic accents that could only be from one place: Calimshan.
  • One of the men – a pudgy fellow with an orange turban and slim, curled moustache – approached Arentian, smiling widely as he greeted the sorcerer: "My, that's quite a pet you have there, sir…" 

    "Max" Arentian said, quickly, disregarding Enthorils previous advice of Mister A, "Max is my name. And yes, hes a nice pet. A nice friend." 

    "How much, sir? I'd love to procure such a creature for myself!" 

    "He's not for…" 

    "One thousand gold pieces!" The Calimshani said flamboyantly as he raised his finger to the cieling, his other spinning the side of his mustache over his thumb.

    "Holy shit," Thaldrak exclaimed, overhearing the conversation. The other members of the party listened intently… nervously. 

    "Well, sir, let me say, sir," The Calimshani began, tugging at the sides of his vest, "I am a man of no small means! You are an…" He paused as he gave Arentian an up-and-down. "an adventurer, are you? Yes! I know many adventurers, you know. Have many connections! A wide network, wide it is! I can get you many things… many things!" 

    "No, he's not for sale. Sorry." Arentian insisted,

    "Eight hundred gold pieces!" The man said a second time, his voice raising at the end of the sentence with a squeak of finality.

    "You offered me one thousand just before…"

    "Eight hundred and anything you can imagine, from my network!" The man raised his eyebrow nearly into his turban as he kept his finger aloft to the ceiling, dramatically. 

    "No," Arentian said, flatly, "No."

    "Well then!" The Calimshani huffed, "A stubborn one! You miss out, you do, and let me say, stubbornness is known in Calimshan to not be so far from stupidity!" 
     
  • Before Arentian could answer to the slight, Enthoril burst in then, "My friend! Come and join me for a drink!" Enthoril said, loudly. Immediately, the man turned from Arentian to Enthoril and grinned widely, beginning his act anew. "Oh, hello there! And what can this humble Calimshani do for you? You should know, we Calimshani do not partake in alcohol." 

    "You mean to tell me that you would turn down an opportunity to drink with a friend?" Enthoril continued, loudly, but with a friendly smile, holding his mug of ale aloft. 

    "Yes! Yes I would!" The Calimshani responded, simply. 

    Enthoril quickly changed the conversation, and asked the man where he had come from, and why so many Calimshani were near Amphail. 

    "Well, you see," the man began, "Things are not so good in Calimshan, I am afraid! Economic crisis and all, my friend. We have banded together with the Amnians and made our way to the Sword Coast! There's fortunes to be made for Calimshani, here!" He grinned widely and gestured about the room, as though it were obvious that a Dragon's hoard stood before the paladin. 

    "But, Calimshan is a port?" Enthoril said, confused, "How did you sail here? There's no water in Amphail!" 

    For the second time that day, the Calimshani raised his eyebrow into his turban, giving Enthoril a once-over, "No…" He said, slowly, "I took a wagon. By land. My friend, Doolie," He gestured toward another Calimshani with a large chin-beard and pink turban, sampling food behind him. "He took a boat. To Luskan! I have traveled by land from Calimshan to Mirabar, and I begin my journey back! Through the City of Splendors, Baldur's Gate, and many other places I can make my fortune!" 

    Content with this explanation, Enthoril then asked the man of the road from Mirabar, the same road that the party planned to venture across toward Lockridge Monastery, Triboar, and, eventually, Longsaddle and Luskan. 

    "Not much, not much," The man said, "We are well-protected, you see!" He gestured behind him, where two massive, muscular twins stood, bare-chested with their arms crossed. "Rest assured, they sleep away from the fodder," The man winked, "But we did see goblins. Dead goblins! And a peculiar mage, traveling with an Air Elemental! His name was Zephyr Zanzibar, friendly fellow who wore a mask and praised Lathandar! Pleasure to meet him, it was." The man rubbed his belly as he he smiled at Enthoril, but said, more seriously, "Though we did see some creatures, covered in metal. Massive! They were burrowing in the ground. And that Hill Giant!" 

    "You saw the Hill Giant? Where!?"

    "In Longsaddle! He's helping the people farm!" 

    "You saw this?" Enthoril balked, incredulously,
     
    "Yes! We did! He's helping the people farm, and they are helping him lose weight! Isn't that splendid!" The Calimshani tilted his head back and laughed hysterically. He bid farewell after leaving his name for Enthoril - Piccalo.
     
  • Meanwhile, Arentian had led the Nesper child upstairs, tucked her in, and had a brief conversation with Max. He asked the Tressym if he'd be willing to pretend to be sold to the Calimshani, then fly back to Arentian. Max wouldn't have any of it, though, and seemed to insist on staying with the girl. Arentian ventured downstairs, and asked a few people about the Calimshanis staying at the inn. One serving girl he asked raised her eyebrow, looking at him, "Oh, yeah" she said, a thick farmer accent as she put her hand on her hip, "Poor fella like you askin bout the rich foreigners, there, dont'cha know. That's not suspicous at all!" She huffed, and Arentian blinked with shocked surprise, then sighed, heading back upstairs at the same moment as the party did the same, calling it a night. The rest of the tavern weren't slow to follow. Supposedly most of them planned on departing with their wagons the following morning. Apparently, a backlog of travelers had arrived at Amphail, where they waited out the storm that they could clearly see looming above Waterdeep in the horizon. 
  • Once upstairs, the party divided their watches and Thaldrak and Arentian took the first. Thaldrak continued his learning of the Giant language, while Arentian just kept an eye on things. Not long into their watch, though – maybe an hour – a massive, gruff man in a muscle shirt and with a handlebar mustache approached the pair, alone in the hall. "You keen on makin' some money?" He said, looking down at Arentian, who stared back, confused. "Me daughter said she seen you askin about them Calimshani. So I askin ye, want te make some money?" 

    Arentian nodded, while Thaldrak muttered under his breath, "Oh boy"

    "One o them bought the ruins of The Laughing Bandit Inn, plannin on building a temple to them Calimshani gods. We don't want that! They'll take over the town!" The man got red in the face as he went on, "So," He lowered his voice, then, to barely a whisper "Can you rough one of them up, that guy, Doolie? Just beat him up, convince him to leave town. Scare 'im for me!" The man smiled. 

    Arentian was about to agree but Thaldrak intervened, and the pair had a brief but intense discussion about this course of action. Thaldrak strongly disagreed, insisting that this was flat out wrong. Arentian insisted, however, that he wouldn't hurt the man. He would do everything he could to just scare him, using duping magic and clever ideas. Thaldrak held up his hands, "This is your mess," Thaldrak said, looking the silver-haired sorcerer in the eyes, "If you get into trouble, you're on your own!" And he went off to his bedroom. Arentian agreed, then, and the man led Arentian downstairs. 

    The pair hatched a plan – Colt would fetch Doolie and tell him that his wagon was being tampered with, and that he needed to check it out, immediately. Arentian would wait for him at the wagon and… not beat him up. "I think it'd be simpler if ye just broke the sandbag's nose" Colt huffed.

    Arentian's eyes went wide at the racial slur as he considered what he might've gotten himself into, "I won't need to," He insisted, and cast a spell on himself to change his appearance to look as though he was Calimshani. The man nearly cried out in surprise, then let go a low whistle of impress, before furrowing his brow, "Now now, we have enough o those sandies, here, why're ye thinking to be another!" 

    "I'll trick him into leaving," Arentian insisted. And he headed out the door. 
     
  • The following events were some of the most emotionally traumatic of Arentian's life so far. The sorcerer waited by the carts, preparing himself to cast further spells of minor illusion, as T'avin saw Colt rush upstairs and Doolie – the pink-turbaned Calimshani now wearing a pink nightie – running barefoot downstairs and out of the inn. Little did he realize, however, that Arentian was currently being held up by bandits. Half-a-dozen muscled ruffians emerged from around the caravans where Arentian stood, their faces covered in Bandanas and black bands tied around their left bicep. "Well-well-well," Their leader began, a man holding a covered torch, that he revealed at that moment, unveiling the true peril of the situation. Six men held crossbows aloft, aimed at Arentian's chest. "What do we have here, a Calimshani? Nice bag, there, mister…"

    "Uh… my name is Goalio…" 

    "Alright, there, Roley Poley Olie. Give us the bag." 

    "You're going to regret that…" Arentian began,

    "What is… No! Wait, no! Hmmph! mmph!" A voice called out, and then was muffled, as one of the bandits yanked Doolie from behind the other ruffians. The terrified Calimshani looked ridiculously out-of-place in his pink turban and nightie among the bandits.

    "Well, well well… what do we have here?" The bandit said, for the second time that night. "Give us the bag," He pulled a dagger from a sheath at his side, holding it to Doolie's face, "Or we rough up your friend, here. How about a haircut, for Rolley Polley Ollie's friend?"

    Arentian shook his head, "No." 

    The bandit captain flicked the knife and removed the beard of Doolie, then the hair, as the turban fell to the floor. Tears streamed down Doolie's face and over the hand of his captor, carving wet lines across the dirty hand. 

    Suddenly, then, Arentian grew to double his size, and fire flared in his hands. "Leave him alone! Leave!" He roared, as the bandits shouted with fear, uttered a few half-hearted threats, and then shrieked, tossing the bald and choppy-bearded Doolie to the muddy ground before Arentian. Without thinking, Arentian grabbed Doolie and fled into the woods, crashing into a few of the carts on the way. 
     
  • Meanwhile, T'avin saw the rising head of the disguised Arentian and cried out in surprise, rushing over to awaken his companions. They all saw the rising figure and while Enthoril and Thaldrak knew it was Arentian (Enthoril putting two-and-two together, while Thaldrak knew about the plot, mostly). They rushed to the scene, just on time to see the massive Arentian clutching Doolie over his shoulder (his nightie flipped up over his head, revealing his naked bottom hung over the giant disguised Arentian). They decided they couldn't do much, and headed back to Colt's Finest. 
  • In the forest, Arentian spoke to Doolie, telling him he shouldn't open the temple, and should leave Amphail. Reluctantly, the broken Calimshani sank and agreed, then sprinted back to the Inn in tears. Arentian sunk against a tree and sighed, his heart heavy with what he had done. 

    He sauntered back to the inn, keeping careful not to cross the darker alleys of the small village. Just as he got to Colt's Finest, though, he noticed one of the bandits keeping a close eye on him, though at that moment, Arentian hardly cared. He made his way inside and bumped into Colt, who was grinning ear-to-ear, his handlebar mustache stretching across his cheeks. "Saw him cryin. You took care of him good!" He clapped his hands together, "Didja get the deed?" 

    "The deed?" Arentian asked, softly, "Oh, I… I burned it." 

    Colt laughed and said, "Well he certainly didn't give it to you, he went out in his nightie!" 

    Arentian sighed and agreed to go with Colt up to the top floor, where Doolie's room was. They passed T'avin in the hall, but Arentian avoided his eye contact. The door was already cracked open, and soft sobs could be heard above the calming voice of another. Arentian pushed the door in and walked up to the pair, another Calimshani man in a white turban and yellow robe who held Doolie in his hands. "Look, I saw what happened, and I think you should give me the deed," 

    The sobbing Doolie didn't look up, and suddenly quieted, staring at Arentian's boots. Specifically, at the mud and foresty twigs that clung to them. 

    "You… it was you!" The man looked up at Arentian, his tear-streaked, snotty face contorted with a mixture of rage and extreme betrayal. "Why? Why would you do this? What have I done to you?" 

    "Just… just give me the deed! Give me the deed!" Arentian said with a shaky voice.

    Immediately, the other man rushed to the other side of the room and grabbed a scimitar, tilting the point to the chest of Arentian. "You horrible man! Leave this place! Leave us! How could you have done this to my husband! Leave him alone!" Arentian used Mage Hand to push the man back, as he frantically looked about the messy room for something resembling the deed… to no avail. 

    "Help! HELP! HELP US! HEEEELLLLP!" The man wailed and wailed, and doors flew open as Calimshani after Calimshani ran into the room, leaping upon Arentian. The party, too, leapt up the stairs to where Arentian was being tackled. Enthoril shouted to try to calm the ensuing storm – the rage of Calimshan – but to no avail. He tried to grab at Arentian as the Calimshani's tore away at his clothes, weapons, and the like. One grabbed the Bag of Holding and tossed it to Doolie's husband, who immediately turned the bag upside down and began dumping the contents. Seeing this, Thaldrak raged forward and bull-rushed through the crowd, knocking aside Calimshani's and headbutting Doolie's husband in the groin. He tore the bag from his hands as Enthoril finally grabbed Arentian. "You will respect my authority!" He shouted, "Stop this nonsense!" He pulled Arentian away, shouting at the Calimshani's and shoving them away. "You dare threaten me!" 

    Meanwhile, the other villagers ran up the stairs, led by a few rednecks clutching chair legs as clubs, who were shouting "Race war! Race war! Calimshani's attacking Sword Coast citizens! Race war!" 

    The Calimshani's looked between the party and the villagers, their scowls saying more than their words ever could. "How dare you," Piccolo began, "We will make sure that every Calimshani, every reachable citizen of Faerûn knows of your prejudice, of your terribleness, of your awful abuse! Sands never erode, and there are many grains of sand in the Sword Coast, you villains!" 

    "Is that a threat?" Enthoril said, staring with intent eye contact. 

    "No." Piccolo said, bitter venom thick in his voice, "That is the future."
     
  • With that, the party dispersed the crowd and led Arentian back to their room. T'avin was able to convince the Calimshani's to let him collect the loot that had fallen from the bag as they stared him down and tossed passive-aggressive insults his way. 

    Once gathered in their room, the party had a long talk with Arentian about what happened. The sorcerer apologized profusely, and was clearly troubled by his actions. He admitted that the events of the recent days had rocked him to his core, and he was beginning to lose sight of himself, his values, his morals… everything. Thaldrak huffed, and went back to sleep, the others soon following. That night, Enthoril's prayers were perturbed, as though his god were displeased with the night's events, and he got a sense of encouragement to improve.
     
  • The next morning, the party awoke to find all the Calimshanis standing outside Colt's Finest, rigid in white robes and fixed faces, staring down the party. "The Walk of Shame", one of the barmaids called it. Feeling awful about his role in what had transpired, Thaldrak went up to Doolie and gave a sincere, deep appology, looking into the man's tear-laden eyes. His lips trembled as Thaldrak offered a favor to the man, but he didn't once answer. The silence was deafening, and it was broken by Alamathar… the Dwarf Cleric-Battlerager.

    "WHICH ONE OF YE NIPPLE TITTIES OFFERIN ME A PLACE TE TRAVEL N' FIGHT?!"

    "Oh, god" Thaldrak muttered, for the third or fourth time in the last day. "Here," He said, flatly, "Here… here… that would be us." Alamathar made a bee-line past the staring, judging gaze of the Calimshani – remarkably unaware of the ensuing social awkwardness – to kneel before Thaldrak. "I offer you my sincerest appologies fer me behaviour last night. I'll be better!" 

    The rest of the party made their way out, then. They exchanged pleasantries with Alamathar Elfcrusher (his full name, much to the distaste of Enthoril and T'avin) and bought another horse (an Amphail Grey, for Alamathar) and headed on the North Road… to the North.
     
  • They travelled the long day through the hills, and had much talk with Alamathar. They discussed how he would behave in battle, some more about Mithral hall, and he asked about the party. What they were up to, where they came from. He seemed most interested in Thaldrak and Enthoril, appealing to their martial expertise. "What be yer Oath, Paladin?" 

    Enthoril scoffed, "What is your domain, cleric?" He shot back.

    "War! Of course. Clangeddin Silverbeard is me god. But I have to say… me first love is crushin skulls!" 
     
  • That night, Enthoril decided he would trade Arentian in knowledge. He would teach Arentian about the dutiful teachings of Torm, and the values he preaches, while Arentian would teach (or try to teach) Enthoril some Draconic. He seemed to be inspired by the rapid pace and independence of Thaldrak's acquisition of the Giant tongue. Meanwhile, T'avin laboured on his book – a fruitful endeavour it was turning out to be, laden with illustrations and colourful descriptions of the Ear-Seeker Orc Tribe, and Lo'dukk, The One Eye Enlightened. 

  • The second day, as they rode, the group came across rockier and rockier terrain, Thaldrak noticed a grizzly sight: A child-sized blue hand, coiled with the torsion of death, lay limp, protruding from behind a crevasse shattered into a a massive boulder. Moving to investigate, the party saw that the hand belonged to a blue goblin, not too dissimilar from Raz'zik of the Nandar Hunting Lodge, who they had learned was keeping an eye on Leduc. This particular goblin, however, was missing his legs. Torn flesh and bone seemed as though it had been gnawed and ripped by a humanoid maw. Enthoril noticed that a blood smear stretched across the rocky landscape… this creature was mortally wounded and crawled to this spot, his final resting place. 
  • As they went on, the party noticed a few shoddy goblin-made arrowshafts. Among them was a clear sign of conflict, and the group noted at least four sets of goblin tracks and at least two sets from something larger. The larger prints seemed between a human and ogre, the size of a human's calf with five toes and long claws. Puzzled, they couldn't figure out what it was, but they had their suspicions. 
  • They set up camp for the night among a few rocky cliffaces; outcroppings that loomed over the road. Thaldrak and Enthoril, particularly were uneasy about the position. It was a good spot for an ambush, and they weren't about to be caught unawares. Enthoril warned Thaldrak that the Horses may spot something before them, and with that, Thaldrak settled with T'avin for the first watch.
  • They didn't have to wait long, though, before sounds alerted them to a presence in the bushes atop one of the nearby landmarks. Upon investigating further, they realized it was four goblins, banging about and making noises with metallic objects like pots or pans. "It's a distraction," Thaldrak stated, seriously, as T'avin heard something move above them. "We're surrounded… shit." T'avin cursed under his breath. Thaldrak moved forward to engage the stupid gobliniod creatures, who seemed wrought with fear, just as three massive trolls landed just before the horses and wagons. Combat was upon them, and Thaldrak was about to get first blood… goblin blood.
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Session 9: Caw-tastrophy, Part II
"Give me the bag, or the girl dies!"


"So many… so many people have died."


<Work in progress>

  • The night wound down to the quieter hours of drinking beer, clinking glasses and soft instrumental bardic music strumming over the rolling hum of conversation in the Flagon Dragon. Upstairs, the group of adventurers quietly contemplated the days events, each coping with the destructive horror witnessed at the House of Wonders in their own way. Outside, the storm raged on, lightning veins crisscrossing the black clouds hidden by the veil of night and sheets of rain that pounded Waterdeep. It was a fitting pall for the day's events, and, while they did not yet realize it, the graves dug that day would only get deeper.
  • Silverhand magically appeared inside the tavern hall and gathered the party into the room of Thaldrak, who had been carefully examining the shattered magical blade they had found earlier that day… Shardalon rested on his bed, the normal ruby-red sheen of the shards now glimmering a mossy emerald green. There even seemed to be more shards than before, like scales of a dragon, they folded one another to reinforce the spaces between each other, whilst keeping an equidistant space between. They all took note of the blade, and Silverhand was no exception. She turned to the group, then, and began to debrief the group on the days events. "We must discuss the situation in the House of Wonders," she began, and the grim, serious tone of her voice and facial expressions clashed vivaciously with the extravigantly noble party attire she wore. A purple dress, lavish with silver trim and white fur around the collar of a low-cut V at the breast. An elegant crown of woven platinum traced with flecks of silver sat upon her greyish-brown hair, and rich jewelry lined her neck and coated her wrists and the majority of her fingers. She looked at each party member in turn, and continued… 
  • She gave the party a choice between accepting the fall for the explosions in the House of Wonders or letting her blame it on the Thay, a sovereign state far East of the Sword Coast known for a rife practice of necromancy and currently in the throes of a civil war. Thayan refugees had been flooding in through Cormyr, and necromantic terror cells have been springing up among the Sword Coast kingdoms. Silverhand had explained that the party's involvement was heavily questioned, given the nude departure of Arentian from the House of Wonders shortly after the first explosion and also because of the formal, thorough complaint filed by the Hanlon Razor about Enthoril's verbal, authoritative abuse just prior to his death and the incident in question. Accepting the blame for the incident, Silverhand speculated, would likely levy a heavy popular dissent against the party. Word could spread far and wide of their involvement, and twisting truths could lead to infamous accusations that would hamper their future progress. Furthermore, Silverhand divulged that one of the 12 killed at the mage's academy was the daughter of Grand Duke Portyr, political leader of Baldur's Gate and the Flaming Fist mercenaries. Honest admission of the event in question would likely lead to the Grand Duke's attempted prosecution of the party, and irrespective of their decision, Silverhand expected him to launch an investigation by the Flaming Fists into the incident. Many Thayan refugees had been arrested at the Waterdhavian gates in recent tendays, though, and Silverhand saw this as an opportunity to easily explain the incident. She proposed that the Thay, while technically innocent, would be the perfect cover and would likely be prosecuted anyway for other derisive crimes. The party, after much discussion, decided to pin the incident on the Thay.
  • She asked the party what they had found, and T'avin and Thaldrak both told her of their discoveries at the House of Wonders and with the Oracle. T'avin was particularly grave, expressing serious concern for the metallic dragons by the Oracle's notes, and the affirmation of their beliefs that the Giants were working together with the guild in some way, shape or form to reconstruct the Nation-Killer, the Vonindöd.
  • Silverhand gave the party a torn piece of paper, which depicted a terrible, black, winged creature. She said that her husband, Archmage Arunsun, believed it to be the creature freed from The Below at the House of Wonders

  • Next, Lady Silverhand suggested the party should leave the following morning. She said that she had pulled every string and resource available to the Lord's Alliance, and hired two groups of five commoners – who were apparently to be disguised to look roughly like the party – to leave from both the north and south gates, headed in opposite directions along the Trade Way, while the party took the North Road to Triboar. She said this would likely limit the strength of a pursuing force, but if the commoners were mistaken for the party and attacked, they would be slaughtered. Discussing this dilemma and weighing their options, the party ultimately decided in favor of dispatching the groups.
  • Following these difficult and heavy decisions, Silverhand then offered to identify the magical items that the party had found:

    • A Dichotomy Wand
    • The Octachoron (The Cubic Prison)
    • Shardalon, the Seventh Baneblade Undone

      • Silverhand explained that this blade was one of the six Baneblades forged by the Archwizard Demron to fight in a war centuries ago. Originally, a blade was forged for each of the races, and their combined power put a stop to the near-destruction of Myth Drannor, an ancient and now oft-forgotten, fallen kingdom. She did not know that a seventh Baneblade was forged, and knew very little about the blade's history or purpose, but could only confirm that it was indeed forged by Demron and was a Baneblade, but that it's racial binding had been – somehow – undone.
    • Claw of Luthic (Kay's +1 Silver Dagger)
  • She gave the party four Amulets of Nondetection – which protected the party against spells of Scrying. She said it was a lesser version of the well-known Amulets of Proof Against Detection. She urged the party to find a fifth for Enthoril.
  • Next, the party discussed with Silverhand about the various players involved, and the Guild. They explained that they thought they had not yet found the name of the guild, though they had a good understanding of who the members were. Of these, Silverhand reminded the party that she used to know Haxiris, but also that she had seen him die at sea when they adventured together, many decades ago. She knew that he had a secret hideout in the North Sword Mountains, West of Triboar, and urged the party to investigate either before or after visiting Triboar, since it would not cost them much extra time. Supposedly, Haxiris had a Circle of Teleportation, there, that he used to transport between the major cities of the Sword Coast. 
  • Silverhand awarded the party several scrolls – Three scrolls of Sending to contact her (once at Triboar, once at Haxiris' Hideout and finally, at Luskan) as well as five scrolls of Identify.
  • She gave the party the name of a Lord's Alliance handler in Red Larch, south of Triboar, who they could contact to update her on their progress.
  • Silverhand also said she had a prisoner with her who the party could use to try to reincarnate Hanlon Razor using the Dichotomy Wand. She retrieved the prisoner, a pale, bald man with simple, thin, black tattoos tracing the bones of his arms and legs. The man was wrought with fear and completely uninformed about what was to take place, but T'avin calmed him down, gave him the Dichotomy Wand, (white end facing out, of course), and instructed him to use it. Meanwhile, Silverhand produced the corpse of Hanlon Razor (which had begun to smell of the putrid decay of death) from an extra-dimensional pouch she kept within the folds of the dress.
  • Knowing full-well the destructive potential of the item, the party stood at the far corners of the room, concealed behind various objects or prepared to dodge or defend themselves from what could transpire if the item catastrophically failed. Trembling with fear, the pale man pointed the wand at the stinking corpse and willed the item to use. A blinding white light burst forth from the tip of the wand, then, as everyone shielded their eyes and grit their teeth, expecting the worst. When they opened them, they saw the beginnings of a transformation. The corpses arms and legs cracked and stretched into feathered, black stubs bent at awkward angles. The face darkened and elongated, the nose fusing with the chin to form a beak. When all was said and done, they stared, dumbfounded, at a Kenku. Hanlon Razor was resurrected into a Kenku. T'avin couldn't help but laugh, flatly, "What are the odds!" He shouted to the gods. The man awoke and cawed loudly, trembling and panicking, falling into a fit of fear. T'avin and Arentian immediately moved forth and calmed the man, while the others discussed how to communicate with… this. Eventually, they figured out that he could only communicate by the message cantrip, and Arentian spoke to him while intermittently transmitting the information audibly to the group. Hanlon Razor said that he had been killed two tendays ago by members of the guild and resurrected, though he didn't remember who assaulted him and the details of what he had to do for the guild. He only knew that he had to provide copies of all of the House of Wonder's research notes on many magical artifacts, and something else that he couldn't remember. Flustered, he told them that he was visiting the Oracle to try to restore his memory, though their shoulders sank when they realized that was no longer an option… the Oracle was dead, after all. Thaldrak recognized the man's confusion as being magically induced – given the involvement of the wizards – and guessed that he had been subject to a modify memory spell, something his mentor had told him about, in the past. He asked to come with the party, but wished to be restored to a normal body. After a short debate, they decided that the man was of little use without his spells, and he himself stated flatly that he would be happier dead, than a Kenku. Reluctantly, Arentian agreed to be the one to end the man's misery in the hopes that he could be resurrected as something… not Kenku. The wizard cut his head off.
  • The group then tried to reincarnate him again, T'avin repeating the process of calming the man and instructing him. This time, however, Tymora's luck was not on their side. The Dichotomy Wand backfired catastrophically, triggering an awful spell that decimated the Dragon Flagon inn. All of the party – save for Kay – were knocked from their feet as a purplish black smoke filled the wooden building, spreading through every crevasse and crack. The prisoner immediately was warmed, his skin sunken and hollow as he became a zombie, moaning lifelessly as only a zombie can, his skin stretched grotesquely across his now-gaunt frame. Silverhand blasted the thing to smithereens and grabbed Kay – the closest member of the party, and shoved a massive diamond into his hand. "It's time to leave!" She said, shortly, "Now!" Hurriedly, the party ran downstairs, their hearts sunken and bodies battered, fearing for the worst. What was a bustling, cozy place had fallen silent under the mute tone of death. Bodies sprawled across tables, stools and chairs as empty mugs lulled across the ground. Not a soul moved… except for Morak. Somehow, the dwarf survived. Thankfully, so did Max, Arentian's pet Tressym. Despite astronomical odds, the animal was shielded from the harm of the spell, and suffered no detriment to it's magic. The group instructed Morak to leave immediately for Ravenstone, Arentian already giving him back the Ring of Sending, and Morak stumbled into the stormy darkness to flee the horrid scene.
  • Rushing back upstairs, the group caught fleeting sight of Silverhand, who could only say, "This happened from the Thay. They attacked you. Now go!" Before calling forth a magical portcullis and stepping beyond. They were now alone. Scrambling to recover their belongings, the party rushed to their rooms and took everything they had left there and rushed out of the building into the cold embrace of the storm and mud of Waterdeep's nighttime streets. They heard the scrambling shouts of the City Guard who were racing toward the inn, shouting about necromancers. 
  • Arentian brought forth the wagon from his Robe of Useful Items, and they set off into the night. The party met up with Enthoril, gathered the children from Arentian's relatives and departed the city, travelling North along the North Road. Arentian gave the kids a sleeping potion to keep them quiet and naive about the situation. They filled in Enthoril on what had transpired on the way, resting in the wagon while Enthoril drove them onward, further North.
  • The following day, the group was weary with the burdens they had endured. They traveled beyond the plains north of Waterdeep and left both the meteorological and emotional storm of Waterdeep behind. They rolled on into the rocky hills beyond, witnessing the Southern Sword Mountains rise up to their Left as Thaldrak – who was now driving as Enthoril rested with the two Nesper girls – tried to avoid the many rocks and boulders of the road. As they sunk to a point between two such hills, Thaldrak became distracted by his thoughts, and CRACK – the wheel of the wagon shattered as it collided with a sharp rock. He cursed as the group – except for Enthoril, who was still resting – got out of the wagon to have a look around. Leafless trees were scattered about the craggy landscape, and more gravel than grass coated the ground off the road. Kay climbed up into a nearby tree while Arentian and Thaldrak headed to their right to seek a sturdy trunk with which they could carve a replacement felloe for the wagon wheel. T'avin wrote in his book. Suddenly, the ground trembled with a metronomic BOOMBOOMBOOM… as a garguantuan, heinous head crested above the following hill. A hideous hill giant rose atop the peak, holding seven insect-like beasts from long lengths of rope. The hill giant bellowed threats at the carrage as Enthoril sat at the edge of the wagon, watching. T'avin tried his best to engage the monstrous being in conversation, though he was rudely interrupted by a crossbow quarrel shot by Enthoril, that blasted into the thick stomach of the giant. "OW! YOU'LL REGRET THAT! I'LL SMASH, EAT, SMASH YOU LITTLE TINY ONES!" The beast released the ropes as T'avin prepared a Fireball… and Enthoril grabbed one of the sleeping girls by the throat.
  • "Give me the bag or the girl dies!" The throaty voice sounded like Enthoril, but the aggressive, violent tone told the group otherwise, as Arentian and Thaldrak faced him, looking between the girl and Enthoril's blade at her throat. He walked over to Arentian, who tossed the bag between them. The impostor would not get the chance to pick it up, however, as Thaldrak rushed him. The creature cut the throat of the girl, his blade piercing her navel and protruding from her back, as she left the quiet slumber of the mortal word for the everlasting sleep of death. He tossed aside her lifeless, bloody body just as Thaldrak met him, crashing into his waist and grappling him into an uncomfortable twist. 
  • Meanwhile, T'avin's Fireball decimated the insect-like creatures who disintegrated into ashy, curled carapaces. Angrily, the giant roared as he rushed forth and made his way to just before the battling impostor and Thaldrak. Kay flung a few daggers at the giant before climbing down, Arentian the giant with a witch bolt. The impostor broke free from the grapple and rushed toward the caravan, though not without taking a brutal pummel to his side from the angry giant. The impostor was making a move for the other girl, though Thaldrak circled about at met him from the other side. The Dwarf Fighter climbed upon the front of the wagon and drew his blade, slicing down with a vicious arc and severing the head of the being before it could harm another child. Purple-blue blood spattered across the wagon interior as the illusion of the thing dropped. Where Enthoril once stood was a muscled, deep blue humanoid, decapitated. It's head lay rolling across the wagon floor, milky pupil-less eyes sunken into a dark visage. Hastily, T'avin, Kay and Arentian dispatched the Giant, but not before it could strike two vicious blows at Kay – the unfortunate halfling clinging to life by the end, when the giant toppled just before him.
  • When the dust settled, Arentian and Thaldrak made their way to the dead girl and gave her a burial, while T'avin and Kay collected their thoughts and emotions. Kay pushed the blue impostor from the wagon, while T'avin took what seemed valuable from the giant's bag. After the burial, they silently and grimly set to continuing their task. Arentian and Thaldrak dragged the wood to the wagon and – with much cathartic effort – carved the wood into a replacement for the broken part of the wheel.
  • The next days were heavy and sorrowful, the only silver lining being the party reunited with the real Enthoril. Before that, though, T'avin told the little girl that Enthoril had taken her sister ahead to the monastary. When the real Enthoril had arrived, they had to tell her that the paladin had already returned from that delivery, and thankfully, the little child was gullible enough to believe them, turning to Max for amusement.
  • After three days of travel, they arrived at the closest town of Amphail. Thaldrak duelled with a guard (schooling him, completely) and the party learned of a few Clerics or Priests nearby who they could hire to accompany them. Most interesting was an old Dwarf War Cleric and former Battlerager named Alamathar. Mostly, they were happy to leave the heavy burdens of the collateral deaths of recent days behind the
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Session 8: Fireballs
"If you're not already, be afraid."


"I'm sorry… I'm so sorry…"


  • Recovering from the fight with mimics that nearly stole Enthoril's life, the party quickly gathered around Arentian to read the note dropped by Virro:

  • The group further investigated the room while a large group of wizards from the House of Wonders gathered to investigate the commotion. Arentian quickly pocketed the note, moving it out of sight of the gathering social storm. Heading them was a small gnome wizard, named Quartz, and Hanlon Razor, who sipped at a large glass of port while he leaned on the door frame. "I'll have you know, I already contacted the Order of the Gauntlet to report your abuse of authority!" He said. His statement fell on deaf ears, though, as T'avin began to investigate the room. Immediately suspecting magical devices, T'avin began a ritual of detect magic to elucidate whether there was more to the room than meets the eye. After introducing himself, Quartz asked what all the commotion was, and Thaldrak took the lead in explaining the situation, before asking Hanlon Razor why no one had gone into the room. "We have strict rules against entering the extradimensional space of another," Hanlon began, drinking his port between phrases, "While in a space that is not specifically assigned for your presence, the key may not work normally. You might find yourself trapped!" Quartz and Hanlon made a point at demonstrating that they were still outside the room of Manion, while the rest of the party remained within. Unsettled, but satisfied enough with that answer, the group then pressed the group for more answers, though Thaldrak accidentally let slip that there was a theft from Blackstaff tower the night prior. 
  • The moment the words left his lips, the Dwarf regretted it, as Hanlon Razor started shouting commands at wizards – "Begin the Protectorate Protocol!" the director shouted. The scene erupted into panic, wizards grabbing research materials and fleeing to-and-fro into every door available to gather what they could and begin making copies. Quartz remained behind as the lone curious wizard, still watching as T'avin completed his ritual. He offered his assistance, and though he said he specialized in communication magic from the divination school, said he would do what he could to assist in the group's investigation. Content with this, they turned their attention inward as T'avin completed the ritual. Nothing… aside from the eminent magic of the extradimensional room itself, of course. Unsatisfied with this answer, Thaldrak moved to look behind the mirror, where he saw two aged pieces of parchment, whereupon symbols were sketched with a quivering, yet purposeful hand. He shared the discovery with the rest, who noted it. Though they did not recognize the symbols, they could easily recognize that one was to do with an octopus, while the other depicted various phases of the moon.

  • Content that they had found what they might in Manion's room, they left, shut the door, and discussed with one another whether they should investigate the room of Zalara, next. "So if it's full with furniture only, we're going to just torch everything, yeah?" Kay said, not quickly forgetting their recent battle with the mimics. "Unless there are more flammable clues," Thaldrak responded, grimly. Asking whether they had found anything yet, Quartz looked between the party. Arentian then handed him the note, and asked whether he recognized anything on the page. Though finding it difficult to concentrate on the staircase with the wizards running about, their hands overflowing with research materials, often pushing past the group, Quartz hummed to himself as he reached the end of the small parchment. "Virro, I know that name." He began, "A former friend of Manion and Zalara, I think! Made a point of visiting them, several times! Could never forget that elven lass. Long, gorgeous hair that was white and tied in a braid that hung down to the back of her knees. Beautiful fair skin, her. She seemed like a pretty dangerous sort, too… always had with her two other folks. I remember fondly, one was this massive fellow, black robes and blue skin! Hard to forget, that. The other was this dwarven woman… she was massive, had tattoos that covered her face and a massive belt buckle the shape of a bear's head! Nearly blocked her breastplate entirely. Rough bunch, I'm sure." Though when asked about the other names on the page – Magnum Opus, Alkahest – and about Salsalaniir or Leduc, Quartz shook his head and said he'd never heard them before. 
  • Eventually, the group was ready to enter Zalara's room. Enthoril took the key, placed it in the lock, and turned it about. "Ready?" He said to the rest. They nodded, crouched in battle-ready positions. Enthoril flung the door open wide, and they saw only pitch black, magical darkness. Thinking fast, Quartz called out to one of the moving wizards, a stuttering man with moppy hair and a dirty face, who dispelled the darkness quickly before dashing on to another room. Once the darkness was dispelled, they saw a sight not too dissimilar from Manion's room. A small stone-walled chamber filled with furniture – in the same layout as Manion's – stood, undisturbed. A single book laid open on the desk. Looking to one another, T'avin then asked Arentian, "Do you have mage hand?" Arentian nodded, and magically reached out to grab the book. The red-backed tome flipped open as Arentian gently brought it before him, looking at the open pages. A small sentence was written in a runic language that Arentian did not recognize. Curious, Arentian began to turn the book around, meaning to inspect the cover, other pages… but a small, featureless stone began to fall from somewhere within the pages

  • It happened as if the world were slowed by a time stop spell. The stone – which the party knew from Manion's note likely contained a spell of delayed fireball – fell to their feet. Dozens of wizards bustled about the busy staircase, their arms overflowing with scrolls, notes and books. The party were gathered in a semi-circle about the floating tome… and falling object. In an instant, it hit. The fireball was all-consuming, engulfing the region in and about everyone in a 20-foot radius in a smouldering ball of pure incineration. But just before the stone hit the ground, Kay already began to spring into reflexive action. Using the agile strength in his toes and feet, the halfling sprung back, beginning to flip over the railing of the staircase as the ball was milliseconds from striking the ground. His dexterous halfling fingers wrapped tightly around the banister as he swung a full 360 degrees, dropping along the poles of the railing to hang beneath the staircase, shielding all but the tips of his fingers from the blast. The others were not so lucky. The flames licked and devoured everything in it's path, creature and object alike. The floating purple torches in the tower exploded, propogating the blast further in a chain reaction of colourful, magical destruction. Thaldrak and T'avin were knocked from their feet, Enthoril blasted back into Zalara's room. Quarts flew straight through the railing and bannister and beyond, tumbling many dozens of feet to a sickening crunch at the stone floor, below. Arentian, Thaldrak and T'avin fell into a dangerous slumber of unconsciousness as their charred forms lay upon the blasted stone stairs, though Enthoril just barely clung to consciousness. The wizards were not so lucky. Nearly all of the dozen wizards within the viscinity of the blast were completely annihilated, both research and researcher reduced to a synonymous pile of dusty ash. As the cacophonous echo from the explosion faded into a distant moan, Kay and Enthoril gathered themselves on the staircase and immediately moved into action, Kay taking his healer's kit and tending to his dying companions, stabilizing them. 
  • A wail of sorrow rung out above moans and groans of the survivors as the wizards grieved for their decimated colleagues, but mainly their lost research. Hanlon Razor ran up the stairs to ask what happened, and Kay explained the situation. "I'll contact the Order and the Girded Healers… good god…" Hanlon Razor started to stutter and hyperventilate as he moved about the ashen bones of his now-dead colleagues. The stuttering wizard friend of Quartz helped out, giving Kay several potions of healing to bring Arentian, Thaldrak and T'avin back to consciousness. At that moment, however, Enthoril moved into the cindered remains of Zalara's room to investigate what remained… and the door shut behind him. 

  • "Who has the key?" T'avin said to the rest, and his gaze was met with silence. "…I guess that Enthoril has the key, then!" The party asked around what happens when the door shut, and they met a tall, bald elven female wizard named Jacqueline. She said that depending on the magical capacity of the person entombed, they could be stuck in there for days. The group said all that Enthoril had no spellcasting capacity left and only wore the magical shield. "How do we get him out?" Thaldrak said. Jacqueline said that the Hanlon Razor might have the master key

The scene was utter chaos - the party had no time to miss their entombed friend, being exposed – literally naked -  and surrounded by the charred remains of a dozen wizards.


  • At that moment, Arentian – having recovered from the blast, completely naked (everyone's flammable items and clothes where incinerated in the blast) – stumbled out of the House of Wonders in a haze, dumbfounded, blaming himself for the incident. 
  • Meanwhile, T'avin came down to speak to Hanlon Razor about the situation, coming upon the front entrance foyer – the chandeliers chattered and hanging by tattered metallic threads from the explosion – the moment a plethora of knights burst in, led by Mos Neduz. Immediately, she barked out orders to get the two clerics or paladins to heal the injured and tend to the situation. However, T'avin was surprised to see Hanlon Razor, gasping for breath, barely capable of speaking. First thinking he was panicking, T'avin did what he could to calm the man down, taking him to a sidelong waiting room before the closed door of his office. Before long, though, he figured out that the source of Hanlon Razor's breathing difficulties was poison or disease. Desperately, he stuffed one of the contaminated healing potions down Hanlon Razor's throat… and the wizard director began to freak out. He stripped from his clothes (and now T'avin and the director were both naked) and T'avin had to wrestle the man to the ground, preventing him from leaving the House of Wonders. Hanlon Razor crumpled to a wheezing, gasping heap as T'avin fell over him. In a desperate bid to save the man's life, T'avin placed his palms on the man's chest and pumped him full of magical energy. In a last breath, he leaned up and pulled T'avin closer to say "I'm sorry. I am so sorry. I didn't mean… You…" and he died. The Girded Healers did their best to save him but had already used all of their holy energies on saving those wounded in the blast. 
  • Investigating the scene, T'avin found a bottle of port, nearly empty. The last bit of port had these little claw-like appendages — hundreds of them. As news spread of the death of Hanlon Razor, the wails of misery and sadness from the wizards reached a billowing crescendo. Mos left to get Dame Commander Brenlin, and after Thaldrak insulted his Clerical abilities, one of the two knights stormed out after her. They discussed what had transpired, as Arentian arrived back with some clothes (a rather dashing black and white marching uniform) and Thaldrak and Arentian accompanied Jacqueline upstairs to try to find the master key, while T'avin and Kay searched the office of the former Hanlon Razor.
  • Following Jacqueline upstairs, Thaldrak and Arentian heard from her that "Hanlon Razor" was more of a title, something they had already heard from the Hanlon Razor, himself. When they asked how a new Hanlon Razor is selected Jacqueline told them it's "a ceremonial process". She explained it could take up to two tendays before a new Hanlon Razor is selected. When they made it to the bedroom, Jacqueline told them that entering the room of the Hanlon Razor was sufficient to provide eligibility to become the next one… assuming you were a wizard. Rifling through the lavish, massive bedroom, Thaldrak found a list neatly tucked deep underneath one of the mattresses – a list of magical items. Among them, the Talisman of Shadows as well as Liara's Mirror were both crossed out. Arentian, meanwhile, found the key tucked deep within one of the pillows. The key was an eloquent ruby rose ribbed where fingers could wrap around it to grip, and it was nearly as long as Arentian's forearm. Suddenly, the house of wonders trembled as for the second time in several hours, an explosion rocked the foundation of the wizard's academy. 
  • Meanwhile downstairs, Kay and T'avin poured over the office of Hanlon Razor, which contained a single desk, chair and several large, empty bookcases. A big mason bust depicting a firm face with curled locks of hair that reached down to a chiseled jaw. A scrawled note and letter was written on a page on the desk when Kay walked in, while T'avin examined the bust. However, Kay noticed that several names had been written on the desk – "Vertrix" and "Balthazaar Viscari" – … and a hidden panel underneath it! Moving underneath the massive stained, oaken bureau, Kay slid back the panel and saw a bit of the pommel of a blade, wrapped in a large burlap bag tied tightly with string. He noticed several fine twines and threads tied over the item, stretching back and around the desk. Calling for T'avin to come have a look, the pair eventually decided to leave it alone, for now. Frustrated, Kay slammed the panel back into place… and heard the snapping of twine. The back behind of the legway for the desk gave way, revealing five hanging orange beads from an elegant necklace… and two jade hammers that smashed into them, triggering the second fireball that would envelop the pair, that day. The blast incinerated everything in the room except the bust, Kay just barely surviving the scalding incineration. Immediately, he brought out his healer's kit and tended to T'avin, then pouring one of the contaminating healing potions down the sorcerer's throat. Thankfully, though, T'avin fought through the noxious qualities and came to, surverying the blackened room and the three magical items that lay on the floor:

    • The most interesting of which was a red crystalline blade, that appeared to have been shattered into many large shards, though they did not hit the ground. They hung together and moved slowly with slight rotations about one another, hovering among themselves and above the platinum skull handle, rubies in the eyes and a ruby-like gem stretching down to the lower-jawed pommel. A blackened tape circled around the handle. 
    • A black and white wand, on one end, there was some kind of an eloquent white pearl, though on the other, a blackened obsidian stone that seemed to be stopped mid-shatter into many sharp pieces.
    • A translucent pale cube that passed through slight coloration with a shift in glance, as if it were a prism to every light source. Another three-dimensional shape seemed to be encased within the cube. 
  • T'avin placed his hand on the blade and heard a booming voice within his mind, demanding for 'one of the mountains, one with the stone'. Just then, the stone bust moaned and groaned… as if it were coming to life! It said with a stoney, rumbling voice… "The new Hanlon Razor… has been chosen! Magnus Mortenson… is the new Hanlon Razor!" and the bust went remarkably still.
  • At that moment, Thaldrak burst in with Jacqueline, Arentian bringing up the rear, but noticing something off to the left, near the center of the tower, and moving away from the coming group. T'avin gave the blade to Thaldrak, who heard it speak into his mind, saying it was called 'Shardalon'. T'avin told Jacqueline what the bust had said, and her jaw went agape, claiming that this was impossible. The group suddenly got a whole lot larger, then, as Lady Laeral Silverhand and Dame Commander Brenlin entered the House of Wonders, Brenlin barking out commands at her soldiers as the leaders joined up with Arentian and entered the office, casting curious glances between all of the naked party. Quickly, they explained the situation, though while doing so, Thaldrak dropped the blade, the shards clattering to the floor and cushioning the blow with the space between them, yet remaining in place. "It told me to kill you," Thaldrak said, looking at Dame commander Brenlin. Her face screwed up with frustration and perplexity before she left to tend to the calls for help from one of her own. "Look, what do you need?" Silverhand asked the group. They discussed what needed to be done, and Silverhand asked them to hurriedly conclude their business in the city and depart for the monetary as soon as they could. She urged them to go to the Arcane Brotherhood in Luskan, where the note referred to as Manion and Zalara's last known location. She gave them the name of the leader of the Arcane Brotherhood – High Arcanist Amadeus Ashwind. Silverhand said she would bring the party a writ of passage as a referral to speak to someone in the brotherhood. She said she knew Haxiris and worked with him aboard a ship, but he was killed at sea. 
  • Their discussion was interrupted by the raised voices outside, though, as Jacqueline seemed to be having an argument with Dame Commander Brenlin. It was then that the group noticed the shackles and massive padlock to the twin double-doors leading to the basement of the place were on the floor, the door standing ajar. After much confusion, Laeral Silverhand forced a confession out of Jacqueline, who told them that the incident had brought forth an ancient creature from the far plane, which they simply knew as "The Discoverer". She said the creature was used by the Netheril and ancient Fire Giant clans to find powerful magics, but the House of Wonders kept it prisoner in "The Below" to study, as almost nothing was known about it before The Incident. Unfortunately, though, it seemed that the creature was released by a few humanoids, and the party suspected the guild was behind this. Jacqueline was arrested and the party made their way out of the House of Wonders as soon as they could. 
  • Leaving the place, the group emerged into a massive seaside storm that had enveloped Waterdeep. Lightning licked between the clouds as thunder shook the very wet ground they tread upon, rain pouring in thick curtains that heavily obscured their vision. It was then that Arentian told the group that the children were kept with his relatives, though Grim had been taken… by another tiefling. Immediately, they suspected Salsalaniir, and Thaldrak groaned with frustration. The group quickly made for the Dock Ward, where T'avin said they had something that needed to be done. They made their way to a ramshackle little wooden hut in the slummy dock ward, and as T'avin knocked on the door, he explained it was a fortune teller; an Oracle. They entered the building and had barely enough room, coming before the ancient, stinking woman who was dressed in eccentric gypsy garb. The place was full of empty bottles and peculiar trinkets and statues, a giant crystal orb twice the size of the biggest of human heads laid between the old gnome woman and the party, as she spoke to them. She talked of many things:

    • A Citadel of Cinders… the King Ignitus… A Conflagration Cabal…
    • Looking between T'avin and Arentian, she spoke of 'The Silver and The Gold'
    • Many enemies, the Chapter Ring…
    • She asked them to join hands and she then began a prophetic reading, her crystal orb glowing with an ultraviolet, darkish purple nebulae, spinning stars whirling about before the group, transfixed on the fortune telling device. She then said: 

Click here to listen to the prophecy that killed the woman

  • The Oracle died telling a riddled prophecy to the party, at the end of which a booming voice said "Do not interfere", and she was crunched into a broken heap while the crystal ball shattered. "Oh no!" Arentian said, softly, moving to check if any life was left in the collapsed heap of the lady. T'avin grabbed a few tomes that were tucked underneath her pile of pillows that she sat upon (behind many piles of empty whisky bottles) and gave two full bottles of the potent liquor to Thaldrak. They made their way back through the storm to the Flagon Dragon Inn without much incident. Though Morak was still in a chipper mood, the festive atmosphere of the previous night did not much carry over into the inn, as a few people recognized Arentian as the naked fellow who emerged from the House of Wonders. Making a point of silencing the man, the group heard from Morak that Lord Sid had expected them. Thaldrak also heard from Brom that a few visitors had come by looking for the party… he described the people that Thaldrak recognized as likely being Virro and her companions, as described earlier by the now-dead Quartz. Wanting this painful day to be at an end, Thaldrak and Arentian set out to find him and retrieve the the Rings of Sending from Lord Sid. Retrieving the magic rings from Lord Sid's serving boy, the pair tested them out on each other as they walked home through the rain. They discovered that the rings not only allowed mental communication, but it translated the voice and accent into one most understandable to the receiver. Thinking out of the box, Thaldrak then placed one of the rings on Max, who gave Arentian the biggest surprise of his life. Max spoke to Arentian for the first time. His first words were "HOLY FUCKING SHIT, I've been wanting to talk to you for so fucking long!" Max told Arentian about seeing Salsalaniir come to the house, and that he had snuck out of the place to find his master and their group. WHen he had been rejoined with Arentian after he picked Max up from the house, Max said he saw several invisible people walking about the House of Wonders, and described them in full. 
  • T'avin made some interesting discoveries from a book he found at the Oracle's hut… 

 

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