Starting Date: Spring's Fifth, Millennium 7 Year 116
Starting Location: Clockwork Garden, The Council of Wyrms
- Ikalt Dolvann (DJ) - A Gevani halfling sent on a journey by his people to learn more about the world and master his growing temper.
- Zieg Lockson (Devin) - The son of a famous archaeologist, Zieg has spent his life escaping his father's legacy. But after Professor Lockson's mysterious disappearance...
- Nadiya Teloq (Katy) - The granddaughter of a fiendish dragon, she has devoted her life to the service of the Council to atone for the sins of her tiefling blood.
- Steele Gryffin (Jeremy) - Everything a hero should be (at least in his own head), there is nothing Steele isn't good at except perhaps reality. His real name is Florian Bellrose.
- Roek Ysmygu (Lauren) - Unlike most of her fellow gyrfolk, the masked Roek has a well-developed sense of wanderlust and a penchant for finding her way out of trouble and into locked rooms.
The Curate of the Tomes (Session 1, Days 1 - 5)
Spring's Fifth, 7.116
- The party is assembled in the office of Tolten Fremm, Deputy Curate of the Tomes. The Curate has a small problem and the group has been brought together because each of them has a skill or specialty that should prove useful. Goblins have been discovered roosting in some ruins east of Fleita, and rather than send in some Dragon Knights--and risk damaging important historical artifacts--a small group is going to be dispatched to clean up the mess. Zieg is being sent because of his father's background in ruin exploration, while Steele has a (self-professed) reputation as a field archaeologist. As the Gevani have a history of fighting with goblins, Ikalt is being sent along as an expert in dealing with the squatters. Roek, who brought the original missive on behalf of Fleita, is returning with the group to serve as a local guide around both the city and to the ruins. Finally, Nadiya is being sent as part of her duties to the temple, to help with the actual work of goblin-slaying.
- With their ship not leaving until later that day, the party splits up and kills some time.
- That afternoon, the party slowly accretes at the airship docks, welcomed aboard the Painted Wing by Captain Irgnen Jarvus. They are shown to a cabin and the ships sets off.
Spring's Sixth, 7.116
- The party arrives at an unconscionable hour in the morning and decides to find an inn in Fleita. Roek takes the party to the Boosted Roost, an inn run by an old associate of hers, another gyrfolk named Vich Kyrsryk. The party spends the day preparing.
Spring's Seventh, 7.116
- The party departs in the morning, following a path that will take about a day-and-a-half to reach the site of the ruins. Though their personalities chafe some, the day passes uneventfully.
Spring's Eighth, 7.116
- In the night, while Steele and Zieg keep watch over the camp, they are distracted by sounds in the bush. Their attempt to discover the cause chases their target away unseen. The party attempts to follow the tracks...only to become hopelessly lost.
- The party spends considerable time blundering around, Zieg and Roek taking turns getting the group catastrophically lost.
- The monotony of their predicament is broken when Roek, scouting a new sound the party has detected, accidentally stumbles onto a group of strange orcs. They are clean-cut, with well-tended equipment, and with a strange hide pigmentation that looks almost like tiger stripes of dark green on light green skin. When they notice Roek after she accidentally steps on a branch, they immediately pursue her, following her back to the party, where they engage in a heated battle. A near-done thing, the party manages to slay four of the orcs, with the last escaping at speed.
- With a few injuries and expended magic, the party stops to take a rest.
Spring's Ninth, 7.116
- The party decides to put the mystery of the strange orcs aside and get on with their task. They finally find the path again and arrive at the mouth of the cave that leads to the ruins. It looks like all the outside trappings have been dragged inside and the mouth clogged with debris to form a paltry wall.
Down in Goblin Camp (Session 2, Day 5)
Spring's Ninth, 7.116, cont.
- The party cautiously probes the barricade, only to discover that it has been trapped (quite badly) to make noise when disturbed, but is otherwise left untended. Breaking through, the intrepid adventurers follow the cave--a fissure opened by one of the frequent earthquakes--until it runs into an artificial underground tunnel.
- As soon as the party nears the exit to the tunnel, goblins spring out and attack, though they are ultimately dispatched with relative ease.
- Following footprints, Steele hazards to guess that they are located in a section of ancient dwarven roadway, which once connected two of their underground settlements. Judging by the condition of the side passages, it was cut-off and isolated by a powerful earthquake some time after the protective magics inside failed. There does not seem to be anything of interest or value amidst the debris.
- At the far end of the passage, Roek--once again in spy mode--identifies a small camp where the remainder of the goblins bicker and laze about, unaware of the fate that has befallen their guards.
- The party forms up, ranged weapons drawn, and advances to the limit of their weapons. Then, they fire into the camp and the battle begins. Predictably, most of the goblins attempt to hide, though the leader releases a pair of flea-ridden goblin dogs to get chopped up. Once the battle becomes a stalemate of waiting, some of the party members grow impatient and advance on their foes, ignoring Steele's (shockingly and uncharacteristically sound) admonitions to remain and just shoot at the goblins when they inevitably grow impatient. Regardless, the targets end up being easily dispatched in melee, though one of them manages to run past the party and escape out of the ruins.
- Inside the camp, the party finds the devoured carcass of an ox and what would have likely been the goblins' next meal: a dwarf. He thanks his rescuers and introduces himself as Moudo Giltgiver, a merchant of humble means who was waylaid by the goblins on the road. The party agrees to escort him back to Fleita.
- Making a last survey of the ruins, the party determines that there is nothing of interest. All of its exits completely collapsed, all that remains is a straight segment of tunnel perhaps five hundred yards long.
- Once the party surfaces, Moudo tells them that when he was attacked, the goblins managed to abduct him and cut one of his oxen loose and kill it. The other, injured and panicking, fled with the wagon still attached. Though it was mostly full of minor goods of middling worth, he did have a bolt of silk cloth and a small lockbox with precious spices that represented most of his wealth. He would be a ruined man without it, and says he will pay the party if they track down and recover his wagon.
- Going to the site of the attack, Zieg manages to track the ox's path, only to discover that it was waylaid, the ox slain and the entire wagon hoisted up and carried off. Judging by the tracks, nearly a dozen individuals must have been involved. The party decides they will follow the tracks and attempt to find the wagon the following day, after camping to recover from their injuries in the goblin battle.
Tourist Season (Session 3, Days 6 - 20)
Spring's Tenth, 7.116
- The party spends a day tracking the wagon.
Spring's Eleventh, 7.116
- Finally, the party locates the wagon and its abductors: a larger group of the mottled orcs that they had met earlier. Deciding to try parlay instead of combat, most of the party approaches except for Roek, who remains hidden in case the situation turns violent. Unfortunately, it is quickly discovered that the orcs speak no language known to any of the members of the group. Though they are able to detect hints of both Old Common and Orluhn in its vocabulary and speech patterns, they are ultimately unable to communicate. Additionally, Ikalt's tribal tattoos seem to agitate the orcs, including one who wears extensive tattoos as well (though they are visually dissimilar to the halfling's).
- The party departs in peace, but without the wagon. An orc accidentally urinates on the hiding Roek, who them runs.
- Steele says if they return to Fleita, he can secure a scroll that will help him understand the orcs and they can try again.
- The party begins returning to Fleita.
Spring's Twelfth through Fourteenth, 7.116
- The party spends several days returning to Fleita.
Spring's Fifteenth, 7.116
- Arriving in Fleita, the party returns to the Boosted Roost and waits while Steele orders the scroll.
Spring's Sixteenth, 7.116
- It takes some time for the scroll to be written.
- Since they are unsure if they can recover Moudo's goods, the party--feeling sympathy for the merchant--buys a pony and wagon for him, to begin rebuilding his business.
Spring's Seventeenth, 7.116
- Securing the scroll, the party departs.
Spring's Eighteenth and Nineteenth, 7.116
- The party spends several days returning to the orcs' camp.
Spring's Twentieth, 7.116
- The party arrives at the old camp, but it was vacated several days prior. After some debate, the party decides to follow the orcs.
Spring's Twenty-first through Twenty-fourth, 7.116
- Tracking the orcs, the party--with less of a burden--is able to travel slightly faster than their quarry and slowly catch up.
Spring's Twenty-fifth, 7.116
- Finally, late on the sixth day of pursuit, the party encounters the orcs, who seem to have shed several of their number. Steele uses the scroll of tongues he commissioned and the party approaches the orcs again. Though they are initially suspicious, they agree to parlay. Throughout the exchange, the orcs are suspicious, guarded, and show a healthy disdain for the local populace and governments. Several arguments occur between the apparent leader of the orcs and the tattooed orc who earlier was agitated at Ikalt's bodypaint.
- Through several clues throughout the course of the conversation, Steele comes to the conclusion that the orcs are from south of the Galecage, the world-girdling storm. He says this aloud, and all pretense of civility evaporates, the orcs drawing weapons and attacking.
- It is a brutal fight, and Steele is a big, fat dumb who kills the orcs' leader in single combat through no skill of his own. Though outnumbered, the party manages to waylay their opponents, killing all of them except the tattooed orc, who uses magic that causes several of his tattoos to disappear one at a time. This one, they restrain and subdue, tying him up after knocking him unconscious.
Work Complete! (Session 4, Days 20 - 34)
Spring's Twenty-fifth, 7.116, cont.
- While gathering the gear and spoils from the orcs, the party recovers a crude map. Between the various members of the group, they are able to determine that it looks like a representation of the local area between the lowest reaches of the Wallshard Heights and the northern edge of the Sea of the Hundred Bays. Covered in strange symbols and marks--including some that appear to correspond with various settlements in the area--the party wonder as to its exact purpose, but decide their priority is to return to Fleita with the prison and then to Clockwork Garden to turn in their quest.
Spring's Twenty-sixth through Twenty-seventh, 7.116
- The party spends several days returning to Fleita. Not having to follow tracks, their journey goes much faster.
Spring's Twenty-eighth, 7.116
- The party is attacked by a dire bear in the night. It is a deadly battle, but they ultimately defeat the beast, taking its hide and claws as their spoils.
- Afterwards, they continue on to Fleita.
Spring's Twenty-ninth, 7.116
- The party spends another day returning to Fleita.
Spring's Thirtieth, 7.116
- The party arrives in Fleita. They are stopped by the gate guards because of their cargo: an unconscious orc. After explaining a bit of their story, the party is escorted to the local base for the Dragon Knights.
- Ikalt takes a detour to return the recovered silk and spices to Moudo. The merchant is grateful beyond words and gives them a reward; it is small, but all he can afford for now.
- The party is met by a dwarf, the Deputy Curate of the Lances, Thysson Strongbrow. He hears out their story and investigates their evidence, including the strange equipment recovered from the orcs. He agrees to look into the matter and will pass on his findings to Deputy Curate Fremm in Clockwork Garden.
- Their business in Fleita finished for the moment, the party goes to the airship port and discovers that the next flight out isn't until the morning. They secure passage on the Gossamer and decide to sleep in the ship's hold instead of finding an inn.
Spring's Thirty-first, 7.116
- The Gossamer arrives in Clockwork Garden, but it is late and the Curate of the Tomes is already closed for the day.
Spring's Thirty-second, 7.116
- The party meets outside the Curate's offices the next morning and secure a meeting with Deputy Curate Fremm, who is pleased that the mission is complete, if a little put off at how long it took. The party tells Fremm some of what transpired and mention that the Curate of the Lance may be sending a report along soon. The party receives payment for completing their task and is released from service to the temple, though the Curate is happy with their performance and would not be averse to offering them more work in the future.
- The party decides they will investigate some of the places marked on the map they recovered, but first want to wait around a few days to see if word from Fleita comes in.
Spring's Thirty-third through Thirty-seventh, 7.116
- The party waits around for five days, but no word is received.
Spring's Thirty-eighth, 7.116
- Done with waiting, the party books passage aboard an airship bound for Fleita, the Path of the Moon.
- They arrive late that evening.
Spring's Thirty-ninth, 7.116
- Stopping by the Dragon Knight base, they receive another audience with Deputy Curate Strongbrow. He admits that the interrogation of the prisoner is not going as well as they had hoped, with the orc only willing to repeat a single phrase: Glory to the One God. A priest is being brought in from Clockwork Garden to use compulsion magic to see if they can learn any more. Any news the Curate of the Lance uncovers will be sent on to the Curate of the Tomes.
- The party purchases supplies for a long journey, planning to go at least two weeks out into the wilderness, as well as a donkey to put it all on. The donkey is summarily named Toastie.
Road Through Nowhere (Session 5, Days 35 - 67)
Spring's Fortieth, 7.116
- The party departs Fleita.
Spring's Forty-first through Forty-fifth, 7.116
- Traveling through the forests, the party encounters nothing dangerous or especially difficult.
Spring's Forty-sixth, 7.116
- The party arrives in the village of Stallheight. They learn that several weeks earlier, a home within the village's protective wall was burned down and the family went missing. Though the Dragon Knights were petitioned to investigate, they were unable to determine what had happened.
Spring's Forty-seventh, 7.116
- The party departs Stallheight.
Spring's Forty-eighth through Fifty-third, 7.116
- The party continues traveling without any events of note.
Spring's Fifty-fourth, 7.116
- Near midday, Zieg notices a metallic glint in the woods. Roek goes to investigate and discovers the corpse of a wolf, being devoured by a gnawrat: an iron-hided monster known for making large, sprawling hive networks. Though a major threat, the party decides to ignore it for the moment; they'll let the inhabitants of the next village know that it's there.
Spring's Fifty-fifth, 7.116
- The party continues traveling.
Spring's Fifty-sixth, 7.116
- The party arrives in Venth's Wall, a village well into the woods and surrounded by a (relatively) impressive wall. There, they inform the locals of the gnawrat nest while learning that the locals are concerned that a regular merchant who often visits the village has missed his latest appointment. The Curate of hte Lance had dispatched a junior Dragon Knight who was investigating, but they, too, had disappeared.
Spring's Fifty-seventh, 7.116
- The party departs Venth's Wall. Most of a day's hike outside of town, they discover some evidence of someone being waylaid within the last month: bits of torn cloth and splinters of worked wood. As one might find if a merchant's wagon had been ransacked and then mostly carted off.
Spring's Fifty-eighth through Sixty-third, 7.116
- Still traveling through the forests, the party continues to encounter nothing dangerous.
Spring's Sixty-fourth, 7.116
- The party arrives in Port Endside, the northern-most port on the Sea of the Hundred Bays.
- Making their way to the local Temple of the Lance, they speak with the Dragon Knight in charge--Knight Commander Yuros--getting a full accounting of the ships sighted previously and the results of the patrols looking for the strange orcs: in short, nothing. A few, scattered reports of sightings and some strange goings-on like the missing merchant and the burned house in Stallheight. They also learn that the ships turned to the east and sailed out of sight in that direction.
- Deciding that they will go east as well, following some nominal clues on their map, they decide to make for the eastern edge of the Council of Wyrms: the port city of Karnan, on the banks of the Inland Sea. The Kngiht Commander secures them passage aboard an airship.
Spring's Sixty-fifth, 7.116
- The party departs Karnan aboard the airship Vast Goose.
Spring's Sixty-sixth, 7.116
- The party's aerial travel is uninterrupted.
Spring's Sixty-seventh, 7.116
- The party arrives in Karnan with dawn.
- They immediately travel to the local Temple of the Lance and are granted an audience with Knight Commander Thysson Strongbrow (brother to the Curate of the Lance, Vactus Strongbrow), speaking with him as they had with Knight Commander Yuros before. He informs them that monster activity in the area has increased noticibly in the last month or so, and travelers have begun to disappear on the road. The party resolves to try their luck on the road as well, though they take the rest of the day to procure supplies.
Spring's Sixty-eighth, 7.116
- The party departs Karnan.
Spring's Sixty-ninth, 7.116
- In the wee hours of the morning, while camping, the Roek and Nadiya--while on watch--detect an interloper at the edge of their camp. Though the figure manages to escape unaccosted, a roused Zieg confirms that the tracks left most certainly could have been left by one of the orcs they have been hunting. The party resolves to follow the trail as soon as the sun rises and their human ranger can actually track them.
- Following the tracks, the party travels for nearly half a day before finally arriving at a clearing. There, they find the largest group of the foreign orcs yet, with more than a dozen individuals present. They are congregated around a hole they seem to have excavated in the earth, with a large pile of fresh earth nearby.
- After some debate, the party decides to attack. Eschewing stealth, Ikault, Steele, Nadiya, and Zieg advance under a hail of arrows while Roek sneaks around to the side and attempts to take out one of the tattooed magic-users that seem to serve as the orcs' only access to spellcraft. By now well-acquainted with killing orcs, they party make short work of the numerically superior foe, though both Roek and Zieg end up blinded by magic in the process. One of the orcs makes their escape when the battle is obviously lost, while another leaps into the excavated hole, followed shortly by Steele, who discovers a second tattooed orc in the hole, whom he proceeds to also kill.
- As the dust settles, Ikault and Nadiya join Steele inside the pit, which they discover leads into a section of buried tunnel that ends in collapsed ruin on one side and a small chamber with a massive stone doorway at the other.
- Cowering in the chamber, the party encounters a small creature that they at first confuse for being a large rat. It eventually unfolds itself, gibbering at them in a language they cannot understand, and Nadiya recognizes it as one of the ratfolk: a race of people thought extinct in the northern hemisphere. At first dismissive, Steele grows significantly more intrigued when he discovers that the creature can speak Old Common. It introduces itself as Beytu, a slave of the orcs brought by them from their home to serve as an aide to the tattooed orc that Steele had just killed. He reveals that his lot in life was pretty dismal, but if it is discovered--or even suspected--that he is still alive while his masters are not, then the family he left back home will be killed in retribution.
- After some debate, the party decides to hold off on going through the doorway until they can cure Roek and Zieg of their blindness. Steele--who cannot yet use magic powerful enough to remove the condition--volunteers to return to Karnan with the blind Zieg and have him healed there, then bring back a scroll that he can use to restore Roek.
Spring's Seventieth, 7.116
- Zieg and Steele return to Karnan. Zieg is healed, Steele procures the scroll of remove blindness, and they vow to set out at dawn the next day.
Spring's Seventy-first, 7.116
- With the setting sun, Zieg and Steele return and restore Roek's sight.
Ruination (Session 6, Day 68)
Spring's Seventy-second, 7.116
- Through a combination of engineering and brute force, the party manages to pry open the entrance to the ruins despite the ancient locking device having long-since rusted shut. A hot wind rushes into the opening, disturbing the thick layer of dust that rests there. Mindful of potential dangers, the party enters carefully, noting that the many areas inside are collapsed or eaten by rust and rot. Lumps in the dust prove to be the ancient remains of bodies. While most of their clothing and gear have faded with the passage of centuries or millennia, small bits of precous metal and gemstones remain.
- In one of the chambers, the party encounters some giant spiders who have adapted over their long captivity to look identical the rocks amongst which they nest. Despite having the element of surprise, they are easily dispatched.
- Entering a side-chamber, the party discovers a stone coffin, in front of which kneels a suit of armor holding a glaive, both made of untarnished mithirl and designed with motifs of feathers and flight. As if the custom of a world with little room for sentimentality in the face of practicality, they take the gear. Such finds are often viewed as one's predecessors reaching out from the past and presenting the riches as a gift to those who have come after, in preparation for surviving a dangerous world.
- Descending a level and making sure to explore every nook and cranny, the party accidentally awakens a small horde of strange, red-lacqured skeletons wielding bizarre, hook-bladed shotel swords. Discovering themselves poorly-equipped to deal with the undead, the battle takes time and several members of the party are badly injured--kept alive only by Steele's divine magic--but they ultimately triumph over their foes.
- Finally, going down a last flight of stairs, the party finds that the ruins end, whatever else might have rested below now lost, a volcanic chamber left in its place. They find themselves staring across a 'floor' of partially-cooled lava in a natural cavern...but they are not alone. One figure in hulking armor and another swaddled in robes are already there, the latter levitating in front of a massive stone obelisk covered in small, crabbed writing.
Stuff of Legends (Session 7, Days 68 - 71)
Spring's Seventy-second, 7.116, cont.
- Faced with the strangers but driven by their curiosity, the party attempts to speak with the pair, but neither the armored man nor the cloaked figure respond. Only when the approach do they get any response: the armored figure launches into an attack as soon as Nadiya sets foot on the hardened lava floor. Though at first, the assailant does not seem an impossible obstacle for the party, their exertions from earlier in the day quickly begin to show: many of them are injured and Steele has already used all of his magic.
- While the attack rages, Steele skirts around the edge and rushes the hooded figure, hoping to get a look at the obelisk. Though he is able to see that it looks to be covered in some sort of record of geneology written in Old Common, a dismissive blast of magic sends the cleric flying and reveals the power level of the enemies they are fighting.
- At Steele's urging, the party moves to retreat and--for the first time--the cloaked figure engages the party, slamming the door shut and expressing his disappointment that they are leaving rather than staying and fighting the armored figure, whom he refers to as Kaisen. Despite his initial disappointment, he proposes that he party resume their fight with Kaisen, which he sees as good training for the armored man. Though hesitant, the promise of a reward makes the party agree, but only if they are restored to full health and fighting ability first.
- Both sides are restored and the battle is joined in earnest. Ikault, Roek, and Nadiya immediately move to engage Kaisen, while Steele holds back to reinforce the party magically and Zieg fires arrows into the melee. Initially, the party displays little coordination, keeping themselves spread out and within easy reach of Kaisen's whirlwind attacks that often manage to connect with three or four of them at a time. Party-way through the battle, they begin to shore up their tactics, moving to hem the armored warrior in--made easier when Steele finally joins the fray after sufficient magic has been invoked--and they are finally able to topple him.
- As Kaisen falls, the figure makes a gesture and the entire party is suddenly paralyzed. Except for Nadiya, whose draconic blood and shaman training make her immune; she is captured with bands of force, instead. They are then dragged into the air before the robed figure, who congratulates them on their victory, saying that his unconscious companion has learned a valuable lesson. In return, he give the party their reward as well as some information. He gestures to the obelisk behind him and says that it is actually a 'nest,' though he does not say what of. Instead, with a swift motion, he causes the obsidian monolith to crack down the middle. Placing his hand against it, the tips of his fingers begin to glow. With a second motion, a ray of light from each finger lances out, striking the party members in their chest. Then he gives them their information, saying "If you wish to find the key to all of this, go to the heart of the Direwild. If you wish to save lives, go to the Tide Princes. If you wish to die, return to Clockwork Garden." With the last word, each member of the party feels a searing pain on their upper right arm before they are launched out of the ruins, back the way they came, and deposited in the small chamber the orcs had tunneled into, the stone slab dragging itself back over the entrance and fusing shut.
- As the paralysis and the force bonds wear off, the party feels something waking inside them: a new power. Whatever the robed figure did in the ruins, it has awoken their Mythic power.
- Checking their arms, each finds that a brand has been burned into their skin. Though all of similar style, they are each slightly different and have no real meaning that the party can discern at present.
- Bound together now by the strange occurences in the ruin, the party decides that there is no room for secrets and everyone comes clean about their pasts. Steele admits that he's actually named Florian Bellrose and may not be quite the adventurer he's made himself out to be. Ikault reveals that he was essentially banished from his tribe for his growing anger issues, which were on full display during the battle with Kaisen. Roek finally removes her mask to show everyone that she is one of the gyrfolk; rare outside of the city of Fleita, she takes pains to hide her identity in assistance of her less-than-legal lifestyle. Zieg talked some more about his father and the man's mysterious disappearance, as well as the fact that they did not get along that well. Finally, Nadiya, the most relcutant of the group, removes her hood and reveals her ancestry as the tiefling grandchild of the fiendish brass dragon Nekahazzrah, the Hunger of Abaddon.
- Their secrets thus lain bare, the party emerges from the hole and surveys the ruined orcish camp. There are signs that someone had been by recently, including tracks that Zieg is able to follow. The party investigates them for several hours, before they find more signs of activity. Roek sneaks furher forward, discovering that the orcs have been busy, clearing away woods and building pallisades. The largest group yet, they have more than a hundred orcs--perhaps as many as 200--as well as signs of siege equipment, wagons, and supplies. Rather than risk suicide against a group that large, the party resolves to warn the Dragon Knights of the danger.
-The party heads back towards Karnan, camping when night falls.
Spring's Seventy-third, 7.116
- The party arrives in Karnan and seeks an immediate audience with Knight Commander Strongbrow. They tell him about the danger and he agrees to send a could of Dragon Knights to overfly the area and scout for the danger.
- Needing a few days to get some items constructed, the party places their orders and discusses their next move. They deicde that their only real option is to head to the Tide Princes and see what they can do about 'saving lives.'
Spring's Seventy-fourth, 7.116
- Returning to the Temple of the Lance, the party speaks against with Knight Commander Strongbrow, who confirms their story and says he is currently recalling a number of his Dragon Knights from the field to form up an assault group to take care of the small fort, but it will take a week to arrange. Prefering to leave as quickly as possible, the party asks for help in getting to the Tide Princes. Though the Council does not run airships outside of their borders, he recommends several reliable ships that can see them across the Sea of the Hundred Bays.
- The party makes arrangements to sail for Valos, the nearest of the five walled cities that make up the Tide Princes. The trip should only require a week aboard the merchant's sloop Mermaid's Foot.
Spring's Seventy-fifth, 7.116
- The party retrieves the items they ordered.
- The party boards the Mermaid's Foot and sets sail.
Red Tide (Session 8, Days 72 - 81)
Spring’s Seventy-sixth through Seventy-ninth, 7.116
- Sail aboard the Mermaid’s Foot.
Spring’s Eightieth, 7.116
- As the evening watch descends, the crew spies a strange wake behind the ship. With barely a moment’s time to react, a terrible beast rears out of the water: a fjord linnorm. Even as a blast of its icy breath scoured the deck, the party noticed that its body was covered with a thick netting from which clung the familiar form of orcish invaders. Leaping from the beast, they came to blows with the party and the ship's crew.
- The party notices that one of the orcs is different from the others—seated atop the linnorm's head and concentrating instead of attacking—and target him. With his death, the linnorm returns to its wild state and begins attacking orcs and sailors indiscriminately. Aided by the new source of chaos, the orcs are dispatched and the linnorm flees back into the ocean.
Spring's Eighty-first through Eighty-fourth, 7.116
- The Mermaid's Foot limps through the water, its rigging and sails damaged by the linnorm and its speed thusly impacted.
Spring's Eighty-fifth, 7.116
- Passing between a pair of encircling cliffs, the Mermaid's Foot enters the calm waters of a protected port and the party gets their first view of the cliff-city of Valos, western-most of the Tide Princes.
The Tide Princes (Session 9, Days 81-91)
Spring's Eighty-fifth, 7.116, cont.
- The party lands in Valos and finds lodging. After making a formal request, they are granted an audience with the ruler of the city the following day.
Spring's Eighty-sixth, 7.116
- The party is escorted into the presence of Leus Vylin, the Tide Prince of Valos and a man of...impressive coiffure. He tells them that despite whatever chaos may be taking place in the Council of Wyrms, the Tide Princes are relatively untroubled. Indeed, there are has actually been a noticeable decrease in monster activity around Valos. He agrees to request an audience on their behalf from his cousin-prince in Liracrast, the nominal capital of the Tide Princes.
- The party secures passage on the Gundletunt bound for Liracrast.
Spring's Eighty-seventh and Eighty-eighth, 7.116
- Sail aboard the Gundletunt.
Spring's Eighty-ninth, 7.116
- Larger and grander that its sister city, the party arrives in Liracrast, whose multi-tiered docks are filled with ships from all over the world, with stevedores and sailors working through all hours of the day and night, while mighty cranes move tons of cargo.
Spring's Ninetieth, 7.116
- The party meets with Toma Val, Tide Prince of Liracrast, Herald of Nereiphim the Waking Storm, and High Prince of the Tide Princes. Harsher and more militaristic than Prince Vylin, he takes the rumors of orcish threat quite seriously and is in the middle of beefing up security in Liracrast while also preparing a scouting fleet to patrol along the waters of the Galecage for signs of attempted crossing. He offers the party a place on the voyage, but after some consideration, they decline, instead planning to return to Valos and explore the area more thoroughly.
- The party secures passage on the Crown of Gulls bound for Valos.
Spring's Ninety-first through Ninety-second, 7.116
- Sail aboard the Crown of Gulls.
Spring's Ninety-third, 7.116
- Arriving back in Valos, the party secures a second meeting with Prince Vylin, who reaffirms that nothing has happened out of the ordinary. The party then resolves to explore the woods north of Valos to try and ascertain why the monster's numbers have apparently decreased so drastically.
Spring's Ninety-fourth, 7.116
- The party heads north into the woods, looking for signs of whatever might be there.
Summer's First, 7.116
- As evening falls, the party comes upon a camp hidden in a small copse of trees. They locate four of the tiger-striped orcs as well as several strange lizards like giant geckos. They attempt to make contact, but are immediately attacked, dispatching three of the orcs with ease and making a prisoner of the fourth.
Runaround (Session 10, Days 91-94)
Summer's First, 7.116, cont.
- In the middle of the night, the party awakes when Zieg announces that their prisoner has escapes, apparently on one of the giant lizards.
- Ikalt leaps aboard his ostrich and races along the trail that Zieg pointed out, managing to catch up with their fleeing prisoner. What followed was a comedy of errors as neither part seemed able to get the upper hand in the chase until Ikalt was finally able to dislodge the still-bound orc, beating him into unconsciousness and dragging him back to camp.
Summer's Second, 7.116
- The party heads back to Valos.
Summer's Third, 7.116
- With the coming of evening, the party arrived in Valos and consigned their prisoner to the city's dungeons.
- The party meets with Prince Vylin in his sauna, where they discuss what they wish of him: a way to magically question their captive, who refuses to speak under normal inducements. The Tide Princes—much like the Council of Wyrms—had powerful injunctions against any magic that manipulates a target's will, but the Prince can receive sanction from the Church of Nereiphim in Liracrast, though it will take several days for a scroll to be delivered. In the meantime, Prince Vylin invites them to a party in their honor to be held the following evening.
Summer's Fourth, 7.116
- After a day spent shopping, the party arrives at the party, sharing tales of their exploits and the things they have seen on their adventure.
- As the party draws to a close, Prince Vylin makes a motion and guards storm into the room, forming a ring of drawn steel around the party. The Prince then announces that he has seen the brands on several of the party when they had joined him in the sauna the previous day and had felt the evil emanating from them, marking them as agents of the Tyrancy. Though at first flustered, the party is able to talk the Prince into a compromise: they will be 'guests' of the local Church of Nereiphim while the priests investigate the marks and the party, but in the meantime, they will continue to wait for the scroll from Liracrast.
- The party retires to the Church, where they receive a communal room for what is expected to be a three-day stay.
Unhallowed Ground (Session 11, Days 95 - 105)
Summer's Fifth, 7.116
- In the wee hours of the morning, the party is awakened as a figure enters their room and introduces himself as Mahadu, an agent of the Tyrancy of Geddephron. Sounds quickly filter through the walls: screaming and the clash of weapons. Without pausing the discover what was going on, Zieg and Roek booth attack Mahadu, striking some powerful blows and causing the man to storm out in a high dudgeon, calling for an ally named 'Thrasser' before disappearing. Nadiya managed to sleep through the entire affair.
- Rushing out, the party discovers that the Church is under attack by the same red-lacquered skeletons encountered back in the ruins where they met Kaisen and the red-robed figure. They were also joined by larger skeletons, who proved both tougher and more vicious. Arranged against them were several desperate temple guards and the acolyte priests. Without pausing, the party lay into the attackers, saving many of the trapped clergy and their beleaguered defenders.
- As the battle seemed to be turning in their favor, a loud crashing sound came from the Church courtyard, bringing the party out to face their greatest foe yet: a giant, skeletal dragon that could breath gouts of black fire and against whom the guards seemed utterly helpless. The party faced the creature, though their powers were already taxed from the previous fighting and even the timely arrival and assistance of Prince Vylin seemed too little, too late until Roek was able to score a deadly blow, finally causing the creature to collapse while the gathered guards, townsfolk, and acolytes cheered.
- As the sun finally rises over the battlefield, the party and the Prince survey the devastation and learn that it is even worse than at first feared: all the leaders of the Church have been slain, torn apart as if by some terrible beast. A new High Priest must be requested from Liracrast, though in the meantime, it is accepted that the party has proven their allegiance and that it does not rest with the Tyrancy.
Summer's Sixth and Seventh, 7.116
- The party helps with the rebuilding and awaits the scroll from Liracrast.
Summer's Eighth, 7.116
- The scroll arrives from Liracrast, but when the party attempts to use it against their prisoner, it fails.
- More debate is held with Prince Vylin, and it is finally decided that their need is pressing enough. A new request will be made of the Church: three more scrolls will be sent, though it will take a week for them to arrive.
Summer's Ninth, 7.116
- In honor of the party's contribution to the defense of the Church, Prince Vylin presents them with a worthy gift. It is a ship captained by the Prince's own sister Tynda and worked by a hand-picked crew of the beefiest, most well-oiled sailors in the land: the Musclebound.
Summer's Tenth through Fourteenth, 7.116
- The party continues to wait and help with matters in the town.
Summer's Fifteenth, 7.116
- The scrolls arrive, along with a delegation of priests from Liracrast, and everyone heads to the dungeons, to finally get some answers.
Questionable Answers (Session 12, Day 105)
Summer's Fifteenth, 7.116, cont.
- The party, Prince Vylin, and the priests from Liracrast confront the captive orc, and Steele uses one of the scrolls to magically charm the orc. He proceeds to question them about their motives, their society, and their purpose in the northern hemisphere. What he learns is startling, to say the least:
The orcs believe themselves to be a people chosen by the One God—the only truly divine being left in creation, who predated even the old gods Kaeshem and Gwolth—and that they alone are 'real,' while all other people are soulless wraiths placed upon the world to tempt orcs away from the path of righteousness. Their society is a highly-stratified absolute theocracy divided into three parts: the Sword of the One God, the Church of the One God, and the Inamorata (females who seem incredibly few in the number and function more like brood queens than individuals). Much of the orc's information was scattered and without context, with places like the 'Armored Port of Durnda Kaya' or the 'Great Cathedral of Xahakron-Za.'
What could be ascertained of immediate value was that all the orcs the party had thus-far encountered were members of a scouting expedition that had sailed through the Great Equatorial Storm under the guidance of their 'One God' and was there to prepare a way for the true invasion fleet coming. The remnants of that group had been gathered together under their leader—Narmral Contentionis—and were preparing a grand battle against the city of Valos. The only problem was that there were fewer than 200 orcs left in the group while Valos was a powerful walled city of thousands.
- The party decides to return to the camp where they captured their prisoner and see if they can trace his route back to Narmral's main camp, in hopes of aborting their attack against Valos. As the party goes to leave, however, Zieg feels something within the very earth beneath him, as if something were...digging...
- Rushing back, the party warns of creatures tunneling through the ground, securing supplies while leaving the city guard on high alert and manning the walls. The party then triangulates the likely position of the forces beneath the ground with several more readings and then digs down, breaking through into a tunnel teeming with goblins and orcish slave-drivers.
- With little thought for their own safety, the party drops into the tunnel, clearing a space for themselves before racing towards the head of the tunnel, trampling orcs and goblins who get in their path, but slowing for nothing. There at the end, they find a concentration of orcs, including more tattooed orcish spellcasters who have in their thrall a team of umber hulks responsible for the tunnel in which they travel.
- The party slays the spellcasters first, then deal with both the orcs and the umber hulks, while strange roars and screams continue building the tunnel behind them. As they finish their work, they turn and discover a great creature of moss and bark: a zomok, a usually-peaceful guardian of truly wild, eldritch places. They discover that it has been enslaved by the same beast-taming magic the orcs have used elsewhere but that the weaver of the magic is actually within the zomok, hiding in its stomach. While Zieg fires shots down the creature's throat, Ikalt worms his way into it just in time to see the final arrow strike home.
- With the beast's death, the goblins finally break free of their fear of the orcs and retreat en masse, giving the party free reign of the tunnels.
- Emerging from the tunnels, the party see signs of battle and realize that there were two tunnels, though the walls of Valos were able to hold against only half the orc's enthralled forces. The party joins the clean-up against them and, as they do so, a flight of drakes flashes overhead, each bearing an orcish rider. Though Zieg manages a parting shot against their leader, it seems that not all the orcs have fallen.
Settling Dust (Session 13, Days 105 - 108)
Summer's Fifteenth, 7.116, cont.
- Regrouping with Prince Vylin, the party learns that the orcs were kept out of the city for the most part, except that the drake riders were able to get access to the port and damage numerous ships, though the Musclebound remains intact, thanks to its secured portage.
- After resupplying, the party makes plans to follow the tunnel back to where they suspect the surviving orcs will be camping.
Summer's Sixteenth and Seventeenth, 7.116
- The party travels through the tunnels, though they are filled with the corpses of goblins and with the very-living rats that are content to feast upon them.
Summer's Eighteenth, 7.116
- As a light dawns at the end of the tunnel, the party finds a lone orc waiting for them. Unlike the others they have seen, this one shows sign of advanced age, with wrinkled skin and white hair. As well, his left eye has been replaced with a crystal that has an aura of divination magic about it. He greets the party, showing surprise at their having mastered pieces of the orcish language though Steele's studies. He tells them that he will take them to the camp of the orcs, where they can treat with Narmral.
- The party arrives in the camp, noting that it is highly-ordered, with discipline strictly kept. At the far end is a giant stone, surrounded by the remaining orcs—nearly fifty in number—and upon which the orcish leader sits: Narmral Contentionis. He invites the party to parlay, though both parties quickly discover that they have little to say to one-another. The party does not care for Narmral's confidence and dogma, while he has no concern over the words of 'wraiths' and is simply meeting with them to see what he can learn.
- As talks break down, Narmral presents the party with two options: under the protection of his parlay, they can depart and the orcs will return to doing what they can to break the city of Valos, or they can draw weapons and both sides will make a fight of it then and there. The party chooses the path of battle.
Green Blood and Red Blood (Session 14, Days 108 - 113)
Summer's Eighteenth, 7.116, cont.
- The battle begins with fury and does not let up. The members of the party are each a combatant of nigh-legendary strength, but the weight of numbers leaves the orcs with a ten-to-one advantage and it tells, as even an errant blow landing still adds up with the sheer number of blows being launched. Several times, the tide of the conflict swings one way or the other, and more than once, members of the party go down, only to be pulled back up by Steele or Nadiya's healing powers.
- It is only in a final desperation that the last of the orcs fall, though the gem-eyed messenger waits unconcernedly at the battle's edge. The party heals themselves as best they can before approaching the last vestige of orcish presence...and a blade flashes from out of nowhere, striking the creature dead where it stands.
- All turning as one, they see a familiar figure clad in robes of red, features hidden. Flanking him are a pair of figures all in red-enameled armor, bearing censers and large, leather cases at their hips, silent behind their face-concealing helmets. The figure introduces himself to the party and informs them that they have greater concerns at the moment than mucking about with a few, petty orcs.
- Steele, sulking at the lost opportunity, roots amongst the corpses and tries to ignore the newcomer.
- The figure tells the party that they have come here at his behest and to reward them, he has another choice for them: they can return to Valos and try to halt the orcish war machine that is coming—and that they will inevitably fail in doing so—or that they can pursue another course, which will defeat the orcs entirely and guarantee that their victory is an eternal one. The party is obviously skeptical, but the figure produces some documents that show the way to reach a certain location where 'the first step may be taken.' Even then, they are doubtful until Zieg recognizes the documents as being in his father's handwriting.
- The figure also reveals itself to be an 'ally' of sorts to both Mahadu and Thrasser—all are agents of the Tyrancy—but that he does not agree with their methods and, in all frankness, they do not get along very well. In the course of their speaking, the figure makes an off-handed comment to Nadiya, implying that he thought her refusal to meet with Mahadu during the raid on the Church was a plan on her part, rather than being a simple accident of her deep sleeping. When she is confused as to why he would think that, the figure finally removes his cowl and mask, revealing an abyssal half-dragon beneath, stating that he thought she did not want to reveal that she was the man's niece and he, her uncle.
- Confiding in Nadiya, he reveals that he is known as Tezmetek and that it was he who saved Nadiya's pregnant mother from the grasp of Nekahazzrah and found them a way onto the Prime Material Plane.
- The party debates what to do, but finally decides that they will accept Tezmetek's offer, though they must return to Valos first to resupply.
Summer's Nineteenth and Twentieth, 7.116
- The party returns to Valos through the tunnels.
Summer's Twenty-first, 7.116
- Arriving in Valos, the party discovers the city in an uproar. While they were gone, it seems that reports out of Liracrast are saying that the city was attacked by a massive orcish fleet, while others of the Tide Princes were blockaded in their ports. No one is sure what is going on, but forces are being mustered to try and respond, though that is difficult going with the docks and ships damaged by the orcish attack.
- The party grieves that they cannot join Prince Vylin in his charge towards Liracrast, but they swear to him that they may have a way of ending the orcish threat entirely. They also return ownership of the Musclebound to him, to use as his command ship in the coming attack.
- After resupplying, the party departs immediately.
Summer's Twenty-first and Twenty-second, 7.116
- The party returns to Tezmetek through the tunnels. The stench of rotting goblin is overpowering and vermin throng the tunnels by the tens of thousands.
Summer's Twenty-third, 7.116
- The party arrives and is greeted again by Tezmetek, who gives them Professor Lockson's papers, which guide them more than a week to the north, to a small swamp along the southern face of Thaudrig Mountains. With no choice, the party sets out on foot.
Mucking About (Session 15, Days 113 - 123)
Summer's Twenty-fourth through Thirtieth, 7.116
- The party travels north, towards the swamp.
- The party encounters a nest of manticores, but decides to skirt around it.
Summer's Thirty-first, 7.116
- Arriving at the edge of the swamp, the party explores about, looking for a way through the mire. They decide to follow a slightly-indirect path towards the mountainside, which they will then follow east to their destination.
- The party spies a strange figure—like a small, bloated humanoid—shambling around in the swamp, picking up frogs and sticking them in its mouth. It appears harmless and the party moves on.
- That night, the party camps on a relatively dry hillock. In the middle of the night, a trio of hags sets upon them, remaining invisible and on the edge of the firelight while they sling spells at the party. Eventually, each is tracked down, cornered, and slaughtered, though many in the party are left blind and cursed.
- One of the hags left her heartstone behind when she died and as the party returns to sleep, it floods the minds of Roek, Nadiya, Ikalt, and Steele with visions of dozens of hags gathered about, all wearing masks. As they watch, masks are placed upon three kneeling hags—those who had just attacked the party—and they are charged with a terrible purpose. Before that purpose can be enumerated, though, Zieg wakes the party from their nightmare and the heartstone crumbles.
Summer's Thirty-second, 7.116
- The next day, the party continues on their way, but as they reach the lee of the mountains, they notice something strange: a walled village built up against the stone cliffs. A closer examination reveals that it is the shabbiest, most dilapidated structure any of the party has ever seen, as if thrown together by children who had only heard stories of fortifications. The party decides to rest for the night and approach the city the following day.
Summer's Thirty-third, 7.116
- Steele cloaks himself in golden radiance and the party approaches the gates, which are suddenly flung open to cries of "heeza beard!" Within, the party is somewhat dismayed to discover that they have found a freehold—a group of survivors from the Age of Heroes who have lived in isolation since—and that these are a particularly inbred group. Cheerful and childlike, the natives great the party warmly, claiming that they are the fulfillment of an ancient 'prophecy' given to them by a mythical figure known as 'daddy': "Stay here, I'll be right back."
- While Steele hailed as a 'beard,' Nadiya removes her hood to reveal her draconic features, which gets her labeled as a 'feesh' and a herald of the swamp-protector Feldinoop, who eats the legs off of frogs to make fish.
- The party decides that Feldinoop must be a great beast in the area who protects the village and resolves to try and contact it to see if they can get help in their own quest. They promise to return as soon as they are able, and though the villagers are sad to see their 'prophets' go, they are happy with the gift of porridge that is left behind.
The Coven of Covens (Session 16, Day 123)
Summer's Thirty-third, 7.116, cont.
- With little in the way of direction, the party walks out into the swamp, only to be greeted almost immediately by Feldinoop: the bloated little man they spied earlier. He proceeds to open his mouth and a fish falls out.
- The party speaks with Feldinoop, learning at he is a Genus Loci, a spirit that awakens in a place of natural power that has been left undisturbed for a long time, much like the zomok they encountered earlier. Except that Feldinoop came about not by the slow wheels of nature, but by the powerful wish of a dying man to protect his children: the villagers. Since that time, he has done his best to keep the villagers safe, though much of the swamp is now controlled by a powerful group of hags known as the Coven of Covens; three groups of three hags who have linked their power together. Additionally, they draw strength not from a great beast, but from a place of power that turns out to be the very location the party is trying to reach.
- Feldinoop also reveals that the Coven of Covens knows the party's destination and will do anything to keep them from messing with the source of the power, including the hag ambush of the night before last. With that having failed and the party still advancing, the hags will mount a powerful defense against them.
- Hoping that it might have some power that could help them against the Coven of Covens, the party has Feldinoop take them to the body of the man who called him into being, which has been interred in a secluded pool in the swamp. Arriving, they find the bog-preserved corpse of a normal man, save that he wears a strange glass gear like a pendant around his neck and it glows with strange magical energy. The party removes the pendant, then returns the corpse to its rest.
- Unsure of how to advance, the party asks Feldinoop if he can help them. The Genus Loci agrees, but only if the party will escort the villagers out of the swamp and to a safer place when all is done. After some thought, the party agrees and Feldinoop says that he will confront the hags, drawing as many of them as he can away and distracting them until at least sundown.
- The party maneuvers into position, moving towards the place of power marked on Professor Lockson's notes: a strange, translucent tower like a needle-pointed spire of glass thousands of feet tall. As they approach, creatures of wood emerge from the ground and a trio of hags begins laying about them with magic: they have discovered the maidens of the Coven of Covens, the weakest of the three, but still mightily strong in their own right. Still, the party dispatches them, discovering as they do that when one is slain, her power is shared amongst her sisters.
- When that third of the Coven of Covens is finally bested, the party finds the door to the tower and see that it is covered in more glass gears like the one they found on the body: a large central gear with a ring of smaller gears around it. There are seven smaller ones, with room for an eighth: their missing gear. First they remove all the gears, but there is no effect, so the party instead places all eight gears in the door, which then turns and opens to reveal a lush garden beyond. Within the garden, a crystal fountain flows and a plague upon its rim is inscribed with a cryptic rhyme that reads:
Seven swords for seven lords,
And one sword for the Thane.
Gods above and gods below,
And a god in all but name.
Seven lands assembled now,
A crown for every head,
And a crown of blackened blood,
For the eighth to rule the dead.
- Through experimentation, the party determines that the inside of the tower is a separate area—perhaps a demiplane of some sort—and that time there moves at a far faster rate when the door is shut, with perhaps ten seconds passing outside for ten minutes within. And the door is only one-way, only able to be opened from the outside, and when it is shut, a second geared door appears on the far wall.
- The party decides to rest in the garden before exploring further.
Too Quickly Done (Session 17, Day 123)
Summer's Thirty-third, 7.116, cont.
(Note: Though the party slept, due to the time disparity, the actual date has not changed)
- Upon waking, the party goes through the door at the far side of the garden and enters what appears to be a series of interconnected rooms with four doors per room. The door selected to walk through also seems to change the nature of the entire floor, creating an impossibly snaking, circular geometry. By resolving to only turn left, the party quickly exits the area without actually doing anything or making any discoveries. Because they're dumb and I hate them.
- The party eventually arrives in a large room with a single spiral staircase that goes up into the sky. As they stand there, a ghostly figure appears in the room with them, though it seems completely unaware of their presence. It is a young man with robes about his waist and a bare chest, though he seems to be adorned in scattered pieces of ceremonial armor and cradles a flame in one gauntleted hand. Looking up the stairs, he says "I knew it" in Old Common before the image fades.
- With little choice left, the party ascends the stairs, which take them what seems like scores of stories up, before they finally emerge onto a landing that looks like it is situated at the height of the tower, inside a giant glass globe that shows the mountaintops and the countryside around them. Inside the globe is a platform upon which three archways are situated, two glowing with a purple light and the third, in the middle, quiescent. Etched lines in the floor lead from the glowing portals to a central stone, and then up the stairs to the third portal.
- With unaccustomed abandon, the party leaps boldly through the western portal.
Dust and Bone (Session 18, Day 123)
Summer's Thirty-third, 7.116, cont.
(Note: Though the party has spent several days within the tower, due to the time disparity, the actual date has not changed)
- The party emerges onto a strange land of red dust beneath a starless night's sky. The horizon curves queerly close, as if on a world only a fraction of the size of Zenáthras. With no real destination, the party wanders, quickly discovering that they can traverse the world quickly.
- Suddenly, cresting the too-near horizon, they see an isolated fortress and Steele takes to the air, flying over it as it begins to sink into the ground. The party rushes forward, scaling the walls while Steele spies through the windows to see alien architecture and bizarre hieroglyphs.
- The sinking fortress stops with the very top of its tallest tower flush with the earth, and the party uses a trapdoor located there to enter, finding dust-filled ruins. In a corner, Zieg spies something and pulls out some charred papers from an old campfire, shocked to discover that they are rare, unencoded fragments of his father's notes, imperfectly destroyed during some haste or crisis. They reveal some interesting facts, such as the presence of a 'key,' mention of Zieg's mother, and evidence that Professor Lockson and Tezmetek were colleagues at some point in the past. They also speak of secrets deeper in the ruins.
- Ikalt steals a door hinge.
- The party explores the ruins, disarming several traps and almost falling prey to another, before they find a strange altar. When one of them touches the altar, the entire floor collapses and the party struggles in a mad jumble to hold onto the flying—and now mightily-struggling—Steele, several of the party members almost falling only to be snagged by their more adroit allies or else relying on their special abilities to reach safety.
- As the party lands atop the rubble, figures come shuffling out of the darkness and a voice thunders that they were given the chance to leave once before, but by returning, their lives are forfeit. Confused, the party is beset by waves of mummies before a giant, animal-headed mummy strides out and seeks to lay them low. When the last of the undead threats is felled, the party stands in silence in a vast, underground chamber whose reaches are lost in darkness.
The Wisdom of Thyten Renn (Session 19, Day 123)
Summer's Thirty-third, 7.116, cont.
(Note: Though the party has spent several days within the tower, due to the time disparity, the actual date has not changed)
- The party secures the area immediately around the wreckage and investigates their surroundings, revealing that they have fallen into a massive tunnel like a squash cylinder more than a hundred feet tall and two-hundred feet wide. It stretches out of sight in both directions, so the party decides to camp amidst the rubble for the night, to recover the resources they expended in the previous fight.
- Upon awaking, the party picks a direction and begins walking in that direction. They quickly realize that the planetoid is so small that—this deep into it—the horizon is close enough to curve away noticeably even within the area rendered visible by a daylight spell.
- After an hour and a half of walking, the party begins to discover sandstone rubble, before coming across a great sandstone slab that appears to have been blasted apart forcefully. Investigating the detritus, they notice that certain pieces appear to have one had images engraved on them and they connect it to mentions of petroglyphs in the scavenged notes of Professor Lockson. They decide to rebuild the slab, which still emanates powerful divination magic; indeed, it is magic more powerful than any living creature should be able to produce. After much debate, the party decides to try and rebuild the monument, but conclude that it would be far too difficult to restore while upright, but might be doable if it were a floor rather than a wall. So the entire party lends their strength and manage to push over the remaining portion of the stone slab, which shatters when it falls upon the uncleared debris.
- Though it takes four full days of gathering debris and magically fusing smaller pieces into larger, doing their best to recreate the glyph, the party is finally able to bring enough of the stone together for the slab to partially repair itself, at which point the center of the image irises open to reveal a glowing purple portal.
- Before going through, the party decides to finish exploring the tunnel, but a quick jog reveals that the entire tunnel is a single, circular path about 10 miles in circumference and that the only landmarks are the petroglyph and the debris of their entry. With nothing else to keep them there, the party leaps through the portal.
- The party is then shot out of the portal which they had originally entered, though parallel to the ground, which causes them to end up in a pile at the foot of the portal, which promptly closes. As it does, the engravings on the ground begin to glow with purple light, as does the stone cube at the room's center, though less brightly.
- Pouring over the notes and what they remember of the last month's events, the party begins to debate about whether going through second portal is really in the world's best interest. Finally, unable to draw any conclusions, they decide to go through. They arrive in a large chamber, hundreds of feet tall and wide but nearly a mile long, completely empty save for a pair of double doors at the far end. Most of the party begins walking in that direction except for Roek who, in a fit of exuberance, takes off running.
- Roek then passes through an image of light that blinked into being, skidding to a halt before turning around and seeing a strange image of an exceptionally tall humanoid wrapped in the funerary rags of a mummy. Though its head and torso were of normally proportioned, it had unnaturally long limbs and six arms, the top pair gripping an orb, the bottom pair clasping a ceremonial knife, and the central pair with hands overlapping. It looked at Roek, who suddenly felt a discomfiting sensation like fingers pressing on the inside of her skull, and then the apparition spoke in High Draconic to comment that the language 'would be sufficient.'
- The party rushed to join Roek, only for Ikalt and Nadiya to suffer the feeling of fingers inside their skulls as the figure introduced itself as one of the Sentinels of the tower, naming itself as Thyten Renn. It began to explain the situation—as it understands it—to the party, prompting Steele to open up his mind willingly to give the mummy more knowledge from which to form a context. As it explained:
In the beginning, there were the two Great Gods, Kaeshem and Gwolth, who were Law and were Chaos. From their struggle was born the Goddesses, the Five Crowns, who created the world and who gave it life. From their efforts were born the half-gods, the Immaculata, the Walking Gods, and they were to rule the world in eternal peace and brotherhood.
But creation was flawed, for it was constantly pulled by Law and by Chaos and so was constantly strained, placed under a terrible stress that means that nothing can truly last forever, even the will of a Walking God. As the small poisons of that instability filled their minds and bodies, the half-gods grew petty and petulant and so fell to war with one another.
The Five Crowns realized that it was because creation was out of balance, like a lever with no fulcrum, like scales without a pivot. The only solution was for there to become advent a third Great God, who would be Balance, and only one of their children could ascend to that power. In honor of the Eight Gods there were to become, they selected eight of the Walking Gods and placed in each the potential to ascend to godhood by defeating all their rivals and claiming their power.
But as the wars went on, the fury and the bloodshed grew ever-greater, until the last two of the divinity-endowed Immaculata—Zithras the First-Born and Tuzul Shek the Last-Born—nearly destroyed the entire world in their battle and so the Goddesses took them away, sealing them up to allow the planet time to heal before they would be allowed to contest for the place of divinity.
In so-doing, the other six Walking Gods gifted with divine potential but who had fallen, were sealed away in their death as Figments, little more than their divine power and the memories of what they had once been. In the tower which they stood—the Pure Lance of Kuhln—was the remnants of Erogada the Pure, who had become a Figment of War and was sealed away.
Meanwhile, in the outside world, it seemed as if the two Walking Gods who had been sealed away were awoken in the era following the destruction of the Well and that one was known to the world now as Geddephron while the other had stripped all names from itself, for it would allow there to be but One God.
But in all of that looming danger, there was another possibility, for the Five Crowns had taken all the divine energy in the world and placed it in their eight vessels, where it could all be claimed by a single, victorious power. But if, instead of being claimed, that power was destroyed by some mortal agency—if it were dispersed back to the planes from which it had originated and if enough of it was removed, it would cause a chain reaction that would essentially cut the Prime Material off from the Planes forever, banishing all outside influence on Zenáthras, keeping the hands of any god from ever finding it and purging it of the malicious influences of the constant struggle between Law and Chaos. It would exist as a world apart, separate and inviolate, forever.
- Following some discussion, the party decided to attempt to destroy the Figment of War to keep its power from Geddephron or the One God, but will wait the remaining three days until the second Sentinel is reborn, so that the Figment can be resealed if they fail.
- While Steele stays to pick Thyten Renn's brain, the rest of the party returns to the portal chamber, Nadiya bringing Beytu and their donkey up and everyone training and preparing for the coming danger, which will likely prove to be the most dangerous task they have set for themselves to date. Finally, when the third day arrived, Steele emerged from his talks with Thyten Renn and the party assembled on the final platform as the second portal closed and the cube at the center of the room blazed to full life, the third portal opening.
- The party gathers themselves and begins casting magic in preparation of crossing the threshold.
The Figment of War (Session 20, Day 123)
Summer's Thirty-third, 7.116, cont.
- The party enters the portal.
- Nadiya awakes in a vision, her uncle Tezmetek telling her that time is short and giving her a pair of items: a gemstone to use only if one of her allies is at death's door and a crystal sphere to shatter when the Figment is defeated. No sooner does she receive them than Nadiya is pulled back to her comrades.
- The party arrives in a broken demiplane of rusted earth and running magma. The ground itself is formed of hundreds of thousands of bent, broken weapons compacted into a solid surface, the air oppressively hot and stinking of blood. Immediately, the group is beset by a shrieking vision, a withered corpse encased in a shell of blades: the Figment of War. It summons monsters from the ground, which beset the party even as it tears into them, summoning waves of weapons to lash at them or tearing at their minds with magical fear. It is a long fight, grueling and bloody, but the party finally manages to strip the Figment's defenses away and shatter the crystal prison within, the entire demiplane exploding in a rush of hot, red light.
- Materializing back in the central chamber of the tower, it is immediately apparent that the Pure Lance is beginning to collapse as the weight of ages and the fury of its master's passing come thundering down. Trusting in the words of her uncle, Nadiya gathers the party and shatters the sphere, which encases them in a globe of energy that drifts slowly down while the whole of the tower collapses in jagged shards around them.
- Picking through the ruins, the party finds nothing but devastation where the Pure Lance once stood. They move further away to camp for the night.
- At their camp, Tezmetek arrives and speaks with the party, about the nature of the items he gave Nadiya, about his connection to Professor Lockson, and about his hopes to free the world from divine influence by helping the party to slay the Figments. He will lend what aid he can, but is severely restricted in his actions due to his proximity to Geddephron.
- Zieg and the others are able to use Zieg's life force to begin deciphering his father's notes, resolving to study a page a day, as any more would put their friend's life in danger even with magical healing.
The Fate of the Tide Princes (Session 21, Days 124-141)
Summer's Thirty-fourth, 7.116
- In the morning, the party decides to head back to the village, to fulfill their promise to Feldinoop.
- En route, they are approached by a great, white wolf, one of the winter wolves who rule the mountains. They announce that they are claiming the swamp lands, for they have sensed the passing of both the hags and the genus loci. The party says they will not contest the wolves, so long as they have time to evacuate the villagers. Though there is some debate, it is decided that the wolves shall allow the party a week to leave.
- Before departing, the wolf also remarks that it is unusual to see a Gevani halfling now, for they all appear to have left the hold. Ikalt is worried, but needs to deal with their promise to the swamp spirit first. He vows to return as soon as feasible, however.
- The party arrives in the swamp village and informs the villagers that they will need to leave the next day. Seeing it as a fulfillment of prophecy, they are jubilant and try to stay up all night celebrating, though Nadiya is able to convince them to take the rest they will need.
Summer's Thirty-fifth, 7.116
- Leading the village, the party departs and begins a long trek towards Valos. They estimate it will take more than three weeks with the villagers in tow.
Summer's Thirty-sixth through Thirty-ninth, 7.116
- The group travels.
Summer's Fortieth, 7.116
- Finally entering more hospitable country, Zieg detects someone shadowing them. On closer examination, he discovers an orc riding a lizard: surely one of the southern invaders. Zieg, Roek, and Steele confront the orc, who attacks, but is easily subdued. Though he is one of the southerners, it becomes quickly apparent that he is unlike his brethren: disheveled and missing an arm. Initially surprised that they can speak his language, the orc eventually reveals that he was cast out by his people for taking pity on 'wraiths,' and only just managed to escape with his life. The party tries to speak with the orc and reason with him and, though he shows much of his people's stubbornness, he is able to consider their ideas. The party decides to let the orc go, saying that they will be coming back this way when they return to Gevan Hold, and if the orc wishes to learn more, he can meet them then and they will bring him along. As a parting warning, the orc cautions the party that they are near the territory of a green dragon and they would do well to steer their column clear of the beast.
Summer's Forty-first and Forty-second, 7.116
- The group travels.
Summer's Forty-third, 7.116
- Steele decides to wind walk to Valos and report their situation to the Prince, to see if he can help.
- The rest of the group travels.
Summer's Forty-fourth, 7.116
- Steele arrives in Valos, which is beset with war preparations. Securing a meeting with Prince Vylin, they learn the terrible news: Liracrast has fallen, an orcish armada dwarfing anything seen before made landfall and claimed the capital city. They then moved on to Lashport, which they have captured but have not yet dug into. Defenders were mounting a desperate evacuation of Naishim Tuck, but no one expects those cities to survive long, with Valos being treated as the seat of resistance. Steele says that if the Prince can supply them with escorts for the villagers, the party can return to Valos more quickly and see if they can lend aide. The prince agrees, detailing a contingent of mounted knights--useless in the naval engagements--to meet up with the party at a designated location in six days.
- The rest of the group travels.
Summer's Forty-fifth, 7.116
- Steele returns to the party.
- The group travels.
Summer's Forty-sixth through Forty-ninth, 7.116
- The group travels.
Summer's Fiftieth, 7.116
- The party rendezvous with the knights sent by the Prince, handing off their charges before racing towards Valos as fast as wind walk can take them.
Summer's Fifty-first, 7.116
- Arriving in Valos, the party meets with the Prince, who has drawn up a more detailed sketch of the strategic situation: orcish advance forces hold Lashport and are preparing an assault from there to Naishim Tuck, which is currently defended by a skeleton crew of volunteers in order to buy time for the fortification and evacuation of Valos. The orcs' main camp is in Liracrast, a heavily-defended city that serves as their staging point for the entire hemisphere, with supplies and reinforcements arriving from the south and being parceled out from there. Further along the peninsula from Liracrast, there is a strange concentration of forces in a separate area, but no one is sure yet what is happening there.
- The party stocks up on supplies and makes their plans to assault the enemy.
Ship Shape (Session 22, Days 142-151)
Summer's Fifty-second, 7.116
- The party travels east along the coast of the Titan's Bight, setting up camp and waiting for signs of ship passage.
Summer's Fifty-third, 7.116
- The party continues to wait.
Summer's Fifty-fourth, 7.116
- The party catches sight of an orc convoy, with four of their massive arc-ships sailing in diamond formation, the skies patrolled by drake-mounted orcish scouts and the seas patrolled by leashed linnorm. The party formulates a plan to bring down the ships, casting air walk, water breathing, and freedom of movement.
- Roek approaches the lead ship stealthly, marking a target and loading it with several beads from a necklace of fireballs.
- Zieg fires a flaming arrow, striking Roek's mark and setting it alight. The beads detonate, blowing off a chunk of the ship's prow and forcing it to come to a rest as the crew panics. The other three ships take up a slow, circular patrol around the first, putting them precisely where the party wants them.
- Steele uses a scroll of control winds to summon up a hurricane to catch the foundering ship and its two closest guardians, tearing them apart and sinking two of them before the scrambling orcs can dispel it.
- The party assaults the remaining, unsunken ship under cover of a second control winds hurricane, wrecking the ship's rudder and wheel before that hurricane, too, is dispelled. The party then retreats.
- The party returns to their camp and rests from the day's exertions.
Summer's Fifty-fifth, 7.116
- The party travels further east, towards Liracrast.
Summer's Fifty-sixth, 7.116
- Arriving at the conquered capital of the Tide Princes, the party sees that word of the attack has reached the orcs. Learning from the first encounter, they have spaced out their ships, no longer keeping them crowded in the sheltered harbor, and have spellcasters scattered about, ready to respond to any magical attacks.
- Steele resolves to still try the second stage of their plan and enters Liracrast proper, hidden as wind with wind walk. He scouts around, noting how completely the orcs have claimed the city, including an utter lack of prisoners of war or slaves. Finally finding a docked ship, he attempts to level it with another control winds, but the spell is dispelled before it can do more than ruin the ship's rigging. Fleeing in frustration, Steele returns to the party.
- Having done what they can, the party heads north.
Summer's Fifty-seventh and Fifty-eighth, 7.116
- The party travels north.
Summer's Fifty-ninth, 7.116
- The party meets up with their orcish associate, who agrees to join the party briefly, to see the world as they see it and decide for himself what the truth might be.
- The party continues north.
Summer's Sixtieth, 7.116
- The party travels north.
Summer's Sixty-first, 7.116
- The party crosses the spine of the Thaudrig Mountains, arriving in Gevan Hold. They find the entire settlement abandoned, though it appears to have been done in orderly fashion. Exploring about, they discover that even the ostriches are gone.
- Entering an enclosure at the Hold's rear, the party arrives before the Quiet Father, the treant who was the Great Beast of the Gevani. Speaking with the grasses and flowers of the glade, Zieg convinces them to wake the tree, who greets Ikalt, having expected him. He explains that the entire purpose of the Gevani was to produce Ikalt, for the Quiet Father had been sent to the lands that would become the Hold by the Old Mother of Idyle, who is possessed of knowledge even more ancient than the dragons of the Council. The Old Mother knew of the Figments and knew that they could not be slain by mortal means. Indeed, the Figment of War survived the destruction of the Pure Lance and has moved on, seeking a place of war to spread its influence. The only thing that could defeat a Figment is a lost relic of the Walking Gods, a terrible blade made to slain demons: Whelm. The blade Whelm was sealed by Zithras the First in a demonic prison, located beneath the Thaudrig Mountains themselves. Ikalt's entire purpose was to claim Whelm, but doing so would shatter the mountains and birth a new volcano where Gevan Hold was. To save the halfling Gevani, they were sent to join the Old Mother in Idyle.
- Ikalt agrees, but asks to be relieved of his obligations to the tribe, so that he can spend his life repenting for taking the Quiet Father's life when Gevani Hold burns. The Quiet Father says that he will grant Ikalt's wish, but only after he has meditated on those obligations and how his people will need him in the days to come.
- The party decides they will conquer the demon prison the following day, settling down in the enchanted grove to rest.
The Cage of Form (Session 23, Day 152)
Summer's Sixty-second, 7.116
- Waking refreshed and renewed, the party notices that Roek is on the far side of the glade, speaking with Tezmetek. She casts a single, remorseful glance at the party, then shadow-steps away. The party rushes to confront Nadiya's uncle, who seems genuinely contrite as he informs them that he needs Roek's services. Knowing that their gyrfolk companion has not enjoyed the constant battle their adventures have forced upon her, he approached her with an offer: to defend the party by helping Tezmetek keep the attentions of Geddephron focused elsewhere through subterfuge and stealth.
- Tezmetek presents Nadiya with a small vial, saying that it is a gift for her for the upcoming fight. It is a holy draught, which will change her breath weapon from fire to divine energy for 12 hours, allowing her to deal more effectively with the demons they will be facing.
- Ikalt tells the Quiet Father that he has thought on the treant's words and decided that he will not abandon his responsibilities as a Gevani.
- Girding themselves, the party enters the prison of the demons, traveling through a hidden path deep underground, until they arrive in an underground cavern of immense proportions, in which is suspended a massive metal cube in a waterfall of magma. The party enters it and begins to explore. They discover traps both paltry and deadly, face demons from lowly dretch to a terrifying Hellfire wyrm to dancing Vrock, and even attempt to puzzle out a riddle of two statues that hum, grant visions, and contain a bizarre field of energy between them. They also breath a tremendous number of doors.
Whelm (Session 24, Day 152)
Summer's Sixty-second, 7.116, cont.
- With the largest door in the prison before them, the party attempts to batter it down with no success. Only when they ask the angel statue for help do they receive the words "The sun shall open the way." Using the sunblade they recovered from elsewhere in the prison, the party opens the door and enters a giant chamber filled with vrock and hatethrall demons, who proceed to attack the party. Energized by the massive crystal at the room's center, the vrock return from the dead when killed, though the party manages to hold their own against the demons.
- When Ikalt strays too close to the pit at the room's center, seeking chains lash out and grab him, pulling him in. The party pursues, Steele quickly and Nadiya and Zieg at a more sedate pace.
- Ikalt arrives in a massive chamber Nadiya had seen in her earlier visions, a great balor chained within, his body transfixed by a shard of blackness. Speaking with the creature, Ikalt learns that he was one Anaxamandas Anamundus, the Last Theocrat of Valjaradan, High Zealarch of Siracosta, and the very man who defied Zithras, first of the Walking Gods. Ikalt seizes the sword, but then his confidence wavers, only to discover that his hand could not be moved.
- The rest of the party trickles in, but lashing chains keep them from interfering. When Steele finally manages to break free, he delivers a blow to Anaxamandas which is transmitted into Ikalt, blowing him free of the sword. And then Ikalt runs back and draws the sword, because, you know. THAT makes sense. Chains wrap the blade of Whelm and affix it to Ikalt's back.
- With a tremendous thunder, the Cage of Form begins to collapse above as the energies kept in control by the statues rails out of control. A gate opens before the party, revealing a scene beneath the northern sky of Beytu and Toastie the Donkey around a small campfire, scared and waiting. With no time to spare, the party leaps through the portal.
Centering (Session 25, Days 152-156)
Summer's Sixty-second, 7.116, cont.
- After the reunion with Beytu, the party reads the stars and determines that they are somewhere in the frozen hinterlands of Möth Unvidia. They secure the location and proceed to camp for the night.
Summer's Sixty-third, 7.116
- In the wee hours of the morning, Zeig is alerted to sounds around him and rouses the rest of the party. As they come to alertness, the armored form of a frost troll emerges from the underbrush, challenging the party to identify themselves. Once they do so, he says that he is a huntsman in service to Garn Tagarn, the Big King of Möth Unvidia and that they are trespassing on his lands.
- After some debate, the party decides to leave Möth Unvidia, ostensibly under the watchful eyes of the trolls. But a quick wind walk and they are racing away faster than any corporeal creature could keep up with.
- The party stops for the day, camping on a forested peninsula in the northwestern reaches of the Council.
Summer's Sixty-fourth, 7.116
- The party continues traveling overland, stopping again for the night in the dense, inland forests.
Summer's Sixty-fifth, 7.116
- Traveling again in the morning, the party reaches Fyvendrous, a large city on the Wallshard Heights and the seat of Seeve the Silver on the Council of Wyrms.
- Arriving that evening, they find a place in Brownroof Bed and Breakfast, a small establishment run by a friend of Steele's parents.
Summer's Sixth-sixth, 7.116
- Spending the day gathering news and supplies, the party debates their next course of action before finally turning in for the night.
Children of the Void (Session 26, Day 157)
Summer's Sixty-seventh, 7.116
- Cautious even in the seeming security of a town, the party is alerted to intruders in the Brownroof in the wee hours of the morning. Even as they are rousing their sleeping members, assassins clad in black armor and masks come pouring in through doorways and windows. The party fights, battling throughout and around the building.
- When Steele steps outside during the melee, he is confronted by a fearsome ogre mage who seems to be leading the strike force, his skills seeming to prove a match even for the robust cleric, who must withdraw and recover before a second attack.
- With time and teamwork, the party manages to overcome the assassins, causing the leader to snatch up the Lockson journal and attempt to flee with it, caught and put down by Steele at the last moment.
- As the dust settles, town guards finally arrive, doing their best to pick up the pieces. The other guests in the Brownroof are discovered, dead in their beds, and Steele is visibly shaken by the loss of his family friend's life.
- The party is brought to the Church, providing what information they feel is safe to the authorities and being offered accommodations there for the remainder of the night.
- As Nadiya spends some time in quiet contemplation, she is approached by Tezmetek, who explains that their attackers were Children of the Void, elite Tyrancy assassins who serve under the Void Lord, one of the 'Five Grooms of Geddephron,' the most trusted lieutenants of the great dragon whose numbers also include Mahadu, Thrasser, and Tezmetek himself. Nadiya brings Steele in on the conversation and they discuss how this fits into their plans (as well as Nadiya learning a bit more about her grandfather, the Hunger of Abaddon).
- The next morning, the party finishes gathering their supplies, planning to head out the following day to explore the northern reaches of the Glasslands in the hopes of finding Monzë and the Figment sealed within.
- While out, Ikalt hears tragic news: the southern orcs have crushed the Tide Princes. While the party's actions in the area ensured that there were many survivors in the refugee fleet that escaped to the Council, the great beast Nereiphim was dead and Leus Vylin, the Tide Prince of Valus, gave his life in a last, glorious rear-guard action that stalled the orcs.
Plans Like the Wind (Session 27, Days 158-164)
Summer's Sixty-eighth, 7.116
- As is their new normal, the party use wind walk for the day's conveyance. They begins traveling north, along the Wallshard Heights and then the eastern shore of the Rimetarm.
Summer's Sixth-ninth, 7.116
- The party continues traveling, slowly turning east as they reach the frigid peaks of the Wall.
- As they camp for the night, the latest page of the Lockson journal reveals a terrible truth: Monzë is guarded by a magic-devouring monster known as the Aurora. There seems to be no way over the land to get past the creature—especially with Steele's spark of heroic magic—and their current journey may be in error.
Summer's Seventieth, 7.116
- As the party turns back towards Fyvendrous, they debate their next course of action.
- That night, with the next page of their journal, they make a discovery: they are near another Figment ruin in the form of the crashed remnant of the flying city of Doozle. Its remains are known today as Slurst, the capital of Möth Unvidia.
Summer's Seventy-first, 7.116
- The party cuts across the Wallshard Heights rather than returning straight to Fyvendrous.
Summer's Seventy-second, 7.116
- The party crosses the forested interior lands between the mountains and the shore.
- The ocean stretching out before them, they camp for the night with plans to be in Slurst the following evening.
Summer's Seventy-third, 7.116
- After a day's travel, the party arrives in Slurst, bedding down in an abandoned building and planning to canvass the city for the secret entrance to the underground tunnels of Doozle the following day, using information gleaned from the Lockson journal.
Summer's Seventy-fourth, 7.116
- The party searches the city, following the clues from the journal, and finally locates a secured metal door to underground tunnels. Taking a final moment to ensure their readiness, the party opens the door and enters the tunnels.
Doozle, pt. 1 (Session 28, Day 164)
Summer's Seventy-fourth, 7.116, cont.
- The party enters Doozle, following a long hallway lined with metal pipes to a door set into the wall. It is a strange door, raised several inches from the floor and locked with a series of restraining bolts all linked to a circular handle in the door's center. Forcing it open, they enter a chamber filled with a mix of skeletons and inactive golems. It looks as if some sort of battle took place in the chamber, centuries before, with rusted equipment and ancient bloodstains visible.
- Moving to a neighboring chamber, the party is attacked by several iron golems, which they dispatch handily.
- Exploring further, the party begins to uncover signs that Doozle saw considerable combat centuries past, signs of fighting everywhere. Pushing through barred doorways and several intricate traps, the party is attacked by another strange, mechanical monstrosity in the form of the brass watchers.
- In one battle, the party's actions split open one of the iron golems, revealing that the magical construct has, at its core, the bound corpse of a Halfling. The brass watchers prove to be similar, though they have dogs at their core.
- While exploring, the party recovers several documents, including what they believe to be a rough map of the area and some notes written by a young squire named Dyster who ended up trapped in a bag of holding and dying of old age and madness. Also recovered was the frozen body of a dead tiefling dressed in garb and bearing the symbols of the same group that Dyster belonged to.
- After several battles and a good deal of exploring, the party decides to barricade the door and rest for the night.
Doozle, pt. 2 (Session 29, Day 165)
Summer's Seventy-fifth, 7.116
- The next day, the party continues exploring the galleries and passages beneath Slurst that was Doozle.
- They encounter several new creatures, such as the furnace golems and the clockwork hunters, which used the bodies of humans and horses as their cores, respectively.
- In one chamber, the party confronts a powerful clockwork dragon, using the confined space to their advantage and defeating it.
- Venturing further, they discover a massive stream of energy being channeled through the substructure. As they near it, reality around them slowly begins to fade out as a familiar figure fades in: a young man dressed in stylized battle-robes. It is the man they say in the Pure Lance and they know it can be no coincidence. And then the figure turns, noticing them as well.
Doozle, pt. 3 (Session 30, Days 165-167)
Summer's Seventy-fifth, 7.116, cont.
- With little real choice in the matter, the party begins speaking with the figure, whom they confirm to be Ren Shin, one of the Traitor-Heroes who slew the world. Yet they find only an inquisitive, confident young man fascinated by the circumstances which have presented themselves. Talking long, the group is able to convince Ren Shin that they represent his future. By interacting with Ren Shin and his magic, the party is able to determine that they are in a strange sort of temporal flux while both parties are in close proximity to the energy stream Doozle is channeling, though they're not sure what that means...until the Hero says that he might be able to use the unique qualities of the area they're in, the incredible power around them, and the mythic energies surging through the party to draw them completely into the past. Doing so will strip them of their mythic power, but it would allow them to see the world before the destruction of the Well.
- What follows is one of the longest, most intense group debates in the half-year they've known one another. On the one hand, staying in the future is a known quantity: the have a mission—to defeat the Figments—and they have influence with local figures of authority. But it is a dangerous time, and even the greatest powers they could grasp pale before the Great Beasts. Meanwhile, in the past, they have access to the resources of the Well and of the world in one of the greatest golden ages it ever knew. But they would be people cut adrift, in an alien culture—without even Beytu and Zazithren as company—and no way of knowing what effects their actions would have on time.
- It is not an easy decision, but ultimately, the party decides that the promises offered by the past are too tempting: to use the superior magic of that age to defeat the Figments then, and possibly even prevent the Well itself from breaking. They accept Ren Shin's offer and he prepares powerful magic with a speed and abandon no one in the present time could match.
- Before they leave, Steele contacts Tezmetek on Nadiya's behalf, informing him of their plans and what they hope to accomplish. The half-fiend tells them to seek out a man named "Endru" with the Paladins of the Holy Coast—the same form that was fighting in the ruins of Doozle—and asks Steele to keep his niece safe.8
- The party steps through the hole in time...
[ T I M E J U M P ]
Autumn's Eighteenth, 6.080
- ...and awakes a thousand years in the past.
- Come to slowly, the party members learn that they are in Ren Shin's private villa on an idyllic island of Tymanthis. It is the first of many, many culture shocks as the individual members of the party are each confronted with the realities of the past: abundant wealth, a tamed wilderness in which there are no real dangers, succulent foods to be had for the asking, and more.
- When Ren Shin returns, he dines with the party and they speak about their plans. He gives them a map of the world as it is now, including some notes of his own he feels will be beneficial to them. He says that the following day, he will take the party to Dykadda to connect them to the Well and then they will be free to wander as they wish.
Autumn's Nineteenth, 6.080
- Arriving via teleportation in Dykadda, the capital of Great Fassadum, the party discovers that the city is a massive, urban ring gathered along the shores of a great lake. Above the lack, three slabs of stone miles across drift in tiers, even more city stacked upon them. At the top-most are palaces and temples and one of the Antipodes, the great access points to the Well. Here, the party supplies drops of blood as well as legal documentation witnessed by the clerks who oversee the Well. Nadiya receives more than a little balking, but in the presence of Ren Shin, the officials have no choice but to grant her the same access as everyone else.
- The party's spellcasters find the energies of the Well filling the place where they once felt the will of their Great Beast, and their magic returns to them, as potent as ever. For everyone, the magic slowly begins to permeate them, granting them innate magical power.
- As they leave, Zieg is approached by one of the clerks who tells him to tell "the professor" that the plan is proceeding as intended before quickly shuffling off.
Past Present (Session 31, Days 167-168)
Autumn's Nineteenth, 6.080, cont.
- The party spends some time shopping for supplies in Dykadda, after Ren Shin swaps out their future coinage for an equal weight of modern currency.
- Ren Shin introduces the party to the teleportation platforms, the series of interconnected teleport circles that link the entire world together for the cost of a few silver pieces. Seeing them to their first destination—the small kingdom of Gycatta—Ren Shin departs.
- The party visits the capital of Gycatta, the city of Clockwork Garden where, unsurprisingly, they are very good at making clocks.
- While the others visit the sights, Steele makes for the manse that rests against the sturdy cliff face of the Wallshard Heights. There, he meets the current Prince of Clockwork Garden, an aging man named Andarea Bellross. With very little investigation indeed, Steele discovers that this man is his ancestor. As the others arrive, they corroborate Steele's story and give Andarea the gist of what is to come, though they leave out sensitive details about matters such as the Figments. With only a year left in his term as Prince, Andarea agrees to leave warnings for his successor about the disaster that is potentially looming.
- The party spends the night enjoying Andarea's hospitality.
Autumn's Twentieth, 6.080
- Following Tezmetek's advice, the party then head to Highhelm, the capital of the Holy Coast and the base of operations for the paladins there. They find it located where Liracrast will be in the future, in the Tide Princes.
- By dropping Ren Shin's name—and Ikalt finding himself on the receiving end of the attention of a smitten goblin—the party is able to secure a meeting with Endru that evening, learning that the man is the Grand Master of the Paladins of the Holy Coast.
- Wandering about town, the party is confronted by a figure in a red cloak who reveals that he knows the party is displaced in time. Revealing himself to be a kolyarut inevitable, the figure tells the party to return to their own time or face the wrath of Mechanus.
- While they wait, the goblin clerk—Peni—invites the party to dinner at her parents' house, which is enjoyable for most, but tortuously awkward for Ikalt, whose only interaction with goblins prior to this point was the life-or-death struggles of the Gevani.
- After dinner, the party is brought to the citadel of the Paladins, the Tower. They are met by a paladin representative who will serve as guide and steward. Nadiya nearly gives away the party by shrieking upon meeting the man, who is the same person as the frozen tiefling corpse the party recovered in Doozle. He takes her reaction as shock at meeting a tiefling, though Nadiya is quick to dissuade the young man, named Symanthus.
- Symanthus guides the party to Endru's office, where they witness a brief interplay that leads them to realize that Symanthus is Endru's son. Quickly dismissing Symanthus, more truths come out as it is revealed that Endru is an uncle to Nadiya and another son of Nekahazzrah, predating both Tezmetek and Nadiya's father. As the conversation continues, Nadiya reveals her own lineage, the party tells Endru of how Ren Shin brought them from the future, and, in the end, even the truth about the Figments and the Traitor-Heroes emerges. Endru is visibly shaken, but the party produces the bodies of squire Dyster and Symanthus from their packs, along with what accoutrements they had gathered in Doozle. Finally, it is enough, and Endru resolves to help the party, stating that they must prevent the party's future from occurring. As he speaks, the two bodies the party brought with them fade as if they had never been...
Strong But Weak (Session 32, Days 168-169)
Autumn's Twentieth, 6.080, cont.
- Endru tells the party that they need to convince Ren Shin to speak with Alutuus, the other great, active hero of the age. They need all the power they can to solve the problem—though most of the details can be kept private for now—and that he will provide the resources of the paladins once the Heroes decide what should be done. To keep the circle of people in-the-know small, he assigns Peni as the party's liaison to the paladins.
- The part departs, spending the night in Highhelm while deciding what their next move should be.
Autumn's Twenty-first, 6.080
- The party decides that, while they are planning their next move, they want to find out more about the mythic power they gained in the future, hoping it might somehow help them even now.
- Taking a series of teleporters, the party finally ends up in the nation of Laufri, learning that the area they sought—the sight of the underground ruins the orcs had been excavating in their own time—was located on the Evektrice estates. Traveling there, the party discovers a familiar wing motif on the gates and, when their summons are answered, it is by a man wearing the very armor that Steele has (though he had changed out of his suit when there was confusion in the village over it).
- Introducing himself as Armin Evektrice, the man who greets them is the adult son of the property owners, who are currently out. The party sweet-talks Armin, who invites them in and shows them how to 'rough it,' setting up a paltry camp in a copse of trees within sight of his manor. Saying they wish to take part in an adventure and that one can be had on the property's very grounds, the party convince Armin to lead them to the location of the future ruins.
- When they arrive, the party discovers that Armin has lead them where they directed...to the Evektrice family crypts, where are interred dozens of generations of family members, all the way back to the progenitor of the lineage: Arma Nine-Eyes, one of the greatest of the early heroes. The party descends, noting the familiar architecture and layout, though they are disappointed that no enemies present themselves for battle.
- At the crypt's lowest level, they find a vast chamber where are sealed all the ancestors with heroic power in their blood, and at the very center is the sarcophagus of Arma Nine-Eyes herself. A glittering wall of light encircles the coffin, barring entry until Steele uses his jolt—the one spark of heroic power he possesses—to make a way in, though he discovers himself trapped. Using more conventional magic to recover his hero magic, he is able to escape but, though the party looks around a bit more, they fail to discover anything of use in their struggle.
- Taking leave of Armin, the party returns to the city on the shore, where they decide they are fed up with the past and camp out on the beach. Unfortunately, their impromptu camp is mistaken for a beach party, which attracts villagers who bring food and (bad) music.
- During the height of the festivities, Ren Shin appears, talking excitedly with the party about the gold he traded them earlier and his experiments with the nature of time. When they mention the Evektrice estate, Ren Shin disappears for a moment, returning with the contemporary copies of the armor and glaive that Steele and Nadiya acquired in the future. Fed up, the party broach the subject of the meeting with Alutuus that Endru suggested, which Ren Shin is dead-set against. After copious arguing, the party convinces the young Hero to try, and he then returns them to his villa in Tymanthis.
Inevitable Misunderstandings (Session 33, Days 170-171)
Autumn's Twenty-second, 6.080
- Depressed by the state of the past, the part idles the day away at Ren Shin's villa.
- Ikalt takes Jovark for a run on the beach.
- Nadiya takes a bath in a sylvan grotto the party found on an earlier visit.
- Zieg goes down to the nearby village of Wendle to sample the local liquors.
- Steele studies some books in Ren Shin's library.
- After hearing some interesting rumors about a place known as the Brazille Highlands, where potential new Heroes are tested, Zieg returns with a pleasant buzz. As he is ascending the stairs to the villa, a playful Nadiya attempts to dunk Zieg in the water to sober him up. Ikalt, returning from his run, steps in at just the wrong moment, seeing a soaking wet, barely-clad Nadiya apparently telling Zieg to get in the water with her.
- The trio heads inside, Nadiya trying to convince her halfling friend that what he saw was a misunderstanding. They run into Steele, and, with characteristic aplomb, Ikalt lays out what he just witnessed. Whatever Steele was about to say dies on his lips and he just walks past the group, out of the villa, and off to Wendle. Nadiya follows, afraid she's hurt her...friend?...but not sure what to do.
- Arriving at the same bar that Zieg was in, Steele lines up and knocks down three shots of the house's strongest drink before just buying the bottle. After complaining that everyone sees him as a joke and a fake hero, Steele also hears the stories about the Brazille Highlands and resolves, on the moment, to storm up there and take their tests. Nadiya follows, trying to convince Steele that he is a hero and doesn't need to do this.
- Meanwhile, Ikalt and Zieg are informed that Ren Shin will be returning, so decide to go retrieve their friends and meet with the returning Hero.
- With Steele and Nadiya half-way up the mountain and Ikalt and Zieg half-way to Wendle, both groups are jumped by a pair of kolyarut inevitables. Each pair defeats their foes handily and, after a little more ships-passing hijinks, arrive back at the villa in time for dinner.
- Ren Shin arrives at dinner sporting a black eye that magic cannot heal and informs the party that Alutuus has agreed to meet with them in four days' time. With the intervening time, the party decides to go as a group and face the Brazille Highlands in hopes of being found worthy of becoming heroes.
Autumn's Twenty-third, 6.080
- Ren Shin leads the party to the entrance to the Highlands, explaining that there are 16 such tests and each is protected by an Aspirant's Path, a passage that leads from the Prime Material to the sealed demi-plane unique to that test. To Ren Shin's knowledge, only four people have succeeded in taking the first test in the last century and, of them, none have proceeded further than the tenth test.
- Armed with this knowledge, the party steps through the cave entrance.
The Halls of Dead Men (Session 34, Day 171)
Autumn's Twenty-third, 6.080, cont.
- The party enters a looping, underground cavern with numerous side passages. Here, they face threats such as wild basilisks, ravening undead, and mindless slimes.
- In one room, the party finds piles of relatively fresh corpses, which they rifle through for treasure.
- In another, a sword is driven suspiciously through the stone floor, and when the party goes to retrieve it, a slime springs out despite their precautions, though they end up making quick work of it.
- Yet another room holds a deep pool of clear, anti-magic water with a scythe hidden at the bottom. Attempts to retrieve it reveal the water is home to a powerful undead elemental spirit, and the treasure is abandoned.
- The greatest challenge in the halls, however, is a figure seated upon its throne: a crowned skeleton clad in armor. When the party approaches, it speaks to them, telling the party that it is the ruler of this land and that those who fail the first test get to serve forever in his undead army. Insulting the party, the being's words are cut off mid-sentence by Steele launching into an attack. It quickly becomes obvious that the party has, perhaps, bitten off more than they can chew. The figure rises, calling wraiths from the ground and sending them to attack the party while it crosses blades with Steele. The battle is tense, and only grows tenser as reinforcements arrive from elsewhere in the dungeon. Once Zieg falls, the party fears their time may be up. Backs against the wall, Ikalt does the unthinkable...and draws Whelm. Letting the rage overtake him, he manages to bring the crowned skeleton down before himself succumbing to the wraith's claws.
- With their master fallen, the cavern begins to collapse and the party gathers up what they can in a rush, Nadiya and Steele taking their fallen comrades and rushing for the exit to the Highlands.
- Once passing through, the party finds themselves in a land of sylvan splendor, a self-contained landscape of rolling hillocks, gurgling streams, and soaring stone spires, all beneath a shimmering curtain of light for a sky. At the far end, set in a small pond, was a suspended flame. When approached, it told the party that the test would begin when they were prepared.
- Withdrawing to recover, Steele jury-rigged some spells together to locate a pair of diamonds just good enough for raise dead and returned Ikalt and Zieg to life. The party agreed to rest and tackle the test the next day.
Test 1: The Brazille Highlands (Session 35, Day 172)
Autumn's Twenty-fourth, 6.080
- When the party awakes, Nadiya discovers that her powers have changed. The last vestiges of energy borrowed from Thykondrot the Brass in the future are gone, and now she calls upon the full power of Brass dragonkind in the current age.
- Gathering before the flame, the party tells it that they are prepared to take the test.
- Soldiers in the armor and finery of the Dragon Knights of the Council appear, with priests declaring the party to be traitors who abandoned their responsibilities. They proceed to attack.
- A second wave, including bloody mages and knights atop drakes, appear, raining down more condemnations and attack.
- A third, final wave appears: a pair of tiefling mages and a gold dragon. The fight is difficult, but the party prevails, with Ikalt striking the final blow even as he plummets from the heavens.
- Approaching the fire afterwards, it tells them that they have passed the first test: facing the world they left behind when they made their choice. But, though Steele has his heroic spark and Nadiya her planar heritage, Ikalt and Zieg must be given power from outside to become heroes, each of them reaching into the flame.
- Ikalt wakes in a throne room, where he is met by an armored man upon a throne who remarks that he approves of the halfling's ferocity and bloodlust. He agrees to give Ikalt the spark of power he needs and, when it is taken, introduces himself as Erogada the Pure, master of the Pure Lance of Kuhln and the Figment of War.
- Zieg comes to in a library, where a statuesque woman in scholar's robes expresses interest in the strange, cobbled-together soul his body built after his father's experiments. She agrees to give Zieg the spark of power he needs and, when it is taken, introduces herself as Nupria Tahm, master of Monzë and the Figment of Avarice.
- The two reel back, charged now with the same heroic power as their friends...though none of them know what that really means, yet. They relate their tale to their friends and much worrying is done.
- Once all four new heroes have been confirmed, the flame splits open and the luminous figure of a woman emerges, expressing her pleasure at seeing how far all of them come. When the party asks who she is, they begin to glow—Steele's feathered armor, Nadiya's bird-wing glaive, the fletching of Zieg's arrows, and Jovark—and she says that she is one of the Five Crowns, the goddesses who created the world and all life that dwells within it. She claims the party as her chosen, saying that the fate of the world should be left in the hands of those who live there. She also reveals that the party has reached a tipping point: interfere any more with the course of the past and their very future will be changed so irrevocably that even if the party manages to return, it will not be the world they left. The party must decide now if they wish to gather strength and knowledge here in the past and then return to their future or if they wish to try and save the world here and now, undoing their entire history and creating a new world in its place. Either way, the party is 'unstuck' in time, meaning that they will not be subject to the changes they affect, even if it means they end up uncreating themselves. Whatever they decide—the past or the future, destroying the Figments or ushering in the birth of a new god—she says that it must be the party's decision, and that they have her blessing. With those words, the fire engulfs her again and the way out of the Highlands opens up.
Being Heroes (Session 36, Days 172-175)
Autumn's Twenty-fourth, 6.080, cont.
- Emerging from the entrance to the Aspirant's Path, the party finds an old man seated in the air with a writing desk in front of him. While most of them speak wtih him, Nadiya ducks back into the cave, confirming that the entrance to the Halls of Dead Men has vanished.
- Meanwhile, the old man introduces himself as Vez'roon, which Steele immediately recognizes as the last head of the Black Rock Council, which is composed of all the Heroes in Zenáthras. Vez'roon remarks that two others have completed the test in the last week, and he does not want to miss the chance to greet potential new heroes, so he arrived once they triggered the test and has been waiting for them. He welcomes them into the fold of Heroes, even if they are mere fledglings who have just awoken their potential.
- Vez'roon explains some of what it means to be a hero: that each of them possesses an ability that is impossible for non-Heroes to gain. While most of them keep the details of their ability secret (for fear of that knowledge being used against them), Vez'roon admits that--because of the nature of his power--he prefers to disclose it to his fellows. Though he is known as Blind Vez'roon, his power grants him an absolute knowledge of everything within 300 feet of him. He can see and hear everything, detect surface thoughts, follow the flow of magical forces, and perhaps even more. No known force can prevent this power, be it stone or lead or magical barriers.
- The party is invited to tour the Black Rock Citadel, where they will be permitted entry to the fortress as Heroes in their own right, including each receiving a ring that will ferry them between the fortress and whatever point they left from. The party accepts, finding themselves teleported to the imposing, 700-foot-tall bastion perched atop a stone jutting from storm-lashed waters near the equator. Touring the structure, they find many things, including all the facilities one could want: libraries, training grounds, kitchens, accomodations, and even a museum dedicated to the exploits of past Heroes.
- When Vez'roon retires to his aparents, the party splits up, Nadiya and Steele visit the libraries, securing the help of the library vampires and discussing their plans and what they think Lockson might be up to.
- Ikalt tours the museums, seeing the storied history of Heroes, though he finds nothing that might help their current quest.
- Zieg heads towards one of the training rooms, where he meets a young woman who confuses him for a fellow apprentice to a current hero. She introduces herself as Meecia Whem, the understudy of Karthay Coppertooth.
- The party reassembles in the commissary, where the kitchen golem prepares their food. While there, Zieg introduces the others to his new friend, much to Steele's excited panic. He reveals (out of her earshot) that Meecia is the lone survivor to Ren Shin and Alutuus's betrayl of the Council, and it is only by her word that the nations of the world are able to attempt their failed resistance.
- As they whisper, Nadiya has a sudden realization: she remembers Vez'roon's powers. The party realizes that the old wizard has been privy to everything they have said in the last few hours, including their talk of Lockson and of the Traitor-Heroes. They decide to come clean and reveal the story to him, adding him to Ren Shin and Endru as the only people they've told everything to.
- The party departs back to Ren Shin's bungalow, to prepare for their meeting in a couple of days with Alutuus.
Autumn's Twenty-fifth, 6.080
- The party spends the day on housekeeping, preparing for their meeting with Alutuus.
- They travel to the Well Temple in Dykadda, attempting to meet with the clerk who had spoken with Zieg earlier about "the professor." They find that he has left on a vacation for a month with his boyfriend, though they will pass on word when he returns.
Autumn's Twenty-sixth, 6.080
- The party travels to the City of Rivers, to meet with Alutuus, along with Ren Shin, Endru, and two other paladins from the Holy Coast's Crowned Council (including the hero Seristin Tullis).
- Deciding that honesty is the better part of valor, the party tells them everything they know, including some of their most closely-guarded secrets, such as the truth about Whelm and their plan to destroy the Figments to sever Zenáthras from the planes.
- Much to their relief, they find a kindred spirit in the elder Alutuus, who agrees that they need to stop tip-toeing around laws and just bull their way through to their final goal: Lockson.
- As a group, they make a decision: in five days' time, they will call a meeting of the Black Rock Council, where they will enlist the help of all the Heroes in stopping Lockson. In the meantime, the party will attempt the next Hero test, Ren Shin will continue researching how to send the party through time, and Alutuus will track down some leads (including the missing clerk).
- After the meeting, the party takes teleportation platforms to a small coastal city just south of the Sanguine Court and begins their trek northward.
- They stop to camp on the side of the road as night falls.
Autumn's Twenty-seventh, 6.080
- The party arrives at the Sanguine Court, helped by a pair of attendant vampires left to watch over the ruins. They are given directions to the manor at the city's heart, entering the basement where they find the entrance to the second Aspirant's Path.
The Gauntlet of Riddles (Session 37, Day 175)
Autumn's Twenty-seventh, 6.080, cont.
- Upon entering, the party must willingly surrender their magic, losing the power of their gear and access to any magical abilities they have. Upon doing so, they are confronted by a living statue and find themselves forced through a series of magical tests of wit.
- First, they must bypass a door, above which is writting THE PASSWORD IS 'BLUE'. Upon speaking the word, the door responds, telling them that they must get IT to say the word. Nadiya manages, through conversational acumen.
- The second room reveals a massive chess board with a puzzle that requires making the rooks swap positions in a certain number of moves, which Steele is handily able to manage, opening one of two doors in the room.
- Inside, they are presented with a series of treasure chests and clues about possible rewards. After each party member takes their prize, they move on.
- Beyond is a library and another puzzle: chess pieces are arrayed on a table and need to be put in the correct order. In each section of the library is a book with misinformation, requiring Nadiya, Steele, and Zieg to put their heads together to decipher the mistakes, each of which will offer up a clue to the order of the pieces. When their knowledge of engineering falls short, the party challenges the guardian of that section of the library, defeating it even without their magic to secure its clue and correct their chess order.
- Past the library is a long corridor blocked by portculli. Standing atop a dais, the party is presented with a series of riddles. Answering each one correctly will lower a portcullis, while mistakes will cause the gate to return. By working together, they are not only able to lower all the portuclli, but secure several secret treasures as well, making only a single mistake.
- Then they come upon a room with six platforms, a pool, and jugs. The platforms and jugs are both labeled with numbers, and the party quickly realizes that they must mix around the various volumes of water in each jug, until they match the platforms. Once all the jugs are appropriately filled and placed on their platforms, the weights cause the door to open.
- In the penultimate chamber, there is a gate with five locks and a table with eight keys. Using clues inscribed on the locks, the party bashes their brains against the puzzle for hours, until finally listening to Zieg, who solved the puzzle some time before, but was dismissed for having difficulty explaining his reasoning.
A Question of Descent (Session 38, Days 175-177)
Autumn's Twenty-seventh, 6.080, cont.
- Passing through the five-lock gate, the party is teleported to a series of four rooms, each isolated. There, each member of the party is required to solve a pair of puzzles on their own, being rewarded with a gemstone for each. Meeting in a final chamber, Nadiya deduces that the gems must be placed in a small device in the order of a prism projecting a rainbow.
- When the last stone is placed, a new flame is kindled, its power flooding into the party and bolstering the strength of the heroic fire inside them.
- Departing the chamber, the party is told by the voice of the statue that the next trial can be found amidst the "four peaks near the Temptress Mountain."
- Leaving, they find themselves back in the manor in the Sanguine Court, in what appears to be a very normal-looking basement with their magic returned. Emerging, they are suddenly set upon by a swarm of Kolyarut inevitables. As the fight heats up, a new figure emerges, wielding weapons the party has never seen before and displaying a terrible combat proficiency, which temporarily throws the party's order of battle into disarray. Some quick thinking by Steele allows them to recover, and they are able to defeat the foes, killing the newcomer mercilessly.
- The party departs the Sanguine Court, leaving a tip for the vampires.
- They set up camp on the way back to the village.
Autumn's Twenty-eighth, 6.080
- In their sleep, the party is visited by visions of what being a Hero means to each of them.
- They continue traveling, camping once more as they near the village.
Autumn's Twenty-ninth, 6.080
- Arriving in the village, the party returns to Ren Shin's bungalow.
- There, they secure a private room and a diamond for the purposes of raising the dead. Stripping him of equipment and binding him securely, the party first employs speak with dead to query the corpse of their attacker, learning that he is Tezmereth Glacís and is quite difficult to get answers out of, even dead. Finally, they resort to raise dead, bringing the boy back. It is quickly revealed that he is the grandson of Nadiya and Steele, being the only child of their eldest daughter (who will be conceived on the night that the pair fail the Third Hero Test). That relationship is how he was able to travel through time, being a descendant of those already unstuck from the regular flow of time. He reveals that he comes from the future to stop Steele, who "kills the world" when he releases the Aurora during his attempts to enter Monzë. He was raised primarily by "Uncle" Ikalt and his attack on the party was the halfling's idea (saying that diplomacy could not be relied on to succeed, so it would be better to start with fighting and work his way down to words if that didn't work). Though they get more incidental information out of Tezmereth, the interrogation ends with him admitting that he knows what the party most wants to learn: where Lockson is currently located.
The Council of Heroes (Session 39, Days 177-180)
Autumn's Twenty-ninth, 6.080, cont.
- Tezmereth reveals to the party that Professor Lockson has secured himself in a planar redoubt called the Fortress of Barankal; in Tezmereth's timeline, the fortress was attacked by a group of Heroes, whose fate was ultimately unknown as the world's fall to the Aurora came soon afterwards.
- The party gets some more information out of Tezmereth before returning some of his equipment to him, including his springrams and the phylacteries containing the sacrificed spirits of his friends.
Autumn's Thirtieth, 6.080
- The party prepares for their meeting with the Council of Heroes the following day, studying, securing new equipment, and training.
Autumn's Thirty-first, 6.080
- Teleporting to the Black Rock Citadel, the party is met by the Hero Ogden "Hog" Hodges, who introduces himself and hands them a small book filled with pictures and short descriptions of a score of people. Hog tells them that it is the identity of the "Well-Free," the most dangerous monsters and villains in modern Zenáthras. One of the responsibilities of a Hero is to protect normal people from these beings, though he tells the party that--at their current power level--they would be better-advised to contact the Hero Council if they discover one of the individuals detailed in the book.
- The party takes a meal in the mess, reuniting with Blind Vezroon and meeting several other Heroes who are gathering for the council meeting.
- When the party finally arrives at the council chamber, they meet the twelve remaining Heroes who form the Council. Very quickly, it becomes apparent that there are two main camps in the Council: the older members, who still remember the struggles that it took to create modern society (and are willing to work outside the law if it means enforcing justice) and the younger members, for whom law and procedure are paramount in order to ensure that society continues to function.
- Another thing that slowly becomes apparent is that--the party aside--every Hero present is a human, though many do show features of interbreeding with other races in their family trees. When pressed about the issue, Blind Vezroon admits that the lifestyle of Heroes is quite dangerous, and the other races--being generally longer-lived and, thus, less prone to reckless breeding--suffered disproportionately from the loss of their Heroes, or else bred into the lines of human Heroes at some point in the past. So while the Council of Heroes has an incredibly diverse heredity for a group of humans, they are still, in the end, a group of humans.
- The party lays out everything that has happened to them, telling the full Council about their future, about Tezmereth's alternate future, about Lockson (and his relation to Zieg), about the Figments and their connection to both Geddephron and the One God, and everything else they can think of that might have relevance to the current situation. Then, with everything lain out, the full Council deliberates for quite some time.
- Ultimately, it is decided that the Council shall split into 4 groups and carry out independent action for the next six days.
- One group, led by Alutuus, will investigate Lockson's activities and explore the feasibility of an assault on Barankal.
- A second group, led by Blind Vezroon and Ren Shin, will scour the libraries of both the Black Rock Citadel and the world's other great repositories of knowledge, to try and discover what reason might have led Ren Shin and Alutuus (in the party's history) to destroy the Well.
- The third group, under Hog's leadership, will explore the connection that the Figments might have had to the events of the potential future.
- Finally, the party will form a forth group, whose specific task is to improve their combat abilities, challenging as many of the Trials as they feel comfortable doing and then doing whatever other training they think will prepare them for the difficulties ahead.
- With their tasks made clear, the Council separates, the various elements heading out to deal with their assigned tasks.
- The party makes their way to Andain, a nation clinging to the southern slopes of the mountains of the Tarsin Fold. After speaking with the cheerful-if-eccentric makers of artisanal bread crumbs, the party gets directions to the Castle Peaks, near the world's highest peak: the Temptress. Air walking, the party arrives at the plateau in the center of the fortress-like mountains, finding a conspicuous portal that activates as they near. Looking at each other, the party goes forth boldly, stepping into the portal.
The Path of Sacrifice (Session 40, Day 180)
Autumn's Thirty-first, 6.080, cont.
- The party arrives on a vast, rolling plain that stretches out, perfectly flat in all directions. Perhaps forty feet above them, a shimmering, translucent ceiling stretches out, equally infinite. The only thing that breaks the line of the horizon is a small, stony outcropping, upon which sits a massive, ancient-looking minotaur, his horns bedecked with beads, his body dressed in a mixture of hide and feathers. He welcomes the party to the Aspirant's Path of Sacrifice, informing them that they will face a test of battle before they are allowed to approach the Trial of Sacrifice. They are welcome to quit at any time by announcing their defeat, but doing so will forbid them from attempting either the path or the trial ever again.
- Preparing for the battle, the party is given full permission to buff themselves. When they are ready, six portals open up around them, with the beast-like goatmen pouring forth, equipped with lucern hammers, bows, or tower shields. While the shieldbearers try to block the party members in and the archers shoot at them, the hammer-bearing goatmen set about smashing the party's armor and weapons, trying to deprive them of the equipment they use to fight. After several rounds of battle, beings of lambent energy emerge from the portals, with fangs and claws of jagged metal. When even these prove insufficient to tame the party, a last thread appears in the guise of a wolf made entirely of black fire. As the last of the energy beings dies, its death-throes send Nadiya and Zieg running in terror, while Ikalt was previous slain by the goatmen, leaving Steele to stand one-on-one against the wolf monster, managing a victory that drains him of almost all his magical reserves.
- The minotaur congratulates the party on their victory as the wolf dissolves into a final portal, beyond which the party will find the third Trial.
- Once Nadiya and Zieg return, they magically repair their equipment and use one of the diamonds they purchased from Ren Shin's estate to revive Ikalt and then rest for the evening, ahead of their entering the portal to the Trial of Sacrifice.
The Trial of Sacrifice (Session 41, Day 181-182)
Autumn's Thirty-second, 6.080
- Upon awaking, the party enters the portal to face the Trial of Sacrifice. What awaits them is a room with three altars and a shadowy figure that speaks, telling them that sometimes, heroes simply must surrender something of value to see the mission done. There are moments when they must put everything on the line and be willing to risk not just their lives, but the things that matter in those lives. Each party member is then faced with a choice: admit defeat or surrender something of great value.
- From Ikalt, the voice demands that he sacrifice Whelm, the sword which can slay the Figments, the taking of which was the last wish of the now-dead Great Beast of his people. He had sacrificed much to claim the blade, but was now forced to give it up if he wished to continue.
- From Zieg was demanded the book with his father's notes, most of them still sealed and untranslated, including much important information about the Figments. Not only was it the only tie remaining between Zieg and his father--who was, that very moment, scheming there in the past--but it was also a guide that the entire party had been relying on in their adventures.
- Finally, from Nadiya and Steele, something both less concrete and perhaps more valuable: they would have to surrender their feelings for one-another, forswearing the burgeoning love that had been growing across the long days of their adventure together.
- Though torn by the decision, in the end, the four refused to surrender to the future that Tezmereth had fled, standing strong and agreeing to make the needed sacrifices for power. The voice congratulated them, and as each approached the altars, the items were consumed and the bond between Nadiya and Steele severed, under the penalty that their heroic powers--and all the powers they gained in the future from it--would come crashing down if they defied the edict of their separation.
- Departing with their new powers, the group was met by the minotaur, who told them that their next trial awaited within the uttermost depths of the Wyrcrast Rent, the deepest part of the ocean.
- Morose from their losses, the party returned to the Black Rock Citadel for the night, each alone with their thoughts.
Autumn's Thirty-third, 6.080
- With the new day, the party prepares to sojourn to the depths of the ocean, girding up with magic and taking a quick trip to Dyykada for supplies. Then, they plunge into the water depths and descend.
- On the ocean floor, they find a crack in the wall of an oceanic trench, leading into an aquatic cavern. They venture, finding themselves assaulted by a tribe of pale, eyeless sahuagin.
The Path of Endurance (Session 42, Day 182)
Autumn's Thirty-third, 6.080, cont.
- Fighting deeper into the underwater cave, the party happens upon a long, hexagonal hallway from which depends the torso and head of a massive, ancient sahuagin queen. She introduces herself as the arbiter of the Aspirant's Path of Endurance and tells the party that they must activate the doorway to the Trial, but every moment they spend will increase the difficulty of the Trial that awaits them.
- The party enters, facing more sahuagin--both stronger and more skilled than their brethren outside--and begin collecting portions of a puzzle that requires slotting colored plinths into waiting recepticles.
- The party faces an ice crab as one of their foes.
The Path of Endurance, Redux (Session 43, Day 182)
Autumn's Thirty-third, 6.080, cont.
- The party continues to sovle the Path of Endurance. They face a trio of electrified sea serpents for another plinth.
- After more fighting, the party arrives at the guardian of the final plinth: a magma kraken dwelling in a fathomless undersea chasm. Challenged by its command of the environment, the party is hard-pressed, and Nadiya falls before the kraken's fury, though they are finally able to best the beast.
- With the last plinths in hand, the party faces a hard decision: soldier on, or waste precious minutes to work the magic Nadiya needs to return. Finally, the party decides unanimously that the only real option is to revive Nadiya, which they proceed to do.
The Trial of Endurance (Session 44, Day 182)
Autumn's Thirty-third, 6.080, cont.
- Placing the final plinth, the party opens the doorway to the Trial of Endurance.
- They find themselves stripped of their magic and restored to full vigor, on a sculpted battlefield similar to the very first Trial. There, they are beset by unending waves of monsters: overwhelming numbers of swordsmen, flying beasts that spit poison spikes, phantasms of magic, hulking brutes with tremendous strength, and massive, slug-like creatures with deadly grasps.
The Trial of Endurance, Redux (Session 45, Day 182)
Autumn's Thirty-third, 6.080, cont.
- The battle continues, with ever-more-numerous and terrible creatures emerging, the party battling until their vitality runs thin and their supplies run out. At the bleakest moment, with even their magic exhausting, the last of the beasts fall and silence reigns, the party's endurance tested but found sufficient to the task.
- From there, the party finds themselves transported to a room where a mystic flame burns, warming them to their core. Approaching it, the figure of whom the party believes is Typhi, the Goddess of Wings, appears again, as she once did during the Trial of Separation at the beginning of their hero's quest. She tells them that they have done well to overcome the fourth trial, but that the past has merely been prologue. Beyond this point, the powers that await their grasp are tremendous, but the dangers in seizing it will grow with commiserate rapidity. If the party wishes to move forward, it will not be so easy as it has been.
- Accepting this reality, the party agrees to press on. As Typhi's light fades, the party is teleported to the waters on the surface above the Wyrcrast Rent. While in transit, the voice of the sahuagin queen comes to them, telling them that for the next trial, they must go the city of Dyykada, the capital of Great Fassadum. There, they must locate the White Sable Society and secure an invitation, which will open them up to the Aspirant's Path that will lead them to the Trial of Grace.