Illuvinari

The Harrowing, Part III: Welcome to my Nightmare
04/13 thru 04/14/5055

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After a frightful battle, the Raptors have defeated those behind the kidnapping of Leone Ashenfell – a wicked drow priestess and her demon companions! But they’ve found no sign of the cleric or his bodyguard! Now they must delve deeper into the caves of the aranea…

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The Raging of the Green
05/05/5055

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After uncovering many secrets of the past in the Hall of Doors, our heroes have unleashed one of the ancient weapons of old upon the enemies of the elves. But can they now control what they’ve released?


Umbrecrom: Right now we’re in the middle of a donut of thorny death
Quingle: Mmmmm… donut…
Umbrecrom: And guess who is the jelly filling…


Following the destruction of a second company of mercenary forces by the Battle Briars, the Shards thought it best to avoid the 3 slow moving golems made of iron and stone. 12’ tall hulks which were picking up the few intact remains of the fallen mercs and slapping them onto the many spikes that protruded from the golems’ bodies. Through the mind link which the Psion Yestamir Carnen provided, there was little speculation of what they might be doing. It seemed likely, though not at all certain that the intact corpses were being harvested for an undead army. A gruesome thought, yet with the slow moving golems at a pace of 20’/ round, the Shards were confident they could be able to intercept them after the more immediate threat of the advancing merc companies were dealt with. The few Battle Briars which attempted to assault the constructs were destroyed by the dread might of the powerful fists of the stone and iron golems. It was noted that the golems breathed noxious clouds in their assault, but the Battle Briars, being plants were immune to the poison. The poisonous cloud was seen to be extremely effective against the unlucky mercs who happened to be nearby, dropping them almost immediately.
As the Shards continued down the road circled by their herd of Battle Briars which composed the front third of their force and the Impalers the remaining two thirds that surrounded them to each side and behind them, they began to feel the effects of having been awake for nearly a day and a half. Fatigue seeped into their muscles as they ran, which caused them to begin to slow. The Impalers though not as large as the Battle Briars still were very large creatures of thorn and vine animated with bloodlust, and would not concede to run around the slowing humanoids. The Gnomish Sorcerer Quingle Gemshadow fell into the chanting of a spell which produced magical steeds for Yestamir, Pr’Gillis, and Umbrecrom. Nique rode her Saber-tooth companion which she had outfitted with a saddle, Quingle holding on to her, while Baelevelle, the Nimblewright that she had acquired on the Astral War Castle ran beside them. The creatures behind them hinted at the peril they rode amongst.
They rounded a turn in the road and were disturbed to discover the cobblestones wet with blood. They saw slave shackles, gore, picks, gore, bits of cloth, gore and at the side of the road an overturned cart which spilt a load of cobblestones into the grass. They couldn’t make out any bodies, or anything they could identify as body parts. They glanced among themselves as they realized the mercenaries weren’t the only ones upon this road.
Both the barbarian and the Saber-tooth were able to catch the sound of impact on the leading edge of their charge far ahead. It was suggested they try to edge out from the confines of the encircling horde in which they rode. Nelke, with Nique, Quingle, and Yestamir manage to move between the wall of living plant creatures, but Umbrecrom was cut off and forced back to the center, and Pr’Gillis had nudged too close to one of the thorny beasts. With a discouraging pop as the horse he was riding burst into the nothingness from which Quingle had conjured him, Pr’Gillis was forced to try to leap upon the the offending beast, managing through a dizzying array of tumbling and jumping to reach to the top of its back (15’ off the ground). Remembering the Sylvan word that in theory would indicate that he was an ally, he stated “Rays of sunshine, I am hear to help you.” as he began to pull himself up. It should be recognized that the Impaler is a large moving roil of monstrous spike-like thorns, and having gotten as close as he did, actually grabbing its back and beginning to pull himself up, Pr’Gillis was fortunate to have only been stuck by one of the hideous spike-thorns. The impaler then began to slow down.
Quingle had managed to loose his grip on Nique, and fell, but caught hold of her foot, and was dragged along the ground which was far preferable to being trampled by the creatures still behind them. This had disturbed Malachitrix, his Copper Dragon familiar from the familiar pocket he had been hiding in, and he took to the air flying easily out of immediate danger. Umbrecrom didn’t seem to be making any progress in edging out of the horde. Nique and Yestamir manage to steer further away, getting closer to escape. The beast that Pr’Gillis was on then took a swipe at him but missed, as he maneuvered onto its relatively spike-free face. The creature immediately behind Quingle took a swipe at him and connected painfully, which caused Malichitrix to respond in kind, as he strafed it and spat a line of acid right into the pomegranate-like bud that served as the magical creature’s eye, before he ascended straight up as fast as he could manage. The creature howled in pain and arched up following the tiny winged dragon up with its extended claws. Malachitrix was able to weave between the branches and vines that made up the oversized paws and ascend to safety. Pr’Gillis manages to leap from the face of the Impaler he rode to another which took him a little closer to the edge of the Battle Briar stampede.
Nique, concerned for Quingle’s safety commanded the Nimblewright to lift him onto Nelke. Bealevelle who was running next to Nelke reached down and grabs the Sorcerer by the hair and lifts him onto the Saber-tooth. They manage to exit the stampede and bring themselves to a halt in the nearby woods.
The Nimblewright, an arcane creation of the maker of the Astral War Castle, noticing the difficulty with which exiting the creatures was posing, asked Nique “Did you intend to do this?” finally making the connection that the Druid might not be as in control as she thought Nique was.
Nique, who had never known if she was indeed in control responded “I don’t think I have any control…”
To which the automaton responded “That was…. irresponsible…” referring to the release of so many powerful creature, for there were somewhere around 150 of the Battle Briars and Impalers released from the Armory of the Eldar. Bealevelle glanced behind them, then back to Nique. “How many have you been in control of?”
“None” the Druid responded. “Not even one.”
“Are you sure?” Baelevelle queried, glancing behind them and back to Nique hopefully.
" I could try…" She offered.
“Well, now would be the time…” Baelevelle responded as she turned to confront the rampaging Impaler that had gained on them, despite its eye-pod having been burned to a smoking mess. The Nimblewright gestured and from the assemblage of its arm housings two rapiers unfolded, and extended into its hands, becoming one with them, preparing to lash out at the enraged plant should it make the mistake of trying to strike out at either of them.
Quingle absent an immediate threat upon his life decides that he and Malachitrix must act to assist Umbrecrom and Pr’Gillis.
“You’re going to have to fly out to Umbrecrom! We’re going to get Umbrecrom out of there.”
The Copper Dragon knows the part he is about to play “I’m going to deliver a spell, aren’t I?!” eager to play such an integral role.
Quingle begins his incantation, a powerful transmutation spell, and Malichitrix resting on his shoulder awaits the part where Quingle designates him to the spell’s completion “Go!” The Gnome commands having imparted his familiar into the fabric of the spell so as to allow Malachitrix to deliver its effects well beyond Quingle’s reach.
Malachitrix races out to Umbrecrom (who has only managed to edge a bit from the center of the War-bound Impalers that surrounded him), and lands on his head and climbs in front of his face bracing his hind paws on the barbarians chest so that he could free his hands to cast. Malachitrix sensing the magic infuse his being, begins to chant; he’d heard Quingle chant while casting and does the same, preparing to release the torrent of arcane power.
“Boggety-boggety-boggety!” not having a clue of which words to use, Malachitrix blurts as he reaches out slapping his tiny paws on Umbrecrom’s face, whose form begins to bend and melt, his rock hide transforming itself into the glistening scales of a diminutive young Copper Dragon. The transformation was enough with the kicking hind claws of the nearly 7’ tall Dragon on its back to damage the horse and like Pr’Gillis’ , it explodes into a puff of smoke and shadow, as Umbrecrom launches himself skyward, wings outstretched ready for his first taste of natural flight. He swooped toward Pr’Gillis who had witnessed the spectacle, and readied himself to grab at the passing Dragon. Malachitrix, far too proud of his first polymorph spell, stayed on Umbrecrom’s head for the ride, offering pointers on some of the finer nuances of flight. As Umbrecrom zipped over the monk, Pr’Gillis leapt up, Umbrecrom grabbed for him- and misses! Pr’Gillis reaches out and easily grabbed the Copper Dragon’s trailing legs and held on, as the impaler he was leaping from launched a flight of thorns striking both the monk and the Dragon. Umbrecrom noticed how heavy Pr’Gillis seemed- for the spell has given him the proportionate strength of an young Copper Dragon. He only just managed to handle the Half-Dragon- notions of being crippled race through Umbrecrom’s thoughts. Once above the roil of plant-beasts Umbrecrom decides it would be good to go high and get some reconnaissance for the sounds of the conflict he had heard ahead of them. Pr’Gillis held on.
The Impaler with the smoking eye was charging Nique’s group, and Quingle cast a fly to remove himself from the ensuing melee. Our Druid steps out in front of the beast bearing down upon her as Yestamir intones “You’re injured! You need to stop so Nique can heal you!” in the the Sylvan tongue knowing that although the plants don’t speak, they do understand. It stops in front of the Druid who assesses the injury and determines that it is really just a minor wound. She casts a cure light wounds spell thankful that the Battle Briars and War-bound Impalers were actually creatures and not plants, which would have called for a more powerful spell. With this the creature, its restored eye aglow with the magic that animates it took a single step forward resting its head against Nique’s body. In parody of a cat it raised its head rubbing affectionately against the Druid, unintentionally rending a painful gash on her which was much more serious that the burned eye-bud it had been inflicted with. Nique bore the wound stoically, recognizing the appreciation with which it was given, and encouraged the creature to return to the mercenary hunt. It bounded off into the woods in the opposite direction aimlessly.
Umbrecrom and Pr’Gillis saw a walled town on the side of a hill, the road going past the front gate at the bottom of the hill. Some Battle Briars were reaching to the top of the wall, for they didn’t need to climb to reach that height, and pulled themselves over the wall. Others continued along the road. The impalers equally divided their ranks. The 3rd mercenary group, realizing the danger they were in had entered the town, and roused it to their defense, joining the guards in manning the palisades. At the top of the hill other guards were at the sally ports evacuating the townsfolk. Back at the front gate, Umbrecrom counted 6 spell-casters using magic invoking acid and cold based spells to try to repel their doom. Inquiring how long the Dragon spell would last (despite how weak he was he did enjoy soaring through the sky) Umbrecrom learned it was only an 11 minute spell. He decided to return guessing he’d used less than half that time.
It was then that a few of the group noticed something some 30’ away- standing next to a tree was a Half-Elf. Dressed in Elvin Chain with a short sword and a long sword sheathed on his belt. Stepping aside to let an errant Impaler pass he asked “I suppose you’re responsible for this debacle?” leering at the shapely Druid, and Baelevelle who was under this effects of a continual disguise self spell to hide her automaton nature. Next to the Half-Elf there was a disturbingly large Wolf (it didn’t look to be a Dire Wolf). Just then a Half-Orc revealed himself. Dressed in expensive Noble’s raiment though stained with food, and dirt from obviously having worn it much longer than a Noble would have. He likely had armor beneath it, and carried a double-headed, double-bladed axe which heads were flaming. There was small talk as Nique, Quingle, and Yestamir considered the turn of events. The Half-Orc was introduced as Algernon, and a monk with the tattoo of a fist on his chest emerged and was called Tilit. Quingle, who was flying at the tree tops, had been conversing with a Gnomish Copper Half-Dragon who also was in the air, and had the Gnome covered. He’d counter-spelled Quingle when he attempted to cast an invisibility upon himself. They descended and Quingle landed. The Gnome Half-Dragon was introduced as Gu-atchen Undred. Nique introduced herself, and the uncertain conversation continued. The flying Gnomish Copper spoke to a strange metallic bird perched upon his shoulder and it raced off. It would speed past Umbrecrom and Pr’Gillis as they returned, which they made to be an odd sign. No natural bird would hazard a flight past a young Dragon. Looking back they could see the metallic bird fly to the town and behind it to descend into the forest higher on the hill. As they came closer to the area where the rest of the Shards were, Malachitrix could sense… concern… through his rampart with Quingle and conveyed this to his companions.
They descended into the trees, but Umbrecrom couldn’t manage negotiating the branches in his way and just folded his wings in letting himself plummet to the ground. Malachitrix was appalled at the spectacle, and Pr’Gillis thought to take his chances by leaping away and bounding from branch to branch until he landed on the ground. Umbrecrom fell and landed hard, but as a Dragon it wasn’t a problem, he rolled to his feet, managing to conceal how unsettled the landing left him. Pr’Gillis spotted Tilit from across the area they were in as the two locked into a stare, assessing each other.
Umbrecrom, no longer sharing the Shard’s mind-link because he’d exceeded its range, strode out in front of the others, taking his place as lead combatant. “Friends of yours?” he asked, guessing the Half-Elf to be an ally.
“This is the stone guy, right?” Loki Ashgrove as he introduced himself earlier asked of the Copper Half Dragon Gu-atchen.
“Mmm-hmm.” was the calm reply.
" You’ve disturbed a very lucrative… business we’ve been conducting in the area." Loki continued. Umbrecrom recognized the tattoo on the chest of Tilit asking him directly if he was indeed of the order of the Opaline Fist who destroyed a church of Heironius years ago. Tilit affirmed the lore, but regretted being too young to have been involved. It was with this that Umbrecrom understood what the others had probably taken for granted- the group they faced were likely just another band of mercenaries. Algernon wondered out loud if they were going to get to fight, fidgeting impatiently with the flaming 2-headed battle axe. In the moment of silence that followed Umbrecrom decided that he should be the front-man in the ensuing combat.
“Yes. I think we will.” he answered the Half-Orc. A metallic bird flew back to Undred’s shoulder where he reached up and grabbed it, stuffing in into his belt pouch.
Unbeknownst to everyone present the important conversation was far less ostentatious.
“You are from One Reed School.” Tilit declared recognizing something in the way Pr’Gillis held himself.
“You are correct, master.” Pr’Gillis responded recognizing the Opaline Fist’s superior rank as he bowed. Tilit nodded affirmation to the unexpected recognition. He raised an eyebrow to One Reed School. The Half-Dragon responded by glancing to Loki who continued to prattle. Tilit rolled his eyes. Pr’Gillis glanced to the flying Copper Gnome Half-Dragon. Tilit raised one brow, giving a slight frown as he gave a single nod. Umbrecrom, who had relinquished the dragon-form for his own, sensed that not everyone was all that eager to start a battle fatigued and depleted of spell resources, asked if everyone needed to get involved or if there were going to be champions.
There was talk about champions and bets among the the Stonechild, Half-Elf, and Half-Orc. Tilit announced “I will champion my group.” ignoring the disappointed squeals of the Half-Orc and Loki. Umbrecrom, disappointed that he wouldn’t be facing the mouthy little Half-Elf considered and asked over his shoulder “Am I your champion?” mostly addressing Yestamir looking for quick agreement. Tilit removed a battle fan from his cloth robes. He unlatched it and went through a small kata to display its use. To Pr’Gillis. Pr’Gillis retrieved his flute and presented it to Tilit commenting on matching the quality of his fan.
Tilit nodded. “It is agreed.” Umbrecrom then realized that he was never truly a part of the conversation after mentioning the word ‘champions’. He watched as Pr’Gillis stepped forward, and hoped that the others wouldn’t keep Tilit’s word of honor, noticing that Algernon wasn’t fidgeting. The Half-Orc was mouthing a conversation, eyes absently looking up in concentration. The mercenaries seemed to be sharing in a telepathic bond of their own. Umbrecrom had high hopes that Tilit’s companions would disgrace the honor of his agreement.
Pr’Gillis died in 4 rounds.
That isn’t to say he didn’t represent the One Reed School well. The first moments of combat were ushered in by Tilit speeding to Pr’Gillis and sending a series of fists and feet at Pr’Gillis, half of which missed. The two that landed were solid blows (26). His reply, a flurry of his own, surprised the advanced monk as all three struck there mark (27). At this moment Yestamir re-established mind-link with Umbrecrom and the monk, hoping it would go unnoticed by those close enough to have ‘heard’ it. Opaline Fist replicated One Reed School’s success with 3 solid hits of his own (41). The Half-Dragon could see how thing were going and decided he would up the stakes, by using his breathe weapon a maximized lightning bolt. Tilit managed to spin away before it was ever a real threat. Pr’Gillis followed up with a specialized strike devised to try and stun Tilit in addition to doing damage. This too, master Tilit avoided. He quickly spun back into offense with a specialized strike of his own, one that would communicate an exquisite agony to his target. Had he struck the battle would have ended there, but Pr’Gillis had managed to evade the strike, but not the attack that followed (12). Pr’Gillis responded knowing he had to make up for his over-hopeful previous attack. Again all 3 of his attacks found their mark (50), the last being a strike so pure in its violence, so true in its intent that it was responsible for nearly half the effect of the combined 3 strikes. Again Tilit followed Pr’Gillis’ lead with 3 hits of his own. (44) By now Pr’Gillis was so broken (-38) he was dead before Tilit withdrew his fist. The Shards knew he died before he hit the ground, as they were in mind-link with him at the time.
Tilit stood, leveling his shoulders before retrieving his flute as if to acknowledge an honorable if defeated foe. Still he was sorely wounded. Centering his Ki his wounds closed as he healed what he could through the mental discipline he had learned from the Opaline Fist. One finger which had been gruesomely dislocated migrated back into its socket.
“You may take your friend and go.” he announced to the incredulous chatter of Loki.
Just then from some 30’ behind where Pr’Gillis had stood, two beings walked from the shadow of a tree. A scantily clad human woman wielding a chain whip, and a human fighter clad in plate armor carrying a thick Bastard Sword. “I see you’ve left some for us.” the warrior chimed happily.
“No. There will be no fight.” Tilit proclaimed with finality.
“Fuck this shit-” Loki exploded, drawing his blades, before Tilit sped in front of the Half-Elf and demonstrated the stunning effect of his pain touch. Loki doubled over, retching painfully, gagging and gasping. This surprised everyone.
Quingle who had moved over to Pr’Gillis was preparing to enact the psionic consultation which the Shards had concluded- teleport Pr’Gillis’ body back to the Church in hopes that the clerics could resurrect their dead friend.
To Quingle Tilit commanded “Take your friend and go!”
And the Wolf that stood at Loki’s side turned on the monk launching into a vicious attack. The Shards awaited the teleport that would take the Sorcerer and his cargo away.
Loki then arose and backed off ten feet, spat some curse as he invoked an entangle spell to capture the monk. Being an entangle of 40’ radius everyone but the new arrivals who were the only ones outside the affected area, were held to the ground by the plants which animated to life and sought to hold any living thing in their squeezing grasp. Bealevelle reacted first by empowering herself with various spells before she took 3 backward tumbling leaps that took her outside the edge of the area with the writhing flora. With a target next to her the woman with the chain whip struck at Bealevelle with a minimum of success. She turned, finally angered, and dropped her magic disguise, revealing herself as a strange metallic automaton.
“What the Fuck!?” the human echoed her heightened concern realizing she didn’t face a caster at all as she watched rapier blades fold out of the housing of her arms and settle into metallic hands that became one with the hilts.
The warrior, overly confident intoned “Don’t worry, I’ll handle this one!” and launched an attack that caused two grievous dents to either side of her torso.
Gu-atchen had not been idle. He had managed to summon a creature from the black pits of hell. A tear opened in the space next to Quingle as he prepared Pr’Gillis’ corpse, a chorus of pleas for him to escape echoed over the psi-link. A Barbazu or bearded devil as they are more commonly referred to emerged from the reality tear. Green with a moist, scaly skin, carrying a vile-looking serrated glaive the lesser-devil advanced, delighted its first moments on the plane could be spent striking at the busy Gnome attending to the dead body before it. The glaive descended and struck Quingle a horrible wound (15) that would continue to seep with the vile toxins of hell until it was properly attended to.
Despite the pain and shock, Quingle and Malichitrix who was now at the sorcerer’s side, gather up the monk’s corpse and invoke the magic of a teleport spell, which enabled them to escape to relative safety. The misalignment of magic and physics can sometimes bring about dangerous or even fatal effects euphemistically referred to as a ‘teleport mishap’. It might have been the stress of the situation; the infernal wound which continued to deteriorate as the moments went by, or just the effect of the trauma of being in direct connection with Pr’Gillis’ mind as he died and then being forced to take his corpse back to Fennes Ear while his companions battled on, but regardless of the cause, the effect was damaging, but he bore the wounds of the realigning of magic and physics as he appeared in the teleport reception at the church. Clerics attended him dutifully and he was informed it looked as if he would avoid an infection of devil chills which sometimes accompany wounds acquired from battles with devils.
Bealevelle recovering from the slamming bastard sword blade, erupted into an assault that could only be described as mechanical precision and fluid fury. All 4 strikes penetrate the thick armor pretending to protect the out-classed warrior. Two of the strikes particularly gruesome in that they pierced the plate itself and punctured both his lungs. It was a testament to his skill and natural vigor that he managed to stay on his feet instead of tumbling to the ground.
Loki not being affected by the effects of his own spell casts another spell, this time upon himself, which grants him an increased speed. He then runs wide around Tilit until he is opposite his attacking wolf, and draws his swords and attacks the still wounded monk striking twice.
Yestamir wades through the grasping plants and escapes the entangle and turns back to see Algernon advancing on the fighting pair, Tilit and Loki. The Elf can’t be certain who the Half-Orc intended to attack, but seeing that the Gnome who had summoned a devil (!!) was uncontested now that Quingle was gone, Yestamir knew what he had to do. Despite his diminished psionic reserve, the Psion reached out with the power of his mind and dominated the Half-Orc Barbarian making him turn about and head toward the Gnome Half-Dragon. Algenon was no longer in control of his own actions as the powerful intellect of the Psion forced its way upon his will.
Umbrecrom, aching at the thought of backing away from a fight retreats next to Yestamir hoping for something to approach within reach.
Tilit attacks the wolf striking it, but the wolf is very large and continues to press its assault.
“Yeah Ravager! Get him! I’ll even let you fuck him up the ass!” Loki cheers on his companion.
Nique looks to the wounded human warrior and puts forth “I suggest you leave.” The wet slick inside his armor causes him to reflect upon the wisdom of this course. “I think I’ll do that.” he replies in earnest. The woman who had stepped from the shadows and brought him here had already retreated in the same manner. Looking out to the fighting Ranger, Wolf and Monk, the Half-Orc and Half-Dragon seeming to be gathering into a fighting team, and the unfettered Barbazu decides she must strive to bring this to an end. She caresses the greater mistletoe at her belt pouch and begins casting. Unlike so many spells this is not a spell to be completed in moments. She chants invoking words of power that only the Druids could hope to mold to their wills. The sky darkens. And darkens more. Then, as suddenly as a serpent’s strike the sky pours forth an avalanche of ice and snow, a literal avalanche, not to be confused with metaphor. Tons of ice and snow are deposited in an area 240’ in diameter, covering mercenaries in a thick pile 10’ high.
Ironically, Tilit, being a monk, was able to dodge and climb the chunks of ice and snow as they fell so that he stood atop the snow in the spot Loki and his Wolf were buried. From atop his snow pile he glared down at the Druid.
“You said we could go!” Nique lodging her protest to the honor of the word he had given.
The Barbazu which Gu-atchen had brought to the plane magically appeared behind Yestamir- just out of reach of Umbrecrom.
Tilit frowned, “Yes, I did…” he replied, then looking away he walked off the snow pile and stepped into the air, just before he disappeared.
Before the bearded devil could do anything Yestamir had the remaining group join hands and he plane shifted to the Astral plane, where they managed after a long time to find a silver color pool which would take them back to their own plane.
14 days after entering the Astral plane they left for their own plane- still fatigued not having slept since the morning of the party in Port Dawn. They arrived in Laiore. This would have been uneventful had Umbrecrom not been with them. Laiore was a sacred place to the Elves and they made it clear if you’re not an Elf, you don’t belong. Not too long ago a pair of Keloanians made their way into the forest of Laiore. The fey guardians had inadvertently killed them. The fey guardians that surrounded them before long did recognize Nique as a friend. She spoke with them trying to explain that they were trying to leave the forest as it was the vagaries of planar travel through astral pools which had dumped them within the forest to begin with. The tribe that escorted them decided they could let it go when they reached the edge of Laiore, as a small infraction by friends really, not worth the paperwork that an official report would merit.

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The Forge of the Maker
05/04 thru 05/05/5055

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Our heroes’ reconnaissance of the Colossus in Port Dawn ends in near-disaster! But will a mysterious package from Coramorphus hand them a victory for the elves?

Yestamir plane-shifts himself and Umbrecrom to Arvandor, along with the unconscious gnome prisoner that Umbrecrom had managed to grab from the golem construct’s auxiliary control room. Yestamir has a great need to ask Corellon for a way to atone for his actions while investigating the iron golem, feeling that his actions were overly desperate, vainglorious, and potentially ruinous to the mission. Umbrecrom agrees to go to Arvandor because he knows “that’s where the elven gods live, and it’ll be safe.”

They arrive in the midst of a forest of enormous trees. Yestamir and Umbrecrom take a moment to look up at the starry sky, and are unnerved because the stars move. Belatedly, they realize that they are not looking at stars, but at eight-foot-long fireflies. They discuss options. Umbrecrom climbs one of the trees to see if he can get a bearing, or determine a likely direction to go, but cannot see anything except more trees. The three of them wander around and find ruins and a pool nearby. The ruins are covered with murals and carvings that appear to be of the Great War, depicting elves, dragons, and slaadi fighting together, led by a giant male elf.

As Yestamir is examining the murals, Umbrecrom goes to fill his waterskin and realizes that this is extra-planar water. Thoughts of gold pieces glitter in his guileless eyes as he grabs Yestamir’s waterskin and dumps it out, filling it also with Arvandor water. He then takes possession of both skins, wondering who he might get to buy this to make Anarchic Water. Yestamir is wrapped up in personal thoughts and notices nothing

Suddenly, Umbrecrom sees the water ripple with vibrations. It shakes. And shakes again. And again, as if it were tea in a cup on the table in a giant’s nursery room. Looking up, he sees the trees are doing the same…

“Yestamir, hide!”

The two of them dive into a 10- to 15-foot-deep cleft, like a wooden cave, in the roots of one of the enormous trees around them. Looking out from their hiding place, they see a huge scaly green foot pass by. They see the tips of wings sweeping above the ground a few moments later as the
colossal creature moves on. When it pauses and sniffs the air, they stop moving, breathing, thinking.

The dragon pauses, eats, sniffs for the scent of any more food, and moves on.

Yestamir mind-links to Umbrecrom, and they decide stay in the root cave for several hours, to ensure the dragon is really gone. They fear confronting an Arvandorian dragon would detract from their mission. While waiting, Yestamir meditates on a proper prayer for forgiveness for his recent actions. After sufficient contemplation, he sits up and begins:

“O magnificent Creator, I beg you to hear my plea.
“I am at fault, for I have, through hubris and a desire for my own glory, risked the ruination of the mission entrusted to myself and my friends.
“I ignored the plight and need of my friends and left them in danger, without sufficient means of escape if needed.
“I have been a fool, and my good intentions were insufficient to the task.
“I beg of you, Coronal of Arvandor, to intervene on the behalf of your people.
“Please do not allow my actions to cause harm, even indirectly, to the cause the Elves of Illuvinari have taken upon themselves.
“If it please you, I beg that I be allowed the opportunity to make things right and to show my contrition for these wrongs.”

As Yestamir finishes his prayer, a glowing ball about two feet in diameter floats over to the cleft, and then floats away. Umbrecrom is cautious, concerned that the light is a will-o-wisp that they will have to fight. Yestamir recognizes the light as an eladrin, views its appearance as an answer to his prayer, and feels they should follow it. They leave the cleft and look around for the gnome, who is nowhere to be seen.

The fireflies have returned, with fey-looking riders — thorns — who surround them, and speak. Yestamir discovers he cannot remember how to speak Sylvan — a punishment for his previous actions? Unable to communicate with Yestamir and Umbrecrom, the thorns resort to prodding the two intruders with spears, directing them further into the ruins to the remains of a temple. From outside the temple, the thorns push Yestamir and Umbrecrom to enter. Trusting in his barbarian trap sense, Umbrecrom enters first, and goes to examine the fountain in the center of the temple. Yestamir follows. As they look within the fountain, it becomes apparent to Umbrecrom, knowledgeable in planar lore, that the water is from a planar gate (to the elemental plane of water?) situated just below the fountain’s surface.

Yestamir is expecting to be attacked by a monster, when a female water elemental rises up from the fountain. She asks: “What is your question, and what is your gift?”

Although she does not speak a language they know, they both understand the oracle, Aquatain of the Weird, clearly.

Seeing the hand of Corellon in this, Yestamir offers up his cognizance crystal without complaint, and asks, “What path should we take to rejoin our friends and ensure the success of our mission?”

Aquatain pauses. Visions appear in her watery flesh: a column of smoke; great battles with fierce armies; a terrible slug-like creature with claws looming; a plane of light and darkness all mixed together, where horrid. . . things. . . strain against a membranous wall.

Finally she answers, “You must seek Seluna the Lillend. She has something for Nique, something that Hithlorien seeks.”

She turns then to Umbrecrom expectantly. Umbrecrom offers her a powerful bow he had made with his own two hands, and his collection of masterwork arrows, and says, “We would seek a way to defeat the forces at Port Dawn.”

Aquatain smiles indulgently and says, "Well, then, your answer is the same.” She begins to turn away, and then looks back and adds, "One last thing — be cautious of the Guardians at the Hall of Doors.”

Realizing what a boon she had just given them, Yestamir pours a potion of cure light wounds and a potion of cure moderate wounds into her water as a parting gift, to show respect and gratitude. Aquatain accepts the gift with gracious pleasure.

The thorns outside let them leave the temple. Yestamir mind-links with the leader of the thorns, who mocks him for not speaking Sylvan, and then invites Yestamir and Umbrecrom to stay for a meal. Yestamir, remembering countless warnings about this very thing, very politely declines, explaining that their mission is of the essence. The leader tells them that Seluna the Lillend lives in Alfheim, not in Arvandor. As Yestamir and Umbrecrom prepare to plane-shift to Alfheim, home of Kord, god of strength, and Olidimarra, god of shadows, the thorn leader says, “One favor I would ask if I may?”

Yestamir agrees cautiously.

“Tell the Speaker we await the call.”

As he manifests his power, Yestamir feels Corellon’s gentle touch guide the plane shift. He and Umbrecrom arrive on a cold snow-covered mountain. Yestamir quickly adjusts his body to the temperature and they search for a passage. Finding a long cleft through the mountains, they follow it, gaining some protection from the weather. Once through, they are in a valley warmed by glorious summer weather. They follow a crushed marble path meandering through a magnificently landscaped glade to a gazebo and a pool. A woman in diaphanous clothing sits beside the pool, singing and playing a lyre.

Umbrecrom cannot remember ever seeing any woman so beautiful. He approaches her, appreciating her fine form, her exceptional taste in nearly transparent attire, and the skill with which she plays. She looks up, sees him, plays a discordant note, and rises, berating him in Sylvan. Sensing he had just been chided, Umbrecrom retreats apologetically, rubbing his burning retinas, oblivious to the blinding attack she has just unsuccessfully brought upon him. He cannot understand what she says, but, as long as he can hear her lovely voice, does that matter?

As Umbrecrom backs away, Yestamir hears the sound of wings. Forcing his gaze away from the woman, obviously one of the fey, he sees a lillend fly in and land, wrapping her tail around one of the columns of the gazebo. The nymph speaks to the lillend, frowns, and points to Umbrecrom and Yestamir. It is the most beautiful frown Umbrecrom has ever seen. The lillend turns to them and speaks fiercely to them in Sylvan, which Yestamir still cannot understand, and pulls another lyre from thin air, which she brandishes in a threatening posture. Umbrecrom, recognizing the universal language of threat, if not the specific dialect, again bows his head, trying to show humble contrition.

Yestamir quickly mind-links with the lillend Seluna, who demands an explanation for their intrusion in her glade. He apologizes, explaining that they were sent by Aquatain of the Weird. “She told us you have something for Nique.”

At the sound of Nique’s name, the frown vanishes from the nymph’s face, like storm clouds retreating, and is replaced by a smile that rivals the sun in its brilliance. She bounces excitedly, up and down, and squeals in happiness. Umbrecrom feels he could spend the rest of his life here in this glade, just watching her. Seluna says something to the nymph, who scampers off into the forest. A pang of regret stings Umbrecrom’s heart — how excellent it would be to follow her, watching her scampering, her bouncing, her. . . But that might earn another Sylvan tongue-lashing. Still. . .

A few moments later, the nymph returns via dimension door, carrying a package that she hands to Seluna. As Seluna offers the package to Yestamir, she says, “I was ordered to give this to Nique, when the time was right.”

Surprised, Yestamir asks her, “Who could order one such as you?”

“Coramorphus,” she replies.

Even more startled, Yestamir decides to risk another question, “Is Coramorphus still alive on the Prime Material Plane?”

“Even I cannot tell you that,” she replies. “But I had this package from him before Nique was born.”

Finally, Yestamir asks her if there is a portal to the astral plane nearby.

“There is not, although there is a portal to Illuvinari, which would place you near Nique’s home in Amcarofarne.”

As he ponders the fastest way back to Port Dawn and their friends, she adds, “There is one who might help you. . . the Master of Shadows.”

Yestamir asks how to find him. “Look in the shadows, of course,” she laughs. "But I ask that you not call him here in our glade. Go further down the path.”

The nymph speaks excitedly to Seluna, and Seluna adds, “Give our love to Nique.”

Yestamir pulls Umbrecrom away from the nymph, who is fondling Umbrecrom’s bowed head. Yestamir heads off into the forest, a dazed Umbrecrom in tow, until he feels that they are a sufficient distance from the gazebo, and then calls quietly to Olidimarra.

“Lord of Shadows, hear our plea.” The landscape around them becomes dark and full of shifting shadows. Stepping into the shadows with a gulp, Yestamir says, “Master of Shadows, hear our plea, for we desire your aid. We wish to travel undetected into Port Dawn.” The feeling of a Presence fills the area as the shadows thicken around them. Something foreign in Yestamir’s brain draws into the shape of a thought.

“What’s in it for me?”

Yestamir realizes he has no idea what to offer a god of thieves in return for the aid he needs.

Umbrecrom speaks up, “My Lord, we wish to travel to Port Dawn, in Illuvinari.”

“I know.”

“We do not wish to be noticed and we have already set off their alarms once.”

“I know.”

“We need to rejoin our friends quickly. . . but you know that. . .”

The Presence laughs, “You are funny. I will send you back.”

Yestamir gets a definite sense of other presences beyond the Presence laughing as well. The Presence turns back to Yestamir.

“Come now, you surely don’t want me to name the price. . . " Again Yestamir has the sense of laughter. Thinking frantically, he opens his mouth to speak, but it is too late. “Very well, then,” the Presence says, “here is my price. A friend of a friend of a friend is in trouble. Because it amuses
me to throw a stone in the cogs of law, when the time comes, and you will know when it comes, you will help a servant of the wolf against law. Are
we agreed?”

“Agreed,” says Yestamir.

“Very well then, cast forth your mind and step into the shadows.”

Yestamir thinks very clearly of their room in Port Dawn, steps forward. . . and slams into a tree. Howls of laughter echo in his mind.

“No,” the Presence chuckles, “Use your plane shift to cast forth your mind.”

Grumbling to himself, Yestamir manifests his power, and feels the Presence focusing him, like Corellon’s touch, but darker. . . grabbing Umbrecrom’s hand, he steps forward. . . slamming into something hard.
Solid.
Flat.
With a doorknob.

Cringing in pain, Yestamir tries to wriggle around enough to get to the doorknob, despite the crowded conditions in the closet. “Umbrecrom is no pixie,” he thinks. He finally grasps the doorknob, turns it, and steps cautiously through the doorway. . .

Lothron 5, 5055, around 2:30 a.m.

Nelke paces through the spacious suite at the Golden Gnome’s Retreat, a perfect reflection of Nique’s anxiety. Malachitrix peeks over Quingle’s shoulder as they look out the window yet again at the smoke trailing from the silent iron golem in the harbor. Ananmara sleeps on soft pillows in a corner. Pr’Gillis’s flute song hovers around them all.

“They should have been back hours ago.”

No one is sure who has spoken. They have said this so often tonight that it seems to have become a part of the flute song.

Ananmara whimpers, and tightens her hold on one of the pillows. Quingle glances at her — her movement has exposed a corner of her new brand. He winces.

A sound.

The flute song stops. Five pairs of eyes turn toward the suite’s closet. Five bodies prepare to defend.

The closet door opens.

Yestamir and Umbrecrom tumble out of the closet. Nique’s anxiety dissolves into giggles, as her two old friends appear.

The reunited Shards settle down with some refreshments and begin exchanging tales of parties and golems and the new knowledge obtained.

“And then, with Yestamir under one arm, and the gnome under the other, I dive out into the darkness, …”

“Wait, I almost forgot, this is from Seluna,” Yestamir interrupts, handing Nique a plain wooden cube, about 8 inches on a side. “She says Coramorphus gave it to her for you, before you were born.”

“You saw Seluna?!” Nique exclaims as she takes the cube. She is about to ask how this happened, but the cube, …the cube, …is so … lustrous, so beautiful, with its deep grain. Is it ash? She turns it over in her hands, looking at it more closely, the surface cool and smooth. One side forms into a mouth and asks her a question. She answers, and the mouth disappears, returning to lustrous wood. And then the grain moves, and forms into words.

The party warily watches the exchange; no one understands the language spoken by the cube and Nique. When the words form on the cube, Quingle looks over her shoulder, but cannot read the writing. “Nique,” he says softly, “what does it say?”

She looks up from the cube at a circle of concerned faces, and realizes that both the words spoken and the words written by the cube have been in druidic.

“It says:
‘Upon considering that every beginning has its end,
despite what is believed by many learned magi,
some may discover that it is unwise to envelop
light within a cloud of darkness, for a
cat can always find its way with an open eye,
marking its path easily, and it will receive
not a single surprise through darkest midnight.
What spell am I thinking of?’”

More refreshments are consumed as the Shards try to make sense of this poem. The phrase “every beginning has its end” and odd placement of line breaks nags at Nique, and she begins looking at the beginning and ending words of each line, and finally at the beginning and ending letters of each line.

“Displacement — is that a spell?” she asks. Quingle tells her that is an arcane spell, and she says “displacement” to the cube in druidic.

The writing disappears, and the cube emits three objects: A small obsidian figurine of a displacer beast, a scimitar (+2 frostburst) with its name, Frostwind, carved in runes, on the blade, and an ornate wrought gold box. Nique decides to examine the box first, and puts the cube and figurine in her pocket, and the scimitar on her waist.

The box is 8 inches wide by 12 inches long by 6 inches deep. The top and four sides are finely engraved. A two-headed dragon, roaring to either side, with crystal eyes, is engraved on the lid, along with the words “Help us in the hunt. All must face their prey.” The back and left and right sides of the box are rippling scales. A line of men with swords and shields face the five metallic dragon head clasps on the front of the box. The heads are in this order, from left to right: Silver, brass, gold, bronze, and copper.

The box has five legs, one in each corner, and one in the center of the undecorated bottom. Each leg is a different metallic dragon with druidic script on its outstretched wings.
The left rear is a brass dragon that reads “I am hunted by a dragon not of water.”
The right rear is a bronze dragon that reads “To seek my prey, I must fly to freezing fate.”
The left front is a silver dragon that reads “My prey dwells on lofty heights.”
The right front is a copper dragon that reads “When my hunter comes, I do not wake.”
The center is a gold dragon that reads “None dare seek the gold, though I may hunt any who do not share my home.”

Through some cautious manipulation, the Shards determine that the dragon box legs will turn, and they begin working on the puzzle clues. They finally come to an agreement, and Nique turns the brass toward the copper, the bronze toward the silver, the copper toward the brass, and the silver toward the copper. She then turns the gold toward each of the other four.

The box opens. The inner compartment is 7 inches wide by 11 inches long by 5 inches deep and contains a pouch. Nique opens the pouch, and pours out five small eye-shaped gems — a black opal, an emerald, a pearl, a ruby, and a sapphire. Although they all radiate transmutation, nothing happens. She puts the gems back in the pouch, and the pouch back in the box. There is another other object inside the box — a small perfect sphere of wood, radiating strong transmutation. Nique reaches in, picks it up, and. . .

Alone in the suite, Ananmara sleeps on.

The suite dissolves into a greyness that becomes a clearing, surrounded by 12 ancient monoliths. Huge trees tower outside the circle of stones. Nique recognizes the experience as a bizarre variant of transport via plants.

The Shards determine that they are still somewhere on Illuvinari. They begin exploring the clearing.

The northernmost monolith is carved with an arch composed of five identical bas-relief dragon profiles. Each profile displays an empty eye socket. Above the profiles, the words “Welcome to the Armory” are carved.

An armory. Has the party found the tools to win the war?

As the Shards approach, the dragon carvings stir, and then each head, beginning with the one on the lower left, speaks one statement.
“The ruby rests not on the left.”
“Opal does not look up to ruby.”
“I keep the opal near me, but wear it not.”
“The pearl rests not on the right side.”
“Ruby and sapphire reside higher than emerald.”

The heads then smile in a most unfriendly manner, watching the party with their empty eye sockets.

“Another puzzle,” groans Umbrecrom. However, this one takes the Shards little time to solve. After everyone agrees on the solution, Nique inserts the gems from the pouch, beginning at the lower left, one for each chromatic dragon in order — pearl, black opal, sapphire, ruby, and emerald.

The dragon carvings reluctantly accept the solution. The stone in the middle of the monolith peels back to reveal a solid wooden door. There is no handle. Nique touches the door and the Shards find themselves on a round wooden platform in the middle of a large circular stone chamber, with approximately 50 wooden doors in the continuous wall. Many of the doors are broken, burnt, or rotted. A symbol is carved above each door. From where they stand, the Shards can see these symbols:
Mountain
Crown
Island
Hand
Pair of crossed spears
Treant
Waterfall
Flame
Triangle
Bushes

There is also one silver door under a carving of two islands, with the lower island the reverse image of the upper one.

Pr’Gillis steps off the platform to get a closer look at the doors, and a large earth elemental suddenly rises up out of the stone floor.

“Hello,” says Nique in Terran.
“Hello,” says the earth elemental, hesitantly, in a voice that sounds like two mountains scraping against one another.
“Are you the guardian for this place?”
“Yes.”
“Coramorphus sent us.” And Nique shows the elemental the wooden sphere and the gold dragon box. The elemental examines these objects, and decides not to eliminate the party.

The rest of the Shards explore the chamber, while Nique talks with the earth elemental. She asks its name, and patiently listens for the next several minutes while it is recited. The elemental permits the party to shorten its name to “Granite.”

Nique joins the rest of the party in exploring the room. As she nears the door with the carving of the bushes over it, a magic mouth appears and says, “I think this is the door you’re looking for.” The Shards go through the door, hoping desperately that there will be a weapon that can stand against the golem, or the armada, or the soldiers marching on Jawarl, or perhaps even the Evil in the Sorrow Wastes.

They find themselves standing by a wood, in front of row upon row of very large thorn bushes under a silver sky. A thin mist permeates the air. They step forward to investigate their surroundings. The bush nearest them moves, unfolding into a shape like a large six-legged cat made of briar. It looks at them with buds like pomegranates, and asks, “Is it time?” Nique thinks of the many threats to the good creatures and the natural world of Illuvinari, and, with a silent prayer that this will be the right answer, says, “Yes.”

It is like tossing a stone into water. The battle briar nudges its neighbors, who stir and nudge their neighbors, an awakening wave of thorned danger rippling across the demi-plane. Nique looks at the amount of power she has aroused, and an uncomfortable feeling forms in the pit of her stomach.

The sound of rustling briars fills the demi-plane. A whisper of “It is time” turns into a shouting chant of “Go! Go! Go!” The Shards look at each other — what should they do now? How can they make use of this weapon? How can they get these plant creatures to a battlefield? The battle briars are too big to go through the door from the chamber, and there does not appear to be another opening in this demi-plane. Will they be able to control them if they do get them out of the demi-plane? It is almost impossible to think — the presence and sound of so many large creatures makes the space feel even smaller than it is. There is some discussion of just leaving the pack of plant creatures here, but no one knows how to put the creatures back into stasis, and without sunlight and water, the plant creatures will probably die.

Nique manages to quiet the creatures enough to make a hasty promise to return after she learns how to free them, and the Shards quickly go back through the door into quiet of the stone chamber.

Perhaps there will be an answer to their problems behind another door. The silver door glints at them; it is unique among the chamber’s doors. The Shards unanimously agree to go through the silver door.

The Shards find themselves on a balcony of a huge stone structure floating in the Astral Plane, surrounded by an astral storm. It is an asteroid that has been altered into a castle, with half of the edifice the mirror image of the other half. There is a line of mountains trailing the castle as far as the eye can see.

Yestamir recognizes where they are. The tapestries they took from Lashimir were astral maps to this place. This is the Astral Cannon; these mountains can be dropped onto Illuvinari through a special gate in the tube below the balcony they stand on!

There are two large doors, which are closed, leading from the balcony into the castle. The party rings a bell next to the doors. The doors open, and a female elf steps through. She moves very stiffly and mechanically. She asks, “Who are you? Why are you here? What is the password?”

Nique says they have been sent by Coramorphus and shows her the items from him. The elf construct asks again for the password. Nique explains that they do not know the password. The elf construct calls for Galenial.

Lights come on, sounds start up, the astral storm clears. The castle awakens. The castle is Galenial, “The Maker,” the first child and only daughter of Coramorphus. The elf construct changes, her motions becoming fluid as Galenial takes her over. Galenial has been asleep, and the party’s arrival has awakened her.

“Who are you?” The party members introduce themselves. When Galenial hears Yestamir Carnen’s name, she looks closely at him, displeased because she does not remember him.

“Who is Speaker of the Eldar?”

“Eqximiye Carlack.”

Galenial is becoming more displeased; she does not know this name.

“No, that’s not right. Where’s Coramorphus? Where’s Elmenethrond? What year is it?”

“It is 5055 A.E.”

“A.E. — what does that mean?” she snaps.

“It is 5,000 years since the war against the Gurth Morgul Herui.”

“Did we win the war?”

“Yes.”

“Then why is there still a taint? Where is the Queen?”

“She is dead.”

“Where is Coramorphus?”

“He is dead.”

Galenial is shocked, confused, angry — she should not have been asleep this long. Nique tells her about the Queen’s death, the Daughter-Tree, Hithlorien’s breakdown, and the current war. She asks Galenial for help in getting back home and in using the battle briars in the war.

Galenial agrees to help the Shards get home and leads them from the balcony into the castle to a teleport room. She states that Nique will stay, and the rest of the party will return to the stone chamber. Yestamir and Nique explain that the Shards need Nique with them to finish their mission. She sharply says that Nique will not be long in joining them and sends the rest of the party back. After a short private conversation with Nique, she also sends Nique back, accompanied by the elf construct — a nimblewright.

When Nique and the nimblewright arrive in the stone chamber, they find Granite and his kin listening to Pr’Gillis playing the flute. The nimblewright coldly adds another thousand years onto Granite’s length of service for this dereliction of duty.

Nique is saddened by Granite’s punishment. Perhaps, when the current crisis is over, she can discuss whether the punishment is necessary with. . . — she turns to the nimblewright. “What is your name?”

“I have no name.”

“You will be traveling with us. You will need a name. What shall we call you?”

“It does not matter,” the nimblewright replies indifferently.

Nique consults with the rest of the Shards. She returns to the nimblewright. “We would call you Baelavel .”

“As you wish.”

The Shards and Baelavel enter the room of the battle briars. The rustling and chanting start up loudly as soon as the creatures see the party.

“Baelavel, how do we get them out of here?” asks Nique.

“It is simple, you just cast gate and take them through.”

“I cannot cast gate.”

Baelavel looks at Nique. “You cannot cast gate,” she states flatly. She looks at the rest of the party, and back at Nique.

“None of us can cast gate,” Nique says, in response to the unasked question.

Nique and Baelavel look at each other. Yestamir, Quingle, and Pr’Gillis each find that some aspect of the demi-plane requires scrutiny. Umbrecrom thinks about what the nymph might be doing.

“Yestamir, could you and I combine any of our abilities to find another solution?” asks Nique, finally. “What do you think, Quingle?”

The magic users determines that they may be able to combine a transport via plants and a plane shift and open up an exit from the demi-plane back to Illuvinari. Nique has the plant creatures file past the party so the creatures will (hopefully) be able to recognize the Shards and not attack them by mistake. She instructs them to arrange themselves with the “tamer” lesser battle briars near the party, and the wilder greater battle briars further away. She orders the creatures not to attack anyone using the password “sunshine” spoken in sylvan, and not to attack anyone who is not fighting or using magic.

Then, with much trepidation, the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of her stomach becoming ever stronger, Nique begins casting a transport via plants to the nearest oak tree 10 miles north-northwest of Port Dawn. She coordinates it with Yestamir’s plane shift, and an opening appears on the far side of the demi-plane. Guided by an unseen hand, they all shift.

Lothron 5, 5055, 10 a.m.

The edge of the Wyrmwood forest, next to the road leading from Port Dawn to Laroosh. A pleasant day in late spring. Sunlight dapples through the tree leaves. Birds sing, squirrels chatter, chipmunks scurry. A scattering of travelers on the road taking care of the ordinary business of everyday life — carrying produce to market, carting wood, walking to a relative’s home for a visit.

Lothron 5, 5055, 10:10 a.m.

Broken branches and shredded bark hang from what few trees still stand upright. Red smears adorn the gashed roadway. Silence, except for the distant sound of galloping thunder.

The battle briars had poured onto the road, most of them staying together and heading in the direction Nique had told them to. Had they been following her directions, or was it chance that they were now headed in the direction of Laroosh? Within minutes of arriving in Illuvinari, the Shards find themselves behind a company of soldiers marching from Port Dawn to Laroosh. The battle briars toss, trample, and destroy the soldiers, joyously being what the Eldar had created — living war machines. The briars then rapidly come up on another company, and obliterate them as well.

The Shards look at one another. What have they unleashed?

View
Rising Tide
04/04 thru 05/04/5055

pkingcourt.jpg

The Syndec of Laroosh has been secretly gathering allies throughout the south for an assault on Vinya Avignon. In addition to conventional forces, they have fielded a frightful new weapon – a 200 ft. tall golem!!! Can the Shards stop it before it can be turned on the elves?

When last we met our intrepid adventurers, who officially adopted the group title “The Company of Shards,” it was the 4th of Gwirith, and they had just returned from their first mission together for the Elven Council. As it was too late to perform a Raise Dead, Leone Ashenfell performed a Resurrect on Matillian, the Blackbird’s First Mate killed by the surprise Githyanki attack, with Lady Borsa making up the cost difference between the two Divine spells. After some intense, but friendly, debate on the best method to use, the treasure was divided, and each of our heroes judiciously applied the magical enhancements so graciously awarded by Celethor Carnen. They made the acquaintance of Asardion Tulleron, a jeweler who can mount the red crystal shards that are their namesake, although Pr’Gillis is the only one to have the mounting done at that time. The Shards then celebrated their newfound companionship by separating to tend to their various personal affairs, in their various locales.

Naturally, though, some socializing did occur, or not so social as the case may be. In one of the local taverns, Umbrecrom and the captain of the Blackbird almost come to blows regarding the death of Matillian. The stonechild had heard the captain blaming the Shards for the sneak attack that killed the first mate, and he had, understandably, reached a limit to what he could let pass. It came to a head with the captain saying something along the lines of “I don’t much like your tone,” to which our hero responded that “I’m not sure I liked yours on the ship, either.” Fortunately, however, the two recognized their differences, had their say, and moved on. Pr’Gillis, meanwhile, did his part by ensuring that the self same Matillian, recently resurrected, was paid “special” attention by the local wenches. This attention, along with a heartfelt apology and a gift of a Ring of Protection from the Shards’ treasure, allow Matillian to see it in his heart to forgive the heroes, even after he tells them that he was not, in fact, killed instantly by the Githyanki, but instead bled to death in the bottom of the boat!

With their business complete, the heroes sail for Fennas Ear on the 17th of Gwirith, again at the request of the Elven Council.

But, even after arriving in Fennas Ear there is still a brief time for socializing, and Pr’Gillis begins to make a name for himself as an accomplished flautist; but not his own name – he plays under the stage name of “Purge.” He even catches the pointed ear of a noble elf, none other than Fimtathariel Lingwai, current holder of the Honor Seat of the Painter in the High Council of the Elves. She was quite taken with his performances, and desired to have him play for a party she would be holding soon in Ost Lachrunyanen. Alas, he had to respectfully decline, for the Shards were about to receive their next mission.

On the 19th of Gwirith they meet with Aglarndak Naurloth – the Deputy Warlord, and foremost elven fighter alive at that time. He wants the Shards to journey to Port Dawn to investigate the reports of a giant golem – the same object that Pr’Gillis saw walking out of the ocean on their way back from Lashimer’s island. He can tell the Shards that the golem attacked the city of Koshar, with minions entering and exiting from the giant’s feet, gathering the tribute demanded by the golem – or its controller. The golem is impervious to magic; even rust monster blood had no effect. It’s attack methods are vague, and may include ballista, stomping, and rays from the eyes.

Aglarndak laid out the details of the mission: Find out if the golem is associated with Laroosh (it is known that the Syndec commonly deals with automatons, etc.). If not, who? Determine if it could it be a threat to the elves, and if so, provide possible recommendations to stop it. If the Shards believe that they are able to neutralize it directly, however, then do so. To provide some assistance with the mission, the heroes are supplied with 5 Cure Serious potions (1 each to party member), 10 Cure Moderate potions (2 each), and a potion of Barkskin +4 (carried by Nique).

In further preparations, and with keeping the reputation of Port Dawn in mind (“a truly detestable metropolis on the Azure Sea…where anything can be had for a price”), the party thinks that another Hat of Disguise, in addition to Pr’Gillis’, might come in handy. They find one Master Than Tiland can supply them with one for 3,000gp, but it would take him 2 days to get it. Aglarndak signs off on a chit for the purchase. In the intervening time, however, Pr’Gillis’ own hat is stolen, and when the group goes to collect the one they are purchasing, Yestamir recognizes it as none other than Pr’Gillis’ own! Alas, it seems Master Than is less than reputable – what is the world coming to? Yestamir and Umbrecrom confront him on his deception, and at Umbrecrom’s suggestion, give the deceitful merchant a chance to redeem himself; but to no avail, however, for he runs at the first opportunity. With time short, the pair have no other recourse but to report the incident to the City Guard, where they learn that this is, apparently, business as usual for Master Than.

So on the 21st of Gwirith, our Adventurers once again board the Blackbird, this time bound for Vinya Avignon, and eventually, Port Dawn.

After an uneventful journey of 10 days, on the first of Lothron the Blackbird is joined by the Foam Follower – a fast elven ship – to escort the Blackbird into Vinya Avignon. There they are met by the captain of the garrison, who reports a significantly higher degree of pirate activity; it appears that Port Dawn is attracting pirates, or, to be more accurate, more so than usual. Quingle is shown to the teleportation rooms, to memorize the unique patterns on the floors for later use, if necessary. In discussing the best way to make the last leg of the journey to Port Dawn, Umbrecrom suggests that with Yestamir’s psionic abilities, they could use a plane shift to go to the Astral plane, and then make use of Astral Pools for spying and travel. So Yestamir transports the group to the Astral Plane. (One must ask, however: if astral travel is ultimately being used to get to Port Dawn, then what was the purpose of the voyage to Vinya Avignon?)

Upon arriving on the Astral plane, the group finds things…different. Nelke, Nique’s smiledon companion, is understandably nervous about the whole affair, but Nique is able to calm her; on the other hand, Malachitrix, Quingle’s copper dragon familiar, is having way too much fun. After adjusting to the new environment, the group sets off in no particular direction, not that one could have been determined anyway. They eventually come across an oval disk with a hue of brown leather, which they know is not the color they need for the material plane, so they travel on.

As they are traveling, however, Malachitrix spots 6 dots in the distance, which quickly move towards the group. The dots turn out to be a Githzerai rrakkma – an Illythid-hunting party that does not return home until they have slain at least as many Mind Flayers as members of their party. The Githzerai are creatures of the same racial stock as Githyanki, but their sworn enemies. And anybody else’s enemy, as it turns out, for they appear to be spoiling for a fight with the Shards. The group decides that rather than waste valuable resources here, they would gamble on the random nature of planar shifting to the material plane in order to return. Ah, luck is not with them this time, for they appear in mid air – in the middle of the ocean! After a quick dunking in the sea, they shift back to the Astral plane – only to be overtaken by a psychic storm. It quickly passes, however, and no one seems worse for wear. So they begin traveling again, and this time come upon another Color Pool – a silver portal to the material plane.

As Quingle is the only member of the group to have spent any time in Port Dawn in the past, he peers into the pool, bringing to mind a location about 5 miles outside of the city (he knows that there are probably alarms/traps within the city triggered by entering using teleportation or planar travel). He sees what appears to be a dimly lit courtyard of some sort, and the group steps through, one by one. Unfortunately, this mode of travel also has its own degree of uncertainty, for when Quingle steps through, he stops in his tracks, staring at the castle on top of the hill next to the buildings surrounding them. “Oh, fuck,” he mutters, “it’s the governor’s mansion. We’re in the city!” Indeed, even as they watch, they can see a shimmering ring around the portal they just stepped through, and Umbrecrom, who is familiar with such travel, knows that this is not normal. The group immediately realizes that the alarms have been triggered, and Yestamir puts up an anti-scry block. Just in time, too, for almost instantly he feels someone trying to find them, and it soon blocks a second attempt. The date is the 3rd of Lothron – the heroes were in the Astral world for 2 days total.

The Shards quickly reason that just because they can’t be scryed on directly, that doesn’t mean their general location can’t be deduced, and decide that leaving the area would be a wise move. After a short time of traveling the alleys and streets, they come upon a tavern, and feel that hiding in plain sight may work in this case. While there, the group keeps mostly to themselves, but Pr’Gillis gets into a conversation with members of a street gang – the Blue Knives – who strongly “suggest” that it would be good for our heroes to leave…soon; the Monk even gives them a small bag of coins, to help facilitate their smooth departure. Quingle thinks the mere existence of the gang is strange, for when he was here before, the city’s underworld was ruled by the Jade Lady, and if he remembers correctly, she did not allow street gangs. Yestamir, with his psionic ability to detect thoughts, however, knows that the thugs have no intention of letting this new band of “easy pickings” get away, and plan to go after them when they leave – or so they think. However, our brave Shards are cognizant of their mission, and attracting the kind of attention that a street fight would cause would not, at this point in time, be prudent. So our heros leave the tavern, and as expected, are presently followed by the blue thugs. The villains see our band of friends departing down a street, and begin to follow them. The Shards seem to notice they are being followed, and quicken their pace, eventually breaking into an all out run, with the thugs in close pursuit. What happened to our band of friends? Did they escape? Where they murdered? Or beaten, robbed, and sold into slavery? Have no fear for this group – their fates are none of our concern. For at the same time, down a different street, opposite from the direction the Shards appeared to take, walk five familiar figures – the sorcerer among them chuckling to himself about a “well placed illusion…although I will have to work on Nique’s hair next time.”

They make their way to a second inn, but when they enter the common room, they spot two of the Corsair Kings eating dinner – Captain Alabaster, a female vampire, and Grim Bittal. The captain of the garrison at Vinya Avignon did say that Port Dawn seemed to be attracting pirates lately. The party decides to seek lodging elsewhere, and eventually find themselves at the Golden Gnome’s Rest, a rather upscale inn

It is at this point that a great charade begins. Pr’Gillis and Yestamir enter, seeking to book lodgings for themselves and their “staff,” who are waiting outside. They acquire a suite, and begin to settle in. As part an ever evolving masquerade, Pr’Gillis frequently rings for the maitre ‘d of the establishment, ordering various things – a meal, cleaning services, even a full set of new “uniforms” to be custom made for each of them (which includes the taking of measurements of each of the Shards). During all of these dealings with the staff, they begin to weave a tale that Pr’Gillis is actually a “General,” the rest of the group are his high level support staff, and that they are mercenaries in the espionage business, this last part not exactly being a lie, if one looks at it a certain way. “So you are here for the banquet?” the maitre ‘d asks. It turns out there is to be a grand banquet thrown by the governor the next evening, in which almost every villain in the area is expected to attend.

To the consternation of the good hearted nature of the Shards, but not necessarily their surprise, the ordered services are being performed by slaves. To at least keep up the appearance of the masquerade, since even slaves can be questioned later, the group allows the slaves to continue with the services they are designated to perform, but they treat them kindly, not demanding anything particularly rigorous or difficult; those that are sent to provide “companionship” are simply sent to bed to have at least one night of rest to themselves. Nique offers the half-elf sent to do the cleaning some of the food – “there is certainly more here than we can eat,” she says, “why don’t you take some, too.”

Pr’Gillis rings for the maitre ‘d once more, but this time he steps out to speak with him privately. When he returns, he tells the group that he has just purchased the half-elf slave girl who is doing the cleaning. The specific reasons for doing so he does not say, and although no one in the group faults him for wanting to save at least one person from a life of slavery, there are a some among them who wonder about the wisdom of this particular action, at this particular point in time. Ordering services to be performed by slaves in order to keep up the charade of villainy may be one thing, they feel, but actually purchasing a slave may be pushing the pretense too far; plus, it is now Pr’Gillis’, and by extension the Shards’, responsibility to get this girl back to the elven lands so her freedom is automatic.

Eventually, the maitre ‘d returns, and states that the paperwork is complete, and all that is left is the “remarking.” By this point, Pr’Gillis and Yestamir are busy dealing with information gathering – more on that later – so it is left to Quingle to accompany the maitre ‘d and the girl to the basement for the remarking. As they descend, the maitre ‘d explains that due to the short nature of the transaction, and the time of night, they did not have time to fabricate a branding tool to form the mark supplied by Pr’Gillis, so instead the mark will be created by a tiefling warlock, drawing the new brand directly onto her shoulder with the acid/burning of it’s claw – all of which Quingle must witness. Oh, the rage and fury burning inside him with having to watch this! And the indifference of the maitre ‘d, sipping wine during the process! The gnome is not so naive as to think this doesn’t happen – this is Port Dawn after all – but to be faced with it in such a direct manner is almost more than he can bear. He is doubly enraged by the fact that there is nothing he can do to stop it; Pr’Gillis has woven this subplot into their masquerade, and if their mission is to succeed, then he must play along. Finally, he is heartbroken over the fact that there is nothing in his arcane repertoire that he can do to ease the poor girl’s suffering.

With all the dealings with the maitre ‘d, the group learns more about the banquet. It appears that invitations were general, not to specific individuals, and that there is quite a black market for them. The heroes also learn that Black Annie, another of the Corsair Kings, has lodgings just down the hall from them! Yestamir sends out his psionic tendrils to her mind, gathering even more information. The group eventually calls it a night, and they go to bed.

The next day, Lothron 4, the group continues its plans and preparations for the evening. It turns out that the harbor can be seen from their rooms, and they can plainly see the primary focus of their mission: the golem, standing in the harbor, waist deep, with the pirate fleets surrounding it. But there is also the governor’s banquet; and the group feels that there is valuable information to be gathered from the event, even if it does not directly involve the golem. So Pr’Gillis pays the maitre ‘d to “acquire” an invitation, and the adventurers settle on the final plans for the evening. Something else the maitre ‘d asks for is advance payment on that night’s lodgings. He explains that the last time the governor had a banquet of this sort, it was the last meal that the guests ever had, and many of the inns ended up not getting paid for that nights’ bookings. “Of course, nothing like that will probably happen this time,” he continues, “but still, its just a precaution, you see.”

With the invitation obtained, there is great discussion among the Shards as to who should attend the event, and while everyone feels that having the most number of them there would seem best, to deal with any trouble that may arise, Umbrecrom points out that it is certainly possible that Lashimer could be there as well. It is therefore decided that Pr’Gillis will be the only one to actually enter the banquet, escorting the slave girl (Lashimer never actually saw Pr’Gillis during the first adventure); Nique and Quingle, meanwhile, will be in disguise with the carriage that brought Pr’Gillis and the girl, ready to whisk all of them to safety if any problems arise for Pr’Gillis. While this is going on at the governor’s mansion, Yestamir and Umbrecrom will be at the harbor, to observe and reconnoiter the golem – getting as much information about it as possible for the group as a whole to use later when they turn their attention to it.

The trip to the governor’s mansion that evening goes according to plans: Quingle uses his arcane arts to disguise himself, and assumes the role of the carriage driver. That he has no skills in animal handling is of no matter, for one of the two horses drawing the carriage is, in fact, Nique. She used her Druidic arts to achieve the transformation, and it is really she who is guiding the other horse. Nelke, Nique’s animal companion, even has a role to play as the “General’s” pet, and rides in the carriage as well (although this is really to help keep her under Nique’s control). As they approach the mansion, they take a place in a long line of carriages, and eventually they reach the main entrance, where Pr’Gillis and the girl exit the carriage, present the invitation, and go on into the castle’s courtyard. Nique and Quingle follow the lines of other carriages back down the hill, and take up a place in the waiting area with the rest, but in a spot where they can keep a good eye on the castle. While waiting, and having assumed the role of a driver, Quingle knows that he must tend to the horses needs, including cleaning up after them; a fact that Nique knows just as well, and much to Quingle’s annoyance.

Inside at the banquet, however, Pr’Gillis must call on all his natural bluff abilities to carry on his masquerade. As expected, any villain in the area who is a villain is there, including all 12 of the Corsair Kings! One of the archfiends that Pr’Gillis meets early on is Feish Mik, one of the Port Dawn slavers and associate of the Jade Lady; Feish appears to take a liking to the “General,” and introduces him to many of the other attendees. Notable introductions include Black Annie, the annis hag Corsair King staying on the same floor of the Shards at the inn, and several of the other pirate “nobility:” Captain Alabaster, Grim Bittal, Captain Galt, Nyvsh Dirg (“the Child of Maug”), Umragig Bloodrose, Captain Quogg, and Captain Markosian. He also sees, from a distance, a green hag surrounded by gnarled, blackened undead, whom nearly everyone gives a wide berth. Interestingly, he also meets a wizard named Xentarak (“…with an ‘X’!”), who, as it turns out, is the one who brought and/or controls the golem! Unfortunately, there are also 5 Paladins there, captured as spies, and crucified on large ‘X’s around the grounds. They are still alive, but the guests are provided with various torture implements to “entertain” themselves by stabbing, burning, or tearing at the flesh of the dying heroes. Knowing that he must do so in order to keep up the disguise, Pr’Gillis takes part in the “games.” Perhaps it is just as well that he is the only one of the Shards to end up attending the banquet. His balanced outlook on life allows him to see his action as a means of supporting the outcome of the greater goal, even if it is something he would not otherwise do. With their generally good outlook, however, any other member of the Shards would simply not be able to harm the Paladins directly (Quingle was pushed almost to the limit with having to witness the remarking of the slave girl), and it is possible that any lack of action in this case may raise questions.

As this is the Governor’s Banquet, the governor himself eventually shows up. Before he appears, however, several large guards are placed at each exit, the perimeter grounds are then circled by large mechanical cats, and a group of mages appear and put up obvious protections around the castle balconies themselves. Finally, the governor makes his appearance. He briefly addresses the audience, then introduces the “Special Guest” of the evening: none other than the Syndec of Laroosh! (That explains who the mages were: The Circle, the mage’s guild of Laroosh that Quingle would have been compelled to join had he stayed with his clan.) The Syndec speaks to the crowd, but the primary points of interest are his telling of the plans that he and the governor have worked out: their combined forces will attack the elves in a week! The pirate fleet will attack Fennas Ear by sea, and the foot army, including mercenaries, will attack Vinya Avignon.

Thankfully, Pr’Gillis’ bluff abilities carry him through the night, and when the party begins to break up, he and the girl leave without any question or incident. They rejoin their friends at the carriage, and make their way back to the inn. Although the primary objective of their overall mission, the golem, is still outstanding, it appears that a few points have been resolved, but what they have discovered will do no good unless they get this information to the elven council as soon as possible. So Pr’Gillis uses a Sending Stone he has to convey the following message:

“Golem, hundreds of ships, several pirate fleets, all Corsair Kings, many encamped mercenaries in Port Dawn – attack Vinya by land, Fennas by sea, next week.”

And the eventual response [interpolated punctuation]:

“Will contact you tomorrow[.] Continue monitoring enemy forces[.] Harass as possible[.] Neutralize golem[;] when attack immanent withdraw to Vinya[,] assist defense[.] Blackbird recalled[.] Neutralize land commanders[.]”

And so, with the information safely delivered to the elven council, Pr’Gillis, Nique and Quingle settle in to wait for the return of their companions from their foray at the iron giant, unaware of the strange turn of events there.

Let us turn back the clock a few hours, to follow the adventure of our other two heros who have gone to scout out the golem – at least, that was the original idea.

Yestamir and Umbrecrom arrive at the docks, and as before, see that the giant golem is in the middle of the harbor, waist deep in water, with ships anchored all around it. While observing the giant, they notice that on the back, just above the waistline, there appear to be two large, well concealed doors. Yestamir uses his transformation ability to turn himself into a hawk, so he can fly out and take a closer look. Indeed, there are doors on the giant’s back. He also sees parapets on the shoulders, which coincide with the description that Pr’Gillis gave when he saw the giant before. He also notices a chimney, with a mesh grate over the top of it. He then returns to his companion on the docks.
So they have seen how the giant is located in relation to the ships around it, discover that is does seem to be hollow, and have learned two potential means on entry. However, something very strange happens next. Rather than returning to the inn to rejoin the group, so the Shards as a whole can make use of this information, they decide on something quite different, and what some may call foolhardy. Inexplicably, as if our friends have been possessed by the spirit of some mythical adventurer from long ago – a character so chaotic, but so persuasive that he could somehow convince otherwise sane people to go on ludicrous quests, often to the detriment of all but himself – they decide on a stealth mission to infiltrate and stop the golem themselves!

The plan they devise seems rather straightforward: Umbrecrom will swim from the docks to the golem, while at the same time Yestamir will again fly out to their goal, attach a rope to the back from the shoulder and let it down for Umbrecrom to climb up, then go down into the chimney to gain entrance. Once inside, the psion will make his way to doors to let Umbrecrom in, and together they will see if they can destroy, or at least disable, the golem.

Stepping into the shadows to transform into a bird may be one thing, but how to get into the water, unnoticed, with so many people on the docks? Solution: someone just jumping into the water may raise eyebrows, but this is Port Dawn – a robbery and stabbing, with the victim getting pushed into the water would hardly seem out of place, or at least not questioned. So our two friends fake a robbery attempt, and Yestamir acts as if he’s stabbing Umbrecrom. Indeed, this does cause some notice, but when Yestamir rolls the “lifeless” body of his companion into the water, eyes are turned back to what they were doing – nothing to see, really. So the stonechild begins to make his way underwater out to the golem, trying not to find out what the large shadows moving through the water may be. As planned, Yestamir makes his way back out to the top of the giant as a hawk, transforms back in order to tie the rope to the chimney, and lowers it down to his friend in the water. Umbrecrom first climbs up the rope the entire height of the colossus to its shoulder, where he deals with the grate on top of the chimney, then he begins to make his way back down the rope on the outside of the golem, while Yestamir enters through the now open chimney.

As he descends, Yestamir discovers that the heat form whatever fire that lies at the very bottom of the shaft is dispersed by brown mold in the chimney, but the power of his mind keeps him safe. As he goes ever deeper, he begins to pass grates on the walls of interior rooms at various levels. When he feels that he has gone far enough, he carefully removes one of the grates, and enters a room, on some internal level of the giant.

At first the rooms he goes through are empty, but he eventually comes to some sort of control room of the giant mechanical man, or maybe one of several control rooms, but this one is not empty – the golem is governed by gnomes, and the gnomes are commanded by a half-orc cleric! With the power of his mind, Yestamir is able to overcome them, at least for a short while, and even manages to do some damage to what he believes may be an auxiliary control panel. He makes his way towards a room at the back, and does indeed find the doors to the outside; opening them, his companion swings in, who had been patiently waiting, hanging on the rope. But alas, it is to no avail, there are simply too many of the giant’s diminutive controllers to be handled by the lone pair, not to mention the half-orc, and alarms have already started going off from all around the inside of the titan. So, as Yestamir is trading psionics for the half-orc’s spells, Umbrecrom closes the door to the chamber, grabs Yestamir and an unconscious gnome he picked up from the other area (having an engineer to interrogate seemed a good idea), and dives out the back door.

Do not judge our heroes too harshly. Make no mistake, they are both quite accomplished, each in their own way, and any would consider themselves fortunate to be able to call them “friend,” and woe betide any they would call “foe,” but even the mightiest of warriors has limits, and must call for allies when a given task is great. Even as they were falling towards the water, Yestamir realized the folly of their plan. “The greatest good,” he thought, “would have come from leaving with the information we had gathered, and then forming a plan with all of the Shards.” At this point all he can do is learn from his lessons, and hope no one he knows gets hurt. In his regret he knows exactly where they need to go, and plane shifts before they even hit the water.

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The Harrowing, Part II: Dreams of Apotheosis
04/13/5055

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Drow in the Greenwood? A flood of abysal spiders? A high cleric of Corellian kidnapped? Has Lloth come to Illuvinari at last? Tune in and find out!

Kelroth, after some pondering, decides to hire the surviving aranea. He gives them a note to show to the guard at Greycliff, and tells them to wait a week and then present themselves at Greycliff and they will receive employment. The aranea accept and leave as quickly as possible.
The party finishes their explorations of the area and then heads down the tunnel to an underground river. This presents a problem, as the river almost reaches the ceiling of the tunnel and many in the group cannot swim well. They tie people together and use fly and spider climb to ensure everyone arrives safely on the other end. Once down the river, the tunnel opens up into a large cavern with a lake. On the far end of the cavern there is an area with a platform beach-like area. The party makes for the beach.
Unfortunately, the forces of darkness were waiting there for them. Four aranea and a drider are waiting on the platform. Y’Draesk deposits Eqximiye on the shore before they realize there are enemies there. One of the aranea creates an illusory dragon in the lake, which occupies Y’Draesk during the fight. Thangil manages to kill the drider, and Eqximiye, Kelroth and Y’Draesk all take on and defeat the aranea. Fo’wyn swims for shore, carrying Kelroth on his back while Kelroth casts.
Looting the bodies, they discover 12 vials of liquid, which they suspect to be poison. Thangil takes possession of the vials, with a snide comment about Y’Draesk’s habits. They also locate a masterwork shortsword, a shortbow with 12 arrows and a pouch with 30 gold pieces of an unrecognizable mint. Eqximiye uses her wands to help Fo’wyn heal the group before they proceed onward.
The party sneaks down the tunnel at the back of the cavern into what they believe to be the lair of Tyeeinish, hoping to surprise the leader of the aranea. Unluckily, Tyeeinish is aware of their presence. It had gathered several of its pets; giant abyssal spiders, and was lying in wait for the party. In spite of the ambush, the party represents itself well, by killing the spiders and routing Tyeeinish the sorcerous aranea.
Tyeeinish flees down another corridor, seeking to preserve its life, and locate stronger allies. Y’Draesk and Thangil follow it closely, taunting and shouting obscenities after it in Abyssal. Then something calls an answering challenge in that same tongue…
A few moments later, a huge lizard-like demon known as a Herzog, shows up in the room with the party. He casts something that nauseates a large portion of the group, including Kelroth and Eqximiye, and teleports or dimension doors away. Fo’wyn, thinking on his toes, quickly casts protection from evil on the area where the party is standing. Then the Hezrou reappears with a Vrock in tow. Tyeeinish returns as well, albeit invisibly, and a Succubus takes on the appearance of the drow priestess and enters from another tunnel. The drow priestess, Ilvadidra, begins putting up her protections in another chamber.
Y’Draesk steps out of the protection from evil area to battle the Vrock, who immediately casts mirror image to confuse the issue. The Herzog, Ssorrl, invokes a fear effect, causing Thangil to flee. Eqximiye trips him and prevents his unchecked flight into the darkness. Then Ssorrl summons a second Herzog, while Y’Draesk destroys the images of the Vrock.
The Vrock laughs, and casts mirror image a second time, forcing Y’Draesk to start over. Thangil recovers and begins firing arrows at the Succubus, who is sneaking up behind the party in drow form. Eventually, Thangil kills the Succubus. The Herzog cries, “You have killed my mate!” in fury.
Kelroth recovers from the nausea and cries out, “Evil always turns on itself!” in Celestial and casts a spell. He warns the party to do nothing and wait. Almost immediately, Tyeeinish casts a spell on the Vrock, who turns and attacks the aranea, ignoring Y’Draesk. The Vrock kills Tyeeinish outright. Ssorrl teleports out of the room, where unbeknownst to the party, he kills Ilvadidra, who is still putting up her protections. The summoned Herzog attacks the Vrock and kills it. Ssorrl returns and watches the end of this fight, and then releases the summoned Herzog. He then turns to the party.
Kelroth steps up and says in a loud voice, “Foul beast of the Abyss, Behold the Holy Light that is Correllon’s Wrath!” His entire body begins to glow with glorious light and he casts lightning bolt that turns out to be half made up of consecrated energy. The lightning bolt kills Ssorrl finally, and the party looks at Kelroth in wonder and surprise.

To be continued…

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The Harrowing, Part I: Weavings of Power
03/14 thru 04/13/5055

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Something bad happens. Can our heroes prevent disaster?

Fo’wyn’s day begins with his superior Morran Tel Kittoren, the High Priest of Correllon Larethian summoning him. Morran gives Fowyn a mild slap on the wrist for granting sanctuary to Y’Draesk without determining the nature of the problem in advance. However, he agrees to uphold Fo’wyn’s promise of sanctuary to his friend.
On the 21st, Thangil arrived at the Isle of the Moon to beg a boon from the Church at the behest of Celethor Carnen, War Leader of the Elves. He requests a commune from the Church to help him fulfill his assigned quest. Thangil leaves for the south, and Y’Draesk, Fo’wyn and friends accompany Morran to the Spring Moot in Leiore.
The Spring Moot, which takes place the week before the Spring Equinox, the a week-long party, filled with politicking and plotting, as the quarterly Elven Council meeting begins after the holiday. Attendees include Kelroth Carnen aka the Red Hawk, Eqximiye Carlack the Speaker of the Eldar, Fo’wyn Tiranyaare and Y’Draesk R’rgelnev Herald of Chaos.
During the Moot, a young elf called Anerith Ellanta presents himself to Kelroth. He clearly suffers from a terrible case of hero-worship, much to the amusement of Kelroth‘s friends. During his overly-excited introduction, the manages to irritate N’Dethiel, the head of Kelroth’s fanatical bodyguard by getting in close to the mage and shaking his hand repeatedly. Anerith tells Kelroth about how he and his friends managed to clear out a kobold lair in the Affenwood. Kelroth politely suggests that perhaps Anerith and his friends should stop by Greycliff sometime. Fo’wyn belatedly realizes that the Affenwood is in his charge! He makes a point of thanking Anerith and discovers the young elf is the son of Telandir Ellanta, an influential ranger and one of the leaders of the Defenders of the Seldarine, which is the military arm of the Elven Church.
Rille, Eqximiye’s aide, is seen to have quite a few injuries, which he claims were received while pursuing his duties. No further details were forthcoming, but gossip ensues. Speaking of gossip, Y’Draesk R’rgelnev brought a half-elven woman to the Moot. Although he was heard to protest all teasing and suggestions to the contrary, swearing that their friendship was platonic, the lady in question was seen by several witnesses to slap him publicly and storm off.
The General Council meeting discussed plans for the upcoming war with Laroosh and Port Dawn. Celethor leaves the Council, to return with a report given by an adventuring group known as the Company of Shards, currently in service to the Elven War Council. The War Council holds several private discussions, which frustrates members of the General Council, who believe they should be privy to all decisions and plans. One major issue is brought before the General Council: Should the Elves recruit or draft non-elves living in Fennas Ear? Once the votes are finally cast, Fo’wyn casts the tie-breaking vote…recruitment of non-elves to the Cause!
On the 10th, the Council ends, much to the relief of all. Around 10pm that evening, as Kelroth, Eqximiye, Thangil, Y’Draesk, Fo’wyn and the Heart Guard (N’Dethiel and one other), sit around relaxing, Melanar (Kelroth’s familiar – a red hawk) begins to speak. Eyes glowing he says, “Go home, NOW!” Immediately the group teleports to Greycliff (also called Ost Lachrunyanen). They arrive expecting disaster, only to be met with a calm and placid evening. Everyone spends the night relaxing except Kelroth, who is forced to listen to passionate complaints from the Captain of the Blackbird about the Company of the Shards. Kelroth hopes to speak with the group but discovers they have taken the Blackbird’s first mate out on the town. As he investigates he finds that Leone (Morran Tel Kittoren’s aide) and a guard called Alerion were recently in Greycliff. Leone raised the first mate from the dead and departed late in the afternoon. Kelroth finds Fo’wyn a box of books recently purchased and heads off to trance. Fo’wyn spends the evening reading stories about young women in emotional turmoil who mostly wear blouses made from poorly constructed cloth.
On the 11th, Kelroth sends a griffon rider to the Emerald Falcon, the inn at the crossroads, to ensure Leone’s safety. He feels that it is a great coincidence that a powerful priest should be visiting his home on the eve he receives what may well be a divine message. When the rider returns around noon, the news is grave: Leone and Alerion are missing, their room wrecked as if by a great struggle. Even more ominous is that none of their belongings, including the seal of his office, were removed from the room.
Eqximiye begins the search by immediately attempting to scry on Leone. As soon as she focuses on her crystal ball, green lightning envelops her body and she collapses. Fo’wyn immediately begins to heal the damage done to her by the spell. She determines that this is some kind of Remote Viewing Trap spell. The party sends messages to the Isle of the Moon and Fennas Ear regarding the situation. They then teleport to the Emerald Falcon to investigate in person.
Thangil finds evidence a quick and brutal fight took place in the room. The room’s door and window were locked and undamaged. The customers in the room across the hall said they had heard some ruckus, but thought someone had just had too much to drink. Y’draesk finds scents indicating that there were five creatures — Leone, Alerion, something that smelled like an unclean bird, something that smelled like an abnormal reptile, and something that smelled quite strongly of excited female. The party finds a squashed part of an unusual spider about the size of a dinner plate, with odd hooks on the carapace.
Y’Draesk uses his scent ability to try to locate someone in the crystal ball. Fo’wyn places protections on Y’Draesk to prevent injuries. Y’Draesk is also hit with green lightning, but not before he manages to see Alerion (?) in a place covered in webs. While the party ponders this unhappy clue, Thangil goes down to the Commons and questions the innkeeper and staff about any unusual events in the area recently. The innkeeper is fairly unhelpful, as he is busy panicking about the disappearance of a high-ranking cleric in his inn. A waitress mentions in passing that there hasn’t been any bird song all day.
Thangi, Eqximiye and Kelroth send their companions/familiars to investigate. They all have the same story when they return; dead birds to the northeast. The party follows them and finds many bird corpses. When they cut open the birds they discover their stomachs are full of small black, green and red spiders. These birds were poisoned!
The party follows the corpse trail northeast and they begin finding live spiders. Some of these spiders were large as dinner plates. Fo’wyn declares the spiders to be faintly evil. Thangil finds evidence that these are the remnants of a large “flood” of spiders into the area. Fo’wyn uses his Gem of Seeing and discovers that the spiders are abyssal. Fo’wyn knows of some history mentioning an old elven enemy based on spiders — Lloth.
The party then finds a small cabin carved into a tree. The cabin is covered in spiders, which luckily do not seem interested in the elves at all, and they enter. Inside they find two bloated dead bodies, one elven and one half-elven. The bodies are covered with thousands of spider bites.
While Fo’wyn prays for spells at sunset, Eqximiye teleports to the Isle of the Moon with the bodies, sample spiders and Leone’s personal items, to explain in person the horrible conclusion they have reached. She discovers that the former Queen of the Elves, who passed away at Midsummer, spent much of her energy protecting Illuvinari and Leiore from the notice of the Drow and their dark goddess, which is why there have been no dark elves on this plane in the past. Morran begs that the party save Leone if at all possible and provides her with anti-toxins, potions and neutralize poison scrolls. He then departs to assemble the Defenders of the Seldarine, presumably to come to the party’s aid and prevent the dark elves access to their world.
. Thangil finds a somewhat hidden cave about 1/2 mile past the tree dwelling that seems to be the epicenter of the spider “flood.” Once Eqximiye returns and Fo’wyn has replenished his spell battery, the party enters the cave.
Y’Draesk, who is in the lead, is suddenly pulled into the air. Thangil shoots an arrow through the strand of web holding his friend and Y’draesk falls unharmed to the cave floor. Kelroth casts Fireball on the ceiling, revealing several Aranea (intelligent shape-changing magical beast spider sorcerers with humanoid heads and arms). During the ensuing fight, the aranea attempt to confuse the party by casting the illusion of a child wrapped in webs on the far side of the cave. Finally, after killing several aranea, the party tries to end the bloodshed and negotiate. Y’Draesk crosses the cave to examine the webbed body and falls through the floor. Kelroth immediately casts Feather Fall, giving Y’Draesk time to cast Fly on himself, and avoid the poisoned stakes at the bottom of the pit.
Fo’wyn uses his Gem of Seeing to reveal the illusions o