Gift of Eomar

Protectors of the Gift

The companions take furtive steps into the glade, in awe of the massive mechanism protruding from the cliff side. Thadeous and On’ogg take notice of the stillness of the pond while Sayer and Akasha investigate several mounds of well placed stones.

The surface ripples don’t seem to dissipate as Wobblegrinder makes tentative steps into water. He notes that they rebound back from the opposite shoreline with the same intensity as when they were sent. Then Akasha throws a large hewn stone into the water, driving the surface into a twisting frenzy. From the vortex came forth a monstrous naga, seeming to phase in and out with a shadowy mirror of itself.

The heroes were able to eventually slay the beast, only to find that the shadow mirror seemed to live on. It too was slain, but not before it unleashed devastating magics on the group.

While carving out the valuable scales of the naga, On’Ogg fell into the deeper part of the pond. Weighed down heavily by his equipment, he sunk like a boulder into the water depths. Akasha and Sayer were able to recover the panicking orc, but not without a tremendous amount of effort. The experience only drove deeper the paladin’s fear of open water.

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The group, now with time to examine the Apparatus properly, made to climb the thick vines to the open orifice. With the help of Hopscotch scouting ahead, Akasha made short work of the climb and secured a position at the top. Soon only Ogg was left to make the perilous climb. With quick thinking, his friends cast featherfall on the orc and pull him up the cliff in a rapid motion.

They investigate the darkened structure, eventually finding an access tunnel and gaining entry into the caverns around the structure. Coming across small crystals that glow with a slight hum, they decide to leave the formations be.

Continuing on, they find a strange device. After removing an access panel, they notice that there is room for things to be inserted. The device is made up of highly machined metal, crafted with designs nobody had seen before.

Moving forward, the heroes find a somewhat circular chamber with a conical protrusion in the middle of the ground. Akasha, highly suspicious of the scene, suggests they leave it be. Ignoring her warnings, Ogg, Sayer and Wobblegrinder approach haphazardly, depressing a pressure plate on the floor and triggering several pipes around the room to release a wicked green acid that bubbles with noxious fumes.

After reading some inscriptions on the surface of the mechanism, they retreat back down a different passage. There they find three small separate chambers with fantastical animals rotating on rings. They manipulate the objects in a way that fits the narrative they found on the earlier mechanism. The three rings seem to react.

They then return to the conical mechanism, where they find it seems to have opened at the top. They find several raw gemstones, a strangely sealed canteen and a small box containing a deck of illusions.

After they uncover the secrets of the mechanism, they find a new passageway where before there had been none. It leads up to a huge chamber, where their walkway overlooks huge crystals up to a pillar of the same kind.

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At their approach, two vaguely humanoid crystalline figures move to intercept them. The companions change their movement, attempting to demonstrate their non-hostile intent. At this showing, a third Auragon reveals themselves from the crystal pillar, addressing them directly.

A timeline of past events is explained after finally gauging their relatively decent intentions. It seems that the survey team from Explorer’s League had been eliminated a year prior due to their excavation efforts. More recently, a man flanked by robed figures had been denied access.

The Auragons also divulged knowledge about a powerful place referred to as ‘The Temple’. Apparently the Auragon sentinel left to watch over that sacred place has stopped responding to their calls. Fearing the worst, they’ve shut themselves away deep withing the Apparatus, prepared to destroy the structure if necessary.

They also told the group their purpose; they are to stand as protectors over the Apparatus, which acts as a conductor for ‘the message’. When they receive this message, known to them as the Gift of Eomar, they extrapolate the power and sent it forth. They make mention that the Gift of Eomar bears the power of life creation, that the Terra Incognita was created in this way.

They divulge that the cloaked figures wish to send forth a message soaked in blood and hatred. It is their belief that this would alter their function beyond their designation, and therefore cannot be allowed. They even give a glimpse of the potential chaos; a vision of strangling vines and bloodthirsty growth consuming this region under the blanket of green. It is in this vision that they see a fragile feminine hand orchestrating this chaos.

They seem to suggest that the group stop these events, pointing them in the vague direction of the Temple. As the heroes take their leave, they are overcome with a sense of displacement. They find themselves outside again, standing in the Glade.

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Cutting a New Path

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The heroes reconvene at the Lion’s Pride Inn and take inventory of both their situation as well as their bags. The group converse with Lumpy, attempting to determine what exactly to do with the orc.

Thadeous, with the knowledge of the unfinished business looming, takes the opportunity to pour over his spell book and ready himself for the next task. He also gives name to his monkey companion; Hopscotch.

Sayer finds the skiff landing and speaks to an old seafarer of curses and children’s stories. The salty dog seems sure that the ocean will return to claim Sayer, now that he bears ‘the mark’.

Fresh with her earnings from their fulfilled contract, Akasha takes time for a little rest and relaxation with Lumpy in tow and finds a set of lockpicks.

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On’ogg travels to the crafting district, commissioning the strange Corrigan Twins to fashion shavings from one of the Skystone ingots into fishing tackle. The paladin also visits Farthenfaust Sanctuary, where The Inquirer speaks to him of the fundamentals of Dyadoros.

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In the evening the group have a fine meal at the Lion’s Pride and the next morning they see Lumpy off as they head down their own path. Og shares with him the mark of his home clan, giving his displaced brother a place to live among his brethren if he so chooses. Soon after their goodbyes, the companions find themselves back on the road, following the map provided by Lord Aetherion Tourek to the borders of The Terra Incognita.

~

As the afternoon rolled on the rolling hills turned more and more dense with vegetation, the air dense with moisture. They need not see all the wildlife in the area; they formed a cacophony of sound that pressed in from all directions. The trek became difficult; the companions formed a single file with Og at the head, cutting through the thick vegetation just to make way.

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The Execution and the Fancy Dog

The companions converse with Hergen Blaythe. They gain perspective on the trial, Hergen seems to be unaffiliated with either side. He also doesn’t seem to subscribe to any particular religion or faith. Hergen also inspects the orb found in the Catacombs, mentioning that the metalwork isn’t like anything he’s ever seen in modern craft.

Meanwhile Akasha heads away from the revelry, moving towards Bellview Keep. On the way she summons a small illusion of a cute fox on a leash walking beside her. The guards allow her entry, escorting her to the dungeon as per her request to see Lumpy. She has a small dialogue with the jailer and is allowed entry without hassle.

She quickly wakes up Lumpy, charming his counterpart before he can make trouble. She explains her plan, but just as she attempts to use a key she inconspicuously produces, it shatters into a fine dust. Thoroughly distraught by the sudden turn of events, she falls back and speaks to the jailer again out of desperation.

She eventually distracts him with a beautiful song and dance, finally able to separate him from his key ring. Just then a drunk captive across from the jailer’s cell begins causing a scene. The jailer departs momentarily to handle the lout. Akasha probes his mind briefly to find out which key to take and then takes her leave to get Lumpy again.

She illusions Lumpy as the pet fox and they quickly depart, lingering just long enough to spill an ink pot on the logbook containing her name. She leaves a note with her companions, gains her supplies and quickly takes to the road.

~

The rest of the companions rage on at the pub until the early hours of the morning. They eventually make it back to their quarters, where Thadeous finds Akasha’s note. On’ogg is thoroughly drunk.

In the morning, Sayer tries to convince Ogg to depart early. They hear noise just outside their window. They see a small crowd of the militiamen standing around a quickly constructed gallows, a lone Orc hanging by the neck. Realizing the execution was planned to have quite a bit more heraldry, they go down to investigate.

They find entry to the dungeon restricted, the guards make mention that no access can be granted to outsiders The companions also find out that the magic user known only as ‘Lumpy’ is at large, apparently having used powerful magic to escape his confinement in the night. Inspectors are attempting to decipher the strange runes and equations found on the wall of his lone cell, but are having a difficult time gaining any understanding of the magic used.

The companions notice that the plainsman from the evening before is standing nearby in a cage. He had apparently been moved out of the dungeon, then forgotten for the moment. He drinks all of Sayer’s wine and explains his accounting of the events in the dungeon. Ogg, convinced that Lumpy has victimized Akasha with some sort of blood magic, finally agrees to depart.

~

The companions follow the subtle trail left by Akasha, riding hard and in a few hours catch up with the bard. She explains her hand in Lumpy’s escape and they all agree to touch in with the Explorer’s League while nearby and divulge the guild of the recent events. They change course for Archon’s Fall and arrive late in the afternoon.

Ogg asks Lumpy to accompany him to Farthenfaust Sanctuary and is quickly distracted by the lone figure of The Inquirer. Akasha than steals away the befuddled Lumpy and they duck through the familiar door of the Lion’s Pride Inn. Gaining refreshments and a booth in the back, she explains that he can do whatever he wants, to not feel pressured towards any one thing.

Wobble and Sayer head towards the guildhall and request audience with Lord Tourek. They are seen in immediately, finding Aetherion eager to hear any news on the events. He speculates that the events could be connected, believing them to be part of a larger plot.

They also show him the passage from Achabe Evala Gal’ahad, particularly the coordinates. He recognizes the imagery from a failed excavation that the League had dispatched about a year prior. The League lost contact with the team shortly after their scheduled arrival. A recovery unit was sent out, but found nothing besides the base camp. Finding the site difficult to hold against the inherent dangers of the jungle, they withdrew gleaning no substantial information on the disappearances.

Lord Tourek cited that the efforts in the past had deemed any formal action to investigate the site unauthorized, as too high of a risk. He mentioned that he would back the companions in an unofficial capacity to investigate the site further, considering that they are in a unique position to relate any information recovered to the mysterious cult activity.

A package is delivered to the Inn. Makos had finished securing Mohr Dhoma and had portioned off their share of the equipment gained. The package contained a small sum of gold, a pair of shiny spaulders and two ingots of Skystone The companions then decide to take time to themselves as they consider their next move.

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Making Friends

Part I

The heroes find themselves deep within the lost Dwarven fortress of Mohr Dhoma, narrowly missing the The Ironbellow Warband as the Orcs make their escape over the mountains. Searching the private quarters, they find several powerful relics and a scroll case containing an encoded message.

Falling back, they secure the area and come to the main gates, where the sounds of battle have subsided. They witness a pair of Orcs barrel into the chamber, barricading themselves behind the huge doors as they rush in. On’ogg knocks one out while Akasha charms the other. They find the bewitched Orc to be somewhat dim, his level of understanding of his perilous situation meager at best. They take the Orcs into custody, leaving the militiamen to hold the fortress and make their way back to Bellview.

While in transit, On’Ogg has a philosophical discussion with one of the Orcs, named Lumpy. The paladin finds that Lumpy has a hard time understanding the crimes he is being charged with. It doesn’t seem to sink in; Ogg worries for Lumpy’s mortal soul.

They are welcomed back into Bellview with a hero’s reception. News has spread quickly of the purging of the Ironbellow and the sense of relief is palpable. They settle back at Bellview Keep, where they turn over the captives. Elder Wynona Rosenbraugh informs them that they could have a strong influence as to the fate of the prisoners, if they choose.

The group retires, taking a much deserved rest.

Part II

The companions request a dialogue with the prisoners to make an informed decision. They found Lumpy and his fellow Orc in separate cells. Lumpy seems to have been contemplating Ogg’s suggestion to repent, but still finding the whole idea difficult to comprehend. Notes and illustrations were diagrammed on the wall, all very befuddled.

Lumpy’s colleague was less than pliable. After an attempt to physically harm Sayer, he is quickly quelled. Thadeous and Sayer both depart for their own reasons.

Sayer calls on Elder Rosenbraugh. He finds her tending a garden in an well constructed, if small house not far from the Keep and confides in her a secret. With some trepidation he reveals large green rashes spotting his arms and beseeches her advice. He also shows her a strange gold coin, hoping that it may shed some light on what ails him.

She tells him a story of her youth. She had studied in the great Imperium of Man for much of her early adulthood, learning of the inner workings of trade and commerce. It was at this time that she met her paramour; the young 1st Mate of the ‘Wily Warden’, a merchant vessel making the long voyage from western Aelostrian to the inner sea of the Imperium of Man.

She admitted crooning over his audacious adventures at sea. Though he had vowed to one day make her his wife, she never put full faith in his pledges. True to her foresight, one day he sailed off, never to return. It wasn’t until years later that she heard the rumors that the ‘Wily Warden’ had apparently vanished at sea, under strange circumstances (none of which had ever been substantiated).

She then recommended her personal alchemist, though she warned that what ailed him seemed more than what the specialist was capable to treat.

While the rest of friends were caught up in their own dramatics, Wobblegrinder made the best of his time off and visited the local relic shop, where he found a wizened old augerer unpacking his many articles. Thadeus inquired to the amount he may receive for a relic he had found. A small golden tamaran sat on the wizard’s shoulder. With a flick of his wrist, the monkey assessed the artifact; whispering subtly in the wizard’s ear. Seeming surprised that there might be a patron in his shop, the wizard prattled off a price, then dismissed himself from the shop area. He delegated any other matters to this Monkey.

Thadeus then had a one sided conversation with Monkey, who seemed to only be able to answer yes or no questions by use of a bell. Eventually the gnome was able to convince Monkey to come along; after a few moments the small tamaran returned with a small satchel, apparently containing his few articles. They quickly took leave of the relic trader.

Back in the dungeons below the keep, Akasha begrudgingly concedes to On’Ogg’s proposal to have the people of Bellview fairly judge the prisoners of their crimes. The companions then take time alone while awaiting sundown; the time announced for the public trial.

Part III

The companions are seen to a special stand, as honored guests for the trial. They find the outdoor amphitheater packed with the citizenry of Bellview; outside the streets leading to the site are filled with anxious onlookers. The Orcs on trial have caused a spectacle in the city; the air palpable with rancor.

Three elders sit trial to adjudicate the preceding; a dozen chosen locals placed to make judgement. The trial commences, with the crowd often needing to be mitigated from the brink of chaotic tantrum. Many are the accounts of peaceful farmers having loved ones plucked from their quiet lives; the whereabouts of whom are still a mystery.

A particularly damning account comes from a low end merchant. His family makes a proud, if small living reaping the harvests of his ancestral farmlands. He returned from an overnight trek into town to sell his modest wares only to find his entire home ransacked and empty; no signs of his wife or three children. The malice in the man’s words flow freely, a hatred born of desperation and despair.

When his turn was due, On’Ogg gave his story as expert character witness, for Lumpy in particular. His account was honest and hopeless at the same time; the crowd jeered and scoffed at the mere sight of the Orcish paladin, renown as he might be. They seemed unimpressed by Lumpy in spite of the brave oratory. What mattered, though, was if the jury were moved.

The Elders called an adjournment while the jury deliberated. The crowd murmured to themselves in excitement; justice in their minds felt assured. With a swiftness that boded ill for the captives, the jury retook their positions after what seemed like only a handful of minutes.

Passing their missive down along the rows to a bailiff, who in turn walked his charge to the judges, Elder Rosenbraugh broke the seal and unfurled the scroll. One by one she read through the crimes charged the defendants with stark acumen; and with each offense she ready the ‘guilty’ verdict.

Cheers coursed through the city, vibrating the amphitheater with the lauding cries of the populace. The sentencing was little heeded; few needed to be told that the thirst of the executioner’s ax would be assuaged come dawn.

Upon their exit, the companions made way to find their old merchant companion Hergen Blaythe. He made mention his intent to travel to Bellview; surely he must be around with his own opinion of the situation. After some raucous gallivanting led by Sayer, during which Akasha quietly departs away from the massive crowds, they do in fact find a small contingent of Dwarves drinking heartily in the back of a rude little pub. True to form Hergen is among them, apparently adjudicating over their own little gambit; that of hands and knives.

Anxious to fit in among the crowd, the companions take part in the game of risk. Thadeus gives Monkey some gold to wager for him, also placing bets directly himself. He loses his small sum, but is then happy to find that Monkey had won his wagers, reimbursing the gnome of his losings.

The turn then comes to Ogg; they quickly draw the ire of a massive plainsman in his misunderstanding of the game. The companions, in varying states of inebriation, are able to take down the huge man by nonlethal means. A few knowing Dwarves escort the unconscious plainsman outside as the pub erupts in celebration, thoroughly entrenching Sayer, Thadeus and On’Ogg in the revelry.

Cut to a back alley; the firelights are less frequent this far away from the taverns. Shadows overtake a figure moving swiftly through the area. The sounds of the celebrations reverberate through the city still, but here they are merely echoes; emphasizing the hallow noise of this so called triumph. A light rain patters around Akasha. She pulls her cloak close around her as she strides through the passages of the Bellview, her thoughts a thunderous maelstrom churning behind her brow.

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Assault on Mohr Dhoma

Part I – Mustering the Troops

The companions wake, some of them in the most regal accommodations they have ever experienced, to find an aide supplying morning refreshments. Their view of the city from their quarters is truly magnificent. The clear day does the sight true justice; from their vantage they can see the rolling hills surrounding Bellview, with their golden acres and the rocky outcroppings protruding from the landscape like jagged spires.

After the hearty breakfast, they are seen to the Counsel Chambers, where the Elders have convened to contrive their next move. There was a marked change in Elder Rosenbraugh’s interaction; where she was once prudently observing many of the Elders arguing among themselves, Wynona was now dictated orders to attendants who rushed to carry out her orders, masterfully setting tasks for many of the other Elders to oversee. Gazing up over a new set of correspondence at the new arrivals, she set aside the missives directly in front of her and announced their received the group with a warm smile.

The room applauded the heroes, clearly appreciative of their efforts to recover the citizens of the peaceful city. Now that the Ironbellow Clan had showed their hand, Elder Rosenbraugh revealed that the township would sit by idly no longer. They were preparing to make a move on Yaaz Jiguura and wanted the companions to lead the operation. Lacking a committed information network, the Elders could only speculate on the current whereabouts of the mercenary group.

As luck may have it, a mysterious person had contacted the authorities with apparent knowledge of the Ironbellow, though the contact specified that they would only divulge the information to the companions directly, without the interference of the government.

Part II – The Eight Queens

The group are escorted to The Mill, a rather sizable delicatessen in a huge re-purposed windmill and granary. The militiamen buffer themselves an appropriate distance away while the companions see themselves into the tavern.

They are seen to their meeting, a lone figure in a far booth somewhat distant from the rest of the patrons. Billowing thick smoke from his elaborate pipe, Baatu greets the group from under a wide brimmed hat.

He tells them the story of a King, who traveled his eight realms and brought back the most beautiful maiden in each. He pondered after each, but could not decide whom he would take for a wife; so he married all eight and made each of them Queens.

The Queens were all very fond of the good King, becoming jealous of each other’s time with him. He found the bickering to not be very regal. It would not do. So he declared that each would have their own separate wing of a Grand Castle.

Baatu then produced a wooden board from his cloaks, proposing that if the group could finish the story with a puzzle of logic, he would tell them another story. A story he learned when observing the movements of the Ironbellow clan.

After a time, the companions solved his story riddle and Baatu revealed the current location of the Orcs. They had entrenched themselves in the ruins of Mohr Dhoma, an old Dwarven stronghold along the edge of the Farthenfaust Mountains.

Prying further, the companions inquire on any more details the Halfling might know. A story for a story, he persists. With a solemnity that surprises his companions, Sayer sings a epic poem absolutely soaked in gravitas.

Thoroughly impressed, Baatu tells another story; one circular in nature. He knows that small green figures seem to hunt in the area just outside of Mohr Dhoma. They bring the carcasses in the front door and smoke billows out the top, a ring of action looping around and around.

Ogg insists that they’ve gleaned the necessary information to make a move and usher the group back out to their task. Before long the heroes are on their way, eagerly accompanied by two troop squads from Bellview. They design their plan en route, spending much of the afternoon in transit.

Part III – Mohr Dhoma

The companions make camp about half a league from their destination, deciding it best to wait for the dusk to make their final approach. After the rest, On’ogg makes a resounding speech. Where his words fall short, his heart’s spirit prevails. The detachment of of soldiers are deeply moved. Their headlong need for vengeance gain an edge; much needed order, discipline.

They move in, skirting the open hills preceding the massive Dwarven gates. They move towards the telltale signs of smoke just as twilight’s curtain is falling, finding a cleft in the rocky cliff face. They continue climbing the crevasse, soon finding a large grate with old iron bars billowing greasy smoke.

With some difficulty, they are able to eventually squeeze through the wrought iron bars. Needing to crawl on their hands and knees (except for Thadeous, the group realized the excellent Dwarven, even through the thick grime that has accumulated over the centuries. The edges of the passage were straight right angles with smooth stone lining the chimney. eventually they came to an area where the integrity of the passage had begin to dwindle; large cracks cleaved through the stone and crumbled the tunnel in areas. Luckily they could see light cast by several fires at the end of the passage.

Appraising the room with keen eyes, Sayer leaps from the grating, realizing too late his miscalculation of the ceiling above. He painfully smashes his noggin on a beam above, shortening his distance considerably. He lands nimbly on the edge of a large, steaming cauldron, which pitches forward with his weight, soaking the stone floor and the swashbucker both with a tepid green goopty.

The crash alerts a completely surprised goblin, who pulls cooking knives off of the nearby wall and begins flinging them at the group as they pour out of the hole in Sayer’s defense. Closing on Moot the Unclean, they take out both the Chef and his Sous, Itchy. Dodging both the knives and the flees, they dispatch the pair in short order.

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Creeping through the passages beyond, they come across two rooms seeming to be sleeping areas of the Orcs, but only find a pair asleep. Ogg confirms the uninhabited state of the sleeping rolls with the tip of his sword while Sayer wakens a pair of sleepers. They cross swords with the Orcs, taking them out before they can run for reinforcements.

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Continuing on, they find a multi-tiered viaduct, flooded with water at it’s lower level. Thadeous recognizes it as a Dwarven Steam Vault, for washing and relaxing. He drives his staff into the water, showing his Orc Paladin friend that the water is shallow enough to not worry oneself of drowning. Sayer knocks his foot against something hard, lifting it to get a better idea. He notices the object is a skull and tosses it into the open shaft of what seems to be a well. It clambers against the wall a few times in it’s descent before banging loudly against something metal at the bottom. Without knowing with any certainty the fate of the guardsmen outside, group decides it’s best to continue on.

They leave the side passages, finding a large chamber with the remains of a Dwarven rostrum, the ruins of an ancient throne atop the platform. The hall extends out a large way, abruptly cut down by a landslip of caved in walls on the far side. The explore around, noticing the sounds of fighting down a passage that they figure leads to the main entrance. They slip into a side room that leads down a winding passage, plunging them down into the depths of the lower levels.

~

Probing further, they find an armory of stereotypical Orcish weaponry and a chamber largely caved in. Thaddeus climbs through the broken wall, gaining sight of several Orcs further along. Creeping in the shadows, he’s able to fire off magic, catching the guards totally by surprise as the rest of his colleagues rush in and finish them off.

They find a pair of heavy cells, but much to their chagrin it seems bereft of any prisoners. Venturing forward, they pass through a large smithy, with charcoals still warm in the hearth. Huge chains hang from various beams across the ceiling. They continue down a passage, following a cool headwind from the hall and find a large balcony with the remains of what might have once been a library. Anything useful seems to have either been looted long ago or used for kindling. They do notice some ways off another balcony, seeming to be a roost for several manticores. It’s distant enough that they’ve little options forward, so they backtrack to the smithy and continue down a wide set of steps.

The companions march along the long steps, driving straight into the depths with torches lining the walls on either side. At the bottom, the chamber opens into a wide chasm with a giant sand lined pit in the center. Rows and rows of long benches line the sides along the wall, angling up to a large throne on the far end where sits Yaaz Jiguura, flanked by his warband.

Og charges forward, anxious to bring vengeance to Karth Drachum, but the Warband do not seem surprised by the group’s arrival. Well beyond the group’s immediate reach, with the huge pit between them and a score of underlings lining the stands, Karth and Korgan depart, leaving Yaaz and Xandrilla atop the stage. Sayer notices a drainage duct sprouting from the ceiling above the arena and with a groan recognizes an all too familiar skull wedged in the grating of the pipe.

Just then several massive chains rise from the sand in the pit, pulled taught across a large mound taking form in the center. The rest of the clan looks on as a massive Orc takes form, yanking free the chains from their moorings. Xandrilla raises her arms and with the softly spoken words of magic, an intense red glow takes form between her outstretched hands. The chained Orc lifts a giant fist in the air and a gem embedded in his bracer glows with the same eerie light.

The grins on the faces of the onlooking Orcs turns to a desperate fear, then cries of horror as they burst into magical flame, dissolving their entire form. The flames coalesce around the chained beast before pouring into the dark ruby. Her work done, Xandrilla takes her leave, followed by Yaaz.

“If you’ve a score to settle, you’ll find me in the great white north…”

The heroes then turn their attention fully to the hulking great Orc, it’s chains now dancing around wildly with a slight aura not dissimilar from the energy emanating from the ruby. A fierce battle ensues, but the heroes eventually slay the monstrosity.

They barrel up the steps to the stage and run into the area where the Warband had fallen back, Thaddeus dragging the giant rubied bracer he had just wedged off of the great Orc. The arrive with frustration at the roost, just barely able to hear the creaking of the wings of the manticores carrying the Warband over the peaks of the nearby mountains. Overcome with emotion, Og falls to his knees emanating a fury that rattles him to his core.

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The Chase

The companions move quickly to the outer wall, anxious to help after seeing the destruction wrought during the attack on Bellview. They find their way to the fortifications, smoke billowing from a cleft in the barrier. The group work to recover citizens from the wreckage, with their effort comes varying degrees of success. Once the tumalt has lessened somewhat, the group reunite with Sayer, who had wandered into the city and gravitated to the investigate.

Soon they are approached by Makos Thrynn, who informs them that the households nearby seem to be mostly empty. Investigating the outer ruins of the wall reveals deep ruts in the ground; with haste the group retrieve their horses and give chase.

Riding hard, the companions track the their quarry over deserted farms and through lush gullies. They eventually crest a hill and catch a glimpse of a large wagon canvased in red barreling over a distant hill, some three hundred meters off. The companions had gained a tremendous amount of ground, finally catching up to their target.

They considered following the wagon to it’s eventual destination, but felt immediate action was prudent. They rushed ahead, covering the last of the wagon’s distance and engaging directly. What they find is a large war wagon filled with orcs, built over a cage of heavy bent metal and several mounted escorts riding alongside. A pair of gigantic turtles with six quick moving legs pull the wagon behind them.

They engage directly; On’ogg fights off the outriders while Sayer heroically clambers onto the wagon, where he is able to take on the orcs in melee. Thadeous launches a fire blast ahead, catching the canvas cover ablaze. Those heroes who attack from range are beset by insane goblins tossing explosives from the rear. Akasha lassos a rider with her whip, yanking him wholly from his horse. He hits the ground with speed, his neck breaking against the hard ground.

The companions work through the rest of enemies for a time before the wagon swerves away from a cliff wall, allowing Ogg an opportunity to gain the platform. At the last moment his horse gallops over uneven ground and the orc slips from his position, catching his foot in the saddle straps.

As room becomes available beside the wagon, Akasha barrels through the opening. With a magical crack of her whip, she upends on of the turtles, sending the wagon headlong into the obstruction and toppling it over, flinging the remaining passengers into the fields.

A lone orc survives the crash and attempts to flee. The recovering heroes close on him and dispatch him quickly. They then investigate the remains of the wagon; the cage maintained it’s integrity well through the crash. Prying open the bars, they find a score of denizens seeming to be in a deep magical sleep, mostly unharmed.

Akasha befriends one of the turtles, it’s companion seems less than friendly to the group. They’re able to re-adjust the wagon and with some effort, coerse the great beasts to pull them back to Bellview.

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The Road to Bellview

scene_-_verdant_thicket.jpg The companions still argue in the Godsreach, debating on the best way to get into the Church of the Verdant Thicket. Their attention is drawn by the increase in activity around the Pavilion; the groundskeepers seem to be in high duress.

Suddenly Sayer, seeming to be deeply aggitated himself, takes his leave after hurriedly clarifying that he will catch up with the group when he can. Shrugging to each other in bemusement, On’ogg and Wobblegrinder draw closer to the Pavilion.

On’ogg inquires with a groundskeeper about the young curate’s activity. He seemed to be deeply engaged in the pushing and dragging of fine sand in large, arcing circles. In an impressive display of artistry, he tries his hand at the task; maneuvering the tools rather skillfully around the large, smooth stones of the garden. Many of the beleaguered attendants stop their fitful pacing and crowd around for a better view.

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Thaddeous takes the opportunity to slip away and climb the stairs to the receiving area. He’s greeted by a distraught receptionist and guards at several doors. Seeing little option, he retreats back to the paladin. Ogg finishes his sand-raking symposium and they decide to try again when things are less … hectic.

Meanwhile…

The young elf drags herself out of the gutter. Vigilant of her pursuers, which are nowhere to be seen, she disguises herself as a male counterpart to herself, which as an elf pretty much means she looks slightly less dainty and has a slightly more masculine hairstyle.

The group eventually reunites at their room at the Black Swann. Ogg is deeply troubled by the accusatory flyers posted in the area for an ‘Akasha Delithrang’; wanted for questioning for the apparent theft of such sensitive items including (but not limited to) the contents of an expensive bottle of liquor. Without very much explanation, the Bard reveals the dossier on Miraak Flores.

They decide the prudent action would be to continue their journey away from Darrowmere, but linger long enough to bully a pimple faced stable boy and interrogate a half blind, great grandmother en route to a small hut on the far outskirts of the city.

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They have reason to believe that it had once belonged to the mysterious figure known as Miraak, back before he crossed the brink from nature conservationist to political outlaw. They found that someone had been staying secretly in the shanty, but that it had been empty for at least a few weeks. The squatter left a series of strange, rambling missives on a wall strung together by thick yarn. The companions stayed for a night, fraught with spooky rain pattering on the tin panels of the roof and an eerie figure moving through the desolate streets outside.

Come morning, they made quick work of rounding up their gear and taking to the road.

They spent much of the day travelling over the hills and bluffs, riding pleasantly under the radiant light of the warm sun. Late in the afternoon the lush green plains gave way to to golden highlands. The shimmering waves of wheat waved roiled unchecked in the wind. They were deep withing the city-state of Bellview before they came across another individual, a pair of pikemen they found to be the local militia. Now informed of the dire situation of the disappearing smallfolk, the companions pressed on with a bit more urgency.

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The merchant city of Bellview sprawled out before them as they approached, finding the farmland just as devoid of life as the road up to then. They noticed lines of smallfolk in queue carrying valuable and necessities in their arms. Upon investigation, the group find that the outlying farmers are being quartered within the tall walls of Bellview proper.

Slighted at the gate by the guard captain for being an Orc, an exasperated On’Ogg presents the seal of commission from Lord Aetherion Tourek. He then leads Akasha and Wobble proudly through the city up Bellview Keep. Everyone who they pass seem to be whispering lightly of the mysterious disappearances.

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They are received at the gatehouse of the keep, noticing a vaguely familiar warrior giving training some of the militia in the far side of the courtyard. In the keep, they are brought before the Elder Counsel, currently in session. The Elders are debating what’s to be done about the crisis besieging their peaceful community. One of the Elders remain silent, seeming to size up the heroes from across the chamber with shrewd eyes. After a while she approaches, introducing herself as Elder Wynona Rosenbraugh. She invites the heroes to join her for a walk, where they might have some quiet to talk.

They climb the stairs to the ramparts, overlooking both city and the surrounding area. Elder Rosenbraugh updates them on the efforts being made to safeguard the city, but cannot confirm where the apparent attacks are coming from. She speculates that the local mercenary group known as the Ironbellow Clan weren’t above such dastardly deeds.

The Elder answers a few questions for the heroes, when suddenly there is an intense light very far in the distance, bright enough to cast shadows from this great a length. Just as it fades again, there is an explosion on the edge of town, with smoke billowing from the outer wall of the city.

The group rush back down into the keep to find workers running about it chaos. They see a few clerks run through a door and head in that direction. Bursting through the door, Ogg swiftly dodges an arrow meant for his head, nearly tripping on the clerks who were crumpled dead on the ground. He locks eyes with his assailant, none other than Karth Drachum. The Orc hunter wasn’t alone, he seemed to be supporting the entire Ironbellow Warband, confirming the Elder’s fears of their involvement.

The heroes engage with the vicious Orcs in the great hall of the Keep, dodging the vicious blades of the assassin known only as Korgan, deflecting the dark magics of Xandrilla, Bane of Thuul, attempting to close in on the crafty Karth Drachum and fending off the powerful strikes from their leader, Yaaz Jiguura.

During the battle, the front doors of the keep fly open and in rush the warrior from the courtyard and two spearmen. The warband react fast, catching the militiamen in a barbed net, but the unknown figure moves free and dives into the fray.

After a time, Yaaz called out to his Orcs and with a word began to adjust their strategy, covering themselves as they fall back in short order. With some effort Xandrilla opens a tear in the fabric of reality; the attackers fall back and slip through. The heroes find themselves in the aftermath of the ferocious battle, panting for breath and checking for unnoticed wounds.

The companions gain some semblance of composure and exit out the front of the Keep. Elder Wynona stands at the gate of the Keep among her personal guards. Staring out at the township of Bellview, she turns as they approach to wipe away a single tear. The damage beyond her is obvious; smoke billows from a damaged break in the wall, a tear in what was thought to be the safety for the city of Bellview.

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The Darrowmere Shuffle

The heroes take stock of their situation during their escape from the catacombs. Unaccustomed to the deep underground, Sayer is feeling the strains of claustrophobia nip at his rationality.

Climbing back up to the ground level, the group find that the ghostly skull has re-animated itself, but seems to be affected somehow. The companions quickly surmise that it seems to have lost it’s vision, perhaps do to the removal of the Skull Gems. They make quick work of the skull, stomping it’s remains into a fine dust just for safe measure.

After a brief debate on the contents of the sealed wing of the catacombs and the likelihood of significance clues therein, the group decide to make their way through the forest road back toward Darrowmere. It’s a solemn walk through the late night rain.

They find the Black Swan bereft of the typical crowd for this time of the evening. The barkeep mentions that any clientele that happens in seems to wander off before long, finding the crowd cold and dreary. The three cloaked figures in the corner have been here the better part of the day, nursing the same three pints of ale (much to the barkeep’s chagrin). Sayer orders the three a round on him.

The group was just noticing the gravity of the situation when the bartender delivers the drinks, pointing at Sayer. The figures all stand, kicking away their chairs and turning over the table. The barkeep, shrieks while running for safety.

The cloaked figures have a deep turquoise hue to their skin, with abhorrent growths marring throughout in patches. They draw vicious looking weapons with hands that seem sodden and bloated.

During the engagement, the companions find that the beings seem to break away at the combat, leaving an oily mess tangled with seaweed and barnacles. Still they came, intent on their target.

Eventually the group is able to tear away enough of their assailants to halt their attack. With the final killing blow, the figures burst in a wet mess, leaving the floor briny and sodden.

After Ogg’s attempts to to defend his friends fall flat, he boils over into a blood rage, throwing his sword through a wall and smashing all the furniture in reach into kindling.

He is eventually calmed while the group faces the aftermath of the situation carefully, not least of which a crowd of curious onlookers who had been passing by the Swan. The terrified barmaid who had been taking shelter in the pantry was eventually coaxed out, with wide eyes glancing uneasily at the hilt of Ogg’s sword as it protrudes from the wall.

A local is sent to find Hergen Blaythe, who arrives and looks over the destruction in bewilderment. The companions offer him explanation, all while he expertly shapes the splintered wood into a seating apparatus and surface for the newly fetched pints of ale.

The group eventually retires, long needed after their eventful day. They awake with renewed vigor and take up the task of investigating Darrowmere further. Believing the Church of the Verdant Thicket to have some understanding to what had happened in the Catacombs, they begin planning an incursion into the upper reaches of the Pavilion. Surely they must know more than they’re letting on?

The heroes discreetly linger in the Godsreach, discussing among themselves the best coarse of action to get into the restricted areas of the Pavilion. Akasha seems to reserve much of her opinion and is not noticed when she slips away. She approaches a one of the figures adorned in the telltale robes of the Verdant Thicket while he drags a rake across the surface of a sand garden.

She inquires about the church, asking of the young man how one might join their ranks. Noticing her to be an elf, he rushes to find his master, one with the authority to see to her request properly. The young bard is greeted by Master Woodshaper Kristoff, a vain man wearing resplendent robes fitting to his position as head of the Verdant Thicket. He eagerly receives Akasha and sees her right away to his office.

The prospect of having a real life elf, one who has gazed on the beauty of Aelostrian first hand, is almost too much for the Woodshaper to take. He makes small talk, writing accurately her name full name on the substantial paperwork necessary to accept her into the ranks.

There is a knock at the door as one of the groundskeepers enters requesting the Master Woodshaper to see to an important matter of the church that required his immediate attention. Failing to hid his frustration, Sunto Pai excuses himself and steps out of the room. In a scramble, Akasha begins rifling through the books and trinkets on his shelves and upturning the neatly stacked papers on his desk before fumbling open a locked drawer. She yanks out a dossier marked ‘Miraak Flores’, upturning a bottle of what must be expensive bourbon in the process.

Hearing the Woodshaper returning, only on the other side of the door finishing his orders to the subordinate, Akasha waves her hand in the air above the desk and creates an illusion of order, hiding beneath it the mess her search had wrought. As she falls back into her seat, the door swings open.

“I don’t care how you do it, just get that sand raked!”, the Master Woodshaper snarled, slamming the door in the face of the underling. Regaining the mask of serenity, he apologized for the interruption. Continuing the introductory paperwork for admittance, in spite of Akasha’s vague protests, Sunto Pai circled back around his desk sniffing the air slightly.

His composed look turned to confusion as he regained his chair, seating himself directly in a puddle of lavish bourbon. Akasha quickly takes her leave, hearing the Woodshaper bark out orders in bewilderment to nobody in particular.

Running along, Akasha finds her way through a series of hallways to the entry chamber just as three slow moving groundskeepers burst through a door opposite of her. Darting to the stairway, the nimble elf reaches the exit easily as the tenders chug along in their cumbersome robes and heavily decorated staves.

Akasha flees wildly into the city proper as the groundskeepers give chase, all out of sight to the rest of the companions. She turns a corner and ducks into a viaduct, quickly throwing an illusion over the space. Holding her breath, she hears as the agitated figures lumber past, the jangling of their ornaments ringing through the air. With a rush of relief, she settles into her nook long enough to lose her pursuers before running back to the Black Swan.

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The Deep Roots of Crescent Hill

The companions begin on the now little used road to the derelict Chapel of Sacred Ashes. The twilight hours of the Verdant Thicket is quiet; the subtle pattering of light rain on the foliage the only sound to be heard.

After a brief deliberation, the group decides to investigate the main building of the chapel. Gaining entry through a largely demolished wall, they begin inspecting the sacellum. They find what looks to be the remnants of an old campfire and quite a bit of broken glass littering the floor.

On’ogg approaches the altar, finding a bleach white skull with some sort of precious stones in it’s eyes. When attempting to lift it, the skull springs to life, emitting a ghastly green aura and charging forward through the group.

After taking a few blows from the group, the skull rears back and emanates a wave of magical energy. The group are unaffected by this, noticing the energy radiate outward through the trees and off into the distance.

Just then Akasha loops her whip around the skull and with a yank, cracks it clear in half longways. The companions gather around as Thadeous Wobblegrinder detects the magical properties of the now inert skull; whatever strange magic animated it seems to have dispersed with the killing blow. Og and Sayer each take a gem from it’s two eye orifices.

The group continue on, carefully inspecting the basilica offices. They find a few empty rooms, one filled with a murder of crows. They fly out the nearby windows as the companion’s approach closer.

They find a dusty tome titled Chronicles of the God King; to his dismay, Og cannot read the language that it is written in.

Continuing down a long, spiral staircase into the deep, subterranean level, the group find themselves in the Darrowmere Catacombs. Sayer spots a thin, silvery line across the ground and warns of a trap. Unfortunately, when traversing the string he failed to mind his belongings and tripped the wire with his sword hilt, effectively springing the trap. A long column of stone chained to the ceiling unhinged from it’s hiding spot and swung down, clipping the swashbuckler in the shoulder.

The group then progresses forward, noting several tombs with elaborate statues chiseled over the resting places. They note that the ancient statue figures have horns protruding from their heads.

In the next room the companions find debris and a small chamber for what seems like private worshiping. There are candles littered around, statuettes representing several different popular religions and a spooky hand mirror which Sayer holds onto, using it to check around corners and gaze at the reflection of things around him.

As the group move through these chambers, Og and Sayer notice movement on their persons. The gems in their inventory come to life, springing from Og’s pocket and floating Sayer’s satchel into the air. Og loses his grip on his for a moment; it skitters across the ceiling before he wrangles it back down. After a moment, they fall inanimate again, thoroughly perplexing the heroes. They continue on.

Soon they find another chamber, this one with a small cistern of deep black water, cold to the touch. The water runoff flows down under the walkway and through a rusty grating. Another large statue of a horned figure is erected over the pool, this one depicted with large feathered wings. The group continue still.

The group then encounter a crossing hallway, going in three other directions. They choose to pass by the hall that has several crates blockading it and move forward to a large crypt. These are similarly adorned to the initial tombs they came across, if somewhat less elaborate and a bit more crowded. While Akasha and Thadeous inspect what they find to be empty, easily movable crates blocking one path, Og and Sayer choose the alternate.

Too late Og realizes his mistake as the carpet gives way beneath him, dropping him into a pit littered with the sharp bones of several skeletons. He is shaken with the dishonorable treatment of the dead. Sayer expertly binds a rope to a nearby load bearing column and they are able to recover the orc paladin.

They find a small squatters camp, the remnants of the cult that had been reported around Darrowmere. It doesn’t seem to have been touched in several days. They find journal entry of an acolyte, stating in it that the cult has had a sort of exodus from the area, leaving the two acolytes to stand as sentinels for their base of operations. The journal makes mention of the author’s companion gained some insights from a book, finding a “wonderful truth”.

Continuing on, the group make their way back to the hallway and following the alternate route, finding a small antechamber with the remains of a meal sitting on a table, a basin of clear water and yet another large statue of a horned figure. The group feel refreshed upon touching the water, drinking deeply and recovering their strength.

The door leading on seems to be stuck with something behind it. They knock the door forward, breaking the up most hinge and falling forward on it’s splintered wood. There was a thick tangle of fresh roots and foliage carpeting the floor, which had been blocking the entryway. It bounded through the entire room, forming a thick pillar in the center of the chamber and continuing to grow unchecked on the ceiling.

The companions investigated a few side rooms and determined that this seemed to be the subterranean altar of the mysterious cult. They still haven’t found any signs of the cultists left behind to hold the lair.

They found a strange tome with depictions of a large construct, an ancient apparatus of some kind. Writing in ancient elven flowed across it’s pages. Og inspects the great mass of vines centering the room as Wobblesprocket reaches for the book. As the wizard places his hand upon it, a wicked eye opens deep within the vines, gazing maliciously at Og’onn.

Out stepped what was expected to be Acolyte Kiryn, transformed into a nightmarish dryad. Controlling a pair of regenerating vine blights, she lashed out at the group.

(Plz add any details to the fight you would like!)

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After a hard fought fight, the heroes were able to fell the Acolyte. As her body regressed into the vines, the group was able to recover a mysterious orb from the chest cavity of the dryad. They also found the desecrated remains of the other acolyte. Happy to rid themselves of this place, the companions grabbed the tome and headed for the exit.

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On the Path

The group investigates Darrowmere in earnest, coming to the Godsreach Gardens and speaking to some acolytes of the Church of the Verdant Thicket. They find the attendants unhelpful, but do learn the name of a local conservationist by the name of Miraak.

They continued across to the Darrowmere Municiple Building, looking for more information on the happenings around town. They find out that Miraak is a bit of an extremest in regard to his conservation efforts. They also find out that he hasn’t been seen in town for some time.

Soon Hergen Blaythe arrives to deliver them a message. Morinth Rheinhardt has been seeking them out; she’s about to go investigate reports of a strange occurrence outside of town. The group follows her.

They find the mangled remains of a large cave bear. The group take a moment to discuss the oddity of a deep bear so far up in the mountains; it’s very unnatural. A second cave bear skulks into the clearing, engaging the group in an intense combat. Morinth is clearly shaken up.

Tasking the group with investigating a site she believes could be the clandestine meeting place of whatever group is involved with these machinations, Morinth falls back to report to Lord Aetherion Tourek in Archon’s Fall.

The group take the long hike to Crescent Hill, the site of the old Chapel of Sacred Ashes. While en route, they encounter a strange figure who calls himself Baatu. He gives the group a disturbing premonition. With a large puff from his pipe, he enshrouds himself with thick smoke and takes his leave again.

Finally, the companions arrive at the foot of Crescent Hill. They stand by the lone light post on this dreary path and look up to the ruins of the Chapel.

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