Gift of Eomar

Confrontation

The companions wake to find a quiet chill in the air after a fitful sleep, hazy images of their encounter with the Lost Sinner still fresh in their minds. The slightest boot scrape on the pavement sends echoes reverberating through the halls, and the companions stifle their movements, loathe to disturb the silence.

Creeping out from their hiding, they return to the rectory. Finding the cultists still in their sorry state, they converse on what to do with the empty shells. If they did in fact lack their soul, wasn’t it a mercy to end this suffering? Perhaps even their duty? On’ogg certainly believed so. Sayer agreed. After what he had experienced the day before when attempting to read their thoughts, he longed to end this cruel existence.

The young elf could not accept this fate, though she know not how else to proceed. With a perturbed frown across his face, Thadeous guided her up and out of the dismal Halls of Want, leaving Ogg and Sayer to complete their task alone, their faces set with grim determination.

The paladin stood over each, whispering a litany of mercy for their souls as the not-so-jovial rogue opened their throats. Their resistance was minimal. None seemed aware of what was happening until Sayer pulled their heads back, more to accept the blade. Even then, the husks only flailed their arms back impotently against his expert actions.

~

While they have a moment to themselves, Thadeous takes the opportunity to have a conversation with Hopscotch, with the help of Akasha translating. He confirms himself to be a magic user, though he doesn’t divulge where he learned his craft. He also

After a time, the footsteps of Ogg and Sayer could be heard climbing the stairs back to the antechamber, where Akasha and Thadeous were awaiting their return. Coming again level with their waiting friends, they were surprised to see the elf and the gnome gazing at them with a look of shock. Only then did each notice the splatters of blood speckling their armor.

(more incoming)

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Halls of Want

The group make their way back toward the temple only to find their trail blocked by a talkative magical gate. He converses for a bit, the group considering ways past the roadblock. Eventually they convince the gate to speak the phrase etched above the gateway (the words “Speak password and enter”, in an ancient dialect of elvish).

The group climb a long flight of steps, strangely paced out (on the longstriding side), coming to a large antechamber with several passageways stemming in different directions. npc_-_talking_gate.jpg They also take note a huge archway in the center of the room, unresponsive to interaction and out of place in the musty ruins. They check the forward hallway to find it badly in disrepair, an apparent cave in tumbling much forest in the pathway.

They descend a set of stairs into a huge chamber, dimly lit by sporadic torchlight along the buttressing columns. A giant platform centers the area, upon which is out of sight and locked away behind a series of locked gates. They skirt the side of it and make their way down a hallway breaking from the main room. They come across a barred window, from which the smell of death and decay is prominent. A small distance away they find a heavy door, stuck closed.

Hopscotch nimbly climbs through, unbarring the door. Inside, the group finds the remains of several dead cultists. Their cause of death cannot be confirmed, but it seems as if their gaunt forms have wasted away. There are signs that they had barricaded themselves within.

The group continue on, coming across a large area of cultists sitting on long benches in a sort of auditorium style seating. Og addresses them in disguise; Akasha had placed an illusion on him so that he appeared much in the form of Master Woodshaper Kristoff, of the Verdant Thicket.

The crowd is completely unresponsive. They take efforts to right themselves when knocked aside, and free themselves when grasped by the companions, but seem to be in a severe stupor. Sayer clutches the pendant around his neck and attempts to peer into the mind of one of the cultists. His gaze locks with a young woman; the darkness of her eye seems to overwhelm him, surround him. He loses his footing, tumbles into oblivion. It seems to last forever.

With a start, Sayer lands back on his two boots, shaken to his core. He finds himself once again among his companions. They decide for the moment to leave the cultists be and investigate the Halls further. They come to a long corridor lined with doorways on either side. Each door opened to a chamber, each filled with empty cots. The last room in the hallway they found to be locked; with deft hands Akasha cracked the simple mechanism. Inside they found the room occupied by prone figures on several cots. Each was dead, apparently from a knife wound in the chest. All save the last figure, who they found had died from self inflicted knife wounds. The ceremonial knife lay nearby. The corpses all shared a likeness in facial features and golden locks of hair.

The group press on, finding another hallway leading to a spire, scraping through the canopy of leaves above. Climbing to the top, they find a small, well kept bedchamber. They take a key from the table and Sayer finds a long, complicated puzzle box among the sheets of the bed. Wobblegrinder notices several books on a shelf, most of which seem to be fiction, popular books and otherwise.

They backtrack to the latticed frame surrounding the stairs that seem to circle around to the top of the raised platform. They insert the newly found key into the mechanism and watch as the gate creaks open.

The group climb the steps and find a lone figure kneeling in the center, face hidden under a mess of tangled hair. The leathers adorning the figure hung loosely in tattered scraps. A thick wooden stockade fixed his wrists together. At their approach, the solitary figure raised it’s head, revealing it’s face to be covered by a thick metallic mask, seemingly bolted around, securing it into place.

The group continued their advance, and the Lost Sinner lifted itself from the stone ground and brandished a rather vicious looking claymore. At it’s command, lengths of long chain lowered from pulleys among the concave ceiling.

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The group engaged completely, fighting back the Lost Sinner, who moved with uncanny speed and agility. As they did so, the empty shells of the cultists below poured forth, climbing the chains and shuffled into the fray, their faces devoid of any emotion as they threw themselves bodily at the heroes.

At one point the decrepit figure glares at Akasha, instilling in her a burning madness. She lunges at Ogg, who turns her blade away at the last moment. The battle reaches a fever pitch, the heroes buckling under the furious strikes by the Lost Sinner and it’s onslaught of the empty shells that seem to come with no end. They finally land a series of strikes on the form, and it crumbles to the ground, the rage that empowers it flowing freely from it’s many wounds. As it falls, the empty shells also break their attack, sitting or laying in the positions they hold.

The group, finding little to explain the macabre ordeal, fall back to the small room that held the barricaded cultists, and after clearing it as best as they could they set watch and fell into a deep, troubled sleep.

~

During his watch, Sayer quietly pulled the long puzzle box from his pack, and with only the slightest of tinkering, watched as the mechanism clicked into place. Inside he found wrapped in dark velvet a long, metallic spike. It had an intense weight to it. Pondering over the curiosity, he continued his watch.

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The Ruins of Khar'Khuut

After the confrontation with Miraak the Unyielding, who revealed himself at the barrier gate around the Ruins of Khar’Kuut, the companions turn to face their new acquaintance Raybringer.

Abominable magic tears at the young mousling, gorging his small body and enlarging his limbs to unnatural proportions. A constant stream of tendrils and vines spring forth from the underbrush, wrapping themselves around his now bulging forearms. With new found strength, Ray breaks the bonds, only to have more engulf him with uncanny speed.

With a dreadful sense of impotence, the group watch on in horror as he shrieks in an unrecognizable language. With what strength he has, Ray seems to be lunging for Thaddeus, who notices the small fabricator’s emblem etched on his staff glow with a soothing light.

The wild growth around Ray shudders as he turns on his colleagues. Thaddeus whispers the words of magic, and a binding aura shines around the hulking Ray as he’s held fast. On’Ogg and Sayer slash away at his tendrils, only to find more spring up in their absence. With a subtle flick of her wrist, Akasha probes into his mind, detecting whatever thoughts she can. She sees his viewpoint seething in rage, with a slight aura emanating from Wobblegrinder’s staff. It has a balmy warmth to it.

The shambling horror smashes it’s fist into Ogg, and several tendrils wrap themselves around the orc. He fought helplessly against the constraint as they squeezed the life from him. As Wobblegrinder shot thunderous witch bolts into the mass of twisted vines, grotesque dreadflowers began growing from the bulk.

As Ogg loses conciousness, Wobble calls forth a mass of thick webbing, effectively keeping the hulking mass from shattering the fallen paladin. Akasha tries to free Ogg while Sayer, jumping back behind Ray, plunges his rapier into the mass, landing the killing blow.

The group lays Ray to rest outside the curtain wall, under a cairn of shattered stone. They take tentative steps deep into the strange forest of Khar’Khuut. Their progress is as follows;

- Investigate the steep structure with a totem inside. They tie off their silken rope after a precarious climb, gaining quick access to the upper reaches of the ruins.

- Finding a pathway with several stone masks, they attempt to pass and are blasted by elemental fire. They notice a plinth nearby with a copper switch and tie the into position, effectively deactivating the fiery masks.

- They continue to a large wrought iron gate, noticing a the towering spires of the temple grounds beyond. Deciding to investigate the ruins further, they turn back for now.

- The group come across a hill with several open passageways. After attempting to pass through and finding them linked in strange ways, they find emblems on each door. In no particular order they find a bird, a ruby, a diamond, a lion, a snake, an emerald, and the four main stages of the moon. After much trial and error, they notice a break in the pattern and find that each portal seems to correspond with a certain person. They enter all at once in their designated portal and find a treasure chest.

- Veering a ways off, they come to an overlook terrace with several streams of water flowing off in ornamental gratings. Trekking through, they are ambushed by three ghastly spirits. A bit ineffective in the light of the day, they make short work of the creatures of darkness.

- Akasha finds an old, drawstring bag. She pulls from it a fuzzy sphere that breaks apart in a bright light, taking on the form of a giant elk of the woods. She’s smitten.

- Finding themselves back in the initial area, they find a path they overlooked earlier and snake their way deeper into the forest.

- The group investigates a grove, then climbs a winding set of steps to a large chamber with several unique chests throughout. Producing the one key they found, the group open the ironbound chest, revealing several useful items.

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Minds of Iron

1. The group hover around a bleak fire as the convoy in which they are traveling is halted. They watch as a group of men try to free a draped wagon that has been stuck in the mud. A heavily cloaked figure watches from the side, accompanied by a young woman. Much of the convoy continue trekking through the thunderstorm, the sprawl of Khalsbrad in the distance with the Tower of Solastrum looming in it’s heart.

2. The group attempts to help free the wagon. The wood splinters and breaks. Surrendering the cargo, the cloaked figure blows forth a stream of intense fire, consuming the wagon completely in it’s destructive blaze. They converse briefly with the young girl, who speaks on behalf of her master, the Silent Seer.

3. The rest of the convoy continues on and shortly after an hour they find themselves within the city limits. The group follow a group of traveling performers to a large hostelry. They are invited up for tea with the Silent Seer, who has rented the owner’s quarters and wears a stone mask over his face and retains the heavy black robes in spite of the oppressive heat in the room. The young girl introduces herself as Aleanna (Ah-lee-ahna).

4. Madrygos is the benefactor of Khalsbrad. He shaped the city of Khalsbrad, creating a thriving metropolis. About a year ago, he closed the gates of Solastrum, which had served as a place of knowledge and higher learning. Since then, he hasn’t been seen. The city has fallen into decay, with the powerful families grasping at what power they can in the absence of Madrygos.

5. Aleanna sets the group on the task of routing out Madrygos, who is said to have gone mad alone in his tower. She gives the group a crystal orb, which when shattered Madrygos’s lair will open a dimension door, allowing the Silent Seer to assault the wizard.

6. The group settle in at the common bunks, conversing a bit with some local dwarves. They’ve made to vacate their longstanding claims here in Khalsbrad for more lucrative regions. They state that the honest business has been displaced by the area’s political Houses, and their constant vying for territory.

7. The group rests, then set out in the early hours before dawn towards the looming tower. They are confronted by a group of thugs, attempting to exact a bridge toll. The group wipe them out completely. They are little assaulted as they continue on.

8. They come to the curtain wall, holding within the overgrown grounds and the tower within. They scale the wall and move quickly toward the steady stream of water flowing forth from the sub floors.

9. Finding a pathway and navigating through the extremely hot steam vents of the underway, they come to a large platform causeway. The rushing water sets in motion several large turbines, the sound of clanking gears and grinding machinery is everywhere.

10. Several Mephistos, each a uniquely crafted apparatus, rush forward billowing a thick smoke that seems not to dissipate. They claw at the heroes, and one is able to align their targets and spew forth a blast of intense flame. As each is destroyed, it leaves behind a deadly smoke that obscures it’s area. The heroes continue.

11. The group come across a large workshop with shelves filled with scrap and machinery. They find a key, which opens a large gate behind which they find a disassembled iron golem. They observe it’s head seems to only have 1 large eyelet rather than the standard 2.

12. The group continue up and find themselves in a huge hall with turning machinery in every direction. They continue up a spiral staircase, judging themselves near the ground level. The complex is immense, though hallways marking the Observatorium Cosmicarum, the Grand Auditorium and the Master’s Library and the have been shut off by immense doors.

13. The group find a pedestal in the huge columned entrance way. Using the strange key, a bronze cage is lowered by a huge chain from above. Using it to gain access to the upper terrace, they find themselves on the exterior of the tower, looking over the city from high above. They follow the overlook around to a long bridge that crosses over to the tower’s side pillar.

14. At the end is a huge pavilion with a raised platform suspended at it’s apex. Witnessing an frail old human pouring over a leatherbound tome and gesturing absently with his free hand, they bring forth the Seer’s crystal orb. They shatter it, calling forth the Seer with an explosion of magical energy, the masked figure charging forward and immediately engaging in intense combat with Master Madrygos.

15. As they do so, a loud tinny voice breaks over the area. -Unauthorized personnel in the area. Neutralization to commence in 5 … 4 … 3 … … … -. The group readies themselves. Large spheres fold out from below, rotating with a pillar of light that shoots a ball of light at the intruders. From the center of the platform raises a large cylinder. Steam billows from protrusions as the panels slide away revealing Thul’Zoat, an immense mechanical centurion.

16. The group engage, withstanding the centurion’s pommeling strikes as well as it’s attempts to crush them with large gears pulled from below the mesh floor of the platform. Eventually the group is able to halt it’s onslaught, bringing it low.

17. The group witnesses the conclusion of the magical melee above them. The Silent Seer used his element of surprise to lash out early at Master Madrygos, it had bent the battle in his favor. The masked Seer holds the exhausted Madrygos suspended by his collar as the Master of the Tower turns to the group … you know not what you have done… The Seer reaves the life from Madrygos, holding in his hand the energy before dropping the lifeless body from the platform.

18. The Seer then pulls off the stone mask, revealing a face contorted by rage, his lips sewn together with strands of leather cord. He absorbs the essence, glowing with an awful light. With a flick of the hand, another portal opens from which Aleanna walks through.

19. The Seer floats down from the platform past the group, moving silently towards the tower main. Aleanna addresses them with downcast eyes. -You make leave with what you carry, but know that if you linger too long, my Master will view it as an act of hostility and cleave your soul from this dimension. Averting her eyes, she follows behind the Seer, leaving the band of heroes to claim what they can and flee the tower forever.

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The Raybringer of Swum Hallow

The group reflect on what they learned among the the Auragons, following their crude directions towards the Temple. They take a good heading, but veer off the path on their second day deep within the Terra Incognita. They come to a small clearing, and in their searching for clues to the path, are caught in a thick vine trap, hanging precariously from the branches of a nearby tree.

Having been a small distance from the group, On’ogg watches from the safety of the nearby bushes. Soon, three small figures prowl out from the far side of the clearing, approaching those caught in the net. The leader reveals himself to be a mousling, native to this region. After much deliberation, both parties lower their weapons, but keep a close eye on one another.

Ray guides them to the nearby trade outpost, explaining their need for heightened vigilance. The robed figures have been exceedingly hostile to the natives. They also are occupying the Temple of Khar’khuut, which happens to be a prime location for artifact recovery and a main source of economy for the mouslings.

They stay in a small hostelry, positioned on stilts above the bogs of flowing water. The area is a quagmire, spilling out into the Chell Sea. In the morning, Ray shows them to a salvage bazaar and to an old structure teeming with wild magics. The young druid bends the wood of Wobblegrinder’s staff around the dark crystal that the wizard has been studying.

Upon leaving the peaceful place, they observe smoke rising from some area several hundred paces away. Ray, runs in that direction without question; the companions follow as quickly as they can.

They burst through trees and brush and fall out the other side into a small, hidden village aflame. Moving in pairs, robed cultists pour over the area, setting ablaze everything in their path. Several mouslings can be found scurrying through the area, running from wooden door frames set into the hillsides while others cling to one another in terror. One particularly befuddled mousling seems to be running around with no apparent destination with a wooden chair.

The companions engaged with the cultists, safeguarding the inhabitants of Swum Hallow while bending the elements around them to destroy the threat. In the wake of the attack, Ray vows to see them to the now cultist stronghold.

They take to their travels immediately, moving quite swiftly with Ray’s expert knowledge of the area. They eventually come to the curtain wall around the mystical forest that surrounds the Temple itself. Ray mentions that the hazy violet bubble that has taken form over the wall is certainly new to him. When they attempt to throw a stone over the structure, it seems to bounce off of the barrier.

Continuing on, they find the large gateway, but it too has the hazy violet barrier. Stumped by the new development, they experiment a bit (with little progress). At one point, a ghastly floating skull emerges from the treeline on the other side of the barrier, a long sash wrapped around where the eyes would have glared. It emitted a pulse of energy then departed back into the trees.

In a final act of desperation, the companions emptied out their pockets. They held forth the spherical orb of ancient filigree, finally recalling Katos’s mention of them possessing ‘The Keystone’.

They pressed the orb against the barrier; it seemed to ripple energy from the contact point. Then after a moment, the haze took a hardened form and shattered like glass into a million little pieces. The shards fell harmlessly to the ground with twinkling energy.

After taking a few tentative steps through the curtain wall, the group was confronted by a blinding greenish light, from which stepped Miraak the Unyielding. He bore clothing made from the woods, unnatural brazen skin with tribal markings over his exposed chest, and most striking a pair of twisting antlers from his temples, crowning a face twisted by hatred.

His worlds dripping with madness, Miraak revealed that he had been provided the tools to give the natural world a fighting chance against the encroaching plague of humanity. Pleased that the group brought before him such a fine mousling specimen, the dark druid bent the energy around him and twisted Raybringer into a shadow of himself.

As the mousling begins regaining his footing, Miraak melds with the trees of this ancient forest, leaving the companions to face the monstrosity of their former acquaintance.

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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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