Gift of Eomar

Calling on the Aegis
1179

The companions regroup before their final trek to the Alabaster Citadel. Sayer the Swashbuckler calls upon Captain Castien, who is happy to report that the state of the Callehad is far less dire than at first was expected. The companions efforts to outfit the ship with reinforced skystone plates have payed off serious dividends in their effort.

Akasha Delithrang calls upon Nazeer for guidance in regard to the inquiries she had made on the ‘Veridian Wardens’. He mentions that he remembers having a conversation with one of the acolytes of the Scribes that hinted at said knowledge. He directs her to find a place where old tomes and scrolls be kept, then call upon him through means of the arcane to receive further instructions.

Elbanor Thaspeclepior, On’ogg and The Hand fall into the company of Noble Squad and as a whole they set out into the Gates of Benediction, delving at a downward grade down into the northern cliffs of the valley. The tunnel they found themselves in was as well kept as it was long. They continued for some time with only sconces of burning brazers to mark their progress. After about ten minutes they saw a gleam of light at the far end, signifying the exit.

Once through, they found the valley much more hospitable than the region would suggest. They had dropped some elevation in the trek through the Gates and the ground was still marked by snow patches escaping the sun’s rays under at the edge of the treeline.

They continue to the Citadel, are escorted by Judith ‘the Noose’ to the Scribe’s Archives, by way of the dining facilities. Ogg inquires about some required reading and is assigned some book-work by Alfred Leomynd, the First Scribe of the Aegis. The Hand offers their assistance, but Ogg decides that perhaps Elbanor is the better companion suited to wax philosophical virtues.

Akasha inquires with First Scribe on the certain subject of the Veridian Wardens. He seems genuinely stumped, so she offers the scroll which she received in the dreaming as a clue. He finds it most interesting and gains permission by the young elf to transcribe to contents, a task which he sets his acolytes to immediately. He is unable to produce meaningful text on the Wardens besides.

Sayer peels away from the group to find more suitable accommodations. He is seen to their lodgings. The Aegis had set them in the formal guest quarters; though lacking any obvious manner of refinement, it was certainly comfortable and well appointed.

He then made his way to conquer the task of growing thirst. Running into the familiar face of supply sergeant McGee, he accepts the invitation to the officer’s lounge for refreshments. While enjoying said company, Sayer listened with some intent on the buzz around the lounge, namely that the Circle had been called for emergency deliberations, that such hasty arrangements were a peculiarity.

The Hand makes attempt to poke around the First Scribe’s office after he departs to his meeting with the Circle, but is quickly set upon by a passing acolyte. Feigning a head injury, the Hand is successful in convincing the young man into believing their trauma. Much to the Hand’s dismay, though, the acolyte now seemed duty-bound to transport them to a medical professional.

Once delivered, a doctor of sorts informs The Hand of the nature of traumatic experiences and their potential to disrupt the natural recall of memories, creating a void of mental capacity. He also warned that though it may be difficult, that delving into said trauma may be to only way to unpack and assuage what he called this ‘dark baggage’. Somewhat shaken by this apparent revelation, the Hand takes their leave after requesting a shiny bauble from his cabinet of medicinal curios.

Some time later Elbanor is called on by a runner from The Circle. His presence seems requested by Svala, a summons he takes immediately. The attendant sees him out of the Citadel and up a forest path to the outdoor auditorium, where The Circle had convened.

Svala calls Elbanor to act in her name as an agent in her stead. His charge would be to confirm the proof of punishment for a Knight that she knows to be integral in her capture by the giants deep within the mountains. He is told that Sir Ferric had been interred some three decades prior in the ‘Black Cells’, the dungeons below what is now an active guard outpost name the ‘Old Rookery’. The man under question had refused any nourishment and has been presumed dead since shortly after his internment began. The ‘Black Cells’ have long since been discontinued and nearly forgotten.

Meanwhile Ogg takes the opportunity to wander about the Citadel for a time. He finds himself on one of the outer crenelations and runs into a young paladin who says that her friends call her ‘Mouse’. Indeed the young lady seems just barely scraping into an age of growth, a so called ‘late bloomer’ as it goes. She mentions having a keen appreciation for a certain star in the sky, a cosmic brightness that sheds some reminder that the divine are shining down on the realm of mortals. A little perplexed, Ogg notices that Mouse has a strength of divine power among her and attempts to continue the conversation, but the young lady soon vanishes around a corner.

He eventually calls upon Knight Marcus Dunham, the head smithy of the Aegis. On’Ogg gives a small practical demonstration of the peculiar sword, a presentation that results in the complete destruction of a dummy target. Knight Dunham, an expert in his own right in the ways of weapons and steel, turns his trained eye in the aura of red energy around the violence. He seems to recognize the curse gripping the orc and brings him to his great forge.

Thereupon Knight Dunham commands Ogg to submerge the blade into a basin of holy water. Ogg complies, and with some peculiar reluctance plunges the sword into the water. A blast of dark energy erupts from the basin, cracking the polished stonework in the process. A shadowy malevolence washes over the room briefly before slamming several acolytes onto the ground and flitting down towards the training grounds.

Ogg and the Knights rush out into the yard with several torches only to catch a tail end of darkness taken form. They look on to watch as it flits into the treeline some distance away.

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Blessed of Ak'leksion

The recently freed jotunbrud proclaimed herself to be Akir’thanalan, blessed of the Storm Father … but demanded that the small-folk on board the Callehad call her Svala. The giant took the time to appraise her diminutive liberators and judged Elbanor to indeed carry some blessing of Ak’leksion.

Their dialogue was cut short by Svala, who sensed of those she mention to have been ‘once her kinsman’ but that they had ‘steered themselves down a different path long ago’. The companions disembark the rattled Callehad and investigate, finding several demons emerge from the misty crevices of the mountain. Svala begins channeling a prayer.

Several of the assailants are dispatched by the companions before Svala finishes her age-old invocation to Ak’leksion. Suddenly her massive palm slams down and shatters the remaining demons in a chain of lightning. Making short work of those she proclaims to be agents of the mountain giants, Svala finds the companions worthy. She lifts the Callehad over a giant shoulder and begins carrying them to a place she calls Exeter…

They attempt to reason with Svala who is waylaying their progress… but they find her resolve unflinching until they mention their hope to visit the Alabaster Citadel. This seems to spark some deep thought and Svala agrees to make way for the ancient holdings of the Aegis.

~

The mighty Svala had cut a path deep through the vast peaks of the Khalkist Mountains, winding her way through places of sheer rock cliffs and wide, misty gorges. She came upon a long basin known to her as the Vale of Huron; the ancestral home of the Alabaster Aegis …surely named so after some former Gallant of the knights. A mere breathe on the winds of time, she thought as she recalled the ancient rites to this place… A’guur Romagaath.

From the vantage of those on board the deck of the Callehad, the great Lady of the storms seemed as if to wade through tall grass, so did the pines and poplars crowd in about her waist. Though the valley had been many leagues in length, the span side to side would have hardly been more than a day’s hike across. With a slight incline marked by hillocks and braes, the blessed of Ak’lecsion carried on… past heavy stone cairns marking the path for the much smaller denizens of the mountains.

Aboard the Callehad the passengers find little warmth from the daylight. Indeed, though the sun shined brightly over the western horizon, it gave naught to lessen the brisk chill that cut through cloak and spirit alike. The Captain had coordinated the restoration of the dirigible and shoring of the hull, the aligning of steerage and the shoring up of line-works. Once the assignments had been arranged, the Captain retired to his cabin.

Still Svala continued on. Now you find yourself in the terminus of this valley, ensconced to the south by the misty peaks of the Khalkist mountains and the Nobles looming over you to the north, with the sculpted smooth stone of the Gates of Benediction nestled among their craggy cliffs. Recently deposited near the road leading up to the Gates, the Callehad almost seems forgotten among the tension between Svala and the Knights.

Suddenly Knight Renault Mallory separates himself from the crowd of foot soldiers and appeals for prudence through armistice in a voice for all to hear. His voice rings soundly through the crisp, mountain air and seems to dissolve the hostility … for now.

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The Storm Peaks

The companions take their place among the crew of the Callehad in it’s voyage to the Alabaster Citadel to rendezvous with the Order of the Alabaster Aegis.

The Hand learns the value of a hard day’s work through hull-painting and mineral crushing. In the process, the young warlock also gains valuable insight on the mannerisms of the elves of the Legion.

While lingering on deck observing the scene, Sayer notices adverse weather in their distant path. Knowing the need, he volunteers himself and his colleagues to assist as necessary. Later that evening an advisory is disseminated throughout the crew, confining the crew outside direct duties to the decks below as a safety precaution.

Early the next morning his squad is called upon and set to a series of tasks which Sayer delegates with some demeanor of polished professionalism. Though his friends at first have a slow start, they soon gain some footing at the tasks after a on-the-fly adjustment on his part.

First Mate Nazeer runs the duties through short-shifts, considering the harsh weather. The companions eventually finish their work and are soon rotated out. Returning to down time activities, Sayer becomes aware of a growing concern among the elven crew. There seems to be an ominous voice on the wind. He joins his elven compatriots in investigating and indeed hears a strange, ominous sound between the whistling gale of the weather.

He alerts his friends and they discuss the implications. On’ogg remembers that the ‘Forge of Souls’ had a close tie to the giants of this region and their history with the Alabaster Aegis. Elbanor remembers that the giants are often greatly blessed by the Lords of the Elemental Planes. Feeling a calling by his own Lord Ak’Lexzion he rushes to the main deck to observe this anomaly for himself.

Some ways distant he takes notice of a silent crashing thunder, deep within the roiling blizzards roiling around the summits of the Khalkist mountain range. The Khalkist acts as a natural barrier within the Ironback mountains in the great north, beyond which the vast tundras lay sprawling as far as the eye can see.

Believing this a sign, he calls forth a mastery of the elements around him, summoning his own booming lightning around the area of the ship. Those on deck take cover amidst the violent display of charged elemental might. As they recover, several of the crew, Nazeer among them move to apprehend the cleric.

Entranced by the spell, Elbanor finds himself equal to the task of staving off his assailants. Indeed, rapt in the splendor of the lightning around him, the young man doesn’t notice as the ship is torn from it’s trajectory, caught in a slipstream that bends it’s course towards the heart of this fierce blizzard.

Moments into this cutting weather Captain Castien calls for all hands on deck, to “..Save the ship!”. With his heart pounding in his chest, Elbanor takes a position on the nose of the forecastle, dodging crates as they become detached from their moorings. The rest of the companions aid in the efforts of recovery, securing the lines as the cutting winds threaten to tear the ship from it’s dirigible (the balloon).

Combining their efforts, the companions are successful in securing the rigging, only to hear Elbanor call out that they are almost through. Suddenly they burst through the swirling mass of the blizzard, barreling into the relatively calm of the eye.

With their speed, they find themselves hurtling towards the tallest peak among the Khalkist. Atop what must be an ancient platform carved into the throat of said peak they see a colossal crystal formation, an encasement of roughly hewn ice. They are startled to see a a figure of colossal size, humanoid in features but larger than anything they had ever seen. A giant, to be sure, encased in the ice.

Noticing the frame, they see the giant to be female. The only signs of life to be seen are the soft hum of cold blue light radiating through the ice around the giant’s eyes, catching on minute cracks within the crystalline formation.

With the last of their efforts, the crew attempt to slow their speed with emergency rigging, but find only one able to be deployed, the others caught in the mess of the lines. With the intact sail dropped, the Callehad careens forward on it’s side. Castien calls out for all hands to “…brace for impact!”, before the ship slams it’s starboard side into the sheer edge of the ice.

The deep cracking of ice can be heard beneath the the Callehad’s ancient ironwood hull splintering, long persisting as the airship rebounds off it’s impact. The hull itself begins a wide arc, seeming to tie up it’s line as the dirigible itself bounces off the impact. The crater of shattered ice reverberates through the massive formation and those still standing look on bewilderingly as a massive crack breaks free an arm of the giant.

The giant uses her freed arm to blast the rest of the formation into glacier size chunks, the pieces falling all around the ship, creating blasts of avalanches below. Still careening aside, those upon the Callehad watch helplessly as the giant stands to her feet, bringing up a massive arm to intercept the ship.

Bracing for another impact, those upon the ship are thrown about as the giant hand closes around the hull of the airship. Large plates of metal cover her arms as a scaled armor, shining with resplendent energy. The armor climbs higher and higher on the figure, capping on a similarly fashioned helm around a feminine face marked by eyes the color of lightning and brimstone. Not unkindly, the giant holds it steady and leans down; eyes the size of wagon wheels leveling with those on deck.

She calls out, her voice booming with a energy in itself, “Hear me …… those .. who have called … the storm ……….. for .. you .. have FOUND HER~!!!!”.

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New Day Dawning Part II

The elves of the Callehad make a point to leave at sunset on the following day, so the companions continue to sew up the loose ends while still in Khalsbrad.

the First Paladin, Sir Dhalamus Cayne invites On’ogg to join him while he breaks his fast, where they wax philosophical on the nature of the Light. Sensing the radiant Gift with Ogg, he calls the orc to the Alabaster Citadel to continue his training with a more structured curriculum. Ogg decides to deny the appeal, at least for now, until he’s dealt with the pressing issue of Sytheria. Upset by the necessity of putting off this formal invitation, Ogg agrees to call upon the Aegis before they set out farther north.

Elbanor keeps his appointment with Nozzalthorp Frayfeather within the Tower of Solastarum, where the gnomish tinkerer begins grafting a gauntlet device in lieu of the cleric’s missing hand.

Akasha, Sayer the Swashbuckler and The Hand join Baatu and his friend Marobar Sul within the depleting company among the Black Star Tavern, where they trade stories for a time.

They then drop in to see Lord Boswell, who seems to have dropped into a governing position within the city. Though he chafes at the responsibility, he doesn’t appear to deny the position (temporary as he assumes it surely must be). They then make way to the apartments of Sir Zeliek, formally of the Minutemen militia of Khalsbrad. They find the building sealed off, under order of Commander Jules Maynard himself.

Within the meager chambers they find signs of what must have been a prolonged internment of a small person on a child sized bed. Nearby, they find pieces of what must have been a porcelain object. Within the room alongside, they find a larger bed next to an equipment rack bereft of any armor. There is the remains of a large rune beneath the child’s bed, burnt into the wood of the floor. It appears to be of the conjuring energy type. Within the room itself is the palpable feeling of dread, made thick by a faint miasma that is reminiscent of the magical hues of Khalsbrad during the Night of Lights. They destroy any remnants of the conjuration runes and depart.

The group convene within the Tower to find Elbanor, who is still undergoing his procedure. They find the scribes of the Aegis noticeably tense as they go about their charting. The calculations don’t seem entirely possible and the bring a sense of doom. The group meet with Frayfeather just as Wilhelm von Keurig is confronting the architect about what his own findings seem to forewarn. Apparently the fluctuation of the ley lines are destabilizing the very space that the Tower is founded upon, tearing at the normalized laws of physical normalcy.

Frayfeather seems unresponsive to such calculations from so obviously inept a source, but concedes that there are certain peculiarities gripping the area. The debate swiftly devolves into a half-sized brawl, complete with an array of flying projectiles. Tools, sprockets, small curiosities; anything not already bolted down was quickly taking flight between the gnomes.

Finding the Tower to be less safe a conference area by the moment, the companions secure a mid-procedural Elbanor from the worktable, as well as the two gnomes and make their way back out to the grounds around the Tower. On the way a series of lights and a tinny alarm begins sounding, they are pleased to see all within the Tower making as hasty an exit as they can.

With mere minutes to apparent meltdown, the Hand separates themself and makes a break for the private study of Master Madrygos. The Hand finds the librarian and warns the construct of the imminent arcane anomaly. The librarian attempts to relieve the Hand of their concern, explaining that it’s tethering to the study is not held in contempt, indeed it’s task gives the construct purpose. The Hand seems saddened, but concedes to Sora’s intention to stay with the Tower. The Hand quickly departs.

Within minutes, the Tower of Solastarum is consumed by arcane energy and folds in on itself, leaving a crater hewn into the ground itself, sporadically marked the offshoots of subterranean passageways. The crater is quickly filled water spilling in from Lake Edelweiss, flowing like a crashing torrent to consume the void area.

All those able watch in shock to see the spectacle; the whispers of small pockets of people made audible by the stark silence of the lost Tower.

The group fall back to the Callehad to again plan their course of action.

~

The next morning the companions set out to their own tasks. The Hand climbs to the top of the blimp and spends much of the morning and then afternoon contemplating all that they had learned. They notice much from the height, not least of which the bands of Knights of the Alabaster Aegis departing to the northwest. They also take notice of the blank canvas of the balloon with piqued interest.

Ogg calls upon Sir Osterrick within the counsel offices of the Khalsbrad Municipal chambers. He finds the Prefect going about the business of managing the city. Ogg communicates that the gravity of the death of Knight Raleigh is not lost on him, as Sir Osterrick suggests that the orc remember what happened when moving forward, to use it as a reminder of what brought him to this point and a catalyst to make the best of such an opportunity.

Sayer finds himself in a state of restlessness. Without the threat of imminent danger, his thoughts tend to settle back into disagreeable subjects. He seeks out some of his elvish friends aboard the Callehad and they depart to do some light sparring outside the city. Noticing his agitated state, they bring him on an afternoon hunt to slay a wild beast that is hounding travelers on the Fairfield road. They track the great beast into the craggy foothills of the Khalkist mountains and eventually slay the beast, bringing back a massive trophy to the crew.

scene_-_hakkam_beast.jpg

Elbanor continues his procedure aboard the Callehad, well below deck.

Akasha approaches Nazeer about some personal dreams she had been experiencing, dating back a long time. They seemed all the more relevant now that she had gained the peculiar ability to change her shape into animals almost completely at will. Connecting the portents, the experienced magus demands her to delve it’s secrets. He brings her to his small chambers and begins the preparations to induce such exploration. She falls asleep and begins experiencing the dream again, though with much more lucidity than ever before.

In the dream she walks through the foreign yet familiar landscape of a dense forest, following a shallow creek that meanders into a deep pond. She hears faint rhythms of music, almost too soft to hear. She follows the edge of the water and is surprised to find herself among several figures, standing still as statues. She attempts to question the nearest, speaking in a language she knows but doesn’t recognize. The figure responds only by unfolding their hands from the depths of heavy robes, producing a sealed scroll and handing it to the bewildered young elf.

As she accepts, she finds herself consumed by an radiant energy, suffering somewhat from it’s white hot intensity. She falls, kicking and screaming. The pain wracks her body a moment before she finds herself being roused by Nazeer, back in his small cabin. The pain subsides, leaving no mark but it’s brief memory and even that seems less distressing as she remembers. Indeed, the events would likely be soon forgotten had she not held in her hand the scroll from the mysterious figure.

She reads the script as lines of a strange poem, knowing not what it means. She conveys it to Nazeer, who is also at a loss as to it’s meaning, though it signed as ‘Veridian Warden’ strikes him as noteworthy. He confesses himself unable to glean much, but suspects that he heard that moniker some time before. He dismisses the young elf, conveying a need to study his tomes and scrolls for more information.

Ogg and the Hand experiment with dunking their head in a deep barrel of rainwater. Sayer returns with the elvish hunters, prize in tow. There’s a peculiar scent of burning pipestuffs, but Sayer isn’t quite able to place it’s origin. Akasha visits Captain Castien Vauldra, who is in his cabin consulting charts and maps, plotting his course. Happy for her company, he continues his work as she plays him light music. Intrigued by the scroll, which she realized is as much musical notes and verse as it is the cryptic poem, plays the song as written.

All who hear, including those on the deck of the Callehad experience an intense lethargy, then fall into a deep slumber. Akasha herself is beset by the enchantment. Some time later, the knights of Noble Squad awaken the bewildered crew of the Callehad.

They had been delivering Aegis crates aboard the ship and found the strange scene at a time just before dusk. Ogg inquires of their status, as they seem to have insignificant tasks delegated to them on the regular. They appraise him of the merit system, which he finds interesting. He mentions that perhaps they could assist with the companion’s soon to be foray to the north.

Captain Castien, perturbed by the stoppage of work, took pains to reacquaint the crew to their tasks. The Callehad jostles a bit due to the tasks. From below deck, Wihelm von Keurig repremands those within earshot to steady the area, as exacting work was being performed on the cleric well below deck. None of the companions seen this as an oddity.

Within the hour they had taken flight, setting course for the Alabaster Citadel.

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New Day Dawning Part I

The companions awaken to find the Black Star a convergence point for Minutemen forces working in shifts to retake the city of Khalsbrad.

The Hand is confronted by On’ogg about the strange crimson stone that was taken from Hush upon the necromancer’s demise. Hand claims to have it stowed away and promises to bring it to the Tower of Solastarum, where they will convene some time later.

Though somewhat distraught, Ogg concedes and makes his way with Akasha Delithrang and Sayer to the grounds. As they depart they convene briefly with Thranka Suun accompanied by an unknown scoundrel of a mage.

Thranka welcomes Sayer to join her; to return to the sea. With an sense of responsibility still quite new to him, Sayer decides to continue their course to see this adventure through. There’s a heartfelt goodbye, and Thranka departs, presumably through the arcane portal that Darrek and his colleagues are conjuring.

The Hand breaks away and explores the landscape just beyond the walls of Khalsbrad. They find a bit of privacy and attempt to commune with an unknown greater power. There is a response, beckoning them to bring the Scepter before it. There seems to be a way to travel through the extra planar space to the entity, though it require at least one sentient anchor as a component to the sorcery.

Elbanor avoids the general drama of his companions by making an appointment with Nozzalthorp Frayfeather, requesting the gnomish tinkerer’s aid in grafting a salvaged mechanical arm onto his missing limb. He then calls on the elves of the Callehad finding Captain Castien in recovery, but hopeful.

Meanwhile Ogg, Akasha and Sayer continue to the grounds around the Tower where the Alabaster Aegis has taken position. A supply officer shows them around before escorting them to the command tent.

There they find SIR OSTERRICK; Ogg presents the old knight with the mortal remains of one of their Order, from the Errant Expeditionary. Sir Osterrick seems greatly troubled, inquires as to what the circumstances are that Ogg came into possession of such a thing. He then places Ogg and his friends under arrest for crimes for suspicious of murder of one Catherine Raleigh, his own daughter.

~

Ogg, Akasha and Sayer find themselves tied to a post in a small tent some not far from the command area. After about an hour, Sir Osterrick dismisses the guards, who he finds eager to be rid of Sayer’s muffled insults. The old Knight is fuming and begins interrogating Ogg, who divulges all information regarding Karth Drachum killing Knight Raleigh in the jungles of southern Collabria.

Sir Osterrick makes smack of Ogg’s face then notices the young orc gather his emotions and control his rage, which subdues the old man’s own zeal. He then listens to the rest of the orc’s story and decides it to be truth. He releases the companions and informs them that they should await the pleasure of the First Paladin for further guidance.

The companions make their way to the mess tent, taking in a meal. The tent is empty besides a small group of Knights seeming to stretch their ale ration. The companions take seat, but soon they are displaced from the larger table as dozens of young Knights return from field work.

In the commotion the small group of Knights who had been seating on the far corner raises draws attention by raising a mug ‘to the heroes who saved Khalsbrad’. There is a raucous cheer before he continues, more specifically distinguishing the companions for their achievements in the critical role of dropping the otherworldy shield around the city. The cheers around the tent turn quickly to jeers.

After the turbulence fades, the companions make way to make the acquaintance of this eccentric gentleman and his colleagues. He introduces his friends as those of Noble, a squad of misfits and ragabouts. The companions stay a while, enjoying the company of Noble before being called fetched for the First Paladin himself.

Meanwhile, the Hand has meandered back towards Solastarum. Some ways from the encampment they are set upon by by a Knight of a different sort. Baron Samael approaches and suggests a small stroll by the lake. The Hand attempts to regain their own will, feeling the briefest whisper of doubt in their actions. They find resistance to be fruitless.

Samael takes possession of the scarlet crystal that was gained after defeating the dread necromancer Hush. Then citing the Hand’s benefactor as a power not to be crossed lightly, allows a favor to be called upon when the young warlock is in need.

The Hand soon rejoins their other companions at the command tent, where Sir Dhalamus Cayne is receiving Ogg, Akasha and Sayer. They soon sort out the drama of Knight Raleigh’s death to a favorable end for all. Sir Dhalamus also thanks the companions for their part in toppling the evils within Khalsbrad.

By this point both Elbanor and the Hand have rejoined the group, the cleric coming in tow with Nazeer, Castien’s second in command. The elves of the Legion want to continue their coordinated efforts with the Aegis and formally give their thanks to the companions in their efforts within Solastarum, not least of which the recovery of their Captain.

Honoring the companions with ceremony, he gifts them several powerful items recovered from the Tower. Impressed, Dhalamus also invites Ogg to join the Aegis at the Alabaster Citadel to formally begin his paladin training in the ways of the Order.

Deeply moved, the companions fall back to the Callehad to mull over the day’s events.

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Ascendancy Denied

With renewed resolve, the companions press the attack to the Master of the Tower. They ride the lift back to the private quarters, lingering only slightly in the private study before moving on. They find no signs of Sora.

Anxious for a confrontation they press on to the chambers beyond. They find the halls in a state of disrepair. Large paintings of inexplicable value defaced with both gore and less obvious fluids. Many were in broken shambles among the refuse lining pathways. A voice echoed towards them from the chambers still deeper.

The companions come to a circular hallway, bending away from them in either direction. Statues line the outer edges. Many were destroyed outright, a crumbling mess of limbs and contoured faces staring blankly from mounds of dusty stucco. Periodically they found one seemingly intact, each with a canvas tarp draped over the piece.

Curiosity piqued, the Hand slides underneath the tarp for closer inspection. They find a pulsing, growing mass of squishy flesh covering the upper parts of the statue; over the face and much of the head of the stone worked parody of man. Revealing this to her companions, they are much distressed. On’ogg strikes at the lecherous creature and it seems to die in with a shrill screech.

As the noise settles, Sayer swears that the shriek had been echoed from somewhere further on. The Hand suggests stealth and gives him the ability to communicate with her from beyond. Sayer continues, the rambling of the voice becoming even more obtrusive.

He finds a break in the circular hall, opening to the center of the chambers. Within he takes notice of about a dozen humanoids, not unlike the prisoners from the Dormatories, but somehow in a more loathsome state. Chained together at the neck in groups of three, they kneel around the circular room in a dazed state, eyes staring ahead from tear stained faces.

Centered in the room is a raised dais underneath a large cone-like construct hanging from the ceiling like a mechanical stalactite. Shoots of steam spew from the object through a tangle of tubes and hoses. Vents hum with electrical energy only slightly masking the sounds of turning cogs and spinning cranks within.

Underneath the mysterious, technological marvel is the figure of a gaunt looking human, his skin the color of the moon reflected on bog water. From under a heavy cloak and hood they he sees that a heavy scowl is sewn shut by leather cord. Indeed, Sayer realizes that the voice itself, though his, seems to boom from mesh covered coffers placed around the structure above. A jagged crystal the color of blood protrudes outward from a bare chest.

Sayer relays this to his colleagues and they rush up to assist. The figure who can only be assumed is Hush calls forth to his chained congregation, speaking of ascendancy and their forthcoming sacrifice. The rest of the companions soon rush up and join Sayer.

There is a small dialogue before the group engage in combat. Though Hush displays an array of dangerous spellcasting, the companions find themselves up to the task against it. They lash out at the necromancer in resolute strikes, beating the Master of the Tower back some ways.

The Hand attempts to throw layers of magical restrains on Hush, but he seems to resist the restrains. She then pulls one of the prisoners aside out of the fray and attempts to reason with it. Though his mind seems on the wrong end of broken, he insists that he will not harm her. The Hand begins trying to unlock his bindings.

Soon after Hush falls back and presses an open palm to the forehead of one of the supplicants. The poor soul cringes in pain at the touch and Hush begins to channel his dark energies. Hoping to stifle the necromancer’s plans, Elbanor charges to the center of the room and blasts forth a massive charge of electrical energy. Several of the supplicants are killed outright, those that survive are severely maimed.

With a snarl Hush walks back to the center of the chamber dais, the whole chamber seeming to react to his movement. Indeed the mechanized structure hanging from the ceiling closes a crystalline barrier around the Master of the Tower. Blasts of powerful steam billows down into the small chamber, blasting the robes and sinew from the dread necromancer. Gouts of flame issue forth as well, charring the remnants from the floor of the chamber, leaving only the abysmal skeleton of Hush.

npc_-_hush_of_the_clockwork_reliquary_1.jpg A misty cloud of sickly yellow then poured into the chamber and with the horrifying will of the undead lich, the crystal vial around him shuddered and lifted itself from the floor with mechanical legs revealing themselves on the bottom of the platform. Long mechanical arms folded out from the clockwork vestibule, each fitted with some dangerously sharp instrument; spinning blades, elongated claws grasping the empty around around it.

With renewed hatred, Hush continued his attacks. The heroes met his challenge and after a while were able to defeat the dread necromancer. the crystal barrier around him shattered and his ashen bones fell to a heap, the mechanical pieces around him slowing sluggishly to a halt.

The heroes revel in their victory, taking into possession the crimson shard from the chest cavity of Hush. Soon the sound of heavy boots and metal clinking can be heard from the outer chambers. A squad of soldiers gain the room and make a quick appraisal of the scene. The guards are comprised a few Minutemen, but most carry the colors of a winter sky streaked with sunlight; blue trimmed with bronze. The Order of the Alabaster Aegis has arrived.

The companions allow the newcomers to secure the chambers, caring only to rid themselves of the Tower. They retreat back down and outside, finding the sun just barely cresting over Lake Edelweiss. They take note of the Aegis setting camp on the grounds around Solastarum.

They also see that though the undead scourge still resists in pockets of Khalsbrad, the day is nearly won. The Callehad floats above Shacklefield, reigning down canonfire and arcane blasts onto enemy forces.

Finding the familiar face of Akasha moving among the wounded, the companions press into the encampment. They find her walking in a hurry beside a litter carried by a pair of Aegis medics, indicated such by the red and white circled cloth around their right arm. Akasha pressed her hand around the palm of an unconscious Castien, being borne to a triage tent.

For a moment the Captain of the Callehad opened his eye, the stoney features of the elf betraying a slight smile as he recognizes his colleagues. With a wince of pain, Castien lifts an arm into a curl, flexing it lightly at On’ogg. Then his eye whirls a bit and he nods off into a fitful slumber.

The companions linger for a few moments while Akasha sees to Castien’s immediate treatment. Once satisfied with the care given, she joins her friends and as a group they move through the streets of Khalsbrad, busy with the movement of foot soldiers and recovery workers.

They make it unhindered back to the Black Star, where they get a progress report on the re-taking of Khalsbrad; the day was nearly won. With the good news, they collapse from exhaustion.

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Horrors Realized

The companions find the Dormitories within Solastarum to be in a rather dismal state. Filth and decay cover much of the area, with howls of pain echoing from deeper within the wing. They come across jagged chains strewn about, constructed from links of otherworldly metal.

They come to a larger area where they find Xenegon the Pernicious toiling away on those left in his charge. Among those currently strewn among his den of horrors is Castien, unconscious and latched to a workbench. The companions engage with the vile creature while freeing some of his captives.

The Pernicious One eventually succumbs to the companions. With his key the companions are able to open the cells containing dozens of captives from the city. Though in a deep state of shock, the captives eventually rally to the companions and take a position in the relative safety of the main structure, with the Aurens.

The companions use the key gifted to Hand by Baron Vargoss to traverse to the next level of the Tower. They notice across the walkway, hundreds of feet above the central chamber floor a platform leading to ‘The Occulularum’ and a place called the ‘Spire of Silence’. They also find another elaborate elevator leading up to the Private Quarters. Deciding to on, they take the latter route.

After another lift upwards, they find themselves in what must have been the private study of Master Madrygos. They take heed of the books and odd trinkets a bit. After disturbing the heavy tomes, a tin construct emerges from the depths of an alcove, humming to life. Tethered by a large umbilical serve from the nape of it’s neck, it is lowered into the crowd of companions.

The companions make inquiries of the librarian, who they find out calls itself Sora. Through some quick thinking, they are able to coax some answers from it (though not relinquish absolute control, as QUERY:Madrygos has been usurped by QUERY:Hush, relinquishing all INPUT:Control to said TLB:Master).

With this new information, they decide to investigate further the Spire of Silence. Backtracking, they find the passage below open up to the outside. A large open air minaret launches itself into the frosty air across a bridging walkway about 12 feet wide. An arcane energy seems to pour itself into a small focal point from the minaret’s four columns.

The companions charge the structure, intent on disabling this obviously evil scheme. The screeching forms of the winged creatures soon threaten from all around. Wave after wave of the bird-like demons barrel through the companions, trying to knock them away.

The companions find four glassy orbs pouring magical energy into the small point towards the center and begin shattering the orbs. Several demons take a defensive position around one of the focal orbs and Elbanor blasts them with a thunderous wave of energy that shatters them and the orb itself. The flow fails and with a great zerp the focal point pulls inward a massive rush of arcane energy.

After a few moments of holding fast whatever they can, the companions feel the winds settle and open their eyes tentatively. They find that the shadowy curtain that had befallen Khalsbrad has fallen. Stars twinkle in the night sky above. The Hand ponders the sight, another new experience to log in the journal.

Elbanor hefts the heavy object that had been the focal point; a iron mask with subtle but intricate carvings skittering across the surface. Elbanor feels the potent powers of the within, considering the implications of such an artifact.

With his sharp eyes Sayer notices the signs of what must be hundreds of torch carrying figures far off on the outskirts of the barrier mountains northwest of the Tower. With the barrier down, the forces move into the breach like a crashing wave.

With a word of holy power On’ogg alights his sword in a brilliant glow. Waving it over his head, he stands as a beacon of light on the upper reaches of a Tower that has stood as a ominous oppressor for unrelenting days. The light din of cheers throughout the defensive walls of the city could still be heard from such great heights.

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Pushing Back

The companions make way through the grounds surrounding Solastarum with the aid of Jotun and his Aurens. The brunt of the Towers forces seem to be distracted by Commander Maynard who has marshaled the Minutemen at the siege towers around the city. The companions fight through a token force left at the gates and breech the Tower from the main gate.

They find themselves in the main tower structure, with several wings branching off from a great central chamber. Soon after their entry the power seems to cut out from the tower; as per their coordinated plans. It seems as if though the rats had accomplished their task down below, though without power the companions are limited in their progression forward.

They consider making the long climb up the interior of the main chamber but decide against it, citing the possibility of unknown dangers assaulting them whilst they find themselves without secure footing.

As the power had failed, a service hatch seemed to open to allow access to the sub levels of the Tower. The companions are lowered down a small lift into labyrinthine passages dense with machine steam and the sound of churning gears. Pressed on by an ominous clang of something else within the chambers somewhere, the companions find their way through the maze of halls.

They find themselves in a long chamber with a floor tiled with what seems to be different types of metalloid tiles. Dozens of mechanical constructs are strewn about in various states of disarray.

Ogg and the Hand move through the inert constructions, disabling them as best they can while Sayer and Elbanor inspect what seems to be the only exit; a large, sturdy bronzen door with an aperture centering it’s frame, no larger than a yorba fruit. The ceiling was thick with strands of heavy rubberized cords. Though a sign read that “That who places their arm within the orifice shall see no harm come to it”, Elbenor was less than convinced.

Sayer hesitated slightly, but eventually plunged his arm into the area. Feeling around, he was able to find a lever behind a small plate and with the flick of the switch opened the door. Unfortunately, he was the only one standing on the non-conductive platform. Everyone else around the room received a painful jolt of electricity upon activation of the door.

The companions continue on into what they find to be the workshop of Nozzalthorp Frayfeather. Elbanor finds a clockwork arm that seems to be appropriate to his liking and stows it in his bag. The companions work through a small puzzle involving pieces to a strategy game that Frayfeather seems keen on and eventually are able to send power to the parts of the tower deemed necessary.

Ignoring the lift from the workshop back up to the main levels, they backtrack as best as they can through the labyrinth. They are less successful in evading the mechanized guardian stalking the narrow chambers this time around. After being knocked around a bit they are able to sever the construct inert and the companions rush themselves the rest of the way out of the tight situation.

The companions venture into the Salon, finding a few chambers filled with recreational activities for enjoyment through diversion. Following the sound of elegant music, they find a large auditorium bereft of anyone besides a gentleman in the latter part of middle age playing at a magnificent piano on a raised dais.

Baron Samael Vargoss, as he introduces himself, seems to wear a mantle of dark black magic, an energy that Ogg finds himself repelled by. Though he admits to be one of the dark riders, the Baron spurs the notion of being beholden to the new Master of the Tower. Indeed, Samael seems willing to assist the heroes, should they bring him a crystal of deep crimson from Hush.

Though Sayer omits opinion, Elbanor and Ogg find him to be untrustorthy. The Hand has far less qualms, but agrees to not assist him. Though the Baron is slightly agitated by their lack of vision, he allows them to retreat back to the other parts of the Tower unimpeded.

The companions decide to search the Dormitories before advancing up the Tower, but having not empowered this wing they find themselves stalled while the Aurens siphon the necessary energy from elsewhere to open the door.

During this small hiatus, the Hand returns to the halls of the Salon to loot more art supplies. Alone, she finds herself confronted by the Baron. Entranced by his powers, she decides not only that he’s a pretty cool guy, but also that she should definitely bring him what he asks.

She then returns to her companions and explains all this to them immediately after the exchange. Perturbed, but not waylaid, the companions make their way into the Dormitories.

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Well Conceived Plans

The companions prepare themselves for a fight, with the sounds of the clockwork soldiers marching to their position in the open courtyard deep within Shacklefield. The marching ceases for a time, to be replaced by sounds of combat. Further investigation by the heroes brings little to bear; the figures seemed to be in combat, but with whom they couldn’t determine.

After a moment to recover from the icy prison, the burly figure of Commander Jules Maynard rumbles up to his feet and begins assessing his situation. Seeing most of his fighting force brought low and in disarray, he conscripts the companions to his efforts, insisting on taking these noisy foes head on.

With great consternation, the heroes follow and the whole group is confused in seeing hordes of rats making short work of the clockwork soldiers. Maynard is greatly confused, but is quickly assuaged by the companions who suggest he see to his troops. Distracted from the dangers momentarily, Maynard rallies his troops and the whole lot of them begin the march back to the Black Star.

During the march, the companions brief Maynard on how helpful the roguish Boswell Dunbar had been through this crisis. Maynard seemed to withhold his opinions, continuing on in grim silence.

The group eventually reach their destination; Maynard throws open the doors and walks to the center of the large tavern, quick to confront the leader of this band of thieves. From his terraced office comes a little masked string of curses and Boswell soon rushes through the heavy doors into the common area. There is a tense moment of silence between the figureheads. Maynard’s Minutemen had since filed in and lined the wall opposite of the delinquents who had since abandoned their card games.

After several more moments of deliberate tension the Lord Commander thanks the roguish lord of the Black Star for his hospitality and formally requests the aid of Boswell and his forces. Boswell endorses the idea with a sheepish grin.

The shock hits all witnessing like a cudgel to the noggin. Following the display, the troops mingle in with the bandits and there is a general good time to be had by (mostly) all. Perhaps troubled by what’s to come, Sayer spurs the advances of Thranka.

~

After a well earned rest, the companions come together again with the figureheads they’ve brought together. Each represent their own opinions on how to proceed.

Commander Jules Maynard is keen to assault the hostiles throughout the city and lay siege to the Tower.

Jotun commits himself and all of his brothers to the cause, though they show great hesitation to work alongside any of those besides the companions directly.

Nozzalthorp Frayfeather relinquishes information on the Tower itself until the companions suggest intent on destroying the Tower, a plan which exasperates the gnome to a point of dogged silence.

Lord Boswell confides that his men are no soldiers, but suggests that the show of solidarity in the hours prior between the men may prove useful if the Minutemen would support his goons.

Margot deems herself capable of sabotaging the gates with primed explosives, though she fears that her mission would be impossible to carry out without an capable guard.

Thranka Suun has her own opinion, but keeps it to herself.

Constance Marrow, unfortunately, has not been seen since the fall of her friend Bartholomew, and cannot assist in the planning.

With a coordinated plan to reinforce their resolve, the heroes set out to confront the Master of the Tower once and for all.

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Shacklefield Burning

The companions find themselves deep within the no-man’s land of the grounds around the Tower of Solastarum. They hide among the rubble left from the charnel monstrosity. The Tower activates with the grinding of gigantic gears and the front door lifts into the mechanical structure. From which, hundreds of clockwork soldier automatons march in perfect harmony.

They take notice of the group and send a small contingent to investigate, but with the quick thinking of the Hand are soon distracted. The companions escape across the field, quickly scaling the Central Curtain and taking cover among the fortifications.

Eager to gain more information on the automatons, On’ogg tosses his shiny Crystal Heart from the gatehouse heights into the latter end of the line of automaton. There is a few moments of chaos as the clockwork soldiers are set upon by the stone elemental. The smaller contingent of soldiers are cleared away, but at great cost to the elemental. The stone creature bends open the gates to allow the companions to escape and is then sent towards the tower.

Elbanor takes possession of some of the scrap from the machines and is able to open some of the security doors with it’s remains. The Hand ponders the nature of such odd constructions and finds herself able to mimic the simpler routines of their communications.

The companions trudge wearily into Shacklefield, finding the whole area to be engulfed in flame. The further they press inward, the more intense the inferno became. The find little among the destruction before coming to a large pub of sorts. Eager to salvage what he can,
Sayer investigates a trap door behind the bar. Happy with the found resources, he presses deeper into the underchamber, finding a door to the alley above.

Outside he encounters a death knight, and attempts to lay an attack on the foe before backtracking to his friends. Not only does the attack fall short, but the lumbering knight whispers a word of magic and holds Sayer fast, frozen in his step.

Taking his time, the mysterious knight closes the distance to the helpless swashbuckler. With a great heft, he swings his huge sword in a vicious arc in what must surely be a killing blow. At the last moment, a circle of arcane runes shield Sayer, shattering like a heavy glass plane. Elbanor had protected his friend from assured death.

The sword deflects slightly and strikes to tremendous effect. Still relatively intact, Sayer collapses on the ground, barely conscious. With the last of his energy, he struggles to stay awake as he feels himself lifted by his collar. Up he rises until his feet nigh even touch the ground. Opening his eyes, he looks down on his assailant; glowing blue eyes are lit with a frozen cold energy deep within the helm of the knight. In a surge of violence, Sayer is slammed headlong into the wall and he falls immediately into a pool of black.

~

The rest of the companions come to investigate after Sayer fails to rejoin the group. The find the alleyway bereft of any life. Indeed, not much shows the passing of the moments prior besides Sayer’s sword laying in the middle of the passageway. Overwhelmed by ill omens, the group chases signs only minutely picked up by the Hand. Signs of a dark creature’s passing through the area.

The group is temporarily separated by falling debris from the fires. Ogg continues on alone. He comes to the edge of a large open marketplace, with what seems like a huge, frozen portal of sorts in the center. Dozens of icebound pillars surround the portal. The figure of the death knight is seen on the far side, holding an unconscious Sayer aloft. With some motions of his free hand, the death knight bounds the cavalier in a frozen block of standing ice, not unlike the other pillars in the area. The death knight turns to On’Ogg at the paladin’s approach.

With Ogg beckoning the unholy knight of darkness, the two meet in combat. Swords clash, and though Ogg lashes out with radiant power to great effect, he finds himself at a disadvantage to the hulking knight’s sheer size. Ogg uses the environment to shield his movements, diving out of the way of the death knight’s world cleaving blows.

After a few moments, Elbanor and the Hand catch up. With some quick thinking, they see that the portal seems to be important to whatever this creature is plotting. Noticing it’s made entirely from a form of glass-like ice, Elbanor casts a shatter spell on the structure. Ogg experiences a small respite from the onslaught of the death knight’s attacks as the foe turns it’s attention on the portal.

The Hand hears the scream of what seems to be a young girl. With her keen eyes, she spots the ghostly outline of a young human female being pulled in an uncanny fashion toward the vortex of magic that seemed to now be circling the crumbling ruin of the portal.

The death knight breaks of his attack completely from the orcish paladin, moving in a full run toward the girl. It seemed to try and prevent the slide of the ghostly figure into the vortex, but could not grasp her outstretched hands. With the last seconds of the collapsing energy, the girl and the knight both fall into the energy and disappear from the area.

The companions are thoroughly stunned, finding themselves among the open marketplace alone. The icy pillars seem to be melting quickly without the magic of the portal to sustain them within the area, for the flames still burn heartily in the surrounding buildings.

They quickly recover Sayer, who though clearly in a state of serious injury, seems capable of a recovery over time. They also notice that the rest of the figures frozen in the ice seem to wear the armor and trappings of Minutemen.

They set up a quick triage area and the Hand begins stabilizing the survivors when suddenly they hear the iron march of clockwork soldiers from the streets beyond. The companions stand ready to defend their fallen friends against another wave of danger in the city of Khalsbrad.

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