The Eroding Empire

The Ecstasy of Vines
Session 44

The group stood in the small chamber after the battle with the devils and discussed how to go about proceeding. It was eventually decided that they would continue to explore caverns below the tree.

Continuing forward the group was suddenly assailed by some form of vine or tentacle from the walls of the tunnel. Everyone was wrapped in the invasive vines which penetrated their bodies. During the invasion, Rawdon believed he saw a vision during which he looked out from the High Druid’s eyes. He told the group that he thought the High Druid was being held captive below the tree and was being forced to protect it. The group decided to continue deeper in search of her.

As they continued down they heard a humming or buzzing up ahead. Moving carefully forward they came up behind Rattnab. After Lythvard surprised him, Rattnab urged them forward to see a potion he was working on in front of a strange device. Lythvard allowed him to continue his work which then caused an explosion within the chamber. While Lythvard realized at the last second that he was seeing an illusion the others did not and felt the brunt of the illusory explosion.

After some further walking the group came upon a shaft cutting through passage. Thybalt quickly scouted out the shaft leading up. He returned shortly saying that there was little more up there. Looking at the vines along the passage Rawdon determined that one which had a greenish glow contained the essence of the High Druid. The essence moved upwards into the tree so the group moved down.

A short way down was a chamber. Within the chamber was the top half of an iridescent “magi-organo” sphere which glowed in various colours. The sphere was attended by a devil. The devil was stirring a concoction of some sort and muttering about “her” approaching feeding time. After feeding a remorhaz, the devil moved towards a writhing wall of vines. The group moved in to attack.
Lythvard’s initial attack was answered by a devastating counter-attack from the remorhaz which emerged from the stone wall beside Lythvard. The party concentrated their attacks on the remoraz while the devil flung fiery dart-like projectiles around the chamber. The remoraz was brought down by a series of devastating hits from a raging Rawdon as the beast crushed a near-death Vorax.

Meanwhile Thybalt engaged the devil with Nimona (and soon Rawdon) moving in to assist. The devil throughout chortled in orgasmic glee as it feasted on the heroes’ life essence. When brought close to death, Thybalt teleported away leaving an illusion behind for distraction. He grew irritated when it failed to draw the devil’s ire.

A bullette attacked Lythvard at the back of the group. Lythvard evaded the bullette leaving it to attempt to charge into Rawdon and Nimona. The charge was intercepted by Vorax who took a battering in the process. Vorax lay into the bullette with powerful blows and Rawdon finished it off.

As the battle turned to concentrate on the devil, Lythvard turned his magic on the glowing hemisphere. His attacks caused the entire cavern to convulse knocking everyone to the ground. Soon after a badly wounded devil taunted the group that it was only the first step and then slit its own throat open.

As the battle ended, Rawdon immediately turned and plunged into the wall of writhing vines in search of the High Druid. Nimona and Thybalt followed in after him. It was a struggle to push through the vines, but the three emerged soon thereafter with the near-death High Druid. Nimona immediately began tending to her. Lythvard nobly offered his own life force to Nimona in order to save the High Druid. Fortunately the sacrifice wasn’t required. But the High Druid required more help and so the group began the trek back to the surface. As they began, Vorax commended Lythvard on the offer saying that it was a worthy sacrifice to be prepared to make. Eventually the group emerged back on the surface to the relief of all.

Of Deals and Double-Crosses
Session 43

The Triumvora entered their statues’ chest cavities and Tybalt struck the first blow. After suffering some wounds Nimona called off the group and told them to give the Triumvora the body of the Priestess. Lythvard, and ghost form, flew up and grabbed the body of the Priestess from the coffin being held by a 5-metre iron golem. With no exit apparent, Lythvard used his affinity with the Lich King to use the bottom of the coffin as a portal, disappearing through the bottom of the coffin.

Tybalt and Rawdon stormed out of the chamber while Vorax vowed to continue their discussion with the Cardinal Triumvora later about the power of the church. Lythvard popped out of portal into a writhing mass of zombies attacking the walls of the Cathedral. The dragons fighting in skies notice Lythvard trying to get out of the zombie hoard, and dived towards him, ready to grab him and the body.

The rest of the group, inside the Cathedral, watched in awe as Norruth and 4 skeletal dragons came crashing through a giant glass atrium roof in in the Cathedral and dive-bombed into the Cathedral floor, seemingly near death. Lythvard got Vollenth’s attention, Lythvard’s dragon, and tried to get him to carry them off with the Priestess. Nimona called out to Vollenth that Lythvard was not with them, and Vollenth took that moment to pounce upon Lythvard and pin him. Vorax went to check on Norruth, and found him breathing and still alive, but unconscious. Vollenth gave Lythvard a speech about choosing his own path, and asked what would he choose if he had to choose between death and living a life as the pawn of evil. Lythvard said he would choose death, And Vollenth promised to kill Lythvard if it became necessary.

Nimona healed the wings of the dragons and the guards murmured tales of the dragon healer. “Draxlegear Dragon-Healer!”

Tybalt approached Lythvard, who backed away in fear, and told Lythvard that he was suspicious but willing to give him a chance. Rawdon shattered the wall next to him and forgave him, giving him his dragon horn as a symbol of his acceptance.

Heading back up the elevator for the third time, the group reacted to the lull in action in their own ways. Entering the Triumvora chamber once again, they placed the Priestess into her coffin on an altar. The Cardinal Triumvova then asked what was next, and suggested taking care of the devils that were mentioned by the group in the Wild Wood. Tybalt took Lythvard’s Cloak of the Dead Lands while Rawdon took Tybalt’s old Demonhide Cloak.

The Lamassu gave Nimona and Vorax a powerful magic item each on behalf of the Cardinal Triumvora, who had been impressed with their maturity.

While the party searched through the Santa Cora refugees inside the Cathedral walls for Emissary Zardun, Rawdon met someone from his tribe named Grygar, an old hunter of elephants, who told him that their tribe was in danger of being civilized by orcs. Saying that they would talk later, Rawdon said to the group that they needed to leave as soon as possible.

After finding Zardun and making a deal with the Emperor, they decide to go to a nearby mountain known as Mt. Everdark, and make their way to the massive black oak. Entering the opening, found that the tree was made of half flesh, half wood, and was riddled with a series of caverns within it. The ground was uneven and the paths winding, and they saw weird sap veins running throughout the interior of the tree. The tree’s black ‘flesh’ was riddle with squirming chitinous black bugs, of all shapes and sizes.

Coming upon two elves sitting in a room, Lythvard recognized one of them. Lythvard tried to get them out of the tree; however, they didn’t buy the lie so he said he wanted their food instead. Tybalt tired of the situation and called out the devils to reveal their true forms. They happily obliged. They also summoned a centipede-cobra that had the ability to belch fire. Later a rumbling was heard and a purple worm dropped from the ceiling. The party eventually defeated everything or made it run away, but the devils left no bodies to show the Verisiels.

Of Revolts and Rats
Session 41

After the battle with the Lich prince, Prazhek, the group quickly made their way out of the cathedral using their Echo device. However, upon entering the Echo, they felt the ground rumble beneath them. Deciding to move with haste, they traversed the ruined landscape, but the rumbling increased, so they decided to take refuge near a ruined church. Rawdon hefted a boulder away from them and a giant worm tore up from the ground, the hapless chunk of rock disappearing into the worm’s giant maw as it writhed above the party. Taking shelter in the church, Nimona summoned an illusion of a red dragon to distract the worm long enough for the group to transport themselves out of the Echo.

Emerging from the Echo into an abandoned church, they were scolded by a rat herder, and they exited the church with the Priestess’ body in tow. Storing the body in the cart, and Thybalt disguised as a friar, they made their way to the meeting point Uzura told them she would be at. Initially panicking when seeing Thybalt’s disguise, she was eternally grateful for what the group did for the people. The party and Uzara were confronted with a problem: how would they allow the people of the slums of Santa Cora pay their respects to the Priestess, while at the same time protecting the Priestess’ body from both the Church of Light and the Lich King. Uzara said she would convene a council and wished for Nimona to speak at it; Nimona agreed and the group rested for a bit.

Uzura eventually came back and led the group down a rat-maze of alleys to a small clearing deep in the slums filled to the brim with people. Nimona gave a speech comforting the people; Thybalt keeping watch, Vorax listening intently, and Rawdon being disinterested. Then, shadows passed over the crowd and around a dozen metallic dragons were spotted circling in the sky. Norruth, a silver dragon, came down and spoke to Vorax in his mind, telling Vorax that the Great Gold Wyrm had sent them to watch over the Priestess’ body while they took the Priestess around the slums in a funeral procession, giving all the slums inhabitants a chance to pay their respoects in a single day. When Vorax announced this to the crowd, cheers went up for the Great Gold Worm and all the parties involved. The group decided to take a small break and Vorax, Nimona, and Tybalt wet looking for a bathhouse. Rawdon returned to the abandoned church and slept on its roof.

Then, in the streets on the way to the bathhouse, out of nowhere, Thybalt gets recognized by a man named Sebastian Redtail who begins to chat up Thybalt and said that he’s been looking for all of them. Redtail tries to get close to Nimona, close enough to assassinate her, but Vorax, noticing Redtail’s ulterior motives, subdued Sebastian and fiound a poisoned dagger on his person. They went back to the church and had Rawdon keep an eye on Sebastian. After an interrogation that went nowhereexcept reveal that Redtail believed that he was performing the assassination for the good of the Church of Light and their gods, they went back to Uzura to tell her what has happened. She was concerned about Nimona leaving Santa Cora because Uzara felt that Nimona’s leadership was needed to embolden the people to stand up to the excesses of the Church of Light, and was very sad about the prospect of Nimona’s impending departure. Vorax suggested to Nimona that it might be a good idea for her to anoint someone to lead these people in her stead, and Nimona decided that Uzara would be the best candidate.

After another discussion about what to do with Sebastian, they left Sebastian with Rawdon and go for a warm bath to think on it. Eventually they come to a decision to leave Redtail at the front gates of the Cathedral. Slightly embarrassed, Sebastian made his way back into the cathedral and the group leaves the guards confused. On their way back to the slums, Norruth was waiting for Vorax atop a watch tower. Vorax told the other to go ahead and he climbed up the watch tower to have a private conversation with his silver-scaled friend.

Of Corpses and Conspiracy
Session 40

After surviving the Verisiel attack on the tavern in Axis, the party was guided, with an unconscious Rattnab and another Verisiel attacker draped over their shoulders, to a safe location by Uzara, who needed to talk to Nimona about the Priestess.

Once safely ensconced in in Uzara’s small, dilapidated safe house, rage overcame Lythvard. He grabbed his former mentor – now would-be assassin – Rattnab and teleported them both to an unknown location.

They woke their Verisiel prisoner and Rawdon threatened physical violence if the prisoner did not tell them about the plot to assassinate the Emperor. Uzara and Nimona begged Rawdon not to resort to torture, and to their relief Rawdon found another avenue to the information he wanted. Rawdon used his affinity with the High Druid and nature to persuade the Verisiel prisoner to talk, who told the party that the assassination had indeed been postponed, but could not tell them much more than that. They released the prisoner unharmed.

Uzara explained that she had quite a few friends, people of the cloth, who had had enough of the Church of Light’s greedy ways. She entreated Nimona and her comrades to steal the Priestess’ body from the Cathedral in Santa Cora. Her friends had prepared a place for worshippers to visit and pay their respects to the Priestess, without having to pay a fortune. The party discussed the request ad, though concerned that such an action could spark a rift within the Church of Light – exactly the last thing the eroding Dragon Empire needed right now – they agreed to do the job.

On their way to another tavern to recovery from their battle injuries, they were hailed by Captain Worthington, who wanted to know how their investigation was progressing. Before they could answer, Syrion appeared and interceded, guiding them to an ally’s mansion. He explained that there were traitors within the Emperor’s military forces who were working with the Verisiels, which explains why he prevented them from talking to Captain Worthington.

Healed, the party travelled to Santa Cora via the Echo, and once there they cased the cathedral-within-the-Cathedral to figure out a way to steal the Priestess’ body. The Priestess was being displayed in a crowded cathedral, where tens of thousands of faithful were queuing up and paying a lot of money to pay their respects.

After the cathedral closed at sundown, the party used the Echo to access the cathedral, but when they arrived they found the Lich Prince Prazhek lowering the Priestess into a coffin, preparing to transport her out of Santa Cora. Prazhek expressed disappointment that Lythvard was not there, because he really wanted to destroy Lythvard also.

Prazhek summoned a dread spectre and a colony of wraith bats, and the two groups battled over the Priestess’ body. Prazhek proved to be a powerful foe, forcing the heroes to claw their way back to consciousness several times. Several times, Prazhek offered them the chance to retreat and leave the Priestess’ body to him, so that he could deliver her to his master, the Lich King. The party, however, remained resolute despite all looking lost. The ghosts of Emperors past appeared, transporting the Priestess’ body back to her flower-covered altar. This let the party know that powerful forces beyond their comprehension were treating this battle as a critical moment in history, which gave them the courage and inspiration to fight on. Eventually they destroyed Prazhek’s body, sending back to his phylactery, wherever that may be.

Wiping blood from their eyes and feeling the sting in their lungs subside as they got their breaths back, Rawdon and Vorax assessed the cathedral-cum-battlefield. Brave Nimona and Thybalt lay motionless on the ground, the blood of the four warriors mostly disguising the smooth white tiles of the cathedral floor. The Priestess’ body, however, lay safely atop her altar.

Of Mentors and Mayhem
Session 39

Meeting in the tavern, the group began to discuss what the next step was; however their conversation was interrupted by Rattnab and his Verisiel hit squad. Many notable things happened during the battle; Cunning assassins summoning torrents of thorns, Lythvard falling in battle consistently because the attackers were targeting him in particular, and Rawdon summoning his ancestors to fight beside him. Flashbacks of events passed plagued the party; Lythvard with memories, and Rawdon with promises.

The enemies, sensing their plan had failed, began to bail through their respective exits. Tybalt darted through the entrance looking for Rattnab, and Rawdon making his own entrance through a wooden wall. A kind dwarf pointed towards Rattnab and Tybalt teleported to him and started to futilely wrestle with him, eventually falling into a dirty creek. Rawdon caught up and knocked Rattnab out. Vorax found that one assassin was wearing clawed gauntlets related to the Great Gold Wyrm and so took them. All of them beating a hasty getaway before the guards showed up, they were approached by a cloaked woman in an alley. She confided to Nimona that many people wished to have a word with her, and offered safety from the guards. Heading down the alley, straight into the unknown.

Of Cutting Veins and Time Travel

It’s the evening after the Priestess’s death. The party is still in the Cathedral, in one of the lower, outer parts, in very basic accomodation.

Thybalt meditates with Aegis Lothvir. He asks the blade about its purpose, about its creation. It tells him about a man, or rather a being, Maitoflorenius, who created the blade. It tells him to use the obsidian box to travel through the Echo across time and visit him.
Thyb also learns that the creator was a Moloch, an ancient race of metallic humanoids. He met a member of that race in his earlier travels.

The next morning, after a short discussion what to do, Lythvard, Nemona and Thybalt head off to a library to research about Nemona’s mark, Thybalt’s situation, and the Eye and Hand the Archmage left. Rawdon meanwhile carves his horn.

At the library, their attempts aren’t very successful. Nemona is also looking for someone she could warn about the Archmage / Lich King potentially snatching the Priestess’ body, but her warnings don’t fall on open ears. Through the shelf, a man called Lyddnaig whispers to her, and shows her a hidden tattoo of the same shape as her birthmark. Lyddnaig tells her that the sect is not very welcome by the church over here, but they’ve build a small hideout in an older, run-down corner that serves as their own library and meeting place.

There, Nemona learns that there are three ways to help herself and Thybalt. Either heal him properly, let him go back to a vegatative state, or find someone else to take over the burden. There was no information about the first option, the second was out of the question, the third would require significant arcane or divine might.

On their way back, Lythvard and Thybalt talk out of earshot. Lythvard tells him that he has an uncanny feeling of undeath about the place, as if suddenly an evil had started to creep in. Thybalt didn’t sense anything similar, but he speculated that the death of the Priestess might have allowed something to seep through the cracks that was held back by the Priestess before.

Back in their quarters, an older lady drops by to sell very tasty meat pies, albeit at completely inflated prices. The party takes the welcome opportunity to fill empty stomachs. They hear from the lady that on this day, the 24th Otter of the Summer Equinox, not just the Priestess died, but the Emperor had also been assassinated. The lady also complained about the church charging all mourners through the nose, 2 gp to get into the mausoleum, 2gp to lay down flowers, 2pg for holy water, 3 gp for special mourning clothes.

In her frustration, Nemona head-butts Thyb in the back. She then retreats in a corner, shedding tears about the Priestess’ death. Thyb, in a lack of gentlemanly conduct, takes a handkerchief out of his pocket, but instead of handing it to Nemona, wipes crumbs of the meatpie off his mouth.

For lack of better options, the party then decides to use the obsidian box to travel through the Echo and find Aegis Lothvir’s creator. They enter a shadowy place, where the Cathedral has either not been built yet or long been destroyed. The place is in ruins, dead trees try to lash at the party with their branches, and no breeze can be felt anywhere.

Thybalt reaches out to Aegis Lothvir. The blade does not talk to him, but it gives him a feeling of where he needs to go. Rawdon scouts ahead, while Vorax defends the back. The party sees a ziggurat in the distance.

On the way to the ziggurat, the party enters a large stone maze with an open ceiling. They also notice intricate carvings along the walls of the maze.

The carvings tell the story of the Molochs, a progenitor race that came to what is now Star Port in the Dragon Empire, in a past event they call The Landing. The maze tells how the were the masters of early, ape-like humanoids, before the humans, elves and dwarves of today.

The carvings tell of a rift that opens, demons pouring out, and cities of steel that have been leveled and torn asunder. Some Molochs survived by burying themselves deep underground. As they follow the story, the party hears a rumble. They send Nemona up a wall to see what is happening, and she reports a giant, purple, worm-like creature, only two corridors away. Thybalt suggests to get to the ziggurat as quick as possible, climbing over walls if necessary, but Vorax and the others are confident that they could take on that creature, should it attack, and keep following the carvings.

The story continues about the life of the remaining survivors, and how they plot revenge. All plans to banish the demons fail. As the story continues inside the ziggurat, it tells of an enormous dragon, which the party identifies as the Great Gold Wyrm, who appears and starts fighting the demons. Only one moloch is left to make these carvings.

As they continue further, the meet this lonely Moloch, still carving the story. They start talking to him, and he confirms that the story told by the carvings is true. The party is confused as the being keeps refering to himself as We, even though there seems to be only one Moloch left. They confirm that the creature is Maitoflorenius, the creator of the blade they were looking for. Thybalt wants to show Aegis Lothvir to the creature, but notices that the blade is missing.

Behind the Maito, they see an alien-looking apparatus, which is some kind of forge. This is where Aegis Lothvir is to be forged. Maito explains that they were waiting for Thybalt to come, to carry the blade in the future. He explains that to forge the blade, it has to be infused with Thybalts life force.

Thybalt is very hesitant, but in the end he agrees to sit down on a chair above the vat with molten metal. Maito slits his veins and Thybalt slowly feels life draining from his body…

Everything goes black, but Thybalt awakes, back outside in the maze, back with the group. They are right at the end of the story. There, a young boy steps into the machine, and Aegis Lothvir is being forged. A the end of the story is a tiefling in a top hat, wielding the blade.

Thybalt is still alive, he still / again has the blade. Even more surprising, it appears as if Nemona’s wound on her neck has healed, even though it left a nasty scar. The party heads back to where they entered the Echo.

As they leave, Aegis Lothvir tells Thybalt that he now serves the blade, as the blade serves him. In essence, he regained his Warlock powers by bonding directly with the powers of the blade.

The party wakes up in a field. In the distance they see the spires of the Cathedral. The party goes to a farm house, knocking to see what day it is. They learn it’s the 23rd, one day b e f o r e they left. They decide not to lose any of their precious time. Nemona teleports everyone to Axis.

The party ends up in a crowded street. They immediately head towards the palace. At the entrance, they are stopped by the guardsman. Luckily, Vorax knows the guard captain, Captain Worthington. The guard captain tells him that they are aware of an impending assassination attempt. They are already doing what they can. Vorax tells him that the Verisiels will use a new avenue for the attack.
Lythvard mentions that his old master Ratnab is an alchemist, and he could use that, potentially to build explosives. Vorax asks who the captain of the guard is, and learns that Captain Archer has been promoted to Brigadier.

As the guard captain seems to be rather stand-uppish, the party is not convinced that he will do everything in his power to stop that assassination attempt. Vorax decides to go to a different gate, and deliver a written message to the captain of the Emperor’s personal guard, Brigadier Archer. He tells him of an immediate and direct threat by their leader, the alchemist Ratnab. Vorax says that he in the city and he will do what he can do stop the attack, and that he has brought a former apprentice of the guy to help stop him.

The party rents a room at an inn near the guardhouse. It’s decided that Rawdon and Thybalt try to find the Verisiels and Ratnab, while the rest is on the lookout near the palace.

To contact the Verisiels, Rawdon writes a little message, a bird comes to pick it up. A little later, Rawdon has two Verisiels to their left and right, nudging him into a certain direction.
The Verisiels notice Thybalt, and Rawdon tells them that he is his shadow. Soon, Thyb has two guides of himself, one of them a cute elf girl. In a moment of thinking with the wrong brain, he gives the girl the tavern name and room number where he is staying.

Inside the Verisiel hideout, they are led to meet Ratnab, who makes a point of being very, very busy. Ratnab is an older man, but dressed in nice clothing, decorated with alchemical symbols. Many pouches, potions, charms and things are fastened to it. Rawdon tells an impressive story about being the leader of one of the biggest tribes in the north, and suggests an alliance. He suggests meeting again the next day, but Ratnab tells him that this is not possible since he is planning to leave the city tonight. Thybalt suggests a meeting with Ratnabs old apprentice, Lythward.

After the meeting, Thyb listens at the door, and manages to eavesdrop on a conversation between Ratnab and a dark, unnatural voice, which he identifies as a devil. Ratnab feels they have been found out and tries to convince the devil to postpone their plans, but the devil will have none of that.

With a sudden sense of urgency, Thyb and Rawdon head back to fetch the rest of the group and make their way back to the hideout, in the hope to prevent the worst…

Of Decisions and Death
Session 37

After the battle with the Ebon Gauntlet, our heroes found some peculiar items on their defeated opponents’ bodies. An obsidian slab and a ring that would fit into it. Thybalt recognized some of the markings on the slab to be related to an alternate plane called “The Echo”, a dimension where time acted differently. Taking the slab and ring they set back off to do what they intended to do in the first place; Talk to Syrion. Finding him and his band sitting around the fire, they were quickly introduced and Syrion got down to business. Lythvard’s old mentor, Ratnab, was apparently working for the Verisiels as one of their leaders. Syrion asked for help in defending the Emperor from another assassination attempt in Axis. After having dinner with Syrion, they made their way back to the Archmages compound and tells Lady Summerton what Sirian wanted. Nimona gives Sorth’s golden dog to Lady Summerton to help with the rebuilding of the city.

Going to Archmage’s chambers they find him floating in meditation. Rawdon shouts his arrival and immediately gets shushed by the Archmage. They tell him of what occurred with the Ebon Gauntlet and Syrion. Nearly ignoring them he tells them that everything will be fixed if they heal the Priestess and will help Thybalt after that. The group peels off for a discussion about what they should do; Help Syrion, or continue with the Archmage. They decide to help the Archmage, and are told to meet him in a room in a bit. The group goes to Lady Summerton about the the slab and she seems to know a bit more about the Echo; in fact she works out a spell to use the stone. Vorax persuades her to not tell the Archmage about the slab and they begin to cats the spell to test it.

The Echo is a gray place where ruins about and everything has a transparency to it. They are able to touch what they want to touch, and when they return to the Material Plane they begin to test to see how times affects it. They light a candle and when travel, and when they come back they find that no time has passed at all. A potato (stolen by Rawdon from a peasant) is placed in the Echo and left for a while, and turns out to be perfectly fine. Happy with their new toy, the group finds the Archmage sitting and waiting for them in a ruined tower with a flying carpet for each of them, ready to transport them to the city of Santa Cora.

They eventually reach the breathtaking skyline of Santa Cora. The dominating cathedral surrounding by massive statues, reflecting the golden light of the city everywhere. Colors are abound with the stain glass windows littering the city as the smell of incense wafts through the air between the many spires of the cathedral. They land outside the Priestess’s chambers to find her lying on her deathbed. They are interrupted by 3 old priests who demand that they leave, but are cowed when the Archmage tells them that the Priestess is about to be healed. Nimona voices her concerns, but the Archmage continues to press her forward. The question is asked about who the emissary of the gods was that told him. It’s then that Ayn rides in with her 4 horsemen, silent and watching. Nimona prays to the Priestess to see what she wants, only to find the Priestess sitting on a tree swing. The Priestess tells her that she is no more important than Nimona’s mother; as wildfire rages around them Nimona comes to and finds that the Priestess is dead.

The Archmage refuses to believe it, and tears out his eyeball as he claws at his face. He goes for the body of the Priestess, cutting off his hand. He is stopped by everyone though, and he jumps off the tower, presumably flying away. Ayn says nothing as she and her horsemen fly out of the tower. The 3 priests come back and are outraged that Nimona is performing the last rites, and summon the guards to kick them out. However, after much talking, they are allowed to do the rites and leave. They are escorted to a room on the edge of the city and left there. The group stews over the decisions they have made today. Thybalt eats almost everyone’s food, Nimona is thinking herself into sadness, Vorax seems to be contemplating, Rawdon is internally discussing, and Lythvard is playing with the rotting hand and eyeball of the Archmage.

Meanwhile, two robed men sit across from each other in a plane of white nothingness. They turn to see Ayn upon her steed, silently delivering a message.

“Guess you were right about mortals this time, ” one says to the other.

Of Revelations and Responsibilities
Session 36

The party teleported into Horizon from the ship to find the city aflame and in the midst of civil war. Horizon’s floating metropolises had come crashing down into the sub-city. The party picked their way through the urban warzone towards Lady Summerton’s mansion. On the way, they witnessed a company of soldiers escorting the functionaries of the Church of Light, and their armoured carriages filled with gold, out of the city.

They found Lady Summerton in a makeshift bunker complex hewn from the city’s rubble. She led them to a circular room, where the me the Archmage. Before the party would hand over the sap from the Tree of Knowledge, they demanded answers. The Archmage told them:

  • At the beginning of the 13th Age, the Priestess had saved the Lich King from his own necromancy-induced madness, allowing the man who was once the Wizard King to emerge from the Lich King.
  • That man became the Archmage of the 13th Age, the very man they are talking to now.
  • The Priestess is dying of from some kind of natural illness.
  • The Church of Light’s leadership kept her illness secret, and exploited her weakness to turn the Church to their own gain.
  • An Emissary of the Gods told the Archmage that there was a way to prevent the Priestess’ death. He needed to find a special person who could order the Gods to heal the Priestess.
  • According to the Emissary, the Archmage will find that special person when she brings him the sap from the Tree of Knowledge. So the Archmage began his Search, recruiting thousands of people to hunt down the Tree of Knowledge.
  • The Priestess is a symbol of the goodness inherent in the citizens of the Dragon Empire. Currently, the Empire is falling apart because the Empire is allowing that symbol to wither. If they save the Priestess, it will symbolize the goodness of the Dragon Empire, and the Gods will reward them and restore the Empire.
  • The Archmage identified Nimona as the special one, the one who can save the Priestess.
  • The sap will be given to the wizards of Horizon as the “public” goal of the Search. This will distract the wizards while the Archmage goes about preventing the Priestess’ death.

The party explained that Nimona’s powers had their limits, and that keeping people alive was slowly killing her. After a lot f questioning from the Archmage, they deduced that healing Thybalt of the condition he inflicted upon himself by drinking the sap would reduce the burden on Nimona, perhaps allowing her to save the Priestess. The Archmage said he would need time to study the sap and find a way to help Thybalt. The Archmage was adamant, however, that the Priestess must be saved, even if Nimona or another member of the party died, because saving the Priestess would result in the greatest good for the greatest number.

The Archmage also told Lady Summerton to announce to Horizon that the Search has been successful, and that he will stand down as Archmage within the week.

The party retired from the Archmage to discuss at length the things the Archmage had just told them. What decisions await Nimona? Can the Archmage be trusted?

Rawdon also revealed that he has no recollection of the events that occurred between being knocked unconscious during the fight to rescue Lythvard in Horizon’s sub-city, and regaining consciousness during the fight against a Naga at the base of the Tree of Knowledge.

Lady Summerton returned and told them that Syrion, a paladin who once travelled with the party, wanted to see them. At the Archmage’s announcement of his resignation, a ceasefire descended over Horizon, so the party picked their way through the city’s rubble towards a location where they would meet Syrion.

However, a squad of the Crusader’s Ebon Gauntlet intercepted the party. They insisted that Thybalt join the Crusader at his side now. Thybalt refused, and battle ensued. Thybalt found that his warlock powers had been stripped. They battle was quite tough, with Nimona being knocked unconscious, but eventually the party prevailed.

Of Dragon’s Lairs and Disease
Session 35

Two precise jets of superheated flame erupted from the enormous red dragon’s mouth, just as Thybalt leapt from the stone bridge onto the remains of a wall that once provided the front façade of a fire giant keep. One of the bursts of flame roared into the space on the narrow bridge that Thybalt had leapt from just a moment earlier. Rawdon miraculously dodged out of the way of the second blast, despite the limited room for manoeuvre on the narrow stone bridge across the lake of lava.

From his vantage point at the entrance to the lava-filled cavern, Lythvard could see his companions at the other end of the bridge, antagonizing Sorth, the mighty red dragon, by ignoring that dragon’s warnings about entering the ruined keep. The bursts of flame signalled that battle was inevitable. Lythvard muttered an incantation and his body took a ghostly form, floating up from the bridge to hover high above the lava lake.

Nimona invoked the aide of the Gods as Sorth lurched upwards and out of the ruined keep that housed his precious treasure horde. Lythvard and Sorth met mid-air in a barrage of gnashing teeth, razor-sharp claws and battering wings. A quick spell muttered in the ancient draconic language gave Sorth momentary mental control over Vorax, who attack Nimona from behind.

Lythvard managed to escape from the dragon’s clutches with the aide of his Boots of the Doe, but his spells were proving ineffectual against the dragon’s might.

Circling slowly inside the cavern, Sorth sang out to the spirits of his treasure horde, summoning them with a whale-like song. Non-corporeal beings began to emerge from the rolling dunes of gold, forming into humanoid beings of gold pieces, jewellery, armour and weapons.

Rawdon dashed forward into the keep and onto the golden dunes smashing two of the golden spirits to pieces. But the remaining horde spirits struck back, smashing Rawdon and Thybalt with giant fists of gold pieces and partially burying them under piles of gold.

Seeing her comrades on the back foot, Nimona continued her prayers, imploring the Gods to strengthen her comrades.

Sorth continued to raise hoard spirits with his eerie song, and then he smashed a huge stalactite with his tail, the bottom half of which sailed across the cavern and into the waterfall of lava flowing from the mouth of the volcano above. The impact sent a rain of lava spattering over the intruders.

After this, Sorth circled around again and strafed three of the party members with his precise breath of fire, setting them alight.

Vorax, Rawdon and Big Meanie continued to battle with the horde spirits while the party’s magic users flung all their spells in their arsenals at the dragon. Their spells were accurate, but not powerful enough to slow the dragon down. They needed a way to get Sorth out of the air and onto the ground, where the dragon would be more vulnerable. It was clear to Thybalt that unless they grounded Sorth, the party was doomed. No sooner had Thybalt muttered words to that effect to himself, did the dunes of gold begin to rise of their own volition. Several kingdom’s worth of gold and jewels rose three to four meters into the air, towering over the combatants. The gold soon formed into the shape of a face, the face of the Great Gold Wyrm.

“Sorth!” the golden dragon head’s voice boomed throughout the cavern, “You shall not have Thybalt. He is mine!!!”

Cowed by the Great Gold Wyrm’s display of might, Sorth dropped down onto his piles of gold, tailed momentarily curled underneath himself and his draconic chin resting on the floor of the lair.

Sluice gates on the cavern walls slammed shut, blocking the tunnels that allowed the lava to drain from the cavern. The level of the lava lake started to creep up the sides of the bridge and fort. Unless those gates were opened soon, the stone bridge – their only way out of the fort and the cavern, would soon be covered in lava.

Grounded, Sorth responded by lashing out at Vorax with a vicious combination of tooth, fang and tail, seriously injury the party’s stalwart soldier. Seeing numerous members of her party holding themselves together after they’d been burnt, bash and sliced by their enemies, Nimona reached up towards the heavens and allowed the energy of the gods to flow down through her and then distribute outwards towards her injured comrades, who were able to use the energy to heal some of their wounds.

With the situation dire, Lythvard decided it was time to try out his new, most powerful spell. The spell the Lich King had personally helped Lythvard to learn. Lythvard had found a scroll, and upon reading it, his consciousness had been transported to a formless plane, surrounded by stars and gas nebulas. Around him, Lythvard could see the “machine code” of the Disintegrate spell. The Lich King’s voice washed over him.

“I’m glad you’ve found this spell, Lythvard the Faithful. It is one of the greatest spells I ever created. I will help you learn it well, but you will do something in return for me.”

“Of course, my lord. What do you need of me?”

“The Archmage is on a Search. I want you to break his spirit. I want you to build up his hopes by letting him think that he will be successful. Then, just when he is on the verge of success, you must snatch success away from him. This will crush his will.”

“I understand, my lord.”

Back in the present, Lythvard uttered the word of power and unleashed the Disintegrate spell. The Lich King had made sure Lythvard had learnt it well, and the giant red dragon’s flesh began to disintegrate.

As Sorth roiled on the ground in pain, rolling over the dunes of gold and splashing around in the small rivers of lava that weaved their way through the dragon’s treasure horde, Vorax released an ancient draconic battle cry. The roar echoed around the cavern and Sorth pulled his body off the ground to face this challenge, a challenge that Sorth’s primal draconic instincts could not allow to go unmet. The pair met once more in a flurry of claws and blade. Vorax’s sword found an open and sliced at Sorth’s throat, splitting it open and a deluge of dragon blood poured out. It spilled over the piles of gold, running down into the rivers of lava below. Sorth’s body writhed a few times, and then the ancient wyrm was dead.

Back at the entrance to the lair, Futgarek and Mokread Brightbraids – the dwarf and the orc, bitter enemeies thrown together by fate – fought shoulder to shoulder to keep a pack of gnolls from rushing to their master’s aide. The party quickly stuffed their pockets with whatever treasure they could grab, cut a horn from Sorth as evidence of his death, and then rushed down the bridge to help the orc and the dwarf. Upon seeing the approach of the five adventurers who had just slain the most powerful being the gnolls had ever known, the gnolls dropped their weapons and ran away.

They returned to the treasure horde and Brightbeard argued that he should be given control of the horde so that the Dwarf King can buy battalions to fight the orc invasion with. Futgarek, quite understandably, opposed this suggestion. Debate ensued, but soon ended when Nimona pulled a lever that closed the sluice gates again. With the lever stuck and the lava levels rising, the party walked out of Sorth’s lair, leaving Brightbeard behind to struggle futilely with the lever.

The party returned to the drow cave and presented the drow priestess Jandril Claddrret with their evidence of Sorth’s demise. She upheld her end of the bargain and the party soon found themselves standing in the garden city of Concord.

Lush grass grew underfoot and soft sunlight played through the pine trees around them. Gnomes and halflings came and went from the round doors in the grassy mounds that housed their homes. Wood elves moved from branch to branch in the city built into the trees. Normally this would be a happy, peaceful scene, but on this day the residents of Concord moved with slumped shoulders and long faces.

A bell rang out, drawing the party’s attention to a dwarf pushing a cart along the green street. On the cart was a pile of naked bodies: male, female, elf, dwarf, halfling, gnome. “Bring out ye dead” the dwarf cried as he sullenly pushed his cart along.

A short conversation with the dwarf revealed that things had worsened in the Dragon Empire since the last time the party had been in a civilised area. A blight was rampaging across the major cities of the Empire, and the unpredictable weather had caused famine in many parts of the Empire. The people of Concord blamed the Archmage and the Priestess in equal measure for their maladies.

The adventurers, however, had their own maladies to worry about. Nimona’s birthmark had been slowly burning deeper into her flesh since she restored Thybalt after drinking sap from a tree of knowledge had left him catatonic. They needed to find a solution to the birthmark problem before it burnt through her vertebrae and into her spinal column. The Priestess or Archmage might be able to help, by they are several weeks’ travel away by boat, and they can’t be sure that Nimona has that long.

The party went to a local Concord temple. Perhaps they could get some advice at the temple about Nimona’s condition. However, upon arrival at the temple they found it busy, crowded, and overflowing with the diseased and dying. Priests were accepting bribes of gold to receive new patients, which angered Nimona. Her attempts to help a poor family with a sick child almost brought her to harm, as a crowd soon gathered when they realised that Nimona was giving out money.

After regrouping in an alley, the party decided to try the back entrance to the temple. They ducked through the hedge at the rear of the temple and found the temple yard full of dead, bloated bodies in various states of decay. Their picked their way through the bodies and flies and eventually made it into the temple.

They found the head priest and gave him some money to look at Nimona’s condition. When the head priest realised that Nimona’s birthmark was in the shape of the insignia of the Ne Quis Eyoroum Morte, he became offended and promptly returned the gold. He explained that he both cannot and will not help Nimona. Cannot, because he’s never seen this kind of condition before, and will not, because of Nimona’s association with Ne Quis Eyoroum Morte, a pariah sect within the Church of Light. Ne Quis Eyoroum Morte believe that mortals can have the power to decide when someone passes to the afterlife, a decision that is normally the domain of the gods alone.

Discouraged and confused, the party of adventurers exited the temple and discussed what to do next. They decided to let Lythvard cast teleport to take them to Horizon, but he would need to rest before he could cast that spell.

As they walked the streets of Concord, the image of five figures mounted on horses soon dominated the leafy streetscape. They moved down the centre of the street in a wedge formation. At the front of the wedge was a figure in shining silver armour. Four flags rose up behind her, and the figure’s face was covered with a plain white mask, devoid of any facial features. Thybalt and Lythvard recognised her as Ayn, the cleric of mysterious alignment that had once adventured with them. Ayn was flanked by four large figures, dressed in long black robes, their hands and face concealed in the folds and shadows of their hoods and sleeves.

Thybalt and Lythvard greeted their former companion, and Ayn’s response was courteous yet cold. They spoke with Ayn about many things. She warned them about Ne Quis Eyoroum Morte and the dangers of angering the gods, suggesting that Nimona’s condition might be punishment for their hubris. She also warned Thybalt to stay away from the Crusader because he did not fully understand Thybalt’s destiny. She also warned them of the Ebon Gauntlet, the Crusader’s elite soldiers who seemed to have the ability to appear at any place, at any time, and who might be tasked to return Thybalt to the Crusader’s fold forcefully. As the two parties parted ways, Ayn gave this cryptical farewell: “We shall meet again, at the beginning of the end.”

At the Concord docks, the party chartered a ship, paying good money to have the ship leave immediately. They figured that they could rest on the ship and then cast the teleport spell, and being seen departing on the ship would confuse anyone who might be following them.

Of Bear Skin Rugs and Birthmarks
Session 34

After defeating the demon that accidentally got teleported with them, the party gathers in the dark, rotting forest.

Except Rawdon, anyway, who seems to enjoy watching the wrestling match between a dwarf and an orc, who also got teleported.

Nemonas birthmark, which has the shape of the sun of the Church of Light, is getting worse. Thybalt warns the group that the burning is a sign that asking for a divine favor to restore Lythward and Thybalt back to life was too taxing on her. They group needs to get help, such as from the Priestess.

Nemona isn’t too happy with the plan, and reveals to the group that she has found corruption within the Church of Light. Priests were more focused on filling their purses than helping the believers. Unfortunately she doesn’t know much about the meaning of the birthmark herself. Thybalt tells her about his own bad experiences with the church.

Meanwhile, Nemona recognizes the area the group is in as the Spiderwood. This leaves the group puzzled as to how to get back to civilization. Based on Vorax’s suggestion, they decide to head south-west towards the Queen’s Wood.

Rawdon rejoins the group. After some talkdown by Thybalt, the orc, Futgarek, and the dwarf, Mokreed Brightblade, agree that fighting each other isn’t the best course of action right now, and grudgingly agree to accompany the party on their way back to civilization.

Thybalt climbs a tree to figure out a direction. Above the canopy, he sees thunder and lightning, and a volcano in the distance. He can’t see the sea, or anything that would help him tell the direction. Rawdon steps in and gives the party a general direction by looking at moss on a tree. The party decides to head off.

They find a small lower area where they decide to rest. As they are about to take off again, something is coming closer. Pixies!? The pixies greet Rawdon. They tell him that they are guardians appointed by the High Druid, and warn them about a group of dark elves that is following them.

Thybalt, in his brash foolishness, calls out to the dark elves, who reveal themselves. They ask what the party’s business is, and they reply that they are just lost travellers. The elves offer to help, against a price. First, the party has to meet their master…

In a dark cave, adorned with the skin of a dire bear, sitting on her bear jaw throne, the party encounters a drow leader with long flowing white hair. The party gives introductions, and Thybalt “from the Wild Wood” seems to leave an impression as she considers adding him to her harem… She also seems to be quite smitten with Rawdon.

She offers to teleport the party to Concord in exchange for a favor. Her initial offer, to catch a few pixies so she can gleefully rip their wings out, is rejected by Rawdon in disgust.

Thybalt steps in and asks for another deal. Not quite thinking this through (again), Thybalt agrees that the party will go and kill Sorth, a red dragon living in the volcano he spotted earlier. And so the party ventures out to kill a red dragon with their orc and dwarf friend.

At the volcano, they notice a gnoll hunting party leaving the lair, but let them pass. Mokreed points out that the dragon lair is clearly dwarven architecture. The party decides to head in, with Mokreed in the point position, despite his protests.

Stay tuned for next session -

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