The Eroding Empire

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 -
Of Last Stands and Lucky Boots
Session 32

The earth around the party began to shake as they took a rest after rescuing Thybalt from his… doctors. Deciding to immediately head back upstairs they made their way back to the kitchen. They found the staff being evacuated by the guards, and when they made their way outside the snow was melting and the sun was shining. The main hall was filled with people and the visiting dwarves. Rats began to evacuate the depths and the orcs then entered the hall. Taking this moment to make their exit, they found the courtyard filled with guards guarding a red hot well. Vorax and Rawdon went to the defense as a fountain of demons erupted from the well.

Biding time for the guards to enter, the party closes the door; with a few guards not making it in time. Taking stances among the various entrances, the dwarves and orcs are helping in the defense. Stragor Solace tells both Sarfu and Bluefist that they need to work together, but whoever can get Thybalt and his sword to the crusader will receive aid in their battle against the other. The main door caving in under the pressure of thousands of demons, Rawdon hefts his axe against the door and keeps in shut for those few precious moments. The decision is made to get Thybalt out using Vorax’s boots. No time for sleeping, they decide to have Rawdon punch him out. After some deceiving of orcs and dwarves, Rawdon punches Vorax out but the boots do not activate immediately. The door bursts open then and the stairs creaked as a glabrezu declares itself the rightful wielder of Aegis Losthvir; along with a toad-like demon bounding down the stair. Vorax finds his consciousness roaming through a path. In the waking world, a glabrezu cast a bolt of pure pain straight through Rawdon, sending him into a rage. Then, the toad-like demon went to go for Vorax, but Big Meanie intercepted with his knuckles. Nimona imbues Rawdon, Big Meanie, Thybalt, and Nimona with divine strength after an onslaught of bat-like demons. A vrock slashes at Lythvard with filth-covered claws. Vorax, still dreaming, notices a shadow puppet fight between what might have been Thybalt and the Crusader, their shadowy silhouettes projected onto the fog in front of Vorax. He dissipates the shadows with a stream of golden butterflies. Lythvard blasts away half of the bat demons with a loud crescendo spell, and Big Meanie continues to pummel the toad demon. Thybalt runs up and curses the glabrezu, while Big Meanie and Rawdon mop up the bat-demons. Nimona heals Vorax and Rawdon and goes in to join the fight. Vorax continues his search for the Great Gold Wyrm, and ends up falling down an endless void with a draconic shadow falling with him. Lythvard death strangles the vrock. The glabrezu summons fire under Vorax and Thybalt again. Rawdon slams into the glabrezu. Tybalt slashes at the glabrezu. Nimona heals vorax, and then smacks the toad demon.

Suddenly, the world around the entire party shimmers, and they each find themselves isolated in a dark and scary forest. Rawdon finds himself with a dwarf and an orc from Droskyn Keep, who seem intent on killing each other. Rawdon slams the orc to ground and tries to stop the dwarf from hitting the downed orc. Rawdon finally get the orc and dwarf to stop fight by making them hate him more than each other.

Meanwhile, Vorax emerged from the teleportation to find himself ca¥¥face to face with the glabrezu. The glabrezu launches itself at Vorax. Vorax slashes at the glabrezu, but it slaps the blow away. Lythvard runs through the forest towards Vorax, using a beehive to clear a path through a field of elf-eating carnivorous plants. Thybalt finishes off the glebrezou with a “splitting headache” from the trees.

Burning Spines and Fighter Jelly
Session 31

It’s a cold winter morning in Droskyn Keep. The party has just awoken with a hangover from a night of heavy drinking, with the exception of Thybalt, who is being treated by the keep’s doctors with their best efforts, and Rawdon, who is still happily snoring away. Vorax, meanwhile, is already up and sharpening his blade.

A discussion ensues between Lythward, Nemona and Vorax, and the party decides that the best course of action would be to go looking for Thybalt. Lythward remembers that he once researched Droskyn Keep, and that it was famous for channeling the magic of a hell hole. He suggests to look for Thybalt near the mouth of said hell hole.

Then Rawdon wakes with with a bad hangover, and Nemona offers him a home remedy for it.

Out in the courtyard, Vorax spots a soulless-looking, heavy armored formation of soldiers. Their eyes are nothing but blank stares.

The party steps into the courtyard and starts searching for a way down.
Unable to find a staircase down, they decide to lower Nemona down the well in the center. Vorax takes the winch while protesting that this was not his idea.
The water down there turns out to be lukewarm, and there is a glooming light under the water, to the side. Vorax then convinces the others that this would be a very impractical entrance to a chamber where they would hide Thybalt, and the party keeps exploring elsewhere.

  • scene change *

Meanwhile, Thybalt has been brought to a room where old men are gathered. He is placed on an altar with a red cloth, and different methods of medicine are being tried on him, one more painful than the other, but to no avail.

  • back to the party *

The party keeps exploring the keep, snoping around the kitchen and different corridors. In a room full of armor, Rawdon discovers a tunnel that was dug by giant rats (possibly a signal by the High Druid?). Crawling through there, Rawdon finds a set of gauntlets.

Lythward then hears a muffled scream of pain, which he assumes came from Thybalt. Apparently it came from behind a wall.
The party follows the direction, and comes upon a strange room littered with dead bodies, and a strange ritual going on with a large vat of a hellish liquid…

Nemona starts a conversation with the men performing the ritual, and she is told that this is an area where no guests are allowed. Asking for Thybalt, they tell her that the treatment is still ongoing and she should not disturb it.

Lythward sends Big Meanie (his skeleton) forward to where they believe Thybalt is held. One of the castle inhabitants tries to stop him, but wasn’t strong enough. The presence of a skeleton scares the castle inhabitants, and they run away calling for the guards.

The party uses the confusion to press forward. However, the way forward is blocked by two gelatinous cubes. Or rather, a purple gelatinous octahedron, and one green dodecahedron. Vorax tries to reason with the guards, but to no avail. His attempts at diplomacy were interrupted by Thybalt’s pained screams.

Combat ensues, and Rawdon pushes the dodecahedron into a side corridor to unblock the passage. The gelatinous cube tries to slap him with a pseudopod but misses.

Lythward smacks the cube with a Ray of Frost, while the octahedron gobbles up his skeletal servant. Vorax gets jumped by the octahedron and ends up stunned. Rawdon continues to keep the passage open, and Lythward made a heroic dash for it.

Nemona manages to dart past the cubes and reach the room with the old geezers “healing” Thybalt. They tell her to get out and not disturb the ritual, but she decides to at least cure his wounds.

Vorax spends his turn shaking off of the stun, while Lythward gets swallowed by the other cube. A vibrating crescendo spell sends shivers through the jelly and it spits him out. He immediately smacks it with a ray of frost on top.

Then Vorax gets swallowed up by the Octahedron. He couldn’t manage to cut himself free, but he gave it a good slashing from within.

Rawdon decides playtime is over and barges in at the dodecahedron, frothing of the mouth with pure rage and cutting out a good chunk. Unfortunately the cube then bounces on him, knocking him out for a moment. Lythward shoots another round of frost rays at the two cubes.

The cure wounds was not enough to bring Thybalt back, so Nemona climbs onto the altar and starts praying for a miracle. Her pleas are answered, and Thybalt starts opening his eyes! He immediately starts coughing up bile and blood from his lungs.

Vorax still can’t get out of the octahedron, and starts slashing at it more and more desperately. Lythvard let loose another Ray of Frost at the Cube. The cube then splits, spitting out a smaller tetraeder!

Thybalt, awake but miserable, hears the combat noise and his survival instinct kicks in. He drags himself up and beams a curse and hungry shadows at the little ooze that split off. Nemona then finishes it with a holy javelin.

Vorax finally manages to cut himself free, and smack the ooze that almost suffocated him into pieces. A concerted effort from Rawdon, Thybalt and Nemona then kills the last ooze.

After a bit of banter with the doctors that were trying to cure Thybalt, the party sends them off to inform the master of the keep. Then they start looting potions and oils from the destroyed oozes, except Thybalt, who only found a bent silver fork. Then they head for their rooms to clean off pieces of ooze and get some rest before they have another meeting with Straghor Solace, master of the keep.

And they are faced with another pressing problem. After Nemona healed Thybalt, a burning flame appeared on her neck, and slowly starts burrowing down her back. This surely can’t be a good sign?

Of Guests and Gate-Crashers
Session 31

After Vorax contacted the Great Gold Wyrm through a magical dream, the group found themselves in a small square room of black stone. After Vorax explained the situation, the group took the only exit and found themselves in a corridor of the same stone. In a room further on they found a banner with a large cat symbol and writing which read “Droskyn Keep” and “Solace” on it. Beyond that chamber they found a hallway with a weapons rack, and beyond that they found a door with noise coming from beyond. The group decided to avoid whatever was making the noise and continued past.

Further on they found some stairs leading up which seemed as good a direction as any to take. Eventually they came to a door with the sounds of jostling pots and pans on the other side. The room beyond was filled with humans of varying looks preparing delicious smelling food. Nimona was sent in to talk to the woman in charge, but didn’t do a very good job of talking her way through. She was challenged as to whether Straghor Solace knew Nimona was in his keep or not. Fairly soon, a dozen heavily armoured guards came to look into the gnome situation. They were quite taken aback to discover more than just a gnome. The group released their weapons to the guards and submitted themselves to searches. They were then taken outside into a courtyard filled with snow. Re-entering the keep, they were escorted into a large audience chamber.

After waiting for a time in the audience chamber, they were eventually met by Straghor Solace. Vorax tried to explain how they had “accidentally intruded” without giving away too much information about their mission for the Archmage. Solace was suspicious and examined the situation more closely. When he came to examine Thybalt’s sword Aegis Lothsvir, Vorax spoke up in warning, saying that Thybalt had always warned people about touching it. Upon learning Thybalt’s name he ordered the captain of the guard to inspect the sword. When he did so the arm which touched the sword burst into flame, just as Straghor Solace had been expecting. After Vorax and Nimona tended to the guard, Lord Solace confirmed that he did know of Thybalt and that his master, The Crusader, had important plans for him. Lord Solace offered to see the group on their way but implied that Thybalt wasn’t a part of that offer. The group insisted that they wouldn’t be being separated from Thybalt and instead accepted accommodation in Droskyn Keep’s guest chambers. Lord Solace assured them that he had Thybalt’s best interests at heart and he was confident that he and his people would be the best people to help Thybalt recover from his catatonic condition.

When they awoke in the early evening, the party awoke refreshed. Hearing noise outside their quarters, Nimona poked her head out and saw a lot of orcs passing by. The group went looking for food and followed the smell back to the main hall. They were refused entry because they had not been invited to the feast, but they arranged to get some food brought to them. On their way back to their chambers, the group passed a group of well-groomed orcs. The largest of them sniffed at the air and said that he recognised a smell. Lythvard recognised the orc as Sarfu, someone the group had helped a long time ago. After a brief conversation the orcs went on their way (to a diplomatic meeting) but the leader said he would like to talk to Lythvard again later. Back in their rooms Lythvard explained how he knew the orcs, explaining about the war between the dwarves and orcs and Lythvard and Thybalt’s role in trying to prevent that war.

While Nimona was out relaxing in the courtyard, she noticed a commotion at the main gate. Investigating she found some flummoxed guards dealing with a contingent of dwarves who had unexpectedly shown up at the gates. Nimona went back and told the group about the situation. Lythvard wanted to see the dwarves to see if he recognised any of them. While he didn’t recognise any faces as such, he did recognise a voice which he presumed would be attached to someone important. Lythvard also noted with interest that the dwarves seemed to be travelling somewhat incognito. The dwarves were eventually let in and Lythvard recognised one of the dwarves: Councilor Bluefist, a clan leader from Forge who had advocated against the war.

Later back in their room, the captain of the guard (Rupold) came and asked the group to talk to the dwarves as they had asked about an elf named Lythvard. The guard was concerned about the orcs and dwarves crossing paths in the castle. Lythvard agreed to do so on the condition that their weapons were returned to them. (When the weapons were returned Aegis Lothsvir was noticeably absent. The party then accompanied the guard down into the lower level where the dwarves were being accommodated.

Lythvard introduced the group and asked why the dwarves had come to the keep. It turned out that the dwarves had snuck through the orcish battle lines to come to Lord Solace to ask for an alliance with The Crusader in their battle against the orcs. (Not the peace mission that the group had hoped for.) Bluefist was also able to tell them that Solace was a powerful figure, being one of three advisors to The Crusader (specialising in matters of magic and spiritualism), and that Droskyn Keep was built atop a Hell Hole.

The rest of the night was spent drinking and trying to keep the dwarves away from Lord Solace and the orcs. They were successful in this and stumbled back to their beds much later that night to prepare for what was likely to be an interesting day.


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