The Eroding Empire

Of Death and Darkness
Session 28

Lythvard struggled to move but the ropes that bound his wrists would not yield, and the aura of deadening magic numbed his mind and made it impossible to connect with his own magic.  It was still there, his magic.  He could feel the chaotic energy, like an angry beast throwing itself against the iron bars of its cage… but it was somehow out of reach.  Where was he?  It was cold, and dark, and smelled of sewage.  Faint images of the past week flashed in and out of his memory, mere wraiths glimpsed out of the corner of the eye in the mists of early morning.  He remembered being an elephant. 

The sound of approaching footsteps drew him back to the present.  Three robed men now stood before him, accompanied by large, pasty-skinned man.  His pallor and grimacing disposition suited the dank environment, which, Lythvard guessed, could only be some sort of dungeon prison.  

“Time to use the worm.” The words came from the robed man in the middle.  The worm?  Worms were usually nothing of great concern to a druid – just another part of nature.  But the oily way in which the man said “worm” chilled Lythvard far more deeply than the dungeon air ever could have done.  

With a fluidity of motion that belied his paunch gut, the jailor stepped forward and rammed a balled-up rag into Lythvard’s mouth.  He turned back to the wizard and raised an eyebrow.  

The wizard answered the unspoken question, “Leave the worm to do its work.  If it fails you can take your turn at extracting the information later.”  This seemed to satisfy the large man, who then produced from his pocket a small vial containing a tiny leech-like creature.  He unstoppered the vial and casually emptied the contents onto Lythvard’s face.  The worm crept slowly across Lythvard’s cheek, traversing a tattoo of the Priestess’ sigil, and disappeared into his right nostril.  As Lythvard’s vision began to go dark, he could distinctly hear the sound of a soft voice speaking from somewhere nearby, “Hey you meanies, leave him alone!”


“They’ve made it this far already!  Destroy them!” The mage’s shrill command reverberated down the length of the narrow stone passage, reaching the group just before their attackers.  The group had infiltrated the prison in hopes of locating their friend Lythvard and were now fighting their way deeper into the dark stone halls.  

At the head of the defenders was a stout soldier.  He was followed by a troll-like man wearing a gargantuan set of bronze knuckle-dusters across the backs of his meaty hands. Following them, and shrieking orders almost maniacally all the while, was a thin mage in rust-coloured robes.  The defenders moved in quickly and struck the group like a wave crashing on rocks.  Magic sizzled through the air.  Metal rang on metal.  The large man flailed savagely with his metal-covered fists while the mage lashed out with his staff, and the soldier hacked around him with his mean blade. The group fought with cunning curses, raging fury, and noble honour.  Finally, they prevailed, Rawdon felling the soldier, and Vorax incapacitating the bronze-knuckled man. The mage, seeing his companions defeated, retreated down the hall and into a distant room.


Lythvard awoke to the smell of something sharp and foul that pierced the back up his sinuses and curled up just behind his eye sockets. It felt like thistles in his head. He gingerly opened his crust-caked eyes and saw a smiling wizard standing in front of him holding a vial just under the elf’s nose.  Lythvard’s body convulsed for an instant when he remembered where he was. Then he relaxed: Humph.  Still alive.  Well, that’s good.  The thoughts came into his head but he could not force them past his parched lips.

“Did it work?” a voice questioned from the shadows near the door.

“Not sure… Better get Lathony” replied the wizard who had just roused Lythvard.

The wizard turned to comply, but before he could make the summons, Lathony entered the cell.  He stood pensively surveying the bound elf before speaking.  “No.  The worm was unsuccessful.”  He stepped closer to the elf to get a better look at him.  “There is something very… odd… about this mind.”  He sighed.  “Well, it matters not.  There is certainly nothing odd about his body.  We’ll do it the traditional way.”  Lathony whirled on his heel, and swept out of the cell, the motion causing the slimy door to swing on its creaking hinges as he passed though the opening.  A few seconds later, the swinging of the door was stopped abruptly by a meaty, brass-clad hand.  The hand was attached to the large, pasty-skinned jailor. Lythvard remembered him from before.

The burly man entered the cell pretending to stretch his muscles as if he were getting ready for a long round of exercise.  Shortly thereafter “exercise” of a sort began in earnest.  “Where… is… Flotilla?”  came the question.  It was punctuated with a solid punch to Lythvard’s stomach.  The elf would have doubled over if he hadn’t been tied down, and the pain of not being able to breathe was not only excruciating -  it was paralyzing.  Lythvard felt like he was stuck in time and the world was frozen around him as he tried to catch his breath.  The jailor laughed as he realized his mistake but continued with the interrogation, “Come on! Speak up, lad.  Where’s the floaty-floaty place?  It’ll only get worse for you if you don’t talk.”  Strangely, there was no anger – barely even any malice – in the man’s voice.  He spoke almost matter-of-factly.  He struck Lythvard again, this time lower, and the sound of the elf’s right femur breaking echoed in the hollow room.

In the cell beside Lythvard’s a tiny figure suddenly jumped to her feet. The sounds of crunching bones and pain induced screams signalled that her cell-mate was awake and, at least for the moment, very much alive.

“You leave him ALONE, you meanies!”  she shouted with as much volume as she could muster.  But it was useless.  Even if they could hear her voice above the alternating sounds of thumping and screaming, it’s not likely they would have heeded her anyway.    They keep asking about some place called “Flotilla”.  Flotilla… She’d have to remember that.

Sweat was now pouring down the jailor’s cheeks and forehead.  He reach out with blood-covered hands and clutched the face of the nearly unconscious elf, pinching his pointed ears between thumb and forefingers as he did so.  The elf stiffened and finally broke.  “Ok… I’ll… tell… you…” he rasped in a voice barely audible.

No sooner did those words escape his lips than his entire body began to spasm.  The jailor stepped back in surprise as black smoke began to seep out from Lythvard’s mouth, nose, eyes and ears.  Green lines, like veins, just under the skin, snaked across the elf’s face, exited the skin, and floated up as flaring green sparks to twist and turn in the air, mingling with the black smoke enshrouding the prisoner.   Then, there was a loud sucking sound as Lythvard’s chest caved inward and released a larger puff of black smoke and green sparks.

It took some time for the dark smoke and sparkling static to clear in the dank air of the cell.  When visibility returned, the jailor stepped forward again and gazed at the elf’s body.  It was lifeless – a gaping hole and protruding, jagged ribs were all that remained of his chest. Wisps of black smoke and residual green sparks still clung to the edges of the wound.


“Down here! This way! Hurry! But be careful! There are guards waiting for you!” Rawdon could hear a faint voice shouting out to them. He signalled to the group and together they set off down the corridor at a slow jog, towards the soft voice. As they got closer to the source of the voice they noticed a faint, slightly sweet smell in the air. It reminded Rawdon of the smell in the plains after a particularly violent lightning storm.

Rounding the corner they found themselves in a slightly wider corridor lined with what appeared to be cell doors. Standing before them, barring the way, was a large bronze statue. Further down the corridor they could make out another statue of similar size. Perhaps, thought Vorax, it was made of clay or some sort of soft stone. As they approached, a pair of sneering mages stepped out from behind the bronze statue.

“Spies! Get them!” shouted one of the robed wizards. At the command, the bronze statue vibrated slightly and took a large step forward towards the group. The newly awoken bronze golem was advancing to attack. From down the hall the second statue, not of stone or fired clay as the group had thought initially, but of soft dripping clay, lumbered forward to join the battle.

Rawdon, with a glass-shattering shriek of rage, leapt forward and smote his axe against the body of the bronze golem. There was a resounding clang as metal struck metal and a large crack appeared in the automaton’s metallic flesh. The golem responded by beating viscously on the barbarian with fists like giant mechanical hammers, but in his berserker rage, Rawdon barely noticed the onslaught.

Dark, ghostlike smoke jetted out of Thybalt’s hands, writhing through the air like obsidian snakes climbing along a horizontal line, and struck the clay golem squarely. The golem tried to retaliate but Thybalt deftly stepped out of range of its bare, brutal hands.

One of the wizards struck his staff against the stone of the corridor floor and a crack of thunder pealed down the hall. It was focused on Rawdon and stuck him instantly to the ground.

Vorax swung a mighty blow against the hull of the lumbering bronze golem and connected soundly, leaving a deep dent where he had struck.

Thybalt flung another curse, but this time at the bronze golem. It struck with such force that the creature stumbled backwards smashing its metal elbow into the top of one of the cell doors.

As the battle raged, Nimona watched helplessly from inside her prison cell. She could hear and see much of the battle, but the magic-deadening aura around her cell kept her unable to lend any assistance to the group. Just when she thought all hope of helping them was lost, there was a mighty crash against her prison door. She flinched and closed her eyes in response to the impact and falling particles, but when she finally opened them again, she could see narrow shaft of torchlight stabbing down into her cell from a ragged, newly formed hole at the top of the door. The tiny gnome thanked the gods, climbed up to the gap, and, after much effort, managed to wriggle out through the opening.

When the gnome emerged from her dark cell, she could see a sinister-looking tiefling administering a potion of some sort to a large lifeless man on the floor. Without a second thought, she stepped forward and, summoning her faith, called forth a shimmering spear of blue radiant energy. The spear hovered for a second by her right shoulder and then launched itself forward towards the large metal creature that was pounding relentlessly on a very noble-looking young man clad in armour.

The spear sliced through the bronze golem like a knife cutting through the soft skin of a baked potato. The creature immediately ceased its onslaught and crumbled to the ground, the metal panels of his body ringing like giant church bells as they crashed against the hard stone floor.

Nimona looked around and saw that the battle was over. The creatures were dead and one of the wizards had been captured and was now being interrogated by the furious tiefling.

“Where is Lythvard!?” Thybalt’s face was but a mere finger’s breadth from the face of the wizard when he shouted the question.

“He’s… in… there…” replied the wounded mage as he pointed to a cell down a few metres down the corridor.

Thybalt wrested the keys from the belt of the wizard, manhandled him roughly into one of the nearby empty cells, and locked the door. He then turned to Vorax and Rawdon and said, “Let’s get our friend.”

The group made their way down the corridor and turned into the cell that the captured mage had indicated. There, lying on the floor in the centre of the cell, was Lythvard’s lifeless body. The gaping hole in his chest left no doubt that their friend was dead.

“Nooooo! You were so young!” shouted Thybalt as he fell to his knees beside his childhood friend’s shattered corpse. Tears welled up in his fiery eyes.


Lythvard awoke in total darkness. There was a great weight upon him, pressing in from every direction and the smell of freshly turned earth forced its way into his lungs with every breath he took. Or was it breath? In some strange way, he felt like he was under water. The elf stretched out a hand and realised he could move through the mass that was pressing on him. Slowly he pushed through it and broke free into the night air. He was in a graveyard. It was dark and a ghostly purple mist lay low over the ground. He could see the crumbling tops of headstones poking out above the mist like islands in some ghastly sea. The sky above him was inky black, void of moon or star, and Lythvard thought he heard the mournful cry of a raven in the distance.

He stood up and brushed the soil from his clothes. Moving forward to explore his new surroundings, it was some time before he realised he was not walking but floating a hand-span above the ground. Lythvard looked down as his feet with mild interest but was not alarmed – he was used to the whimsical dalliances of his chaos magic and this sort of thing was commonplace in his life.

Lythvard noticed a large mound rising up out of the shadows ahead of him. Moving forward through the ethereal purple mist he soon found himself standing in front of a giant throne. The throne was massive and seemed to be constructed out of stacks of aging tombstones. Atop this throne sat a large figure. The figure wore a crown of bone and long, flowing purple robes. It turned its shadowy face towards Lythvard and he could see one glowing red eye looking back at him.

“Welcome, Lythvard,” a grating voice sounded from somewhere deep within the shadowy visage. “You have a choice to make…”


“Stand aside, please.” The gnome’s voice was gentle but firm. “Let me see him.” Nimona moved towards Lythvard’s lifeless body. Thybalt stood and backed up a pace to let her get closer. She crouched on the damp floor where Thybalt had just been kneeling and, placing one hand on Lythvard and clutching her holy relic in the other, began chanting fervently and rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet.

Golden light began to shine in Lythvard’s body. It pulsed rhythmically and seemed to flow back and forth between his broken shell and Nimona’s rocking body. Vorax had the sense that she was both physically and spiritually trying to push life back into his friend. The light grew until it was blinding to look upon and Vorax, Tybalt, and Rawdon were forced to take a step back and shield their eyes.

A faint line of silver smoke drifted up from the base of Nimona’s neck. She grimaced in pain but did not lose her concentration. Then the light flashed its brightest and faded. The gnome, all her energy spent in this holy act, collapsed to the cold stone floor.

Vorax was the first to uncover his eyes and look back on the scene. Nimona was lying on the ground but the slow rising and lowering of her side indicated she was still breathing. He looked at Lythvard and saw that his mangled chest had been knitted roughly back together. There was an oozing scar where the hole had been just minutes before. The three companions took a step closer to the two bodies on the floor, not entirely sure of what had just happened.

Then, suddenly, Lythvard sat up and looked around.

View
Of Curses and Complications
Session 27

The group found themselves in the ruins of Superior Barrick’s library after their fight with the assassins. Superior Barrick lay on his back with Vorax trying to stem the slowing flow of blood. But it was too late for Superior Barrick. Soon there were shouts from below and a group of wizards came up into the library. They confirmed Barrick’s death while Vorax tried to explain what had happened. The wizards told the group to report to the Archmage’s Court the next day. The group retired to their inn to recover from the battle.

At breakfast the next morning the group were approached by an Imperial officer who extended an invitation from Lieutenant-Commander Riddon Lathony. The group accepted the invitation, but decided to attend to Superior Barrick’s murder by reporting to the Archmage’s Court first.

At the Archmage’s Court, they were directed to the investigators’ offices where they were questioned regarding the night’s activities. Their memories of the events were a bit blurred but they did the best they could. After their testimony the investigator tried to imply that they were accusing Trialeth Bireth (Superior Barrick’s rival within the Order Magus) of sending the assassins. The group refuted the interpretation and Thybalt lost his temper with the investigator. In doing so he accidentally let fly with some balls of fire which set much of the investigator’s notes aflame. The group were summarily ejected from the offices as useless witnesses.

The group next went down to the Sub-City to meet with Riddon Lathony. As they approached the Imperial Guesthouse it was obvious that the Imperial forces were being extra paranoid in their security precautions. The party were told that the Verisiels had attacked the building the week before, killing some Imperial soldiers, but also killing some women and children. The party (with the exception of Rawdon who elected to stay outside) eventually made their way through the security checks and into Lathony’s office.

The interview doesn’t go well when Vorax explains to Lathony how they can’t speak of the location of Flotilla because of a curse and a memory wipe. Lathony believes that the Dragon Empire’s mages can find ways to circumvent the Flotillan curse or the memory wipes, but the party doesn’t want to cooperate. He takes the lack of cooperation poorly and storms out of the room, returning shortly with reinforcements to take the group into custody.

The group doesn’t go quietly as Lythvard transforms himself into an elephant and causes havoc on the way out. Thybalt and Lythvard were able to get their weapons back, but in the process of the escape Lythvard was captured by Imperial mages.

Thybalt, Vorax and Rawdon made good their escape. As they catch their breath in a muddy back-alley, the realise that Lithvard is doomed without their help. If he resists the interrogation, the torture will likely kill him. If he breaks and tries to talk about Flotilla, the curse will kill him.

The party began to plan how to get Lythvard out before getting out of Horizon. They were contacted by Sellaran Galatholion, a member of the Verisiels. Meeting with Sellaran in the Archmage’s Dodecahedral Gardens, they made a plan to rescue Lythvard during a Verisiel attack on the Imperial Guesthouse.

After the meeting the group made a quick stop by the inn to retrieve any remaining belongings. They then made their way to the manor of Lady Summerton at Vorax’s behest. The group are invited in and they meet with Lady Summerton. Vorax speaks to her of the help she had agreed to give him. She explains to him that the visions he is receiving are separate to the bond which is affecting his eyes. Lady Summerton gave Vorax a small pouch containing a pill which would facilitate his communication with the Great Gold Wyrm to discuss the matter in his dreams.

She didn’t know exactly what “The Search” was about, only that it was important for the Archmage to be so focussed on it. Vorax pledged to Lady Summerton to continue the Search however he could if it was indeed for the greater good.

From there, the trio went to rendezvous with the Verisiels in an apothecary in the Sub-City to discuss the plan of attack. It was generally worked out that the Verisiels would launch an attack on the front of the Guesthouse (as they had previously done) while the group used the confusion to break into the rear of the building and find Lythvard.

At the time of the attack, the rescuers huddled near the rear of the Guesthouse. When the attack started Thybalt (disguised as a drunken half-orc) moved up and placed an explosive on the rear door. After it blew, they moved into a storage area in the rear of the building. After blocking the entrance to the tower above the storage area, they moved further into the building and quickly encountered some imperial soldiers. After a short battle they overcame the soldiers, with Rawdon killing two Imperial soldiers, and Vorax another. The fourth soldier, their leader, pleaed for mercy which Vorax granted without hesitation. The guard captain pointed the party in the direction of the stairs to the dungeon, and then was tied up with a deceased comrade’s belt.

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Lythvard’s Journal – Entry No. 1: The Battle of the Ashen Skies
Session 24

It was a beautiful day. Large white clouds hung motionless in the sky like misshapen ships in a calm sea of azure. The tranquil airscape was soon disturbed as a great wind began to blow, setting the peaceful cloud-ships bobbing and dancing in the watery air. It was the wind of wings – great leathery wings. There were dragons in the air, carrying a motley crew of riders, flying with the intent and determination of geese in their southward migration.

I reached down and patted the neck of my mount, “Great job, my friend. Who knew flying could be so fun!” Vollenth smiled, leaned into a gentle barrel roll and levelled out, laughing at the “woots” of his crazy rider.

The golden beetle was barely in sight. We were following it as it sped buzzing like a gilded hummingbird, towards the thing that compelled it forward – one of the Flotilla compasses, concealed deep in the heart of an Armada ship. If we could get their hands on that compass they could confound the Armada of of the Three and keep Flotilla hidden and safe from certain disaster.

The great Armada lay before us. The ships were uncountable, sailing in unison like one giant, ugly beast, lousy with dark warriors.

Vorax guided his mount closer to Thybalt and signalled for the others to do the same. Once all were within shouting distance Vorax began. “I think it best to fly over our target a few times and have our dragon friends deal our enemies some damage from the air.”

Rawdon nodded and spurred his mount forward in the direction of the Armada.

The beetle was almost out of sight but my keen elvish vision allowed me to pick out the glint of our miniscule golden guide setting down on the deck of a large frigate in the midst of the horrifying army.

“Time to go! Follow me everybody!” I shouted as my lithe Copper and I pulled out past Rawdon and signalled the attack, punching the fist that held my rune-curved rod forward toward the enemy.

We approached the target ship in a near-perfect “V” formation We flew high and built speed as we flew. Then, like hawks of gold and quicksilver, we stooped, falling faster than gravity should have allowed for, and skimmed across the surface of the deck like shadows of death, spouting fire, ice, acid, and deadly sparks of electricity.

The wood of the deck cracked, blazes erupted, and shrieks – both shocked and enraged – of the creatures on board filled the air.

Vollenth and I were the first to pull up after the strafing run. Vollenth wheeled upward and back in a great loop over the ship, only to fall back down towards the aft mainsail. Twisting slightly and banking left, his flight path took him within reach of the sail. Vollenth extended a razor-sharp claw and deftly snipped the rigging holding the sail to the mainstay. The white sheet, now free from the rigging, drifted down quietly over three unsuspecting crewmen. A stone elemental and two orcs were netted under the thick canvas.

I watched as my companions wafted down to the deck of the ship and dismounted their dragons to engage the enemy. I was loath to leave the excitement offered by aerial combat, so I remained mounted and instructed Vollenth to attack again.

Vollenth rolled, stooped again, targeting an unsuspecting orc, and pulled up before hitting the deck, just in reach of the creature. Razor claws dug into the vile thing and it was lifted off its feet and dropped, quite elegantly, over the side of the gunwale.

Ice had begun to form over on the deck. I couldn’t be certain but it looked like a dark magic, most likely the result of a spell cast by what appeared to be an ogre mage. The companions were all engaged now and fighting valiantly.

The battle raged on, and at the centre was a giant humanoid creature with a great chain of iron. The creature was flailing around itself with the mighty chain and managed to hook one of the dragon companions with the barbed end. It dragged the beast down onto the deck and, in the process, tore a gaping hole in the poor dragon’s wing.

My memory of what happened next is somewhat foggy as the battle mostly passed in a blur. I remember the storm giant getting his leg stuck in a hole in the deck. Perhaps some teifling curse was at play there. Little good it did us: the giant remained fixed in place as it flailed about with its colossal chain, dealing heavy damage to both my humanoid and dragon companions.

I was vaguely aware of our ally ships from Flotilla battling in the skies around us, bravely holding the rest of the Armada of the Three at bay, buying us time to get below decks and find that compass. I have images of Flotillan pirate ships falling from the sky in balls of flame, and the kind teifling Captain Pellios bowing gracefully to us as his ship rammed into a much larger enemy ship.

The next thing I remember is seeing the deck momentarily cleared of enemy, with a teifling priestess – I’m still not sure how she came to be there – reviving the dragon Avantador, and a huge hole in the deck where a might blow from the giant had smashed the dragon Darlath through the deck of the ship. I could just see Darlath’s lifeless tail extending out of the hole, resting on the deck, unmoving.

We turned our attention to the golden beetle and its search for the Flotilla compass. Looking around the deck, we soon noticed a glint of gold reflecting off something attached to an aft compartment door. I reached out and cupped the golden beetle in his hand, “Well this looks like the place. Rawdon?”

At hearing his name, the burly barbarian stepped forward, put a meaty hand on the door handle and pushed the charred door open.

As our eyes adjusted to the darkness we could make out two cowled and robed figures standing in the gloomy room.

View
Of Drugs and Dragons
Session 22

The kobold ship, like much of Flotilla, was a scene of chaos and confusion as the kobolds rushed to prepare their ship to escape the oncoming armada. The group walked across the deck and were soon confronted by a kobold who challenged their presence. Kobold Thybalt told him he was bringing through messengers, but he didn’t seem convinced. Vorax then asked in draconic to be shown to someone in charge. The kobold didn’t seem to know who was in charge and went off to find someone. After a short wait they continued down below.

On the second deck the group found an old shaman woman who seemed oblivious to the chaos around her. Lythvard spoke to the shaman to ask for directions, but she would only talk to him if he partook of the “breath of the great slayer” that she was smoking. Lythvard obliged and the effects were somewhat adverse… The shaman woman was of little further help so the group moved on.

As they continued on Lythvard continued hallucinating. The visions drew him on and the group followed along in his wake. He led them down to the hold where he saw a vision of a blue dragon. The rest of the party – who were not hallicinating – found the grotesquely obese body of Darilth in her human form, suspended in a bed of ropes forming a web-like lattice beneath her. She was in a vegetative state, with her fingernails and toenails several meters long and curling back in on themselves.

Within Lythvard’s hallucination, he spoke to the blue dragon he saw before him. In their conversation, Darilth was clearly confused by her situation. She asked Lythvard why she couldn’t move. Lythvard communicated the Archmage’s message to her but she was clearly confused by her situation.

Back in the real world, Lythvard was babbling nonsense. Thybalt, still in kobold form, continued to appease the three kobold shamans who were attending to Darilth. He talked of the prophet and his communion with Darilth. Vorax interjected saying that Darilth was in danger with the armada of The Three approaching.

In the dream conversation, Darilth asked for Lythvard’s help. He told her that the Archmage could probably help her. She asked Lythvard to take her to the Archmage for help. With that, Lythvard woke up.

A discussion ensued as to what the group should do. The options discussed primarily revolved around using the kobold’s ship to sneak away from Flotilla (their inability to sail the ship themselves complicated this) or aiding the people of Flotilla against the attack.

As they discussed their options, a group of women on another ship caught their attention and extended an invitation to Rawdon (and his companions) to meet with Captain Weaver. The group eventually decided to accept the invitation and were led towards The Web. After a journey across Flotilla (which the compass confirmed was leading them directly to the Ley King Loadstone) they arrived at a ship called the Deceit of the Serpent and were ushered in to meet with the beautiful Captain Weaver.

During the meeting, Captain Weaver offered Rawdon a place by her side (she could smell his strength as a fighter…). Vorax confirmed with the compass that the Ley King Stone was in the room, and Captain Weaver admitted as much, pointing to where she kept it hidden. Captain Weaver became irritated after Vorax challenged her commitment to the fight and Rawdon stalled on giving her a straight answer. In the end Rawdon gave her a straight refusal and Captain Weaver revealed her more arachnid side. Rawdon punched her in the face…

As the fight broke out the “Swarm Prince” spoke to Lythvard and talked him into a peaceful, sleep-like state. Captain Weaver used her magic-enhanced feminie guile to pull at Rwadon’s heart strings, but with the power of the High Druid, Rawdon was able to stay in the fight.

Meanwhile Thybalt and Vorax dealt with both half-arachnid and human guards who came to Captain Weaver’s aid. During the fight a curtain was pulled down revealing shelves filled with glass jars containing organs of some sort. Thybalt noticed that one of the humans attacking them had a scar across their chest above his heart. It appeared that Captain Weaver and her kin were controlling the people of The Web with some magic which involved removing their hearts.

Most of the group struggled against the mental and physical assaults of Captain Weaver and her crew. Fortunately, Vorax was fighting with an unnerving ferocity, dropping guards with ease and even decapitating the Swarm Prince (freeing Lythvard from his magical influence in the process). After felling the Swarm Prince, Vorax moved to aid Rawdon against Captain Weaver while Lythvard and Thybalt dropped the remaining mooks. With two strokes from Vorax’s sword (and an assist from a recovering Rawdon) Captain Weaver was felled and fell through a hole in the hull (accidently created by Lythvard) after a last longing look to Rawdon.

Searching the cabin the group found the Ley King Loadstone, a compass, and some other loot. The group then made their way for the Blood Quarter to return the Ley King Loadstone to the vampire Nicodimus. Unfortunately before they could reach the vampires, the shadows of dragons across the decks heralded the coming of dragons. Around them the people of Flotilla scurried to defend Flotilla. However their attacks were held as the dragons ended up being metallic dragons. They landed near the group and a bronze dragon approached them and spoke to Thybalt. It said that the Great Gold Wyrm had sent them to fight along side the party.

View
Of Priorities and Privateers
Session 21

After a short discussion the group offered to try track down the Ley King Loadstone (which appeared to be in the Web) for the vampire elder Nicodimus, though the mission to find Darilth (a blue dragon cursed and exiled by the Three hundreds of years ago) hung over them as well. It was a crisis of priorities with the Armada of the Three proverbially rumbling on the horizon like an angry storm: they had to find the Loadstone before it disappeared, but if they fail to find Darilth for the Archmage, the consequences for the Dragon Empire may be even greater.

Robbin was given a compass by the vampires to help the group track down the Ley King Loadstone.

Thybalt also felt some consciousness emanating from Aejis Lothsvir, the magic red sword he inherited. He found a few moments of privacy to draw his sword and commune with it. It’s usual matt red finished had become a polished red metal, and Thybalt could see his own reflection in the blade. Only, it was not his face – it was like he was sharing a face with someone, or something, else. The thoughts “I must not fall before I complete my mission. We must be allowed to complete our mission. Aid will be summoned” fell upon Thybalt’s inner mind before the blade returned to its normal matt finish.

It was decided that the group should follow the direction given by the compass (and planning to question any kobolds they might chance to encounter). The decks of Flotilla were a hive of activity. As they moved along the group saw a Shapen woman being accosted by a growing mob of people accusing her of cowardice. As Vorax moved to intercept the situation, Thybalt as a monkey swung in and grabbed her out of harm’s way.

The woman, Cepae, expressed her gratitude to Thybalt saying that she owed him. She warned the group against staying on Flotilla and said that the group would be welcome to leave with the Shapen as they were to leave to make a new home with their creator, an ancient elf who had been imprisoned by the Elf Queen but was now free. Some smooth talking from Thybalt convinced Cepae to help them for a short time.

Moving through the bowel of a ship, Vorax caught some movement that indicated an ambush was being hastily laid. Robin used a mirror to identify a half-orc and a troll waiting to ambush them above. As the group quickly tried to decide whether to go forwards or backwards an ettin came up from behind and cut off their escape route.

The ettin charged to attack while the half-orc ordered the troll to “grab the girl”. Vorax and Thybalt fought the troll and half-orc to protect “the girl” Robbin while Lythvard and Rawdon handled the ettin. The initial assault from the ambushers hammered the party hard. The battle was intense, particularly against the troll which Robbin and Vorax struggled to hit. Fortunately, Thybalt’s spells were more effective and he dropped the troll once. The troll rose again though, requiring Vorax to put it down again. Robin’s efforts to find flame to finish the troll permanently were less than successful.

Meanwhile, Rawdon’s axe and Lythvard’s spells were much more effective against the ettin. With the ettin and troll downed the half-orc quickly sued for peace. He insisted that it was just business and offered to pay the group what he would have been paid to give Robbin to the Shapen leaders. After many threats the group eventually agreed and the half-orc fled leaving a bag of 500 gold coins behind.

Moving on, the party spotted a kobold rummaging in a barrel. Despite making a bad first impression the party was able to get directions to a ship called the Dirty Trident. It took them off course from the Ley King Loadstone but they soon found the ship crewed by kobolds.
Thybalt magically disguised himself as a kobold to infiltrate the ship and try find Darilth. Lythvard became a rat-catching snake to accompany Thybalt on board. Kobold Thybalt and snake Lythvard began searching the ship under the guise of rat catchers. Deep in the ship they found six kobolds in ceremonial armour and other priests indicating that the kobolds had established a temple for Darilth in the ballast section of the ship.

Back above deck the group discussed the plan of attack to get access to Darilth. In the end it seemed to be decided that they would take a direct approach and try to convince the kobolds that Darilth needed to be protected from the approaching armada of the Three.

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Of Flight, Fight, and Flotilla
Session 20

Pelaios Tallstag led the group through Flotilla’s Hell Quarter to a private cabin on a ship. The cabin was dimly lit with magical red fires. A pair of small Tiefling children played quietly in the corner. Pelaios immediately identified the group as outsiders and asked why he shouldn’t identify them as such. The group explained in vague terms what their mission was (leaving out the names of their patrons).

As the conversation continued a black mist swirled into the cabin through a window and coalesced into a pale human soon identified as Octavian. Octavian informed Pelaios that Nicodemus had called a Meeting of the Four Quarters. This was a very rare occasion, the last having occurred before Pelaios was born. On his way out, Palelos pointed them in the direction of a Master Fear, a magician on a ship called the Hellish Whore.

Lythvard and Vorax left the group behind to find Master Fear. After some searching they found the Hellish Whore and went on board and began searching for Master Fear. Directed to deck two, they found a likely looking door, with the smell of sulphur and alchemical reagents suggesting that they had found Master Fear’s abode. Inside was a tiefling alchemist. Confirmed as Master Fear, Lythvard and Vorax began talking and eventually admitted to being servants of the Archmage and that their presence on Flotilla was a quest in the service of the Archmage. Master Fear (also a follower of the Archmage) didn’t know of Darilth but did agree to give them identities to help the Vorax and Lythvard blend into Flotillan society better. He also directed them to a library in the Blood Quarter on a galley called the Insanity of the South, suggesting that they might find something about Darilth there. And with that, Master Fear began training Lythvard and Vorax in the ways of Flotilla to help develop identities for themselves.

Later in the evening, Master Fear’s imp came in and gave him some news. The news intrigued Master Fearand he immediately turned to his scrying cauldron. An image of a meeting took shape in the cauldron. Around the table sat three members from each of the four quarters. They could see Pelelos representing the Hell Quarter and his visitor Octavian sitting for the Blood Quarter. There were twelve grooves carved into a raised circular dais in the center of the large meeting table. In the center of this circular dias was a smooth, grey stone, roughly the shape and size of a dragon egg. Master Fear told Lythvard and Vorax that the stone was called the Ley King Loadstone, and it was the heart of Flotilla.

To start the meeting, each of the representatives placed their compass into slots on the table. Eleven compasses were expected because the twelfth compass disappeared with the Prince of Shadows, millennia ago. So the Vampires of the Blood Quarter were only expected to put two compasses into the grooves. All of the needles on the compasses pointed towards the Ley King Loadstone.

However, murmurs of confusion immediately spread around the table as it become apparent that there were only ten compasses in the grooves. The representatives from The Womb were missing a compass! The murmurs of confusion soon became shouts of anger and accusatory finger-pointing. The thre vampires sat quietly and calmly because they had been expecting this reaction. After the ruckus had died down, they calmly explained that a ground-hugger had come to Flotilla and warned them that the Three had possession of the missing compass, and were even now preparing to attack Flotilla (adding significance to the dragon attack as the group flew over Flotilla upon arriving). Before the conversation could continue further, Nicodemus appeared to look out through the image in the scrying cauldron and make eye contact with Lythvard and Vorax. Just as Nicodemus said he felt they were being watched, the scrying cauldron went dark and silent.

Flustered by proceedings, Master Fear saw Lythvard and Vorax out. After a quick discussion about the situation, they decided to head back to the group to drop off the compass before heading for the library. On their way back they saw masses of people moving towards a common point. Lythvard and Vorax went with the flow expecting to hear news from the meeting. Their suspicions proved correct as they found Pelaios informing the tieflings of the Hell Quarter about the news of the impending attack. The Armada of the Three had taken to the air and could meet Flotilla in battle within a day. He told them that the vampires and the citizens of the Web were going to stay and fight. The Shapen from the Womb said that Flotilla should be disbanded to scatter from the attack. Palaios gave the citizens of the Hell Quarter the choice as to whether to flee or fight (although he gave permission for any individual ship to leave if they felt it best).

Pelaios allowed the tieflings to discuss the matter. During the discussion Lythvard and Vorax made their way forward and caught the eye of Pelaios as well as Thybalt and Rawdon (Robbin remained missing). After some discussion Pelaios called for a vote. The voting method was to designate one ship to represent “stay and fight” and another ship to represent “scatter to the winds”. The Tieflings would stand on the ship that represented their vote, and whichever ship rode lower in the air would win.

Vorax argued to remove the party of four heroes from the decision by splitting their vote across the two ships, so as not to affect the outcome. Pelaios overheard this and appreciated the nobility of the sentiment and asked them to simply remove themselves from both boats. However the bearing of the group did have an influence on the vote nonetheless. The strong yet considerate bearing of Vorax influenced many into believing that the fight could be won. Lythvard also fell into a strange trance brough on by the High Druid. As Lythvard mumbled to himself, a flock of giant eagles arrived and perched on many of the ships, the omen giving faith to many of the tieflings below. They voted to fight.

After the vote, Lythvard handed off the compass to Thybalt. Then he and Vorax went off to find the library. On their way to the library, the witnessed a change in the in people of Flotilla. In some ways, chaos had broken out as Flotillans prioritised saving their own skin, gathering supplies and finding ways to untether their ships from the Flotilla. But just as many Flotillans had a quite resolve about them as they prepared ballistae and piles of arrows for the defence agains the oncoming armada.

The library, made from two ships, one atop the other, was in chaos. Lythvard went to work searching for some census records without success. Vorax saw an old vampire moving about with a purpose. The vampire was preparing a ward to protect the library. Vorax and Lythvard helped the vampire with his task (Vorax carrying books and Lythvard actually being useful with magic stuff).

After helping the old vampire they asked him about looking for some records. The vampire knew the name Darilth but could barely remember where he knew the name from. After wracking his memory, he said that about 700 years ago a ship of kobolds brought a comatose human to Flotilla, requesting permission for her to stay on Flotilla. Usually Flotilla doesn’t welcome outsiders, but their granted the kobold their wish because this outsider couldn’t move nor talk, and thus was no threat to Flotilla’s secret existence. This shell of a human was called Darilth.

The vampire then mused about a series of writings he had been fascinated with for years. The writings span a period of about 700 years, appearing once every hundred years or so. He found one of the writings and gave it to Vorax and Lythvard. It read:

“What manner of torment be this? I know not my name, I know not my body. I know I have a history, but I remember it not. I recognize not these with which I write. I see these hands form these words on this page and know that this be not my handwriting. Everyday I wake to see new hands before my eyes. Nay, someone else’s eyes also. What torment be this? When will it end?”

From reading the journal-like entry, Lythvard and Vorax surmised that it was written by Darilth as she transferred from one person to another each day. They made the connection to the Dawn Delerium and rushed to find Vox, the Halfling cobbler who that had met the previous afternoon. Vorax had suspected that Vox had been under the influence of the Dawn Delerium. They found his ship just before dawn and Vox’s wife let them in to try wake him as she couldn’t. Vorax managed to wake him by whispering to Darilth in the cobbler’s ear. But Vox was no clearer than before despite Vorax’s urging to Darilth. As Darilth/Vox seemed to be pulled back down into a magical slumber the Halfling mouth murmured the words “dark… damp… ropes… kobolds” before falling silent.

Vorax was too tired to continue the search so they retired back to Pelaios’s quarters where they found Thybalt keeping watch. Vorax and Lythvard then managed to sleep for a few hours before being awoken by Robbin who had entered the cabin in the company of several vampires, one of which was Nicodemus himself. Robbin told the party that they had to return the compass to the vampires because it belonged to them (which the rest of the group had also found out in her absence). Vorax spoke up admitting to having the compass and having just recently learned of its significance to the vampires. He said that they had been planning to return it to them because it was the only way they could think of to prove that they would no longer be a threat to Flotilla. Vorax said they would return it but asked in exchange for permission to leave Flotilla when the time came. Nicodemus agreed to the deal because Robbin had previously proven herself a friend of Flotilla, but Nicodemus still promised threats of bloody retribution if they ever spoke of their time on Flotilla to anyone.

It was agreed to and the compass was handed over just as another vampire materialised and informed Nicodemus that the Ley King Loadstone had been stolen. Nicodemus screamed in rage…

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Of Delirium and Darilth
Session 19

Flashback

Back in Horizon Lythvard met up with Sebastian Redtail, a mouthpiece for the Priestess and the Church. Sebastian questioned Lythvard about his progress in finding out what the Archmage is searching for. Lythvard mentioned that Superior Barrick had them looking for Flotilla and someone in there. The contact thanked him for the information and assured him that his debt to the Priestess had been fulfilled.

Present

Outside, Robbin continued to tail the two sailors who had taken an interest in Rawdon. From talk around her she picked up that she was entering an area known as “the Web”. She saw them go into a ship called the Deceit of the Serpent. With that information she turned back to the Sad & Merry.

Meanwhile, the man who had been previously saved from committing suicide by Vorax entered the tavern with a posse of his friends. A lot of the posse members appeared to have animal parts grafted onto their bodies. One used a prehensile tail to help load a crossbow. Another had a fat pink tentacle growing out of his chest. And one brute had the arms of a gorilla and a third muscly leg to form a stable tripod base for his think frame. After a brief attempt at apologizing and placating the man a fight broke out. During the fight Lythvard (as a gorilla) and Rawdon drew the adulation of the crowd with their bloody kills. Thybalt on the other hand drew their laughs as accidentally sliced a barrel of pickled octopus its sticky contents fell all over him. Robbin returned to the tavern mid-fight, dispatched one three-legged thug (angering Rawdon who was facing him) and then tried to reason with the man who had initiated the fight (and since lost his will to fight). Unfortunately, Robbin’s treatment of the men set off the crowd who had bet on the outcome of the fight. The group were lucky to escape with the unconscious Dawn Delirium victim from the general melee that had erupted.

Back out in the sunlight, the group licked their wounds and looked for somewhere to lay low and talk. Robbin led the group to a garden ship she had noticed on her earlier journey. Lythvard concocted a brew to revive the man who they discovered was named Hip. They tried to question him without giving themselves totally away but failed fairly miserably. Dropping any pretense of fitting in they tried to get as much information as they could from Hip.

They discovered that Flotilla has four quarters: the Hell Quarter (run by tieflings), the Web (where the Dawn Delirium has been a problem for generations), the Blood Quarter (where it seems that vampires extract a blood tithe from those that live there), and the Womb (…). Unfortunately, Hip hadn’t heard of Darilth. Hip also described how he had been affected by the Dawn Delirium losing effectively losing a day of his life. Apparently his friends said that he was very out-of-sorts all day… in additional to the psychotic episode where he killed his wife.

Eventually it was decided that they should head for the Hell Quarter so Thybalt could try gather some information for them. Robbin said she wanted to go do some shopping and did so against the wishes of the group. The rest of the group followed Thybalt’s instincts on which way to go. Along the journey they crossed the ship of a halfling man (Vox) who seemed very disoriented, not seeming to know where he was. Vorax stopped the group to talk to the man. The halfling cobbler didn’t seem to know what he was doing with his tools and couldn’t even match an appropriately sized shoe to Vorax’s foot. As he was leaving, Vorax asked him if he knew the name Darilth and for a moment he seemed to but then he couldn’t remember. His wife (?) put her head up from below deck to get him down for dinner. She mentioned that he had been acting oddly all day. The group moved on although Vorax felt conflicted about leaving the woman in potential danger.

Meanwhile, Robbin had made her way back to the Deceit of the Serpent and tried to talk her way onto the ship to talk to Captain Weaver. Although very persistent she was unsuccessful. One of the men she had followed earlier came up on to the deck and recognised her from the Sad & Merry. He made a deal that if she brought Rawdon back to the ship then she could get in to talk to the Captain.

Eventually the group found its way to the tiefling-populated Hell Quarter. Thybalt found a tiefling “gentlemen” to talk to. The tiefling didn’t seem to buy Thybalt’s story of just being a traveller but certainly recognized him as being non-local. And being a new-comer he said it would be best to get Thybalt somewhere safe…

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Of Council and Corruption [Part 2]
Session 12

While the rest of the party went to Clan Copperhelm, Robbin went to check Bili Ironfist’s office. She was able to trace the air shafts to open vent, which she entered to attempt to reach the office. As she worked her way closer to the office, Robbin encountered water, which became deeper and deeper the closer she got. She tried swimming underwater, but the distance seemed too great to attempt unaided. Temporarily stymied, Robbin backed out and attempted to figure out how to get into the office.

Meanwhile, Thybalt, Lithvard, and Marek walked to Clan Copperhelm territory, where they found Garnan Silverhammer, the enormously fat leader of Copperhelm. Silverhammer was also a Council member and Master of the Coin, but he had been suspended from the Council pending an investigation into claims he has been stealing from Forge coffers.

Silverhammer revealed that Redarm and Graybeard had conspired to get an exclusive contract to supply arms to the army, cutting Clan Copperhelm out in the process. When Silverhammer objected, he was arrested by Bili Ironfist. Ironfist had not produced any evidence, and appeared to be stalling the case, which would prevent Silverhammer from opposing the upcoming war.

Near Ironfist’s office, Robbin rummaged through her equipment, turning up a waterbreathing elixir she had obtained previously. After drinking the potion, Robbyn reentered the vent, swimming easily through the water-filled pipe that had defeated her earlier. Emerging into Ironfist’s bath, she located a trapped drawer containing the Warden’s private files. She found the files on Belinis Coldflayer, Garnan Silverhammer, and the kidnapping investigation. Belinis Coldflayer was betrothed to Yenli’s son, but the files Robbin found documented Belinis’ long history of infidelity.

Robbin reported back to the party, omitting information about the kidnappings. They reported the findings to Redarm, who was pleased to receive a pretext to call off his son’s wedding (along with a wagonload of gold). In exchange, he provided a magical sphere to Lithvard, along with finely crafted equipment for the party. The sphere was perfectly round, a feat of workmanship that none in the Dragon Empire had ever been able to reproduce. Yenli had hoped to reverse engineer it, but was unable to learn anything from it. Finding no other purpose for the curio, he let Lythvard have it.

Out of time, the party left Forge to await the decision of the Council. They had worked hard to sway the Clan leaders to vote for peace, but, regardless of the outcome of the vote, it would be best to be away when the decision was made. Once out of Forge and back in Lougheed, Lythvard assumed the form of a crow to observe the actions of the dwarves.

As dawn broke, the gates of Forge opened, and the mighty Dwarf army marched forth, going to war. Lythvard returned to tell his companions the dreadful news, then collapsed into a seizure. Robbin began idly playing with her hair. Thybalt set up a hammock, to get some rest while he could. Marek drew his new dwarf-forged sword and began to sharpen it, preparing for what was to come. . .

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Of Council and Corruption [Part 1]
Session 12

The companions looked down at their fallen foe. The unconscious golemnist lay crumpled by the door in an untidy heap. Momnorlum quickly searched his robes, and produced a Stormcleave clan pendant.

Lithvard and Marek worked together, Lithvard mixing chemicals to awaken the Dwarf, Marek going to work using pain to extract information. Robbin was disgusted by these actions, but her protests fell on deaf ears. Finally, the prisoner confessed that he was sent by the Warden, Bili Ironfist, to deal with the inconvenient existence of Marek.

The adventurers returned to Adalagin Bluefist’s office with Momnorlum, only to discover that the Pebblebeard clan leader was absent, likely attending the mourning celebrations in the common hall. While waiting for Robbin and Momnorlum to locate Bluefist, Lythvard, Thybalt, and Marek were disturbed by mysterious noises, as of dripping, oozing, and laughter, coming from the walls, furniture, and various unidentifiable sources. None were able to locate the source, despite frantic searching, and finally gave up.

When Bluefist returned, he disclosed further background of the politics of The Forge. Clan Steelfire’s Yenli Redarm’s son was betrothed to a woman from another clan, and Redarm wanted to cancel the wedding without suffering any political fallout. Clan Ironeye’s Valdag Graybeard hated the Diabolist to an extreme degree.

With this information in hand, the party set out to speak first with Graybeard. A drunken Ironeye Sergeant directed them to a magma-heated sauna, where Graybeard was preparing for the upcoming war. The Clan leader revealed that he had previously failed the Dwarf King, and felt a need to redeem himself in battle. Thybalt and Marek drew upon their shared hatred of the Diabolist to plant a seed of doubt in Graybeard’s mind regarding the justness of the war, which may have been enough to sway his vote when the Council meets to reconsider the war against the orcs.

Robbin made a separate investigation of the commercial district, locating a foul-smelling dwarven male servant of the Sisterhood. He warned her to leave the kidnapping cases alone, and to stop all investigations into the matter. He also gave Robbin a fine short sword which seemed to have some sort of enchantment.

Armed with a letter of introduction from Bluefist, the rest of the party met with Yenli Redarm. Redarm took the party to the Lava Flows, the heat source of the forge, and explained that he had promised to marry his son to a woman of clan Ironeye, Belinda Coldplay, but was having second thoughts about his son marrying a dirty Ironeye woman. While he made no promises, Redarm intimated that solving his son’s problem could help him be more favorably inclined to vote for peace on the council, especially when the party offered to “compensate” him for the profits he would miss out if war were averted and demand for his weapons reduced.

After reuniting with Robbin, the party was ambushed by a group of drunken xenophobic Ironeye warriors while en route to Clan Copperhelm territory. The group decisively trounced the attackers, despite a clumsy fall from the walkway into an aqueduct by Marek.

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Of Forge and Funeral [Part 2]
Session 11

The half-orc looked up from his seated position on the floor as Bili Ironfist entered the cell.

“What is it with you Cambion Scurge? Why do you always have to go and make a mess of everything?” Ironfist asked, not expecting much of an answer.

“Gotta send a message, make an example.” The half-orc replied.

“Well, ye sent a message all right. Now Clan Pebblebeard are incensed and old Bluefist is demanding I do something about the mess you left in their communal hall.”

“We had a deal, dwarf.”

“Aye, that we did, that we did. But I cannot protect ye if yer not subtle with these things.”

A silent pause as both of them stopped to think.

“You stay in the cell and think about the problems yer causing me, while I try and figger out what t’do with you,” commanded Ironfist as he turned to leave.

Ironfist paused in the doorway, and glanced back over his should to look at the half-orc.

“Honestly, though, I think the easiest thing will be to just have ye killed and throw yer body into a magma flow somewhere.”

The funeral dispersed and the dwarves began to trickle out of the Foundry and return to their respective clanholds to continue the party. The three adventurers followed the crowd out of the Foundry and into a low tunnel, heading for Stormcleave territory, believing that that was where they were most likely going to find the half-orc murderer.

They soon found themselves in the Stormcleave communal hall, which was filled with dwarves singing, dancing, and throwing back mugs of ale. A small crowd had gathered to listen to one dwarf who was standing on a table, spinning a tale. The three adventurers listened closely, and they realized the dwarf was giving an account of how they forced a half-orc to surrender his weapons and threw him in a cell.

After the tale had been told, the three adventurers discretely approached the dwarf and asked about the half-orc. He told them where the half-orc was currently being help.

They extracted themselves from the festivities, with the sound of the party fading into the distance behind them as the traversed the meandering tunnels, looking for the holding cells. They soon found the cells guarded by a sentinel-like dwarven warrior, whose face was as immobile and impassive and the stone statue he was standing next to.

The party first tried the fool the guard by telling him that they had orders from Ironfist to escort the prisoner elsewhere, but the guard would not be taken in. Lythvard tried to taunt the guard, to goad him into arresting him, believing that once Lythvard was inside the cells, he could transform into a small animal and escape. The guard, though, was not interesting in arresting ill-mannered elves and hoisted his battleaxe, making it clear that the dwarf intended to deal with this threat using deadly force.

And before anybody could stop to think, the situation had escalated into a fight to the death.

The stone statue sprang to life, carrying out its programmed function of keeping those inside the cells inside, and those outside, outside.

Robbin kept her head and tried to talk them all down from fighting, but Thybalt and Lythvard probably would have preferred her to help out in the combat, as they found the dwarven guard and stone golem to be formidable opponents.

In a nearby cell, the half-orc could hear the sound of fighting. Thinking that this might be an opportunity to escape, he began to try and bash down the sturdy cell door. He bounced off it painfully on the first attempt, but on the second attempt it gave way to his brute force. He found himself in a small corridor with a door at one end, and behind that door he could hear fighting.

On the other side of the door, the four combatants traded blows in the cramped room. The dwarven guard felled the elven druid, but was too busy fighting Thybalt to prevent Robbin reviving Lythvard with a healing potion.

The door flung open and the half-orc joined the fray, unarmed. Thybalt cast a spell at the dwarf, intending to knock him unconscious, but spells are difficult to control. It proved to be too powerful, killing the dwarf outright.

With Lythvard back on his feet and the dwarven guard out of the way, it did not take long for them to destroy the stone golem. With no time for formal introductions, the half-orc grabbed his possessions from a nearby shelf and quickly left the area.

They moved at fast-paced yet stooped walk as they traversed the low dwarven tunnels, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the Stormcleave cells as possible. Introductions were made along the way: the half-orc’s name was Marek and, given Chief Warden Ironfist’s new attitude towards him, Marek was quite content to accompany his liberators to a meeting with Councilor Bluefist.

They passed a few small groups of revelers in the tunnels, but none of them paid them much attention.

They saw one young dwarf standing guard outside a dwelling. A dwarven woman was talking to him, begging him to join the wake festivities. He tried to explain that he had been order to guard the crime scene, but she batted her eyelids enticingly, and the guard muttered something about “ok, just an ale or two” as he abandoned his post and wandered down the corridor with the woman on his arm.

Not wanting the let an opportunity to sate curious minds go to waste, the four adventurers were soon inside the dwelling, investigating the crime scene. Blood stained the stone floor, and the wooden cupboards appear to have burst from the inside out, with wood splinters scattered about the dwelling. But yet the four of them could find no sign of entry or exit, forced or otherwise. The victim – the occupant of the dwelling – was some kind of tinkerer. Strange contraptions littered workbenches, along with a plethora of strange looking tools and raw working materials. Those of the party even the least bit familiar with gnomish devices could tell that these contraptions were a very poor imitation, and none of them were functional in any way. In fact, one wonders if a six-year old dwarf with a hammer and lump of cheap iron could do a better job.

They left the crime scene before the guard came back, and passed him in the corridor later, catching him correcting his belt buckle. They soon crossed the chasm that marked the border of Pebblebeard and Stormcleave territory.

If one was looking closely, it would have been possible to see a very faint expression of surprise flicker across Councilor Adalagin Bluefist’s face as he saw a half-orc accompany the three visiting adventurers into his chamber. The ensuing conversation included Marek’s account of what happened, and what to do next. Bluefist was keen to use Marek’s testimony to bring down Bili Ironfist. Bluefist was a bit disturbed that a dwarf had been killed to free Marek. But, staying positive, Bluefist found a measure of relief in the fact that there were no witnesses to the death. Nevertheless, Ironfist would immediately suspect Bluefist’s involvement, so Bluefist urged Marek to stay with him, where it was safe, because it was quite likely that Ironfist would try to find a way to eliminate Marek.

The party, however, were more interested in the spate of kidnappings they had heard about… and seen the aftermath of. They asked Bluefist what he knew of the kidnappings. He told them that dwarves were being taken from all clans, there’s no indication of how the kidnappers are getting in and out of their victims dwellings, the kidnappings are very violent and the victims get badly hurt, and sometimes they find a red hat left behind. When quizzed about the red hats, Bluefist said that they were all different kinds of hats, that had been stained red. Perhaps it was some kind of calling card, Bluefist mused. The adventurers asked Bluefist where the most recent kidnapping in Clan Pebblebeard had been, so he sent Momnorlum to guide them to the scene of the kidnapping.

As they stepped into the Pebblebeard dwelling where the most recent kidnapping had occurred, the party immediately noticed several similarities – and also several differences – with the previous crime scene. Splinters of wood were scattered around the scene also, but this time it was not cupboards that had exploded but several wooden chests. There were signs of struggle and a lot of dried up blood, but this time the struggle had been in the bedroom, and it was the bedsheets, not the floor, that was caked with dried blood.

They asked Momlornum about the victim, and he told them that the victim was an idiot, born with “sumthin’ missing inside,” and was not much use to the clan except for doing some laundry. And he couldn’t even be relied on to do that properly.

The party continued to poke around the dwelling, looking for clues. There was one room full of bedsheets, a mountain of clean bedsheets and a mountain of dirty bedsheets, presumably because the victim had been responsible for cleaning them.

Before they could complete their investigation, Momlornum hissed that someone was coming, and hands quickly went to sword hilts or began the first movements of a magic spell. They watched in dread anticipation as the door handle on the closed outer door slowly turned, and then the door flew open and a stream waist-high grayish brown figures swarmed into the room, followed by a mysterious dwarf, features concealed by an oversized hood and cloak.

Although their vocabularies knew no word for their opponents, the four adventurers were facing an small army of midget-sized clay golems. But it appears that the golemist assassin had underestimated his quarry. Lythvard took advantage of the fact that the golems were still clustered together to unleash a storm of ice upon them. The dwarven golemist responded by launching a clay golem through the air with but a flick of his wrist. The airborne increased velocity and moulded itself into a javelin shape as it moved through the air towards Thybalt. The battle continued with the adventurers cutting down the clay golems as they tried to swarm over them, while dodging the clay javelins the golemist was launching into the mix. Before long, the adventurers had dealt with the golems, so the golemist turned to run. They managed to intercept him at the door and render him unconscious. Picking globs of clay out their armor and hair, the party waited for their would-be assassin to come to, so they could get some answers to some burning questions.

GM’s notes:

  • The only reason Marek was able to escape from a finely-engineered dwarven prison cell, crafted from the strongest stone and reinforced with iron, is because he rolled a natural 20.
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