Played: February-March 2017
Adventurers Present: Jinva, Nargrim, Valas, Odde, Alice, Aust, Jag, Jace, and NEW Theodore Fix-It
A Festival of Sorts
Consciousness comes to the group in Ricknall's tavern and each comes down to a simple breakfast...and an unconscious Jace spread out on his back in the center of the dining hall with an arrow stuck in his chest. Wrapped about the shaft is a letter from Keddigan: "He's your problem now."
...After force-feeding the dark elf a potion, the party is treated to a warm gathering of thankful townspeople just outside the tavern, brought there by a beaming Ricknall. Medivh thanks the adventurers once more as a renewed Nioki, clutching his owl bear plushie, and the more reserved Hanna appear from behind her. Nioki gifts Jag with a druid-crafted bracelet, and Hanna hands Aust a small sketch that she drew of him in his armor. The reception is overwhelming for some still in their room, and Jinva, Alice, and Odde escape out their windows and make their way to the festival on their own.
The festival is vibrant and fun, many of the group discovering new talents, tricks, and interests. Alice and Jag do their best to eat the marketplace out of house and home, cleaning them of all their ham and cake stock. Odde tries his hand at a local arm-wrestling competition...and does well enough to earn the interest of an amazonian knight named Siera Samoset. Jace tries the competition, too, but attempts to cheat, which Siera finds rather unacceptable, hurling him into the pig pen.
The evening draws to a close with a swapping of stories from Gavin the Great and Lady Samoset, with Odde attempting to pull sway in the conversation with horrible puns and poor timing. Despite acting like an idiot, Siera gifts him with a kiss to remember her by, and leaves before the evening ends, donning her winged helm and disappearing into the night. One by one, the group falls asleep, pleased with their accomplishments and eager to see where they will go next...
The Kalifus Steppes
Eager to get moving, Nargrim rises early to see to securing transportation. In his roaming, he notices that Arobane's shop door is open a crack. Briefly curious, the dwarf pushes the door open and sees a horrific scene laid out before him. The floors a splattered with red blood, the walls and shelves are broken and trashed, and it looks like someone left in a hurry.
Nargrim decides that, frankly, he doesn't give a damn, tells no one, and returns to the tavern to gather his allies.
The party awaits him alongside Medivh and a horse-drawn carriage. Jace and Aust notice that the carriage has a driver...made of wind. Medivh explains that her spell is limited, but it should get you wherever you'd like to go. Aust had been doing research during the festival, and explains that his oath of vengeance binds him to find and permanently end the demon known as "Gerald." He believes that he has learned of his location based upon clues during their encounter with him - he resides in the swamp ruins of Dreadmire.
Medivh is alarmed, but wishes the heroes luck, with Nioki adding to the cuteness.
Medivh's gift is a fast-traveling acceleration elemental, and the carriage speeds through time and space, granting the heroes rest and travel across the continent in record time. In a few short hours, they find themselves at the edge of the nation of Yakaran, approaching the fabled Kalifus Steppes.
Mist and steam emanate from the cracks between dark navy stones spilling forward toward sets of floating terraces that rise into a dense fog, and a large crevasse below them that falls to darkness.
Jace and others recall that, according to legend, the steppes maintain their perpetual levitation due to the surge of magical energy created by a beholder god crashing into a dragon and dragging it into the depths below.
As the party ponders this idea, they take note of another curious sight. There, with a ramshackle merchant tent made of two trash barrels, a wooden board, and painted rags, sits a well-dressed red kobold. His clothes look a little big for him, but he wears them with confidence as he perks up and greets the party with gusto.
The kobold's name is Theodore Fix-It, an intelligent and motivated artificer and inventor. As he proceeds to sell the party a few bits of trash imbued with power (so he says), the rest of the group begins to experiment with scaling the steppes.
A piercing battle cry sharpens everyone's senses as three harpies fly out from the mists. They flank and swoop toward the group, slicing and dragging the heroes around. Through some quick thinking and some artificer gun-slinging, they make short work of the triplets and begin making their way into the fog...
Fogs of Hallucination
But as they enter the dense mist emanating from the depths, the impatience of others gets many of them turned around and they find the group separated. Jace, Jinva, Theo, and Odde find themselves in a curious land with no sun atop an amber cliffside, looking out at rolling hills of red grass and violet sky. Jinva notes that they may be in the Feywild. As they attempt to get their bearings, though, they are set upon by an organized troop of skeletons...
Meanwhile, the rest of the team is treated to grizzly visions of their future selves lurking in the fog. They hear whispers of their pasts and warnings of their future, some even coming to blows with the specters. Despite the confusion, they push through the dizzying fog...
And find Odde, Jinva, and Theo safely at the top, bandaging themselves up and healing where they can. Theo greets them exuberantly, then gestures over to Jace. The young Drow is waging an epic battle with a stone half-dragon statue, and has already liberated it of several limbs. The group pulls Jace back to his senses, and Theo sets to Mending the poor statue.
The Skybridge of Duros is a marvel of arcane construction. As the group steps onto its wide mass, runic energy crackles under their feet. Each is met with a wave of calming emotions and a sense of safety and protection. As per the inscription upon its entrance,
"We of the Knights of Duros do gift this bridge to oversee the safe transport of all entities to the realms of Io. The first of its kind, but not the last, this Skybridge ensures that all who travel upon it can commit no harm - to one another or to the outside world - nor can any harm befall them. Safe travels, friends of Erena.
Signed with respect.
The Knights of Duros"
Immediately, Jinva and Theo set to work attempting to decipher the intricate arcane spells woven into the stonework and continue to do this for several hours of travel. Theo notices that the patterns are expertly interconnected with layered protection, shields, perpetual dispels, detect thoughts, and an elongated leomund's tiny hut. This pattern reconnects and repeats every two miles or so along the bridge.
Jace tries to draw his blade...and cannot. Jinva attempts to cast a Firebolt...the spell fizzles. And though the bridge appears to have no railings or walls, Odde cannot be thrown off...his momentum slows and he gently rolls off of an invisible, malleable barrier. And as night draws closer and the sun disappears, the party is greeted by waves of firelight from the barrier, casting warmth and healing upon them.
The group spends three days traveling across this bridge, taking in the surroundings. Nothing attacks them, but they do witness a few scaled creatures pass by... Below them, winged creatures soar and above them storm clouds form, and pass, rays of sunlight piercing through the gray sky. It is a beautiful sight, and just for a moment, Aust and Jag find themselves calm and strangely content gazing out to the land below, their homeland's branches reaching up toward the heavens; a natural fortress - Treethorn.
At the dawn of the fourth day, the group comes to a four-way intersection. Jinva takes a moment and listens, while Theo smells. A rush of wind up the sloping exit brings an odor undeniable. The swamp of the Dreadmire lies ahead...
Towers of Brimshire
The swamp is sticky and full of leeches, each member finding their own way, some begrudgingly, through the mess of thick mud, leech-infested waters, gnarled roots and trees, and the dense fog. Nargrim, impatient and headstrong, is the first to reach an outcropping of land, nearly running into it as he trudges forward.
Before him lies a heavy wooden door with a long crossbeam holding it shut. With one look at his axe, with Theo yelling after him, he begins attacking the door. Aust and Jag arrive soon after, the rest of the party working their way through the dense fog. Aust hears a whisper to his left, and spies a tall, crooked figure in the mist, beckoning him over. He is compelled to follow, and leaves without anyone noticing.
The hag is charming, a hooded lantern hanging loose from its belt, but as Aust begins to disappear into the mist, the sound of splintering wood calls his mind back to his allies. He turns back to the hag, who has disappeared. He shrugs, and returns back to the group - where is appears that Nargrim, Jag, Alice, Valas, and Jace have already charged into the tower. Theo, Odde, and Jinva take a moment to survey the area. Theo spies through the mist that the tower appears to be one corner of a massive stone wall, and there is another entrance about 300 feet from their position.
As the three remaining adventurers hatch an alternate plan, movement in the underbrush nearby spooks Theo. He haphazardly hurls 20 pieces of ammunition into a bag, and hurls it toward the noise - Jinva igniting it before impact with a well-timed Fire Bolt.
The explosion is catastrophic. Bits of heavy, stone shrapnel in shapes resembling body parts rain down upon the group, knocking Odde flat and hurling both Theo and Jinva 20 feet away. As the smoke clears, Theo becomes aware of a stone head imbedded in the earth next to him. He is momentarily alarmed to find its mouth moving.
Acting quickly, Theo, Odde, and Jinva recover the pieces of the creature and try to reassemble him. They are in luck! The pieces that were blown off were done so at the joints, and the other pieces of shrapnel are inconsequential to the function of the creature. Theo uses Comprehend Languages to speak primordial, but the entity can speak broken common. It introduces itself as "Four."
Meanwhile, in the tower... Nargrim charges up the three levels of the structure, emerging onto the battlements. Straight ahead is the entrance to a second tower, and below him sits the inner ward, obscured by more mist. The dwarf's eyes catch a flickering candlelight in the far tower, but it is snuffed out. Taking this as a sign, he hastens his pace into the room... Where a tall demon awaits, pouncing upon him...
Jag and Alice stop to take note of the many scrolls, books, and potions lining the shelves of the second and third levels of the first tower. Their eyes are finally drawn to a heavy tome on the third floor; it appears to be a military journal, and the last entry - made nearly 1000 years ago, by the date - expresses the king's gratitude to have such wonderful advisors: Archmage Gerald Hykisian, and Champion Eva Hanshi. They mention the names to Aust, who once again swears vengeance upon Gerald.
Sounds of battle at the adjoining tower sends them over to help, saving Nargrim's skin with some teamwork. On the way, Alice and Jag spy movement in the mist below, within the walls, and notice a horde of undead clawing at the wall, peering up at them.
With the demon dealt with, Nargrim and company, with the help of Four (Theo and Odde riding on his back) plow through what remains of the undead horde, setting most of them on fire in the process. The feat reunites them in the inner ward of the castle, as they take stock of a once vibrant town reduced to a swampy ruin, a grizzly defaced chapel at its center before the castle gates.
Aust is summoned by a familiar voice, unnatural thorns and brambles rising up behind him as he walks toward the chapel doors. Nonetheless, his allies, using whatever means they can think of, traverse over the encroaching wall of plants and stand together as Aust opens the heavy iron door.
The Skeleton Archmage, Gerald, waits for them within, but they cannot see him. He cackles and chides the group, scorning them and thanking them at the same time for accepting his invitation. As Alice explores the choir loft of this dark space, she finds him playing the broken organ, piping discordant sound through the chamber, like dying voices in the night. With a smile wreathed in flame, he attacks.
The fight is brutal. Gerald's teleporting form wreaks havoc on the party, summoning Arcane Hands and powerful evocations. Many fall close to death and it looks dire, until Aust downs a potion of giant strength, flipping a stone table into the mage and knocking him through the wall.
As the dust settles, one blackened skeletal arm inches along the floor, ripped from its owner. Jinva scoops it up, and stuffs it into his bag.
A chuckle pierces through the ringing in their ears, and Alice rushes to the hole, convinced that Gerald lives and is mocking them. She is right, as he is waiting, invisible, for her to stick her face out of the hole, where he stabs her. She falls unconscious out of the hole, and he cackles all the way to the castle doors.
Aust races over and heals Alice, and the party re-groups, licking their wounds and hatching a strategy: enter the castle, and kill Gerald.
The castle proper is mostly dilapidated; the majority of the halls have been caved in or are otherwise impassable. Instead, the group finds themselves in a small lounge, like a reading room. A set of bronze doors lay open before them; they can hear crackling embers and rays of spectral firelight waver deep inside the next room. Deciding to rest, Odde moves up to the threshold and makes to shut the door...as a heavy crossbow bolt slams into his chest.
Everyone draws their weapons and waits, but no other bolts are fired. After a short examination, Odde finds a message attached to the bolt, which he hands off to Theo. It reads:
"The King's Champion invites you to a duel in the next room. I shall grant you a respite before your demise. Please enter when you are prepared. I look forward to your evisceration.
Signed, Szar Verikon."
Not one to be impolite, Theo fashions his own reply, and fires it into the darkness. "And I look forward to your evisceration. Here's to a good time. See you soon!" A few moments pass, and another bolt sings into the room, this time hitting Odde in the back, sending him to the floor.
"Excellent. I'll wait for you by the fire." The door then slams shut, and the party rests.
The King's Champion
Primed and ready, Nargrim leads the slow charge into the dining chamber. Drawn tapestries of tanned, painted leather separate the tables; creating eating partitions and obscuring the central pyre, a luminous column of flame and metal. It is so bright that the dwarf notices the figure standing next to it only after the flames subside, still pulsing gently with unnatural heat.
Waiting there, wicked obsidian great sword resting before them, is a knight clad head to toe in spiked black and red plate mail. The voice that emanates from the armor is feminine. "Well met, warrior. It is difficult to be the first to die, but I think that you will face death with courage. I am the Lady Szar, but this body once belonged to another...named Eva."
Nargrim draws his axe. "I do not care."
"It is rude not to introduce yourself before a duel."
"A strong name." Szar bows. "I will enjoy cutting you down to size." And with a stamp of her foot, arcane energy flows through her armor and her form begins to move faster...
Though Nargrim was the first to engage, everyone joins into this fight. Gerald was a challenge of the arcane, but this "Szar" moves with magical speed and precision, slicing through the party with vicious blows and multiple attacks. It is a fight for their lives, each member barely hanging on.
With luck, and Nargrim's barbarian fortitude, the group comes through. Szar falls, and Theo can't shake the feeling that she is happy about it.
Aust investigates the armor, passing the great blade off to Jag. As the paladin dons the spiked armor, the spikes recede and plating shifts to a radiant steel. He discovers a plate-mail of haste, but is saddened that the charge has been spent already today.
As Szar's body burns away to nothing, the doors ahead creak open. Nargrim, unimpressed, presses onward and emerges into a den. The party joins him, not keen on fighting something new, and spies the silken couches, throw pillows, and comfortable seats. They are also surrounded by seven ornate crystalline sculptures of various creatures...to which Jace shoves into his bag. Poking around further, the drow locates a pair of gauntlets...that try to eat his arms. Jinva saves his butt, and the party rests, preparing for whatever lies beyond the doors...
The Throne Room
Heavy iron doors creak open to reveal a long, opulent throne room. An immaculate red carpet with gold filigree stretches out before the group, before rolling up a set of four stone steps to a leveled terrace with two thrones. One appears constructed out of bone and tendons, while the other shines with brass and gold. In the latter sits a gaunt individual, silver crown resting, tilted, upon its brow. It regards the party quietly for a time, a fine goblet of a red liquid slowly circling in one hand. Then it speaks.
"Welcome, tributes. One champion bested, you come to pay your respects to the lord of this castle. Call me Semedorin - the Immortal King."
Once again, Nargrim draws his axe and stalks toward the king. With an exasperated sigh, the king finishes his goblet and rises from his throne. His form appears frail, hunches, and unarmed...Nargrim swings with great force, catching the man in the side. The axe draws blood, but only punches in maybe an inch. The dwarf pulls the axe away, the king standing up straighter, letting his robes fall. Cracking his neck, the king summons a flaming blade from the ether that surrounds him, and the group watches a set of chains wrap around his arms and torso, moving and shifting to protect him.
A chuckle sends chills through the room, as, from behind one of the pillars, a rejuvenated "Gerald" steps into view. And with that, the real fight begins.
Jag, Jace, and Nargrim attempt to fight the Immortal King, a swirling mass of blades and chains, uttering strange links and echoes of their collected pasts. Aust, Theo, and Jinva set to work on Gerald, eager to put a stop once and for all to the Archmage. Better rested, and more prepared, Aust pours all of his collected light from the power of John and finally smites Gerald's (Verloch's) form into oblivion.
The victory is short-lived, however, as Jag, Nargrim, and Jace each fall against the Immortal King. Odde tries to leap on the thing's back, but is thrown into the wall, sliding down as it cracks. Alice throws him a Healing Word and he's up...and looking through the crack his small body made, light pouring out of the hole. Disinterested or not very confident in his combat prowess, Odde and Alice hack away at the wall, breaking it down while the rest of the group fights for their lives.
Meanwhile, a revived Jag lands a blow with his new great sword, cleaving the king in two... Only to watch both halves crawl toward each other and begin to re-form. The fight becomes a game of keep-away, trying to keep this "immortal king" from reconstituting himself, while dodging arcane bolts and a rising dark liquid that has begun to coat the walls.
Within the secret room, Odde and Alice see pile upon pile of gold and platinum, seemingly overseen by a giant sapphire skull. Both are drawn to the loot, but find themselves transfixed by a carpet tapestry tacked to the far wall. Crowbar in hand, and with Alice's help, Odde pries the tacks off and the carpet...swoops under him.
Jace and Theo begin to surmise that perhaps the crystal artifacts they found might be linked to the king, and Jace takes one out (take of a sabertooth tiger) and smashes it on the ground...only to summon the creature. The party pounces on the new threat, making short work of it, and celebrate the fact that the king bellows in pain as the tiger falls. One by one they summon each creature and felling it, until one last breath escapes the king and melts away into a pool of black ichor.
Bits of the wall and both thrones explode, spewing black, viscous fluid and shards of stone across the throne room. The far doors are blown open as the same black slime begins to spill forward, consuming the carpet and stone. A bellowing roar rings out from the opening, and everyone can a hulking mass dragging something metal behind it trudging toward the room.
Wondering for a way out, Odde scoops up a little gold, then swoops into view above the group, beckoning them to board the flying carpet. Most oblige, but an enraged and resolute Nargrim rises (with 1 Hit Point), draws his axe, and charges toward the hulking zombie giant that has just shoulder checked into the room.
With a primal yell, the barbarian sprints forward and brings his axe down...on open air, as a lasso of hempen rope tightens around his waist and he is lifted just over the behemoth.
With the walls liquifying and crashing waves of deadly, poisonous fluid reach up and down toward them, Jag and Aust press in on the party - already cramped on the carpet - spinning around them and deflecting the goop with their shields.
Despite all odds, they escape the Dreadmire as it is consumed by the Black Mass...
A Moment of Respite and a Time for Goodbyes
The race back to Kilden, the party beaten and weary, is not as easy as one hopes on cramped magic carpet, and the team nearly crashes into a stone wall somewhere in the sky. Eager to get back, they promptly forget about its existence and nearly crash in the thoroughfare of the small town.
Keddigan rushes out to meet them, Layla in hot pursuit, and the party is granted warm beds, fresh food, and never-ending ale for their troubles. It clear that the experience, though liberating for some, was quite taxing on others, and as the group ponders on their next course of action, they are approached by a half-elven woman clad in furs and earth-tone leathers.
She introduces herself as Lily Ironwood, a druid from across the sea, and she has a job for them. Before she can get into it, though, a frustrated Nargrim, tired of these new people, looks to Jinva and Valas, rising from the table, and says, "These people are not our people. We've done what they needed. Let's go." He gathers his things and walks out the door. Jinva ignores this, and does not follow, while Valas charges after his friend. A heartfelt goodbye between the two occurs, Valas pressing a few strips of parchment and a talisman into Nargrim's hands. "To remember us, your friends." Nargrim says nothing, and with a grunt, leaves the group to strike out on his own...
Valas re-enters, emotional and quiet, while Lily explains that she needs to find her sisters, somewhere in the Leylocke region, and she will pay the party 200 gold each for their help in doing so. Eager for something different, they agree, and leave at dawn.