Adventurers Present: Jinva, Valas, Odde, Alice, Aust, Jag, Jace, Theodore, and NEW Charity
As the group mourns the departure of Nargrim, their dwarven barbarian, Lily Ironwood - an earth-tone wearing half-elf - sets to work briefing the party on her mission. Her sisters, Haylee and Vanora, are missing. Vanora is a general, and can take care of herself, but Haylee, Lily's younger sister, went off to the Leylocke region to scout and has not returned for a few weeks. Scrying her yields only darkness and chains; it's clear that she has been captured. Lily contracts the group to help her find and free her sister; she says that she has already secured transportation for the long journey to the East.
In the middle of this conversation, a new face enters the tavern. A tiefling cleric of Pelor named Charity Seedstow, eager to help those in need, aligns himself with Lily's request, taking note of the group's lack of an adequate healer. Though Valas is happy with the newcomer and Jinva is complacent, Aust seems distrustful of the cleric at first. Still uncertain as to what they will find, the group sets off with Lily and her flying coach...
The ride to the Underbrush is faster than expected, the party being gifted with grand sights of great towers in the distance and winged entities flocking to their spires. Alice and Jag in particular wonder what lies beyond the forest and how they might get there.
The group touches down in front of a massive red willow tree, the fallen leaves in a curious pattern. As the coach dissipates to another plane, Lily explains that the formation of leaves was once part of a warding ritual - it keeps unnatural creatures, like fiends and undead, from entering the forest. ...The group crosses it with no trouble, careful not to upset the pattern.
Not long into the forest of red leaves, the group happens upon a small war camp. They try to stay quiet as an apparent captain mutters to himself, tinkering with some sort of projectile weapon, which Theo can't take his eyes off of. At the sight of a few goblins in the center, Jace flies into a rage and rushes them, despite the party's effort to stop him. Their cover blown, Lily also rages, tufts of gray fur and the long snout of a wolf shimmering over her form. She flanks around the side, lightning coursing over her long claws, and lays waste to the two cowering goblins inside one of the tents. Meanwhile, Jace is swarmed by sets of hobgoblin sergeants, and a massive bugbear quartermaster with an obsidian great axe.
Oddly enough, the party fights from a distance, allowing Jace to live with his decision, instead opting to pick off enemies with arrows and some well-placed fireballs. The group lays waste to the camp, with Jace clinging to life. His skirmishers decimated, the captain - his flamethrower now broken and tossed aside - surrenders and is let go. Odde and company, while looting the skirmishers' hoard, also find another curious thing: a tiny goblin, hiding under a straw bed. Theo turns on his charm to the creature, wielding kindness and intelligence with ease. Goblin to kobold, the goblin reveals its name to be Gorignack...and Theo tells the group that he will be responsible for this creature.
Poking the Bear
Battle horns startle the party back to the present...as the captain returns with two fomorian guards, which the group pounce on, and the sound of cavalry charging to their position. Barely defeating the creatures, Theo tinkers an explosive in one of their bodies, then requests that the group tie themselves together and get on the carpet...there are tanks coming.
Realizing that the force of a full army is descending upon them, the group takes to the sky, eager to put as much distance as they can between them and the cannons. But as they pick up speed, the cannons fire. Taking evasive action, they are surprised to find not ammunition being fired at them, but more foes. The carpet is beset by were-bats and half-dragons clawing and slinging spells. The group suffers many close calls; the rope that keeps them together also serving as their bane, as one ally is pulled from the carpet, sending the others with him, and a chaotic tug of war ensues.
In the madness, a panicked Gorignack snags a crossbow and fires into the fray, felling one of his old commanders.
Slowly winning the fight, the group is harried by a flying drow sorcerer - whom Jace recognizes, oddly, as Lawrence Lorescythe, from his brief time in upper crust of the Underdark. Jinva finds this neither interesting nor important, dispelling the creature's fly spell and happily watching him fall to his supposed death.
One stubborn half-dragon remaining, an untied Odde makes a heroic leap of faith onto the creature's face, knocking him off the carpet and sending the two plummeting the 150 feet below to the forest. The impact leaves two craters, and Odde isn't moving, but the half-dragon begins to rise.
Seizing the opportunity, Jace, with his new obsidian axe, turns the carpet downward, careening straight toward the half-dragon sorcerer. Using his axe as a literal point of the spear, he cleaves the half-dragon in half...and slams into the earth beyond it, sending his allies tumbling and spilling into a heap ahead of him.
As the dust settles, the group whirls to a small sound of something clicking behind them, and the last thing they see is an armored rider on the back of griffon before crackling arcane energy sends them into darkness...
The Knights at Avianas
The group is transported to the towers of Avianas; a bastion-trade city led by an order of altruistic mage knights. They are given the lowdown on what's what surrounding the army threatening the northern and eastern ends. The army is led by a general who can command beasts, known only as Dakasumos.
The knights offer aid in striking a blow to the general, to push his forces out of the Underbrush. With some careful scrying, they zone in on the encampment where Lily's sister, Haylee, is being kept. They leave in a few hours.
With a bit of time to kill, Theo and the gang run into trouble with the city's bartering system. Gold means nothing here; merchants trade favors, services, or goods of equal value. In their frustration, they meet a crimson tiefling named Artheek; he seems similarly frustrated with the trade options, but says there's no safer place in all of Io. They chat and trade, and he sends them on their way toward war...
Team Friendly Fire, with the help of Lily Ironwood, and a monk-knight from the order, use a "zip tunnel" to propel themselves through a permanent Transport Via Plants...launching them onto another sortie. The group barely stood a chance with the surprise, despite a lucky dire wolf snapping up Odde in their jaws and carrying him into the forest. Aust and company make haste after them, only to have the wily gnome free himself and a wild bulette erupt up from the earth and enjoy a furry meal.
The second camp cleared, the group tracks the army to another small settlement. When Jace decides to rush this one, he is promptly turned into a snail, the party instead opting to send Theodore out to talk...before Jinva erupts a fireball in the face of the two bugbears and a warg. One bugbear, riding the warg, does flee.
The cave they are guarding is winding and hollowed out. The large, flooded chamber within is unnerving, and Aust senses a presence. Arching above and around them...a cloud? No. It's conscious. A living cloud of needles and knives...roaring toward them...
Death of a Thousand Needles
Caught completely off-guard, the group tries their best to fend off this strange foe. It cascades in wide, dangerous arcs, slicing into them and rushing through their ranks. Between Jinva's quick thinking and Theo's use of a now-fixed flamethrower, the creature flees the scene, burrowing into the earth above them. Wasting no time, they try to move through the cave as quickly and quietly as possible.
...Apparently not quiet enough, they happen upon a blue orc guard, which they make short work of, but leave him alive at Theo's request. Theo promises to replace his now severed limb with something better, and despite being its enemy a short moment ago, it seems that Theo might have a new friend.
The others find an iron prison, surrounding by painful arrow-flinging traps, which houses a young woman. Upon freeing her, and taking MANY arrows in the process, she reveals herself to be Haylee...then promptly transforms into a large lycanthropic bear and busts herself the rest of the way out, taking the orc's head off as she moves past.
As the stone walls of the prison shake from explosions above, the team hears a familiar burrowing sound. Time to go.
A space issue on the flying carpet has arisen. After some careful wild shaping from the two sisters, and stuffing Theo partially into his own bag of holding, the team piles onto the carpet just as the walls begin to be torn asunder by that same cloud of knives.
The group enters into an intense chase scene, with members blasting wherever they can and igniting backfired explosions behind them. Running from literal fire and teeth, the group manages to pop out of one of the creatures tunnels back to the forest floor...and find it completely ablaze. For a few moments, they search for their bearings, and spy that bugbear, still fleeing on the back of a warg. Following his path south leads them to a new city, and a much needed rest.
Tal'Fune - Of Cakes and Subterfuge
Deciding that they've had enough of this war, the group takes some time in silly city of Tal'Fune.
+ Theo takes part in a complicated bait and switch maneuver involving a rival barkeep and a nasty businessman, commissioning a life-like corpse of cake and jelly in order to sneak out some money from the baron. It may have alerted its bodyguard, Stitch, to their presence though. It reminds Theo of a time before in Orlandin.
+ Magical artifacts are bought, sold, and customized.
+ Lily and Haylee bid the group farewell and head off in search of their other sister in the mountains. They offer the group a job, but they refuse.
+ Aust and Jag receive word from their home in different ways. A letter for Aust speaks with love and patience for him, with spite and dismissiveness for Jag. Aust wants to go home. Jag wants nothing to do with it.
+ While here, the group comes upon another caravan of adventurers soon to be heading West, in the direction of Treethorn, and offers to travel together. They depart in a few days.
+ The group tackles a few odd jobs, one involving the hijack of a boat laced with magical runes. This particular event is harrowing on multiple fronts, as a band of legionaries are thwarted by the group and one of their slaves - a tiny kobold named Geordy - is saved by Theo. Turns out the two know each other, and Geordy does his best to warn his friend that he just made a very powerful enemy... Also in this encounter, the group meets two new faces: Maleficent, a waif of arcane energy, and Bruce, a goliath who hates books.
+ And it appears that Odde has left the group to study with Raffi in the Kesselbark. Oh, and he took the flying carpet, too...
Road Trips and Tempests
Carpet-less with new allies, the group sets off toward the frozen tundra of Frostburn, still uncertain whether they will make their way to Treethorn or head toward Valas's settlement of Hillside. As they ride through the snow, however, the group spies two fire giants lumbering in the distance. After a few more miles, the forms appear to be following them.
Theo lays a trap, and is nearly killed in the process, and the team dispatches one while the other continues northward toward Grimscale peak.
Many days pass into the trip, with characters taking the time to reflect on their pasts and present, while Jinva casts spells into his carriage, Theo builds a giant beetle to help pull it, and the two set to work helping Geordy with his broken box of arcane cannons.
As the group approaches the warmer ends of Frostburn, they are beset by a roaring storm. But this storm crackles with a different energy; it is both natural and arcane, and Jinva is aware that there are some storms in Leylocke and Hemlock that are called Displacement Tempests. They watch a lightning bolt strike a tree...and the tree is gone. Not burned; not destroyed, just gone. These are teleportation storms - a product of the rising weaves of magic concentrations near the leylines.
They hightail it toward a forest, eager to get under cover, but a pensive Maleficent and a brave Bruce trying to grab her in time...are zapped away by this roaming storm...
Something Wicked This Way Comes / To Treethorn
With allies displaced, Charity takes the time to scry...focusing on Maleficent. He is sent to a black spire, one of many, surrounded by gray, winged creatures. A deep violet sky greets him, and he is flung from the vision. Trying to find Bruce only gives him a nosebleed.
Of their traveling companions, Jag recognizes one. A high elf named Raika. It seems that he, too, recognizes him and Aust, and seems to have quite a chip on his shoulder when it comes to their family. He pushes Jag to a fight...and Jag lays him out, breaking his nose in the process. He lets it slip that their Grandmother - held in high respect by both of them - is dying. Valas agrees that that takes precedence, and the group sets off toward Treethorn...