Adventurers Present: Mama (Warforged, Cleric-5), Alvus Thorne (Human, Rogue-9), Brewdo (Bugbear, Barbarian-5), Riswynn (Hill Dwarf, Druid-9), Xun Fu (Half-Orc, Monk-9), Jimmy Whispers (Human, Fighter-5), Ameera (Wood Elf, Druid-7), Steef (Gnome, Wizard-5), Surik (High Elf, Wizard-5). Party of 9.
One year following the cataclysmic defeat of the dragon god Narizguun, the Knight Owls return to service with some new faces, and a new mission. They find themselves riding on the back of a curious creature; massive in scale and quite feathered, soaring over the black abyss of the Aether toward a mythical island - believed lost to antiquity.
Settled into harnesses on the back of this huge entity, each Owl attempts to stay calm. Mama, the resident cleric and rare warforged, attempts to soothe and hush their two bucking, panicking mules (Mary and Sue) and their attached cart of supplies. The arcanists of Tidespear have seen a year of peace, with no creatures or threats emerging from the Aether, and instead have set to work cultivating more advanced transportation to the world beyond the Edge. Though much progress has been made, the Owls are still experiencing the latest prototype of this initiative: a domesticated Roc named Vixx.
Eager to replenish funds for many, these Owls have taken up a new contract to investigate the perplexing storms that obscure the lands beyond Tidespear and Io's Edge. Of particular interest are small sets of islands discovered during the final battle with Narizguun (where the ship crashed beyond the Aether). With no further magical interference, Loremaster Edwin of Hammerfell has scried a tome wreathed in flames and constructed out of platinum plates. It is believed to be a spell book from the first age; the age of champions and the first god war, where titans clashed and shaped the land of Io through their conflict. In short, the Tenrook wish to collect this artifact and see what secrets it holds and understand how it can better serve the land of Io.
Above the tree line, piercing into the clouds above from the center of this island, each Owl spies a set of five crystalline spires. One in the center of a grand cathedral-like castle, with four surrounding it, forming smooth but ornate marble towers beneath each spire. These crystals are heavily and visibly weathered; one is cracked, another is severed completely, and all show large scorch marks from distant battle.
Vixx circles the beach area twice before touching down on the white snow of the island, lowering her wings for the Owls to dismount. Once all of them are safely on the ground, she nods to Alvus, then flexes her wings and lifts off again into the sky to wait for their next summons.
And as her powerful wings beat the air around those assembled, it brushes away the thin layer of snow at their feet, and each realizes that they are NOT on a beach, but a thin veil of ice...as it begins to crack.
Quick of foot and wit, one by one each Owl makes their way across the cracking ice...except for Mama's mules, each falling into the ice. Mama steps in after them, with Brewdo's help, and tosses Sue to safety, then lifts Mary over her head as Mama sinks up to her wrists, and continues walking underwater, hauling her cart behind as it, too, cracks through the weakening ice. Arriving in a heap of panting breath, the group lands upon the beach, taking stock of who is around...as a second mule is deposited upon the snow and Jimmy stares at a set of gauntlets protruding up from the water and beginning to ice over. Jimmy grabs one arm as Xun grabs the other and with a heave, each are treated to the beautiful tones of scraping metal upon stone as the warforged is dragged to the surface. Grateful, Mama spins around and begins hauling her cart onto the shore, saddened by its lower half being flooded by icy water.
Based upon the Loremasters' archives, and this island's positioning, it is believed that this land would be called Riss'Leyahn, and was rumored to be a beautiful tropical landscape of exotic birds and rare herbs and spices. It appears that time has not been kind to this island.
The wind diminishes slightly, but each Owl feels a cold chill run up their spines. Jimmy suggests NOT freezing out here, and Mama ties the mules to the cart again, pleading with the Gnome for some much-needed Prestidigitation in exchange for a ride. Jimmy and Brewdo take the lead through the densely packed, chilled forest that covers the area before the citadel. And as Jimmy takes his first step, his foot catches on a rock and he pitches forward, crunching his nose on a tree. Fresh blood pours from his head as Brewdo picks him up and presents him to a worried Mama. Despite his protests, Mama forcibly begins bandaging him as the rest of the party collectively face-palms... And Alvus hears something.
He hears something crying... Listening closer, he identifies it as a young voice, and more of a gentle sobbing, and that it is up ahead, where the path seems to split. Down the left slide, the path rolls down into the mouth of a cave; on the right, it rolls up to a steep cliffside. Alerting the group, all take a moment to listen as the crying has stopped, and instead they hear tiny footfalls upon earth and stone, getting softer as they move away from them. Ameera pinpoints the pitter-patter of feet as being down the left path and offers up following them, which the others agree to...
Winding Paths, Curious Crystals
At the caboose of the party, Mama pulls the cart into the mouth of the cave as the others try to get their bearings out of the cold, and slings some blankets over Mary and Sue.
Alvus, unable to see in the dark, dons his Goggles of Night, and notices a faint glow amidst the grays of darkvision that pulses ahead and to the left of their current path. As Mama lights her hooded lantern, the rest of group also becomes away of drips of cold water into a somewhat frozen pool nearby. Jimmy takes note that there is something within this pool, just under the surface. He agitates the water a bit with a pole and a skull bobs to the surface, iced over. "That's not good."
Brewdo pulls the skull free of the water, recognizing that it is also connected to a spine and a torso, with one arm, but no lower half. Covering the torso is a gleaming bronze breastplate somewhat tarnished by the fact that there are four javelins pierced all the way through it, transfixing the skeleton's torso. The bugbear makes little note of the skeleton's larger than normal bone structure and instead turns to Mama, "Him got boo-boo, make better!"
Looking the skeleton over, Mama only responds, "He's dead, Jim." Brewdo, satisfied with this answer, drops the body back into the water, displacing it further and revealing sparkly bits at the bottom. Xun collects the rusted, algae-covered javelins for later use, while Riswynn's faerie dragon, Fareday, attempts dunking her head into the freezing pool for the shiny bits. Brewdo seems enamored with the little dragon, reaching out to pet her, and gets a handful of fire for it.
A heavy impact somewhere else in the cave halts their antics as it shakes the foundation of the cave. Steef hides behind a rock and instructs everyone else to join him as all can hear a dull muttering of something, then another heavy impact, more muttering, and then the small *tink, tink, tink of a helmet, half-crushed, rolling into view as a bright light washes over it.
Lumbering into view, a glowing lantern hanging around its neck, is the form of a frost giant. Tiny yellow irises in pools of black cornea dart around the cavern as Steef throws up the Minor Illusion of a boulder covering the group...but neglected to tell Mama to put out her lantern, as the lance of light pierces through the illusion and spills across the giant's eyes. He roars in annoyance, and begins pressing his way through the narrow passage toward the group, cracking the earth around as he bellows, "Moko, nopok'oh!" over and over again. Mama puts out her light, and the giant stares at the illusion, blinks twice, and continues to mutter the phrase as he instead moves back from where he came, out of sight. Seeing the path ahead as narrow, Mama, with the Gnome's help, they set a perimeter Alarm on the cart, just in case, before moving ahead with the group.
Up this very narrow path, Brewdo sees another small pool of water, this one frozen completely over. Sticking out of it appears to be a hand. The bugbear, curious if Mama can fix this too, reaches down and grasps the hand; as he pulls up, it snaps off at the elbow with a crunch. Brewdo has a flash of familiarity with this particular hand, but can't quite place its species.
Meanwhile, Xun and Alvus take note of a large amount of light emanating from the next opening, and they can hear running water. As the group fans through this new opening, they are greeted with a marvelous garden of natural crystal deposits and gemstones, each translucent and vibrant, filling the cavern with a cornucopia of light and color. Two pathways spill out before them, each flanked by these radiant spires. The one on the left rolls downward and appears narrow and dense with these deposits, while the right is wider and runs along a rapidly moving underground river.
Along with all these beautiful hues and rare gemstones, there are tens of bodies that litter the landscape. All appear desiccated, and many are decomposed and skeletal. The ones upon the earthen floor appear to have been pulverized; ground to dust in some cases. There are others that have impaled upon the sharp edges of these gemstones, and more still under the water in the stream, held in place by long, steel pikes. As before, it appears that none of these creatures are human, and the group begins to identify them as an army of Goliaths. Alvus takes note of two hues that the crystals give off when he dons his enhanced goggles. Woven into the crystals themselves are two types of magic: illusion on the surface, and necromancy below. Something isn't right...
Steef spies a few broken gemstones on the ground, like a deep amethyst, and begins gathering them up and putting them in his pack. As he grabs a fourth shard, he notices its glow intensify rapidly, and all of the begin to radiate further, filling the cavern with daylight. Alvus' keen eyes spy a few of the corpses impaled upon crystals twitch and spasm to life. Further back near the split, Fareday begins to freak out on Riswynn's shoulders; to her right, the young dwarf sees a spectral face in the crystal. A beautiful, soft-featured elven woman with a set of ruby earrings. She smiles at the druid, before her face twists violently, growing fangs and reptilian eyes, and Riswynn barely moves back in time as a ghostly claw lances out at her.
Floating out of the gemstones on either side of Riswynn, the party sees a pair of identical elven women, each carrying a lantern and an ethereal pike. A few of the impaled jitter to life and flail about, unable to move, while others wrench themselves free, gem spikes sticking out of them, and begin to shamble toward Jimmy and Ameera. And behind Mama, there is cracking as something pulls itself from under a frozen pool of water. She sees long, silver hair framing a tight, gaunt face. It wears an intricate set of chitin armor, a collection of 3 mildly decomposed heads hanging from its belt, and as it rises to its feet, it draws a wicked-looking sawtooth longsword from its back. From her religious studies, Mama immediately recognizes this creature as a Wight.
It opens its mouth and its raspy voice begins to spin magic toward the cleric...as it is stopped in its tracks by a crossbow bolt entering its eye. It falls over backwards, and does not move. Mama's gaze instead moves over to Alvus, crossbow out, who gives her a grinning nod of acknowledgement.
A gangly ghoul, gems sticking out of it, daggers drawn, sprints toward Ameera. In a panic, she summons a Wall of Fire between it and her. The 60-foot wide wall explodes across the battlefield, ripping through crystal and cave wall, propelling Jimmy backwards toward another ghoul who attempts to grapple him, but the dextrous human glides under the claws and lands behind it, shield at the ready. Across from Ameera, the dashing ghoul stops, glowering at her through the fire.
Now in the thick of it, Riswynn recognizes that these creatures Ghosts and may be difficult to kill with conventional weapons, as she slices through it and watches the ribbons of its torn ethereal flesh quickly re-form. Shield forward, Jimmy shoves the ghoul into the intense wall of fire behind him, and as the ghoul's back is charred to a crisp. It arches forward, attempting to move away from the searing heat, but Jimmy grabs it by the face and pushes it back in...and holds it there, until it turns to ash and he is holding only a few charred hairs.
Seeing a path around the other side, Jimmy begins to sprint the other way. But as he reaches the corner, a cold chill runs up his spine as he is suddenly halted. He instinctually looks down at his abdomen; he blinks, and for a split second, he can the edge of a halberd in his side. He follows the shaft up to a smoky, heavily armored individual floating out of a crystal. It says nothing, and rips the halberd from his side, leaving a grievous wound, then disappears again...
Brewdo glares through the fire wall at the pacing ghoul on the other side, draws his Monolith Sword, and leaps through the fire. Meanwhile, on the other side, the ghoul glares murder toward Ameera...as a FLAMING BUGBEAR WIELDING A MASSIVE SWORD blasts through the wall and pierces the blade deep into its sternum. The ghoul drops its daggers, instead latching into the arms of the bugbear, spreading necrotic veins up the arm. Brewdo slices into it again, and attempts to pull it toward the wall of fire now behind his own singed fur - but the creature appears to have roots digging into the earth from his feet, holding him in place.
Steef begins to shake so bad in fear that he drops all of his crystals, but manages to summon a Thunderwave from himself, cascading across Riswynn and the two Ghosts. With Riswynn's ears ringing, the wave of thunder passes over the ghosts...to no effect, and they instead lash out at Steef, slicing into him and ripping some of his life force (Constitution) from him. The Shard Ghoul begins to turn its head to an alarming degree, neck snapping one direction, then the other, as its spine snaps backwards, and the shards protruding from its chest launch toward the bugbear as menacing spikes. Both enter the bugbear, piercing deep into his chest, as the ghoul's form continues to break down in front of him. Black, angry veins begin to pulse from the shards and Brewdo finds himself overcome with a blind rage...
Surik ignites one of the ghosts with a Fire Bolt, while Xun sprints to the other, assailing it with fists. Mama springs to action, sending a Guiding Bolt...harmlessly into the wall of fire; but sends a Healing Word to Brewdo.
Alvus takes note of the color of crystal the ghosts flowed out from (sapphire), and instead slices into it with his short sword. As he impacts it, one of the ghosts shimmers and shrieks up to him. He resists the banshee's scream, and ghost's visage becomes less grotesque; a feminine face wearing a look of hurt and disappointment at Alvus' seeming lack of fear.
Ameera has been watching Brewdo through the fire and flames, and she now notices what appear to be tentacles - no - strange tendrils of dark energy, protruding from his back, a black ichor flowing from a slug-like mound between his shoulder blades. As he looks back at her, she gasps as one eye appears to be frothing with a dense, brackish foam. She casts Dispel Magic through the wall, piercing the corruptive pustule, and the crystals are pushed out of him, and the strange slug sloughs off of his back.
As the crew begins to coordinate slicing into and pounding against the crystals, Jimmy begins to assess his situation. Taking the time to take note of his surroundings, he sees a flash from a red crystal and brings up his shield in time to block another halberd swipe, and for the first time can see the smoky form of the warrior, halbed in one hand, a set of spiked balls in the other. Seeing the opening, Jimmy ripostes, his blade passing right through its silent body. Realizing the dire situation, Jimmy disengages from the entity and downs a healing potion.
Steef, deciding that he's had enough of this nonsense, makes his way back to the mouth of this cavern...only to see the form of the Wight rise again, tossing aside its bolted eyeball. So Steef, appropriately, screams awkwardly. Jimmy joins Brewdo, and the two ready themselves against the smoke knight as it floats ominously, blocking their path.
Shifting their focus to finishing this fight, everyone momentarily freezes as a scream up ahead pierces the battlefield, followed by several heavy, wet impacts, and a familiar low roar. Jimmy tenses as further clashing metal upon metal shakes the cavern opening ahead, sending spider cracks across the assembled gemstones; each Ghost grasps its head and screams in pain, shockwaves of sonic energy reverberating through the cavern...and their forms shatter.
Surik whirls to face the Wight, loosing another Fire Bolt at it as it tries to piece itself back together. The bolt slams through his torso, falling to pieces again. Xun leaps through the wall of fire and takes Jimmy's cue to charge up to the Smoke Knight. Testing it with a half-hearted jab, his fist passes through, the smoke parting around it; but two more blows slam into the creature's after-image as the cavern reverberates again from the sound of fists pounding into armor. Visible dents form in the Knight's visage, though it makes no other sounds.
Sensing the turning tides, Ameera drops her Wall of Fire as another scream pierces the veil from up ahead, the sounds of another battle wafting down to the crystal. Another bellowing roar and the sound of something sharp sinking into something wet...followed by another scream.
Xun notices the Smoke Knight suddenly turn slowly to face him, then "step" backwards into the red crystals behind him. The monk pops the knight once in the face, halting it; it then shifts itself and floats into the water, seemingly carried downstream. Alvus, satisfied with this, sets to work punting bits of the Wight into a nearby pool, where they bob and rapidly freeze over. While Ameera and Mama check on the health of their allies, Brewdo spies something large and reptilian being flung down the stairs from the opening ahead. It hits with a sickening smack as it lands in a heap of sliced bits. Whatever the creature once was, it was serpentine, with arms, and is now clearly dead. At the top of stairs, filling the opening with its hulking form, is the frost giant, fresh brackish blood dripping from its axe. It shouts another curse at the serpentine creature, spits upon the corpse, then gazes out at the assembled party, seemingly realizing for the first time that they are there. Riswynn, recognizing the opportunity, casts Produce Flame, sending a mote of fire careening toward the creature. It crashes into the lantern hanging around its neck, simultaneously shattering it and setting the giant's fur shroud aflame. Surprised and burning, the creature turns tail and flees further down the cavern, out of sight and out of mind...
Continued in Part 2...