Owls Present: Brysar, Gosef, Xun Fu, Darrak, Eli, Beebir the Bard, Riswynn
One cold and rainy evening in the Platinum Guard guildhall, the assembled Owls enjoy their dinner and drink as Striga regales them with tales of his old adventuring party.
Suddenly, the door is knocked off its hinges as a flame-haired man in dusk weaved armor and a red coat enters the room and quickly moves to the table. As he enters, there is a loud thud behind him, shaking the entryway wall. A towering, clay-skinned goliath with jagged tattoos running down his arms ducks into the hall, followed by two half-elven twins. The goliath goes to the nearest tankard, while the twins find a table in the corner.
The fire genasi seems familiar to the party, but many have been hitting their ale hard as of late, and have a hard time placing his face… He introduces himself as Helaku Kadeem, one of the high council of Nine in Orlandin. He also immediately implores the party’s aid in finding a missing ally.
Keddigan Slitspire is missing. He has been for several days now - no one knows where he went off to, not even Pietra or Amos, but Helaku’s sources have picked up traces of the halfling gunslinger in the mechanical city of Brakfall to the north of Diskana (the home of the guildhall). The assembled Owls - Darrak, Brysar, Fu, Gosef, Eli, Beebir, and Riswynn (with faerie dragon Fareday) - agreed to help, after a night’s rest and recovery, of course.
The party made the quick trip north to Brakfall with little more than an ominous sighting of a few scaled creatures flying parallel to them, toward Io’s Edge. Before they could react to this, Gosef’s attention was flung ahead of them to the sound of fireworks detonating above a dark metal city in the distance. The explosions continue as the party’s carriage crests the hill, but their attention is drawn instead to another carriage waiting at the heavy black iron door. They take note of a band of five gnomes, sitting close together, seemingly shivering, while a creature with black eyes and no mouth knocks on the door…
It doesn’t take long for the party to realize that something is amiss, and just as they begin to take action, their new allies surprise the dark creature with a barrage of attacks. It is over in mere seconds, the fiend’s darkness splattered against the metal door. The gnomes are immensely grateful, their bonds broken and the carriage again under their control. The party learns that they were kidnapped and enslaved in Mooncrest to the east (Striga’s hometown). Eli offers them sanctuary in Diskana, and they happily head there.
Meanwhile, Gosef gets a little too close to the sludge-like remains of the fiend, taking long spears of necrotic energy to his form; Striga pulls the needles out with Darrak’s help, then draws the dark energy into his red blade, coating his sheath with it (“saving it for a foe”).
With the threat taken care of, the massive doors open and the group is granted passage to the strange half-mechanical city of Brakfall. Helaku and his allies pay the constructs of gold that greet the Owls no mind, stepping over them into the city and making a quick trip toward Helaku’s uncle’s home, but the Owls take an extra few moments for Darrak to notice the glint of a lens - someone watching them - high above in the rafters of the enclosed city. Keeping their guard up, the Owls catch up to the fire genasi.
The assembled 12 adventurers are greeted by a hunched, blind, and scarred albino tiefling, leaning on a cane and staring past the group. He allows the large group to enter, whacking a few with his cane on the way through, and introduces himself as Raaz Dewynn-Kadeem, Helaku’s uncle and last known relative. Helaku and his group seem less like chatting, instead moving into a side office and shutting the door. This seems like normal behavior to Raaz, who instead insists on the Owls sharing some tea and biscuits with him.
He opens up about some of Helaku’s views on those who follow divine paths. The Owls learn that Helaku used to be an acolyte in the service of Bahamut in Hammerfell (in the west region of Erena). Under the orders of Grand Cleric Stormfist, Helaku and those under him abandoned their posts protecting their homeland just as a band of brigands rode in and laid waste to the same village where his family lived. When Helaku returned, Stormfist said that some things were just “the will of Bahamut.” Helaku left the temple that day and never returned.
As the evening progresses with more history of the world, Helaku and his group rejoin the Owls at the table. They seem to have a map depicting Io’s Edge, a massive waterfall that descends to darkness, to a place called the Aether. This is known as the edge of the known world, and if one ventures beyond this space, they do not return. On this map is a grand castle, named Tidespear Keep, as well as its long bridges, named the Brigandeer, that span along the edge of the Aether and meet the Grimscale Mountains on either side.
Helaku, seemingly frustrated with a lack of leads, explains that the morning will yield a missive from one of his contacts - he hopes it will give them another lead. In the meantime, he grills the Owls assembled on their allegiance if faced with certain armageddon. Through some pointed discussion, the Owls show a united front against the darkness, but the experience is made uneasy when Helaku stresses, “And what if you lose?”
Left to their own devices and turning in for the night, the majority of the party selects lodging in the cavernous third basement of Raaz's cottage, while Beebir goes looking for commiserating... What he finds is the large goliath, named Dreyfus Jawbreaker, muttering to himself outside his room. Beebir does his bard thing and convinces the big guy to come share some ale and biscuits with him in the central building of this underground cavern, chatting him up the whole time. Beebir learns a few interesting things while bonding with Dreyfus: 1) Helaku contacted him and the others only a few weeks ago, stating that soon "it would be time." 2) Helaku and company used to be an adventuring party many years ago, but then Helaku lost his family and moved to Orlandin, trying to get on the council there. 3) Dreyfus seems uncertain and scared of Helaku, referencing many times the information he isn't supposed to tell, something about a "master returning to him." Through all of this, Beebir finds himself liking this Dreyfus, and the feeling is mutual, but as the evening progresses, Dreyfus becomes much more intoxicated and uneasy. In a moment of panic, he tells Beebir to stay still...then knocks him out, stuffing him somewhere "safe."
But an hour later, Darrak and Riswynn awaken to the sound of flapping parchment, each under their doors. When they approach, the blank paper whips under the door. With something clearly amiss, they begin waking those near them and investigating. Using her Circlet of the Apocalypse, Riswynn activates Truesight and sees that each floating parchment appears to have a mage hand manipulating it, attempting to draw their attention somewhere in the middle of the night.
Xun Fu, the half-orc monk, senses something wrong in his own room. There is smoke emanating from under the door and the room is getting increasingly hot. Fu opens his door and sees a shocking sight. Inches from the threshold is a rising, rolling pile of magma. He watches as grows to 15 feet tall, nearly cresting the top of this cavern, a long serpent-like head of fire protruding from its body, and one massive slab of fire and rock arching backward for an attack...
Fu's door and front wall explodes as the elemental punches through it, slamming him into the far wall. It doesn't take the party long to see the towering elemental in the distance, and the clear course of action becomes to get out of the underground as fast as possible. Striga and Riswynn jump to the offensive, drawing its attention and slamming it with a Moonbeam. Eli gathers his armor and tries his best to catch up to Darrak, who has sprinted the opposite direction. Darrak slams through Brysar's door, lets him know the danger, then proceeds to knock down his back wall with his Staff of Sundering. As the elemental raises its arms to crush Fu's room, the wall next to him is hacked to pieces and Striga instead pulls him back, signaling a retreat as the party realizes most of the cavern is now on fire...
Beebir awakens in a cramped space, realizing quickly that he is in a burlap sack, surrounded by sandbags, not far from where he and Dreyfus were speaking. The goliath is nowhere to be found, but all of the doors of the cellar are open, as if someone left in a rush. Beebir wanders out into the main cavern, lazily observing the spreading fire, and instead makes his way back toward Dreyfus's room. There, he finds hundreds of papers strewn about and angry red lettering covering the walls. They read: "The faithful shall become the faithless, or be devoured."
Gosef fires a Ray of Frost onto the massive elemental, slowing it down enough for the others to make some headway, but the magma is spreading exponentially. In less than a minute, they judge the entire cavern will be under lava. Striga and Brysar taunt the creature to give the others time to move, slinging words and lightning, but when it comes time to go, Brysar insists he stay behind. Displeased with this, Striga casts Charm Person on him and convinces him to move anyway, but not before Brysar unleashes a devastating cold attack that finally puts the elemental to rest, cooling and crumbling its giant form.
As Striga and Brysar rejoin the rest of the party at Dreyfus's quarters, Darrak discovers a trapped ward of Istus and Bahamut in Helaku's room, barely dodging out of the way of a torrent of fire unleashed from the trap. Riswynn, however, may have found an alternative way out in the form of a small underground river that slopes down. Fu and Riswynn judge that the water leads logically to the Edge, but it's probably a better choice than burning to death.
With no time to don his armor, Eli shoves it into Darrak's bag of holding, then activates his Ring of Enlargement. Riswynn shifts into a giant crocodile and tests the water, while Darrak hands rope to everyone, locking one end in Riswynn's jaws. While the party prepares for a swim, Beebir decides he has a better idea, and casts Dimension Door to propel himself up to the first floor...
Beebir lands, shattering the Raaz's tea time table, and realizes he is surrounded by flowing lava and the entire upper level of the cottage is ablaze. Beginning to panic, he notices that the magma flows appear to be generating in a ring running the length of the ceiling. He casts Dispel Magic on one end, and the magma fall ceases just over the door...where he seeks the charred remains of a Raaz, one arm against the door in futility...
As the remaining magma rolls toward him, Beebir hatches a plan, but is interrupted by a perturbed Striga fighting his way through fire and lava. "Our allies have left!" Beebir responds that he has a plan but Striga doesn't seem to care, again casting Charm Person. Beebir, now under magical influence, considers Striga's option the better one, leaping toward his ally. Beebir's jump falls a little short, however, as Striga wades through the lava to catch him, then casts his own Dimension Door...
The rest of the party is currently riding the world's worst slip-n-slide as they swim and cascade at alarming speeds down the river flow, far and away from the burning city of Brakfall. They find a small respite as the river evens out under a canopy of fine, luminous crystals, before the walls explode and an embracing Beebir and Striga rocket toward them. Beebir lands on and clutches Eli's enlarged face, but Striga knocks Darrak off of his post, grabbing the rope instead, before the current picks up once more as the river flows down a steep drop of rogue rock protrusions. Riswynn in the lead, she manages to maneuver around most of the stones, only taking minimal damage. Darrak's swimming, though further behind, fares just as well.
Soon the incline increases to the point of terminal velocity before arching rapidly the other direction and before the party can realize what is happening, they are airborne, rocketing out of the mouth of a small cave protruding from just off the coast. They are greeted by a warm sunrise and the reality of plummeting toward the sea. Riswynn thinks fast; she shifts back to her dwarves form, clutching the rope in her hands, then changes into a giant eagle, lifting the party (complete with whiplash) back into the sky. She uses her keen vision to spy out toward the Brigandeer bridge, where she counts four familiar forms running along its edge toward the keep.
Darrak, despite everything, hatches a plan. Downing his Skybridger Brew, his body slows in descent, granting him time to don a cloak and use his grappling hook to find purchase on the bridge proper, some 50 feet behind the fleeing foes. He slams into the stone and begins climbing, clicking his Boots of Haste on the way...
Sprinting along the stonework of the Brigandeer, Helaku and his group stop short (Dreyfus skids a few extra feet) as a half-orc monk, two sorcerers, and the enlarged form of a dragonborn paladin slam into the stone ahead of them. ...then Beebir the Bard plops down from the paladin's head as a giant eagle orbits the group. Helaku calls for peace, stating that they all know that the gods lie - let them leave in peace to join their master; the Owls are free to burn with the rest of the faithful. Instead, Beebir steps forward, pleading with Dreyfus. It seems to work...before Helaku reaches out and dominates the barbarian's mind, and Beebir watches as his new friend begins to sprout gray fur, a long snout, and a pair of vicious claws. As an axe-wielding werewolf glares at the party, a tense combat begins, and Brysar detonates a fireball in the middle of them.
Helaku's friends are seasoned warriors. The twins, Cole and Falthea, unleash a barrage of despair and arrows upon the party, blocking the holy auras of the still unarmored Eli and slicing into the group. However, Riswynn acts on an idea, using her giant eagle form to grapple Cole and drag him near the bridge's edge; maybe she can throw him over the side, maybe even over the edge of Io itself! ...She comes close, before Dreyfus rips into her eagle form, forcing her down and back to her dwarven form, where the freed Cole takes advantage of his circumstance and cleaves into Riswynn; she falls. In the melee thick of it, Helaku forms a vicious bonded weapon and uses it to rip into Eli and others, literally tearing life force from them, and Eli smites him, the radiant divine energy is pulled into his form, healing him and summoning a fiery ward around the warlock.
As Falthea readies another barrage of necrotic arrows, a hasted Darrak appears from behind and knocks her off the bridge. The party waits for the splash, but hears nothing; instead, Falthea's form swings back up, hurling a dagger past the monk's head. It sinks into the stone behind him and he watches her form turn to black smoke and follow the path of the blade, teleporting her back to safety. Whirling to face her, he takes two arrows to the chest and recognizes the strange jitter to her form - she, too, is hasted.
Tension rising, Beebir rushes forward and casts thunder wave on the werewolf and Cole; the wave of energy flows over Dreyfus to little effect, but Cole is blasted off the bridge, crashing into the water below. With his heavy plate mail dragging him into the water, the Owls watch his form disappear over the edge... One down.
Xun Fu tries with no effect to strike down the warlock as Striga slides into the melee, sending a Healing Word to Riswynn. As Riswynn rises, she summons four giant eagles, surrounding the battlefield with a sea of magnificent wings and talons.
Seeing the opportunity, Eli Misty Steps around Helaku and charges the werewolf, attempting to flip him over the edge. The enlarged dragonborn slams into the werewolf, but it pushes back with immense strength, so Eli adjusts his tactics and instead grabs his foot and heaves upward. The werewolf flips and tumbles over the edge into the water...
Helaku is angry, seeing his allies disappear and a horde of eagles rise, he casts Blight upon Riswynn, blasting her with devastating necrotic energy. She falls again, and the eagles fade away. Meanwhile, the werewolf climbs back up, heaving, angry, and soaking wet. Darrak rushes toward Falthea, as she sinks another two arrows into him, and tries to take the blink dagger from her, fails, then fails to land even a single punch as she grins down at him. Striga again uses his Healing Word to bring Riswynn back from the brink, then slices and slams into Helaku, decimating his ward. Unable to find a good angle in the mess of melee, Brysar instead slams the werewolf with 3 bolts of force from Magic Missile, earning an angry growl from it, and a yell of protest from Beebir. "No! Hit the mage!" Beebir the Bard hurls himself at Dreyfus, hanging on to him in a hug, then persuades, persuades, persuades. "These are bad people. We don't want to hurt you. THEY want to hurt you. They want everybody dead. Literally EVERYBODY. You can't follow these guys. We are your friends! I'm your friend! Maybe him (Brysar), not so much, but I can stop him. You just gotta' let me." (Persuasion 22 vs. 5) Dreyfus growls and raises a claw at the bard, then stops and considers, seemingly considering something (especially since his Domination has been broken). Beebir, seeing that he got through to him, announces to the rest of the party, "Leave my FRIEND alone." And Riswynn, conscious once more, responds with a weak, "Ka-kaw..." in acknowledgement.
Falthea uses her dagger to teleport once more away from the dwarven monk, then fills him with three arrows. Seeing the monk drop to one knee, Helaku blasts him in the back with an eldritch spear. As Darrak falls, the warlock breathes in his dark one's blessing, another fiery ward forming around him. Seizing opportunity, Xin Fu unleashes a flurry of blows upon the warlock, knocking him senseless and forcing him to burn his first Boon of the Dragon to resist being stunned or knocked over. But Riswynn slams him in the back with a Disintegrate (Asset), forcing him to burn his second and final boon. Frustrated, a weakened Riswynn casts Moonbeam on the archer, barely scathing her. Eli begins to slice into Helaku with Irongrave's Flaming Cleavers, cutting him into an inch of his life.
Now drenched in his own blood with murder in his eyes, Helaku raises a hand to Eli. "You know, in another time, we might have seen eye to eye, but for now... Kill."
Eli feels something cold and dark take hold of his body and his eyes close, waiting for the end... Until he feels something heavy at his feet. The paladin opens his eyes to see the form of Striga, lifeless and smiling, laying at his feet. Helaku is shocked, along with the rest of the Owls, as they watched Striga move with alarming speed, grab Helaku's hand, and press it into his own body, taking the spell instead. Eli seethes, "Finish the warlock."
Brysar unleashes a Lightning Bolt into Helaku, knocking down his ward once more. Gosef then steps forward, casting thunderwave across the warlock, driving him to one knee. Beebir feels Dreyfus tense, and again persuades him to stay where he is - which he does - then sends a Healing Word to Darrak, who tries his best to look dead. Falthea does not notice, instead moving away from the annoying Moonbeam above her, and sinking only a single arrow into Eli's back (thank you Bardic Inspiration!). Xin Fu again unleashes a stream of blows onto the warlock, stunning him and...striking him across the face once, with a swift strike to the other direction, the warlock's spine snaps, and his body crumples to the ground. (warlock dead)
Beebir feels the last of a magical tether fall from Dreyfus's furry back, and the werewolf form drops, his friend now standing before him; it seems he does not know who Helaku is. The warlock down, Eli then leans down over Striga's broken form and casts Revivify... And for a moment, nothing happens. The spell's energy moves into his gaunt body, and silence follows.
Then, from the back of his mind, Eli feels the surging draconic roar as the full power of Bahamut himself flows into Striga, life returning to his body and breath entering his lungs. "Welcome back, friend." Striga replies, "Is the warlock dead?" "He is." Striga leans back and sighs painfully, casting Shield of Faith on Eli. "Finish this. I can only keep so many promises in one day."
Falthea, now recognizing the blatant turned tide, attempts to ready her bow, ducking out of the way of Brysar's Firebolt...right into the path of Gosef's critical Firebolt. Her upper torso is immolated, and the fight ends.
Closure: Beebir recruits Dreyfus into the Knight Owls "Initiative." Looting commences. Riswynn finds the Ring of Vost...which resonates with her Orb of Vost, to form a crystalline gauntlet over her hand, which she can use once every 3 days to turn *something* into a solid gold object (she uses it to turn Helaku's body into a gold statue).
The Owls hear the approach of about 20 guards in Violet and Silver armor, but ahead of them, clinking and scraping on the stone, is a sprinting Keddigan, who stops at the scene, surveys, then calls the guard back. He apologizes for his disappearance, but explains that it was necessary to help draw out the Owls traitor. They had their suspicions, but they needed to be sure. The Owls have done a great service in destroying this dark seed. Darrak asks if Keddigan has a brother; he furrows his brow and explains that he is dead. "Are you sure? Cuz' I'm pretty sure we brought him back with a sword, and a ring. He's back at our guild..." Without missing a beat, Keddigan nods and says "We should probably get back to your guildhall, then."
As you all turn to leave, Keddigan stops and stares out beyond the edge. Everyone looks, too, as they see a small bead of a storm cloud on the edge of their vision, growing slowly larger. "It seems we have much to discuss. Let's get back."
Session close at: 2:00am