Tuesday, December 7, 2010
About two miles from the edge of the farmlands, Yurgrim spotted humanoid figures in the distance, as well as a tall box. Winter decided to sneak closer for a better look and confirmed the sighting: there was a small group of humans digging in the ground, with a 2'x2'x8' box beside them. One of the humans, a mage, seemed to be ordering the others around. Winter returned to the party and reported what she had seen, and the others quickly devised a plan. The two shifters and Addy agreed to stay in hiding (the shifters taking the chance to enjoy some low-key games), while Dela, Alfred, and Yurgrim marched toward the group of humans to confront them.
When the mage saw them, he called out to his men, who hurriedly climbed out of the hole and stood, tensely watching the party. "Hail!" called Yurgrim. "Who are you?" came the mage's gruff reply. Yurgrim crafted a story, claiming to be an adventurer exploring the lands of Arena. "There's nothing to see here but desert. Be on your way!" the mage yelled. With no apparent progress being made, Yurgrim and the others backed off, returning to the other half of the party, while the humans continued digging.
The party then decided to simply wait for the humans to leave and then dig up the box that they were presumably burying. Winter circled around stealthily to watch the humans, while the rest of the party sat out in their tent to avoid the hot sun. Near evening, the humans left, and the party returned to the dig site. All except Dela improvised some sort of digging tool, using weapons, rocks, and shields to scrape away the dirt.
As the top of the box was revealed, a quiet, constant sound began to fill the air around them, carrying on for about ten seconds, stopping for one second, and repeating. It grew louder as they uncovered the entire top of the box, finding a hinge on one side and a lock on the other. Dela tried again and again to detect magic, but found none. Yurgrim, on the other hand, detected a powerful evil emanating from the box, suggesting that it had been somehow infused with the power of an evil god. Winter, with the help and advice of the others, set to work with her thieves' tools on the lock. Touching the lock filled her with a sense of dread, but after much poking and prodding, the lock came undone and the top of the box loosened.
Immediately the air was filled with the sound of a raw shriek, pausing only for the occasional breath before continuing. The party quickly attached a rope to the top of the box (to avoid touching it) and opened it completely, revealing a male shifter chained to the walls of the box, screaming in pain. The party worked quickly to break the chains holding him to the box and pull him out. Once the shifter was free, his screams ended abruptly, and the evil power emanating from the box disappeared.
Attempts to communicate with the shifter were unsuccessful. He would not make eye contact, stand up, or take food easily. Jherakasa:ke quietly suggested that a mercy killing was in order, as most desert shifters would agree. But the party wished to avoid such unpleasantness, so Alfred hoisted the shifter over his shoulder and carried him as they traveled north to Jherakasa:ke's village.
When they arrived, a group of shifter warriors and an old shifter wise woman approached. The wise woman, identified as Doriik:se by Jherakasa:ke, demanded that Jherakasa:ke come with her. Meanwhile, the warriors gathered around the party and asked them to follow. Jherakasa:ke was as confused by the warrior's pitying looks as the wise woman's demands, but affirmed that these were family and friends, and went with Doriik:se. The party, with their traumatized shifter friend in tow, followed.
They were led to a tent with thick hide walls and, in the middle, a fire with three jars nearby. The warriors shoved them inside and told them to "pray", while warning them not to leave on pain of death. The flap to the tent was shut and weighed down from the outside, creating the closest thing to a cage that the shifters seemed to have.
The party waited, wandered, and prayed to their gods for a moment, but soon someone looked into one of the jars, and chaos broke loose. Each of the jars shattered, revealing massive vipers inside. They attacked with sharp fangs and injections of poison, but the party kept their wits about them, and soon the snakes were hacked to pieces, riddled with arrows, and thrown onto the fire.
The party stood victorious, and began to plan their next move...
Next Session: SHIFTING FORTUNE
Saturday, November 13, 2010
When he returned, the guard gave back all of the party's items... almost. Addy's vial of glowing paint and (more worrisome) the Daelon Mark were both missing. "They have been kept as evidence", explained the guard. As he departed, another figure rushed in to speak with the party: Master Villarr, the old man at the entrance hall to Ashara who had guided them through the prophecies. "What's going on?" Villarr explained that rumors in the city were suggesting that the party had summoned the dragons' eggs and were plotting to attack Ashara. He was sympathetic, though, and agreed to observe the trial firsthand and offer support, as was his right as a Master.
The main guard returned yet again to announce that the trial would begin, and the entire contingent of guards surrounded the party as they ascended the staircases of the tower. A few stories up, they reached the door to a wide room and saw none other than Keeper, the deva who had originally let them into Silverport, walking out. Keeper smiled at them briefly before seeing Master Villarr, who exclaimed "Keeper?! What are you doing here?" "You will see in a moment" replied the deva before walking past the group.
Inside the room sat a single elderly elf on a raised seat. The guards closed the doors behind them and fanned out around the room. The elf, who the party assumed was the Elder, began the trial: "I have heard your statement. Our evidence disagrees, suggesting instead that you are a powerful group of clerics of the dragon god Tiamat... although I will admit that you are far less powerful than I would have expected." The party protested, pointing to the absurdity of the claim, considering their obvious professions and humble powers. The Elder quickly continued on, presenting his evidence.
"First, you were involved with the summoning of five devils on the eastern portion of Silverport. Do you deny this?" "Umm... yes," Alfred replied incredulously. They explained the events with the young mage from the day before. "Ashara is protected by the gods," said the Elder. "Do you mean to suggest that these protections were defeated by an inept student?" "Or perhaps this protection is not as strong as you think," suggested Dela. After an uncomfortable silence, the Elder agreed to take their story into consideration.
"Second, our loyal servant Keeper informs us that you revealed yourselves as instruments of a foreign king. Do you deny this?" Not at all, the party replied. "Then what is your aim in Ashara?" The party explained their vague mission: to form the bonds of alliance, as they had seen through divine vision that the lands of Arena were troubled. The party protested at this point that their innocence was manifest in the fact that they had destroyed the eggs in the sewers. "It is alleged that you were merely covering your tracks after having been discovered." The party protested that they had killed the white dragon that had hatched; how could they be reproached now?
"Third, Keeper tells us of how he suspected your motives and followed you. He witnessed you entering the sewers accompanied by a group of kobolds. There, he found you tending to a white dragon. When you saw yourselves discovered, you fled, and he narrowly managed to defeat the dragon before returning to report to us. Do you deny this?" Alfred immediately remembered the changeling that had attacked them at the sewer precipice, but the Elder did not understand at first. The party told the story from their point of view: they followed the kobolds, killed them, and defeated the dragon themselves. "You were found with a vial of liquid firevine, and yet none of this poison was found in the veins of the dead dragon, which would have been especially vulnerable. How do you account for this?" Addy pled ignorance, handing a copy of their prophecy as evidence. Yurgrim spoke up: "Didn't the dragon's body show signs of our swords and spells?" A pause. "Keeper is of many talents. And the body was difficult to examine; it had been stripped of many of its scales." The party noted that they, not Keeper, had the scales. "Yes!" exclaimed Master Villarr from the side of the room, "it wouldn't make any sense for them to have the scales if Keeper had killed the dragon!" The Elder thought for a moment. "Are you suggesting, Master Villarr, that your Keeper lied to us?" "I think I should have some words with him, at the least," said Villarr. He hurried out.
"Guards, you may leave us," pronounced the Elder. The party stood still as the guards filtered out behind them. When they were alone, the Elder hopped down from his seat and approached the party more casually. "You're right. It doesn't make sense." There were no clerics of Tiamat in Ashara, the Elder believed. Rather, the eggs had been placed by Tiamat herself. The Elder returned the Daelon Mark and the vial of fiery paint, and explained: the Pact that bound Ashara to its gods was understood by the Elders to be a temporary arrangement. Over time, it would weaken the gods' power in Arena, and now it seemed that their protection was not enough to protect Ashara even from the simplest of summoning spells. The Pact would have to end.
He thanked the party for their actions and arranged for a reward: 4000gp worth of residuum and enough gold for a ticket on a ship to another continent. "Your prophecy clearly did not intend for you to stay." Dela asked if he would ally with Tyrell. "I will support you, but I cannot promise armies or whatever your king desires," the Elder replied, "and I cannot even be sure what Ashara will look like when the Pact is broken. But Sehanine, Melora, and Corellon will be strengthened. Live by their teachings, and perhaps you will have their blessing."
The party took their reward and their leave. On Dela's suggestion, they decided that the first order of business was to track down the imposter Keeper, lest the changeling corrupt Ashara after its upheaval. On their way through the gate hall they found an agitated Master Villarr running back into the city, shouting that "Keeper is dead!". He was found hours dead and stripped of his clothes and belongings, confirming the party's suggestions. Dela devised a plan: pretend that they had just gotten out of the trial and taunt the changeling through a Sending ritual. They would pretend to be arrogant and overconfident, hopefully leading the changeling back to them.
The Elder agreed to act in their scheme, "so long as you hurry." The Sending was prepared and quickly delivered, but the reply was disheartening: the changeling claimed to have already left Ashara, though he promised they would meet again.
The party decided that it was time for them to depart, and selected a ship that would leave for Eszayr the next day. As their negotiations finished, however, the ground began to vibrate, then rumble, then shake violently. Everyone on the docks watched in amazement as the mountains surrounding Ashara slowly crumbled and crashed into the sea with spectacular force. With the mountainous wall gone, the gate of Ashara stood foolishly, as curious sailors began to simply walk around it to enter the city that now stood naked before them. The captain of the party's vessel announced that they would be departing NOW, and so they did.
A few hours passed before Dela received a Sending from Ander, the leader of the Agents. Wave hit Highrock. Harbor and all ships destroyed. Hundreds dead. Suspect Artha hit as well. What happened? What are your current plans? Dela answered with a carefully constructed reply, explaining Ashara's fate and their current passage to Eszayr.
The ship was crewed by colonists of Reeveold, and some seemed upset to have a shifter on board. One spat on Winter, though she maintained her composure and got her satisfying revenge by fraying the ropes of his hammock, causing a satisfying thump that night. The rest of the voyage passed uneventfully, though, and the party landed in Reeveold a few days later.
It was immediately clear that the streets of the ramshackle "city" were emptier than they ought to be, and the few men and women in the streets were rushing to the center of the city. The party followed and found a massive crowd in the city's central square. In the center was a raised platform with a human man and a female shifter, naked and with her hands bound behind her.
A woman approached the party and tapped on Alfred's shoulder. "Excuse me, did you just come of that ship from Tyrell?" she asked. "From the city? By any chance do you know my friend Ander?" "Why, yes, we do!" answered Alfred. The woman took the party further out of the crowd to speak, and introduced herself as Arille, an Agent of Tyrell like them. She explained that this was a public execution in reprisal for the murder of a colonist.
The man on the platform reached down and took what looked like a damp blanket from a man in the crowd and held it up to raucous cheers. The crowd began chanting. The party made a call: this did not look right, and it should be stopped. Winter, distraught at the sight, had tried to sneak away from the party, but was seen. Dela and Alfred began to scheme up some sort of distraction, while the rest of the party listened to Arille's explanation of events: The shifter had, indeed, killed a colonist. A band of colonists had attacked a shifter camp on the border of the desert and taken this one captive. When one of the men tried to rape her, she killed him and broke free, but was quickly recaptured and brought to the city as an example. Here, she was to be given a cloak coated in flammable materials and set ablaze for all to see. The executioner was none other than Reeve, the most powerful of the colonists. It was his name, they realized, that the crowd had been chanting.
The shifter stood proud and stoic as Reeve shouted indistinguishably to the crowd and drove them to further cheers. Dela and Alfred settled on a plan: they would light a flour silo alight and use it as a distraction, hopefully thinning the crowd enough for the shifter to make an escape. The other party members decided on how they could be of help and left to find their places.
Alfred had the honors. He crept to a silo south of the town square, lit a torch, and hurled it into the silo, hoping for a blaze. He got a full fireball instead, the force of the blast almost knocking him to his feet. The crowd stopped chanting as they noticed, and Alfred ran towards them, shouting "Fire!" in mock panic.
The crowd began to shift to the south and spread out. Reeve cursed and stepped off the platform. Yurgrim moved through the proposed escape route, pushing men aside where he could. Dela then struck, moving near the shifter and telepathically telling her to make a break for it. The shifter deftly dropped to the ground and accelerated to a mad dash to the north. Dela began creating balls of psionic energy amongst the crowd, distracting and dazzling them. Still, some saw the shifter and led a pursuit.
Winter met the shifter at the north end of the square and shouted for her to follow. They ran north as fast as they could, but some of the colonists kept pace all the same. Addy followed as well from a nearby rooftop and fired an arrow in the ground in front of the pursuers, putting at least one on his back in surprise. One of the colonists tried to fire an arrow at the shifters, but missed wildly in his run. The chase carried on past the tents on the outskirts of the city and into the vast farmlands beyond. Eventually, the colonists found that they were no match for the endurance of the desert shifters and dropped their pursuit. The exhausted shifters, with Addy, found a spot in a nearby field to hide, covered their tracks, and slept.
Meanwhile, Dela, Alfred, and Yurgrim stayed back. Yurgrim went searching for a seedy underground bar, without much success. Dela and Alfred asked for directions and went to Reeve's manor. They bluffed that they were merchants from a newly opened Ashara and wished to set up a trade deal. The gullible guard let them in, and Reeve invited them to sit down and have drinks. The man was friendly, then hostile, then amicable, then threatening, never revealing his true feelings. He listened carefully to the party's story, asking pointed questions throughout. But in the end he dismissed them, explaining that Reeveold is an open market, and they are free to trade with the merchants of the city with or without his permission.
After a good night's sleep and an early start the next day, the three in Reeveold bought some clothes set out to the north. Winter and the others kept a watch and met them on the road. The shifter took the clothes gratefully and introduced herself as Jherakasa:ke, a warrior from a desert tribe. She offered to take them to her tribe after they escaped the farmlands, and the party readily agreed. With that, they set off to the north.
Next Session: ON SEAS OF SAND
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Yurgrim tapped his fellow party members and pointed. All of them immediately tried to hide and stay quiet, but a startled Alfred accidentally shouted in surprise: "OH SHIT, THERE IT IS!" He tried to recover from this misstep: "THAT HOUSE, OVER THERE... uh... THERE IT IS!" The black cloud froze in place for a moment, then continued on its path, quicker than before. The party gave chase.
The party was easily able to keep close to the cloud and eventually found it sinking into the ground in the middle of the street. After it was entirely submerged, the sewer manhole that it had gone through became visible, and the party followed it through. The damp rain tunnels were pitch black, and the party relied on Dela's magical torch to light the way. The party followed the cloud further until eventually it turned a corner. When the party came near, they found what the cloud had been hiding: a group of kobolds, descending upon them in attack.
The battle was quick, but fierce. The kobolds (small draconic creatures) shifted around the battlefield maddeningly and nearly brought down Alfred, who had successfully drawn their attention. The kobold leader, a wyrmpriest, fired orbs of chilling frost and did his best to rally his compatriots, but the party did not relent, and by the time the battle had been effectively decided, it was too late for the wyrmpriest to run.
Dela weathered the priest's icy orbs especially well, with much of the cold being swept into her backpack. When she checked, she found her tattered cloak to be not-so-tattered anymore, and to be showing slight signs of magic that had not been there before. She put it away again.
The kobolds had apparently dropped a small pile of valuable baubles before attacking. Platters, goblets, and jewelry made of gold and silver littered the floor. Recalling the Dead Man's instruction to "destroy the treasure", the party set about disfiguring and demolishing the loot, bashing and jumping on it. The clangor carried down the sewer halls.
The kobold's hallway led to a 50-foot precipice, which sat above a slowly moving channel of water. After finishing with the treasure, the party took a moment to rest, sitting near the edge, as the prophecy instructed. But their rest was interrupted when a figure appeared behind them, said "Boo", and threw a magical blast of wind that pushed the entire party over the edge into the water below.
A last-minute feat of mental discipline from Dela allowed the tiefling to resist the spell, and she stood her ground. The figure in front of her appeared to be wearing the same clothes as the mysterious monk who guided them to Master Vilarr the previous day, except that the strange glistening string necklace appeared to be glowing. Beyond that, the figure had utterly white skin, long black hair, and an entirely different face than the monk's. It smiled at Dela, and it ran. Dela followed, using her psionic powers to slow him down. The figure snarled at her, its eyes and teeth growing to twice their size for an instant before returning to normal, but it continued running as fast as it could. Dela, thinking of her friends, gave up the chase and returned to the precipice.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party landed in the water with only a few bruises thanks to the mud and moss at the bottom of the waterway. Unfortunately, their only light source had been Dela's torch, and they could hear something large approaching them from ahead. Yurgrim quickly cracked a sunrod, filling the waterway with light and revealing an equally-surprised young white dragon. It immediately attacked.
The dragon swung out viciously with its claws and teeth, and its icy breath froze the party in place when it caught them in the water, but the party kept the battle well in hand thanks to their skills, teamwork, and new magical aids. Yurgrim's amulet kept out the cold especially well, and Alfred's wolf pelt kept out the worst of the dragon's breath. Addy fired arrows as fast as she could, while Winter snuck up behind the dragon and dealt devastating blows with her katar. When Dela returned she contributed with psionic assaults from above. Yurgrim stayed busy with his healing powers, and at one point Winter fell unconscious, held up only by ice, but the dragon was cornered and slain.
Dela eventually found her way down to the rest of the party by way of a dagger jammed into the wall and a coil of rope. The dragon was stripped of its intact scales and teeth, and the party decided to follow the frosty tracks it had left. After traveling up the waterway for some time, the party found a passage carved through the wall. Following it, they came upon a massive domed cavern. Several kobolds, evidently surprised to see the party, made an effort at an attack, but they were far weaker than those encountered before, and were dispatched with little effort.
The contents of the cavern bewildered the party. In the center was a pile of less-valuable treasures made of bronze and occasionally silver. But near the wall, equally spaced, were a dozen large eggs, each of which glowed a bright white with veins of another color. One had hatched. The party recognized them as dragon eggs.
Dela approached a red-veined egg to try to ascertain how close it was to hatching. It answered by showing a crack in its shell. Dela responded by launching a psychic attack upon the creature inside. The infantile dragon was already dangerous, but unsuspecting. It quickly died under Dela's mental siege. Prying open the shell a bit more, the tiefling revealed an unborn red dragon, just about ready to hatch. The rest of the party, excepting a distraught Winter, proceeded to the other ten eggs, smashing them and killing their contents. Yurgrim wondered aloud at how such a collection came to be: dragons did not associate with dragons of other colors, nor did they lay eggs in groups. So many eggs in one place should have been an impossibility.
When their work had just been completed, the party glimpsed three humanoid figures approaching from the tunnel. The party readied weapons and called out to them. The figures revealed themselves as Asharans: two humans and a gnome. They demanded to know what had happened. After hearing part of the story and consulting amongst themselves, they demanded that the party come with them back to the city. The party agreed, and were marched up to the surface, where dawn awaited them. The gnome stayed behind, curiously inspecting the smashed eggs.
Eventually they were led inside one of the largest towers in the city. At the second story, they were guided to a prison cell and instructed gruffly to enter. The party pleaded innocence, but the two Asharans would brook no argument. "It will only be for a short time", said one, and assured them that the Elders would be deciding their eventual fate. The party reluctantly agreed and stepped into the cell. The door was closed and locked behind them, and they waited patiently to be summoned to the Elders...
Next Session: THE TRIAL OF SPRING
Sunday, October 10, 2010
The party members split up, with Dela trying to gather information by playing traders off of one another, Addy and Winter wandering and asking passersby for help, and Yurgrim and Alfred going into one of the bars (The Hungry Hippo) for rumors. Eventually they found the name of a contact (Captain Jaren) and found her in The Salty Pringle (another inn). Captain Jaren offered her story for a price, and, after negotiating to 15gp, told them a story: One night she got drunk with friends and fell into the stormy waters off the dock. A freak wave picked her up and threw her on shore, where she miraculously landed safely on her feet. Soon after, a deva came by, took her to a tower in the town to interrogate her, and then took her inside the gates. There, an old man asked more questions before sending her back into the city. Jaren finished her story in smug glee for having been able to sell her tale for a full 15gp.
The party reunited, and Dela entered The Salty Pringle alone. There, she flattered Captain Jaren, claiming that she had already heard the story, but wanted to hear it from the Captain herself. For the price of an ale, Jaren retold the story, this time including the critical detail of the location of the deva's tower. The party promptly went to the tower, a repurposed silo, and knocked on the door. After waiting and hearing no answer, they entered.
Inside they found a stony-faced deva staring at them a few feet from the door: "Why have you come?" The party explained that they wished to enter Ashara, and the deva took them to the small room at the top of the tower, offering them water and a place to sit before interrogating them as to their purpose and desires. The deva, who identified himself as Keeper, was insistent that nobody who entered Ashara ever chose to leave again, and that tourists were unsuited to enter. Almost on the verge of giving up, Yurgrim reached into his pack and pulled out a large coin: the Daelon Mark, the signal of the authority of the king of Tyrell. The deva's eyes widened for the first time. Perhaps, he admitted, the party should be shown into the gates, even if he doubted they would be allowed to enter Ashara truly.
Following Keeper, the party again approached the gates of Silverport. There, the deva put his hand to the door, which glowed and opened. Nobody laughed at them this time around. The party entered into the massive carved stone hall, with innumerable thick pillars stretching towards the impossibly high ceiling. "Wait here," said Keeper. He then closed the door again, shutting the party off from himself and the world.
The party waited. After a minute or so they heard the echoing footsteps of an approaching stranger. The man, a bald human wearing robes and a glistening white necklace, greeted the party and asked them to follow. As he led them past columns and hallways, he asked: "What brings you to Ashara?" Alfred answered in full, explaining Archibald's divine inspiration, his request of them, and their current mission in Ashara. The man listened quietly before pointing them towards a room and taking his leave.
Entering the room, the party met an old man who immediately asked them how they had found their way. Their explanation puzzled him. "It should be just me here", he insisted. But with more pressing matters at hand, the man introduced himself as Master Vilarr. "So, you're looking to immigrate to Ashara!" he began. But the party explained that they were in fact on a diplomatic mission, again telling their story. Vilarr insisted that those who belonged in Ashara never left, and explained why this was so certain a truth: every immigrant to Ashara is granted a prophecy by one of the three resident prophets. This prophecy tells them how to find success and their own happy place in Asharan society. Perhaps the party could hear their Asharan prophecy, and then decide whether to stay? The party agreed.
First, the prophet had to be chosen. There were three: the Seer, the Fool, and the Dead Man. The Seer spoke absolute truth, but only spoke in vague language and mysterious tones. The Fool was candid and friendly and led people to good ends, but lied freely and frequently in his descriptions of the future. The Dead Man gave no knowledge of what would happen in the future, but offered specific and direct instructions that would lead to success and triumph. For some unknown reason, only one prophecy was ever given to each new group in Ashara, so the party had to choose.
After much discussion, Winter led the group to decide upon the Dead Man as a compromise. They entered a small room with a desk and, sitting behind it, a gaunt man. The man sat perfectly still, save for his extraordinarily shallow breaths. He did not react to the party's presence, but when Master Vilarr stepped out and closed the door, the Dead Man's head rose by an inch and he spoke:
“Stay together. For each of you, Ashara has a gift.
Dela. Find the smallest and grandest merchant. Reject what he offers. Reject what he offers. The third time, accept.
Adelaide. Find the elf at the city’s center. Make him give up his livelihood, and take it.
Apostolos. Exit the city, and find the hunter. Befriend him. Do not tell him your name.
Akohsera:ke. Find the blue house, and break in. Do not let the one inside leave, and you will find what you came for.
Yurgrim. Follow the magic. Help.
When you all are done, wait until night. Follow the cloud of darkness. When you reach the precipice, destroy those who guided you. Then, wait at the edge. Win the battle that comes. Follow the tracks, and destroy the treasures you find. So shall you set this land free.”
With this said, the Dead Man's head dropped again, and the party departed his room. Master Vilarr asked: would they be staying in Ashara? With a taciturn affirmation, the party followed Vilarr to the great hall, and then to the doors opposite those they entered. As he opened them, Vilarr spoke: "Welcome to Ashara". Shining white buildings and immaculate cobblestone greeted the party underneath a perfect blue sky. Beyond the city were lush grasslands, and beyond that, an untamed forest. The mountains that surrounded the isle seemed porous and almost hollow when viewed from the inside, and above these mountains was a ring of mists and storm clouds. But within the limits of Ashara, paradise held firm.
The party, however, took little time to enjoy the sights. Suspicious of the tales and their treatment so far, they decided to follow the Dead Man's prophecy immediately. Dela asked a passerby: what might the "smallest and grandest merchant" mean? "You must be new!" smiled the eladrin, recognizing the sound of prophecy. But he happily explained that it certainly referred to a gnome, small even for her kind, who ran a shop for luxury clothes (mostly capes and cloaks): Cloak and Swagger.
The party found the shop, and Dela approached the gnome. After some discussion of Dela's likes and dislikes, the excitable shopkeeper ventured into the racks of cloaks, eventually emerging with a splendid red and gold cloak in hand and a complete expectation that Dela would buy. When Dela refused to even touch the cloak, instead letting it fall the the floor, the gnome vascillated between confused, enraged, and heartbroken. The gnome eventually gathered her spirits, threw the cloak into the firepit, and went to find another, again emerging with a magnificent garment. When Dela refused again, the gnome was apoplectic with rage for a moment before suddenly calming down and offering Dela a cloak for free. She then disappeared into the back room for a few moments before returning to hurl a ragged piece of cloth at Dela while yelling "TOO PERFECT?!" in wild-eyed anger. Dela took the cloak and departed without further argument.
Outside the shop, the cloak was revealed to be full of holes and smelling musty, in a state so shabby that even a beggar would find no good cause to wear it. Dela confirmed that it was nonmagical and put it in her pack disdainfully. The party agreed to move on to Addy's task, again asking for directions and finding their next destination: the circular clearing at the city's center.
There they found an elf painting on an easel with brush and palette in hand. He was finishing a picture of a Cravith Heights volcano, with the lava represented by a strangely glowing red paint. As he finished his beautiful work of art, he sighed sadly and placed it on a growing pile of painted canvases beside him, before pulling out a new canvas. Addy approached the elf and asked why he threw away such a skillful piece of work. The elf gave his disjointed explanation in between sighs and sad glances at his art. Ashara, he explained, was a cage. He had nothing waiting for him outside, and would do nothing but paint in any case, but the limitations of Ashara had stricken any artistic inspiration from his mind. After much discussion, Addy was able to implant the suggestion that the elf join his brethren in the forest outside the city and try to find inspiration in nature. Meanwhile, Addy and the others slowly took the painter's tools out of his hands. The elf eventually stood and walked, with a spark of hope, towards the wilderness. Addy kept his paints, including the strange glowing red one, which burned where it touched her hands.
Next came Alfred's task. The party exited the city over its main bridge and saw an aging human sitting comfortably by the side of the river. Alfred and the others sat beside him, and the friendly man struck up a conversation. He spoke of many things, including his glorious years as a hunter devoted to Melora. He then asked Alfred to tell his name and purpose in Ashara. When Alfred bluffed unconvincingly, the man began to grow annoyed. But Dela spoke up, explaining that Alfred was a compulsive liar (and telling this lie in the most compelling and believable way possible). The man's budding hostility turned to pity, and he continued to tell his story, explaining that he had been exiled from the city of Tyrell after hunting in the woods that "belonged" to the noble house of Hadad. After much and more conversation, he offered a gift to the poor warden: a magical pelt that would keep out the cold. After all wished each other well, the party re-entered the city.
After more queries, the party found directions to "the blue house": the location of Winter's strange task. The party dawdled in the street outside the dwelling while Winter jumped along the roofs of the buildings to reach the attic entrance of the blue house. She found the lock already opened, and entered stealthily, hearing footsteps in the master bedroom. When the figure in the bedroom exited to the hallway, Winter tried to back away and hide, but knocked over a broom, and the clatter gave her away. Both Winter and the other, an eladrin, froze in their tracks and stared at each other, with the eladrin shoving his hands into his pockets. Each was on edge, and a strange, mutually accusatory conversation took place. Eventually the eladrin began asserting that Winter was a thief and an intruder, and demanded that the shifter leave. When Winter explained that her prophecy demanded that he stay in the house, his eyes widened and he bolted for the stairs. Winter followed, but the eladrin tripped before she could get there, so she pounced on him after he stopped tumbling down the stairs. Then, she pulled out her daggers and drove them through the eladrin's clothes and into the floor to pin him down... or she would have, had she not missed and instead stabbed the eladrin through the shoulder.
Outside, another eladrin had approached the front door and tried to enter, but Yurgrim and the others stopped him. This eladrin was confused and increasingly concerned, and when he heard the scream from inside, threw off the hands of the party, unlocked the door, and entered. There, he dryly greeted the stabbed one as Zerr, while Zerr addressed him as Zelin. It was explained that the two had been rogues before reaching Ashara, and now they had a friendly competition of trying to steal from each other (and Zerr had been hiding thieves' tools in his pockets). Zelin, thanks to the party's intervention, had now won. Zelin patched up his friend and then went upstairs to reward Winter for her efforts, presenting her with a magical cape that he had used in his youth. With this kindness, and with the curt request to never enter his house again, Zelin dismissed the party back into the streets.
With only one task remaining, Yurgrim tried to detect magic in the city. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until a sudden blast of magic struck from the eastern side of town. The party followed it and found a young human mage pacing up and down the street in front of some warehouses. Yurgrim asked if he could help. "Can you keep a secret?" asked the mage. He explained that he had been trying out a new spell, but didn't think it could work. After much hemming and hawing, he admitted that he had tried to summon an imp from the Nine Hells. The divine protections around Ashara should have prevented the summoning from working, but to his surprise and horror, he had actually summoned five imps to the city. They remained trapped inside a warehouse for now, but he needed someone to get rid of them.
The party let the mage open the door and stormed in. When the door slammed behind them, they found themselves in pitch darkness. Even with Dela's Everburning Torch lit, the pillars in the room obscured plenty of dark corners. From this darkness and seemingly out of thin air, two imps appeared and lashed out at the party with their tails dripping poison. But the party stood together and quickly killed the monsters. The other imps were more cautious, poisoning the party, flying around, turning invisible, and trying to remain in the shadows. But with so limited a space, and with so many powerful heroes in the room, the imps were all soon slain. Yurgrim recovered the mage's magic brooch, which was promptly gifted to him in thanks.
With all five prophesied treasures found, the party takes a much needed (albeit short) rest...
Next Session: THE DEAD MAN SAID
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Here they found the King in his black scale armor. Archibald studied the party, flanked by Cormac, the royal battlemage, and Ander, the leader of the Agents. "You don't have to do this" whispered Ander to the King.
"Why did you bring us here?!" demanded the foreign dwarf Yurgrim. The royal advisors were stunned at such disregard for royal authority, but Archibald answered calmly nonetheless. "I require your service," he said, and went on to ask how he might reward the party in exchange for joining his Agents. Each hero demanded a price, and each was promised what they asked.
Archibald then told the party their mission: they were to help prepare Arena for war. They were to go to each land of Arena and gather whatever alliances they could. To help in this task he gave the party the Daelon Mark, a large golden coin that served to identify high-ranking officials of Tyrell. When asked why he chose the party, he seemed almost embarrassed, but replied that it was due to "a divine vision". He offered few details, and with that, he left the party in Ander's care.
If the King seemed skeptical about the party's abilities, Ander was downright incredulous, but he kept his discussion to the business at hand: deciding the party's first destination. A map was laid out, and each land explained. A long discussion ensued. At various times Cravith, Artha, and Rakhosa were championed. But after a suggestion from Cormac, the party decided upon the mysterious and misty land of Ashara, which seemed to be everybody's second choice. Ander gifted the party with a Basket of Everlasting Provisions, a Bag of Holding, and +1 magic weapons. Cormac then drew a circle around the party and cast a ritual, opening a portal beneath them to Highrock, which they all promptly fell through.
They did not land in Highrock, however. Instead, they landed on an infinite plane of swirling red and purple smoke. Before they could examine their surroundings, smoke swirled and the forms of skeletons took shape, rising from the ground.
The party fended off a horde of skeletons, but more kept coming. Soon, they were surrounded by powerful skeleton warriors and burning skeletons that threw orbs of fire. At this point, the party also noticed a bright light from above, centered on a dot that seemed to be plummeting to the ground. But they could not investigate, and fought on. Dela Amori welcomed the fire attacks of the skeletons, protected by her Tiefling heritage. Yurgrim did his best to heal the party and fight off the undead with his holy powers. Alfred defended the party as best he could, while Addy fired dozens of arrows at the skeletons and Winter snuck behind them to deal devestating blows with her katar.
As the battle raged, Winter, Yurgrim, and Alfred fell to the skeleton hordes, but the last burning skeleton was vanquished and the dying heroes saved before they succumbed to death. It was then that the plummeting object above them arrived, revealing itself to be an angel. It struck the earth with a pulse of holy energy, but no skeletons remained to be affected. Puzzled, the angel disappeared.
It was replaced by four figures: a dwarf in plate armor with a warhammer, a dragonborn in scale armor with a greatsword, a young woman in leather armor, and an old man in white and yellow robes, all radiating immense power. They approached the party, talking amongst themselves about being "found out". The dwarf sized up Yurgrim and announced "You'll do fine". When the old man smiled at them, the whole party felt healed and uplifted. The party attempted to ask questions to the figures, but only the dragonborn would answer. Soon the other three figures disappeared. It was only as the dragonborn began to speak that the party realized that these figures were none other than Moradin, Avandra, Pelor, and Bahamut.
The Platinum Dragon spoke to them, explaining that gods rarely intervened in mortal worlds, for doing so sapped their strength and made their actions visible to other gods. One year ago, he explained, Asmodeus intervened, which caught Bahamut's attention, leading him to inspire Archibald to travel to Tyrell and thwart the plans of the prince of devils.
Since then, the gods of Good had noticed many subtler interventions of the Evil gods in the other lands of Arena. It seems likely that they will try to disrupt the other lands as Asmodeus tried to attack Tyrell, eventually leading Arena to be as unstable and monster-ridden as most other mortal worlds. Bahamut had a divine premonition that the party, if brought together, had some hope of stopping these plans, though success was far from guaranteed. It was he who inspired Archibald to bring them together and send them on their mission.
Unfortunately, Vecna, the Evil god of the undead, had noticed Bahamut's action and sent his undead forces to slay the party during their teleportation. He only sent his lesser minions, however, so Bahamut suspected that Vecna did not realize the party's importance to him, and hopefully just presumed that they perished.
Bahamut left the party with one warning: the unaligned gods could play a deciding part in the coming conflict over Arena. He implored the party to avoid angering them, and to curry their favor if possible. With that, the party abruptly vanished from the plane and reappeared suddenly and unceremoniously in a dark, crowded room full of barrels.
After determining that the barrels were full of ale and not gunpowder, Dela used her Everburning Torch to light the place, and they reached for the door. The door swung open before they could open it, though, revealing an eladrin who immediately cursed and fell on his back. Winter sprung upon the eladrin and covered his mouth, but released him at the urging of the other party members.
The eladrin recognized the name of Ander and mentioned that he never quite got used to finding Agents in the closet like that. He introduced himself as Gosling and offered free ale (wine for Dela) and food for the party. They were seated amongst the sailors, merchants, and captains, and given plenty to eat and drink. Gosling joined the table and asked how he could help. The party explained that they were on their way to Ashara. Gosling was intrigued and mentioned his own "adventures" of seeing the docks of Silverport, but asked no questions and soon left the inn. Winter followed him stealthily, but saw nothing out of place and soon returned to the inn. After some time, the party took to their rooms and slept.
Gosling woke them up the next morning to a breakfast of eggs and a ticket for five on a merchanter to Silverport. They found the captain, boarded the ship, and set sail at noon. The journey featured good winds and weather, and the seasoned crew paid them scant attention beyond a few curious glances at the shifter. After about a week of sailing, the ship finally reached Silverport. The clean, bustling dockside district stood before them, and beyond that, flanked by steep cliffsides, a massive silver gate stretching up to the sky...
Next Session: ASHARA BEHELD
Monday, September 27, 2010
This central land is named after is capital city, which rules the entire continent under the guidance of King Archibald Daelon. It is mostly populated by humans, but elves, eladrin, halflings, dwarves, tieflings, and dragonborn are common enough.
The cities of Tyrell include:
- Tyrell, the capital city, huge and important due to the government's presence, confusing since it shares a name with the continent as a whole. Player characters Dela and Alfred hail from Tyrell.
- Highrock, a smaller but commercially critical port city known for its charm and the pride of its residents.
- Balenor, the old seat of kings and the second-largest city, long since in decline but clinging to its grand heritage. Addy, a player character, hails from Balenor.
- Revo's Crossroads, a trading post that has, in the past few decades, grown far too quickly for its infrastructure to keep up.
- Port of Esser, a lavish port city ruled proudly by the most powerful noble in the nation (aside from the king).
- Sammic, an industrial city serving the mainland, famous for its crafts but often in poverty due to a poor trading location
This small land is isolated and shrouded in mist. It is mostly populated by fey creatures such as elves, eladrin, and gnomes. Merchants make runs from Highrock, trading commodities for magical items and residuum. Few outsiders are ever allowed to proceed past the great silver gates of Silverport, and those that do rarely return. They are usually remembered through tall tales and rumors that claim they find heavenly bliss in the island's interior.
It is believed that the entire island serves as a sort of joint monastery for clerics of Melora, Corellon, and Sehanine, though even clerics of those orders are not allowed inside.
The desert on Eszayr defines the continent. It is populated mostly by extensive seminomadic clans of shifters. Each clan has a proud, strong identity. Winter, a player character, hails from the desert of Eszayr.
Recently, the colony of Reeveold was established from various enterprises funded by the assorted nobility of Artha, Tyrell, and Rakhosa (although no nation claims or offers protection to the growing city). The colonists seek to "reclaim" the desert, which has resulted in much tension with the native shifter clans.
This fertile continent is often thought of as a "younger brother" to Tyrell. Its people, a mostly even mix of dragonborn and human, are civilized and fairly wealthy, and trade between the two continents flows constantly. Rakhosans often visit Tyrell, and vice-versa.
The continent, however, is not unified, and for centuries the land has been divided between various "strongholds". The largest strongholds are cities unto themselves, while smaller strongholds amount to no more than a simple keep and garrison. Some smaller strongholds serve larger ones as vassals. Although the strongholds are almost always at war with one another, it is extremely rare that any faction is ever completely destroyed or toppled. Still, the constant battle has infused the people of Rakhosa with a strong sense of martial honor and duty, which influences nearly all parts of life.
"Cravith is a wilderness," it is often said in Tyrell. While this is true, it does not mean that the land is unpopulated. In fact, large numbers of elves make their home in the treetops of the Cravith Forest, while vast underground fortresses of dwarves dwell in the Cravith Heights. Orcs wander the mountains above, and it is rumored that a village of Goliaths lies nestled amongst the highest peaks. Yurgrim, a player character, hails from the Cravith Heights.
Most visitors and traders know of Cravith only from its sole city, Proudrest. The city is built within the forest, and is populated almost entirely by eladrin, who mediate between the human traders from Tyrell and their more wild cousins, the elves.
Artha has been the traditional enemy of Tyrell for centuries. The mage lords of Artha lorded over Tyrell with a heavy hand, demanding taxes and tribute. Eventually, their cruelty and ignorance grew too great, leading to the rebellion and subsequent Unification of Tyrell.
Now, over 30 years later, Artha hardly stands as a threat to anyone. The mage lords of Artha are divided into five Towers, each with a color, specialty, and title. While Artha is nominally ruled equally by the Towers as a single nation, in fact the factions are constantly at odds with each other. Open warfare between Towers is unheard of, but scheming, subterfuge, and assassination are common and expected.
The mage lords are mostly composed of humans, tieflings, and gnomes, but the majority of the population is composed of the human underlings living in the shadows of the Towers and the goblin slaves that act as ubiquitous servants in the Towers and tortured slaves in the mines.
Addy is in Tyrell from her hometown of Balenor to ask her more prosperous relatives there for money. She has a noble family and also holds honor and family in high esteem.
Akohsera:ke Okwaho (Winter)
[First person] Hello fellow travelers! My name is Akohsera:ke Okwaho, although every time my name is said I am stared at and peoples mouths make my name funny...so you may call me Winter. There are many stories and things why I live not in my village but I want to be a guide and this is why I am in Tyrell. Other small stories why I left included my future mate Kaneniano:ron...but this is actually a rather long story, but as his name implies he is a very hard Ron:kwe to be with. Ah right ummm his name is the very hard shiny rock that has great value. Ha ha sometimes I hate how right the elders are with name giving.
But without saying too much, I am here and I am Winter. Oh and my family name means Wolf in common.
Yurgrim is training to be the high priest of Yurarr. He is about 30 years away from becoming the high priest, and is about 10 years into his training. It need not be said that Yurarr is a fortressed, mining and smithing oriented clan from the southern continent of Arena, Cravith.
Yurgrim has traveled from Cravith to converse with the Tyrellian dwarves about his high-priesthood. Unlike some clans, Yurarr is accepting of the dwarves who live abroad, whom other clans may consider exiles. Yurgrim is supposed to spend a few months visiting the temples of the Tyrellian dwarves and speaking with them about their homeland.
Apostolos Alfred Hadad
The house of Hadad is known for its distinguished, ambitious, and extremely successful nobles whose presence is felt in many (usually illustrious) areas of Tyrell's history. Of late, they are in a diminished period, certainly with a presence in court but without the influence of their glory days. Sotiros Khiry Hadad, the current head of the household, has spent his time carefully building up the Hadad name, positioning himself and his family into increasingly powerful and impressive positions and saving the surname from the occasional scandal. For evidence of the former category, you need look no further than his own offspring. For instance, his eldest son Alexis Efren, works very closely with the king's financial advisors, and Thea Akektica, his eldest daughter, is a handmaiden of the queen herself, and most skilled in the business built up around the subtle protection of royals. Even his flighty third Tasia Inez, his third child, seems to be seducing some higher-ups and might have her sights set on the prince himself.
For evidence of scandal... you need look no further than Sotiros' offspring. Apostolos Alfred Hadad, fourth child, was nothing but trouble and shame when he was first born into the Hadad House. A mewling baby who never gave the matron a moment's peace, Apostolos (who insists on going by his middle name, for some reason) soon became a troublesome child who insisted on exploring the grounds and always needing to be chased after and bathed and possibly fished out of trouble. Why, at the young age of four, he found his way outside the walled and quite exotic garden behind the Hadad villa and roamed the streets for nearly six hours! Had it not started to rain an hour after his disappearance, he might have been lost forever. Strangely enough, the child was not the worse for wear for his time in the city- he was calm and curious, despite the presence of a raging thunderstorm, and seemed to have found some dropped food in the marketplace.
In any case, when Apos- Alfred got large enough to start getting into some real trouble, Sotiros and his uninterested wife Elayna had a stroke of luck: the temple of Corellon, an hour's journey from the city, was looking for young men to take into their ranks and train as knight-templars, serving and protecting those in the service of Corellon. (The temple was quite surprised, as they were expecting- and for the most part, got- middle-class young men looking for a trade, or poor yet hearty youths looking for a more regimented life.) It turned out the large youth- by now with nearly thirteen years upon him- was suited to this work, and he worked hard to learn the sword and the shield, becoming quite skilled in the mastery of both. Though at first younger than most of the other boys, his size made him an equal to the other boys. When someone did seem intent on picking a fight, his seemingly careless and jovial nature more oft' then not diffused the situation. His superiors found this attitude most unseemly, yet at other points the boy seemed so serious and well-thought that they could rarely catch him doing anything remotely punishable. They sensed his devotion to Corellon was as wry as his wit, and yet the boy seemed to deliver heartfelt prayers and excelled at the religious aspects of his training in addition to the physical ones.
What was a boy has now become a man- an unorthodox man who could certainly never ascend the ranks within the temple, since he does not incorporate prayer into his fighting itself, but a man of great fighting prowess whose reputation the Hadad house is happy to promote- from a distance. Years of temple service have not managed to vanquish Alfred's unnecessarily frivolous attitudes. He tells out-of-place jokes in high company. He seems not to take anything seriously. His now-muscular frame and rather roguish good looks make him quite a target for the ladies as well, and he has taken many to his bed on various nights. Despite this seemingly brazen sexual attitude, only a few of the female persuasion have ever seemed upset with him (though many claim heartbreak), and those who have made a scene often quietly stop shortly after, usually from female peer pressure. It seems too good to be true to many of the other men in Corellon's guard. When asked for his secret, Alfred tells his friends to "Just be honest". No one is sure if he is joking or not.
Between his exploits, his skill, and his easygoing manner, Alfred is quite well-known, and well-liked, among the fighters of the various cities he's travelled to under the command of Corellon's priests. He is currently in Tyrell with an emissary of Corellon there, and though he is known in that city for other reasons as well, he stays away from his father's house. "It is a successful place. Every cornerstone and tapestry breathes success and ambition,which makes it cold and loveless," explains Alfred quite freely, though he will likely not go into the story unless he is drunk and/or feeling quite sorry for himself. When he is drunk, he lets go and seems a little angry, something that leaves the tavern uneasy. It's strange. No-one speaks of it, but more than a few men have noticed strange winds arise when Alfred is angry, or when he seems perfectly in sync with the rhythm of battle. He becomes quite intimidating, as though energy is crackling beneath his skin, as though at any moment he might change into something else.
Alfred has noticed as well, though he makes no mention of it, and wonders if he knows the cause. He can't quite keep the image out of his mind- a spirit of primal energy, lightning and wind and thunder and rain, dancing through the streets of Tyrell--behind the marketplaces and in the deserted alleyways of course, but right there, right there for everyone to see- if only they were looking! He was only four in the image- dream?- but he knows what he sees, sees it- looking at him?-sees it wild and beautiful and kind. He sees it blow bread off the tables in the marketplace for him, he sees it coming so close his hair crackles, before it dances back into the sky. He is wet but the rain is warm and beautiful. After that the world is beautiful- the world was beautiful before but only as his four year-old mind was trying to learn it and now it is beautiful even after it is learned. People and cities are sometimes beautiful but they are cold, and lack the love that the wilds hold, the love and life that nature thrives in. And yet,he can see it in people, beautiful people, beautiful women, he can see the wilds within them and he loves sharing it, calling it to life, letting them know their beauty and while he will often deflect seriousness, loveless seriousness with jokes, beauty is serious, and he does not lie about it does not lie at all about anything that matters he will share spread beauty Corellon knows he understands even though his men do not understand they do not need to understand he is forgiven by God and by Nature she is beautiful and powerful screaming relentless blistering angry only for a good cause angry so that beauty may be preserved for beauty love magic I am not of Corellon he is not I am Mine but We respect each other He is seeking and keeping and it is good, it is beautiful
Dela has smooth cream-colored skin, small gold eyes, and small horns curling around the side of her head. Her deep black hair falls two feet behind her head. She typically wears it down, though will sometimes braid it. Her tail is tinged slightly red and is all but invisible when Dela wears long dresses. She can easily pass as human from a distance, her horns looking like ornate hair pins. She is exceptionally beautiful. Her horns--which detract from the beauty of most Tieflings--simply serve to accentuate her perfectly proportioned face. She is renowned amongst the nobility (and envied by many young ladies) for her beauty.
Born into the nobility in Tyrell (the city), Dela's life as a child was one of ease. She was waited on by servants, fed sumptuous food, and educated in the ways of nobility alongside her older (by 4 years) sister, Lara. Dela's parents were both incredibly intelligent. Knowing the importance of the subtle game played out at court, they ensured that Dela received an education in politics and statecraft.
From the day she was born Dela had a talent at manipulating people, even before her parents taught her formally. She could almost always convince her parents to do whatever she wished. Young noble boys were at her beck and call constantly. The first one professed to love her at age eight. Her parents thought her to be a gifted young woman. Her sister (and many others) thought she was a brat.
When she was nineteen, though, things changed. One of the young nobles with whom she had toyed when she was younger asked her to marry him. She had been receiving these proposals for years, but this noble was different. He was the son of the very influential Master of Coin. The Master of Coin was getting old and was expected to retire soon, and his son was easily qualified to take his job. Additionally, the king trusted him, which practically guaranteed him the position. Dela accepted the proposal almost immediately.
Two months later, though, Dela disappeared. Her fiance was murdered and her house was burned to the ground, her entire family (including her) presumed dead within. Oddly enough, the family's wealth in gold was not found in the ruins during the investigation and was presumed stolen. A massive investigation was mounted, but no leads were turned up. When Dela reappeared in court a year later at the summons of the king, it was quite a surprise.