Everlasting Dawn

Nine

The morning after the battle with the wereshark, the adventurers were surprised to find Hania missing from her room, her armor and gear left behind. A search of the area turned up hair and blood, but no further signs of their missing paladin. Furthermore, there was no sign of the Highspire at the docks, essentially stranding the group in Everlasting Dawn for the time being.

They spent the next several days doing business, collecting their reward for traveling to Alaron and opening an account at the Imperial bank; Henrik found that his family’s home had been sold, the price for it much too steep for he and his companions for the time being.

Adding to the mystery, Courtland vanished a few nights later. The group made an attempt at tracking him, but they all knew that, if Courtland didn’t want to be found, they would never locate him.

The following morning, while eating their breakfast, the troupe was surprised when Courtland returned, Hania with him, but changed. She’d taken on a darker aspect, no longer wore Pelor’s symbol.

Hania explained the reason for her disappearance, apologized for taking the Highspire. The benefit of her being at sea, however, was that she had seen strange lights in the water that she felt were connected to the stories of strange, corrupted fish being pulled from the ocean.

After a stop at an alchemist’s shop to purchase some potions, the party set sail from Everlasting Dawn to investigate the lights. As they sailed out beyond the unending daylight, Henrik and Hania went below decks, using one of the potions they’d purchased to reverse the petrification on the elven cleric they’d recovered from the tunnels beneath Thruvian’s home.

As the stone turned to flesh, the elven woman swung her sword – a beautiful, silver cutlass – the blade cutting through Henrik’s armor effortlessly, before she lost consciousness and tumbled to the floor. As they looked down at her prone form, they were shocked to realize who was at their feet: Archbishop Cynthiana. Or at the very least, her exact duplicate. For the time being, they agreed that it was best to keep her safe, and her identity a secret, and so she was stowed away in the captain’s quarters, with Seymour Ashby standing guard.

That night – the first nightfall they’d seen in almost a week – the group came upon the strange, flowing lights in the water. The lazy dance of the colors in the water was hypnotic, but staring into them soon had the group feeling vaguely dizzy and nauseous. Despite this fact, they downed their potions of water breathing and descended into the black ocean.

On the ocean floor, they came upon a sunken ship, clearly ancient, with the unusual lights pouring out of its every crack and port. All around the ship, the ocean floor had turned into a slippery, lumpy porridge, and the flora had turned into something sinister: some plants had strange, finger-like growths; others drooped with the weight of bulging eyeballs that grew on them like fruit; still more seemed to pull away from them, as though aware.

Moving forward, the group investigated the sunken ship. It was empty, the cargo it once carried long since buried in the silt, or deteriorated by time; however, sinking into the ocean floor, they came upon a bizarre tunnel, looking strangely like living tissue and growing with long, smooth pseudopods that lazily drifted in the water. The hole was clearly the source of the sickening lights.

As they moved through the tunnel, the pseudopods reached out for the adventurers, brushing their bodies warmly, gently, like a lover’s caress. Unpleasant though the sensation was, they pressed on and were rewarded with the discovery of an underwater cave. Inside, they found the nawidnehr, along with an ixitxachitl, standing alongside a bloody altar with three huge pearls resting atop it – one green, one blue, and one red, the obvious source of the dancing lights. The ixitxachitl screeched endlessly in prayer to Demogorgon, promising the fall of the golden city and the spread of chaos across the land.

The screaming eulogy was brought to a sudden halt by a dagger when Courtland rushed in silence from the shadows, sliding the weapon easily through the back of the demon ray’s head, the blade pointing out from between its teeth.

The nawidnehr wasn’t going to fall so easily. She made use of the pearls, shattering one against the ceiling, where the alien flora clung, making it all coalesce into strange, humanoid creatures, armed with barbs, snapping jaws, and grasping tendrils; the second sphere she threw into the water, causing it to churn into deadly whirlpools. The beast then turned its hungry eyes to Courtland.

In a rapid exchange of blows, the nawidnehr battled Courtland, while his companions fought off the small hoard of plant-things. Finally, the wereshark got a grip on Courtland, and her teeth sank into his side, teeth cutting deep, his warm blood flowing into her mouth and pouring out from between her teeth.

As Courtland died, everything around him stilled, even the whirling seawater came to a complete halt. Nerull stepped from the shadows and stood before the dying man, gazing up at him from within the shadows of his hood. The small demigod promised Courtland the strength to protect the people he loved, and warned him of Y’ora’s plight amongst the undead of Nazianz. Courtland agreed to aid Nerull in his rise to godhood, if only to save his adopted daughter.

Courtland awoke as he struck the ground at the feet of the wereshark, just in time to look up and watch as numerous blades plunged through the body of the beast, her warm blood rushing out and splattering over his prone form. She toppled, forcing Courtland to roll out of the way, before finally becoming still.

As everyone caught their breath after the savage battle, Aiko moved to investigate the final remaining pearl. He found it to be some strange manifestation of chaos energy, clearly a product of the far realm. With a great effort, the dragonborn concentrated his arcane energy on destroying the orb, and in the blink of an eye, it erupted, washing the whole room in intense, green light. Intense, crippling pain and savage nausea overwhelmed the group for a heart beat, before passing just as suddenly as it had started, leaving no one the worse for it.

Hopefully.

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Eight

Henrik stands on the prow of the Highspire as it cruised into port at the city of Everlasting Dawn and sees the city in ruin, the buildings collapsed and the shuffling shapes of walking corpses in the streets. He grips the hilt of Nightbringer and looks to his right, where the rancid face of Hania Highspire gazes upon the destruction as well, smiling eternally because of the way her cheek flesh had rotted away; behind him, a Dragonborn skeleton and an armored shifter, with putrid, worm-ridden liquid drooling out from between the plates, carry an intricate litter upon which sits a keg-sized orb of green glass. Courtland rushes out from between the deck boards, his form now an incorporeal black mist.

Henrik disembarks and walks amongst the ruins, while the undead creatures bend their knees to him reverently. He makes his way to the palace, the only structure left standing in the accursed city, and walks down hallways where the marble has been stained red with spilled blood. In the throne room, Henrik’s companions bow and he makes his way to the throne.

Once seated, Henrik turns his eyes to his left, to the second grand throne, to the seat of his empress, and seated there he sees…

Henrik awoke suddenly to the sound of a bell on deck, his body covered in cold sweat. He turned his eyes to the left and saw that he was clutching the hilt of Nightbringer, the black blade unsheathed and glimmering in the morning light filtering through the half open window.

Summoned by the emergency bell, the adventuring troupe rushed to deck where they saw Everlasting Dawn, after weeks at sea, stretched out and gleaming before them. Their approach was blocked however by a blockade formed by all forty two ships of the Puritania fleet.

After a brief exchange using hand cones with the captain of the Puritania XII, they learned that the harbor was being kept open due to the scheduling unveiling of the Imperial Armada’s new flagship.

The adventurers were brought to Everlasting Dawn by the Peacekeepers aboard the Puritania, while Thruvian Redwater was forced to sail the Highspire back out to sea.

Once in town, the group decided to visit the Ditronas family home, which they found empty and listed for sale. Eager to investigate, they climbed the fence and broke into the house, finding it to be entirely unfurnished, but also without substantial dust, suggesting that the house hadn’t been vacant long.

On the second floor, Henrik heard some faint movement and, upon investigating, nearly had an unpleasant reunion with Seymour Ashby, the captain of the Ditronas family guard. Following a brief reunion, Seymour revealed that he had been fired months earlier by Henrik’s elder brother, Jonathan, and the family guard was replaced by a militant group of mercenary bodyguards from Ravinia. Shortly after that, Jonathan had his family packed up to set sail for Corinax, a place he claims the Ditronas family will be able to regain their once-noble bearing.

Seymour was offered a place aboard the Highspire, which he accepted, and he was teleported to the ship with the use of Courtland’s amulet.

Wanting to learn more about the state of Everlasting Dawn, the troupe made their way back to the the Drowned Rat, where they learned that the empire was at war in the west, with an army of creatures pouring out of Alaron. They were also told of brutal murders in town: human men on the docks were turning up with their genitals savagely removed, before they were drowned in the sea.

The group decided to investigate the murders and went to visit the morgue where they could examine the bodies with the mortician and the Battle Sisters stationed there. They learned that most of the men were without their pants when they were found, and all of them had clearly been mutilated by the bite of a huge, savage creature; the bite pattern suggested a shark.

Assuming that they were looking for a wereshark posing as a prostitute, the party returned to the docks to set up a trap and confront the beast. They soon learned that their assumptions were correct as a tall, beautiful woman approached Courtland, posing as a lone drunkard on the street, offering him sex for coin.

The mysterious woman led Courtland down a complex spiderweb of alleys to bring him closer to the sea, while the rest of Courtland’s companions followed as quietly as they could. Finally, the woman pushed Courtland against the wall and dropped to her knees, her eyes turning black as night and her mouth filling with rows of razor-sharp teeth, but before she could finish the deed, the party sprang into action to confront her.

With a terrifying roar, the creature transformed into a huge, shark-like creature, with rough blue and white flesh, powerful muscles, and an immense stature. Hania rushed to face the creature, and while she fought well against it, her separating herself from the rest of the group proved in only a few seconds to be a fatal mistake. The shark-creature managed to catch Hania’s sword arm in her iron grip, dragging her into the table-sized maw. Teeth like knives bit into the deva’s chest with enough force to crush the armor and punch through her body; her blood poured out of the ruined chest piece, pooling on the cobblestones at the monster’s feet.

Instead of the pain giving way to blackness, Hania found herself standing in a beautiful city, surrounded by towering spires of white stone, capped with high, blue-tiled steeples; a light snow fell over the cool city, but the men and women in the streets seemed hardly to notice as they moved about to complete their tasks.

Standing in the street near the deva, also watching the city around them, was a childish figure, barefoot in the cold, clad in tattered black robes and gripping a shepherd’s crook from which a green-lighted lantern hung, odd in its hourglass-shape.

The young god, who had taken the name Nerull, promised to lend his strength to Hania, to help her to recover lost Highspire, if she should turn away from Pelor’s light to step into Death’s shadow. Hania eventually agreed on the condition that he would use Nerull’s power to tear the demigod from his throne should he step out of line. Nerull agreed, the pact was made, and Hania awoke at the feet of the wereshark, her wounds miraculously healed.

With their combined might and Hania’s renewed strength, the adventurers managed to push the wereshark back; it unfortunately managed to escape into the ocean, where the group was left wondering how to track it.

As they stood on the dock, a black shape appeared in the sky, the sun at its back and a flight of dragons escorting it. Fearing renewed attack, the adventurers prepared steeled themselves to help defend the city, but as the shape grew closer, they saw it to be the new flagship of the Imperial Armada – an immense war galleon, sailing through the sky as though it was water, accompanied by a flight of regal gold dragons.

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VII
Lost at Sea. Old New Friends.

Fleeing from Ostia Antica, the adventurers chose to steal a ship and set sail for Everlasting Dawn across the Empyreal Sea. With no knowledge of how to operate a ship, or make use of navigational tools, the group was hopelessly lost with a black storm on the horizon.

By luck, they found their way to a humid, overgrown island, but what drew them to the island was the presence of a great stone keep atop a stone plateau that climbed high above the trees. They dropped anchor and made their way to the island, through the mosquito infested jungle, and finally to an ancient set of worn stone steps that were carved into the cliff face.

The keep was ancient and in disrepair, the grounds overgrown and the surrounding fence collapsing into rust. As they explored the plateau, lights began to flick on in the house, startling the adventurers who had thought the place abandoned.

Entering the house, they were greeted by a blue, spectral apparition of a tall, lean man, regal in manner and bearing a fine mustache. He introduced himself as Thruvian Redwater, a name which Aiko recognized as an ancient folk hero spoken of in adventure stories, bardic songs, and crude limericks. The specter was clearly pleased to have some company and proved a most gracious host as he set the house to magically conjuring up refreshments and a steaming meal for the group to partake of, while they exchanged stories of past adventures.

Excusing himself from the rest of the group, Henrik left to find the house library. The books there were ancient, most of them falling to pieces in his hands. He spent some time there, looking for books pertaining to the undead, but in the end, left with only a delicate, old ritual book, written in ancient Highspirian – something which he would have to translate in the future.

Thruvian made it clear that he wished to leave the decrepit keep and return to a life (or unlife) of adventure, and having endeared himself to the group, they were all too pleased to extend an invitation for the ghost to join them. Highwater revealed that he would not be able to leave, despite his very great wish to, because of some visitors he’d received a few hundred years prior.

When pressed for information, Thruvian revealed that a pair of necromancers had come to his home with a third in tow – someone who seemed out of place with the sorcerers, as she was an elven paladin of Pelor. Though he’d hidden from the trio, Thruvian learned that the necromancers were named Sever and Glance, but he’d never gotten the name of the third. They had been all through his home, and soon found the entrance to the natural caves beneath in the mountain beneath the keep, which Thruvian had been using as treasure vaults. The trio descended into the caves, and when Sever and Glance returned, they did so without the paladin, and by using summoned servants to carry most of the riches and magical items out of the vaults.

The necromancers had also done something to Thruvian’s body, which was left in the vaults after betrayal brought an end to the aged adventurer. Fearing that his own body had been risen as some kind of vile undead, thus anchoring his spirit to the place, Thruvian chose never to return to the aged vaults.

Eager to make a companion of the ghost, the adventurers volunteered to head down into the vaults to retrieve his skull, thus allowing Thruvian to escape the island with them.

Descending into the caves, the adventuring group found that they were humid and wet, with moss and lichens growing on every surface. They fought kobold interlopers that had mined their way through the mountain and into the cave, as well as acidic slimes as they made their way through treasure vaults that were indeed bare.

While swimming through a water-filled cave deep in the mountain, Aiko saw a dark, humanoid shape in the water, which he chose to investigate. He found the shape to be that of the elven paladin, who appeared to have been petrified and left deep in the cave system for unknown reasons. They chose to retrieve the statue to revivify later, and then delved deeper into the caves.

Passing a golden door, the troupe entered into a room that was clearly of grand design in the past, as there were still remnants of great mosaics reflecting scenes of long lost Highspire. The storm beat down on their heads here, as a huge rockslide had exposed this portion of the caves to the sky, and the storm had finally arrived while they were deep within the mountain. Also in the room was Thruvian’s skeletal remains, animated and wearing immaculate armor, sitting upon the back of a skeletal horse.

The fight was intense, the skeleton receiving support from a pair of homunculi that had hidden within the room, and Hania was nearly lost as the undead seemed to focus his attacks on her. In the end, however, the skeleton fell and the homonculi were destroyed, allowing the troupe to recover Thruvian’s skull.

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Sixth Adventure
Flight from the Capital!

The trip to Ostia Antica was uneventful, leaving the party saddle sore and restless after weeks of near-constant battle. Being forced to endure a four day trip with Ilario di Luna, the gleaming, river-side city was a very welcome sight on the horizon.

Though there was an opportunity for sightseeing in the Nazinian capital, the troupe decided to travel directly to the castle to report to the king. Having been expected, they were immediately granted entry, and the chamberlain took them to a place where they could clean up before meeting they were taken to the throne room.

While preparing to meet the king, the group got a visit from his son, Prince Sargon D’Falco. The prince questioned the group about their origin, their reason for being in Nazianz, and what they hoped to discuss with his father, but the adventurers proved reluctant to give details to anyone beyond the monarch.

When they were finally brought before the king, Agrapio D’Falco, they found him to be an older man, very thin, and though he had a regal manner, he was actually quite approachable. They admitted to the king that they were not the emissaries he had hoped to receive from Great Farris, then proceeded to ask for assistance on behalf of the empire, which had come under siege from the vile forces of Tiamat and her dragon hordes.

Before any arrangements could be made, Sargon came into the throne room, announcing that he had a visitor who would like to speak to the king as well. The creature that came into the room after Sargon wore black armor over gray, dry flesh, and looked upon those assembled with empty, black eyes.

The wicked bodak death knight, Lothar Suncross, approached the throne, revealing that he had come to bring down the royal family and add the people of Nazianz to his army of undead abominations. Sargon had only offered the death knight safe passage across the country in exchange for scaring his father into rescinding his offer to join the ecclesiastical empire, and as such, he was horrified to learn what he had inadvertently invited into their castle.

Black light filled the bodak’s eyes as he prepared to use his killing gaze on King D’Falco, but Sargon rushed forward to interpose himself between the undead warlord and his father. The prince’s life was saved however when Aiko stood before Lothar and let the creature’s gaze fall upon him.

Lothar’s black eyes drained the life from Aiko, replacing it with the chill of death, and as the dragonborn fell, time seemed to slow and then came to a stop, and Aiko saw a slight, robed figure emerge from the rear of the throne room.

The figure was small, child-like, and wore a black robe, ringlets of pure white hair spilling out from beneath the shadowed hood; in his hand, the boy clutched a black staff, topped with a lantern that resembled an hour glass filled with a sickening green light.

The entity revealed that he had been watching the group and their efforts, and he saw great things in their future; he said that he had wanted to make contact with them for some time, but due to his unique domain, he was unable to do so until that moment when Aiko’s life was ended.

Aiko asked the boy who he was, but the cloaked figure admitted that it had never been given a name. After a moment’s though, it chose to name itself Nerull – a name which the dragonborn recognized as the god of death from long ago, before the Raven Queen became a deity herself.

Nerull explained to Aiko that he intended to depose the Raven Queen and take back the old death god’s full portfolio, most of which had been taken by the other god’s upon his death. He would hold dominion over death and dying, as well as the undead, which would allow him to put a stop to Lothar Suncross’ rampage, and ensure that Orcus would never be able to come back to power. His plans would require assistance on the mortal plane, and as such, Nerull had come to the party to offer them the opportunity to become his chosen and aid him in taking the throne of death.

The dragonborn accepted the offer, and Nerull returned the life to Aiko’s body, allowing the wizard to rise again, just as his companions were springing into action to fight back against the bodak.

Lothar used a powerful alchemical concoction which reduced the king’s guard to agonized, shambling undead under his direct control; he also summoned creatures from the braziers in the throne room which resembled the still-glowing bodies of humans who had been burned to death. Finally, the bodak turned to face the party, drawing an ominous black blade from the scabbard at his side.

Before Suncross could engage the party, the tower shook with a great impact, and the window exploded as the head of a dragon, the face obscured by a bronze mask, crashed through. The dragon bathed Lothar in flames from her maw, but it was not enough to end the death knight. In retaliation, Lothar lunged through the window at the dragon, and the duo disappeared from sight as they fell away from the tower.

The party quickly dispatched Lothar’s minions, and during the fight, Aiko took the prince’s silvered, masterwork longsword, and Henrik found that Lothar had dropped his black sword while defending himself against the dragon, and had left it behind in his frenzied attack.

There was no time to celebrate their victory, as the group could see hundreds of shambling figures rising out of the river, metal frames glittering in the sunlight as they poured into the town, mercilessly killing any who stood in their way.

Shocked by what had transpired in his throne room, King D’Falco was slumped in his chair, gripping his chest and breathing heavily, clearly in great pain due to the stress of the situation. While his son stood by him, trying to comfort his father after his foolish action, Agrapio begged the adventurers to head to the scrying chamber beneath the castle, where they would be able to make contact with Ravinia, to ask them to send their forces to Nazianz’s defense.

The group agreed to help the king, but as they made their way through the castle, now overrun with undead, they decided to abandon Nazianz and escape to the harbor, where they would be able to commandeer a ship that could carry them back across the ocean to Everlasting Dawn.

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Fifth Adventure
Envoy from the Empire? A Scorned Suitor.

Upon passing through the portal, Y’ora informed the adventuring party that they were in a tower owned by the wizard Glynelenor, an accomplice in the Spider’s smuggling organization. Y’ora and Courtland separated from the rest of the group to ascend the tower and locate the wizard in hopes that he would shut down the portal linking back to Alaron.

The wizard’s laboratory was a dangerous labyrinth of arcing electricity climbing tall jacobs ladders, glowing in plasma cylinders, and swirling in dizzying patterns in glass disks. The bent old wizard seemed unfazed by the danger of the electricity around him as he worked at switchboards and monitored flickering lights.

Glynelenor was aggravated by the interruption, but at Y’ora’s urging, he finally relented and shuffled down the long staircase to the teleportation room to dismantle the spell.

The troupe regrouped to discuss their plans when another tower resident joined them, this time a young, female tiefling, with red skin and a fluffy black mohawk. Y’ora and the tiefling embraced warmly, and Y’ora introduced the tiefling as her lover, Rebel. Together, Y’ora and Rebel offered some suggestions to the group, Y’ora strongly advising that they stay away from the war and ruin in the empire. Rebel offered to show the group around Ravinia, where they might have found work as mercenaries, though Y’ora made it clear that she would have been happier to have them join her own organization.

Learning that Rebel was from Ravinia, Henrick asked her about the insignia that he saw on the armored figures guarding his family home. The tiefling knew that the insignia was that of the RAPTOR squadron of Ravinia’s mercenary military, but couldn’t offer any more explanation as to why they were at his estate.

After much debate, the group decided to visit the local town of Ajaccio, where they could enjoy the Shepherd’s Festival and clear their heads before making any decisions about their future.

Ajaccio was a pleasant town, built among gentle sloping hills, with streets made of colorful river stones, and small homes, decorated with flowers. At the center of town, on a cobblestone plaza, the festival was in full swing; numerous stalls with colorful canopies were set up, each of them selling sheep and mutton, cooking in rich broths, roasted with spicy seasonings, diced raw with onions and garlic, and many other ways unusual to Great Farris.

The adventurers spent some time enjoying the food, games, and dances of the festival, but their attention was drawn to a nearby pavilion where the count of Ajaccio was making a speech, thanking the shepherds for their contributions, as well as the harvest gods for continuing to bless them with bounty. Once the speech was over and the count had descended from the stage, Hania and Henrick approached him to question after the town and recent lunar events.

Count Ilario di Luna was happy to speak with the newcomers, and seemed rather interested in Henrick in particular. Separating Henrick from the rest of the group, the count asked in a hushed voice, having recognized his accent as coming from the Empire, if they were the envoy from Great Farris that the king of Nazianz had been waiting for. Henrick attempted to deny this, but the count assumed that they were to travel in secrecy to the king and could not talk about it.

The count invited the group to his home to discuss things further – an offer which they accepted – and then he left them to enjoy the rest of the festival.

When the group arrived at the count’s home, their host was busy with dinner preparations, leaving them alone and awkwardly waiting in the sitting room. They were not alone however, as Hania noticed that someone was watching them through the partially opened door.

The daeva opened the door quickly, startling the young lady on the other side. She introduced herself as Ilaria di Luna, the count’s daughter. She joined the party, sitting with them and talking about their adventures, seemingly trying to gather information about them. Sensing this, Hania simply asked the girl what it was she was after.

Ilaria confided in the group that she’d hoped to hire them to find her lover, a troubadour by the name of Manrico. She revealed Manrico to be a talented bard, but he had a tendency to get himself into trouble with petty theft and confidence tricks; his punishments were never severe, but when Ilario found out about the affair between the troubadour and his daughter, he had Manrico exiled from Ajaccio. Despite his exile, Manrico continued to sneak into the town to see Ilaria, but did not show for their last scheduled meeting.

The head of the merchant’s guild, Massimo Lazzari – a very successful man, well loved in Ajaccio for his efforts in bringing up the price of wool – had been trying for years to get Ilaria to return his affections, and had done much to create trouble for Manrico in the past – Ilaria even suspected that he had something to do with her father’s idea to exile the troubadour. With her beloved going missing, Ilaria feared that Massimo had a hand in the disappearance.

Having agreed to help Ilaria, the group told the count that they would need another day to prepare before leaving for Ostia Antica to see the king, and that night, they sneaked out of the count’s home to head for the forest, where Manrico had a hunting cabin he’d been living in.

Arriving at the cabin, they found obvious signs of struggle, flecks of blood, and a lute smashed to pieces against the wall. The back door was standing open, and there were obvious drag marks that led into the forest.

Following the trail of struggle, the troupe came upon some ruins of an old keep, where a number of poorly outfitted human guards huddled around small fires, alongside primal-garbed goblins. Hidden in the shadows of a crumbled wall stood a cage large enough to hold a human.

The group attacked from the shadows, and in no time, the guards and goblins lay dead all around them; an attempt had been made to leave one alive, but in his attempt to escape, he’d tripped from the high, crumbling wall and tumbled to his death. Worse still, the cage was empty and there was no sign of Manrico.

Searching the guards, the group managed to find a note, which explained that Massimo would be taking Manrico to ‘the witch in the woods’. With no other leads, the group moved back into the forest to search for the witch.

In time, the adventurer’s were able to follow a meandering trail of strange totems of dangling bone and leather that hung in the trees like wind chimes. This brought them finally to the witch’s hut, a ramshackle hovel sitting in the center of a field of thick, sucking mud. The witch was standing outside of her hut, shaking rattles made of bone and calling out to the sky as she danced around a roaring fire, eyes glinting in the fire light. Behind her, emerging from the hovel, was a well groomed, dark-haired man in immaculate, if ceremonial, armor and weapons; he was pushing a bound and gagged man before him, wearing tattered red velvet.

Aiko Tai Hideaki listened to the witch’s mad eulogy, in hopes of gleaning its purpose, and was shocked to realize that she was calling out to Demogorgon.

Courtland spearheaded the attack, lashing out at the witch as he leaped out of the shadows and into the strangely flickering lights of the bonfire. As his blades cut into the witch’s leathery skin, Courtland looked into her ancient, wrinkled face, and saw her staring back at him with children’s glass marbles, where eyes should have been.

The witch responded to the attack by melting into mist and flowing away from Courtland to stand beneath an immense tree. There, she worked her magic to summon a pair of immense, humanoid figures out of the mud to fight off Courtland’s companions.

Massimo threw Manrico to the ground and stepped forward to stand between Courtland and the witch. In his fury at the interruption, Massimo exclaimed that he would stop them interrupting the ritual.

In his misguided attempts to make Ilaria love him, Massimo allowed himself to be tricked by the witch into bringing her a human sacrifice, claiming that with it, she would be able to make a potion for the man that would ensure that Ilaria would be his forever. Despite the promise of eternal love driving him, Massimo was no match for Courtland, who quickly dealt a fatal blow to the merchant, and then toppled him into the bonfire.

While Hania, Henrik and Aiko fought the mud men, and Courtland dealt the killing blow to Massimo, Edmund made his way around the edge of the fight and up to the witch. The old hag was hurling spells at the others and lost sight of Edmund in the chaos, allowing the shifter to land a lethal blow with his word, which tore open the leathery flesh of her plump abdomen, allowing the straw and wriggling insects within to spill from her gut. Finally slain, the witch fell to the mud, and her body was added to the bonfire alongside Massimo’s.

Manrico was freed, though he could only thank the group before Hania began questioning him, clearly implying that he was a gold digging sneak thief, only after the count’s station and wealth. The troubadour pleaded that this was not the case, and explained that he and Ilaria planned to run away from Ajaccio to be together.

Exploring the witch’s hut revealed many grisly artifacts, in the form of jars full of insects and strange meat, animal skulls, strange runes drawn in ash. Also in the hut was a small, leather satchel, containing a mirror which the other members of the group were too afraid to look into.

Manrico left the group to return to his cabin, so that he could prepare himself to return to Ilaria, while the adventurers returned to the ruins of the keep to plan their next move.

While at the ruins, strange whistling sounds could be heard coming from the well, like rushing wind. Curious, Henrik dropped his rope down the well and climbed down inside. The well descended to an underground river, which Henrik lowered himself into, and then fell through, so that he was dangling above a vast plain, covered in gray dust and stones, his rope hanging through a watery portal in the empty sky of that black place.

Concerned by how long the warlord was absent, Henrik’s companions quickly pulled him back up and out of the well.

As the others gathered around the well, Aiko took out the mirror to examine it. He deduced the mirror to be a ‘spying mirror’, and knew that if he was to look into it, he would be able to see through its mate as though looking through a window – but where could its mate be?

(Three hero points.)

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Fourth Adventure
Swarmed. Old friend. Escape to Nazianz.

Standing in the shadow of the newly undead Kimeryth, the adventurers retreated into the manor house and left through the backdoor into a walled garden. The immense dragon tried to follow them, climbing onto the roof of the manor to give chase, but the shattered structure could not support his weight and the manor crumbled beneath him, granting the adventurers the time they needed to make their escape.

Leaving the manor, the group saw the full extent of the destruction caused by the fall of the Eye of Orcus; shattered buildings, half-eaten corpses in the streets, the few survivors crying out in their hiding places. The streets were thick with the living dead, shambling hordes on the hunt for meat, their flesh already black and shriveled with decay, despite the moon having fallen less than an hour ago.

As the troupe hacked their way through the swarm, Henrik Von Ditronas noticed one of the cobblestones shifting, rising from the others to reveal a man beneath. The man beckoned the adventurers to join him in the tunnel, promising to lead them to safety. They chose to trust the man, disengaged from their rotting opponents and made their way downward.

Traveling through large stone corridors, half-choked with cobwebs, the party was eventually brought to the headquarters of a band of smugglers. Surrounded by riches, the group was invited to make themselves at home to await the coming of their boss.

Upon the arrival of the boss, Courtland was shocked to see his protégé, Y’ora El, who had disappeared from his service several years prior. Equally surprised, Y’ora rushed to embrace her former master.

Y’ora revealed herself to be the Spider, head of the most successful smuggling operation in the country of Epoch, though she’s recently begun to branch out to the other major countries as well. The rest of Y’ora’s gang was present as well: the brutish dwarf twins, Garlick and Rutledge; a somewhat unsettling half-elf named Sylstaer; a roguish tiefling with a flare for dramatics named Journey; a nimble-fingered halfing, Irary Redthistle; and a huge, scarred human called Sycamore.

The smugglers gathered around a map of their convoluted tunnel system in hopes of finding a way out, but were unable to come to an agreement – running to the north would bring them to the barrier of the Coppercourse Mountain, south led to the Empyreal Sea, west would bring them to the Sea of Araxie, and heading east would find them in the wraithlands.

Hania Highspire suggested they travel south to get to the sea, where they could take a ship to sail to Everlasting Dawn. She also urged Y’ora to aid them in launching a rescue operation in Fierburg to save any survivors of the moonfall – a suggestion which the Spider resisted utterly.

At the door, while escape was being planned, something slipped soundlessly into the room, with strange, gliding movements. A tall, spindly humanoid creature, with long fingers and something akin to antlers sprouting from its featureless head.

Sycamore was standing at the door as the thing drifted in, and he grabbed his axe and attempted to cut it down, but the axe passed through the creature’s body like it was water. The creature responded by moving its fingers in quick, weaving motions around Sycamore, tracing the shape of the man without touching him; he cried out in pain, clutching at his head, and finally, his body collapsed into sparkling dust – magical residuum. Sylstaer took a shot at the thing with his crossbow, but again, the attack passed through the creature’s body like water.

Y’ora grabbed Courtland’s hand and ran. She took him through a secret passage in the wall, the rest of the two groups racing after them. The path ultimately brought them to a small room, with a golden hoop set into the floor and magical runes painted on the walls. The Spider explained that this room was a teleportation circle that would take them across the Empyreal Sea to Nazianz, where she had some colleagues.

With no other choices for escape, the adventurers and the smugglers entered the golden hoop one by one to be teleported to a wizard’s tower in Nazianz.

(Whosoever reads this text shall be granted the boon of hero points thrice.)

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Third Adventure
Dust. Recruitment. Loss.

The adventurers found themselves standing at the edge of the wraithlands as night fell, looking along the dusty expanse of death laid out before them. They chose to camp through the night in a nearby copse of trees, though with great concern for what might come out of the wraithlands during their stay.

The night passed without incident, and the group moved on into the wraithlands, their feet kicking up small motes of grayish dust. Their first day brought them to the once-living village of Hanesly, which was now morbidly preserved in the moment of destruction, with human skeletons standing at doors to knock, standing at shops in town square, laying in the shade of an equally skeletal tree for a nap. The eruption of energy from the destruction of Orcus’ ziggurat seemed to only affect the living, as the buildings here were intact, with only the passage of time serving to deteriorate them.

Careful to avoid touching any of the human skeletons, they moved on to a stables near the center of town to set up camp, inside which they found four standing horse skeletons within their stalls, and the remains of an old dog lying atop a bed of hay. After Hania Highspire cleared out the horses remains, they set up camp, using a rotational watch through the night in case of activity from the townsfolk. There was none. The following morning, they set out again.

Day two in the wraithlands brought the adventuring party to a stream of crystal clear, cool running water. Hania tasted the water and found it to be good to drink, used it to restore their depleting water supply; Henrik Von Ditronas did not trust the water and refused even to let his horse drink from it. That night, they camped in a forest of old, black trees, dead and leafless. Once again, a watch was setup, though no attacks came in the dusty night.

That night, the watch felt something strange in the air – a feeling like they were being watched. The feeling seemed to come from the ruby moon overhead, the Eye of Orcus seemingly grown in the sky overhead to swallow up the silver and emerald moons. Aiko Tai Hideaki focused on the ambient magical energy around them and found that there was still a faint prevalence of necrotic energy, interspersed with odd flickers of energy.

On the third day of their journey, the adventurers came upon the much larger city of North Ford, with a lord’s keep overlooking the clustered buildings. The group decided to go around the city, as the streets were choked with the skeletons of North Ford’s citizens, all frozen in time as they were going about their daily errands. There was some discussion as to whether or not they should visit the keep to investigate and perhaps spend the night, but in the end, they chose not to.

Finally, on the fourth day, they left the wraithlands and entered into Alaron proper. A few hours later, they finally came upon Fierburg, a rather large city that sat nestled in the shadow of a great cliff, atop which Highhelm Bastion loomed.

Following the cobblestone streets, the troupe found The Free Ranger, a tavern and inn, where they spoke with the innkeeper about their travels and learned of Darom Madar, the local lord and a writer of some notoriety. The innkeeper suggested that they visit Lord Madar, as he was a great collector of stories, but they decided to spend the day in town to recuperate before the hours-long climb that was required to reach Highhelm Bastion.

During the downtime, Hania met a gold dragonborn, Tavaar, head cleric of the grand church of Pelor in Fierburg. She told Tavaar of Tiamat’s attack on the empire’s capital, and of their quest for the aid of the Praetors of Ophirion, and Tavaar asked to join them so that he could lend aid to Everlasting Dawn as well.

The following morning, the group made the climb up a treacherous staircase carved into the cliffside, and by dinnertime, finally stood at the gates of Highhelm Bastion. They found the whole mountaintop was converted into training grounds for the Praetors of Ophirion, and were further shocked to find more than a dozen young, gold dragons training with them.

As escort of Peacekeepers brought the troupe to see the Lord of the Flight, Neoptolemus; they told him of the battle and gave him Inquisitor Regula’s summons. While Neoptolemus went to gather his war advisors, the group was brought to speak with Neoptolemus’ personal mount, Kimeryth, Champion of the Skies.

Kimeryth, an ancient gold dragon, brought the adventurers into the ant colony-like tunnels that weaved through the mountain and to his personal quarters, a giant cave full of treasure and hung with dozens of banners from around the world. Henrik was surprised to see a banner of his own family crest, and learned that Kimeryth had gotten it from the new owner of a keep to the west.

They discussed the coming war with Kimeryth, as well as the unusual closeness of the Eye of Orcus; afterwards, they were told to rest up, as they would be taking flight for Everlasting Dawn the following morning.

True to their word, the Praetors of Ophirion were mounting up before sunrise, and blowing war horns to wake the camp. The adventurers learned that the whole group of them would be riding Kimeryth, as they didn’t have enough dragons to go around, and the ancient dragon was fitted with a long saddle with five seats. They mounted the dragon, eyes turning towards the red moon as the surface seemed to crawl with spiderwebbing cracks.

The dragons finally took to the air and were moving into battle formations, as the ruby moon cracked and splintered in the sky. All eyes were on it now, as enormous slabs of red stone crashed down to earth in the distance, smashing a forest to the north, and kicking up enormous clouds of dust in the wraithlands to the east. Finally, jagged shards like huge spears rained down on Highhelm Bastion and Fierburg, cutting through the dragons and their riders and causing the huge creatures to tumble from the sky.

Kimeryth was fast and skilled, darting around the projectiles with notable agility, while Highhelm Bastion and indeed, the whole of the cliff face sloughed away from the mountain behind them as it was shattered by the rain of red stone. Unfortunately, Kimeryth could only keep them safe for so long, and as his wings were shredded, the noble dragon was finally struck with a red boulder the size of a house, the impact knocking out each of the riders on his back.

When they awoke, the adventurers found themselves scattered atop a wide, flat stone building, the air around them thick with red fog and dust, while red lightning pierced the sky and illuminated the swirling mist. The group reassembled and came to the conclusion that they had somehow come to be on the roof of Lord Madar’s keep. They rushed to the battlements to look down into the streets, where they saw human forms stumbling around blindly, while moans of pain and anger filled the air.

Needing a way down from the roof of the manor, the troupe found a hole that had been punched through the roof that fell down to a wide bed. They entered the keep through the master bedroom and moved into the hall, where they saw the servants wandering and wailing in pain. It seemed as though some terrible affliction accompanied the fall of the ruby moon, as the servants’ flesh appeared to be melting into a thick, sticky substance that was drooling off of their skeletons and leaving snail trails of slime in their wake.

The newly undead servants attacked the party the moment they saw them, clawing and tearing at them savagely while they screamed in their own terrible pain. Halfway through the battle, Lord Madar himself showed up, corpulent and richly dressed, with taut gray skin and piercing red eyes.

Lord Madar welcomed the guests and invited them to stay, in service to him forever. The invitation was promptly refused, and the wight lord was pushed back and finally forced to retreat, though not without causing Hania a grievous wound.

Having fought their way through the keep, the adventurers finally found themselves before the front doors. They pressed the doors open to step out into the thick, red mist, but were greeted by the immense form of Kimeryth, Champion of the Skies, rotting and dripping with black bile.

(Give yourself six hero points if you read this.)

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Second Adventure
Betrayal? Onward to Dunleigh. New allies.

Henrik Von Ditronas and Courtland fought through the night in the streets, aiding townsfolk and Peacekeepers alike as they made their way to one of Everlasting Dawn’s inner rings, where the Ditronas family home was located.

When they arrived, they found the street in front of the manor littered with dead kobolds and dragonborn, and when Henrik rang the bell at the locked gate, he was surprised to have a huge man in immense, bulky, matte gray armor and carrying strange weapons answer. Henrik announced himself, but the guard asked for identification to prove who he was, which the beleaguered adventurer could not supply, and after that, the guard refused to speak further with them.

Not eager to cause a scene after the dragon attack, and less eager to fight on the family grounds, Henrik and Courtland turned away from Ditronas manor and returned to the vault where their companions had spent the night protecting refugees.

A squad of Peacekeepers from the Vindicators chapter, led by Captain Kaius, came to the vault to relieve the adventurers and to ask them to help the war effort by traveling to Fierburg in Alaron to ask the Praetors of Ophirion to send their dragon riders to the capital. The Peacekeepers supplied the group with five sturdy war horses and a month’s rations, and then the adventurers left Everlasting Dawn, heading west.

The most direct route to Alaron would take the party through the ruins of Dunleigh, where a scourge of plague demons, undead and Tiamat’s legions forced the Divine Monarch to cleanse the city using the empire’s ultimate weapon, Exterminatus – a powerful ritual that summons the fury of the sun in an all-consuming golden pillar.

While camping outside of Dunleigh, intent on moving on to the ruins the following morning, the group was surprised when a hippogriff and its rider flew low overhead to scout them, and then darted away again. Unsure of the allegiance of the strange rider, the troupe followed Courtland into the forest and through his overgrown smuggling trails, where they had no trouble hiding from the patrols of hippogriff’s that were out searching for them.

The following morning, when they came through the forest to the far side of Dunleigh, where the landscape flattens into a long plain, the adventuring party decided to investigate the strange force in the ruins.

Eladrin in red armor greeted them at the edge of the ruins of Dunleigh, now a beautiful field of flowers that made the air smell sweet, and the group was escorted past dozens of hippogriffs to meet with their commander, the flight lead Xanxeral.

Impressed with their ability to hide from his scouts, Xanxeral spoke freely with the group, revealing that they served the Summer Lord of the local fae court, who was concerned with the recent movements of the metallic dragons of the Faywild. They were to go to Everlasting Dawn and speak with the monarch of the kingdom to gather information, but the map they had was hundreds of years old and offered only unfamiliar cities and landmarks.

Courtland offered the group’s current map and his guidance in exchange for their outdated map, and proceeded to instruct the leader of the flight in the recent events in the kingdom. In exchange, Xanxeral gifted them the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd – armor that he used to wear himself, but had since replaced.

With potential new allies en route to Everlasting Dawn, the adventurers got back on their horses and proceeded onward towards the Wraithlands.

(If you’ve read this, give yourself three hero points.)

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First Adventure
Attack! Chromatic Dragons in the Golden City! Unlikely Allies! A New Adventure Begins.

The story opened on the adventuring party of Courtland, Aiko Tai Hideaki, Hania Highspire, Henrik Von Ditronas, and Edmund Backstabber finding themselves in Everlasting Dawn, the capital of the Kingdom of Light Immaculate in Great Farris in search of work.

Their wandering brought them to a cozy little basement inn with a sign above the door depicting a rat swimming on stylized waves – the Drowned Rat Inn, run by Ogden Rockbiter. A former adventurer himself, Ogden was happy to speak with the group, and tried to aid them in their search by suggesting that the Peacekeepers would likely have some quests that they could complete for their sought-after fame and fortune.

As the cost of lodging was being discussed, a great force like an explosion shook the inn, making dust fall from the roof; shortly afterwards, a gout of flame rushed past the windows, and the sounds of fighting and screams could be heard in the city streets. Hania and Henrick rushed to the doors and pulled them open to find a pair of kobolds on the other side, one of which was armed with a large bomb it had intended to use when making its entrance.

The kobolds at the door wouldn’t have been a match for the adventurers, but the other walls of the Drowned Rat were breached with explosives, and a small army of kobolds, led by a vicious dragonborn, rushed into the tight space. Ogden retrieved a chest from beneath the bar and armed the other patrons with weapons masterfully (and hastily) crafted by a previous visitor – a dwarven cleric, Hrothgar Gemhammer – but as the battle raged on and the civilians fell, he eventually herded them into the basement in hopes that they would be safe there while the adventurers cleared out the invaders.

Courtland was knocked unconscious in the battle by a wicked blow from the dragonborn, but his friends came to his aid, and the commander and his kobold underlings were swiftly dispatched.

After the fight, while they were binding their wounds, the doors were thrown open and a small force of five Peacekeepers – warrior women from the Sisters of Battle chapter – rushed in to look for survivors. They were joined by Inquisitor Regula, a beautiful and severe looking woman, and one of the most powerful people in the kingdom. The Inquisitor asked the adventuring party to escort the civilians to an underground vault just a few blocks from there, where they could be easily defended, and she would see to their being rewarded after the battle. The party agreed to lend their aid in the city’s defense, and with that, the Inquisitor and her retinue left the Drowned Rat for the Divine Monarch’s Ecclesiastical Citadel at the heart of the city.

Ogden rounded up the civilians and retrieved an old mace from his adventuring days, a masterwork weapon which he gifted to Courtland.

With the civilians in tow, the party finally left the Drowned Rat to find the city in chaos, with kobolds and dragonborn in the street, and a black and gold dragon engaged in an aerial melee directly overhead, which showered the group with warm blood. They fought their way through the draconic forces and across town to a nondescript, squat building, with a wide iron gate at the door. When they tested the door, they found it to be suspiciously unlocked.

The stairs into the vault had a shallow slope to them and descended into the earth about a mile, with the sharp smell of poison greeting them roughly halfway down. The civilians stayed on the stair, with Ogden standing watch, while the adventurers moved down into the vault to see to the source of the smell.

With Hania in the lead, the group entered into the vault, which was a long room that extended well beyond the light of the lamp and housed rows and rows of high shelves, bearing heaps of of government documents inside of leather pouches. There was something else in the vault as well, as Hania could hear it moving somewhere in the darkness.

The daeva used an alchemical sunrod to light the vault and threw it into the distance, where it illuminated the scaled green tail of something large hiding between two of the immense shelving units, as well as a blood trail which followed it.

Moving forward cautiously, the group approached the creatures, prepared for battle. A rumbling voice tried to warn them off, promising them pain and death, but the group could detect fear and pain on the creature’s voice.

Hania and Courtland finally closed the distance and found the creature in the vault to be a very young green dragon, clearly in pain as his foreleg was shredded by the teeth of a gold dragon, hiding deeper in the vault. The green dragon, Gorruth, told the troupe that he’d come to the vault to hide from the battle, and had been followed by the young gold dragon, who attacked and wounded him by the stairs. He had wounded the gold in return, and two of them separated to hide in the vault and lick their wounds.

While Gorruth agreed to aid the adventurers in defending the civilians in the vault in exchange for his safety and a little healing, the young female gold dragon proved to be much less reasonable, as she argued that all chromatic dragons needed to be slain, and the green dragon could not be trusted. Hania healed and attempted to reason with her, but the dragon refused to join them and left to stand watch over a different vault entrance.

With the vault secure, Henrick – a native to Everlasting Dawn – left for his family home, Courtland following to help him.

The battle carried on through the night, with , Edmund, and Hania helping to defend the vault alongside Gorruth and Ogden, and Henrick and Courtland fighting their way across the city, sending civilians they encountered to the vault.

When morning came, a contingent of Peacekeepers, led by Captain Kaius, came to the vault to relieve the exhausted adventurers. They paid the group for their aid and agreed to take Gorruth to the Inquisitors to see to his fate, then offered more work from Inquisitor Regula in defense of Everlasting Dawn.

Fierburg, a city in Alaron, is home to Highhelm Bastion, where the Praetors of Ophirion – another chapter of Peacekeepers – trains the kingdom’s best dragon riders. With the dragons and Peacekeepers needed in defense of Everlasting Dawn, Regula asked that the adventurers go to Fierburg and speak to the Lord of the Flight, Neoptolemus, and request that he send his dragons to the capital.

(If you’ve read this, give yourself three hero points.)

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