Rising Through The Reaches

Harried Under Herrion
Session Eleven - May 4, 2017
The darkness of Old Herrion is oppressing. The bright lanterns carried from Prince Therric’s manor hold some of the darkness at bay, but not all. Despite this, you can spot several bright spots below you, farther along the ‘staircase’ that this street has been twisted into. Obviously things in Old Herrion aren’t as dead as you’d been informed…


After steeling themselves for what could be ahead the party began making their way below, deeper into the ruins of Old Herrion. Early into their descent, the party discovered the remains of a weeks-old camp in the empty shell of a building. The party searched for any personal effects or any goods, but all that remained was dust and the rotted remains of a meal. 

Moving on from the old camp the party followed the tracks leading away from the camp that continued down the spiraling street, passing more buildings defaced with the red and white graffiti. The silence of Old Herrion was suddenly shattered as the party approached a larger, more well-preserved building from which a strong blue light was being emitted. The entire party found themselves all able to hear loud, if distant, screaming and crying inside of their heads that increased in volume as they approached the building. While the party crept forward to investigate Saey stayed behind, appearing to be much more affected than the party. As the party reached the cavernous entrance to the building they spotted dozens, if not hundreds, of the blue star-shaped energy sources, filling the central chamber, connected to each other via tubes and other miscellaneous machinery, with several of them—those with more connections than others—glowing a sickly purple and pulsating slowly. Spotting nothing else inside, save for more of the strange graffiti, the party gathered Saey and continued ahead, putting the strange scene they had encountered out of their minds as the disturbing sounds began to fade.

Along the road, the party discovered a remarkably well-preserved statue of a robed man holding a strange orb. At least, they thought it was a statue until they actually reached it, at which point they discovered that it was a man who had been almost entirely turned to stone by the strange artifact in his hand, leaving behind a macabre corpse frozen in the moment of painful death. The party gave the statue a wide berth and left the artifact behind, not wanting to take unnecessary risks.

The party diverted from the tracks left by Raleina's team to explore a remarkably well-preserved building with a weak magical seal barring entry. After exploring the building they discovered a small, comfortable home richly furnished with silver and other finery, though untouched for centuries. In the single bedroom, the party discovered a pair of skeletons, one in the bed and the other sitting at a writing desk, apparently having died in the process of writing a letter. Saey read out what he could of the letter, revealing that the two corpses were those of a married couple who had sealed their home when the city had fallen, but did not possess the skill to remove the seal, meaning they died while waiting for a rescue that never arrived. This put a bit of a damper on the party, but not enough to keep Harold from stealing one of their wedding rings.

The party continued following the tracks until they discovered a second set of tracks, that according to Violet resembled goat tracks, which confused the party. Eventually, they discovered that the team they followed had split up, with one splitting off from the group, leading to whatever had left the goat tracks to follow them into a cavernous crack in the walls. Inside this cavern, the party discovered a man, half-starved, strung up in thick spider silk. The party freed the man quickly but before they could get far they were ambushed by the creatures, which revealed themselves to be twisted chimeras. The chimeras were no match for the party, however, resulting in them both being tossed into the depths of Old Herrion. With the threat dealt with the man revealed that he was a member of Raleina's team who volunteered to draw the creatures away several weeks ago, being kept alive by the creatures to presumably be eaten in the future. After telling his story, the man promptly fainted, leaving the party to carry him along.

It wasn't long before the tracks diverted from the main road that continued downward into another natural cavern in the stone. Inside this cavern, the party discovered a hole leading into a chamber below as well as residue from black powder that had been used to create the hole. After some careful maneuvering, the party was able to climb down and get their unconscious passenger down as well, finding themselves in a massive chamber built from glassy black stone with glowing green lines running along the walls and floor, with enclosures along the wall holding glowing blue power sources. Interspersed throughout this chamber were several large tubes filled with fluid that Saey revealed were birthing chambers for Cloudborn, and that he very well could have been born in this chamber. 

At the far end of the chamber, the party discovered a wide variety of machinery and a large door leading out into another chamber. The party discovered that the door to this chamber was locked in some way that they could not bypass without using the machinery in some way. After accidentally triggering the room's decontamination system and quickly disabling it the party was able to activate a display that showed the party that Raleina and her team were frozen in place in the neighboring chamber. After a little more fiddling the party was able to bring up the option to view some ancient security logs, and by watching one they were able to determine which control would open the door. 

After opening the door the party discovered Raleina and her team were frozen beside a spinning blue object in the center of the chamber. A portion of the wall in a far corner had been ripped away and an alcove that would fit one of the blue power sources. While the party deliberated on what steps to take Violet went back out into the larger chamber and ripped one of the power sources from the wall and placed it into the empty alcove, which activated another device in the corner of the room while deactivated the blue spinning object.

After several long moments, Raleina's team were abruptly freed from their frozen state, leaving them dazed and confused. After bringing Raleina up to speed on what was needed Saey convinced the party that both Raleina and the party should use the mechanism in the corner to travel directly to the Sky Prison while they could, believing it to be a sort of "maintenance hatch" into the Prison itself. While the party took some convincing, they eventually decided that following along would be preferable to death, and so they made their way into the strange teleportation device, leaving Raleina's team behind to make their way up to Herrion to tell the Prince what had transpired.

Once through the device the party found themselves partially submerged in a warm liquid in a dark chamber filled with the sounds of mechanical grinding and groaning, ready to investigate further.

END OF SESSION ELEVEN
—TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

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Restored and Reorganized
Session Ten - April 20, 2017
The city of Herrion is quiet as evening falls over it, it would almost be serene were it not for the red scar in the clouds, throbbing and glowing dully, seeming almost to wash the glittering white of the city over with blood. As the sun reaches the western horizon a ship glides into the docks next to a larger, more military, vessel upon which dozens of men are either staring up at the clouds in apprehension or vomiting noisily into the water. Minutes later nearly forty soldiers—wearing the uniform of the Valehallow militia—and one man most definitely not a soldier begin making their way into the city, towards Prince Therric’s manor, escorted by a small squad of local guards.


After having their tome whisked away by some of the Prince's scholars the party made ready to settle in for a long wait, given that Saey was currently unconscious and the Prince had no other information for them. During this awkward waiting period the man who had earlier arrived on the ship bound from Valehallow arrived at the manor and was escorted into the Prince's sanctum. The man handed a letter from Mayor Miria to Prince Therric and greeted the party, who swiftly recognized him as being their former companion Roy, sent by Miria to assist in the crisis of the Sky Prison. 

The party took some time to share their stories of what had transpired since their separation after the incident in Bellwater. Roy's journey had been somewhat less eventful, but he did have a strange run-in with the strange Novoi, after which the man gave Roy an odd bronze coin. As well, while idle on the ship journey to Herrion Roy had finally gotten a chance to put his golemancy skills to work and returned with a pint-sized golem named Ali Jr., after their biggest fan back in Valehallow. Roy, for his part, took the party's extraordinary story in stride, and eventually, everything was known. As the party settled together again, spending some time testing the abilities of their new golem companion, and decking it out in new accessories, they experienced another intrusion.

One of the Prince's guards dragged in a small girl with flowers in her hair, proclaiming her to be some sort of spy, which was met with derision by both the party and the Prince himself. The girl declared that her name was Violet and that she had climbed over the gate in search of some sort of villains he had been informed was inside. When questioned she revealed that the one who had led her to this conclusion was the adventurer known as Argus, who had acquainted himself rather humorously back in the early stages of their adventures in Valehallow. The Prince had more important matters to deal with, however, and seemed content to let her stay, since she appeared to get along with the party, especially after her attempt at summoning her avian companion failed.

Growing tired of sitting around and waiting, the party set out to explore the manor, eventually arriving in the large library wherein several scholars were poring over the tome they had earlier brought and cross-referencing it with other, equally large, volumes. The party checked a few volumes to see if there was anything of interest that could help them with any upcoming challenges but were unable to find anything of that nature. Just as they were making ready to look elsewhere, one of the scholars leapt up in excitement and rushed through the manor, back towards the Prince's sanctum. 

The party followed the man and when they arrived they walked in on him and the Prince deep in discussion, the Prince looking somewhat somber. Apparently, the only remaining person with a blood relation to the ancient Cloudsire was a woman by the name of Raleina Tovos, who was sent into the depths of Old Herrion several weeks ago in search of some way of preventing the Sky Prison's fall, back at the first sign of trouble. Raleina was sent because she is the most skilled navigator of Old Herrion, and would know how to get into some of the more heavily defended or hidden areas. Despite this, there had been no contact with her or any member of her team since they had entered Old Herrion from the entrance in the manor's basement. The Prince requested that the party follow Raleina below and find her, to which the party agreed, if only because none of them were particularly fond of the idea of a fiery death in the event of the Sky Prison's fall.

Prince Therric offered the party—and Violet, who had stumbled her way into being a member of the party at this point—rooms in which to spend the night and rest before beginning this quest. The party took the man up on his offer and slept more soundly and more comfortably than they had in some time, and they joined the Prince the next morning in a much-refreshed state. The Prince gave the party free rein to pick out several weapons from his personal armory and had his physician provide Kalise with a medicine that could be used as a poison for her arrows in a pinch.

With all of their supplies gathered the party, and Saey, were escorted to the entrance to Old Herrion that Raleina's team had used several weeks prior, located in the manor's basement. The entrance led to a staircase that descended at a sharp incline for quite some time before it opened up to Old Herrion proper, a twisted and melted series of tunnels and pits that had once floated above like the Sky Prison 1200 years prior, before crashing to the ground in some sort of calamity like the Sky Prison now threatened to. Saey mentioned being somewhat familiar with some of the city before its fall, but claimed that he would not be able to act as a guide given its current state.

While exploring the party encountered very little of interest, other than the scenery itself, with most of the shells of buildings being completely empty, save for dust and rubble. Eventually, however, they encountered a slightly more preserved building which had obviously been ransacked at some point in the past. The walls displayed the telltale markings of tools used to pry some sort of machinery away and the walls were coated with symbols and words scrawled on in red and white paint. The legible words consisted primarily of the words "UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN," repeated again and again. 

After rounding a corner the party encountered their first sign of any sort of life in Old Herrion, as they found themselves narrowly avoiding barreling into two Cloud Wraiths. The party dispatched them handily, scattering them into black dust, though once again one of them attempted to communicate with the party as it reformed, forming a crude copy of Saey's face through which to speak. Saey appeared uncomfortable with this and eventually, the party gave up on it and finished it off before it could begin attacking once again. With the wraiths defeated the party realized that there was a source of fresh air somewhere above, meaning these cloud wraiths had been some of those assaulting the city the day before, and had not been down here before.

The party tried to continue forward further, but found their way blocked by a large sheet of warped metal crudely wedged fairly recently to form a wall of sorts. With a combined effort of sheer strength, magical ability, and Ael'srill's unique telekinetic abilities the party was able to force their way past this obstacle. Beyond this wall the party discovered that a large section of the city had twisted itself in such a way that it formed almost a spiral staircase descending further down an indeterminable distance. They were not alone at the summit, however, as they discovered the long-undisturbed corpse of a man in red and white robes, with a shimmering crystal blade in his back. Once the blade was removed from the man the crystal blade flashed once before disappearing abruptly, leaving them with only a strange hilt, emblazoned with the Coldfire symbol that they had been encountering more and more frequently. The party could discover no other personal effects providing any clue as to who this man was, which had also become a running theme for them.

The party took a moment to rest before beginning their descent into the heart of the city…

END OF SESSION TEN
—TO BE CONTINUED


 

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Diving into the Depths
Session Nine - April 13, 2017
Fiery debris rains down on Herrion from the sky, their point of origin a glowing red scar spreading across the cloudy sky. Your ears fill with cries of panic coming from throughout the city as people dash about, looking for some sort of escape. As well, you hear the faint sounds of battle—metallic clangs and cries of pain—slowly increasing in volume around you. You stand here, half-supporting the strange man—or creature—that also fell to the city.

 

The party spent some time arguing about whether to take the strange man to the "Cloudsire," they had learned about earlier—the large stone head near the northern gate—or to the prince's manor. Eventually, after an interjection from the strange man from the sky that the one he sought was "not of stone," the party decided seeking out the prince was the better option, despite their unease at the number of guards at the manor. The party then set off through the city, careful to avoid the main roads to keep their strange companion out of sight.

Later, as the party neared the central square where the prince's manor was situated, Ardeth—who was leading the party, primarily to keep his distance from the strange man who fell from the sky—noticed a strange scraping sound coming from one of the roofs above. At Ardeth's warning, the party stopped, and just in time—for there was some sort of foul creature none in the party had ever encountered before spread across a rooftop. The creature had translucent blue skin like that of their new companion, but that was where the similarities ended. The creature was almost formless, a blob of flesh with winding, multi-jointed limbs sprouting forth at random points. The party's companion, though still in pain, growled at the party to kill the creature before it killed them, a warning that they took to heart. 

After a very successful first firing of Harold's new, explosive, ammunition which split the strange creature into two charred and reddened blobs the party exterminated the creatures without difficulty. The creatures, after being defeated, crumbled into black dust that quickly blew away in the wind, explaining the black markings the party had seen on occasion on their way through the city. Before the last of the creatures was defeated, however, it reconfigured its shrinking form into a human head that spat out hateful words in a language that the party didn't recognize, but their strange companion did. 

At this time, the party's new companion finally introduced himself, and his situation to the party. He told the party his name was Saeyvithos darAqellim—or Saey—and he was a Cloud Dancer, a Cloudborn warden of the Sky Prison, and that the creatures that were falling from the sky and attacking the city were Cloudwraiths, creatures that hate all of those who live on the surface. With this knowledge in hand, the party continued forward in the direction of the prince's manor.

On the main road leading into the square, the party discovered a member of the city guard laying on the ground, injured. After a quick patch job by Sylthana the woman was able to explain that she had been fighting with her unit throughout the city, and that, sadly, she would not be able to help get them into the manor, her unit not being one of those set to guard it. The guard thanked the party and made her way off to return to her unit, leaving the party to finally enter the central square.

Once in the square, the party spent some time discussing their next move before Harold made the decision to approach the guards himself. After several long minutes of attempting to smooth talk the party's way into the manor, Saey joined him and was successful in convincing the captain to let the party inside. The party was then escorted into the comfortable, but not overly opulent, manor by several guards down into the basement where the prince waited in a large chamber behind a massive metal door set into stone. Inside the party found Prince Therric in conference with representatives from several other nations, including Calladai, Halaroth, and Oshnaluna. The prince, once he had gotten over the surprise of having several strangers escorted into his sanctum, explained to the party that he already knew about the Sky Prison, and that it had, at one point, been just one part of a larger whole, one that had fallen in the current location of Herrion over 1200 years earlier.

While Therric had information that helped the party he was not, in fact, the person that Saey was seeking, he claimed that Therric's blood did not "sing" to him. Therric explained that this was because he was an adopted member of his House, and that key parts of his family's genealogy had been lost in a disastrous fire some years earlier, meaning finding someone who might possibly have some way to reach the Sky Prison would be problematic. Prince Therric mentioned that there was, however, a repository of knowledge on an island in Virali Bay that had, a century earlier, fallen beneath the waves in a storm. The tower that held these documents was magically protected, so they should be preserved, but he had no way of reaching said tower. At this, Saey volunteered that he could get them down to the tower if they only had some way of reaching the part of the bay in which it lay.

At this impasse, the Calladaian representative stepped forward, mentioning that he was the captain of a ship that could take the party out to their goal. In fact, his ship was the only one at the docks that still had enough crew to set sail at this time. The party decided to take the man up on his offer and wasted no time in heading out towards the waterfront.

As the party made their way through the streets the party also noticed that the red scar in the clouds had faded to a near-invisibility with no more Cloudwraiths falling to the city. Content that the city would likely not be destroyed in their absence, the party boarded the Calladaian ship, which quickly set off across the water. While there was a brief moment where several party members—and crew members—were swept overboard by a sudden wave, the captain—named Rhothan—was able to successfully navigate to their goal in only a few hours without any deaths or any messes from Kalise.

Once anchored above their goal Saey perched himself at the bow of the ship and apologized to the party for any discomfort as his form stretched out, almost endlessly, until the entire ship was enveloped in a large sphere stretching out from Saey's still-humanoid body. Suddenly, as the sphere was completed, the entire thing suddenly plummeted down into the ocean at high speed, with water and ocean life streaming past as the ocean floor approached. Almost as suddenly as it had begun, their descent stopped, with the ship being less than a dozen feet from the edge of the Saey's "skin." Saey screwed up his face in effort and the edge of his form shifted to form a staircase that terminated at one of the leaning tower's windows, into which the party quickly entered.

Inside the tower the party discovered several floors with beds and other furniture, with scattered reading material, but it wasn't until they reached the top floor that they found something truly worth investigating. Along the wall near the entrance to the top floor the party was able to discover a loose stone in the wall that, once removed, revealed an icy blue stone that glowed a similar tone to Saey's skin—in fact, what little they could see of Saey's form out a nearby window almost seemed to be reflexively reaching to the stone as they examined it. The party pocketed this stone and continued along, discovering footsteps climbing the steps and eventually ending at the far wall on the top floor, upon which was scrawled a large rune that after a little bit of investigation the party was successfully able to decode and open, revealing a small chamber in which the desiccated corpse of a man was clutching a large tome. The party wrested the tome from the corpse—accidentally snapping off their arms—and found inside an incredibly detailed genealogy of the prince's House. They were able to determine that the corpse had been in this room for at least ten years and, going by the red powder on his fingers, had drawn the rune on the wall that had hidden this chamber from sight. As well, Ael'srill was able to discover a silver bracelet on the man's wrist that had the cold fire symbol emblazoned on it.

As the party began making ready to leave the tower suddenly began to shake around them, and water began to pool around the edges of the windows as the magic separating the party from certain doom began to break down. The party scrambled down the tower to their point of entry and leapt back out onto the Calladaian ship, upon which Saey almost immediately began their ascent, though somewhat slower, and more labored than their descent. As the ship finally breached the surface of the ocean Saey immediately snapped back to his normal form and collapsed into unconsciousness. The party arranged the Cloud Dancer into a slightly more comfortable position as Rhothan and his incredibly unsettled crew sailed the party back to Herrion, taking only slightly longer than the initial trip had taken.

Once in Herrion the party quickly made their way over the prince's manor and unloaded the large tome on one of the prince's scholars, who set out to compare it with other documents, looking for any possible living descendants that could provide some sort of method of returning to the Sky Prison and solving the current crisis.

END OF SESSION NINE
—TO BE CONTINUED


 



 

 

 

 

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Haunting Herrion
Session Eight - April 6, 2017
The sunlight glitters as it meets the stark white walls that surround the city of Herrion. While far more compact than Valehallow, Herrion has it beat by far when it comes to verticality. The sixty-foot wall is dwarfed by glittering white towers and mansions that are visible even at this distance, you swear some of them seem to scrape at the clouds. The gates leading southward, and into the city, are wide open and seem to be waiting for your entry.

 

The party passes people find themselves to be not the only people entering the city of Herrion, with many travelers from many far-off lands also making their way into the city on the morning of their arrival. Once beyond the gates, the party found themselves in a large market square filled to the brim with stalls selling a wide variety of goods and visitors from all throughout The Reaches perusing them. As well, there were a great many guards dressed in both the grey garb of Herrion city guards, among others. At the far side of the square rested what remained of a massive black statue, the head of a grim-looking older man, large enough that were it not resting at an angle it would tower over the surrounding buildings. When pressed about the object, a young man in the square confessed that it had been there as long as anyone could remember and that it was just called "The Sire" or "The Cloudsire."

Before proceeding further into the city the party decided to make a quick stop at a stall selling various weapons. The stall was run by a gruff, but not unreasonable, woman by the name of Keelara, who provided the party with additional arms. Harold walked away with some experimental ammunition for his pistols, Kalise with some arrows that included a channel in which poison could be injected, and Ardeth with some unique knives for his growing collection.

The party continued to press forward into the city, with their ultimate destination being the warehouse near the waterfront where Eschana's goods were bound. Along the way, they stumbled across an herbalist's store, where the party spent a very strange period of time buying goods for far less than their market value from a man that seemed to be not all there. Presumably, he was also a customer.

After asking around, the party learned that shops specializing in gems and other luxury goods could be found near the prince's mansion, deeper in the city, which the party decided to visit next. Once the party arrived at the large square that housed aforementioned mansion, the party made their way to the less-impressive looking of the two stores that sold gem-related goods, but the only one that seemed to deal in gemstones rather than finished pieces of jewelry. Inside, the party encountered the shop's strange proprietor, an odd older man by the name of Olvos who talked circles around the party and sent the conversation spinning in strange directions. In fact, interacting with him—and learning that the iron ring he was carrying was some sort of promise ring—was enough to make Ardeth give up and retreat to the streets outside where he went and retrieved a couple of jobs from the local notice board: one for a local criminal and one for the elusive Shadow from the Silverwood. 

The rest of the party persisted in dealing with Olvos as the man revealed various facts about his life, including that he used to own a much larger and more successful shop before he got busted for "tax evasion" and that his wife apparently stabbed him at one point. In exchange for one of the organic crystals that Harold had retrieved from the Silverwood the man agreed to examine the stone he had found deep in the underground citadel below Valehallow. After some poking and prodding, Olvos determined that the stone was, in fact, a fossilized egg egg, with the strange markings wrapping around it being organic markings. He then polished the egg, wiping away the outer coating, making the green veins below properly visible. As to what the egg could hatch, however, Olvos had no idea, being a gem man and not an egg man.

With their business done in Olvos' shop, the party rejoined Ardeth and Eschana out in the square, where Ardeth was observing the mass of guards gathered around the prince's walled mansion. The local guards rebuffed any attempts from the party to learn what exactly was happening in Herrion, but when the party eavesdropped on a couple of Halarothian guards they learned that even they did not know why they had been carted off to the city with some sort of representative from their country. 

Not having any other business to take care of, Eschana suggested that the party finally make their way to the waterfront warehouse and finally unload her cart, to which the party agreed. After arriving at the warehouse that was Eschana's destination the party left their companion to do all the important work dealing with the owner of the warehouse to check out what ships were docked in the harbor. The party saw ships waving the flags of Calladai, Halaroth, Oshnaluna, and from the Imperial Capital of Ahraemis. One Halarothian guard was lazing about near his ship so the party decided to question him. The man revealed that even he had no clue as to why he and his compatriots had come to Herrion, only knowing that they had been ordered to do so by their captain. He did, however, know that a ship was expected from Valehallow that was running late. With nothing else the party needed from the man, they decided to rejoin Eschana.

While Ardeth was gung-ho about getting payment from Eschana for services rendered the rest of the party argued against it. While Ardeth was unconvinced he never did get around to requesting said payment from the young merchant he and the rest of the party did accept when she offered to pay for their meals and lodging at a local inn, the Golden Trout Inn. Once at this inn, the party encountered a couple of strange drunkards that compared Harold's small stature to that of a baby, among other remarks. As well, one of these men revealed himself to be a former member of the Herrion City Guard who had been fired for having sex with his captain's wife. Otherwise, this man had nothing to offer the party, proving to just be a strange distraction.

The party briefly settled into their rooms before preparing to set out to undertake other tasks, with Ardeth, in particular, wanting to pursue the local bounty he had learned about from the notice board. Moments after the party stepped outside, however, they noticed that others on the street seemed to be staring up at the sky with stunned expressions on their faces. When the party turned their collective eye upwards they saw that a large cloud in the sky seemed to be glowing red, almost as if on fire. As they watched, the cloud's glow grew more and more intense before dozens of glowing objects burst forth and descended upon Herrion. As the crowd around them began to panic, the party observed one of these objects crashing into an alley somewhere down the street. The party set off to investigate, carefully weaving their way through the thick crowd that had gathered around the inn.

In the alley, the party encountered a strange man dressed in ornate, white robes, with blue skin that seemed to be almost translucent. As the man shifted the party noticed a wicked red wound on his chest that appeared to pain him desperately. As Sylthana approached she felt the man fumbling up against her mind with some sort of magic, but whatever he was attempting failed. The strange man seemed to grow frustrated at this failure, but eventually, he began to motion Harold to approach. When Harold came within a few feet of the man—now on his feet, if somewhat unsteadily—the man exhaled a strange blue mist that filled Harold's lungs before being exhaled by Harold and inhaled by the strange man. With this strange ritual completed the man worked his mouth uselessly for a few moments, as if unused to speaking, before eventually speaking to the party in their common tongue. The man didn't provide much information to the party, simply demanding that they bring him to "the Sire" and that they needed to hurry because something called the "Sky Prison" was falling. The party decided to escort this stranger to the prince, who would be in more of a position to provide aid, despite their apprehension.

END OF SESSION EIGHT
—TO BE CONTINUED

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Wandering the Wood
Session Seven - March 30, 2017
The morning sun shines onto the desolate town of Bellwater. Had you just arrived in town you would think it a pleasant, quaint town with its tidy buildings and well-ordered streets. Your activities the day before have proven Bellwater to be anything but, however. After taking your time to clear the streets of the products of the Scion’s foul plot your party took over one of the larger homes in the town to plan your next move. Roy volunteered to bring a missive back to Valehallow, and to Mayor Miria, while the rest of you press on through the Silverwood with Eschana, bound for the small city of Herrion. How long this motley collection of misfits will last none of you know, but you do know that it would be better to brave the dangers of the Silverwood as a group.


Mere hours after departing Bellwater the party encountered their first bit of strangeness for the journey. A strange whining sound echoing in the party's ears from somewhere off of the main trail they had been following with Eschana. Most of the party was against the idea, but eventually, Harold and Kalise decided to investigate further and were glad that they had done so because they discovered that the source of the distressing sounds was a dog—barely more than a puppy—pinned under a large branch. Kalise was able to successfully free the trapped canine, but they were still on the ground in pain. The duo called over Sylthana so she could heal the injured animal. While she struggled a bit in the task, the dog's injuries were not severe and Sylthana was able to heal them easily. The young dog proved himself quickly to be both tame and friendly, seeming to be quite happy to accompany the party back to the cart. The party quickly dubbed the dog Brusten and settled in for the next leg of their journey.

The party continued traveling until they reached a huge meadow in the center of the Silverwood. It was here that the party first made camp, setting up in as sheltered an area as they could find. After enjoying a meal of rabbits caught and cooked by Kalise and Ardeth, respectively, the party sat around the fire, preparing themselves for a night's rest when they were interrupted by Brusten growling and snarling at something hidden in the darkness. The party quickly whirled around, catching sight of three black-clad men attempting to creep up on the party—likely with ill-intent in their heart.

The party launched a volley of swift attacks that quickly incapacitated their newfound foes and Ardeth immediately led the party in interrogating the men. The party learned that they were a part of one of many bandit crews spread throughout the Silverwood, all led by a single leader, known only as The Shadow. The men had very few details they could provide the party on their crew's operations, but they did reveal that there was some sort of strange middle-aged man that lived alone in the forest, but additional details eluded them. After robbing them of all of their sharps the party decided to let the men go after they proved themselves to be blubbering cowards to the party. While not necessarily fearing retribution from those they had let go, the party still thought it prudent to move camp to another, more isolated, location before taking their rest.

Over the next several days of traveling along the main road through the Silverwood the party encountered, in various locations, small crystals placed almost randomly. These crystals emitted a light buzzing that all magic-users in the party were able to detect even from afar. On one morning, after breaking camp, the party discovered a strange bush on which a great multitude of these crystals seemed to grow from, though none of them emitted the telltale magical buzz from those they had encountered previously. Despite their best efforts, the party was only able to determine that this bush had been created by some kind of magic, but any knowledge past that eluded them. The party collected some of these crystals for themselves but eventually decided to leave it behind and continue on their way.

Later on, that same day, the party reached the bridge that would lead them to the very edge of the Silverwood, but before they could cross it they found themselves distracted by another buzzing sensation focused on a nearby cliff face. Upon examination, the party was able to determine that the cliff face itself was actually a near-perfect illusion. After probing the illusion for some time, the party heard a response from beyond: a voice calling out to them that they would open the door. Moments later the illusion was dispelled and in place of the cliff face stood a ramshackle hut, a young boy standing beyond the open doorway. The boy, Vidon, was disappointed that the party was not the return of his absent father, but it wasn't long before the boy warmed up to the party and invited them in for lunch. 

Upon entering the hut the party realized that the exterior of the building did not reflect the interior at all. Beyond the hut's threshold, the party discovered a large central chamber with several, equally large, chambers branching off from it. The center of the central chamber held a perfect scale representation of the Silverwood, and Vidon revealed that the crystals were used as a form of echolocation to keep the map accurate, which Vidon had taken to maintaining in his father's absence. The party also discovered a large bathing chamber, featuring plumbing more advanced than any in the party were familiar with, and inside the chamber, they discovered clothing emblazoned with the Coldfire symbol, the same symbol as was on the ring given to them by Eskaer. The party questioned Vidon, but all that the young boy knew about the symbol was that his father, and several of his friends, had often worn the symbol on their clothing. 

After bathing themselves—and Brusten as well, presumably—the party joined Vidon in the kitchen for a nice lunch of various foods that the boy had produced using some sort of magical pantry created by his father. Vidon revealed that his father, named Aveios, had left home almost a year ago in the company of several other people who wore the Coldfire symbol, only telling Vidon that he was leaving to "fight the good fight." Once their hunger was satisfied the party made ready to leave, passing by a large map of The Reaches on their way out. Vidon mentioned to the party that if his father had been home he could have "moved the house" and easily transported the party to various locations throughout The Reaches. 

While the party had many questions about Vidon's strange home, they still felt the need to press onward, so they bid the young boy farewell and rejoined the slightly less confusing world outside. The party's journey following this brief respite went by smoothly, after crossing the bridge and exiting the Silverwood it was a simple matter of following the road south to the city of Herrion, where the gates stood open, as if waiting for the party's arrival.


END OF SESSION SEVEN
—TO BE CONTINUED



 

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Braving Bellwater
Session Six - March 23, 2017

The tension in the common room of the Bellwater Inn is almost palpable. The sounds from outside seem to have been silenced and the only thing you hear is the grating sound that Temmond’s dirty rag makes as it fruitlessly wipes at the counter, repeated again and again. The only light in the common room is that provided by a single light fixture hanging above, as the large fireplace remains cold and the sun outside has finally set, making the scene altogether more sinister.
 


In vain the party attempted to interact with Temmond, but the man continued to repeat a handful of phrases without any hint that he understood the party's words. After several minutes of this, the party gave up and decided to explore the rest of the inn, in search of any hint as to what was going on. Upstairs the party found four dusty, but completely empty, bedrooms. Eschana arrived in the midst of the party's search and revealed that the stablehand was in the same state as the innkeeper. The party also discovered a small kitchen pantry still full of preserved food downstairs. Not willing to risk sleeping outside in the Silverwood the party set up a rotating watch and settled down for the night in the rooms upstairs.

Sometime during Ardeth's watch, he began to detect a faint humming coming from somewhere to the north that drew his undivided attention. Once the humming had faded away and he was able to think freely again Ardeth decided to keep this event to himself, deeming it unimportant.

It wasn't long before the sun rose and the party found themselves preparing to push forward to Bellwater proper. After checking in once more with Temmond to make sure he hadn't grown more lively during the night and ransacking the kitchen for supplies the party set off down the road northward. The road to Bellwater revealed itself to be extremely quiet, with even the sounds of animals sounding far-off. As the cart continued down the road Ardeth once again found his skull reverberating with the almost pleasant hum coming from the direction of Bellwater. This time, however, the hum was accompanied by faint whispers that Ardeth couldn't decipher. Once again, however, he felt that this event was of no consequence and did not mention it to the party. As the party closed in on Bellwater these whispers grew in volume until he could make out the words: "Welcome home, be reborn, come to me," repeated again and again. Harold and Kalise noticed Ardeth's reverie but passed it off as Ardeth being his usual taciturn self.

Eventually, the party arrived at the wide-open gate leading into Bellwater and beyond it a barren street that obviously hadn't seen traffic in a long time. Once the party pushed farther into the town, however, they discovered the town's inhabitants to be alive and well—at least on a surface level. Once the party attempted to converse with these people they realized that they suffered from the same affliction as Temmond the innkeeper and his stablehand. The party continued through the town until they arrived at what was likely the largest—and most important—building in town. The party quickly discovered that the door to the building was locked and they collectively looked to Ardeth for assistance in picking it. Ardeth, however, was distracted and had difficulty understanding the party. Just when the party began to catch onto what was going on with Ardeth the man bolted away, heading deeper into town. The rest of the party chased in pursuit, leaving Eschana and her cart behind. 

The party eventually catches up to Ardeth at the entrance to a ragged, faded tent set up in a large common square. Ardeth finally mustered the mental strength to force himself to tell the party what he's been dealing with for the last few hours. During this conversation, several of the near-mindless townspeople begin shuffling close, surrounding the party—almost ushering them into the tent. As this happens Ardeth once again takes off into the tent, jumping down into a crude pit that has been dug into the dirt floor. The rest of the party quickly follow him into the pit, though perhaps a bit more carefully.

The bottom of the pit was filled with the scattered remains of other tents that have been crudely piled, possibly for this exact purpose. And the pit led into a tunnel crudely carved out of stone and dirt that extended into the darkness. Kalise lit several torches as she had done during their previous underground excursion and handed them out to the party members, preparing for some exploration.

Ardeth was growing more and more frantic, while he was in control of his thoughts and his body at the moment he feared that at any moment that would be taken away again. Before the party could make any concrete plans on how to proceed Ardeth's fears were proven right as he found himself knocking past his companions at a breakneck pace, heading into the darkness. The party chased Ardeth as far as they could, but eventually, they found themselves at a fork in the tunnel, with Ardeth's footsteps being so faint that they could be coming from either path. The party was quick in deciding to split up, not wanting to risk Ardeth stumbling into the clutches of whatever person or creature was causing all of this. 

Down one path Ael'srill and Kalise eventually encountered a large pool of a strange green fluid that seemed to have the same viscosity of water. When they dropped a torch in the pool to check if the liquid was flammable or not they discovered that the torch sunk very slowly into the liquid and did not go out. In fact, it illuminated a strange, round stone at the center of the pool that they could not see before. Ael'srill used their telekinetic abilities to remove it from the pool to investigate it later. They then continued forward down the only path available.

Down the other path Harold, Roy, and Sylthana found themselves traversing a far more regular tunnel as if made by tools rather than claws. Eventually, they found a door leading into a square chamber that seemed at odds with their surroundings. Inside the chamber were five corpses—all missing the back of their skulls—and five small insect-like creatures that shied away from the party members when they approached. Set into the ceiling was a strange magical device emitting light that Roy was able to determine was an ancient magical device used for raising and lowering things, and that it had been last used to raise this chamber. Not wanting to waste much more time they continued along the path, taking note that it was obvious that something had, in the past, been dragged from this chamber deeper on into the tunnel.

At this point the party rejoined, as both passages terminated in the same location, with a third pathway leading to where Ardeth must have gone. Down the final passage, Ardeth had regained enough of himself to slow his walk to a mere shuffle. As well, upon hearing the party's approach he began to call out to them, spurring them on to their final destination. The party found Ardeth at the entrance to a large chamber with something lurking in the darkness that almost seemed to absorb the light. The party planned to split up, with half remaining back to hold Ardeth from continuing forward, and half continuing to investigate, but in the shuffle Ardeth was once again compelled to rush onward, stopping at the edge of a cliff, only feet away from what they were seeking. 

By the time the party had regathered with Ardeth the form in front of them began to shift about, as if awakening. Before they could do anything, six monstrously large eyes blinked in front of them, emitting a powerful red light that illuminated the head of a giant creature the party did not recognize. The creature shared features with insects, crabs, and scorpions, but what the party found their gaze drawn to most was the creature's terrifying, open mouth. The mouth was ringed by innumerable needle-thin teeth and seemed large enough to fit a dozen people with room to spare. Worst of all, however, was that each of them was beginning to hear a small voice in the back of their mind telling them to jump in.

The creature, at this time, began to speak to the party via the telepathy that it had used to compel Ardeth to this point. It introduced itself as the Scion of the Brood and claimed that "all will become one with the Brood," including the party members. The party continued to press the creature and learned that the Brood was not a new menace, but one that had been beaten long ago and just reawakened. It claimed that the one who woke it up taught them to "sing" and had taken their daughter's far away. Eventually, the creature tired of conversation, and redoubled its efforts at control, attempting to force them to leap to their probable demise. 

The party was successful at shaking off this first assault and the Scion finally noticed that the stone the party was now carrying. It grew agitated and the party responded by attempting several times to smash the stone, causing the creature great distress. The stone grew heavily cracked and began to leak green light from its cracks, but eventually, the stone slipped away from their grip and tumbled away into the dark pit where most of the creature's form hid. At this, the creature turned again to attempt to control the party, succeeding in making Harold and Roy so enamored with the idea of joining the Brood that they attempted to make running leaps for her wide-open mouth. Harold was able to be restrained but Roy made his leap successfully and Ardeth was narrowly able to catch him by the wrist and drag him back up the ledge before things got any worse and the party finally set about trying to fight the creature.

The first few attempts at outright attacks failed to come close to hitting the Scion, and Ardeth found himself pinned under one of the creature's large claws, which could have spelled the party's doom were it not for Harold's quick thinking. Still feeling the aftereffects of the Scion's control Harold used those feelings to fuel his conversational skills to sweet talk the creature, putting the creature off guard and distracting it long enough for the rest of the party to nail some truly devastating blows, sending black ichor spewing forth from the creature's surprisingly frail form. It wasn't long before a final blow was struck and the creature crumpled pathetically into the pit below, causing Harold to shed a single tear of perplexing sorrow.

Ael'srill quickly retrieved the stone from below, careful not to touch it now that it was coated in the Scion's black ichor. Roy determined that this stone was a magical catalyst intended to change materials touching it, which was proven true as the party observed the ichor slowly slough off the stone, turning into that strange green fluid Ael'srill and Kalise had spotted earlier. 

The party backtracked to the square chamber from earlier in an attempt to use it to return to the surface but they could not make the ancient mechanism function so they pushed on to the point at which they had descended. In the pile of tents they had jumped into earlier they were able to find a crudely-made ladder constructed of tent poles and sticks that had gotten buried and the party set about using it to ascend back to ground level. 

With the townspeople that had gathered around the tent having dispersed in the interim the party set about investigating the town once again, to check for any changes. Once they had reconvened with Eschana she told the party that things had not changed drastically since they had all run off. She did mention, however, that she had spotted one of the townspeople convulse and collapse in an alley nearby, but had been too afraid to investigate. 

In the alley pointed out by Eschana the party discovered the corpse of a young man with the back of his skull blown out and a trail of blood leading into a nearby home. Inside the building, the party discovered another of those small insect-like creatures skittering around fearfully, which the party took out easily. There was nothing inside the building to suggest it was important in any way, so they decided that the creature had taken refuge inside out of convenience more than anything. 

The party checked back in with the building they had been investigating before Ardeth's episode and finally had Ardeth pick the lock so they could see what was inside. In one of the building's offices they found a middle-aged man dead in a chair, killed by a self-inflicted dagger wound, and several sheets of paper with writing on a desk. The papers revealed that a stranger wearing red and white robes had come into Bellwater some time before the harvest festival and offered his services in setting things up, at no pay. This, along with information the party had gathered up to this point, suggested to the party that there was no one left in Bellwater for them to save. That all the people they had encountered up to now had been victim to what had almost been their fate underground, joining the Brood. 

Solemnly, the party set about the grim task of killing the creatures that now roamed the town, as they were not people, and leaving them to live as they were was more dangerous than the alternative. This done, the party settled in to stay the night in the town, needing a rest after the long day they had been through.

END OF SESSION SIX
—TO BE CONTINUED

 

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Sightseeing in the Silverwood
Session Five - March 16, 2017
While all of you have certainly had more comfortable rests you cannot recall a more restful one. Almost dying and then being temporarily imprisoned for the better part of a day can apparently do that. Whatever the case, the six of you awaken as the first hints of morning sunlight begin to stream through the curtained windows of Ali’s home. 


The party wasted little time in making their preparations to leave. The only reason they were not out the door sooner was the arrival of Ali's mother, Daraya. Daraya fetched a portrait of her teenaged son, Rogin, and gave it to the party so that they might recognize him if they were to happen across him in their travels. The party promised to keep an eye out, but weren't confident that this search would ever bear fruit. The party, not wanting to prolong their departure, bid Daraya farewell and left to make their way to the ferry docks.

The docks were still quiet when the party arrived, with only one ferry accepting passengers. The ferry set off from Valehallow without much dallying, and carriedits passengers to a rather small dock on the other side of the Ahraem River. While onboard the ferry the party had a rather colorful encounter with an elven drunkard—who Ardeth proceeded to rob—but otherwise the journey passed by without incident. 

Not wasting any time the party proceeded down the single trail that led into the Silverwood from the dock area, taking care to keep an eye out for any bandits or other unpleasantness. After several hours of this the party began to hear worrying creaking sounds from further ahead. The party crept forward slowly until they reached the source of these sounds, a large cart that took up the entirety of the trail. Before they could investigate for themselves a timid voice called out, asking if the party was bandits. Harold tried to play along and claim that they were, in fact, bandits, but the woman disbelieved and eventually the party conceded that they were not bandits. She told the party that her name was Eschana and that she was a merchant who was making her way through the Silverwood to avoid going all the way around but was growing paranoid thanks to the stories of bandits filling the forest.

The party asked if Eschana would be willing to give the party a ride, at least as far as Bellwater, to which she quickly agreed, thankful for the protection they would offer. The group continued along the trail for several hours more, engaging in idle chit-chat—or grim silence, in Ardeth's case. It wasn't long before the party encountered their first sign of some sort of strangeness. In this case it came in the form of a corpse along the side of the road—a young man with the back of his skull, and a not-insignificant portion of his back, completely missing. From all appearances, the man seemed to have only been dead a few days and in searching for any form of identification the party was only able to find a small coin purse filled with small stones rather than sharps.

At this juncture, Ael'srill decided to use their abilities to make contact with this dead man's spirit to expedite the party's investigation. With a little prodding, Ael'srill was able to reach the spirit and draw it into themselves so it could speak using their body. While the spirit was understandably confused by his current situation the party was able to glean some information from him. The man was named Kairos and was a tanner from the town of Bellwater where he lived with his sister, Kionne. His last memories were of going to bed the night before the harvest festival some five months prior. He remarked that he hadn't gone to the inn outside of the village with his friends, but otherwise there was nothing strange about that night that he could recall. He also admitted that he didn't know anything about why his body had a coinpurse full of stones. Deciding that they had all the information that they could get from the young man's spirit they bade him farewell, but not before promising him that they would see his body buried. Not having the tools to dig the man a grave, they piled stones over the body as best they could and continued on their way, with more questions than answers.

Later that day the party spotted a humanoid figure crouched in a tree quite a distance away that gave them pause. After some hurried discussion and quick decisions, Kalise fired a single arrow at the figure, striking home and sending them crashing to the ground, dead.

The party continued forward, more slowly now that they realized they could be walking into a trap. As they approached a bend in the trail several cloaked figures appeared behind them, pulling ropes that dropped several large logs onto the trail, preventing their retreat. These figures then melted back into the surrounding forest, leaving the party alone. Having few alternatives the party decided to continue forward with weapons ready, as prepared as they could be for what might be ahead. The party carefully rounded the bend and found themselves confronted by a group of three men—presumably bandits—with their backs to them, chatting amongst themselves. Wasting little time the party engaged the group in ranged combat, quickly taking out two of them and sending the third fleeing into the woods.

While puzzled at how poorly thought out this trap had been the party nonetheless set about ransacking the camp. Most interestingly the party found a locked chest in the largest and nicest of the tents, the party decided it would be best to take the chest with them and try to open it later, and retreated to the cart. Back at the cart, however, they encountered a bearded man, leaning casually against it. The man seemed unconcerned at the party's apprehension and even their threats, treating them like old friends rather than strangers. The man revealed his name to be Novoi and he noted the chest they were carrying, giving them detailed instructions on where they could find its key. When pressed on why he knew this Novoi brushed it aside and refused to give a straight answer. At some point Roy realized that Novoi's beard was, in fact, fake and proceeded to rip it from his face, revealing him to be much younger than they had initially assumed. Novoi seemed somewhat miffed, but—if anything—more amused at the situation. Harold then demanded Novoi hand over his scarf, which he did after only a little prodding, revealed a wicked scar running around his neck. Eventually, the party was able to extricate themselves from Novoi, but not before he asked them if any of the men they had fought had escaped, to which they admitted one had. 

The party continued along the trail, keeping an eye out for any more interruptions. As they closed in on their destination they found themselves near a landmark that matched the description provided by Novoi of the location of the chest's key. Novoi's words were proven true when the party found the key in the exact location as described, which they wasted no time in using, opening up their prize from the bandit encampment. Inside the chest the party was able to find 41 sharps, 5 strange iron ingots, and two seemingly blank letters bearing a stylized 'N' at the bottom as a crest.

At this point, the sun was hanging very low in the sky and the party was growing tired, but they pushed on, knowing they weren't far now from the village's outskirts. Within a few minutes, the party found themselves at the front door of a large building, which they realized must be the inn that had been described to them previously. While Eschana saw about getting her horse settled into the stable the party entered the inn to see about getting some rooms and a meal.

Inside the inn, the innkeeper Temmond stood behind the counter, distractedly polishing the same spot with a dirty rag, even as the party approached. Whenever prompted by the party the man would respond with some variation of the phrase "Welcome to the Bellwater Inn, can I get you a room?" but never moved from his position behind the counter. It seems that the mystery of Bellwater would not be solved as easily as the party might have hoped…


END OF SESSION FIVE
—TO BE CONTINUED






 

 

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Traipsing through Town
Session Four - March 9 2017
You emerge from the magistrate’s office—map and documents in hand—and find yourself on a quiet street corner, brightly lit by the afternoon sun. Scattered about are members of the Valehallow militia—wearing green and red uniforms—that have obviously convinced the crowds you spotted through the window earlier to disperse, meaning the freedom of the streets is now yours.



Not in any rush to begin their service for Mayor Miria the party decided to first shop around town for some supplies. Their first stop was a small, somewhat shabby, tailor shop by the name of Fedorric's Fashions in which Harold purchased a dark blue cloak. He was able to haggle the price of the cloak down quite a bit by agreeing to wear a button advertising the tailor shop around town. Kalise attempted to ask some of the locals where she could find some sort of jewelry and accessory store but had no luck with the wizened old person she found herself in conversation with—she decided to try asking someone a little more aware of the world around them.

Ardeth and Sylthana had more luck in their mercantile adventures, finding a stall selling herbs in the  town square. Ardeth purchased a satchel of various Calladaian spices, and he was so pleased with this find that he did not even attempt to haggle with the owner of the stall. Sylthana, on the other hand, purchased some ingredients that, with a bit of skill, could be brewed into three or four healing potions.

Roy had some luck as well, finding a large pottery shop with a large number of apprentices being overseen by a stern master. Roy approached the master, intending to purchase enough clay to produce a decently-large—approximately three foot tall—golem. The master, however, revealed that he had a distaste for golemancers and cared far more about selling to those who would produce vases, pots, and other items of that nature. Sensing this, Roy spun a tale about how his companion Harold was looking to become a potter of this sort, and was able to purchase the clay for a good price. Roy told Harold about this tale, and asked him to remember it in case they ever encountered the master again, but Harold didn't seem entirely sold on the tale.

While traversing the town in the general direction of the richer quarter the party found themselves sharing the street with a young bard busking rather poorly. Most of the party ignored this young man and continued along the street, but Kalise, taking pity on the man, tossed a single sharp into the lute case laid on the ground. This sent the bard into a fit of tearful gratitude, as he sputtered words of thanks and affection to Kalise. He revealed that his name was Fiddi and that he was busking here because his uncle—the owner of a rather large jewelry store several blocks away—had driven him away thanks to his poor playing. Offering some final words of encouragement to the young bard Kalise rejoined the party as they continued down the street, towards the shop owned by Fiddi's uncle.

The shop the party found themselves in could better be described as an emporium for the great many fine pieces of jewelry and other expensive items contained within. Almost immediately after entering the party was set upon by the owner, Fiddi's uncle Iridon. Ardeth started conversing with the rotund Iridon first, looking to sell the heirloom he had convinced Hada to part with as payment several days earlier. The initial offers from Iridon were insultingly low, and after a few traditional back-and-forth offers Ardeth grew impatient and decided to try scaring the shopkeeper into offering a more fair price. The price eventually settled on was more than fair, including all of the sharps that Iridon currently had on his person, and a much less expensive iron ring he wore on his finger. He would have given more, had he not been more frightened of what his wife might think than he was of Ardeth's veiled threats of violence. Not wanting to break the man any more than Ardeth already had, Kalise bought a simple, but finely made, silverwood barrette at asking price. The party then left the shop, but not before Kalise asked the man to reconsider letting his nephew play in front of the store again.

Evening was settling over Valehallow so the party decided now would be a good time to check in with Ali, and make that soup recipe she had been so interested in. The party purchased the necessary ingredients on their way and it wasn't long before they found themselves in the middle of the goblin quarter by the river. Ali's home was a small, but comfortable, home beside a large headless statue of what is presumably a goblin man. The party knocked on the front door for several minutes with no answer and, fearing the worst, they opened the door. Their fears seemed to be realized when upon opening the door they were confronted with a dark red stain in the center of the floor.

Before the party could panic overmuch, however, Ali appeared on the stairs, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She explained that she had been painting earlier and had accidentally spilled some on the floor. Her mother was currently out in the market fetching some cleaning supplies and Ali had decided to take a nap while she waited. Ali ushered the party in without much hesitation, quickly presenting the party with the results of her earlier efforts. She had painted a group portrait of the party—including both Ali and Eskaer—entirely in red paint. The party's collective heart grew three sizes that day so they asked Ali to show them into the kitchen so they could prepare the meal. There was already bread set to rise in the kitchen so the party only had to focus on the soup itself. Ardeth took charge for this task, making sure that the party correctly peeled the potatoes among other tasks. Roy, against Sylthana's wishes, allowed Ali to peel a single potato, which she did rather poorly but with all fingers intact. At this point Ali grew bored with the preparations and asked the party if they wanted to play outside, which the majority of the party agreed to, leaving Ardeth to cook the soup alone—as was his preference.

The party played with Ali for the better part of an hour before her mother arrived home, cleaning supplies in tow. She introduced herself as Daraya and thanked the party for saving her daughter's life. She was so pleased with them that even learning that they had allowed Ali to handle a knife only concerned her for a moment. When Ali was out of earshot, however, she asked the party if they had spotted her son Rogin while they were below. Upon hearing that they had not spotted him she appeared to the party to be both relieved and disappointed, but she left things at that.

Eventually Ardeth had finished his work in the kitchen and called to everyone that it was time to eat. The party then shared a rather enjoyable meal with Ali and her mother, talking about nothing in particular until Daraya eventually retired to do something about that red paint in the hallway, which Roy followed to assist with. With her mother out of earshot Ali began to request that the party take her with them when they left town the next day, rationalizing that she was much smaller than her brother so her parents would not miss her as much. The party, agreeing wholeheartedly on something for perhaps the first time ever, told her that she absolutely could not come with them. They did, however, agree to come visit when they could, perhaps with souvenirs. 

With the disaster of the hallway dealt with Daraya returned to the kitchen and began making preparations for settling down for the night. While the home didn't have a whole lot of space she did bring down a large number of blankets and pillows for the party to use in the large hallway. The party finished cleaning up from dinner and prepared themselves for sleep, as ready as they could be for the next stage of their adventure.

END OF SESSION FOUR
—TO BE CONTINUED

View
Defeat and Departures
Session Three - March 2, 2017
The bench upon which the six of you sit seems to grow harder by the moment and the room grows ever colder but you’re nearing the end of your tale. The magistrate is now leaning forward so far he is almost doubled over on the tabletop – which you would find more amusing if this man was not the sole arbiter of your fate. The man reaches up with a hand to brush a stray strand of hair from his face but says nothing, trusting your party to continue with their tale. And so you do…

The six of you stand before the waiting maw that is the entrance to the final passage. The red glow up ahead reminds you of blood and fire, and the shadows cast by it seem to linger longer than seems possible. Those of you with arcane abilities feel the power of the magical energies at work here pressing uncomfortably upon your skin—whatever is happening in there will reach its climax very soon. 

 

Not wanting to risk waiting any longer the party immediately continue down the hall in front of them. They discover that the hallway is of solid black stone covered in vibrant blue runes that in many places have been defaced with a glowing red chalk. The hall's floors are covered with black dust and large, irregular stones and the ceiling of the hall is and indeterminate distance above, leading the party to the conclusion that until recently this hall had been hidden thanks to some sort of cave-in in the past.  Eventually, the party discovers a small side-chamber along the hall that contains a pump on its ceiling that links to an aquifer somewhere between the citadel and Valehallow itself.

It isn't long before the party reaches their destination, the open stone door at the hall's end that emits a powerful red glow and is the source of the strange chanting they have been hearing. After quickly ensuring that Ali is a safe distance away, in case anything were to go awry, the party approaches the door and takes their first look at what it is they have found themselves opposing.

Inside the chamber, the party discovers a group of ten robed fingers standing in a ring atop an intricate, glowing blue seal that is inlaid on the black floor. The figures wear white robes covered in red runes and the figure with the most intricately decorated robe stands at the center of the circle. The parties watch as the robed figures chant in a strange tongue of which they are only able to pick out one word, Averaak—which is a general term for a great evil that exists in many ancient languages. The magical energies at work in this room are visible even to those in the party that have no talent for magic, like Ardeth and Harold. The energies find their nexus with the central figure and as the party begins trying to decide their next move the energies reach a peak and suddenly three of the figures are twisted and compressed by the energies at work, eventually dissolving into nothing but pure magic which proceeds to infuse the central figure. This results in a huge flash of red light which temporarily blinds the party and sends them reeling.

After recovering from this the party tries to approach the cultists, who are so enraptured by their chanting that they are incapable of noticing them. They discover that they are prevented from approaching too closely, however, due to some sort of magical barrier that has formed itself around the circle. Wasting little time Kalise attempted to breach the barrier using a blast of fire but the spell's energies were only added to those already at work. Harold also made an attempt at shooting the central figure but was unable to make the shot. At this time history repeated itself and the party watched as three more of their opponents dissolved into energy and flooded into their leader. At this time the blue light of the run atop which these figures stood was beginning to fade and the party realized they were running out of time.

Quickly devising a new plan the party pooled together the gunpowder they had retrieved earlier in their adventure and used it to trace a wide circle around the barrier. Before the party could take their next step the final three members of the circle disappeared and infused their leader and the rune at their feet suddenly went dark and began to crack. Hoping to prevent things from proceeding any further the party quickly lit the gunpowder and dived back into the hallway to take cover. And not a moment too soon, for moments later a deafening roar filled their ears and the entire citadel seemed to shake as the powder detonated.

After the smoke began to clear the party cautiously made their way back into the room and found that while the explosion had dispelled the barrier the leader of the cultists was still standing. Burned beyond recognition with his robes hanging in tatters around him, but still standing. The man gazed at the party as the rune at his feet continued to crack and made ready to speak. Before any words could be said, however, Harold quickly took aim and fired a single shot that blew through the man's chest. The man became unsteady and blood began to spill from his mouth but still, he did not fall.

Only moments after Harold's devastating shot a red fog begin to slowly drift out of the cracks at this man's feet, filling his mouth and nostrils until it disappeared. The man cracked a sudden smile and the party watched in disbelief as his burns began to heal and the gaping hole in his chest started knitting itself together again. Eventually the party was left standing in front of a handsome young man with a mocking grin on his face and something dark in his eyes. The man made no move to attack the party, seeming to be more amused at what had already transpired than anything.

Eventually, the party cautiously attempted to probe the man in front of them for information. The only concrete fact the party was able to glean from this was that the stones left behind with the robes of the nine other cultists were the key to escape. Otherwise, he remained cryptic. He seemed amused when the characters asked after Dalayn and also when they asked him if he was Averaak. After some time, however, he seemed to grow bored with the party and waved a hand to summon a strange black door that led out into a sea of nothingness and sending a blast of fire up toward the ceiling, and presumably beyond, with a wicked smile on his face. As the man did this the party was able to see the man almost cast three magical shadows behind him, but they flickered out of existence almost before they could be seen. Once done with this little pyrotechnics display the man bid the party farewell before disappearing through his doorway, which promptly disappeared as well.

The structure around the party began to shake in distress but before the party could begin to figure out how the stones that Roy had gathered up functioned a voice spoke clearly, but weakly, in their mind. It was the lich they had met up above ordering them to return to him, with runes along the citadel's walls lighting up to lead them back. The party gathered up Ali and wasted no time making their way back to the lich's throne room.

The party discovered the lich to be in dire straits when they arrived in his throne room. His form appeared to be cracking and crumbling apart, and the light in his eyes was quickly fading. The lich petitioned the party to seek out "those who wear the symbol of the Coldfire," and presented them with his ring—which revealed itself to be emblazoned with the symbol of a blue flame with a star at its heart. He also tells them that, while there are none alive to remember or care, his name was Eskaer when he still lived.

With little magic left to sustain him, Eskaer continues by telling the party that while their involvement in the current situation might seem random they have been tangled up in it for much longer. At this time Eskaer's form deteriorated to the point that he could no longer speak, but he leaves each member with a final message that he tells them directly, telepathically. He also promises to guide them to their exit point before crumbling into nothing, with the last dregs of his energies leading them to one of the citadel's magical exits and bidding them his final farewell.

The party—Ali in tow—concentrates on the rune lightly scratched into the wall that matches one of the stones they took from below and with very little effort are able to teleport out of the citadel, appearing on a darkened field just outside of Valehallow. Looking around to determine their exact location the party discovers the glow of a fire just over a nearby ridge and quickly find themselves confronted by the still-burning remains of the mayor's mansion, with a fire brigade hard at work to contain the blaze. The party speaks to one of the members of this fire brigade and learn that they are the primary suspects and, not wanting to answer some awkward questions, the party attempt to make a quick exit. They are recognized, however, by another member of the fire brigade—the party's old friend Hada! Hada proceeds to loudly make the party's presence known to all in the region, which draws the immediate attention of Kensa and a large collection of her militiamen. The party quickly surrenders against these odds and allow themselves to be escorted away, with Ali being ushered off by others—to be returned to her parents.

It is here that the party ends their tale to the magistrate, having mostly caught up to their current predicament—sans an uncomfortable night sleeping on the hard beds offered in their cell. Surprisingly, the magistrate believes the party's story wholeheartedly but isn't sure if the mayor will be as open to listen. He promises that he will plead their case to the mayor, but since it was her home that burned down it will be up to her on how the situation is handled. Some time later the magistrate returns with the mayor, who speaks with the party in private. First, she asks them to examine the portrait in her locket and asks if the man they encountered below and the main in the portrait are the same. The party is able to quickly determine that that is indeed the case and tells the mayor that it is so, which she takes rather well considering it means her son was some sort of cult leader and is now possessed of some sort of dark power.

Miria quickly moves onto other subjects, telling the party that while half of the town believes they are arsons the other half believe Ali's fantastical tales of their actions in the citadel below. In order to placate those that disbelieve them she requests that the party does some sort of service for the Valehallow region, which they agree to readily. The party signs the necessary forms and contracts to get their belongings back and work on their task as official agents of Miria and take their leave.

The task that the party has been given is to make their way to the town of Bellwater across the Ahraem River and determine why no news has been heard from them in over a month. The journey is expected to take about a day but with bandits and beasts aplenty travel through the Silverwood is treacherous even for the most battle-hardened. 

END OF SESSION THREE
—TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

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Descending into Darkness
Session Two - February 23, 2017

The hours pass as your group tells the magistrate your tale. You tell him of your tomfoolery at the inn, of your dealings with Hada and the investigation that followed. Throughout the telling he makes no attempt to interrupt or probe further, only occasionally squinting his eyes—sending flashes of bright energies through the tattoos that surround them—as if attempting to discern any falsehoods. At some point attendants bring food and drink out and lay them out on the table, but it has gone untouched so far. As your tale reaches the strange teleportation circle found in Dalayn’s chambers in the mayor’s mansion the magistrate motions for the group to pause, rubbing his chin thoughtfully with a gloved hand. The six of you take this brief opportunity to sate your hunger and quench your thirst, but eventually the magistrate once again focuses his gaze on each of you in turn. “Continue,” he says simply, and leans back to take in the next portion of your tale.

None of you have ever teleported before. At least, not like this. Darkness surrounds and consumes you and unseen claws reach through the skin and tear at your soul, ripping you apart piece by piece and then roughly reassembling you elsewhere. Just when each of you think you can take no more, that surely this must be the end of you, it ends. The claws withdraw and leave you whole again. The darkness, however, does not abate.

 

The party's tale picks up as they stumble about in a pitch black stone chamber. After some quick thinking Kalise is able to use her elemental magic to turn one of her arrows into a makeshift torch. Using the slight illumination offered by this torch the group was able to determine that they were definitely in some sort of underground complex, but the exit had been buried beneath centuries of cave-ins, meaning there was only one possible direction for them to head in. The direction the party found themselves heading in was also the source of some rather distressing noises, however, so the party moved forward with some trepidation, not wanting to stumble into something if they didn't have to.

As the party moved forward—after having Kalise produce a couple more makeshift torches—they eventually found themselves navigating a much more well-preserved hall. Their first discovery was a large stone door cut from stone from a far-off region of The Reaches. The party passed on attempting to open the door at the moment, however, and moved farther down the hall, finding a set of stairs that led deeper into the complex and a storage room just off from the main hall.

In this storage room, the party found a stash of supplies that had been placed in the room very recently. The supplies consisted of a variety of basic weapons and arrows and, more importantly, several large sacks full of black powder, that Harold recognized from his experience with firearms. Roy grabbed one of the swords scattered around for a little additional protection and the party collectively carried the hefty sacks away—taking care, of course, to keep them away from their torches.

At this point, the party eschewed descending deeper into the depths and instead doubled back to the locked door they had encountered earlier. Making quick work of the door's lock Ardeth ushered the party past the door, which revealed itself to be a large, circular chamber with murals depicting fanciful battles and other subjects adorning its walls. Most interestingly, however, was the large stone throne in the center of the room upon which rested a crowned skeleton wearing a simple silver ring. After determining that the ring was not of any particular value the party had Ael'srill attempt to commune with the skeleton using their abilities as a medium.

Rather than a spirit appearing before the party, as was expected, the skeleton itself began to shift and rise after Ael'srill's efforts. Perhaps hoping to stop this unsettling development before anything more could happen Harold immediately stepped forward and struck the skeleton with the sack of black powder he carried. However, this had the complete opposite effect. Rather than flying apart or crumbling to dust as one would expect from a pile of centuries-old bones, the skeleton's eyes erupted with a cold blue fire and its hand reached out and lifted Harold off the ground by the throat. The party made several attempts at forcing the skeleton—now properly revealed to be a lich—to release Harold that only ended in injury and embarrassment before Kalise stepped forward and attempted to barter with them.

The lich found this attempt amusing and with a little coaxing eventually released his hold on both Ardeth's sword and Harold's throat, deigning now to speak with the party. The lich was gruff and secretive but the party was able to learn a few facts from him. The lich revealed that the citadel they were currently in was ruled by the lich and that the lich's purpose was to keep something locked away—no more details on what exactly was locked away were forthcoming. They were also able to learn that the lich was not the legendary Prince Dalayn, nor were they the person depicted on the murals on the room's walls.

Before the party could get more information or extricate themselves from the situation the lich suddenly doubled over in effort and pain, the fires in their eyes becoming uneven and occasionally even burning out. The lich immediately demanded if the party was responsible for what was happening below, and when the party revealed that they had no idea what was going on elsewhere in the citadel the lich charged the group with stopping whoever was below from breaking the seal on whatever was imprisoned down there, lest they all die.

Not exactly being fans of dying painfully the party agreed to the lich's demands and hurriedly left the lich's throne chamber and descended into the depths of the citadel. Upon reaching the foot of the stairs the party found themselves at the mouth of several branching paths, down one of which they could hear the sounds they had been hearing off and on since they had arrived. This close to the source, however, the party was able to discern that there were two sounds coming from down the passage. One was the snarling and hissing that gave them pause, but the other was the panicked whimpering of a child. Wasting no time in devising a plan the party crept forward down the passage, eventually encountering a chamber filled with the tattered and bloody remains of clothing and the occasional bone, with a snarling creature at its center, obviously in the middle of devouring its latest meal. The creature was a twisted and feral chimera with the body of a wolf, the legs and claws of a lizard, and the head of a snake. The chimera's attacks were frenzied and the wounds were deep but thanks to Sylthana's healing abilities the group was successfully able to take it down.

With the chimera taken care of the party was now able to see that the source of the whimpers was a small goblin child who had hidden herself beneath a large burlap sack. While frightened the child took an immediate liking to the party and revealed herself to be named Ali and to be a resident of Valehallow—or Vayallow, as she put it—who had somehow fallen into the citadel and gotten lost. Taking the young child into their protective custody the party was determined to see her safely home and led her back to the beginning of the branching paths.

With three paths still remaining open to the party, with no indication as to which passage would lead to their goal the party split up to cover two of the passages, promising to regroup later. Sylthana, Kalise, and Ardeth found that their passage led to a stark white staircase that they seemed to make no progress in descending. And when they attempted to retrace their steps they found that they still could make no progress, they were trapped. Thanks to Kalise's magical knowledge the group was able to determine what kind of magic held them prisoner, and better yet, free themselves and reach the bottom. The small chamber the group of three encountered held only a single iron chest, locked by a mechanism similar to the door to the throne room above, which meant Ardeth was able to unlock it and open the chest easily. The chest held but a single sheet of parchment that held—in an ancient language known to Sylthana thanks to her studies as a cleric—a recipe for some sort of potato soup with the words "I found the real one, you're too late," scrawled across the bottom. Ali was excited at the prospect of eating some potato soup but the party was somewhat less enthused.

Down the other passage  Roy, Harold, and Ael'srill found a single chamber beyond a wooden door that at one time might have been sturdy but after such a long period of neglect shattered into splinters after a single kick from Harold. The room revealed itself to be a large bedchamber that at one time had probably been quite opulent that was still lit by some sort of strange magical candelabra above. The room held a variety of faded paintings on the walls and a single clear glass pane beyond which only a sheer stone wall could be seen. Ael'srill used their abilities as a spirit medium and was successfully able to summon the shadow of a spirit. This shadow was a young-looking man that seemed to be playing around with a crown set on his head and just, in general, acting pleased with himself. Not getting much in the way of answers from this Roy examined the room further and was able to find a mysterious switch behind one of the walls paintings that, when pushed, sent the magical candelabra spinning and blazing to life. After several moments of this the magical power seemed to coalesce into the pane of glass at the far end of the room. This glass then showed the party a series of images and sounds before abruptly stopping. These included: a birds-eye view of Valehallow; the lich from above in his throne chamber, still doubled over; and a chamber filled with a red haze, accompanied by mysterious chanting. Harold also found a small, shiny stone that he decided to take with him, perhaps he plans to start a rock collection?

At this point the two groups made their way back to the split in the paths and regrouped, sharing what little they had found. Having exhausted all other possibilities the party made their way down the final passage, eventually reaching a large chamber filled with cages large enough to fit a single person, all empty, and lit with a series of torches along its walls. Beyond this chamber, the group was able to see just the faintest hint of a red glow and a quiet murmur that some members of the party recognized as being the chanting they heard through the glass pane back in the mysterious bedroom. Realizing that whatever they were to face was just up ahead the party paused for a moment to prepare themselves…

END OF SESSION TWO
—TO BE CONTINUED

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