Five-Pointed Star

Mi-e-i-e-ine
(September 11, 2010)

As told by Jayden

Burning Bridges
After the group enjoyed a short rest in the luxurious campsite accommodations provided by Thotham, the party decided to keep forging ahead in the mine to look for the scrolls, headed in the direction provided by the Staff of Knowledge. As the group moved further and further ahead, they entered a cavern with red, clay-like walls, the wounds of dripping and running water echoing around them. The semblance of the cave’s former life as a silver mine was apparent; mining picks and trolleys, although in disrepair, were scattered about as in the other sections of the mine that the party passed through.

As the party passes through a tunnel into what appears to be a larger, open space, Thotham feels as though the shadows on the cave walls are unnatural, and he releases a lightening bolt to attempt to gain a visual sense of what lies up ahead. A large rock plateau lies directly in front of the party. The natural structure is climbable, with slight difficulty, and there is a narrow passage on either side of the rock with a sharp drop into a darkness with depths and depravities unknown hugging the edge of the narrow path. Through the veiled shadows and darkness the party can see an area up ahead that is lit by sunlight coming through an opening in the ceiling of the mine that basks an old slat bridge in light.

The party begins to see durogar appear and disappear in and out of the shadows, narrowly missing some attacks. The party retaliates, attacking what they can see and sometimes what they cannot see. Frappe is hit by poison darts that are propelled from one of the durogar’s beards and the party hears wild cheers of the durogar attackers as Frappe staggers backward, bloodied. The party continues to advance on the durogar as they head towards the light and bridge up ahead, throwing durogar into the dark pits and massacring any that dare get in their way. Erasmus holds up his holy symbol of Iuon and the flash of red fire so frightens 2 of the durogar head that they step backwards in fear, and unable to catch their footing, fall off the cliff into the darkness.

As the party climbs the rocks up ahead to get on the bridge, a smattering of arrows narrowly miss Jayden’s head – they definitely came from across the bridge from the darkness. Erasmus bravely begins to cross the unstable slat bridge and is attacked by crossbows from a group of 5 durogar marksmen on the other side of the bridge. He maintains his composure and position on the bridge as the others begin to cross carefully behind him. Jayden surmises that the pit below them is more than 50 feet down, basing her knowledge on the screams and sounds of the durogar thrown over the pit to their death.

Out of the shadows 2 durograr miners appear and begin to hack at the ropes at the other end of the bridge. Thotham attacks the miners with a lightening attack, missing the miners, but setting the ropes of the bridge on fire with the attack. Erasmus tries to jump the remaining distance across the bridge, is hit by a spell and misses and falls through the slats. He pulls himself back up and unleashed a Divine Glow, killing the 2 miners who were still hacking away at the ropes of the bridge with their hatchets. A mysterious figure continues to reappear up ahead, casting spells to thwart the party as they attempt to cross the bridge. Jayden sings her tune of fire and ice and sends an icy wind to the smoking ropes, extinguishing the fire and pushing Erasmus forward off the bridge safely to the other side.

Halfway across the bridge himself, Rangrim attempts to leap the rest of the way to join Erasumus but instead clumsily gets caught up in the ropes, sending the bridge swinging wildly. Thotham devises an alternate plan for crossing the expanse – sitting down at the edge of the cliff, he grabs the rope and slats from underneath and begins to nimbly cross the bridge, hanging underneath like monkey bars. Erasmus readies an attack at the party of durogar armed with crossbows up ahead with his alchemist’s fire, but rethinks it given the potential to relight the bridge the rest of the party still needs to cross.

The shadowy, disappearing figure reappears and casts a spell on Frappe, breaking his will and forcing him to attack Rangrim. Still reeling from the attack from his fellow party member, Rangrim is attacked by more poisonous darts from the beard of one of the durogar up ahead and begins to feel the effects of the poison seeping into his system. Erasmus commands the cleric to jump off the bridge and he jumps to his death, but not before he throws a rock at the ceiling of the cave. The rest of the party crosses the bridge carefully, with ease, after the cleric and the durogar miners and hunters were dealt with. Wanting to make sure the cleric was dead, the party thows sunrods down into the pit to light the body and they begin shooting bolts from the heavy crossbows into this body until they were reasonably certain that even if the cleric did survive the fall, he would not be back to wreak further havoc on the party as they ventured further into the cave.

The path cleared, the party forges ahead and begins to cross the 2nd bridge. As Rangrim gets onto the bridge, swarms of sturgis begin to attack the party. The group attacks the 3 swarms quickly, Thotham shapeshifting into a swarm of beetles, and the remaining sturgis retreat to whence they came on the cave ceiling, allowing the party to cross the bridge without event.

“Foiled Again!”
Making it safely across the bridge, the party takes a short rest and Jayden sings her song of rest to soothe the party and speed their healing. As is often the case, Frappe feels invigorated by her song and is ready to face what lies ahead with renewed fervor. Moving ahead, the party hears sounds of people and horses, and smells the sounds of vegetables cooking in a soup-like broth. The party repels down a slow-grade wall towards a reflecting pool up ahead. Examining the pool, we see that it is rippling at random intervals and we don’t hear dripping from any of the stalagmites up above. Drawing closer to the body of water, the party hears the sounds of an army encampment coming from within the liquid pool itself and notices the cooking smells are coming from within the lake, as well. Sorrow is drawn to it and its arcana properties and tells the group that she thinks the liquid is a reagent for something. Wanting to investigate it further, Sorrow throws some nearby sand into the water – nothing happens – no water ripples. Sorrow gathers up a vial of the liquid and it strangely climbs the sides of the container, against gravity, until she caps it off.

The pool begins to shimmer and Sorrow sees an image of a cloaked figure with only his nose and mouth visible. It whispers something to her that she doesn’t understand (“Jaffasar”) and being afraid to say the word out loud, she tries to draw the letters in the dirt nearby, but they dissolve as she writes them. Hoping Erasmus or Jayden have some knowledge to decipher this, she gets their attention and tries to write the letters in the air, slowly with her finger. As she does, the letters appear as symbols and appear to glow with a purple tinge, mid-air, before they fade away. Erasmus believes that the symbols look like deep speech in forbidden text; something he once read accidentally and quickly stopped. He feels a sudden cold wind at his back as something emerges from a wall – a hand reaching for Erasmus!

Jayden notices Erasmus’ reaction and sees a glimpse of a creature reaching out of the wall before it goes transparent. Suddenly it appears next to Jayden and attacks her. Using her cape of the mountebank, she immediately teleports out of harm’s way and disappears. The party has seen her do this before, but they have always seen her reappear somewhere, which she has yet to do. Jayden herself is now somewhere, watching this scene and seeing her friends being attacked, as if she was sucked through to another plane. She watches Frappe attack the creature and as he stabs it, there is no blood, just a flash of light and a pool of darkness around the dagger. Frappe quickly withdraws the weapon, perplexed.

Thotham attacks with lightening and with a loud clap of thunder, the creature disappears only to reappear moments later with its dark grey skin now turned to a light green hue. Watching this, Jayden ponders if the creature’s vulnerabilities reveal themselves though a change in skin color and hearing the clap of thunder as Thotham’s lightening struck, decides to return to the plane from whence she was transported with her cape. As she teleported, she sees the scene in slow motion, with her party appearing as statues made of sand, with a wind slowly blowing pieces of their bodies away as if in the middle of a violent sandstorm. While watching her friends, she sees the creature only as a beacon of red light. Returning to the cave she gets the feeling that she was shifted to a plane that was adjacent to that of the prime material and is not really sure what to make of all of this.

Thotham’s thunder clap gives Jayden the idea to attack with thunder and she uses her storm walk power to attack the creature. He again disappears and reappears with a black skin color and suddenly spawns another monster that looks strangely like a human tadpole. Mixing up the damage a bit to try to exploit the monster’s vulnerabilities Sorrow attacks with necrotic power and the creature again disappears and reappears with a yellow skin color. Jayden attacks with psychic damage and it again changes its appearance to be now peppered with red streaks. Up to this point the party has surmised that when its skin is a certain color, it is vulnerable to a certain kind of attack: black skin = necrotic; light green = thunder; gray = lightening; yellow = psychic.

The creature tears a hole in mid-air and pushes Sorrow through it, and then spawns another tadpole creature. It claws at Erasmus and leaves some sort of puss pod behind in the claw marks of his armor. Thotham takes a shot with some fire damage and kills the creature, exploiting its last vulnerability. It explodes and knocks everyone prone, including its tadpole spawn. A strange rippling sound is now coming from the water pool and the party focuses their attention to the tadpoles that appear to be trying to infest the party with fish eggs. Rangrim and Jayden stand up and begin attacking the 3 tadpole creatures while Sorrow comes back to the plane where her fellow adventurers are in battle. One of the tadpoles burrows some eggs into Jayden’s arm as she reaches to attack. As she returns she sees the same shadowy, cloaked figure that appeared to her and whispered to her and it appeared disappointed and upset that she left to return to the other plane. As Frappe swings to hit one of the tadpole creatures it becomes insubstantial. Jayden notices this and remembers hearing of creatures like this – it can make itself insubstantial and avoid damage except that psychic damage and in order to maintain invincibility, a condition must be met – it must rob a life force. A tadpole attacks Rangrim and inserts a small fish into his neck. As the last tadpole drops to the ground the party hears a voice from the pool, “I was nearly free – you foiled my plans! Kayak knows who you are and knows where to find your family and friends and will take his revenge.” As the face in the pool fades the lake becomes water once again, such so that you can see through to the bottom, and Sorrow thinks to herself how familiar that face looked to her. Jayden and Rangrim both know that the fish eggs and tadpoles injected in their skin is an infection and over time the fish will grow inside them to eat them from the inside out – a very insidious disease that has now infected Jayden, Rangrim, and Thotham.

“The God of Hellfire”
After another short rest filled with the sounds of Jayden’s Song of Rest, Erasmus asks the Staff of Knowledge which direction to go to locate the scrolls. A hand appears on the map and directs them down the northern passage way on the map and the party forges ahead, temporarily setting aside the fish infection that is afflicting Jayden, Rangrim, and Thotham. The party reaches the end of a long passage way and finds themselves about 40 feet high, looking down out of a hole in the cave into a room where some sort of blood rite ritual appears to be occurring. The party has happened upon the temple to Azmadeus, carved intricately out of the cave itself. A cleric is presiding changing some incantations in under-common, flanked by 2 deacons, and joined by almost 20 supplicants and 2 guards. On the altar behind the cleric the party can see someone bound, gagged, and writing while the cleric holds 2 scrolls and chants.

Sorrow curses the supplicants and immediately kills 16 of them. As they turn to dust where they stood, the party hears a howl off in the distance and Sorrow begins to levitate and hover above the ground, cackling and basking in the glow of pure evil. Chaos immediately erupts down below and the remaining 4 suppliants and guards move into a defensive position, readying their attack. Erasmus, Rangrim, Thotham, Frappe, and Jayden head out of the hole in the cave, which happens to be the mouth of a skull carved out of rock, and head down the stone ramps flanking the opening, attacking the guards and supplicants blocking in their path as they head to the altar to stop the cleric and the blood rite ritual. Sorrow floats down from the mouth of the skull, filled with a dangerous dark fervor, bellowing, “I am the god of hellfire!” Even her fellow adventurers have never seen her do something quite like this. Rangrim, Thotham, Erasmus, and Frappe clear the way for Jayden to get within range of the cleric to cast her wall of thorns between the cleric and his deacons, guards, and supplicants. The wall of thorns breaks line of sight for the cleric and he is no longer able to control and deacons, weakening his effects. Sorrow’s evil fury continues and she steals some of Frappe’s soul to unleash a feverish attack killing the remaining supplicants. The party looks on, frightened, as Sorrow bubbles with glee as blood is siphoned from Frappe’s chest by the force of Sorrow’s terrorizing pull. The cleric moves voluntarily into the wall of thorns so that he can see his deacons and regain line of sight to channel his powers. Jayden takes aim at the cleric’s eyes and hits her mark with expert ease, blinding him and permanently crippling his power by breaking any sight control of his deacons. Erasmus, Rangrim, Thotham, and Frappe finish off the guards and deacons with the final blow being dealt by Sorrow’s sacrifice to Caiphon.

Approaching the cleric, still trapped in Jayden’s wall of thorns, Sorrow confidently lurches forward and grabs the scrolls out of his hands. She questions him about the scrolls and his activities, but he considers it an honor to die for his deity and refuses to tell the party anything other than useless lies. Helplessly trapped in the wall of thorns, Sorrow deals the final blow to the cleric while the others stand by. Standing at the scene of the carnage, the party hears a slow clap from the back of the room and they turn to see the cloaked figure they witnessed in the pond. Sorrow reintroduces the party to her Patron, and the group realizes now that he looks familiar to them, too – he helped them escape from the collapsing plane through a blood ritual just a few weeks ago. He congratulates the group and tells them how pleased at how well his servants performed. To show his appreciation, he is wiling to create a portal directly to Kingsport for them. He knows they are heading there next to obtain the last scroll and is willing to help them – no strings attached, or so he says. Everyone, except Sorrow, is disturbed to hear him talk as though they are colleagues, working in concert, but as disturbing as the reality of it is, they all have to face the facts that they have been contributing to his power and cause, albeit unknowingly, and their slaughter of the helpless cleric certainly swings the pendulum closer to the evil that they so vehemently deny alignment with. Jayden was vocal about her position of not wanting to take the Patron’s help, but she was left wondering if that had anything to do with the fact that the inevitable end of their quest is near. Jayden has her own reasons for not wanting to return to Kingsport, unbeknownst to the group, and perhaps the Patron is providing an easy way to get there and Jayden herself secretly wants an obstacle that would prevent her return to her hometown. Leaving them to their thoughts, the Patron gives Sorrow a crystal that will create a portal to Kingsport when smashed and he disappears. The party knows they have little time to get to Kingsport, and even traveling by horse they may not make it. Quite a quandry.

Erasmus and Jayden head to the altar and untie and ungag the supplicant on the altar to find a frightened durogar. Erasmus tells the durogar that they will not hurt him. Eying Sorrow, he tells the durogar, who introduced himself in common as Wilhelm, to run and not look back. Heading back behind the altar the party enters the sacristy and finds a room laid out both in substance and style similar to the secret room they uncovered in the temple back in town. At the foot of a 4-post bed lies a locked footlocker, which Jayden expertly picks. Having seen this type of trunk back in the temple, they carefully open the trunk avoiding the poison trap. Inside the party finds another black spot that reads “9 days” – this matches the black spot the party has been carrying since they parted ways with Caldwell in the forest. They also find the real scrolls – the cleric was holding fake scrolls and the ritual he was performing was clearly intended to give him power and strength to eventually take hold of the dark, black scrolls. Looking around the sacristy, the party also finds 950 gold pieces worth of good that they pack up to sell.

Thotham spends some time healing Jayden and Rangrim of the tadpole infestation with great success. Saving himself for last, Thotham was too fatigued from healing the others to remove his own affliction and was only able to stabilize his disease for now. Unsure of what to do next, the group decided to take an extended rest in the safety of the sacristy and deal with the tough decision ahead after a much needed rest.

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The Road Ahead
Chronicled by Jayden

Steeplefall Bound

As Tristan disappeared into the horizon, headed to Kingsport, the party rethinks their decision about going to Steeplefall. Caldwell leads the opposition, noting that Steeplefall is dangerously close to the fey wild, which he is actively avoiding. He argues that Tristan is clearly not to be trusted fully and Kingsport being a larger city may have more information and resources. Jayden is staunch in her opposition to head to Kingsport, but for different reasons. She argues that Steeplefall provides the party the not only stop Ichabod, but also to recover 2 scrolls – the one that is hidden there and the one that Ichabod stole. She also articulates that Ichabod is arguably more dangerous than Tristan and cites his rogue and unprovoked attack on Lady Bochenricht and his affiliation with dark forces. Only Erasmus knows her secret – she fled Kingsport where there is an active warrant for her arrest, before arriving in Bochenricht. Her points are persuasive and logical, and Erasmus keeps her secret – for now.

Having reaffirmed the party will head to Steeplefall, Erasmus and Jayden share with their fellow adventurers what they know of the city as they begin their journey on foot. Steeplefall is a former mining community that was formerly known as Steepleton, which was known for its large temple to Pelor. The city was ruled by the 3 leaders of the pagans that represented a sort of tri-branch government: the warrior chieftain (Cargwen), a shaman, and a wizard. The pagans are not affiliated with any known gods and they worship deities modeled after Norse gods. The black silk traders and mercenary pirates took the town over from the pagans, who were under the spell of a horrible infertility curse that was killing off their lineage. From what Erasmus knows, the town is still under the control of the pirates and could be dangerous.

Frappé and Erasmus lead the party northwest through the swamps toward Steeplefall, a trip that will take the party approximately 2 days by foot. Eventually, the swamps give way to a small forest and the party makes camp as the sun sets over the trees. Caldwell meditates and keeps watch, accompanied by an Eye of Alarm, which allows the adventurers to sleep soundly through the night.

Green Arms and Ham

Frappe stirs as the forest begins to awaken and prepares breakfast for the party who are gently pulled from their slumber by the delightful aromas of hare bacon crisping over a nearby cooking fire. After a hearty and satisfying breakfast, the adventurers head into fey territory. Still nervous about this trajectory, Caldwell tells the group that they should let him do the talking should they run into any fellow Eladrin. Taking his usual spot at the head of the pack, Frappe leads them through the forest to a clearing up ahead. Drawing closer, the motions to the group to halt and they fix their gaze upon a spherical object up in the distance that appears to have an arm sticking out of it. Stepping cautiously closer, Frappe, Erasmus, and Jayden all recognize it as a magical creature. Frappe is sure it is not a beast and Jayden thinks perhaps it is an earth elemental. Erasmus is not sure what it is, perhaps some sort of magical monster, but whatever it is, the green tinged arm growing out of the large boulder is not part of the creature. Caldwell notes that the arm looks an awful lot like his – an Eladrin arm.

Having kept a sufficient distance, the party decides to avoid the creature altogether and marks out a path well outside its detection radius. While they realize this will add a bit of time to their journey, they determine it is worth the excursion as the green-armed boulder perplexed them greatly. After clearing the creature, the party once again makes camp as the sun begins to set, Caldwell taking his usual place of mediation alongside the Eye of Alarm as the adventurers slumber.

Into the Woods

Again Frappe stirs first, greeting the morning at early sunrise as the forest and its creatures awake to a new day. Even in the early morning still, he notices an uncommonly quiet portion of the forest off to his right. At a distance he doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but his curiosity is peaked and he decides to investigate further. Wisely knowing the benefits of exploring unknown territories with a dwarf at your side, he wakes Rangrim to bring along to research the odd still. To motivate Rangrim, Frappe tells him that he needs help hunting for breakfast ingredients. The taste of the delicious hare bacon still on his lips (and in his beard probably, too), Rangrim agrees.

Frappe approaches stealthily and quietly towards the stillness, but Rangrim’s attempts at stealth and quiet fail miserably as his armor clunks and clangs with a loudness that is exacerbated by the veil of quiet that falls over the early morning. Just as Frappe turns to quiet his rather loud companion, Rangrim trips clumsily over the roots of a large tree. Frappe tries to catch him, keenly aware of the clamoring sound the dwarf’s fall will make, but loses his footing and it taken down to the forest floor along with Rangrim. The other adventurers are hijacked from their sleep by the clattering, but when they look around, Frappe and Rangrim are nowhere to be seen. Standing and brushing the moss off his clothes, Frappe notices that they seem to have stumbled upon a globe of silence.

Caldwell looks quickly to the ground, looking for tracks but is not able to find any. The party gathers and begins to move cautiously in the direction of the noise, checking for traps in the forest floor along the way.

Silence is Not Golden

As Frappe begins to step slowly backward from the cusp of the globe of silence, headed to warn the others, 2 creatures drop down from the tree above them. The creatures themselves look like trees and Frappe and Rangrim hear their strange and eerie whispers, but cannot understand what they are saying. They quickly learn that the tree creatures are not whispering messages of peace and goodwill, as each tree form makes an attack on Frappe and Rangrim. As one of the bark-crusted creatures attacks Frappe he hisses, “You are no elf. You do not belong here.” Rangrim retaliates immediately, swinging his axe at the tree creature – the irony is not appreciated by the bark beast.

The rest of the party begins to hear Rangrim and Frappe yelling as they inch slowly forward through the forest. Looking head, Caldwell tells them that it looks like they are fighting with a tree. Not appreciating what seems to be a bout of early morning playfulness and testosterone, Jayden moves in closer to determine what all the horsing around is about. When she asks them what they are doing, they reply most earnestly that they are being attacked by the trees. Wielding both weapons in his hands, Frappe swings wildly on the offensive against the tree and connects with a hearty vengeance. Just as Frappe feels the blades lodge into the wood, the creature disappears.

Wood You Believe It?

Seeing this, Caldwell shouts, “Wait – I know what is going on here.” Rangrim ignores Caldwell’s plea and continues to fight, hurling his Life Drinker axe into the side of the treacherous tree creature, hacking off a limb and causing it to shriek in extreme pain. As the limb falls to the ground, suddenly Rangrim sees 2 Caldwells – one standing in front of him and one standing next to Jayden, Erasmus, and Sorrow. Seeing no way to stop it other than battle, Caldwell readies an acid blast attack and the smell of smoke fills the air as he hits the tree creature. Above the noise of the attack Caldwell informs the group that the creatures are dryads, or tree nymphs, but he is confused as to why they are attacking.

Jayden is familiar with some of the mythology surrounding these creatures and knows they are normally considered to be very shy creatures, except around the goddess Artemis, who was known to be a friend to most nymphs. Dryads, like all nymphs, are supernaturally long-lived and tied to their homes. In fact, some dryads became such an integral part of their trees that if the tree died, the dryad associated with it died, as well. For these reasons, dryads punished any mortal who harmed trees or the forest in general without first appeasing the tree nymphs. These creatures, or spirits, can manifest themselves in various forms, including that of a tree, which the party first saw Rangrim and Frappe fighting with. They can also take other forms, which explains the 2 Caldwells appearing in front of the adventurers – the 2nd Caldwell is an illusion and is actually the dryad that disappeared in front of Frappe.

Jayden, speaking in elven, asks the dryads why they are attacking the party. The dryad taking Caldwell’s form answers, “To purge the unclean – outsider.” With that, it reverts back to its tree form and Frappe begins to step away in a defensive stance. As Caldwell answers the dryad’s threatening response with one of his own shouting, “Then you will die”, Rangrim attacks heartily with his steel serpent strike and the dryad is in very bad shape, tendrils hanging on by a woody thread. Caldwell and Erasmus move in to attack the dryad and Erasmus’ righteous brand splits the tree in half and the dryad falls to the forest floor (and the party asks, if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?).

Rock It

Sorrow focuses her attack on the remaining dryad and spits a fiery spiteful glamour its way. Jayden connects with psychological damage dealt by her vicious mockery, causing the dryad to reveal its embarrassing secret that its tree branches were rejected for pencil making. Seeing the other dryad dead, the tree creature shrieks a magical curse and 2 rocks appear to come to life. While Jayden doesn’t understand fully what was said, it is clear that the curse is very dangerous. Frappe sneaks a quick rest to gain his second wind, now beginning to feel the effects of the battle with the dryads. Rangrim quickly makes an attack on the geonid, but he underestimates how nimble the stone monsters can be as it dodges out of harm’s way.

Erasmus and Sorrow, continue to focus their attacks on the remaining dryad. In a clever attempt to out-game the rock geonid, Jayden retrieves her scroll of knock and hold the magical paper over the rock. She’s heard of battles between paper, rocks, and scissors and remembers that paper beats rock. Holding the magical paper over the rock, she tries to channel the magic power of the paper over the rock. The paper explodes over the rock, causing minimal damage (to them both), but does not result in a victory over the geonid, as she’s heard in legendary tales. Just then, a tentacle grows out of the rock and tries to grab Jayden. She deftly dodges the grab attempt but is slapped by the tentacle as its sweeps past her. Immediately upon being hit, she uses her cape of the mountebank to teleport out of arms’ reach of the rock, behind Sorrow.

Frappe continues to focus on his quarry, the remaining dryad and attacks (appropriately) with his Plant of the Hills. Rangrim follows with his Orange Crush crushing surge and at the hands of the 2 adventurers, the dryad is bloodied. Sensing his diminishing state, Sorrow turns her attention to the weakened dryad and exposes his delicious weakness – his fear of fire. Taking full advantage and preying on his fears, Sorrow attacks the dryad with a heavy blast of frightful flames. From behind Sorrow, Jayden attacks the geonid that attempted to grab her, launching the attack in such a way that the geonid thinks Sorrow was behind the assault. In retaliation, the rock creature attacks Sorrow and grabs her with its tentacle. The accompanying geonid reaches out and grabs Erasmus, who is also now grabbed and trapped in its tentacles.

The dryad is on its last leg and tries to move past Rangrim, who takes advantage of his positioning for an attack of opportunity. Caldwell, seeing his fellow adventurers in the clutches of the geonids, attacks one of the rock creatures and reduces it to a weakened state of molten rock. Jayden attempts to help bring the geonid down, but the smoke and pitch in the air from the fire damage to the rock blur her vision and she misses. Frappe and Rangrim continue their assault on the dryad and reduce it to a pile of wood, literally.

Rocks and Eladrins

At the exact moment of the dryad’s death, the geonids suddenly become boulders once again; however, Caldwell seems to have disappeared inside of one of the rocks! The party is immediately concerned, but some members less concerned about Caldwell’s well-being and more concerned about the fact that the scroll he was carrying was also now inside the boulder (not to mention valuable goods). As the party began to strategize about how to extract Caldwell from the stone, suddenly Caldwell appears amongst them. Using his fey step, he simply teleported out of the rock. Everyone was relieved to see him, alive and well, and some were more relieved to know the scroll and treasure were not lost. Upon examining the rock, the party agrees that it is no longer magical – it is just a rock once again.

Up ahead it looks as though a sphere has been cut out of the ground, as if a large rock had rolled into the area and left a small valley. They notice a body lying prone at the bottom of the slight dip in the ground and Jayden and Erasmus suddenly realize they were near a globe of silence that is now open. They aren’t sure what caused it, but don’t perceive any danger and head toward the body. As they draw near, they see the body of an Eladrin – he is alive, but barely. Jayden provides some healing to the wounded Eladrin and he begins to breathe more steadily; however, he is still unconscious. Caldwell approaches and lets out a horrified gasp upon recognizing the Eladrin saying, “Surround him. Don’t let him move.”

The party is alarmed and Jayden asks Caldwell who this Eladrin is. Caldwell, with hatred in his eyes, reveals that this is Arinar of Uthica – his rival enemy and the one who has kept him out of the feywild for all these years. The adventurers begin to strip Arinar, looking for weapons (Sorrow looking for loot, actually) and Caldwell notices a strange mark on his wrist. His demeanor quickly changing from murderous to concerned, he tells his friends, “It is too late for me. I must go back and bring him with me. Alive.”

Caldwell’s Curtain Call

With a heavy heart, Caldwell hands the scroll he was carrying over to Erasmus, who upon touching it immediately develops frostbite on his hand. The scrolls and the power and ritual they could create were the only hope for Caldwell to undo the curse of his birth sign and take his rightful place amongst his fellow Eladrin in the fey. He never said why, but the group knew that the marking on Arinar’s wrist killed the hope Caldwell had carried with him that he would be able to one day return to his people. With that hope gone, there was no need to continue the journey to reclaim the scrolls and harness their knowledge and power.

Caldwell reaches back and pulls a silver ribbon from his hair and wraps it over Arinar’s eyes. In all their time together, no one had ever seen this ribbon before and Erasmus has a strange feeling seeing it emerge from Caldwell’s silver locks. Erasmus hears the staff of knowledge click and makes a mental note to talk to Jayden about this later – now does not seem the time. As they lift Arinar to his feet, they find something in his hand. Jayden recognizes it as the “black spot” – a patch of fur with a message typically written on the back that usually served as a mark or prediction of death. The black spot was often used by pirates – it looks like this one is from the black silk merchants who where though to have been long gone. Jayden is surprised to find the black spot so far inland, as the black silk merchants were known for their piracy on the seas. On the back of the black spot reads, “13 days from tomorrow, Kingsport.” She can tell this was written a long time ago as the items appears very old. She posits that whoever wrote this, wrote it many years ago. Exchanged only through a glance, Erasmus is worried about its predictive nature, and Jayden agrees rightfully so.

Caldwell turns to his fellow adventurers, and more appropriate, his friends to say his farewells. He leaves to head back to the fey, with Arinar, for whatever fate awaits them and their fellow Eladrin. Not one for sentiment or emotion, he simply turns and begins to drag Arinar through the forest. Not more than 20 steps into his journey, his emotions overtake his otherwise stoic demeanor and he is overwhelmed with the memories of the most unexpected experiences he shared with this motley crew of adventurers – many frightful and painful, many light-hearted and warm.

He knew he will miss Rangrim’s foolishly brave gusto and penchant for rat tails, dragon knuckles, and other disgusting fare. Although new to the party, he’ll miss the connection he felt with Frappe and their shared affiliation and knowledge of all things in nature. Even though he knew Frappe the shortest amount of time, he felt he had more in common with him than anyone else. Although they did not get off to the best of starts, he will miss Jayden and her leadership. He had come to admire her selflessness and strategy and was even impressed with her ability to talk them both into and out of many situations. He trusted her and trust is a hard thing for him to build with anyone, having been on his own for so long. He also had a great respect for Erasmus, despite their butting heads on many topics. Caldwell’s arrogance was no match for Erasmus’ deep sense of understanding and patience and Caldwell gradually learned to let down him guard and trust Erasmus, as well. Despite the fact that their quest seemed impossible, Caldwell truly believed that someone like Erasmus could make the impossible happen. Caldwell even allowed himself to admit he would miss Sorrow – the one thing they did have in common was their affinity for the finer things. They both definitely had their eye on the profitable aspects of quests of this nature, more so than the others in the party, which often pitted them against each other in acquisition competitions. While horribly frightened by it, he was impressed with her power and had seen her use it for the overall good of the party. Admittedly, she had never stolen a piece of his soul (that was usually reserved for the more forgiving personalities of Jayden and recently, Frappe) – maybe that would have changed his opinion.

Taking a moment to meet the gaze of each them – Rangrim, Frappe, Jayden, Erasmus, and even Sorrow (although that mask is admittedly hard to look at) – he allowed himself to show them what their companionship has meant to him over this past year and how he’ll never forget them. With a simple, “Goodbye, my friends” he was gone.

Task at Hand

The adventurers watched in silence as the silhouettes of Caldwell and Arinar disappeared into the forest and they each felt the sinking weight of the reality that they would never see him again. Looking at his frost bitten hand, Erasmus remembers the scroll that Caldwell was carrying now in his possession. Knowing that it is not wise to have all the scrolls on 1 person, he reaches into this bag to hand it to Jayden. As she takes it, her hand, too, is filled with pain and the skin bubbles into a grey, leathery form. Seeing this, Sorrow tells them that the scroll is infused with necrotic energy and warns Jayden that she should not carry it – it is not safe for her. Jayden sees through Sorrow’s bluff and instead of calling her on it, she just smiles and wraps the scroll in leather before placing it in her bag.

Erasmus pulls the scroll of knowledge out of his bag and shows it to Jayden, explaining that he heard it click just after Caldwell pulled the silver ribbon out of his hair to tie around Arinar’s eyes. Examining the scroll she says she knows that the ribbon is a secret keeper – an anti-Iuon trinket with a magical effect of not allowing line of effect on the wearer. Erasmus now understands why seeing it made him uneasy.

The party refocuses on their trip to Steeplefall, knowing that they are most likely looking for the scroll somewhere in the Steeplefall mines. Concerned about the message regarding Kingsport on the black spot, the group sets a tentative plan to head to Kingsport if they can take care of their business in Steeplefall timely and procure faster transportation to Kingsport, such as horses, while in Steeplefall. Erasmus, who has a keen sense of time (even keener while carrying the staff of knowledge) notes that they have been out of Bochenricht for exactly 13 days. Connecting this to the message on the black spot, he begins to become more concerned. Taking a short rest before beginning their journey, Jayden sings a song of rest and eases the bodies and minds of the party – today was especially taxing emotionally with Caldwell’s departure.

This Open Road

As nightfall draws near, the party comes across a trade road that leads to Steeplefall, a town up on a mountain, built partially into the rock. Realizing that they have been away from Bochenricht for almost 2 weeks, in and out of various battles and swamps, Jayden decides it would be a good idea for the party to clean up a bit, so that when they pass travelers on the road, they won’t look suspicious. She casts fastidiousness on everyone and they feel clean and refreshed – and look a whole lot better! Trying to anticipate what they might encounter on the way to Steeplefall, or within the city itself, the party decides that having a cover story could benefit them and they decide to present themselves as traders and merchants, seeking goods to buy and trade with their own wares.

Up ahead Erasmus notices a solid black flag on a caravan blocking the road – he knows this is the flag of the black silk pirates. Noticing they have horses, Sorrow’s mind immediately goes to how they might steal those horses and upgrade their current transportation. As the party draws closers they discern that the caravan is made up of 3 horse-drawn carts, what looks like a dwarf leader under a large hooded cloak (atop a dwarf pony), 3 cart drivers, and at least 5 heavily armed guards. The dwarf leader raises his hand to announce his approach as he rides forward, greeting the party with a thickly accented, “Hello.” He asks the group what their business in on the trade road, and Jayden responds they are headed to town to buy and sell goods. The leader asks to see their wares and as Erasmus shows him some of the snakeskin in tow, he notices that the dwarf leader’s skin is black as tar. A black-skinned, white-haired dwarf is very unusual to see above ground. Erasmus thinks this dwarf might be a drau, an evil underground creature. His large, hooded cloak is serving, then, to hide him from the sun which would cause a great amount of pain if his skin was directly exposed.

Sorrow’s Sales Pitch

The dwarf leader asks Jayden and Erasmus how much they want for the snakeskin. Not allowing them to answer, using her best bluff Sorrow tells him they are worth 500 gold pieces, but she will sell them for 450. She is a good liar, and he believes her. Looking at their other items Rangrim has pulled out of their bags, he asks about potions and vials. After some brief window shopping he decides he wants to the rat tails, snakeskin, powder, swords, and spears that are laid out. He tells them that he will pay them 200 gold for the entire order and that includes the tax they are to pay for traveling the trade road.

Jayden politely and diplomatically tells him that the snakeskin themselves are worth more than 200 gold and tells him she was unaware there was a tax for traveling on a public road in this area. Upon hearing this, the guards take defensive positions. The dwarf leader and his caravan seem on edge and uncertain about what will transpire – they are not accustomed to resistance or defiance. The black silk pirates have a reputation that most fear and therefore, many acquiesce to their demands. The party knows that there is no room for negotiation in this situation and an attack is eminent. And if this is the case, they’d rather be on the offensive!

Frappe stealthily sneaks off to the side, approximating a flank position. The party sees him skulk off, but the leader does not. Over 100 feet separates the dwarf leader from the rest of his caravan, as he rode forward to meet the group. Seeing an opportunity to separate the leader from his caravan and using that to the party’s advantage, Jayden casts a spell that causes an 8-foot wall of thorns to appear immediately behind the dwarf leader. Clearly taken off guard, Rangrim tries to capitalize on the opportunity to attack and intimidate him, but not only is he not affected, he insults Rangrim’s petty attempt by kicking him in the shoulder from atop his dwarf horse.

The Bargaining Is Over!

Sorrow takes her hideous mask out of the pocket of her cape and puts it on before cursing him and revealing his delicious weakness. Turns out, he has none, but that doesn’t stop Sorrow from hitting hard – her attack nearly knocks the sturdy dwarf off his horse! The guards, drivers and mercenaries are frozen in fear and surprise upon seeing a wall of thorns appear up ahead and their leader disappear from sight behind it. Keeping the momentum going, the party focuses their attack on the single target of the dwarf leader, careful not to injure the dwarf pony – Rangrim has his eye on this horse for his transportation upgrade (in fact, he already picked out a name for him – Big Poppa). Rangrim connects with an attack; payback for the kick to the shoulder he endured at the hands of the dwarf leader. In the flurry of concentrated attack activity, Frappe misses, but Jayden hits with her blunder and throws the dwarf leader off his horse, back away from the wall of thorns. The series of attacks have quickly weakened the dwarf leader, who is now bloodied. As fortune would have it, the dwarf leader lands at the feet of Frappe, providing him another opportunity to attack, but he misses again – he was not prepared for such an opportunity to present itself so quickly. The party hears the dwarf leader growl in deep speech what appears to be some sort of curse or otherwise foul message. Upon hearing it, Rangrim attacks Erasmus and the party realizes the dwarf leader ordered Rangrim to attack one of his own.

Erasmus attacks the dwarf leader and Rangrim follows with a violent cleave, splitting the skull of the dwarf leader in half. As he falls to the ground, Rangrim has to pull several times to remove the axe from the lifeless body of the dwarf leader. A flask of black energy beams from a black seal on the leader and Rangrim is filled with a strange pulsing energy as he screams, “More lives for Life drinker!” Impressively, the party took down the dwarf leader in very short order, before he had any time to escape from around the wall of thorns or get help from his caravan.

One Down, Many to Go

Shrieks are heard from the mercenaries and guards as they see their fallen leader and the realization sets in that he is dead. Also preoccupied with the idea of a transportation upgrade, Sorrow unleashes her attack of glamorous spite and curses a driver of 1 of the 3 horse-drawn carts. Erasmus senses something wrong with Rangrim as he looks over at him, veins popping out of his head and neck – he appears to be filled with a lust for blood like never before. Jayden also focuses on trying to stop the horse-drawn carts from fleeing, both from the desire to acquire the transport and from a desire to stop the fleeing pirates from bringing back reinforcements. She casts a spell of ice on 2 of the carts up ahead, slowing them. Unfortunately, her attack also hit one of the horses who is now bloodied. Seeing Erasmus in need of healing, she uses her Majestic Word to restore some health and vigor to his weak state.

Rangrim’s blood fury continues and he cleaves at one of the mercenaries, but the fervor of his swing is overtaken by the excitement of the chance at blood rather than accuracy, and he misses. The only cart that is not frozen turns and readies to move. Sorrow and Frappe attack the guards and Erasmus unleashes an area attack that hits 2 mercenaries and a guard. Erasmus notices that the ground underneath the body of the dwarf leader is becoming sticky and it is difficult for the dwarf pony to move off the spot.

Jayden notices Sorrow reeling after being attacked by one of the guards and quickly sends some majestic words of healing her way. Jayden takes aim at the fleeing driver, causing confusion and making it seem as though the attack came from Rangrim. She connects and knocks him off the cart, breaking his neck as he hits the ground. Frappe continues his assault on the bloodied guard nearby. The cart draws to stop as the driver falls and the other 2 carts begin to turn slowly at the hands of the drivers – the ice can slow them but not stop them completely. Seeing the potential to lose 2 horses and carts, Sorrow attacks and kills the 2 remaining drivers and hits a mercenary along the way. A nearby guard retaliates against Sorrow in vengeance and she finds herself once again badly hurt.

Studying the ground below the body of the dwarf leader, Erasmus quickly consecrates the ground and as storm clouds roll in, the staff of knowledge clicks again. Erasmus deals a righteous brand attack to a mercenary closing in on Sorrow, while a mercenary hunter atop 1 of the carts hits Jayden with a loose arrow that was aimed at Erasmus. Outnumbered, Jayden sings her song of courage (“You’re the Best Around”) to invigorate the party and retaliates against the mercenary hunter whose arrow hit her with a misdirected shot that was cast to look like it came from Rangrim.

Rangrim unleashes his Reins of Steel and dishes out continuous damage to any foe around him. Sorrow takes a healing potion, not certain she can wait for another healing spell from Erasmus or Jayden. Still not fully restored, Sorrow directs her fury and strength at the guard responsible for her weakened state and shows him his doom with renewed power from the well of death spell she cast at Jayden’s expense. Sorrow finished off the guard with great satisfaction while Jayden stares in confusion trying to understand her weakened healing potential. As the guard falls dead Jayden feels a piece of her soul being ripped from her and is overwhelmed with great sadness.

Erasmus connects with his Lance Bass of Faith and Rangrim takes an attack of opportunity as the remaining guard nears Erasmus screaming, “Kill the healer!” Jayden turns and attacks the guard, reaching deep inside to muster the energy for 3 consecutive shots – killing the guard before he can reach Erasmus.

With the leader, guards, and drivers dead, the party faces off against the mercenaries alone, who all happen to be half-orc. Frappe attacks with something the party has not seen before, a 2 wolf pounce, and kills 1 of the mercenaries in 1 fell blow (or 2, if this is a literal translation?). Rangrim attacks another mercenary and cleaves him dead with one swing of his axe. Looking around and seeing Frappe nearby, Sorrow steals a part of Frappe’s soul to deliver an attack of glorious sacrifice against another mercenary, who stumbles and staggers under the blow. Not dead, he is badly hurt. Wanting to finish him off, she finds within herself the strength to deal a consecutive blow, but in her haste the attack is misaligned and misses.

Erasmus continues to maintain the consecrated zone and heals himself before dishing a Lance Bass of faith attack at one of the 2 remaining mercenaries, but the mercenary jumps out of the way into the driver’s seat of a nearby cart. Putting their hands up, the 2 mercenaries ask if they can negotiate. Being muscle for hire, they have no affiliation to the dwarf leader – they would be happy to split the loot, take 2 horses and carts, and leave unceremoniously. Jayden is willing to let them leave with their lives and 1 of the carts, but Sorrow is not willing to give up the cart. Rangrim intimidates them and they take off on foot, in the end with only their lives.

To the Victor Goes the Spoils

Taking in the full breadth and depth of what just transpired, the party looks at each other in a state of semi-amazement. Although they will undoubtedly be hated with the black silk merchants from this point forward, they did find themselves at the foot of the gate to Steeplefall, with 3 carts and horses, 1 dwarf pony (Big Poppa) and 3 cart fulls of loot. Not bad for an afternoon’s work!

The dwarf leader was wearing a magical suit of armor and carrying a magical shield and ritual book that the adventurers quickly looted and added to their stock pile of goods. Erasmus healed the horse that was accidentally hurt in Jayden’s ice and wind attack and without any words having to be said, the party knew that horse now would belong to Erasmus.

It begins to rain and the party assembles a large tent under which to take cover from the tarps and materials in the carts. As the adventurers retell the afternoon’s events, Erasmus explains the bubbling mass of black tar under the dwarf leader’s body (and Big Poppa). He tells them that the dwarf leader must have been an evil dwarf king cleric of Amadeus. Rangrim’s life drinker (which is a blessing of Amadeus) either greatly pleased or displeased the god Amadeus, which explains the wild fury that fell over Rangrim after the dwarf king’s death. Erasmus shows Jayden the staff of knowledge and tells her it clicked again when he consecrated the ground where the dwarf king’s body laid. Reading the staff, she says that a battle between his god, Iuon, and Amadeus must have occurred as the ground was consecrated and now anyone carrying the staff can summon a storm, which explains the storm clouds that rolled in at that time. Frappe asks Sorrow about her glorious sacrifice and what it did to him. She explains that she need to borrow a part of someone’s soul for the spell and to say that Frappe is angry would be an understatement. He is furious and appalled and tells her to never touch his soul again. She tries to make light of it, giving him credit for the kill – it was his glorious sacrifice. Frappe is not compelled and warns her again to stay away from his soul.

Surveying the goods, there are some items that will sell and some that are of value, but Jayden and Erasmus know the people of Steeplefall are poor. Knowing that the real value of this afternoon’s win was not only victory and their lives, but safe passage on to Steeplefall and the transportation upgrades, she suggests that they donate some of the pottery and other less valuable items back to the town as a gesture of goodwill. She’s sure they will be grateful and it could even serve to help them locate the scroll and gain cooperation of the townspeople – someone there must know something! Among the goods, Rangrim finds a cask of liquid gold, which provides a never-ending supply of dwarven ale. Gazing upon the cask with a look of awe and wonder, the rest of the party exchanges light-hearted glances that make it clear they all know what Rangrim will be doing tonight!

View
At the Foot of the Ziggurat
Chronicled by Jayden

While the sky emanates an eerie purple glow and blasts of lightning fork from tears in the atmosphere, Rangrim remains inexplicably pulled up the stairs of the ziggurat towards Chava Kuth, who is atop the structure flanked by 2 of his guardian berserkers. Aside from Rangrim who is being pulled forward by Chava Kuth’s tractor beam spell, the rest of the adventurers are at the foot of the ziggurat, unable to move, having been hit with an immobilization spell. The townspeople have become increasingly agitated and spawned on by Chava Kuth’s invocation, begin to approach the party, armed with weaponry or any nearby object that could be wielded to cause physical harm. Sensing the eminent danger of facing an angry mob while immobilized, Jayden uses her diplomacy, tact, and negotiation to address the crowd. Her Words of Friendship fell successfully on their ears and cultivated a sense of confusion and befuddlement and the crowd ceased their attack on the adventurers, still unable to move, and instead wandered back to their homes or collected without purpose in the streets.

With the crowd neutralized, the party began to focus its efforts on freeing Rangrim from the pull of Chava Kuth’s spell. Caldwell narrowly misses Chava Kuth with an acid attack while Chava Kuth commands the berserkers, “They are mystifying your people, destroy them!” Obedient to the call, a berserker runs towards Rangrim and throws a bolas over his head at Sorrow. She dodges and even though clearly within attack range, the berserker launches no attack at Rangrim. The berserker’s actions make it clear to the party that Chava Kuth’s choice of words was very specifically directed to ensure the berserkers attacked everyone other than Rangrim. With everyone in the party still unable to move, Erasmus’s successful attack on Chava Kuth causes him to trip down the stairs of the ziggurat and become dazed. Even more importantly, his fall caused him to break eye contact with Rangrim, thus interrupting the spell compelling Rangrim to ascent the structure towards Chava Kuth in a zombie-like trance. Sensing the grave importance of this battle and the feeling that something larger hinges on the party’s success, Erasmus summons his Guardian of Faith and Harvey Bob appears unnoticed next to a berserker. Still seething with fury from the attempted attack at her from the berserker, Sorrow curses him as Frappe takes aim with his crossbow for a ranged attack; his only option in his immobilized state. While deft with his daggers in melee range, that prowess did not translate into a successful attack using his ranged weapon.

Rangrim on the Loose

No longer compelled by Chava Kuth’s spell, Rangrim attacks a berserker with a Crushing Surge and deals a hearty blow to the foe. Suddenly, 2 cultist buccaneers appear from seemingly nowhere on the ziggurat and in their stealthy attack, hit both Frappe and Erasmus. The 2nd berserker, seeking revenge for the attack on his kinsman, bull rushes Rangrim and tries to push him off his feet and off the ziggurat. Rangrim; however, hold his ground using his low center of gravity and vertical impairment to the best of his advantage and does not budge. Slowly climbing to his feet, Chava Kuth staggers back atop the ziggurat.

By now everyone except Jayden and Frappe have broken free of the immobilization spell and have begun taking offensive position on the ziggurat. Caldwell unleashes an acid attack on 1 of the newest members of the enemy front, one of the cultists, and not only demolishes him but enjoys the residual damage taken by one of the berserkers when the acid orb bounds off the shoulders of the cultist. Having regained his composure, Chava Kuth commands the berserkers and cultists to leave the dwarf and take care of the others. Heading the call, one of the berserkers runs past Rangrim to attack the other party members. While doing so, Rangrim took an attack of opportunity and bloodied the berserker. Enraged, the berserker attacked Rangrim in direct insubordination of Chava Kuth’s orders. Not pleased, Chava Kuth hissed, “I said leave the dwarf alone!”

And the Sun Begins to Set…

As the sun begins to set behind the temple, the party knows their window of opportunity to put a stop to the eminent planar collapse is beginning to close. With invigorated efforts they continue their assault on the cultists, berserkers, and Chava Kuth. Erasmus’ unleashes his Divine (Soul) Glow, but its trajectory misses the berserker. Not discouraged, Erasmus attacks quickly on the heels of the radiant after effects of the Divine (Soul) Glow and hits the berserker with his Lance of Faith. Watching the intense and focused energy of Erasmus’ bold attacks on the berserker, Rangrim begins to feel supernatural strength flow through is body, stacking attack power atop his already crushing blows. Sorrow curses the cultists and Chava Kuth, following up with an attack on a nearby cultist. Her aura begins to grow as the cultist meets his death and is pulled beneath the earth by a menacing claw. Sorrow’s Curse Bite hits both berserkers and Chava Kuth, who sensing the attack was prepared to shake off the curse before it had a chance to latch on. Still immobilized, Frappe again launches a ranged attack. Although the crossbow misses again, Frappe is able to break free from the immobilization spell limiting his melee attack opportunities, where his real strength lies. Pulsing with electric attack power, Rangrim cleaves the bloodied berserker and kills him.

Two more cultists appear from seemingly nowhere and attack Erasmus and Caldwell – hitting the former but missing the latter. Unbeknownst to the minion, he has appeared right next to Harvey Bob, who is invisible to the cultist buccaneer. Harvey Bob takes advantage of the opportunity to unleash a melee attack. Watching his berserker comrade fall to his death, the other berserker attempts to move out of the range of Rangrim’s powerful cleave. Not quick enough; however, and Rangrim attacks and stops him in his tracks.

Foolish Fools

Furious over the adventurer’s command of the battle thus far, Chava Kuth bellows, “I have had it with you fools and your foolish foolishness!” Some of the adventurers chuckle under their breath at the awkward battle cry from an otherwise erudite Chava Kuth. Regaining his composure, he raised his staff and pointed it at Sorrow, Caldwell, and Jayden. The bolt of power from the staff dazes the adventurers and inflicts them with poison damage. In her dizziness, Jayden’s attention is directed downward where she notices what appears to be a stone-covered hatch in the 4 corners of the ziggurat platform and she immediately realizes that this is where the cultists are emerging from beneath the structure.

The dazed adventurers are confused and befuddled and are not able to collect their thoughts or control their physical bodies to their fullest potential and only seem able to accomplish 1 thing at a time, as compared to the others who are able to move and attack. With their focus on Chava Kuth, Erasmus and Sorrow attack him. Sorrow’s fury is channeled and she takes advantage of Jayden’s bewildered state to extract part of her soul to create a powerful attack of Glorious Sacrifice. Unaware of the extent of her own power in this realm, Sorrow is pleasantly surprised to see Chava Kuth erupt in black flames and cower into a fetal position, skin flaking off. Glaring arrogantly over him, Sorrow notices Jayden nearby, brought to her knees in excruciating pain. The physical pain is doubled by the psychological torment dealt to Jayden as she begins to see the souls of the dead encircling her and hears the whispers of the dead in her ears. The same power that dealt such a damaging blow to Chava Kuth through her Glorious Sacrifice had the same exponential damaging effect on Jayden when a piece of her soul was ripped from her. This affect surprised Sorrow, who chose Jayden for the sacrifice based on Jayden’s own superior healing abilities and past experience performing the Glorious Sacrifice with her, which was not nearly as damaging to her.

Able to move again, Frappe attacks the remaining berserker with his trusty melee dagger, which by the thrust of the weapon, picked up the enemy by the blade and shoved him back from Frappe, out of reach of immediate retaliation. Infuriated, the berserker swings his axe wildly and chips away at the stone of the ziggurat wall. Within range, Rangrim takes the opportunity to wield an attack as the berserker slides by and with a Crushing Surge, takes off the berserker’s head with one blow. As Rangrim stares threateningly at Chava Kuth, 2 more cultists appears from the stone trap door in the pyramid and heeding Chava Kuth’s command, begin attacking Sorrow with spears. As they approach, Sorrow attempts to engulf the minions with her dark aura, but her concentration is interrupted when a spear hits her directly in the chest.

House of Quicksand

Returning Rangrim’s intent stare, Chava Kuth commands the stone underneath Rangrim’s feet with a booming, “Earth, swallow you!” Immediately, the stone directly under Rangrim becomes soft like quicksand and Rangrim begins to sink down until he is immobilized. Still on solid ground, Erasmus’ guardian, Harvey Bob, attacks a kills a nearby cultist with a magical eye of Iuon spell. Still badly hurt, Jayden attempts to distract and Blunder Chava Kuth into falling into the pit of quicksand of his own making, but her pain prevents her from focusing and her attempt fails. Spawned on by the pain and the need to rescue Rangrim, she taps into her last reserve of energy to attack Chava Kuth with Cruel Fate, but again is unable to focus beyond her pain and misses.

Caldwell takes care of the 2 remaining cultists with his acid blasts and Erasmus’ heals a bloodied Jayden and Sorrow. Sorrow recovers but Jayden is still dangerously close to meeting her maker. With sunset (and as prophesied, the end of the word) quickly approaching, Erasmus extends additional healing to Jayden – her leadership and encouragement will be critical to the party’s efforts to beat Mother Nature’s clock and overtake Chava Kuth.

Chava Kuth is showing signs of weariness from the prolonged attacks at the hands of the party, but is not slowing down his pace or power of attack against the adventurers. Sorrow exploits Chava Kuth’s Delicious Weakness and uses his pride against him in a demonic attack that drops him to his knees clutching his head with his hands screaming, “No, get out of my head!” Seeing his enemy weakened, Frappe runs across the difficult ziggurat terrain to attack Chava Kuth atop the structure. Wielding a weapon in each hand, Frappe unleashes a furious melee attack, missing with the first swing, but connecting solidly with his 2nd weapon, bloodying his foe.

Tangled Feet and Tanglefoot

Still stuck in the quicksand beneath him, Rangrim throws a Tanglefoot bag to Chava Kuth in an attempt to return the favor and immobilize him. Underestimating the effect of the quicksand on his positioning, Rangrim’s toss misses and lands it at Frappe’s feet, who deftly kicks the trap away before he gets tangled up in the mess. Chava Kuth changes tactics and attacks Caldwell, who blocks the attempt with Tempest Flare, which had a residual benefit of taking out one of the cultists with its fire shield.

With the party spread out across the ziggurat to avoid Chava Kuth’s close burst poison attacks, he singles out Sorrow, swinging his staff wildly at her hissing, “Die heretic!” The staff connects and Sorrow suffers noticeable damage. Feeling markedly better herself, Jayden sends a quick healing spell in Sorrow’s direction, and invigorates her fellow adventurers with inspiration words and a Stirring Shout, resulting in regenerative effects to anyone with a successful attack on Chava Kuth. Having stirred her own courage and strength, she sings a song of courage that bolsters her fellow party member’s resolve and adds confidence and strength to their attacks.

Charged by Jayden’s Stirring Shout and Song of Courage, Caldwell unleashes Lightening Breath and deals an impressive amount of lightening damage to Chava Kuth. Erasmus grabs the momentum and connects with a Lance of Faith attack. Strangely, he begins hearing mumbling that he does not understand and has a sudden sense that there is a great secret here that he needs to uncover. Chava Kuth dodges Sorrow’s attack, breaking the attack streak. He quickly turns the steps of the ziggurat to a slippery ice-covered terrain as he sees Frappe approach menacingly. Skilled at navigating the often treacherous and unfriendly terrain of the jungle, Frappe maintains his footing enough to flank Chava Kuth and attack. Slipping slightly as he swings with his dagger, he drops the weapon but quickly answers with an attack from the weapon in his other hand. He connects with deadly precision, but connects into Chava Kuth’s armor.

Footloose

Still stuck in the quicksand substance, Rangrim attempts to jump out and almost succeeds, but his short arms are a hair’s length away from the edge of the step that he needed to grab for leverage to pull himself out of the pit. Falling back into the quicksand, he is enveloped deeper by the cement-like substance. Not content to give up, he grabs a nearby rock (one that had broken off the ziggurat when the berserker was swinging wildly with infuriation) he hurls it at Chava Kuth and hits him solidly in his head. More cultists emerge from beneath the ziggurat and attack Caldwell, hitting him in his calf.

Meanwhile, Chava Kuth continues to deteriorate due to persistent attacks from the party and ongoing poison damage dealt at the hand of Sorrow. Barely able to stand, Chava Kuth reaches out and put his hand on Frappe’s chest and before he can move, Chava Kuth steals health from Frappe for himself. Temporarily energized at the expense of Frappe, he reaches to his belt and grabs a clay pot that he throws to the ground creating a thick black fog that hides him from the party as if behind a curtain.

Blinded by the Fog

Crippled by the fog veil, Harvey Bob misses his attack on Chava Kuth while through the dust, the adventurers see the sun set behind the temple. Jayden recognizes the smell and taste of the dusty air and assures her fellow adventurers that the fog will not harm them, and the carbon dust will dissipate in moments. No sooner had she said it than the fog began to lift and she connected with a Vicious Mockery attack against Chava Kuth. Wielding her green violin and playing dissonant, distracting music to accompany her psychic attack, she took temporary mind control causing him to relate an embarrassing secret aloud – “I was not first among the priests I was chosen from amongst the runts.” Humiliated, his physical condition worsened further. Hearing the embarrassing confession from their leader, the cultists were distracted and Jayden unleashed another Vicious Mockery attack – hitting one of the cultists causing him to confess, “I prefer little boys.”

This confession came right as Caldwell was casting an acid orb at Chava Kuth, breaking Caldwell’s concentration and affecting the trajectory of the orb itself – missing Chava Kuth it hit the stone exterior of the ziggurat landing directly above Harvey Bob’s head – lucky for the party, he is invisible and doesn’t suffer any damage from the falling rocks!

The Eye of Ioun

Erasmus attacks with his Divine Fortune and as he focuses his spell, the eye of Iuon appears in his line of vision, further focusing the aim like the sights on a sniper rifle. Parting the remaining carbon dust in the air, the eye of Iuon lined up the shot with laser precision and guided Erasmus’ attack with deadly aim, killing Chava Kuth.

The cultists left on the ziggurat panic and attempt to flee – Jayden catches one of with her Vicious Mockery compelling him to confess, “My penis is so small my wife asks if it is in yet” before he fell to his death.

The sounds of stone slabs being moved and bolts locking underneath are heard as the cultists inside the ziggurat attempt to close off the entrance to the temple beneath. Following the sounds of panic therein, Frappe notices a hidden door near his feet and pulls it open before it can be bolted shut from within. Met by a cultist on the other side of the stone slab, Frappe smashes his face in with his boot, knocking him off the ladder and to his death at the bottom of the tunnel.

Before climbing into the tunnel, the party takes a short and much needed rest to prepare for what lies beneath the stone walls of the ziggurat.

Descent into the Unknown

The party descends the ladder led by their sun rods and climbs deeper and deeper into the structure and surrounding earth. As they reached the bottom the party was attacked by a handful of cultists who were no match for the combined forces of the party. Sorrow stepped to the front of the party indicating she knew the direction they need to go. Not any more confused by this influx of insight than any of the other odd powers and perceptions Sorrow has demonstrated on this plane, the party follows with little resistance or questioning. She leads them to a locked door that Erasmus determines is not magically sealed. The party turns to Jayden, the resident thief, to pick the lock. On the other side of the door the party cautiously moves ahead checking for traps, Frappe out in front. Immediately on the other side of the door a pendulum chandelier hangs with menacing iron blades. Luckily for the party, this trap was already disabled. Frappe sees fresh blood on the blade and reasons it is probably blood of a human or human creature.

Frappe boldly takes the next step forward, convinced it is safe. He notices that just beyond the chandelier the walls are singed. Checking the soot on the wall ahead, Rangrim knows that this is the remains of a magic trap that shoots a fireball from the end of the hall. Rangrim’s great dungeoneering knowledge assures the group that the trap has already been disengaged, much like the pendulum chandelier. Frappe continues to lead the party down the corridor, proceeding cautiously with a sun rod leading the way. Coming to the end of a corridor, he peeks around the corner to sees blades sticking out of the wall ahead indicating a trap that has been sprung. With no apparent danger ahead Frappe leads the party ahead around the corner.

It’s the Pits

Taking a few cautious steps ahead, Frappe’s leg slips and he begins to fall into a pit. As he falls he reaches and locks on to the edge of the pit and pulls himself up out of the pit trap. Standing back and surveying the trap, Frappe estimates the diameter to be approximately 10 feet. Caldwell teleports across the expanse and sees scorch marks on the wall that look like lightening damage. Alongside the scorch marks appear various colored gems, associated with magic spells.

With Caldwell safely on the other side, the party devises a plan using rope from their adventurer’s kits. Rangrim jumps across and ties the rope around himself and Caldwell, throwing the other end across the pit to the others. Having the rope as a safety measure, each party member takes their turn leaping across the pit trap. Jayden, Erasmus, Frappe, and even Sorrow with her hooves handles the clearing of the pit trap with ease. On the other side of the pit, Frappe continues to lead the party down the corridor, looking around corners carefully. Up ahead he notices more scorch marks from the lightening damage and feels the hairs on the back of his head start to stand up. Rangrim also starts to feel anxious and Jayden calms their anxiety letting them know that she believes this to be the effect of a scare trap, but it is already gone off and the residual components are causing the slight anxiety and creepiness felt by all. Frappe stops the party’s forward march abruptly, holding his hand up. Rangrim’s keen sense of smell picks up the scent of sulfur in the air, to which Jayden and Sorrow comment that sulfur is a standard part of many magic traps.

Frappe sees another pit trap up ahead and peering over the edge with his sun rod, he sees spikes at the bottom of this trap. Once again, Caldwell easily clears the pit with his teleportation powers. The rest of the party clears it as easily as the prior expanse. Moving forward, Rangrim notices that although the grade is slight, they are definitely going deeper and deeper downward into the temple. Up ahead Jayden and Erasmus notice Frappe looking at some disengaged saw blade traps. They notice the dried blood is blackened, an indication of poison on the blade. The uniformity of the blood pattern also points to a poison being deftly applied to the blade. Frappe smells burnt hair and flesh and quickly the scent is picked up by the rest of the party and they all begin to share the same eerie feeling.

Moving ahead cautiously, Frappe rounds the next corner and finds a dead body – what appears to be a cultist burned alive with charred pieces of flesh papered on the bony skeletal remains that are frozen in a position indicating the cultist was trying to pull the grate below him open when he was flash burned to death. Jayden and Frappe check the room for pressure plates and additional traps, of which they find none. Rangrim steps forward to take a closer look at the dead body and upon stepping on the grate, hears a click followed by a series of grinding gears whose sounds appear to be coming from down the hallways from which the party came – it sounds to the party like the traps have reset and they would have to find a different way out than the way in which they entered.

Grate-ful Dead

While atop the grate, Rangrim peers down below using his sun rod and sees a ladder. He drops his sun rod to see how far down it goes and to determine if there is any reaction from persons or things lurking at the bottom. Rangrim estimates the tunnel to extend about 50 feet and hears no reaction to the sun rod’s appearance at the foot of the tunnel. Examining the grate, it appears to be latched from underneath and Rangrim doesn’t think it shows any physical evidence of a trap. Erasmus quickly points out that the trap on the grate is not mechanical but magical. Sorrow dispels the magic trap with her Dispel command and Jayden and Erasmus confirm it has been disabled. Rangrim muscles the grate open and peers down the tunnel with a new sun rod.

When the party reaches the bottom of the ladder within the tunnel, they find lit candles and arcane ruins glowing surrounding a dark, cloaked figure up ahead. Sorrow recognizes the figure immediately as her Patron and at the party’s arrival he speaks saying, “Welcome. I am pleased with your success. There is not much time if you want to go home. This plane is about to collapse. The Omecs were right; the world will end – for them. Enter. Take your place at the circle.” Unsure of what to make of the activities of this plane, much less the mysterious figure and ritualistic scenery, Erasmus sends up a discrete, quick prayer to his deity. As he does, he sees the cloaked figure pull his hood aside to reveal a skull-like face covered in beetles. Sensing Sorrow’s calm and comfort in the presence of this figure, Jayden asks her who he is and she replies simply that he is her Patron.

The figure motions the group into the room, towards the circle and sensing their trepidation, tells them there is nothing to fear from him – the danger lurks outside in the planar realm that is about to collapse. Jayden, in her usual diplomatic manner, asks him directly why they should trust him. He answers by saying he brought them here and he can bring them home again. He asks Sorrow for the sacrifice for Kaifus and without hesitation she uses a dagger to cut her arm and begins to drip blood on the runes at her feet.

The Patron indicates to the group that the blood magic ritual will require more blood and asks all the adventurers to step forward and provide their blood sacrifice. After several seconds (that felt like hours) Caldwell took a spot in the circle and cut his hand, letting his blood drip down on the runes below. Several more long seconds transpired with no one wanting to step forward to provide more blood that clearly is empowering the Patron. Frappe, above all else in the party, is holding back as he feels he is the least likely to make it home and feels he has the least to gain from joining his newfound allies in this ritual.

Jayden asks the Patron why he wants to help the party. He says that we can stop the Scottish Polka by returning to our homes and leaving this plane. None of the adventurers seem to be able to make sense of all this, but sensing eminent danger in the current plane, Rangrim then Caldwell take their place at the circle and cut open their hands to drip blood on the runes below, leaving only Erasmus, Jayden and Frappe. Even with the blood sacrifices of Caldwell and Rangrim, it is not enough. Caldwell notices something behind him – his hair is being pulled back and he begins to see pink light coming through the cracks of the atmosphere around them. Sensing the others holding back, the Patron tells the group that the Scottish Polka is a dark, dark god – something worse than a demon.

Erasmus is suspicious and doesn’t believe the Patron’s answer to Jayden’s question, but nonetheless, he wants to go home and is afraid to stay in the collapsing plane he cuts himself and drips his blood on the ruins, taking his place in the circle. Hearing “Yes…nearly there…a little more” and seeing Erasmus give in; Jayden cuts herself and stands in the circle amongst her fellow adventurers. She feels something pulling blood from her, much stronger than the drips of blood the others had offered as part of their sacrifice. Frappe finally acquiesces and as he cuts himself, the blood is extracted with a great force, and the runes begin to flare wildly. The party blacks out and wakes up next to the cauldron in the Ghoul Queen’s former lair.

Back on the Other Side

The party begins to slowly stir, waking up to find themselves on the floor in the middle of a room next to a large black cauldron. They see deep, red scars on their arms and hands where they cut themselves as part of the blood. They realize that they have been returned to the lair of the Ghoul Queen where they fought against her and her priests, interrupting a ritual. Following her defeat, they had climbed into the cauldron and descended down some stairs before arriving in another plane. Being safely returned on the other side again, the Patron’s magic blood ritual must have worked!

Everyone feels stronger, with the exception of Frappe, and Erasmus is strangely keenly aware of how much time has elapsed since they went through the rabbit hole – 9 days, 22 hours, 13 minutes, and 5 seconds to be exact, which feels right based on the their temporal experiences on the other plane. The Staff of Knowledge clicks again. Erasmus, who is now carrying it, shows it to Jayden who can read the strange symbol now presented on the staff. She interprets it for her fellow adventurers and informs them the symbol means that a plane has been crossed and the staff now grants its bearer additional insight.

Frappe hears the faint sounds of footsteps in the distance and everyone extinguishes their sun rods and hides in the veil of darkness. They see a man in an elegant black cape and ornate sword approach the cauldron. Bravely, Rangrim jumps out at the figure, snarling and more intimidating that usual due to his unkempt and wounded state, ready with an attack. Unphased the figure sighs and speaks, “I’ve been looking for you! We must get to Kingsport.” Even before they could light his face with sun rods, they know that voice – it is Tristan.

Stolen Scroll

Without lowering his axe, Rangrim asks “Why?” Tristan motions to him to lower his weapon and relax his stance, answering, “There is much to say. I will tell you on the journey.” The adventurers follow Tristan out who leads them through the marsh, which appears to be still cleared out from the party’s last pass through the area.

Tristan asks Erasmus how many scrolls we have found and if they are safe. Erasmus is hesitant to answer and instead counters with a question for Tristan, “Is your scroll safe?” Looking away, Tristan answers that it was. Erasmus knows that he has a scroll and Caldwell has a scroll and both are safe. Tristan explains that Ichabod was corrupted by the Shadekai prophetess and he was compelled to steal the scroll from Tristan. Ichabod also attacked Lady Bochenricht, thinking she had a scroll. Ichabod’s actions have caused a great disturbance in the town now under martial law upon Lord Bochenricht’s return and great embarrassment for Tristan and temple. Tristan goes on to say that Ichabod is trying to collect all the scrolls to do the ritual to stop the Scottish Polka himself, without realizing that he is not powerful enough and the forces to which he aligned himself cannot be trusted. Tristan implores the party to help him recover the rest of the scrolls to prevent Ichabod from carrying out his plan.

Listening to Tristan recount the events of the past few days and how the scroll was stolen from him, Erasmus is filled with a deep sense of resentment and frustration towards Tristan who is unable to take responsibility for his mistake – it was he who let the scroll fall into Ichabod’s hands and he who was not keeping it safe. Erasmus puts those thoughts aside for moment as Tristan continues speaking to the party.

Tristan is sure that Ichabod is on his way to either Kingsport or Steeple Fall – as that is where the 2 remaining scrolls are hidden. Tristan shares that he is already planning to go to Kingsport. Focused and intent to getting to the scrolls before they fall into the wrong hands, the party decides to split their efforts and travel to Steeple Fall.

An Unlikely Ally

Before parting ways, Erasmus suggests Tristan and the party arrange a rendezvous time and place. Tristan agrees with the suggestion and offers that they should reconvene in 2 weeks and marking a tree in the marsh by ripping off a large patch of bark, suggests this tree be the point. Erasmus probes Tristan further, asking if there is anything he is holding back…anything he needs to share with the group. Tristan cautions Erasmus and the others that Bochenricht is now under martial law as Lord Bochenricht is furious over the senseless and violent attack on his wife. The environment in Bochenricht does not make it a safe place to return to at this time. Erasmus thanks him and pulling him aside, reminds him that for this alliance between the adventurers and him to work, they need to be open and honest with each other.

Tristan rebukes him and loudly proclaims that this is not an “alliance” – he will never align with a demon – clearly pointing that remark at Sorrow with whom he has a history of animosity. Sorrow shows no outward signs that Tristan’s verbal attack concerned her the slightest, but hurt for her, Jayden steps forward and in her usual diplomatic manner, asks Tristan to reconsider his position, considering that they are all working towards the same common good. While his pride would never permit him to formally apologize, his demeanor softens and he concedes that yes, in this unusual circumstance and because the stakes are so high, he supposes that Sorrow is an unlikely ally, but an ally nonetheless.

Looking over at Frappe, who has been unusually quiet, Sorrow notices that he is badly hurt – the blood magic ritual seems to have had an effect on him that the others have been able to heal beyond; coupled with the disease he had been battling since the bout in the jungle. Discreetly, Sorrows makes Jayden aware of Frappe’s plight. Knowing the tremendous healing powers a paladin like Tristan would have, Jayden takes advantage of her position having successfully reasoned with Tristan and calmed his prideful arrogance to ask him to help heal Frappe before he leaves. Insincerely he acknowledges that he would, but he doesn’t have the components. Confident the adventurers would not have the items needed, Tristan lists off the materials. Jayden quickly rifles through the items amassed by the party along the way and produces all the necessary components. Impatiently, he reminds the group that time is of the essence and Ichabod is already in transit towards either Steeple Fell or Kingsport. Tristan then notes that there is no way he could do it alone. Erasmus is quick to offer his assistance and with no excuses left, Tristan and Erasmus perform the healing ritual on a weakened Frappe, who had at no time reminded the party of his plight. Frappe recovers fully almost immediately and the adventurers offer a heartfelt thanks and offer small favors and tokens of appreciation, but Tristan declines them before running off in the direction of Kingsport to find and stop Ichabod.

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Snakes in the Grass
Chronicled by Jayden

Rest for the Weary

Resting in the blind Frappe built for the party, Jayden and Erasmus attended to Frappe’s poison wounds and were able to stabilize the spread of the poison in his bloodstream. Unfortunately, the team’s supplies were insufficient to purge the poison from his system, but their efforts were successful in ensuring he would not get any worse. Through the night Caldwell, Sorrow, and Rangrim rotated shifts on watch along with Jayden’s three Eyes of Alarm for the extended rest. Erasmus carefully tucked an amulet into Frappe’s pocked while he rested; an amulet that carried great powers of protection to help strengthen his already weakened defenses.

No Rest for the Weary

Sorrow took the first watch shift while the others rested. The stillness and quiet of the night took its effect on her, as well, and she began to drift off within her own mind, as she pondered the events of the last couple of days and the influence of her pact with her patron and the other magical items the party happened upon. Lost in thought, Sorrow did not hear the rustling nearby that would have served as an early warning sign for the events about to unfold. As luck would have it, the Eye of Alarm were did not stir, either and the adventurers were woken by the sounds of rumbling while the earth below them began to move. Through the rumbling Sorrow hears whispering, almost as if the elements were calling out to her, but before she can focus her attention further, a 2-headed, horned snake (Death Rattler Viper) came up through the rubble grabbing her attention. More snakes emerged, surprising the party members who had been woken – the rude interruption to their rest putting them at a disadvantage at the onset of the attack as they shook off the effects of their deep sleep.

Sneak Snake Attack

Erasmus, Jayden, and Sorrow, who was already awake, were not affected by the surprise attack having superior focus and alertness. Despite this advantage, the snake attacked Jayden from behind, injuring her badly in 1 bite and injecting her with poison that if not attended to quickly, would continue to deteriorate her system and condition. As quickly as that happened, another snake emerged from the trees above and attempted to grab Caldwell to pull him up into the tree. Caldwell is quick on his feet and with his superior natural fey abilities, steps quickly out of the snake’s grip, but not before he finds himself on the receiving end of a biting attack. Erasmus steps in front of a large Crushgrip Constrictor and attacks with a righteous brand, but the snake is agile and able to dodge the attack. Jayden’s retaliation on the Viper whose bit marks are still fresh fails, and she is further weakened by the effects of the poison attacking her body. Seeing their fellow party falling under continual attacks at the hands of the snakes, Sorrow curses 2 snakes within range and Rangrim charges the Constrictor. A viper takes a bite at Sorrow and after feeling the attack from the first head, is able to avoid the attack of the second head. Rangrim is grabbed by the Constrictor and pulled up into a nearby tree.

Caldwell fires an acid orb at one of the Vipers while Erasmus attacks with his divine rage, neither of which seem to have much affect on the snakes. While moving forward to attack, Erasmus is able to push the Constrictor off of Rangrim, and the snake releases its grasp. Jayden’s next attack also follows suit and she misses her attempt to Blunder Rangrim out of the tree so he is out of the grip of the Constrictor should it commence another attack. Squeezing the last bit of visible poison from her gaping bite wound, she begins to feel her strength returning and the last of the poison is excised from her system. Frappe turns the tables in the favor of the adventurers, attacking with Twin Strike and making contact with both heads of the snake, a weapon in each hand. Sorrow seizes an opportunity to curse the remaining 2 snakes, effectively cursing all the attackers. Rangrim moves out of the tree to attack one of the Vipers, successfully bloodying the creature using a very apropos Serpent Strike.

Oozing with blood and puss, the Viper returns the attack at Rangrim, but in its weakened state, misses. It quickly follows up with another attack on Sorrow, who is not as fortunate and she is badly wounded. The Constrictor tries to move behind Rangrim who takes the opportunity to launch a successful attack. In retaliation, the Constrictor grabs Rangrim and begins to squeeze his body, crushing his ribs and making it difficult from him to breathe. Hearty Rangrim suffers, but at the same time feels invigorated by the successful attack against the Constrictor and resists the full extent of the Constrictor’s crushing intents. Erasums focuses his energy over Sorrow and is able to restore her strength while Jayden channels her majestic word of healing in Rangrim’s direction, distracting the Constrictor enough to force it to release its grasp on Rangrim – not a moment too soon as his eyes began to bulge under the constricting pressure. Breathing at full capacity again, and thankful to be doing so, Rangrim takes in a deep breath before steadying his axe to a cleave attack at the Constrictor. Sorrow doubles the damage by taking an opportunity attack against the Constrictor on the heels of Rangrim’s cleave.

Seeing the snakes within his range, Caldwell seizes the perfect chance to release his great area of effect powers. With Rangrim within the range, as well, Caldwell focuses his fire intently on the snakes and is able to successfully control the trajectory of the acid orbs to avoid hitting his fellow party member. Dividing their assaults across all 4 snakes, the party was not making great progress bringing any creature down singly. Caldwell’s attack on the bloodied snake badly damaged the creature, but did not finish it off. On its last scales, Erasums attacks the near-dead creature with his weapon, but misses. It its attempt to dodge the attack, the Viper did duck its head, which was now stuck in the ground, anchored by one of the horns on its head.

On a roll, nearby Jayden dishes up a serving of Vicious Mockery and hits one of the Vipers, who is now distracted and weakened in its attempts to attack the adventurers. The snakes begin to cultivate an aura of fear amongst the party, rattling their tails, which unsettles the adventurers. Sorrow finishes off the horn-grounded Viper and begins to radiate with a dark aura. The snakes and adventures continue to exchange attacks and blows with equal successes on both sides – as vipers are badly damaged, so are the party members. Short and stout Rangrim is an attractive, nugget-sized target for the snakes and once again the Constrictor grabs him like and begins to squeeze. Caldwell attempt to loosen the grasp with his bare hands and Erasmus’s attempts are also unsuccessful. Although badly hurt, Frappe musters up his strength and makes a two-handed attack against 2 of the vipers, killing one but missing the other as the momentum of the sword slicing through the neck of one of the snakes impacts the trajectory of his other weapon and its intended target.

Rangrim falls unconscious from the grasp of the Constrictor and Jayden dishes a second helping of psychic torture and vicious mockery at the snake, weakening its attack power as it reels from disorientation and confusion; however, not affecting the strong grasp on Rangrim. Frappe attacks the same Constrictor and Sorrow unleashes her Spiteful Glamour also at the target, who is now barely breathing having suffered 3 consecutive rounds of damage from Jayden, Frappe, and Sorrow. Rangrim can tell that the grip of the snake is beginning to loosen and he is finding it easier to breathe. Able to regain oxygen flow and feeling back in his limbs, he attempts a crushing strike, but the angle of the attack proves too difficult while still in the grasp of the Viper. Caldwell’s hands release an angry acid attack at the snakes in range, one of which tries to retaliate, but whose attack is thwarted as he is blinded mid-swipe by an orb of acid. The attack finishes off the Constrictor who instantly releases its death grip on Rangrim, who falls to the ground, once again unconscious.

With one snake remaining, the party focuses on their combined attacks against the creature, leaving Rangrim unconscious, piled up on the dead Constrictor for the moment. Erasmus and Jayden’s attack attempts miss, but Frappe connects. At the hand of this blow the snake attempts to flee, slithering away into the forest. Caldwell’s acid orb releases too early and he barely escapes damage at his own hands (literally). Jayden extends her crossbow and with careful aim fires a single shot at the snake, stopping its escape attempt and sending it to its own Cruel Fate.

Time to GO!

Surveying the battleground, Frappe informs the group that the large snake, the Crushgrip Constrictor, has scales that are very valuable. He skins the scales off the creature, which he estimates to be worth 375 gold pieces. Sensing a nearby area of safety off the path ahead, Frappe leads the party ahead where they take a short rest. While relaxing and tending to their battle wounds, Jayden sings a Song of Rest to the party. She plays along with her violin, especially for Frappe, a gesture that in a complementary way to Erasmus’ amulet of protection, adds power to the attacks of their newcomer. Hearing the sounds of the early morning jungle, Frappe urges the party to press on – but “Where to?” is the larger question. Sorrow says she knows where to go and points ahead. Erasmus, as one of the group’s natural leaders, wants to know where we are going and how Sorrow seems to know what to do – what is her agenda? The party is engaged in this conflict as Frappe looks ahead and sees a tree begin to wave and jiggle like Jell-O ®. Noticing the concerned look on his face, the group follows his gaze and sees the wavering trees. Jayden tells the party that the planar portals are becoming more unstable and they need to find a way out of this plane. Erasmus probes Sorrow further, asking her to take them home, since she said she knew how. She firmly says she does know, but she will not take them home – she has information she needs before they go. Frappe ignores the scuttle and instead tries to climb a tree to see ahead in the distance, but is unable to get high enough for proper vantage.

Sorrow’s Bluff

Sorrow closes her eyes and begins to breathe deeply, her hands folded meditatively in front of her. She begins to levitate and emit a black mist, and as suddenly as it started, she opened her eyes, feet on the ground, and told the group she knew what to do. Jayden and Erasmus exchange glances, as they realize that she was demonstrating deity-like powers and no non-deity should know how to do that. Erasmus asks her directly what she was doing and how she knew how to do it. She indicates that she doesn’t know. In a verbal retaliation for what she felt to be scolding from Erasmus, she asks him if he is afraid. He admits he is and has no shame in it – trees are not supposed to wiggle like that and he wants to get home before they are thrust into another plane and have no way of returning home. Sorrow says there is something to be learned here and she wants to stay. Growing angry at what appears to be utter disregard for the safety of the others, Erasums pointedly asks her if there is something for “us” to learn, or just “you.” Caldwell, growing impatient and frustrated (as well as angry at Sorrow, with whom he does not share the warmest relationship), begins to lose control and the party sees flicks of fire ignite from his fingertips. Ignoring Erasmus’ question, Sorrow says they have less than 1 day’s worth of work – implying that there is plenty of time to gather the information and return home. Jayden, becoming suspicious as well, asked if she means there is less than 1 day until the plane collapses or if she means it will take them less than 1 day to find the information Sorrow is apparently looking for and safely return home. Sorrow answers Jayden, looking her right in the eye, and repeats that it is less than 1 day’s worth of work, that’s all she is asking for. In a rare feat, Sorrow’s bluff fools Jayden and she seems satisfied for the moment. Jayden and Erasmus have already guessed that Sorrow has some insight/power in this plan, but Jayden, perhaps mistakenly, assumes that Sorrow is taking the group’s safety into account when balancing her needs for information. She can tell that Sorrow is telling the truth, but senses she is holding something back. Only time will tell if this was wise or foolish.

Sidebars and Staff of Hidden Secrets

Frappe urges the party once again to keep moving ahead and the group follows Sorrow’s instruction to head West and then North to follow the trail ahead. The party stays just a bit off the road but does not venture too far into the brush flanking the trail. An agitated Caldwell pulls Erasmus to the back of the traveling pack and asks the party for privacy for a tête-à-tête with Erasmus. Jayden is immediately offended by this gesture, but with her usual diplomacy and tact, respectfully requests that she be included on their conversation, making her case well that as one of the group’s leaders, she needs to know what is going on, including concerns, so that she can help address them and determine what is best for the party. Knowing she can help and has been fair and just in her leadership, they usher her in. Rangrim and Frappe are unaffected by the sidebar – they trust Erasmus and Jayden. Sorrow is suspicious because of Caldwell’s initiation of the conversation, but also deep down has a trust and respect for the group’s leaders.

Caldwell explains that after Sorrow’s levitation, the staff that he had been carrying since they fought the Ghoul Queen began to click and pieces of it began to move like a Rubix ® cube, now revealing arcane symbols that neither he or Erasumus understood. They showed Jayden the Staff of Blades and through her bardic knowledge, she immediately knew what this was, although she shared that she was not an expert on the matter. She informed them that this was not a Staff of Blades, it had been incorrectly identified as such when they took it from the Ghoul Queen. Rather, it is a magical Staff of Hidden Truths. Looking at it, she told them that it has now been engaged/opened and the arcane symbols line up through a series of dials to reveal literally thousands of truths. She posited that Sorrow’s ritual of conversation with a deity (augury) was a condition that must have caused it to open up and engage. Based on the symbols, it is currently telling them that it can do 1 of 2 things – transform itself into a dagger or grant is bearer the gift of additional insight or perception. Jayden knows that certain pre-defined conditions need to be met before the dials will reset and reveal additional truths, but she doesn’t add to the group’s confusion by sharing this information.

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Fellow Adventurer’s Staff

Even without understanding the arcane symbols on the staff, everyone in the party immediately wanted it and the dissention amongst the group was tangible as each took his or her turn arguing as to why they should have it. Some wanted it for safe-keeping, others wanted it for power, and others wanted it just so that someone else wouldn’t have it. The group had not been at odds like this in quite a while and even Jayden and Erasmus, who had not been historically interested in the treasures of the adventures, were overcome with avarice over the item. Jayden wanted the staff because she is the only one who can read it and she knew that when it made a clicking noise, a condition had been met and it was reset to reveal a new truth. She also wanted it to keep it from being damaged if used as a weapon and wanted it out of Caldwell or Sorrow’s hands, fearing what they might try to do with it if they uncovered its secret. Sorrow began to hear a voice in her head telling her it was pleased with the dissention, greed, and in-group fighting. Caldwell and Erasmus make a case that Caldwell should carry it, as the magic enhancement it grants would suit him well, and as such, the party well, for the future battles ahead. Not wishing to cause further dissention, Jayden strikes an agreement with Caldwell and allows him to carry it providing the following conditions are met: he does not use it as a weapon, he will turn it over to Jayden at any time she requests, and he tells her when he hears or feels the object click or move. He willingly agrees, and is genuine in his commitment to her.

Debrief and Trouble Ahead

Jayden motions to the rest of the group to circle near her so she can fill them in on the object and the discussions that were occurring at the back of the pack. Caldwell is visibly concerned with this and clearly preferred the information to stay within the trifecta of participants. Erasmus trusts Jayden’s judgment and she acknowledges his trust to proceed. She begins to recount the information she shared with Erasmus and Caldwell, and is interrupted by Frappe who strongly urges they “walk and talk” as he is insistent on forging ahead. No sooner do they take his advice when Frappe sees a group of approximately 10 Omecs approaching up the road toward the party – he sees a high priest, not Chavacooth, berserkers, and spear throwers, the same mix of tribesmen they encountered in the village earlier. Frappe suggests they hide and hope the group passes them unceremoniously, as the party had a difficult time making it out of the battle alive the last time they were up against the same pack. Before they can do so, the berserkers see Frappe and the Omecs begin running back to the city from whence they came along the road ahead. Sorrow says she knows that Chavacooth in is the temple in the city up ahead, and they are headed back to tell him they have spotted us.

There’s No Place Like the Temple

Sorrow tells the group the temple is in the middle of the city, and seeing people in the town up ahead, the party wonders how they will get into the city without being attacked in order to even get into the temple. Rangrim posits that there is no underground tunneling or sewage system that would allow them to sneak in underground and there appears to be no easy way directly in, especially if they need to get to the center. Sorrow is adamant that getting to the temple is the way to get home. Absent of any better recommendations for getting home, they brainstorm how they might get into the city without provoking attack from the Omecs therein. Frappe informs the group that the city is surrounded by farmland to the East and North, with another side of the town alongside a large body of water. The group decides to begin their journey through the jungle toward the pastures to find a way to sneak into the city, definitely the long way around adding another 1.5 hours to their journey towards the city.

Friendly Farmer Escort

Approaching the farmland they can see Omec farmers in the fields up ahead with carts and horses, harvesting their crop of hemp. The party devises a plan to approach one of the farmers and persuade him to escort them and their party into the center of the city, hidden in their harvest-filled crop cart. Frappe, with the ability to understand the Omec language, suggests that he bring Jayden along with him to have the benefit of her diplomacy and negotiation, as well as powers of persuasion. Even though she does not speak the language, Frappe promises he will give her a crash course on the journey ahead and be there to help facilitate discussion with the farmer. To further assist, he empowered her with his natural gift of speech with words, allowing her to communicate in the Omec native tongue. The group agrees that leaving the others behind is the best bet, especially since the sight of Rangrim and Sorrow may be especially frightening and wouldn’t aid the attempts at peaceful negotiation of an escort.

Jayden and Frappe spot a farmer with a horse and cart up ahead, fairly isolated from any fellow field workers – a perfect target. They approach him and Jayden’s words of friendship put him at ease. She explains that they are here to help the high priest, Chava Kuth, put an end to the unnatural occurrences going on here as of late and they need his help to get them to the temple in the center of town. He questions why they will need an escort into town if they are here in peace and Chava Kuth is expecting their help. Jayden explains that her friends look even more different than she and Frappe do, and they do not want to incite panic by traveling into and through the town – she suspects the townspeople will attack them, viewing them as part of the danger surrounding their existence. Reluctantly, the farmer agrees to escort the party, having fallen victim to Jayden’s charms. The farmer gathers his horse and cart and they set out together to meet the rest of the party and load them into his cart under his corn and hemp crop. Frappe thanks him with a small gift – an obsidian mirror and smoke sticks. The farmer is visibly thrown by this gesture and seems reluctant to take them, suspicious of how objects of such value came into his belonging. Jayden quickly recovers the situation, misleading him into thinking they were gifts from the high priest bestowed upon them at their last meeting.

Uncovered – Literally!

With the adventurers packed closely in the cart, covered by crop, they ride through the town and can hear cries of panic from the street. They are unsure if the pandemonium is due to their arrival, which they doubt knowing they are well hidden, or some other happenings on the street. They hear a gruff voice order “halt” and the cart comes to quick stop. Through a crack in the planks of the cart Jayden can see the temple up ahead and notices 2 Omec berserkers ready with axes threatening a very frightened farmer. A berserker grabs the farmer by the neck and readies his axe to attack the party’s escort when Jayden, now standing up in the cart, preemptively attacks the berserker with her Blunder – sliding him out of arm’s reach of the farmer, sending the berserker stumbling to the ground over the yoke of the cart. Sorrow jumps from the cart and joins Jayden’s attack once the berserker trips into her melee attack range. Reeling from double-damage, the berserker begins to froth at the mouth in pain and rage. In retaliation, the berserker stands up and takes a swing at Sorrow, who deftly moves out of the way.

The other berserker takes hold of the cart and begins to try to lift it off the group to empty its contents, now knowing that the party of adventurers that the lookouts spotted was inside. Caldwell’s attack misses the cart-clutching berserker and he continues to strain as he attempts to lift the cart off the road. Frappe jumps from the cart and viciously attacks this berserker, causing serious injury. Set off by his bloodied state, the berserker retaliates against Frappe and returns the crushing blow. Rangrim joins the attack, jumping out of the cart and Erasmus sends the berserker to his death with his lance of faith before he was able to disrupt the cart and its contents. Jayden continues the assault with the intent of ensuring the farmer’s safety, who stands frozen with fear amidst the action. Her misdirected mark hits the remaining berserker, who reels with anger at Rangrim, who he was tricked into thinking initiated the attack. Successful distracting the berserker, Jayden throws the farmer under his own cart and tells him to stay put and take cover. Sorrow looks into the berserker’s soul for this delicious weakness, and not seeing one, she attacks as the ground begins to rumble beneath her. The badly injured berserker attacks Rangrim, and Caldwell doubles up on the damage casting his acid orbs. During the scuttle, Frappe snuck around the cart to spring a sneak attack on the berserker and flanking him with an attack, cuts him cleanly into 4 pieces as his 2 swords slice the berserker in an “X” pattern.

We Meet Again, Chava Kuth…

An angry mob of townspeople began to approach the temple during the fight. Jayden helps the farmer up into his cart and sends him away through the mob of people before he is unable to escape. The townspeople appear generally agitated and it does not appear to be directed at the party of strangers. The party sees Chava Kuth atop the temple stairs ahead. He stretches out his arms (a la Eva Peron) to address his people and bellows, “People of the Omecs, do not despair. Chava Kuth, High Priest of Tezcatlipoca will destroy these interlopers.” Immediately the party is struck by lightning from his hands and is immobilized. Chava Kuth shouts out a command and Rangrim, unable to stop himself, begins to move slowly forward towards the high priest. Erasmus recognizes the command as one with great power to control others and it is clear that Rangrim is not in control of his movements.

View
The Black Heart of the Jungle
Chronicled by Jayden

Stranger at the Temple

The party began to stir after a short rest in the temple and gather their belongings. Getting to their feet they notice a figure, what appears to be a man, a Ranger of sorts dressed in camouflage attire, ascending the temple stairs in their direction. Swords handing at his side from his belt, he runs toward the party waving his arms high above his head, in an attempt to indicate he approaches in peace.

The adventures are naturally suspicious, as nothing has been as it seems since stepping into another plane and Rangrim, Caldwell, and Sorrow draw weapons and take position for action. Drawing closer the adventures see it in indeed a man, a half-elf with darker, olive skin that Jayden knows is characteristic of races from the Southern hemisphere – clearly, he is also not of this plane. Standing nervously before them on the stairs he notices that Rangrim is holding an Olmec high priest hostage with an axe angled precariously at his neck. The half-elf quickly addresses the adventures, indicating he intends no harm and is relieved to see them, as he has been stranded on this plane for weeks and has been trying to find a way back from this place.

Erasmus steps forward and addresses the half-elf firmly, asking him who he is and where he is from. As he begins to speak, Jayden motions to Rangrim, Caldwell, and Sorrow to lower their weapons. Caldwell is quick to acquiesce and returns to the preening that was interrupted by the visitor’s ascension of the stairs. Sorrow and Rangrim comply, but their stance clearly sends the message that they are cautiously trusting of the stranger’s intentions and ready at arms at the slightest indication of his intent to harm the party and its peacemaking leaders, Erasmus and Jayden.

Meet Frappe

The half-elf ranger introduces himself as Frappe, a messenger from Calypston who was traveling to Barronshead when he found himself trapped in a snowstorm and attacked by an elemental creature, an abominable snow monster, which was the last thing he remembers. Frappe woke up in another plane on the wet, damp floor of a swampy jungle. He heard voices chanting in the distance and made his way through the bog in an attempt to figure out where he was and what had happened. As the voices grew stronger, Frappe shimmied up a large vine into a tree top for a bird’s eye view of the happenings ahead. Frappe explained that for the past several weeks he has been hiding out in the jungle, watching and studying the tribesmen inhabiting jungle village. Despite the language barrier, as the tribesmen do not speak a common language, he has been able to gather that these people call themselves the Olmecs and they are a clerical tribe with fanatical devotion to their gods – so fanatical, in fact, that the tribesmen chop off their left feet in allegiance.

Jayden nods, reminding the party that the statues they had passed in the temple were also missing their left feet. Having been carefully listening to Frappe and studying his body language, Erasmus is confident that Frappe is being truthful and his extraordinary tale of being whisked through a winter storm into another plane from his homeland is genuine. Jayden recognizes the names of the cities Frappe recounted (Calypston and Barronshead) as locations in the Southern hemisphere, and Frappe’s appearance and accent are consistent with the dialects and physical attributes of this part of the world, thus providing her with confirming information supporting her inclination to trust this half-elf Ranger.

Erasmus introduced the party to Frappe, who was comforted to see fellow half-elf Jayden, as well as the human (Erasmus) and dwarven (Rangrim) party members; both races that are common to his homeland. Frappe was noticeably surprised when the eladrin, Caldwell, and demon, Sorrow, were introduced as his experience has not shown that these 2 races were common bedfellows with humans, dwarves, and half-elves. By this point, Rangrim, Sorrow, and Caldwell had sheathed their weapons, with the exception of the axe still gracing the neck of the high priest, courtesy of Rangrim. Sorrow glared suspiciously at Frappe, while Rangrim gnawed on a dragon knuckle snack with his free hand and Caldwell tended to his milky-white silken locks while Erasmus and Jayden exchanged pleasantries with Frappe.

Putting the Pieces Together

Erasmus and Jayden explained how their party happened upon this place and hoping to take advantage of any knowledge Frappe might have, shared that they believe they traveled through a planar port and landed on the other end amidst some sort of ceremony where it appeared the tribesmen, that Jayden knew to be Olmecs, were trying to summon their god, but instead somehow summoned the adventurers and a large dragon. They showed the map they retrieved from the temple to Frappe who seemed to understand the symbols and was noticeably concerned. Frappe told the group that at sunset, something will come looking for the dragon and that they needed to get out of here immediately. Jayden remembered Sorrow’s words after their prior encounter and the knowledge that whatever had power over this place was the same force keeping her father, a demon lord, at bay and shared Frappe’s desire to make haste in leaving the temple. Frappe shared that he believed there to be a village about 30 miles from here; a village that appeared to be abandoned, but something that would provide safety, shelter, and provisions while they amassed a plan to leave this plane.

White with fear, the high priest remained in Rangrim’s strong hold, axe at ready. The group was at odds regarding the fate of the high priest, with some members wanting to bring him along, some members wanting to kill him, and other members wanting to do him no harm. Traveling with the high priest would have been more of a liability than a benefit, since he did not speak a common language and had already conveyed all the group could possibly understand through some rudimentary sign language in an attempt to decipher the map. Not surprisingly, Erasmus and Jayden were steadfast in their view that there was no reason to harm the high priest. After a short discussion, the party decided to leave the high priest at the temple and bound him tightly with leather thongs throwing his fate to the winds of destiny and chance.

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

Before taking off, Frappe searched the temple for any items that could serve as provisions on the journey and packed fresh water and food for the trek ahead. He also noticed some obsidian mirrors that he took, as well as bundles of smoke sticks. Having already looted the temple for valuables, the party shot curious looks at Frappe as he packed the sticks and obsidian statues and mirrors. With a knowing smile, Frappe explained that in observing the Olmecs, he learned that they value shiny objects and smoke and these items may prove valuable for trade or barter purposes if they should encounter any more tribesmen. Being that it was not food or drink, Rangrim voiced no objection and given that it was not coin, jewels, or magical weaponry, no one else did either; although Jayden was convinced she saw a glimmer of interest in Caldwell’s eyes when Frappe held up the mirrors he had collected.

And They’re Off

Frappe charged ahead to the front of the party and began the 30 mile journey to the abandoned village. Erasmus and Jayden had already settled on welcoming Frappe into the fold, knowing that if they had a chance of escaping this plane and the eminent danger, Frappe could be of assistance; after all, they shared a common goal to find a way home and a Ranger could prove valuable in an unfamiliar jungle. Holding back, Sorrow, was noticeably uncomfortable with trusting this newcomer and questioned his motives explaining to Rangrim and Caldwell that Frappe could be leading the party straight into a trap. Hearing the scuttle, Jayden and Erasmus turned back to the group while Frappe continued ahead. Sorrow argued that she knew how to get everyone home and out of this plane and that they did not need Frappe’s help; furthermore, she did not trust this stranger who just happened upon the party at a surprisingly convenient time. When probed further as to how Sorrow knew how to get everyone home, she could only say that she did, which did not serve to strengthen her argument to her fellow party members and solidify trust in her plan. Rangrim and Caldwell seemed ambivalent and feeling the vote sway in the direction of following Frappe to the village, Sorrow sighed, shrugged, and set ahead on her way with the rest of the party. Before leaving the temple, the exhausted party members took an extended rest to prepare for the jaunt through the jungle ahead. Jayden relaxed her fellow adventurers, including newcomer Frappe, with a relaxing song of rest that invigorated their broken bodies and weary minds. It happened to have been one of Rangrim’s favorite songs as a child and he was energized and strengthened beyond his usual otherworldly brawn and bravery.

Jungle Jaunt

The 30 mile trek through the jungle felt every bit like 60 miles. The journey was arduous; adventurers stepping over large roots, finding their way through brush and branches, trudging through thick mud, and brushing leaf canopies out of the way with every step forward. The travel took a particularly hard toll on Sorrow, the terrain being difficult for hooven feet, and Frappe, who despite the rest taken with the party, was still exhausted from weeks of fending for himself in the jungle alone with few provisions. The effects of this journey would be long felt by Sorrow and Frappe. Through the leaf canopies, Jayden noticed the sky turning an odd shade of purple. Sorrow, who seemed oddly familiar with this plane, quickly informed the group that the color was characteristic of planar energy. Jayden knew there was more to this particular shade and with noticeable concern in her voice added that this was ethereal plane energy that obviously had leaked into the sky, which was very dangerous – it indicated the stability of the plane was threatened or compromised which meant the party had little time to devise a plan to escape before the plane collapsed and thrust them into any number of other worlds, some of which could mean immediate death.

Spider “Veins”

At the front of the pack with Frappe, who is noticeably tired and worn, is Rangrim, who is clearing a path for the party by cleaving and chopping vines and branches out of the way. As Rangrim chops a particularly large tendril blocking the path, it wraps around his arm and thrusts its thorns into his arm before throwing him to the ground. Rangrim hits the ground and is immediately attacked by an enormous spider that appears to have jumped down from the tree above. Jayden, who uncharacteristically was near the front of the party (she was providing encouragement to a weakened Frappe) was also attacked by a tree spider and knocked to the ground.

Caldwell conjures acid from his hands and explodes an area of effect attack acid burst, targeting the spider and vine attacking Rangrim. Just in time, Caldwell catches Rangrim’s glance and alerts him to take cover under his armor to avoid the acid attack. Sorrow is not amused by this diversion in the jungle and is anxious to get to the village to both rest and learn more about the newcomer, Frappe, and his motives. She curses the spider that knocked Jayden prone and attacks it spitefully, dealing a great amount of damage to the creature and putting it on its last legs with one blow.

Sorrow turns to find a giant tree spider has appeared behind her while Rangrim, still on the ground and impaled by the thorns on the vine, is beginning to feel weakened from a loss of blood as the vine feeds on the blood in his veins. More vines begin to attack the party, but are no match for Erasmus and Caldwell who successfully dodge their clumsy swinging attempts to grab them. While the vines continue their assault, the spiders appear to disappear and reappear in an instant, and at different locations. Jayden notices this and warns her party, yelling from the ground that these spiders can teleport at will.

Frappe unsheathes the swords at his side and strikes an attacking spider with his blades. Jayden stands up and joins the attack while Rangrim cleaves that vine that has a stronghold on his arm and veins. Sorrow deftly attacks a giant spider headed straight for another attack at a recently upright Jayden and Frappe notices that the vines seem to be responding to commands from the spiders. Maybe controlling the spiders and eliminating them will cause the vines to relent!

Frappe seizes an opportunity to move adjacent to the giant tree spider and attempts to extract its soul to weaken its attack power, but the spider resists. Rangrim is now badly hurt and has been carried to the top of a tree where the vine still holds tight to his veins; for the moment the spider who had been attacking him has its attention focused elsewhere. Jayden sees a chance to help Rangrim and uses her Majestic Word and the additional power of her healer’s brooch to restore some strength and wellness to him and in doing so, is able to slide him out of the grasp of the vine; however, to do so, she must slide him out of the tree to the ground. He falls but recovers quickly and begins to regain strength immediately as the thorns are no longer extracting his blood. Still focused on the vine that was holding Rangrim captive, Jayden then engages in a psychic attack on the foliage.

The attack is wild and furious from all angles and while Jayden and Rangrim engage in attack action in 1 tree, nearby Erasmus is attacked and knocked to the forest floor by a tree spider. Sorrow unleashes her demonic fury on the giant tree spider and it is now on its last legs and she easily finishes off one of the smaller tree spiders. Frappe joins in the assault on the spiders and the vines, responding to a command from the spiders, reach out to grab the entire party, but miss Erasmus. Jayden escapes the vine grasp but is not able to regain her footing to succeed in an attack against the vine. Rangrim also wrestles free of the vine and Caldwell, coming loose from its grasp, as well, unleashes an attack against all spiders and vines in range. Sorrow’s successful spider slashing spree continues and the giant tree spider teleports back into battle. Jayden distracts a tree spider and it stumbles between Frappe and Caldwell, who both take advantage of the opportunity to wield melee attacks against the perpetrator. Another spider lands between Rangrim and Frappe as Caldwell finishes off the giant tree spider, at which time the vines and smaller tree spiders begin their retreat. The vines successfully retract and avoid additional attacks at the hands of the party, but the spiders fall at the strong hand of Rangrim’s assault.

Forging Ahead

Sensing no additional immediate danger, the party takes a short rest after their victory to regain strength and stamina to continue on their journey to the abandoned village, which Frappe estimates is still another 4 hours through the jungle by foot. Again, Jayden’s song of rest invigorates them and soothes their aches and pains giving them a sense of renewed health and wellness. Spurred on the dim lights ahead in the distance, the travelers forge ahead huddled closely around Erasmus and his sun rod. Drawing closer, they can make out the light source as a series of torches and Frappe indicates this is the abandoned village they were seeking. Frappe, leading the party, sees motion up ahead and stops quickly, motioning the group to halt. The party hears an unnatural caw and a series of whistle sounds in response – clearly, the group has been spotted by scouts who are messaging and signaling their arrival.

Stirring Shapes, Scouts, and Spear Throwers

The party begins to see shapes moving around in the trees and Sorrow notices them moving into flank and assault positions. Frappe’s sharp senses hear movement in a nearby tree and he looks up to see a spear thrower poised in attack position. Sorrow and Frappe lead the group, with Rangrim and Caldwell at their heels. Bringing up the back are Jayden and Erasmus, not surprisingly. Brave Rangrim takes the lead from Frappe and Sorrow and steps into a snare, knocking him prone and dragging him under a tree. Looking around, the spear thrower and scouts that were seen earlier seem to have disappeared – Jayden senses one of them in the tree behind her and Erasmus.

Sensing the onset of an attack against the party, Jayden inspires the group with her Stirring Shout invigorating their attacks. Caldwell throws an acid orb at a shifty shape still in his sight and obliterates the scout while moving forward to pull Rangrim out of the trap. Immediately Caldwell is hit by arrows coming from 2 different directions. Jayden spotted one of the archers and made his location known to her fellow adventurers. Different from the spiders, Jayden knows from the sway of the vines that these attackers are not teleporting – they are using the vines and tendrils to swing from treetop to treetop and onto tall platforms and into tree huts. Surrounded and attacked! Sorrow angrily reminds the party that she did not want to trust Frappe to begin with and clearly he has led them into a trap.

Her fellow adventurers had no time to respond as suddenly the ground at Erasmus’ feet begins to bubble and turn into an element reminiscent of quicksand. Erasmus is pulled into the bog but quick thinking and action allow him to escape. Erasmus points to an archer firing arrows through a window in a tree hut up ahead. Frappe begins to forge ahead looking for traps on his way to a ladder that leads to one of the tree huts. He notices a pit trap and takes a few steps back for a running start to propel his jump over the trap. Unfortunately, Frappe miscalculates the leap and jumps right into the pit trap, landing directly on a heap of poisoned spears fashioned from wood at the bottom. His poison sickness begins to set in immediately.

Jayden uses her majestic word to send some healing relief to a hurting Frappe and in doing so; she uses her abilities to pull him off the poison sticks and out of the pit. Immediately he begins to feel better, but the sickness has set in his system and only time will tell the full impact of its damage. Jayden and Frappe recognize the shapes, spear throwers, and scouts as human tribesmen of the Olmec civilization. Seeking vengeance for the pain of the pit, Frappe charges up the ladder and with his sword, slices the head clear off the shoulders of one of the tribesmen. Rangrim, who ascended up the ladder and onto the series of bridges connecting the huts, grabs another tribesman and throw him off the bridge to his death. Looking down at his remains, Rangrim comments to the party that the tribesman is nothing more than paste at his hands. Caldwell joins the action throwing an acid orb at another tribesman, hitting him directly in the chest, the momentum taking him to his death as a result of the fall. Rangrim grabs a vine and swings to the upper bridge leading to the main tree hut as Jayden sings her song of Courage (“You’re the Best Around”), inspiring the group to greater strength in their attacks. Meanwhile, she viciously mocks a nearby spear thrower who is so taken aback that he steps backward into a sharp corner of a nearby post, taking damage.

Suddenly, the bridge becomes slick as ice under Erasmus’s feet following a stealthy move by Erasmus. Erasmus swears he heard one of the Olmecs whispering to him. Frappe continues the carnage and with his Twin Strike kills 2 tribesmen with his swords. Wielding a sword in each hand for the attack, he was not able to parry another attack directed at him and he is now dazed and nauseous from the attack and ongoing poison sickness. Nevertheless, Frappe charges ahead under the protection of Rangrim’s shield and his successful connection of sword to flesh against his attacker invigorates him and he begins to shake the effects of the nausea and regains strength.

The dazing affects of the Olmecs have touched all but Sorrow and Jayden, who have teamed up to finish off the 2 tribesmen on the jungle floor before climbing the ladder to join the rest of the party. Jayden is knocked prone by an attack from what appears to be a high profile tribesman – he is clearly more powerful than the others who fell quickly at the hands of the spells and swords of the party. She musters up some strength to jump quickly to her feet to hurl her vicious mockery at this leader, who she heard called Eminem, before quickly falling back to the ground to maintain cover. Sorrow steps forward to Eminem and with a black hand reaches into his soul asking for the secret to his strength so she can understand how to weaken this formidable foe. Her soul-searing attack deals damaging blows and he begins to show signs of battle wear. Sorrow learns that his power comes from the marsh.

Intimidate and Interrogate

Taking advantage of his weakened state, Caldwell stands before him, an imposing and intimidating sight and orders him to bow to him, or die. He surrenders and orders the remaining tribesmen to retreat, leaving him alone with the adventuring party. Jayden stands up and addresses the now captive, asking him who he is. He identifies himself as Chava Kuth, High Priest of Tezcatlipoca. She convinces him to tell the party what was happening in the temple and he explains, reluctantly, that the adventurers interrupted a ritual of sacrifice to Tezcatlipoca, their god. He tells them that now their god will destroy their world, being angered over the unfilled sacrifice. Jayden notices that he is speaking in a common language and asks him why they can communicate when they were not able to with the other Olmec tribesmen. He provides no real explanation, only to say that the language he is speaking is the language of the plains.

He appears to be regaining strength but continues, telling the party that the dragon was the great protector of the Olmecs. Erasmus shows Chava Kuth the map the party uncovered in the temple and asks him to explain the meaning. Chava Kuth explains the cycle and significance of the 2 creatures – 2 creatures are summoned to create 1. He adds that Tezcatlipoca is the god of darkness, smoke, and mirrors and having been angered, he will destroy the world on this plane. Jayden knows that if 1 plane begins to unravel, all of existence across all planes is in grave danger. Jayden and Erasmus, both with strong instincts and insight, agree that he is telling them what he knows and he is being truthful.

Chava Kuth explains he needs to return to the temple to see if he can do anything to appease his god and recreate a ritual to avoid destruction of his people. He invites the party to accompany him, but Sorrow is quick to speak up and warn her party that we shouldn’t trust him to get us back to our plane – he could be leading us to the temple so that we become the sacrifice! Again Sorrow reminds the group that she knows how to get them back, but when Jayden asks her if she is able to do it, why she hadn’t done it before; Sorrow indicates that she is not ready to go back yet. Sorrow changes the subject and explains that the ritual involves sacrificing a great warrior – that warrior could be Rangrim!

Chava Kuth is prideful and considers the adventurers as creatures “below” his stature and standing. He is beginning to gain more strength, as well. Erasmus asks him if the party releases him, will he leave them alone. Chava Kuth shoots a quick glance to Sorrow and indicates that he will and that he will not send anyone after them. Jayden asks him about the horn – one of the sounds they heard during the battle – it is obvious he does not want to tell them about it and he appears to be amassing enough strength to make his attempt to escape.

Ah… That’s What the Horn Was For

Frappe notices that the forest is getting frighteningly quiet – like the calm before the storm and suddenly thunder beings to roll from the direction the adventurers came from. Sorrow scours the huts for loot and finds healing potions, a magic staff and magic talisman. Chava Kuth casts an insidious glance towards Rangrim and his reflexes react in attack mode as Rangrim takes a swing at Chava Kuth. Missing, Chava Kuth grabs a vine and begins to swing away from the village, making his escape from his former captors.

Frappe hears the pounding of loud footsteps and the rustling of brush underfoot growing stronger. From what he can tell, a large monster is about a mile away, heading in our direction through the forest. Within seconds Frappe can see the outline of the monstrosity and identifies the creature as a Marsh Giant, imploring the group to leave immediately! Erasmus grabs the torches nearby and lights the huts on fire to set fire to the village in hopes of distracting the Giant on its way toward the party. The party takes off on foot through the jungle, heading north in the direction of Chava Kuth. The adventurers hear a roaring wail from the Giant – clearly he has happened upon the village ablaze and is angry!

The party forges ahead, intent on staying out of the Giant’s path, with Frappe looking for a place to hide, so the group can wait for the Giant to pass, and rest and recover (Marsh Giants are not known for their intelligence). Frappe tracks a freshwater creek and builds a blind to serve as cover for the party. Jayden sets 3 eyes of alarm with night vision and the party settles down to a long, much needed rest.

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The Ghoul Queen
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Mausoleum of Madness
Chronicled by Jayden

Campfire Camaraderie

After defeating the hag the weary adventurers set up camp for the night for some much needed rest. Unwinding around the campfire, Caldwell uncharacteristically opened up to his newfound allies. Tenuously, he began by addressing the tension that his distant and wary behavior appears to have caused amongst the group, resulting in a high level of mistrust. He indicated that he understands how his demeanor can be misinterpreted, but urged the group to consider the reasons for his behavior and try to understand him, rather than judge him unceremoniously. He told the tale of his ill-fated birth under an evil sign, which by no fault of his own, relegated him to a status among his fellow Eladrin of that of a leper – ignored, reviled, exiled. Eager to learn more about this sign and how to reverse its effects so that he could once again join his people, Caldwell broke in to the library and researched everything he could find related to his birth sign. He was an avid student and after years of research yielding nothing but dead ends, he uncovered a powerful ritual that could provide a time travel portal, allowing him to be reborn under a new, more benevolent sign.

Serendipitously, he heard of a group of adventurers in Bochenricht that had uncovered 2 scrolls that were rumored to be a part of a dark, powerful ritual. Caldwell’s research into the time traversal ritual revealed that it involved scrolls that once reunited, would unbind a powerful force that would be capable of time travel. Knowing this may be the only chance he had at regaining acceptance amongst the Eladrin, he left the Fell Forest in search of the adventuring party, hoping to both learn more about what they had uncovered, and obtain a copy of the ritual for his own use in reversing his birth sign.

Erasmus’ academic interests were peaked and he inquired about the ritual and the ability to travel through time and space. Rangrim, exhausted from battle and fully sated with food and drink, faded in and out of sleep during Caldwell’s soul-bearing recount. Sorrow remained suspicious of the dark power of the ritual and Caldwell’s motives for wanting to harness it and showed little sympathy or empathy for his feelings of being an outsider. Jayden questioned Caldwell’s conviction that the scrolls they were searching for could in fact be used for a time travel ritual and showed concern that every piece of evidence and information they have encountered pointed to a dark force at play. Caldwell was quick to point out that any great power could be used for good or evil and provided further assurance of his motives to the group by explaining that he does not want to possess or own the scrolls, just merely to study and learn them in order to learn the ritual that could reverse the curse of his birth under an evil sign. Believing Caldwell, and knowing the burden of leaving a past behind that you cannot return to, she expressed appreciation on behalf of the party that he shared his true motives and a very personal part of his past.

Sensing there was little more to say on the subject for the evening, Caldwell assumed a pose of meditation and the rest of the party drifted off to sleep.

A Cold Reception

Feeling refreshed and revived, the group awoke the next morning and continued on their journey to find the crypt where Lady Bochenricht indicated one of the binding scrolls had been carefully protected and hidden. Before too long the adventured happened upon some ruins where clearly a small town had once stood. Walking through what would have been the streets, surrounded by rubble where buildings once stood, Rangrim noticed an opening in the ground that appeared to lead to a long staircase opening up underground. Not one for fear of the unknown, Rangrim called back to the party asking if they should all head down the stairs while he began down the path, indicating he wasn’t really asking. The group followed along.

At the bottom of the stairs the adventurers noticed it was uncharacteristically dark and uncommonly cold. Erasumus didn’t notice anything unusual about the darkness, but his fellow adventurers, whose racial characteristics provide them the ability to see in low-light instances, immediately sensed that they should have better visibility than they did. Each of them cracked a sunrod from their adventurer’s kit, which strangely only afforded them an additional 20 feet of visibility around them. In order to take full advantage of the limited light, the party stuck close together, including Jayden who has become known for assuming her position at a noticeable distance behind the party, for strategic reasons.

Behind Door Number One…

Directly ahead of the party lies a wooden door and to its right, what appears to be a hallway swallowed by the darkness. Rangrim steps closer to the door and notices immediately the Dwarven craftsmanship. He hears what appear to be the sound of gears and informs the group that the door is locked. Jayden comes closer to see what she can make of the engravings on the door itself. She recognizes the patterns and upon hearing the same gear sounds, informs the group that this door is set to a schema of heavy traps. It appears to be highly sophisticated and presumes forging through the door by force would be eminent death – they must find a way to disarm the traps before entering.

Ghostly Gashes

Caldwell forges a step ahead in the direction of the hallway and in an instant, the party can no longer see him. Erasmus calls out to Caldwell, who can hear him but cannot see any of his fellow adventurers. Caldwell quickly retraces his steps and can again see and be seen by his party but not before a ghost-like face appears in a whispy form from the darkness and slashes Caldwell’s face. As the party is attacked by the ghostly faces the hallway grows colder and colder and the adventures begin to notice pain and weakness from the change in temperature.

The deafening darkness and eerie figures take their toll on the mental well-being of the party and they begin to become agitated and confused, adding to the physical damage being done by the ghosts and the cold. The adventures eventually prevail, but the aftereffects of battling both the ghosts within their mind and the ghosts appearing in and out of the darkness require the group to take a short rest to regain their strength for what will undoubtedly be greater battles ahead. Jayden sings a Song of Rest, which soothes everyone’s nerves and rejuvenates the party as they forge ahead.

The adventurers enter a large room where they notice the cold begin to subside and the darkness lift ever so slightly. Cautiously they move ahead and are pleasantly surprised to find the room bereft of dangerous traps or monstrous figures. The party searches the room and finds gold, silver, and copper, as well as various valuable gemstones, including a bloodstone that provides additional protection by way of a spell cast on the stone. Sorrow notices a small room up ahead and enters under the archway.

Drawers of Horrors

The room’s walls are lined with drawers, both large and small and it is clear the room serves as burial space with the small drawers containing the belongings of the bodies also entombed in the wall. The room emanates an eerie aura, which either is not noticed by Sorrow, or does not seem to concern her. She boldly opens a small drawer and hears voices calling to her, delivering an ominous message. Inside the drawer she finds more gold, silver and copper coins and gemstones. She quickly shakes off the exchange with the faceless whisperer and boldly opens another small drawer. She is again rewarded with coin and jewels. Eager to uncover more of the room’s riches, Erasmus and Caldwell also enter and begin opening drawers. Erasmus sees a burial plate with his own name on it, and nervously opens the small drawer to find treasure in return – a sword with intricate etchings. Caldwell’s hand is grabbed by the ghostly remnants of a hand as he opens a drawer to claim more bounty. Sorrow reminds her fellow adventures (and herself) that their minds are playing tricks on them and to remain calm as they walk out of the room.

While Sorrow, Erasmus, and Caldwell were looting the crypts, Rangrim forged ahead towards a large archway that appeared to lead to another room across from his fellow adventurers. Jayden followed Rangrim, at a more characteristic distance. As Rangrim stepped under the archway to peer through, the sound of a metal plate dropping was heard by the party – Rangrim had set off a trap.

Zombies and Ghouls Out of Thin Air

Immediately, three ghouls appear inside the room of drawers, just a stone’s throw from Sorrow, Erasmus, and Caldwell. At the same time, a gaggle of zombies appeared on the other side of the large archway in front of Rangrim. Jayden stepped closer to Rangrim and began to attack the zombies with ranged tactics. Rangim’s cleaves were able to make quick work of the zombie minions, while Sorrow and Caldwell made their way past the ghouls towards the flock of undead zombies.

The ghouls attacked with a ferocious hunger, literally biting at the flesh or Erasmus. Their bites rendered him immobile and he stood stunned, unable to move to escape their carnivorous attacks. Erasmus continued to stand helpless as the ghouls fed their insatiable hunger for flesh and destruction. The party had been focused on eliminating the large group of zombies until they saw Erasmus’ badly damaged body under attack. Rangrim and Caldwell blocked the archway, holding the zombies at bay for the moment while Jayden used her powers of persuasion in an unusual way. Jayden and Sorrow quickly exchanged words before Jayden called out to the ghoul who was ravaging Erasmus, convincing him he would be better served by feasting on a scrumptious demon, such as Sorrow. The ghoul was easily persuaded and directed his feeding frenzy now in the direction of Sorrow, as planned. This provided enough respite for Erasmus to cast a healing spell upon himself, brining him back to a steadied state and allowing him to shake off the immobilization effects of the ghouls.

Rangim and Caldwell cleaved and rained fire upon the zombies, easily eliminating the sea of zombies. With the zombies no longer presenting a threat, the entire party focused on the three ghouls, who were proving to be formidable foes. Jayden sang a Song of Courage which bolstered the fortitude of the party and guided their attacks with renewed fervor. Even with this encouragement, the ghouls were wearing the party’s defenses. Rangrim used his special shield to provide temporary protection for Erasmus and himself from the damaging attacks while Sorrow, Caldwell, and Jayden continued to fire their attacks on the ghouls. Jayden and Erasmus cast healing spells while Sorrow cursed the ghouls and the party fought on.

The adventurers eventually prevailed and as the last ghoul dropped to the floor the room was filled with light and warmth revealing a large room through the archway with 2 coffins. The coffins were filled with valuable items, including armor and swords with heroic powers; however, there were no bodies. Searching the room the party found additional gold, silver, and copper coins as well as gemstones. Jayden recognizes the heroic items as belonging to a famous adventuring couple. Beaten from battle, both literally and figuratively, the adventurers set down for another short rest.

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Words and Whispers

Chronicled by Jayden.

Arrested!

Emerging from the secret door within the cask, the party faced an enraged Bar Eberhardt, flanked by several elite members of the Bochenricht Guard and a cloaked female figure. The militia stood with their crossbows loaded and pointed at our adventures, who were accompanied by the freshly rescued Norris, Caldwell, and [[Smith family#Felice Smith Potter|Warwick]]. Jayden quickly met the eyes of her party members with a confident, reassuring look, which conveyed her intent to lead the discussions to diffuse this tenuous situation. Jayden spoke gently on behalf of the group with a message of peace, but Bar quickly and gruffly dismissed Jayden’s charismatic words, seeming staunchly grounded in his original plans to arrest the intruders.

The cloaked female figure, however, was intrigued by Jayden’s account of this adventuring party who upon searching for the missing nephew of one of their members, happened upon a more serious and sinister series of events involving the stolen tapestry and pages from a scroll that appeared to be linked to a dark ritual orchestrated by a witch and a supporting cast of were rats and members of the thieves guild. She had been clutching a stone, with a symbol that was emitting a faint glow but as she listened to Jayden’s account, her clutch on the stone softened and she placed it back into her pocket. She revealed her face, which was known to Jayden through her bardic knowledge of adventuring lore. This was Lady Sahara Bochenricht], who in her time was a well-known adventurer, revered for her knowledge of mystical and magical objects. Jayden immediately played to the sensibilities of a fellow, female adventurer and assured Lady Bochenricht that they presented no danger and the circumstances surrounding their presence in her home were innocent, despite the surface appearances.

Lady Bochenricht was moved and ordered Bar to relent, reminding him of her position of authority. Before Jayden began to explain the unusual, and agreeably suspicious, circumstances surrounding their presence in the basement of Bochenricht Manor with the stolen tapestry in their possession, she requested that the guards set down their weapons, as she and her party had down, reminding them of the presence of a child (Warwick). Bar begrudgingly acquiesced, but only partially as to remind Jayden that she was on thin ice. The militia unreadied their crossbows but kept their hands at their swords, ready to draw at a moment’s’ notice. As Jayden answered questions and explained the situation she was interrupted by Melinda Amsel and Haiko Kurka, a fellow thieves’ guild member, and accused of being a high-ranking member of the thieves’ guild herself who has a vested interest in spinning a melodic tale to escape capture. Jayden did not defend herself against the allegations of her affiliation, but rather focused on the facts as she had laid them out, imploring Lady Bochenricht to question Norris, Caldwell, or Warwick who would surely confirm the story.

Before she could persuade further, a noticeably insulted and irritated Sorrow interrupted and bluntly stated that she could prove they were not thieves who were after the tapestry and did so by unceremoniously throwing the tapestry in the direction of Bar Eberhardt and his militia. Jayden quickly interjected to restore civility to the negotiations and despite the persistent accusations hurled by Melinda and Haiko Kurka, Lady Bochenricht was compelled to side with the adventurers and instructed them to be escorted to the hearing room in the Manor for further discussion on the matter. The party avoided arrest, much to the dismay of Bar, Melinda Amsel, and Haiko Kurka, and with the exception of Norris, Caldwell, and Erasmus who was carrying Warwick, the adventurers were prodded roughly and aggressively in route to the hearing room at the hands of the guards.

A New Proposal

Lady Bochenricht graciously provided a much needed and appreciated banquet of food and drinks for the weary adventurers and freed hostages. Seeing no need to question Norris or the boy, she kindly gave them leave and offered up the medical services of her Manor to attend to any injuries they sustained under captivity. Erasmus Smith sent Warick in the custody of the Manor nurses and was assured by Lady Bochenricht he would be well cared for. After the party had began to enjoy some nourishment, Lady Bochenricht asked the adventurers to start at the beginning, reminding them that any attempts to mislead her would carry consequences. Diplomatically, Jayden began to speak for the group once again and agreed to allow Lady Bochenricht’s request for divination. Being satisfied with the results of her look into Jayden’s thoughts and intentions, she allowed Jayden to continue.

The fellow adventurers were now more comfortable and began to interject freely into the conversation, with the exception of Rangrim whose primary focus remained on the buffet of food and drink before him. The party recounted the particulars of the initial descent into the sewers in search of Warick, encounters with the were rats and [[Bochenricht Thieves Guild#Sigmund|Sigmund]], discovery of the hostages, and the frightening ritual that appeared to be opening a hell mouth. Lady Bochenricht, with her immense knowledge of mystical and magical items, and understanding clearly the role her tapestry could play in such events, asked for greater detail about the hell mouth and the pages that led to the eventual closure of the abyss. Seeing an opportunity to gain greater understanding about the events that perplexed the party, Jayden asked Lady Bochenricht for more information about the pages and revealed that they had recently uncovered a scroll that appeared to be infused with dark magic, which they had turned over to Tristan for assistance in understanding its intention.

Lady Bochenricht seemed disturbed to hear that such an item was in Tristan’s possession, although she did not vocalize it. She explained to the party that she believed these items to be associated with an ancient binding ritual that if unbound, could be very dangerous. So dangerous is this evil that after the force had been bound, in order to ensure this evil would never be re-released, pages were torn from the ritual book and hidden in separate locations, protected my natural and supernatural forces. She believes the scroll, pages, and tapestry to be part of a plan in motion to reunite the necessary elements to release the evil and unbind the force. She shared that she was aware of the location of at least one of the sets of the pages and expressed her concern that others with more sinister objectives might also know the location.

Out of genuine concern for his home, and seeing an opportunity to align the party with such an ally, Erasmus quickly stepped forward and offered their services to Lady Bochenricht, indicating that they could recover the pages before they were stolen and put to use as part of the evil plan that appeared to be unfolding. Lady Bochenricht was grateful for the offer and interested in this joint venture with the adventuring party, but she was careful to receive the verbal confirmation of cooperation from each party member. She offered to fund the expedition with rations and provide a reward for the safe return of the pages to her. Hearing this, Rangrim stopped devouring a turkey leg long enough to grunt and nod in the affirmative. Sorrow’s interests were peaked not only for the bounty offered, but also to gain any information that could cure the growing were rat disease transforming her skin into leathery, itchy patches and she was quick to agree, as well.

Knowing that a lack of interest on her part would only serve to undermine the events of the day, and needing to find answers as to the role of the thieves’ guild in all this for her own safety (they gold helped, too), Jayden affirmed. Former hostage, Caldwell, did not hesitate to sign on for the adventure, which made Erasmus and Jayden slightly uneasy about the newcomer to their group. While his assistance in the crypt was heroic and invaluable, they did not very much about Caldwell and wondered what his motives might be for agreeing to such a dangerous task after just narrowing escaping death and being held as a hostage. For the moment neither let their concerns show.

By this time the group was well fed, but still fatigued. Lady Bochenricht provided them their official pardon and indicated they were free to go; however, she reminded them that should they get into any trouble in or about town, she would not be able to provide further help – they should be careful to avoid trouble as surely Bar and the others would be resentful of her pardon. As she turned to leave she placed the reward money for the returned tapestry on the table and wished them well on their journey. Jayden graciously thanked Lady Bochenricht for her hospitality and politely inquired of the medical capacities of the Manor, describing the filth fever that had overcome both Erasmus and Rangrim, and the were rat disease taking over Sorrow’s body. Lady Bochenricht regretfully informed them that she believed those ailments to be beyond the capabilities of her staff, but thought perhaps Tristan knew of healing rituals that would cure the ailments. Jayden knew the going rate for rituals of this nature to be above the means of the party, even with the reward money and worried that it may prove difficult to persuade Tristan to help given the tension between him and Sorrow last they met.

The adventurers gathered their things and took a final pass at the food and beverage on the buffet before heading out. Erasmus slid out quickly after Lady Bochenricht, hoping for a moment alone to discuss a sensitive matter. Catching her in the hall, Erasmus inquired of Caldwell, who he admitted to Lady Bochenricht that the party did not know very well and wanted to know if he could be trusted. Lady Bochenricht confessed that she did not know much of Caldwell, but from what she knew, there would be no reason for concern. Erasmus thanked her and she retired to her chambers. Outside the Manor the party agreed to meet in 2 days at [[Bochenricht#The Rodent’s Rump|The Rodent’s Rump]] to check in with Tristan to see what he had learned about the scroll they had left with him.

Erasmus, feeling his own fever and feeling concern for the well-being of Sorrow and Rangrim, suggested that he quickly bring Warwick home and meet the rest of the party at the temple to see what sort of help Tristan might be able to provide in restoring them back to health. Although not ridden with sickness, Jayden agreed to come with Erasmus, Sorrow, and Rangrim, hoping she might be able to persuade Tristan to assist. Not compelled to accompany them to the temple, Caldwell bid the party farewell and indicated he’d see them in 2 days. Jayden, Rangrim, and Sorrow arrived at the temple and waited outside for Erasmus to join them. Once he arrived, they entered the temple and were met by [[Bochenricht Temple of Pelor#Ichabod|Ichabod]], an acolyte at the temple, and inquired on Tristan.

Ichabod indicated that Tristan was not here, but asked if he could help them with anything. Knowing Ichabod well enough to trust him, Erasmus explained Sorrow’s ailments and the fever he and Rangrim were inflicted with, as well as the general circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the viruses. Ichabod seemed impressed with the story and genuinely excited to be in the company of adventurers, which included Erasmus, who he appears to look up to. Ichabod suggested to Erasmus that the 2 of them try to heal Sorrow and shared that in his opinion, the fever that Erasmus and Rangrim are inflicted with would subside with rest and fluids. Ichabod quickly listed off a list of items that would be necessary for Sorrow’s healing ritual and added that since he already had the scroll for the ritual, the only cost would be the items, which would set them back roughly 150 gold pieces. While this was being discussed Sorrow evenly divided up the reward money from the return of Lady Bochenricht’s tapestry and used her entire share to fund the cause. Jayden heart was softened when she realized Sorrow’s integrity in splitting up the reward and the fact that she did not ask any other party member for money to put toward her recovery, despite the fact she incurred her injuries while protecting others. Jayden split her reward money in half, and quietly slipped it to Sorrow as gesture of appreciation. This gesture of kindness and friendship did not go unnoticed by Sorrow.

Ichabod suggested they find an alternative location to perform the actual ritual, since neither Erasumus or Ichabod were technically qualified to perform such an act without guidance from a superior and for that reason thought if better to not use the temple. Knowing there was a back room, Erasmus agreed and suggested The Rodent’s Rump, where the party had lodged on numerous occasions. The group set out to gather the materials and met at the back room of The Rodent’s Rump. Although confident that he and Erasmus together could perform the healing, Ichabod reminded Erasmus that in the best case scenario, a failed attempt could result in no improvement in Sorrow’s condition and in the worse case scenario, it would lead to her death. Sorrow overheard this and was understandably nervous. Erasmus quickly quelled her concerns and his confidence was inspiring. He had good reason to be confident – Erasmus has recently learned, though his studies, the ability to raise someone from the dead so even if the healing failed and ended on the extreme end of the failure spectrum, he knew he could revive Sorrow and bring her to someone more qualified to treat her particular ailment.

The back room at The Rodent’s Rump was dim and quiet as Ichabod and Erasmus performed the intricate steps and incantations of the healing ritual. Sorrow made no sound and would have appeared comatose if it were not for the writhing and twitching of her body suspended mid-air as ribbons of bright white light enveloped her. Erasmus and Ichabod concentrated intently as the ritual neared its completion and with 1, large flash of bright light that lit up the street below them through the window, Sorrow’s limp body fell on to the table over which it was suspended. Wiping his sweaty brow, Ichabod nodded enthusiastically proclaiming the ritual’s success. Immediately Sorrow’s leathered, wererat skin molted from her body and she began to stir. Erasmus and Ichabod had done it!

Sorrow retired to her room to rest, as did Jayden and Rangrim. Erasmus headed home, feeling both triumphant and relieved.

Meeting with Tristan

In two days, after some much needed rest, the party gathered at The Rodent’s Rump, which was bustling and noisier than usual. Sorrow and Erasmus were back at their full health, but Rangrim, while seemingly better, appeared to still exhibit signs of his fever. Rangrim and Sorrow were already at a table back in the corner when Jayden arrived. Not long after joining them, Jayden felt the watchful eye of someone on her and discreetly tuned to discover it was Haiko Kurka, of the thieves’ guild, who was in the company of the militia last night. Caldwell joined shortly thereafter and noticed they were being watched, as well. Turning to Jayden he shared his suspicions, which she confirmed. Finally when Erasmus arrived the party agreed to head outside to talk, as the bar was very noisy and Caldwell and Jayden felt they were being watched. On their way out, Caldwell and Jayden noticed that Haiko had taken leave and was no longer in the bar.

Once outside the adventurers made small talk, asking each other about the past two days. Erasmus shared delightful, heartwarming stories about Warwick’s reunion and Rangrim recounted two days of drunken debauchery. Jayden politely, but pointedly asked Caldwell about his whereabouts. His arrogant response clearly conveyed to the group that it was none of their business. Already suspicious, Jayden pressed further with all the charisma she could muster, explaining that they wanted to get to know him better since they would be setting out on a new adventure together and wanted to make sure everyone had a comfortable level of trust and understanding with each other. Dismissively, he attempted to pacify her inquiry by explaining that he was meditating. Seeing she was getting nowhere, she acquiesced for the time being so the team could get on with the day’s activities.

The party was headed to visit with Tristan at the temple, to see what information he was able to glean from his analysis of the scroll they had left with him. When they arrived they were greeted once again by Ichabod, the acolyte who had assisted them a few short days ago, with Sorrow’s healing ritual. He indicated that Tristan was in and quickly went to get him. Tristan greeted the group in his usual, dismissive fashion and Erasmus got right to business asking him what information he was able to discover through his analysis of the scroll. From what he could gather, the scroll is part of a binding ritual, but only one out of every fifth word seemed to be present. Evidently, there are pages from another book that once examined, decode the remaining text in the scroll. Beyond that, he was not able to determine, except that the force that was bound through this ritual was dangerous and dark.

Tristan explained he needed more time; that it was more complicated that he had originally surmised. Erasmus told Tristan he wanted the scroll back and he would use whatever information Tristan was able to unearth to continue the study on his own. Tristan was noticeably dismayed by this proposition and it was clear that his personal motives conflicted with those of Erasmus. Tristan and Erasmus began to exchange words, very diplomatically, but the undertones were clear and the tension tangible. The discussion became heated when Tristan’s comments challenged the efficacy of Erasmus’ deity. Sensing potential for trouble, Jayden interjected with honeyed words suggesting that even though their gods are different, certainly they would be aligned with the greater good of protecting against evil and the destruction of the lives of everyone in the town. Not able to conjure a reasonable counter to this, Tristan reluctantly acquiesced and returned the scroll to Erasmus.

As they turned to leave the temple, Jayden felt something slip into her pocket and turned to see Ichabod, the acolyte, briskly walking away from her. Not wishing to draw attention to this, she decided to investigate the contents of her pocket when she was away from the party.

Outside the temple, Caldwell offered to carry the scroll for Erasmus, since he had obtained the pages from the crypt; thinking it would make sense to keep everything together. This seemed unusual to the entire party and fed Jayden and Erasmus’ growing sense of suspicion. Erasmus politely declined the offer but Caldwell persisted. Jayden gently questioned Caldwell’s rationale for wanting to carry the scroll for Erasmus, but Sorrow plowed in and got right to the issue pointedly saying what was on everyone’s mind. She bluntly stated that she was not sure she trusted him and would rather that Erasmus keep the scroll so that the items were not together.

Caldwell feigned offense with a nervous laugh asking if Erasmus was to be trusted. When asked if the pages were on his person, Caldwell answered “no” and indicated he had it hidden in a safe place. This disturbed Sorrow and she wanted to know immediately where he had hidden them, further arguing that they should embark quickly to the location in hopes of recovering the pages before they are uncovered by someone else. Caldwell dismissed the need, casually reassuring her they were safe. Erasmus, Jayden, and even Rangrim, now also concerned questioned Caldwell about the pages. Jayden reminded Caldwell that they were headed to see Lady Bochenricht and if she was questioned on the whereabouts of the pages, she needs to know where they are and give a honest answer – lying to Lady Bochenricht would not only fail due to her keen perception, but would also serve to deteriorate the alliance they are working to build with her, as well as the protection her favor may offer. Caldwell admitted to having the pages on his person, but was unwilling to place them in the hands of Sorrow, or anyone else, for safekeeping. Still needing to stop at Bochenricht Manor for information regarding the location of the pages they agreed to acquire for Lady Bochenricht, the group left this line of discussion hanging.

The guards at the gate to Bochenricht Manor recognized the adventuring party and allowed them to pass, directing them toward the garden where Lady Bochenricht was seated. As the party grew closer, they could see she was talking with Bar, and although they were not able to hear anything, the body language and gesturing indicated to them it was a heated discussion. Upon arriving at the entrance to the garden, their presence was noted and Bar left abruptly as Lady Bochenricht waved them in. Jayden greeted her on behalf of the group with charm and sincerity and asked for the additional information the party needed to acquire the pages for her quest.

Lady Bochenricht explained that beyond the forest and through the saltmarsh there is an underground city that was built when the humans were overtook by the fiends during their [[Bochenricht#History|occupation]] and sent into hiding. While she does not know the exact location of the pages in the undercity, as a former adventurer she expects they’d be located in a secure keep. The party should be very careful as the pages are safeguarded with magical and natural protections, such as traps. The protection spell, legend has it, includes mind altering and hallucinogenic attacks and other forms of psychological torment.

Jayden nodded as she heard this, remembering hearing of this through her studies. The travel by foot would be over a week. Lord Bochenricht and his military had cleared the forests and travel through that area should be relatively safe. Jayden boldly asked if Lady Bochenricht would be providing horses for the party, to which she unceremoniously answered in the negative; however, she did offer basic rations for the party of anything that would be in the Manor inventory. Although the party had sufficient gold to purchase horses for travel, they decided to go by foot not wanting to lose their investment in the saltmarsh and/or the unknown cornucopia of dangers ahead.

Lady Bochenricht wished the adventurers well and they were on their way. Jayden stayed back only a moment to inquire on a personal level if everything was all right, referring to the earlier exchange with Bar. Lady Bochenricht smiled warmly and indicated everything was fine, but that Bar sometimes disagrees with how she runs things in her husband’s stead. Jayden caught up to the rest of the group and they began discussing any necessary items they might want to pick up, such as torches, before embarking on their journey.

The Saltmarsh

After passing through the cleared forest, the party traveled through knee-deep bog. After several days of on-foot journey, the group arrived well rested near the entrance to the saltmarsh. Jayden’s Eye of Alarm allowed the adventurer’s to sleep without fear of attack. Caldwell slept only 4 hours each night, dedicating the other 4 hours to meditation where he was actively awake, which provided an additional layer of surveillance during a portion of the night. After reaching the top of a hill within the marsh at twilight, the party could see in the distance a wooden supply wagon that had been dismantled and two makeshift tents. To the east the adventurers could see a large area that appeared to have been the site of a plains fire surrounding a large crypt.

Hag Siege

Rangrim led the group forward, intending to take cover behind the dismantled wagon when from the makeshift tents appeared several Gnolls, armed with crossbows that took their aim at Rangrim. Erasmus and Sorrow charged forward, Caldwell closely behind and Jayden assuming her customary position at the back of the party where her ranged verbal and crossbow attacks allow for optimal personal protection. The party began the fight strong, Sorrow cursing the Gnolls and Rangrim and Erasmus flanking enemy parties for maximum damage. The smaller Gnolls were joined by more military looking ones who joined the attack but were no match for the heavy damage blows of Rangrim and Sorrow. Erasmus and Sorrow kept the party energized and Caldwell took his position to the west of the party where he rained down fire damage from afar.

The adventures made quick work of the minions and were in battle with the two remaining Gnolls when they noticed the ground starting to bubble and hiss. Rangrim, the closest to the bubbling patch of fire-burned earth, began hearing sinister whispers that seemingly were beckoning to him from the ground. Just then a hag appeared from the crypt. As she glided toward them with her sagging skin and patchy, matted hair she opened her mouth and Rangrim began hearing voices inside of his head urging him to turn on his fellow adventurers. Her mouth opened further and further until the closest resemblance of what would be her jaw was almost touching the ground. The further her jaw opened, the wider the range of the affect of the whispering, psychotic voices in the heads of the party. As she moved towards them she enveloped all but Jayden, who still remained in the distance, in her mental torment.

The adventurers moved their attention from the Gnolls, of which one was already bloodied, to the hag, worried that failure to put an end to her psychic damage would result in party members turning against each other. Rangrim, having been exposed to the torturous whispers the longest, was showing signs of physical and mental fatigue. Moving closer to attack the hag and provide soothing healing for the team when they also attacked the hag, Jayden was now also caught in the net of torment from voices whispering from within. Sorrow, Erasmus and Rangrim continued to flank the Gnolls hoping to reap the benefits of Rangrim’s cleave.

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Stare Not Long

(I am writing this quickly and artlessly to get the main details down; feel free to add flavor.)

Immediately after opening the massive door, Rangrim was pelted with crossbow bolts, many of which penetrated his scale mail, driving him back into the hallway. The thieves had taken some time to pile bookcases, chairs, tables and other furniture into a rudimentary rampart from which to fire. Behind them, Erasmus could see the hostages they had taken, including [[Smith_family#Felice (Smith) Potter|Warwick]]. One of the hostages stood suddenly and lit the room with a blast of fire, which ignited some of the wood barricades. Rangrim took the opportunity to shove the flaming barricades onto his assailants, while Sorrow rebuked several of the bandits.

Jayden inspired the team from back within the hallway while they struggled against the monstrous Warforged. The seeming leader barked commands and tried to keep the hostages alive. After a mighty struggle, the final blow on the steel monstrosity rang out through the smoke and fire of the room.

One thief surrendered, giving information about the Prophetess and the room beyond, before attempting to escape using a Cape of the Mountebank. He ran back the way the group had entered, after being pounded by magical attacks. Caldwell, no longer a hostage, introduced himself and ingratiated himself with the group well enough to be a temporary ally.

The company took a few moments to regroup, handing a crossbow to the final hostage, a dockworker named Norris, while Erasmus looked for a way to escape with Warwick. With no other options, the group resigned themselves to opening the door. Caldwell and Erasmus could hear a ritual happening beneath the door. Though the details were hazy in their memories, they could recall the name Five-Pointed Star and that it would summon some great evil from another plane.

Five-Pointed Star

When they opened the door with the key they found in the storage area of the previous room, they found [[Bochenricht Thieves Guild#Sigmund|Sigmund]] surrounded by other wererats who glowed with unearthly light. Beams stretched between them forming a pentacle, with Sigmund at the center. A woman with a shaved head and long braid from the top of her head was leading a litany for many candle-bearing thieves. She continued the ritual as the thieves dropped their bells and books and armed themselves for battle.

A pit in the center of the room became the focus of the melee, as Jayden and Erasmus forced opponents into it. Not to be outdone, the thieves pushed furniture into Sorrow and Caldwell, dropping them into the pit, which presumably had once held prisoners. Sorrow blasted several wererats who found themselves trapped with her in the pit.

Meanwhile, Rangrim, Jayden and Erasmus concentrated fire on Sigmund and Sennet who leapt about the room, ordering their henchmen. Her ritual interrupted, the witch turned on the group as the room began to be enveloped by a seemingly endless abyss. A single spire stood in the abyss, with a black scroll case upon it.

The witch summoned a darkness around her and pressed Jayden and Rangrim back into the wall as she fought them with blasts of black magic. With the group split to every direction, Jayden fell under Sigmund’s blade. In time, only the witch stood between them and victory, Sigmund having been dropped into the pit and summarily dispatched. The abyss grew stronger, even after Caldwell leapt across and recovered the black scroll. Cursing the group, the witch disappeared into a black portal she had created. The wall began to crumble, forcing them up the winding stair through the mountain. When they had reached the top after many minutes of climbing, they found themselves entering into a damp wine cellar in a well-appointed stone chamber.

Immediately, they were put at crossbow point as they egressed through a secret door in a false cask of wine.

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