A World Asunder

Chapter 65 -"Four-finger Lantis"

You make your way to the docks to trace the path of the box. Reilly informs you that she has already had someone she trusts gather the shipping manifests. It has been 12 hours since the attack began. During that time, a temporary infirmary has been set up in a tent in the mid-ground courtyard. The weather has been mostly favorable, save for a dump and done rainstorm seven hours ago. The sea gate has been closed and all outer cannons and ballistae have been loaded in preparation for an attack.

(To sam)
As you walk pas the makeshift infirmary tent, you can see two exhausted nurses sitting on the ground with their backs up against a tree. They’re sharing a flask of whiskey with the label “Oakenhearth Distillery”.

Players talk to nurses

(Where did you get that?)
“We found it at the west beach, by the woods when we were evacuating a wounded soldier. I knew what kind of shift we were going to have, so I slipped it in my pocket and held on to it until we were done treating the wounded. Good thing, too. The rain might have washed it back into the sea.”

Players go to the beach
The western gate opens up directly to the beach. The sandy beach tapers off to the north and is bordered by jagged granite cliffs. The south side of the beach goes up a hill and is broken off by a treeline leading to the woods.

(call for search and spot checks)

(Spot DC 20)
You see a faint line of smoke rising from beyond the treeline.

(Search DC 20)
You find a scrap of torn cloth stuck on a thorny vine, with a smattering of mostly-dry blood. One of the thorns has some dried-up blood on it.

(heal check DC 20)
Given the comparitive age, it would seem that the blood on the cloth came from the same source as the blood on the thorn. In addition, the drying of the blood given current humidity would indicate it is between two and three hours old.

Players delve into the woods
(If players have Robyn)
Robyn goes to work, following footprints and blood drops. Whoever it was was alternating between running and a brisk hiking pace. Along the way, you find scraps of a cleric’s vestments which were removed. Robes, circlet, cloak, sandals. Robyn stops a mile in and points out where moss was scraped from a fallen trunk. Combined with a cluster of bare footprints and bootprints leading away. There are at least four distinct pairs of feet. Robyn ventures a guess that whoever made the trail changed clothes here and met with co-conspirators, then continues on down the trail of bootprints.

(If players do not have Robyn)
Without a tracker, you must spend extra time searching for more obvious clues. Make a search check.

(DC 18 search, nat 20 skips a step)
-You find a discarded circlet of Pelor’s clergy a few hundred feet behind the treeline.
-A robe and a cloak are found in rapid succession a half a mile in
-You find a pair of sandals in the center of a small clearing and a pair of footwraps on the southern edge of the same clearing. One of the footwraps is smeared with blood that is beginning to dry.
-A few hundred feet into the woods from the clearing, you note a scene that even an untrained tracker would notice. Moss is stripped from various trees and cigarette butts line the pete-covered ground. Several distinct pairs of feet have all made their mark on this spot. Everyone present appears to have gone the same way, trampling the wet ground and leaving obvious bootprints behind them.

Players tracked with Robyn or succeeded in all search checks
Following the large group of footprints, you soon begin to smell the smoke of a campfire and hear mumbling voices (DC 20 Listen check below).

Players successfully eavesdrop
You hear a frantic, but hushed argument. One voice says:
“Where the seventh hell is that boat? We were told to expect pickup before dusk and the sun is already starting to go down.”

Another one retorts: “I don’t even think that boat is coming. Lantis is just going to hang us out to dry. Maybe if Kyran had disposed of that whiskey properly instead of just dumping it.”

“Hey!” Another voice, presumably Kyran, retorts. “I risked my neck going back there. Not my fault those damned vestments are such a trip hazard.”

(if Robyn is with them) Robyn snickers and remarks: “Something tells me we’re not dealing with professionals.”

Players approach the cove
You eventually emerge from the woods to see a small, sandy cove dotted with boulders. Four people are gathered there around a fire, huddling in the damp, cold air.

Players enter the cove and are discovered
One of the conspirators curses under his breath and kicks the dirt “Dammit, Kyran. You led them right to us.”

Players Draw Weapons
Three of the conspirators instinctively raise their hands. One of them says “Please, don’t shoot. It’s not what you think.” A fourth, Kyran, takes off running.

Foot chase

Players talk to the conspirators

(Who sent you)
A gang lord in Freeharbor. Goes by Four-finger Lantis. Paid us 6,000 gold a piece.

(What did you think you were doing)
Lantis said we were placing Scrying beacons for a client. We didn’t know they were going to explode. If we had, we would have turned the job down.

(Who’s Lantis’ client)
He doesn’t give out that kind of information. We didn’t need to know and we had 6,000 shiny reasons not to ask.

Players failed a search check
You eventually emerge from the woods to see a small cove. It took longer than expected to arrive. There is a small catamaran beached near the treeline tied to an oak. In the cove, you see the smouldering embers of a fire and four bodies with blood pooling around the sides. Two of them are quite near the fire, lying face up with their throats sliced open. The other two are farther away, sprawled on the ground with a single arrow in each of their backs. A masked woman in dark clothing is pulling an arrow from the back of one of the dead men. A dagger in her left hand is still dripping in blood.

(Players succeed on hiding)
She makes no sign of having noticed you. (allow players to set up)

(Players fail hide checks)
She is scanning the treeline, but makes no sign of having noticed you. (Assassin gets a surprise round)

Combat with assassin

Combat ends

(There is a note in the Assassin’s pocket)
You find a note that reads: "We’ve been hired for hush job. Your assignment is to meet with a group of people under the employ of “Four-Finger Lantis”, a gang lord based in Gildenport. They have been told to expect someone to transport them off the Island. You are to pose as their way off the island, find out what they know and who they’ve told, and eliminate them. Collect your payment from their corpses. If there is any less than 24,000 gold present, you may collect the difference from the usual location."

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Chapter 63- "You have to protect me."

The final casualty count for the attack is 153 dead, 211 gravely wounded. Most were citizens. 26 volunteer fighters died in the ensuing fight with demons. At least a hundred Scourge cultists lie dead along with a handful of small flying demons.

The initial sweep of Detect evil reveals that the entire fortress is riddled with a mild evil aura, combined with patches of moderate and strong near the explosions and around the portals that spewed demons and cultists. (knowledge: religion check)

DC 15: Your experience fighting against magic of evil origin leads you to believe that there could be harmful residual effects from the spells within the area they affected.

DC 20: You recognize this specific spell. The Arkali commonly use it during raids as it provides rapid dominance by way of shock and awe combined with instant deployment behind the defenses of whoever they were raiding. After the raid, a lingering aura would curse the minds of those who spent more than a few minutes inside, causing them to go blind, deaf and mad in a matter of hours. The only ones immune were Arkali.

(players begin interviews)
Reilly set up a room for questioning in one of the outer guard towers. For hours, the same questions net the same answers. The place is crowded enough that everyone has an alibi. They’ve got many reasons for joining. Some for safety, some for the cause, the occasional glory seeker. Most came through Gildenport, though a few travelled on their own boats.

After 3 hours of checking and questioning, Reilly enters the room halfway through someone’s life story and says: “Sorry to interrupt. I’ve got someone outside who says they might have some information. Should I let them in?”

Reilly opens the door and a teenage dwarven boy with a short goatee steps inside and sits down.

(players ask a question)
The dwarf interrupts you partway through. “Hold on.” he says, “I didn’t know what I was doing. I know a lot of people will be angry, but I need to be alive to take care of my little brother. You need to promise me that no one will know what I told you and that I won’t be imprisoned, otherwise I won’t tell you anything.”

(kid will not agree without that promise)

“Okay. We came over on my dad’s old fishing boat. I used to provide fish for the others, but after Kaptal started sending patrols, it became too dangerous. So I started volunteering in the infirmary. We had a Cholera breakout a week back, so they needed extra hands. I was going down to the sea to fetch water for boiling and a soldier came up to me. He asked me to bring a crate to the infirmary. Said it was hooch for his friend who was wounded. I knew it wasn’t allowed in the infirmary, but he was one of the freeharbor fusiliers. A bloody hero. I took it up there and the next day the place blew up. I don’t know for sure that that was it.”

(What did he look like)
“Mid 30’s and Tall. He had shaggy black hair with grey flecks and a beard. He had kind of a gruff voice.”

(describe the box)
“It was about this big” The boy spaces out his arms to describe an approximate cube about a foot on each side. “It was labelled ‘Oakenhearth distillery, Gildenport’ with a burning oakleaf emblem.”

Inform players: "you recall “oakenhearth” was the name of a distillery that was destroyed during the gildenport uprising."

(players exit room)
Reilly is waiting for you outside: She says: “Messenger came by while you were questioning people. Christine found a lead on St. Laerta’s remains and she’s on her way back. Wants to meet at the Anchorman’s Rest. What did the kid say?”

(players tell Reilly)
Reilly curses under her breath. “His name is Farens. Good fighter. Story goes he destroyed a Kaptalis trebuchet by smashing it with half a broken barricade during the uprising. He was supposed to be on the expedition with us, but he sprained his ankle a few days before hand. He’s probably in his quarters right now.”

(players meet Farens in his quarters)
Farens is missing from his quarters, but his bunkmate said to try the dining hall.

(players go to dining hall)
You find him sitting at a table, sharpening a Kukri. He stands and salutes Reilly, then asks “Reilly, what’s going on?”

Reilly delivers a kick to the side of his knee, then twists his saluting arm around his back and holds his head to the table with what’s left of her right arm. “You betrayed us. That’s what happened.”

“Reilly, you know me better than that.” Farens turns to you: “What the seventh hell is she talking about?”

(players tell Farens)

“That’s what this is about? I ordered Jaren a crate of whiskey from the plant we used to work at. When one of us got injured on the job, their mates would arrange for a crate of whiskey to go missing and turn up at their hospital room. When Jaren took an arrow in the knee during a scouting run on the mainland, a few of us decided to continue the tradition. We ordered the crate directly from another distillery and put the Oakenhearth label on it for old time’s sake.”

(how did he get hurt)
“Scourge cultists ambushed his party on the outskirts of freeharbor. They barely got back to the city alive.”

(players ask which distillery)
“Emerald Orchard. Most of the folks from Oakenhearth went to ply our trade there after the uprising.”

(players end questioning)
Farens, rubbing his twisted arm, says: “Reilly, I know what I did was against the rules and I expect an earful from Cora about why they don’t let whiskey into the infirmary. If you’ll have me, I’d like to come with you to sort this out. I know people who work at Emerald Orchard and I’m looking for some payback for the attack.”

Reilly glances at you as she walks away and replies: “Not my call. I’m going to go check on Enfys and prepare the Dawn for departure. Hopefully they’ve patched her up enough to make it to Freeharbor.”

(note player decision on Farens)

Scant hours later, you board the Dawn of Orthalyn and cast off for Freeharbor. The sails unfurl to a favorable wind and the frigate begins to push off. The ship’s cargo hold has been cleared of all but the essentials to make for a swift voyage.

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Chapter 62: "I think we can rule out faskian blackpowder"

The shattered glass from the explosion is still falling. Even Reilly is in shock. Cora turns to Reilly and says:

“Look at me, Reilly. You know what to do. Let me take care of Enfys.”

Reilly regains her composure and begins issuing orders: “Fusiliers, search the grounds. Look for any explosives or arcane devices and report them to Harxen. Healers, follow Cora’s lead! Everyone else, get to the barracks by the dock.”

Reilly approaches you directly and says: “Get Niirithani to a safe location. We have to assume she’s a target and she’s too damn important to risk losing.”

(players remove Niirithani)

You get Niirithani under guard and take up positions to defend the room. You can hear rushing feet scraping the gravel and shouting outside.

Niirithani curses in draconic and flicks off blood from a minor gash sustained during the escape. “I’m alright, just nicked myself on a piece of glass”

You hear a distant secondary explosion and another unearthly howl, followed by gunfire from firepikes and shouting.

Niirithani says: “Lorraine, look behind you!”

Droplets of Niirithani’s blood have begun to expand and pool into a sphere in mid-air.

The sphere bursts into flame and explodes, leaving behind a human in a breast-plate. He has covered his face in ashes and matted his hair down with blood.

He says in an almost serene voice: “Surrender the Elder Wyrm and we will not reduce this island to ash.”

Combat with Scourge Aspirant

(combat ends)

The assailant falls dead, his breastplate clattering loudly on the floor and nearly drowning out the sound of a voice just outside the room.

“It’s Robyn Niles. I’m coming in. Stay your weapons.”

Robyn walks in, quiver empty and sword dripping with blood. She notices the body on the floor. “I see you’ve met one of our uninvited guests. We fought off quite a number of them ourselves. They poured out of the infirmary after the explosion. We took casualties, but our fighters took down every last one of them. Reilly has called a meeting in the Armory to begin sorting this mess out”

(players go to meeting)

Reilly has cleared off an armorer’s bench in the center of the room. Already present are Bakario, Myran, Milo, Harxen, Cade and Gareth, who is supporting himself with a cane.

Robyn closes the door and bolts it behind you.

Reilly begins:
“It’s not hard to see who attacked us today.” She holds up a red orb inside a rigid copper frame and places it on the table. “This is a device that is designed to open a door to the Abyssal plane and detonate that portal with the howl of a thousand tortured souls trapped by necromancy. This is what went off in the infirmary, killing the occupants and placing Enfys in critical condtion.”

“Given the wounds on the agents who protected Niirithani, I think we can assume she was a vital target of this attack. That means either someone in this room told the Scourge worshippers her identity or they were able to surveil us without our knowledge. We can also assume that they have informed the Arkali of her existence. At this point, the only one of us above suspicion is Enfys, and she may not ever wake up. We have two priorities: Get Niirithani off the Island safely and ensure that we can prevent further attacks.”

Niirithani says: “Give me a small boat. I’ll get myself off the island and take Milo as a guide.”

Milo replies: “And I’ll remind you this was your idea when I get sea-sick all over your boots. I’ll leave a message with Fetrian with instructions on how to signal us when you’ve determined it’s safe.”

Reilly says: “Next order of business: We need to find out how they got in, how they set up the attack and how they found out Niirithani’s identity. In spite of my experience, I will not be leading this investigation. I’m too gods damned angry to keep a clear head about this.”

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Chapter 61: "Let me find us a starting point"

After a few hours and some false starts, you have grouped up the survivors of the Calamity and are moving toward the surface.

The intact, yet crumbling stairway that led Reilly and the group she has taken to calling the “Freeharbor Fusiliers” to the ancient, nameless city. The stairway leads to a long artificial cavern and eventually a cistern. On the other side of the cistern, you can see the smouldering remains of an iron door blown off it’s hinges from the outside. Behind the iron door, the passage continues around a corner. Three fusiliers move forward to check, then wave the safe passage signal.

The passage eventually emerges into a cliffside with ropes rigged up for descent. The fog from the Blizzard has cleared and you can see clear down the rest of the mountain to the woods below and miles off to the west, you can see the sun rising over Caer’Fathis.

The descent the rest of the way is much simpler. Teams had been set at the most difficult points to rig up improvised bridges and ziplines. By noon, you make it back to a base camp at the foot of the mountain, Hidden off the path by underbrush. Tobryk lowers his firepike and waves you in.

“Good timing.” he says “Our scout should should be back soon. She went to check out a Weslythan army regiment that set up camp about 10 miles to the east. Gareth is stable, but Enfys should probably…”

The Dwarf peters off when he sees Enfys halfway through changing one of Gareth’s bandages.

You can hear a voice in the back of your head. “They aren’t going to like this. What the hell could Weslyth hope to gain from this?”

An elven woman who you didn’t notice behind you then says: “Hey, I’ve got some information you’re not going to like. There’s a Weslythan army camp to the east. I was able to infiltrate and eavesdrop on the commanding officer. They’re planning to go to war with Fask and Kaptal in alliance with Termalyn. It sounded like the invasion is due to start in a few days, but I couldn’t tell exactly how long. Seems like everyone has forgotten there are still Arkali in Irythan. Got in a fight with a unit of them on the way back. Took a bolt to the shoulder.” She points to an improvised field dressing.

(players discuss next moves)

Tobryk says: “The ironjack is waiting for us off the Faskian coast. They’re moving in every night to look for a fire on the beach. I’ve sent scouts to find a spot on the coastline. We’re supposed to meet up with them on the Faskian border. Hopefully we won’t get caught in a battlefield.”

(players rest)
You set camp and prepare to bed down for the night. Robyn passes out a few Venison skewers from a hunt. It’s not Milo’s mutton stew, but it fills you up before you sack out for the night.

You wake up to the sound of water dousing a campfire. Enfys sets the bucket down and says: “Come on. We need to get moving.”

The journey to the Faskian Border is a day long slog through the woods. There are three scouts waiting for you who reveal themselves when you approach.

The scouts have agreed on a safe location to board the ship by night, the beach you arrived at had been reinforced, but only by two guards. As the scouts put it, both of them tripped and fell on a dagger during the night.

Bakario directs the people the ancient city to stay low as you make your way through the woods to your beach. It takes him the rest of the journey to adequately explain what boats, ships and oceans are.

Robyn and two fusiliers move forward to light an improvised beacon. Minutes later, Cade approaches on a rowboat. The first to approach is a group of Orcs and Drow, some bearing children. Cade says: “Gods of all planes, I thought Brill was the last of you. Get in the damn boat.” Bakario translates, partly, and they board the craft.

After an hour, everyone has boarded the Ironjack and the voyage is underway. Milo has prepared an absurd amount of fish stew and everyone eats well for the first time in days or the first time in their lives.

Niirithani seems to be enjoying the open air more than most and spends much of the voyage in the crow’s nest regailing the lookout with old stories.

Favorable winds put you off the coast of Polaris in two days. You dock the boat and find Declan and Cora there to greet you. Declan practically tackles Robyn in a hug and Robyn can barely hold themself steady. Cora beckons you to follow.

(players follow)
“Gildenport has been taking on refugees from the war between the northern alliance and Termalyn. They’re pushing capacity right now so we took some of them on. We’re waiting for an answer from Weslyth on whether anyone can settle there. Many of them are orphaned children. What few adults are capable are helping in whatever way they can, but many of them are sick or injured. I’ve set up a makeshift infirmary in the keep.”

Enfys grabs her pack and heads to the keep. Cora yells after her: “Second Floor, Enfys! All of it.”

“Oh, yeah. Harxen wanted me to inform you: We’ve had a few run-ins with Kaptalis gunboats. We drove them off before they could get in range, but it looks like they’re testing our defenses. As for volunteer fighters, Reilly’s got her.”

Cora is cut off by a loud boom from the keep. A split later, fire erupts through the shattered windows with an unearthly howl. Reilly drops the pistol she was cleaning in shock.

“Oh, gods. What just..? ENFYS!!”

View
Chapter 60- "The force that shatters worlds"

(players return to the basement)
Keyring in hand, you descend back down to the basement.

The Orc is speaking with Bakario in something closer to modern Heptusian.

He says: “You have found the keys?”

“Good. We’ve spent too long in this pit living in fear. Let us out so we can take back our city.”

Enfys sprouts a disapproving look and says to Bakario: “Can you please remind them that they’re in no condition to fight right now? They’re malnourished, distrophic and ill. Not to mention they have no combat training to speak of.”

Bakario relays the message in Heptusian, listens, then says to Enfys: “They want their homes back. I’m not sure they’ll take no for an answer.”

(players promise help later)
The Orc replies: “Very well. How do we get out of here?”

Robyn emerges from the shadows and says: “I think I have an answer for you. There’s a stone staircase on the west end of the city. It’s probably riddled with crumbled steps, but it looks like it could be our way out.”

(players resolve exit plan)

Enfys says: “Good. We’ve got the key to the barrier, now we need to move.”

(players move)

Moving at a light jog, you pass through the streets unchallenged. Most of the strange creatures seem to be simply observing you. Occasionally, you’ll have to go around some of the more territorial beasts. The city soon thins out and disappears into a partially carved-out section of cavern. Pallets of cobblestone are arranged every 50 feet and you pass one wheelbarrow full of long-dried mortar. In the distance, you hear the soft boom of fireballs and you can see various flashes of lighting and fire illuminating a massive gate, partway through construction.

(players approach the gate)
About a hundred feet away, you can see Kartha crouching behind a collapsed pillar in the middle of a ravine, taking the occasional potshot at the Arkali force scattered and taking cover behind rocks and ruins in the ravine and occasionally blind firing an arrow at Kartha’s position. You can’t see all of them, but you can lay eyes on at least 50, well equipped.

(players approach Kartha)
Kartha casts a scorching ray at one of the arkali who poke out to shoot at her, knocking it back and burning a hole in its abdomen. “What the seventh hell took you so long?”

(players answer)
“We got lucky. For a long time they threw everything they had at me and my defenses. My skeleton phalanx held them off for a while, but since they were taken down we’ve been in a firefight like this. We’re lucky they retreated to wait me out. You’d better get inside before I run out of spells.”

The barrier appears to be made of solid granite, but it moves back and forth as if it were water. The book you found begins to hum.

(players open book)
The ink from a phrase starts to burn like hot coals. It’s written in draconic script.

(players read message)
You read the words aloud and the barrier begins to fall away like a melting candle.

(spot DC 18 success)
You see a creature perched on the partially constructed gate. It looks reminiscent of a humanoid vulture. It’s skin is blood red and puffs of ash emerge when it flaps its wings.

(spot DC 18 failure)
You hear a faint rush of wind from behind you. You turn to look and see a creature that looks reminiscent of a humanoid vulture. It’s skin is blood red and puffs of ash trail behind its wings in a dive pattern as it careens toward you. (surprise round)

Combat with Vrock

Vrock is defeated

The Arkali make to charge your position. Kartha fires off a few lighting bolts on her retreat. She screams: “Go! Get the artifact! I’ll hold them off as long as I can!” She takes cover behind a fallen piece of the unfinished gate and lays a rune on the ground.

(players continue down cavern)

The cavern was likely once a massive tunnel complex. Though at this point, you are steered along a path by artificial cave-ins. You soon see a faint torchlight emanating at the end of the tunnel. You emerge to see a stone chamber that looks like a noble’s bedroom.

In the corner of the room, there is an elven woman in a white dress sitting with an assortment of jewelry at a small table with a pewter goblet.

She takes a sip from the goblet and says “I was expecting a sortie of Arthum-Kalipt. I find instead a band of adventurers, yet I would like to know why you have come here. Is it wealth you seek? Power? Or is it the truth?”

(players answer)
“Truth, then. Yet I don’t believe you even know the questions that need asking. I presume you know the Arthum-Kalipt? The cursed followers of Necmasth and the carriers of the Scourge. Or has a new result of humanity’s hubris emerged to wipe out civilizations?”

(players answer)
“Then I will answer the questions you would be asking if you already knew the answers. My name is Niirithani, offspring to the Elder Wyrm Gaatrulan. Brought into this world in the final days of the war of blood and ash. As is tradition among dragons, the knowledge of my ancestors was passed to me, to be awakened with the death of the previous generation.”

“My bloodline has seen civilizations rise and fall for hundreds of thousands of years. Each time, they rise from the ashes of empires of the past and each time they light the torch that burns them to cinders. The Scourge was far from the first apocalypse, and it is certain that it will not be the last.”

“The Scourge, as humanity refers to it, began much like the fall of previous civilizations. Driven by ambition, someone decides to dip into magic that was better left untouched. In the case of the scourge, a Termali witch made a deal with a Faskian general: She would wipe out the orcs in exchange for a promise that Termalyn would never be threatened by Fask. The spell bound the Tarrasque to a powerful demon, whose influence spread to create the Arthum-Kalipt.”

“Humanity fought back, as they always do. And as always their flailing at the unknown failed to yield results. My Birth-elder, Gaatrulan, hoped that an alliance with the humans that for so long feared us would end in peace with humanity and survival of both humanity and Dragonkin. It was not to be. The same natural bond with magic that made us so formidable was ultimately to be our undoing. Being connected so strongly to the outer planes made us succeptible to the influence of the demon Necmasth. Our kin went mad and then turned against us, one by one. By the time we were able to find a way to resist the Scourge, we numbered only seven.”

“Shortly after the wall had been built, an attempt was made to regroup and re-take the grey wastes. Gaatrulan and the rest of the Elder Wyrms located the Tarrasque and challenged it while the armies kept the Arthum-Kalipt busy. While this battle was being fought, A small party was escorting three dragon eggs that had been left behind during the retreat north. After reaching Weslyth, those eggs hatched to three dragons: Myself and my siblings Jeptin and Laerta. We were to take humanoid form and gather support for a third attempt on reconquest. Jeptin was to go south and attempt to rally survivors trapped in the grey wastes. Laerta was to do the same in Irythan. I was to seek out the remains of civilizations that had previously been destroyed, hoping to find artifacts and knowledge that may aid in a second war.”

“That search led me here, but I was captured by the Illithids who had brought the civilizations of the underdark to their knees. They had been patiently working on plans to conquer the surface of the world. They wanted desperately to access my memory, but they couldn’t do so directly without the risk of going mad. The people they had kept so long for arcane experiments became a means of siphoning my memory. They would take one of my memories and implant it in a prisoner, then feed on the prisoner’s mind before they could expire.”

“Unfortunately, this means that my memory is incomplete and vague. I don’t know why the plan to slay the Tarrasque failed. I don’t know the spell that was powerful enough to meld the mind of a demon with the deadliest beast ever to walk the world. It may be prudent to seek out my siblings, Jeptin and Laerta.”

(players tell Niirithani about her siblings)
“We were due to meet two centuries ago. When they did not come looking for me, I assumed something had waylayed them. Laerta’s line was known to be idealistic, and I suspect Jeptin was seeking death in battle out of grief. This changes matters. They won’t be able to tell us anything directly, but if their remains can be found, I can conduct a ritual that may restore my own memories.”

“Now, what are the answers that you want?”

(why is niirithani an elven woman?)
“We can choose whatever form we like.”

(how long have you been here?)
“I’ve been in this room for over 700 years. A dull week, by Draconic standards.”

(Can you fight?)
“Eventually. After being deprived of my magic and locked in humanoid form for so long, I will need to recover. Rest assured, I would not risk the final assault on the Arthum-Kalipt.”

(Niirithani only knows of events that happened prior to the settlement wars)

(Players finish questioning Niirithani)

Robyn enters the room at a rushed pace. They hand you a map with directions to an exit cavern and say: “We’ve got 40 volunteer fighters heading our way, plus Reilly. They found another entrance on the other end of town. Right now they’re at the keep preparing to evacuate the prisoners we found.”

(players return to keep)

Kartha is waiting for you outside, she looks exhausted. She says: “So what now? You got what you came for. Are you still looking for my head on a plate?”

(players want Kartha dead)
“I never wanted to kill you, but becoming undead didn’t remove my will to exist. If you want a fight to the death, you’ll have it.”

(players want to imprison Kartha)
“I will not allow myself to live in captivity. I never wanted to kill you, but becoming undead didn’t remove my will to exist. If you want a fight to the death, you’ll have it.”

Combat with Kartha, 3/4 hp, reduced spells

Kartha’s stance falters and a peaceful look appears on her face as she says: “Life in the world behind be judged, life in the world ahead be determined. As the martyr’s last arrow strikes the unseen sky, so I reach into the world unknown. May those I leave behind reap the good that I have sewn and purge the evil I have wrought.”

She turns to Enfys and says: “Enfys, I’m sorry this is how it ends.”

(describe final blow)

Enfys mutters a few words over Kartha’s remains and waves her hand. The remains are enveloped in a bright flame.

You make your way to the keep, weary from the journey. Robyn passes you a ceramic bottle. The label is in old orcish, but by the smell it is definitely whiskey. “Fuck it.” Robyn says. “I think we all need a drink right now.”

(players let Kartha live)
“I can honestly say I didn’t see this coming. I’ll go my own way, then, and let fate decide if our paths cross again.”
Combat avoided

You make your way to the keep, weary from the journey. Robyn passes you a ceramic bottle. The label is in old orcish, but by the smell it is definitely whiskey. “Fuck it.” Robyn says. “I think we all need a drink right now.”

View
Chapter 59: "I've seen enough tentacles and extra eyes to last a lifetime. Or several."

“You took down my army, didn’t you.”

“How many soldiers did you lose?”

“I’m not the callous monster you may think I am. I raised my army to fight the scourge, not kill people. So what happens now?”

(players want to kill Kartha)

“It would be a waste of my existence to give it fighting you. There is an evil down here that needs ending. Something that has slumbered or waited patiently for thousands of years. Let me help you find out what happened down here, you and I have nothing to gain by fighting each-other.”

(players interrogate Kartha)

“Look, I just got here. I don’t know much more than you do. I do know that it’s likely the key to deactivating the barrier is in this building. I’ve seen beasts come and go from this building almost as if they’re on patrol. I’ve also detected a powerful magic signal coming from here. The only one nearby that is stronger is coming from the other side of the barrier.”

(players ask about the surroundings)

You’re in the foyer of some kind of administrative building. The contruction is granite and metal, like a fortress, but the architecture is reminiscent of Kaptalis manor houses. A pair of staircases with most of the railings broken off leads to a balcony on the second floor which surrounds the foyer. There are two doors on either side of the first floor and a guard station in the center. A pair of dwarven skeletons are slumped over a rotting ballista. The second floor balcony has three doors on each side and a pair of double doors facing the entrance. That’s all you can see from your current position.

(players explore the room)
On the other side of the guard station is a trapdoor with a padlock. The padlock is considerably newer than the trapdoor itself.

(players open trapdoor)

Behind the trapdoor is a ladder leading to an unlit room. The torchlight in the foyer is not enough to illuminate the room below. You can’t tell how far down the ladder goes.

(players illuminate the bottom)
The ladder descends for 20 feet before meeting the stone floor.

(players descend)
The room you’re in is hundreds of feet on either side, with rows upon rows of 7-foot cubed iron bar cages. Inside many of the cages are between 3 and five people. The people inside the cages are a mix of dwarves, short and stocky by dwarven standards and Elves with jet black skin and white hair. Mixed in among them sporadically are orcs numbering in the hundreds. In total, there are nearly a thousand people in the room. Most of them are eying you with suspicion.

One of them, an Orc about five rows down, speaks to the people around him in a language you don’t recognize. Then he addresses you in the same language.

(players ask Bakario)
Bakario shrugs his shoulders and says: “It’s some form of hybrid between ancient dwarven and pre-scourge orcish. Let me try something.”

“Epski Ling Heptusha?”

“Jyaro”

You all recognize the language they’re speaking as heptusian, although the syntax is difficult to understand. You can understand general ideas, but not word for word explanations. Bakario is practically wetting his pants with excitement. he says: "I jut proved the thousand-year old hypothesis that Heptusian is a derivitive of ancient dwarven.

Orc knows the following:

-His name is Rukyas

-They were all born in captivity, save for the oldest. Very few of them are older than 30. The oldest person there claims she was captured in the city 40 years ago.

-They are drip-fed memories of other lives by telepathy.

-Some of the memories are of battles against demons of ashen grey skin and hair that flows red like from a wound.

-They’ve made several escape attempts, all have ended with the escapees being taken upstairs and never seen again. The most recent was one of the elves.

-Suicides are common.

-Every so often, one of them is taken by a hooded figure in a black robe. Those taken rarely return, and those who do return are revealed later to be pregnant.

(players finish questioning the Orc)

Bakario asks for a word in private.

“I’ve translated the scrawled note we found in that larder. It’s a suicide note. The pair we found in that larder were brothers, the older one was sent down to hide with the younger while their parents took up arms. The city was under attack by creatures known as “Illithids”, they had been at war for half a century and attacks were fairly common. Every time an attack came, the brothers hid underground until the fighting stopped. But one time, the fighting never started. Their parents never came home, so they stayed in the cellar. Soon they started to hear strange creatures on the surface. They continued to wait, hoping to be rescued by an expedition from the Drow, but no one came. The older brother realized they would starve and killed his younger in his sleep before taking his own life. The note is dated with a pre-scourge notation. I can’t be exact, but It was written at least a thousand years prior to the Scourge. Match that with the wear on the bars of some of these cages and I’d say people have been kept here as livestock for well over a millenium.

Enfys adds: “I can’t tell you much, but they’re distrophic and malnourished. I doubt most of them could run. I think they’ve spent their entire lives caged in here.”

Robyn returns from their sweep of the room and says: “I can’t give you a full count. That trap door we came in from is the only exit. So, how do we get them out of here?”

(players tell the Orc how long it has been)
The orc refuses to believe it and implores the 60-year old elf across the aisle to deny it. The elf replies that her parents were the among the first captured and they made her understand that in order to keep some semblance of hope alive, she could not allow the next generation to know how long their people had been imprisoned. She had begun to suspect that her parents had mislead her and admits that she doesn’t really know how long this has gone on for.

The orc sits down, a stunned look on his face. Enfys says: “Give him a bit. He just had everything he know torn apart. This changes things for us, too. We can’t be solely concerned with the Arkali anymore.”

(players plan next move)

(if asked)
Robyn says: “I think the figure who addressed us in the square is the same one who has been coming down here. Given the condition these people are in, I don’t think we could arrange safe passage until after we bring them its head.”

Kartha says: “The Arkali are still a problem. While you’re clearing this building, I can pick a fight with them and hold them at bay for a bit.”

(players go upstairs)

The atrium is as you left it.

(2nd floor)
The double doors at the top of the steps show aging signs of a break-in. One of the knobs has been forced off and the door bolted in place. The knob on the other door is intact.

(spot DC 17)
You see a narrow pin at the top of the door positioned to break when the door is opened. (disable device DC 15, or dispel magic)

(door opened without disabling trap)
You hear a quiet snap and the door is blown off its hinges with great force. (impact damage 2d6 plus knock-back, reflex DC 17 negates)

The door careens back at high speed and flies across the second floor, then crashing into the first floor further splattering the creature whose jaw was cleaved off by Irythan.

(reflex DC 15 to avoid falling if impacted by door)

Behind the door, you see the shattered remains of an emerald and a magic rune burned into the floor.

(trap disabled)
You hear a pathetic fizzling noise and the door opens on its own. You see a magic rune fade from the floor.

A few feet back from the door is a spiral staircase leading upward.

(3rd floor)

There is a pair of intact double doors, locked (DC 18). You see a faint trickle of blood oosing out the bottom.

(players unlock door (roll or take 10))
Behind the door you see an elf shackled to the opposite wall. A figure in a black robe is facing him. The figure has removed its hood. It’s head is proportionally larger than a human’s, with chitinous grey skin and a series of 3 tentacles extending from it’s mouth toward the victim. It does not appear to have noticed your presence.

(players unlock the door (take 20))
Behind the door you see a dead elf shackled to the opposite wall, it’s scalp caked in blood. A figure in a black robe is facing him. The figure has removed its hood. It’s head is proportionally larger than a human’s, with chitinous grey skin and a series of 3 blood covered tentacles extending from it’s mouth toward the victim. The figure does not appear to have noticed your presence.

(players kick down the door (DC 15 strength check))
Behind the door you see an elf shackled to the opposite wall. A figure in a black robe has turned to face you. The figure has removed it’s hood to reveal a head that is proportionally larger than a human’s, with chitinous grey skin and a series of 3 tentacles hanging from it’s where its mouth would be. The creature has monochrome red eyes and lacks a visible nose or ears. The creature says nothing and prepares to attack.

Combat with Illithid

(combat ends)
The figure squeals in pain and falls dead on the floor.

(players search room)
On the desk, you find a leatherbound book written in a language you don’t recognize. However, folded into the page is a note written in arcane script and a schematic for a magic barrier. Additionally, folded into the inside front cover, there are instructions for a spell to extract memories from a living Elder Dragon.

View
Chapter 58- "What are those?"

Once you’ve passed the rubble, the cave opens up into a long passage as wide as a city boulevard. The floor is scattered with masonry loosened by the years.

“On the upside”, Robyn remarks, “At least it’s warmer in here.”

The passage continues into the pitch black passage.

(players reach main chamber)
The passage drops off sharply in front of you into a pit. You cannot see in what light you’ve cast how wide or deep the pit is.

(players illuminate the dropoff)
You can see rubble below and what looks to be scattered pieces of a switchback staircase jutting out from the cliffside. The cliff descends for at least 50 stories.

(elves get spot checks, dc 20)
(Success) You spot depressions and glints of metal between the stone bricks in the wall to your right. Clear indicators of a hidden mechanism.

(investigate) Further inspection indicates that the mechanism is a hidden door, you cannot determine what lies on the other side. The mechanism can be activated by manipulating the cogs between the bricks.

(players open the door)
The room on the other side looks like an armory. Racks of battleaxes, pikes and shields line the walls. The racks are covered in cobwebs, but the weapons look as though they haven’t aged a day. A row of three locked trunks are against the opposite wall and there is a lever on either side of the entrance. Each lever has a different rune etched beside it in the stone.

(players ask Bakario to check the runes)
Bakario takes a moment to look and says "The one on the left is the Rune for “Daylight”, the other translates to ‘Exit’, though I’m unsure whether it means the door we came through or the way to the surface."

(players look at the chests)

(left trunk contains a Mithril breastplate)

(center trunk contains an assortment of mundane weapons, though some are inlaid with expensive looking gems)

(players open chest on the right)
(spot DC 25: The trunk, though constructed of metal, appears strangely organic in nature. Rows of teeth are subtly etched in either side of the opening.

You attempt to open the trunk only to have it attempt to bite you (surprise round for mimic)

combat with mimic

(players exit room after pulling ‘daylight lever’)

You emerge from the room to see a massive array of luminescent stones hanging from and clinging to the ceiling. The area the cliff descended into has been partially illuminated, though some of it is still shrouded in darkness.

The chamber is massive, easily a size rivaling most cities. In it, you can see the ruins of a city that has long since been abandoned. Walls and entire buildings have collapsed and among the rubble-strewn streets below, you can see an ecosystem of aberrant creatures that you’ve never even heard rumored. Some of them look predatory in nature, all of them look alien.

(if players take note) Most of the creatures are just wandering, but some of them seem to be moving in orderly patterns. You are too high up to make out specific features, although enormous eyes, tentacles and gaping maws of sharp teeth are common.

You can also see a clearer picture of the dropoff. It’s at least 500 feet down, punctuated by short stretches of staircase jutting out of the rock.

(the largest platforms below are large enough to fit 7 people, real distance 520 feet)

(if the subject comes up)
Reilly says: “We’ve smashed her army, but Kartha is still down there. Our commandos can make it to the bottom this way if they have to, but it will take time we don’t have. If Kartha gets to the artifact first, we’re done. We can cover the exit or we can follow you as backup, but you need to go now.”

(players descend)
(DC 15 climb checks, DC 10 with a successful ‘use rope’ check)

(players reach second platform)
You’re just under 20 stories above the bottom of the rock face, standing on the only available platform. As you shift to make room for Enfys on the platform, the masonry underfoot begins to separate and stone blocks start falling off the edge.

(Lorraine and Christine)
You feel the stone beneath your feet begin to give way. You can make one standard action before you begin to fall. A move action requires a successful reflex save.

(players make it to the ground)
The city looks no different up close, save that you can see details like broken street lamps, windows smashed in and doors rotting away. Most of the doors are made of some kind of organic matter, similar to wood. Some are reinforced by rusting iron shims. Most of the strange creatures seem to be staying away from the edges of the city, but you hear the occasional throaty chirp or inhuman growl close by. From where you are you cannot see any creatures.

Enfys points to your left and says:
“I had Bakario make a rough map of the streets. That house over there looks intact. Let’s take shelter in there while we figure out our next move.”

(players take shelter)
The house was once a two-story structure, but the walls on the second floor have almost entirely caved in. a collapsed wall covers the staircase like a ceiling.

You first enter the living room, which appears to double as a dining space. The room has an empty fireplace and a large stone pew with a cushion that has long disintegrated into scraps of moldy cloth. Across from the fireplace are two sconses mounted on the wall with piles of wax. There is a dining table in the center that is set for a meal, albeit with some of the dishes and utensils knocked on the floor. A bottle of wine sits on the table next to a rusting corkscew. The table is crowded with pools of melted wax from the chandelier above that have since hardened.

Enfys moves an old plate and fork aside and blows off some of the dust to make room for Bakario’s map.

Bakario is halfway across the room examining scrolls, tablets and books on a shelf.

(players may search the house)

(kitchen) Enfys leaves the map and joins you. She lights a torch and mounts it in one of the sconses on the wall. The kitchen is small, but well equipped. A ceramic oven sits open with a lightly charred bone lying on a roasting rack, the marrow eaten away. There is also a lightly rusted iron stove with a pot lying on the floor next to it. All the food that may have been there is gone. You can also see a locked trapdoor in the far corner.

(open lock) The lock has rusted beyond the point of tumbler manipulation

(open lock result 15 or higher) Age and rust has weakened the locking point enough that the lock could be forced open with enough leverage.

(players open trapdoor) The room below you, illuminated by the kitchen’s light appears to be a larder. It’s hard to know for sure from the entryway, though.

(players enter larder) The shelves of the larder are empty. In the corner, lying on the stone floor, are two orcish skeletons huddled together. One adult, one child. The adult is still holding a rusted sword. Strewn about the floor are wax wrappings of cheese wheels, paper bread wrappers and other scraps. There is a note written on one of the bread wrappers. You can’t read the text, but you recognize the Orcish characters.

(players go back to the living room)
You return to find Bakario shackled by one wrist to the bench next to the fireplace. He’s trying to form words, but no sound is coming out. He’s frantically pointing at the bookshelf.

(players check the bookshelf) Bakario has removed several books and there is a key on the top shelf.

(players pick lock on shackles (dc 20))
The shackle on Bakario’s wrist falls off and clatters on the floor. Bakario says: “there’s a key on the table, but that works, too”

(players break shackles)
One of the links on the chain snaps and

(players unshackle Bakario)
Bakario says: "Thanks, those shackles had an enchantment that kept me quiet. I’ve known colleagues to use similar enchantments on creature’s whose utterances… ach, nevermind. Listen, Kartha was just here. She paralyzed me by magic before I even noticed her and shackled me to the bench. She told me to deliver a message to you. She said there are forces here that are more evil than you can imagine. She said that the creatures who drove out the people who built this place still here. She said something or someone appears to be giving them commands and that she wants to put an end to them. She said she was going to the large keep in the Center of the city. You have more experience with her than I do, but for what it’s worth, I think she was telling the truth.

(players decide next move, anything said by mind-chat is heard by ilithids.)

(available information)
The keep Kartha traveled to is about 2 miles away as the crow flies.
The creatures you’ve seen so far are unlike anything you have ever encountered, there is no way to know their exact capabilities (allow dungeoneering check).

(Knowledge dungeoneering dc 20)
The environment has been pitch black for an extended period of time, so the creatures must either have darkvision or another means of perception adequate for navigating.

Some of them have discernable mouths and sharp teeth, even from a distance, so either they eat each-other or there must be some source of meat around.

(players head toward keep)

If your presence has been detected, the creatures seem to be keeping their distance deliberately. You can hear noises from the aberrant creatures in the background.

(ask players: Are there any preparations you would like to make? Any spells to cast? What is your formation? What is your pace?)

You pass rows of houses and tenements for several blocks. The street eventually opens up into a market place, arrayed with small ruined buildings and market stalls.What few stalls are still standing have merchandise and gold coins laid out on them as if the merchants had simply gone to grab a ledger, albeit crusted over by spiderwebs in varying states of age.

(Potential Drider encounter, if players try to pick up gold)

You push the webs out of the way and pick up a handful of gold coins. As you put them in your pouch, you hear a sort of malicious moaning coming from one of the nearby buildings. A emaciated head and torso of an elf crest over the roof of the building, followed shortly after by a spider’s thorax and abdomen, with eight spiny legs. The abomination prepares to pounce. (normal initiative)

(players defeat creature)

The abomination falls dead with a screech that is eerily human, as though it experienced a moment of awareness before death. Enfys approaches to confirm that it’s dead. “Hey,” She says, “Come take a look at this.”

Enfys points out an array of old scars on the elven part of the creature’s body. Some of them seem to indicate torture, though others are etched in arcane symbols.

Enfys runs her dagger across the creature’s throat, bisecting the airway and the carotid arteries. She says to you: “Go ahead and pick up anything useful you can carry. I need to examine this beast.”

(players return)
Enfys, up to her elbows in blood, says: "Sorry about the mess, but I had to be sure. The humanoid torso is no elf, at least not like I’ve seen. The liver is much too large, the vasculature is all wrong and it has two extra vertebrae. I can also say for certain that this creature was once entirely humanoid, though I doubt it was of the same elven blood we know.

(players continue to keep)
After another hour of walking, the streets open up again to a public square with a dry and ruined fountain in the center. At the opposite end of the square is a 4-story keep with a massive staircase leading to a set of double doors. The 3rd and 4th floors both have balconies overlooking the square

(players approach the keep)
You see a figure cresting the balcony overlooking the square. It is humanoid, tall and gaunt, dressed in a black robe with tight sleeves. A hood conceals their face. They don’t speak, but you can hear them by some form of telepathy. The voice is eerily calm and shows no sign of emotion.

(if players used mind chat underground)
“I could not help but overhear your conversation. You seek our prize. That which will carry us into your realm unhindered. It matters not.”

(if players spoke of their army over mind-chat)
“We have dispatched a sortie to eliminate your forces. By now they will have sprung an ambush. Help will not be arriving.”

(regardless of mind-chat subject matter)
“You will die here. Buried in the dirt like all who thought to challenge us.”

(if players did not use mind chat)
You cannot hide the magic which pervades you. It will be your undoing. Tell me, what is it you seek which compels you to tread on the bones of a dead people, knowing you oppose harbingers to the death of civilizations?

(players say “artifact”)
“Material ends? Typical. You will die here. Buried in the dirt like all who thought to challenge us.”

(players say they don’t know)
“Creatures of the mundane flailing their curiosity at the darkness. I suppose it’s in your nature. Nevertheless, you will die here. Buried in the dirt like all who thought to challenge us.”

The figure casually waves it’s hand as it walks back inside the building. Two creatures leap out of a portal in the fountain and lunge (show picture)

combat with Otyughs

The second creature succumbs to its’ wounds and crumples to the worn cobblestone. There is no sign of the figure that apparently sent them.

(players enter keep)

(listen DC 14)
You can hear the signs of a fight going on inside the keep just beyond the door. One or both of the combatants is using evocation magic.

(players enter mid fight)
You see Kartha holding a spear and fighting an aberrant creature. The creature is a disembodied head with human-ish features and reptilian skin. Its mouth contains several rows of needle-like teeth and many eyes extend from its scalp on short, thin tentacles.

Kartha shouts: “Help me finish this thing off!”

(players kill creature)
The beast falls from the air like a stone and hits the stone tile floor hard. You hear the telltale sign of a skull cracking and blood begins to pool around its remains.

(players enter after fight ends)
You see an aberrant creature lying dead on the ground. The creature is a disembodied head with human-ish features and reptilian skin. Its mouth contains several rows of needle-like teeth and many eyes extend from its scalp on short, thin tentacles. It has a spear sticking out of its left eye. Kartha is holding the spear.

(fight is over)
Kartha takes a deep breath and says “I think we need to talk”

(out of character)
“See you on Thursday”

View
Chapter 57- "This can't possibly be all of them."

(players ascend the cliff)

(Climb checks, DC 17. No taking 10.)

The blizzard cuts at your nerves and your grip and it take tremendous focus to ascend. At the top, you see a scattered group of evergreens stubbornly clinging to the rock. Several of them are peppered with crossbow bolts and various forms of weapon damage. You also see two Arkali lying in the snow. The blizzard has already started to Bury their corpses.

Enfys remarks “It looks like Gareth gave as good as he got.”

(Players reach the gate)
You reach the stone passage Gareth had mentioned. The gate appears to have be smashed in and is lying in a twisted heap at the bottom of the passage. The passage itself is a stone tunnel with a curved roof and there is a frozen trickle of fetid, dirty water that has formed icicles at the entrance.

(players enter)
The passage continues for what feels like at least a mile. It begins to get warmer as you pass though and the fetid ice begins to melt and smell of sewage and rotting flesh.

You turn a corner and you can see an opening 20 feet away lit by a flickering white light. The smell of rotting flesh is growing more powerful.

(players approach opening) The passage opens to a disused Cistern, although it smells more like a cesspool. The area is lit by glowing white stones that flicker much like candles. Cleaner water appears to be dripping from points in the roof into the overflowing cistern.

(players enter cistern)
Inside the cistern the smell is overpowering. It takes great fortitude and focus to avoid vomiting. You note bits of corpses in various states of decay floating in the cistern. Spider webs have saturated the walls. The cistern itself has a network of 3 canals going outward into the tunnels

Bakario has already begun reading the runes carved into the masonry. He tells you: “This dialect is much more modern than the writing on the bridge. I think I can make some of it out. Give me a few minutes.”

While waiting for Bakario to finish, you see a body float toward the Cistern from the canal to the left of the way you came in. You immediately recognize the blood red hair and ashen skin. A scrap of its shirt catches on to a jagged rock on the side of the canal. Bakario is still gawking at the runes.

(players examine the body)
On close examination, the Arkali warrior is breathing and his eyes are wide open and tracking you. She still is not moving, but you can see the seething hatred in her eyes.

(dc 16 heal check)
You notice what appear to be sharp human bite marks on the Arkali warrior’s left shoulder, adjacent to the base of the neck.

(regardless of player action)
The glowing stones begin to flicker and then quickly snuff out. The room is pitch black.

Combat 1 Drider

(One round in) From near the entryway you hear Reilly shout: “Bakario, go back to the path and get reinforcements! Enfys and I will hold them here!”

You hear the distinctive snap of someone priming a sunrod, and see Enfys toss a live one into the murky water. The illumination is far from perfect, but even the shadowy illumination allows for better combat conditions. You see Reilly engaged in a melee with two Arkali spearmen.

(Drider below half) Enfys and Reilly are still holding off waves of Arkali trying to pursue Bakario.

(combat ends)
The Drider succumbs to it’s wounds and Enfys has started plucking arrows out of the Arkali who were trying to chase Bakario, who has still not returned.

Now that the din of an indoor fight has died down, you can hear gunfire and shouting from down the passage. One of the voices is getting louder and closer (listen DC 12 indicates the voice is yelling for help in Bastion Common)

(what do you do?)

You see Robyn running down the narrow passage. Their sword is sheathed, but smoke is coming from one of the barrels of their tri-pistol. You can hear them shouting: “Arkali! They’re here in force. We can’t hold them much longer!”

(players approach Robyn)
Robyn continues: “We’ve all gotten up the cliffs, but we got ambushed from behind by Arkali. We’re holding our own at the entrance, but they just keep coming from Pelor knows where.”

Boom the sound of a grenade blast echoes through the passage, shaking down loose bits of masonry and dust.

Robyn coughs back dust and continues: “We’re going to start taking casualties soon. I’d say we can hold them off for three hours, maybe four if Enfys and Reilly join us. That’s if we fight to the last. Not what I’d call a tempting option”

(players resolve the conflict)

Reilly approaches Bakario and pins him against the wall with the stump of her right arm. “Start talking, bookworm. Those Arkali practically jumped on my sword to get to you. I need to know what the seventh hell is going on! Why do they want you so badly?”

Enfys interrupts: “Reilly, calm down. I don’t think they wanted him. They wanted the book he was carrying.”

Reilly uses her intact hand to grab the Paragon’s Journal from Bakario’s satchel and releases him. “Sorry, scholar. I was running a bit hot. Regardless, I think we should leave this with someone who can fight. I’ll keep it safe.”

“That’s a group decision, Reily.” Robyn, who has been supporting a wounded elf, continues: “If the Arkali want that book, then that only makes it more valuable. Not a decision to be made by one person. I say we let Enfys keep track of it.”

(players decide who keeps the book)

Reilly hands you the Journal. “I hope you realize,” she says “That the Arkali will come at you with everything you have for as long as you’re holding this.”

(players continue)
You continue down the passage. Soon the scent of rotting flesh dissipates and you begin to feel a breeze. A flickering white light is reflecting dimly off the walls and you can see the end of the narrow tunnel in the distance.

(players reach exit)
You reach the remains of another iron gate, smashed open as before. Beyond it is a staircase descending into massive open cavern with glowing stones hanging from the ceiling on long heavy chains. On the surface of the cavern, hundreds of feet below you see the ruins of a great city, at least twice the size of Gildenport. Even from the distance you can see the most alien of creatures, unseen in modern ages, stalking the ancient boulevards below.

View
Chapter 56: "What the hell is she doing here?"

You reach the foothills of Mount Maitheranas an hour after sundown on the third day of overland travel. You were able to cross the Faskian border without being engaged by a force of any considerable size. Travel in Weslyth was slow because of the cold, muddy roads.

(to Irythan)
“Irythan, wake up.” One of the soldiers, a Dwarven man by the name of Tobryk, is kneeling over you. “I thought you should know. I was on patrol and we spotted a battallion heading toward the mountain. I didn’t believe this at first, but they were flying Paragon colors. Do you know anything about this?”

(players take down camp, ask for marching order)
It is nearly dawn by the time you’re underway again. Clouds rolled in from the south overnight and snow is beginning to fall. You feel a slight chill as the wind picks up. After about 3 miles, the trail begins to narrow as the mountain grows more steep. Soon your entire expedition is going single file along a narrow strip of rock.

(to Veil)
You see a scrap of grey cloth stuck on a dead tree after about a mile of single file hiking. The branch it is stuck to appears to have been scratched deliberately with a knife in a line pattern.

(veil investigates)
You find a small flask in a knot hole with a scrap of paper inside (beat). There is a note that reads “It’s Gareth. I had planned to wait for you at the base of the mountain, but I spotted a small group of Arkali scouts heading up the path. I’m following them to find out if they know where this artifact is. Continue up the mountain. You’ll either find more notes, or my corpse. Whatever happens, the Arkali must not find the artifact. Do whatever it takes to stop them.”

(players continue)
Visibility has been cut to about 20 feet ahead as the blizzard picks up, though the path has widened significantly. A half mile from the dead tree, you come to an ancient looking stone bridge, with runes carved into the stone pillars flanking the walkway (pause).

Bakario looks over the runes and says: “This makes no sense. This writing is ancient Dwarven, but it references events that occurred during the Arkali wars. The Dwarven kingdoms collapsed Millenia before the scourge began and the language died out to be replaced by Heptusian.”

“I’m sorry, my old dwarven is rusty. I can’t translate this without my books. If this snow lets up by the time we get back, I’ll make a charcoal rubbing and try to translate it back at Polaris.”

(spot check DC 17)
You notice the bridge is crumbling in a few locations, the centuries have not been kind to it.

(players cross bridge)
When you get across the bridge, there is a translucent figure waiting for you. You immediately recognize her as Kartha of Termalyn, the Paragon turned necromancer you fought at Polaris.

“Don’t bother with your weapons,” She says. “I’m miles ahead of you. This is just a projection so we can talk without being interrupted by an attempt to kill me. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to see you here. And I see you brought friends.”

“Look, I want us to put the past behind us and work together. That business in my old office was beneath us. We all want the same thing, although that inquisitor friend of yours didn’t seem to like me. Really, Enfys. I thought you knew better than to work with Bastion agents.”

Enfys replies
“I still know better than to work with necromancers.”

Kartha displays a rude gesture, then turns to face you and says: “Antiquated moron. Look, I’m not interested in being your enemy and you sure as all hells don’t want to be mine. Let’s find this artifact together and go our seperate ways. I’m at a cave entrance several miles ahead. I won’t wait forever.”

Two miles up, you find Gareth seated on the ground with his back against the cliffside. He’s badly wounded and clutching a primed pistol.

(players approach)
Gareth says: “About time you showed up. I thought I was going to die up here. I’ve been trying to find a way into the mountain’s cavern. I thought I caught a break when I saw a hewn stone passage, but it was locked behind a steel gate. I doubled back to try to find another way, but a mob of Arkali ambushed me. There were about 10 of them, well trained and well armed. I fought them off, but the path gave way underfoot and I fell down here and snapped a femur”

Gareth pulls the flap of a blanket off his leg to reveal a splinter of bone sticking out of his leg.

“That was a few hours ago. I think they’re still up there. The passage is up top and a dragon’s wingspan to the left. There should be enough of the path left to walk on once you reach the top. Take care, though. One of them was massive.”

(players talk about where to go)
Enfys says: “It will take half a day to get up that cliff with our whole force. Look, we’re going to have to fight Kartha’s army eventually. I say we do it now. I can help control the battlefield and our people are more than a match for lesser undead.”

Reilly argues: “Yes, but if we engage them directly we’ll take casualties before we’re even underground. It’s worth the extra time if we can fight them in a chokepoint where their numbers won’t do as much good.”

(players talk briefly)

Gareth interrupts: “I’ve been tracking a force of lesser undead. I’d recognize the skeletal footprints anywhere. I was maybe 20 minutes behind them on the way up. I lost them about an hour ago. Is this the same Kartha that was part of the Termali Paragons? I thought she was killed in an assault.”

(find a place to sneak this in)
Gareth’s voice is weak: “For what it’s worth, you’ve earned a friend in Bastion for as long as I breathe. Doesn’t seem like that will be for much longer, though.”

(Players engage Kartha’s army)
The expedition party inspects and loads their weapons before marching forward up the mountain. Reilly stops you for a second and asks “What should we do about Gareth?”

(call for Fort saves vs cold)

After a 9-mile rushed hike up the mountain, the path widens until it levels out to a plateau surrounded by stone obelisks. You see a horde of 150 lesser undead in battledress under Paragon banners. In front of them is an Elven man in dark robes wearing a sword on his belt and carrying a staff. The man waves a flag of truce and beckons you to approach.

(Spot DC 20, DM roll)
You notice recent displacement of snow

(players approach)
After approach, you notice that there are two luminescent stones flanking a large cavern mouth behind the lesser undead. The elven man meets you halfway between forces and says: “Kartha wishes to meet with you. We have reports of Arkali already inside, so we’d rather not delay. The terms of parlay are for both sides to take hostages and all parties to enter the meeting unarmed. I have been ordered to volunteer myself as a hostage. Is this agreeable?”

(players decline)
The elven man goes pale with bloodshot eyes and draws his sword. The friendly infantry at your back lock gunpikes in firing position and ready shields. In a raspy, ancient voice, the elf says “You brought this on yourselves.”.

Combat, 1 vampire. Armed with longsword and lighting staff

Lightning staff:
-Call lightning (5th) x1
-Lightning bolt (5th) x4

Special:
- 2-4 zombie attacks/round (5 melee, 1d104 stabbing).
- 1 paragon commando/round is killed.
- If players spot the snow displacement, -5 casualties.

Combat ends
Kartha’s commander falls to earth, riddled with holes. His form suddenly turns gaseous and flys away. The lesser undead flee in a panic, all the while being peppered from behind by gunpike rounds.

(players approach the entrance)
The entrance is surrounded by rubble. It appears it was magically blasted open. There is a broken obelisk by the entrance, covered in Runes that look similar to Dwarven, but you can’t make them out.

(Players have Bakario translate)
Bakario takes a moment, then says: “This is in Orcish. Some of it is broken and worn, but I can make out the last few sentences fairly clearly. It says: ‘So we flee our home to the surface and Bury our civilization forever. Only the greatest of Sacrifices will stop the Cataclysm before it swallows the world. One day we will return to…’ The text ends there.”

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Chapter 55- "Invading southwestern Fask"

“You’re out of your damn head, Reilly!”

This is the argument you walk in on when you return to the Hexagon to sleep and prepare for the journey to Weslyth. Cecily’s funeral was brief and you managed to make it back by sundown.

“Enfys, we can’t just waltz across Fask with 60 heavily armed stubborn bastards. It would attract attention and we’d be cut to pieces by the Faskian army before we got halfway to Weslyth.”

“So instead we assault a fortified port with no naval support? Even “Mythril Bitch” McTeague couldn’t pull that one off"

“So we should leave a fortified garrison to report back to their commanders that 60 Paragon soldiers have landed on the beach? They’d cut us off at the border.”

“Not if we land near the Heptusian border. They haven’t fortified the Granite beach.”

“Enfys, It would take half a day to get a force of 60 up those cliffs. We’d be too exposed.”

“More exposed than sailing up to a fortress in a stolen Kaptalis prison ship? Did you lose your good sense along with your right arm?”

“That was low, Enfys.”

(players interrupt)
“About time,” Enfys says, “Can you talk Warmaster McTeague out of invading southwestern Fask? We agreed it would be a bad idea to march our entire force across Fask, but Reilly thinks the best option is to Seize a fortified harbor.”

Reilly says: “Look, I’ll save you some time. We can either go without the infantry support, assault the harbor, or scale the cliffs at granite beach. If you have a fourth option, I’m dying to hear it.”

(players discuss travel to Weslyth)

Robyn speaks up: “Okay, so we get to Weslyth. What about the mountain? I’ve been in that region. The mountains there are steep and the paths are narrow. Not to mention the weather: it’s a hard winter in northern Weslyth, especially in the mountains.”

After your preparations are finalized, you head for the Ironjack with a sailing crew and your retinue. Enfys, Reilly, and Bakario have joined you for the journey. The word from the gates is that Gareth left on horseback a day ago, traveling with haste.

The sun sets as you cast off and you settle in for the two-day journey. Enfys and Reilly drill the landing party on amphibious combat with by boat and by swimming. By the end of the trip, the crew is able to board and disembark under combat conditions and to use coordinated fire from a landing craft. Enfys has also taught them how to swim without damaging their weapons and how to fire their weapons while treading water.

Bakario has also been busy. At mid day of the day before the landing, he approaches you with a decrypted passage from the book. It’s been translated to Bastion common syntax. It reads as follows:

“Vartan Mirranel.
21st of Newfrost, 1036 AC.

The armies are in full retreat after the disaster in Foskara. My order warned them not to attempt open combat with the forces of the Scourge, but they wouldn’t listen. I know the armies are going north to Weslyth, hoping to survive the Scourge by escaping it. I must go south. There are still scattered refugees from the war, running from roving bands of the cursed. The magic behind the Arthum-Kalipt is unlike anything we’ve ever encountered in a millenium. I’m going south to see if any of my order still remains. Hopefully we’ll be able to find some way to stop this madness. I’m writing this in code so that it cannot be used against what is left of humanity’s armies."

Bakario says: “You might be interested to know, he used an Elven Cypher that was developed during the Arkali Wars. It would explain why your old comrades couldn’t decrypt it. I’ll let you know when I have more in a legible condition.”

The Ironjack slows and then stops. It is mid afternoon. The helmist comes down a ladder and says: “I can see granite cliffs in the distance. If we get any closer right now, we risk being spotted and I didn’t sign up for exchanging cannon fire. It’ll be dark in a few hours.”

The sun has set and the first wave of the landing party is waiting in a trio of small rowboats. Reilly hands you a spyglass and points to the shore. There is a trench dug in along the shoreline as far as the eye can see with a series of spikes on the beach designed to break up a charge. Opposite the trench is a small brick hut with an iron roof and 3 stone barricades 3 feet high, reinforced with steel struts. The treeline is 30 feet behind the hut. There are no beach patrols in sight. Reilly tells you to wave with a guard’s helmet when they’re clear to make landing.

As you ready yourself to teleport, Enfys waves and says: “When you put a blade in the commander’s ribcage, tell him Enfys Gwalchine says hello.”

(begin combat when players begin approach, hide checks every round)

The signal is given and you see a series of boats approaching at full rowing speed. Some soldiers are hanging off the sides. They beach the boats, disembark and move toward the trench. The dingy is approaching behind them with the rest of the landing party and supplies. The dingy runs aground and soldiers begin removing supplies and materials. A group of ten lay spare planks from the dingy over the trench and begin disassembling the spikes to allow for easier crossing. The landing party then pushes the rowboats and dingy back into the water to be rowed back to the Ironjack. The entire landing takes less than a minute and the landers are behind the treeline in full pack in less than two.

Enfys approaches carrying a torch in one hand and a bottle of cheap whiskey in the other. She says “Let’s see them mount a pursuit while their guard station is on fire. I’m going to enjoy this.”

(players allow it)
Enfys splashes whiskey on the bedding and the furniture and throws the torch over her shoulder as she walks out the front door.

The rest of the expedition party is waiting for you by the treeline. Even the scholarly Bakario is armed and armored. You spread out among the trees and move at a fast clip towards Weslyth

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