Speaker in Dreams

The Speaker is silenced
The menace behind Brindonford's troubles is found
  • Flying in the sky keeping an eye on the city, Gvados notices the Corumurian army breach the city gates after the pillar of flame went out. With the tide of the siege changing, Gvados swoops down into the open ceiling of Pelor’s temple to rejoin his companions.
  • Inside the temple, with the chaos subsided, the adventurers notice Landen in dire condition. Sapphira comes to his aid and magically heals him; the ravaging poison had run its full course and Sapphira’s healing successfully countered its effects… just in time. She detects a few outsiders remaining in the wings of the temple, but the presence is so weak there must only be a few stragglers deciding if they should flee.
  • As the party moves to clear the temple wings, Durgyn realizes he will not fit in the temple’s man sized hallways, so he posts on the front steps to keep an eye for enemy reinforcements.
  • They clear the west wing of the temple, finding some treasure, but mostly signs of the demons destruction of the temple. They kill a couple infernal clerics in the library. The clerics were reviewing a pair of books from a stack they had brought along to make the library their own. Two were recognizable to Landen and Sapphira, reminiscent of the selection found at the reality wrinkle: “Of Alein Worlds”. Landen and Hillfort find another book that catches their interest: “Pacts with the Infernal”.
  • Outside, Corumur soldiers march past. They notice the large minotaur standing watch on the temple’s steps, and their squad leader steps forward to speak. He briefs Durgyn of their situation in the city: ground is being gained and the demons are putting up a fight… but losing. He also states there is a warrant for the Baron; he is to be placed under arrest to stand trial for his part in Brindonford’s siege.
  • While clearing the upper level of the west wing, they find the head priest’s quarters. Inside, a tiefling, half-fiend with large ram-like horns, the rectangular pupils of a goat’s eyes, and goat-like legs ending in cloven hooves sits at the desk with his feet kicked up. His black half-plate armor bears the symbol of Hextor, and modifications have been made to the priest of Pelor’s quarters to make them his own. “Well, you must be the pests that have stormed my gate.” He drops his feet to the floor and arrogantly says, “I am Daros Hellseeker. You’ve found who you’re looking for, I am in command of this invasion. You’ve had your fun, I’ll be showing you the door now.” He stands and the ball of his heavy flail thuds onto the desk, tendrils of electricity spark out onto the wood around it.
    Daros hellseeker
    The battle is fierce, and all received wounds in one way or another. Balls of lighting whip around Hellseeker. The tiefling hops around the room deftly. His weapon is taken from his hands by a spell cast from Gvados, but that doesn’t stop his fury. He strikes out with magical touch attacks. One lands on Sapphira, and she severely falls ill, her entire body weakens. In retaliation, Landen lands a series of blows on the tiefling commander, the last cleaving one of the horns from his head. Covered in his own black blood, Daros sees his horn on the ground and laughs. He casts a spell, shattering all glass in the room. Daros Hellseeker levitates off the ground and flies out the broken windows. Franz lets and arrow fly after him and hits his mark. Gvados, fighting the battle in the form of an air elemental, chases after Daros. Durgyn from his post at the entrance sees the tiefling fly from the temple, then fall from the sky. Gvados looks below and spots Hellseeker crashed to the ground in an alley. He yells in rage, and hellhounds from all directions gather around him. He looks up at Gvados and suddenly light seems to bend around him; Hellseeker plane shifts, escaping the battlefield.
  • They search Hellseeker’s quarters, and a certain item catches Landen’s interest. A mug sits on the desk, a dried, clawed hand of a demon grasps the vessel and serves as the handle. A small amount of liquid remains in the mug, and Landen takes a sniff. He smells pungent alcohol and pours it into an empty water skin, saving the mug as well in his pack.
  • Gvados flies around the city to take another look at the status of the battle. Soldiers, human and demon alike, fight for ground at the center of the city. He can tell the humans have gained control of most of Silver Hill and West Hill. They’re gaining ground on the path to the baron’s keep, but it has not yet been reached.
  • With Pelor’s temple reclaimed and the demon commander dispatched, the party decides their next course of action is to reach the baron’s keep before the army. They debate if it should be an all out attack on the keep or if they should try to capture the baron. All agree the keep needs to be investigated before the front lines of the battle reach its walls, and that the baron should be captured alive. The group comes to a consensus to expect the unknown, as all have the suspicion Baron Euphemes is not himself. As Landen describes, “the baron’s mind-jacked!”
  • Gvados acts as a guide to keep the adventurers out of the battle’s fray, directing them through the city as he watches from above. They reach the baron’s keep, witnessing some stay areas of combat down an alley or two and successfully moving past. They see an osyluth battling a detachment of troops, and the shrill screech of another in the distance. Once they reach the walls of the baron’s keep, Landen spider climbs to the top and fastens a rope for his companions.
  • Inside the keep is a small town of its own, where the nobles and positions of government reside. All the streets and buildings are eerily silent. No demons patrol these streets to enforce their martial law. As the adventurers walk towards the baron’s manor, they spot nobles in a couple windows peeking out at them. At first they appeared fearful and downtrodden, but when they realized that these strangers were not the evil enforcers of martial law, they looked hopeful. They reach the baron’s manor and Gvados makes a suggestion. “My dire lion can charge those doors down.” Sapphira looks unhumored and replies, “perhaps we can try knocking first?”. All seemed quiet and the manor was not guarded. They step onto the entry stoop and knock; a small servant girl answers the door. “What is your business?”
    “We must get the baron out of the city,” Sapphira says diplomatically. “We must get him to safety.” The servant girl, uneasy, bids them to enter. “He will see you, come with me.” Landen hangs at the end of the group, and unseen, he climbs the outside of the baron’s manor instead of entering.
  • The servant girl walks them through the grand entry way to a staircase. At the top of the stairs she opens a double door into a luxurious lounge, a balcony opens above the entry below. Landen peers into the lounge from outside a window. Baron Euphemes sits in a chair in front of the fireplace. “Baron,” Sapphira states. “Please come with us, we can take you to safety.”
    In a dull, lifeless drone of a voice, the baron replies. “I will not leave my city.”
    “The flame has been vanquished,” Sapphira insists. “The demons are falling.”
    “No matter,” the baron’s voice shows no emotion for the state of his city. “The Speaker in Dreams has told me…” His voice trails.
    Sapphira leans forward, “told you what?”
    Baron Euphemes looks directly at Sapphira with his empty eyes. “The city will be his.”
    A figure in the darkest midnight blue cloak emerges from the shadows near the balcony railing. The cloaks hood covers his face in darkness, obscuring it from vision. Durgyn, the minotaur, has dark vision however. Through the shadow of the cloak’s hood he sees four tentacles writhing from a alien creature’s face: an illithid. “Kill the beast!!” Durgyn shouts.
    Ghaerleth axom
  • Drawing their weapons, the mind flayer is quicker and makes the first move. Psychic energy blasts forth, throwing his hood back, revealing his face for all to see and stunning their minds. All brace their minds against it… each holds strong except for Franz. He stands in a daze, unable to move, think, or speak. Then the illithid slowly rises from the ground, levitating before the party. Landen Cale is struck, in fear that the robe figure is actually the Blessed, returned from death when they last faced him at the Reality Wrinkle. The disturbing flashback leaves him and he sees the purple face tangling with tentacles for what it really is.
    “I am Ghaerleth Axom,” the mind flayer announces. “You will not interfere with the birth of my empire!”
    The party tries to attack but the alien creature hovers off the balcony, out of reach, floating high above the grand entry below. Hillfort casts a spell on Durgyn, enlarging him to huge size. The minotaur already a large creature is now monstrously menacing. Hillfort follows it up with another spell, spider climb, allowing Durgyn to climb out on the walls over the entry to chase after the flying illithid. Durgyn’s massive size makes it so no place in the room’s space will be out of his reach. The minotaur climbs out on the wall, bashing the illithid in mid air. He shifts further back and mind blasts the party again… this time Landen is dazed; his mind surrendered to the illithid. Gavados sends magic spells after the illithid, but the creature’s magic is strong enough to resist his, or his movements deft enough to dodge it. Then the ugly creature looks at Gvados, the wild changeling, and overpowers his mind. Suddenly, Gvados is convinced Axom isn’t so bad… that he’d like to be friends and they should probably let him be. Then Axom’s voice enters his head, “I am prisoner of the baron’s will. Kill him and I shall be free to leave.”
    Gvados looks to the baron, slouched in his chair by the fire again, seemingly oblivious to the battle taking place in his sitting room. Thinking the baron is the true menace, hiding there for all to see, he lighting strikes the once regal man right where he sits. The baron screams and twists in the tendrils of electricity. He rises from his chair in rage and draws his longsword for battle.
    Axom continues to dodge attacks, skirting himself from Durgyn’s reach as the minotaur climbs out on the walls after him, swinging wide into the air with his weapon. The illithid gradually wears on the party’s minds while also wearing on them physically with magic attacks.
    The baron strikes at Gvados, and dodging his blow the wildling counters. The baron bleeds, groans, and drops to the ground. Gvados’ mind snaps free of Axom’s charm, and the truth comes into view, fueling his rage against the beast even further.
    Noticing the critically wounded baron, and some weakened members of her party, Sapphira casts a mass healing spell. Friends are mended, and the baron regains consciousness. Just the bolster of confidence everyone needed. The baron however comes to, and sees Sapphira looking towards him. Brindonford’s governing lord still seems void of mind, and as he regains his feet his eyes are locked onto the female cleric.
    “You!” the baron says with madness, straight to Sapphira. “You cannot take my city!!”
    Just then Durgyn strikes at the flying mind flayer. He hones his focus for a vital strike and scores a critical hit. Axom is batted through the air and flies into the wall across the room. The illithid’s body plummets to the entryway floor below, landing in a bloody heap; Durgyn’s strike bringing forth the alien’s black blood from a huge rend in its side. Landen and Franz are no longer dazed by Axom’s powerful mind.
    The baron, focused on attacking Sapphira, regains his senses. His void eyes seem to snap back to witnessing reality. His voice when he speaks, full of character and richness. “What have I? … How?” He looks around the room, then back at Sapphira. “I feel like I’ve been dreaming.”
    Sapphira walks to the baron’s side. “Come to the window. See what has become of your city.” As Baron Euphemes looks out the window in dismay and Sapphira stands by his side, Gvados walks to the balcony railing. He sees Axom’s corpse crumpled on the floor below, and with a disgruntled look on his face casts a decompose corpse spell, ensuring he never has to see that beast again.
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The heart of the fire
Attack on the temple of Pelor
  • The hell hounds charge the adventurers, Durgyn charges back, slamming the devil dog with his horns. Landen is take by surprise as another pack emerges from an alley at his flank. The hell hounds spew a cone of fire, burning some of the adventurers. Cleaving in succession, Durgyn places heavy gashes into three of the beasts in one attack. Landen feints and a hell hound lunges, his jaws grasping his leg and the burning coals in the dog’s mouth singe Landen’s skin, but it created the perfect opportunity for a strike. Landen’s elven curved blade, frosted with magic, slices the evil animal in two behind the front legs. Durgyn kills two more hounds. Franz’s pet badger, Hanz, scrambles under the legs of a barghest and claws at his side. The barghest is angered, finds the badger under his legs and takes the animal in his jaws. The barghest then rips the remaining portion of the small creature hanging from his mouth to pieces with his claws. The barghests then disappear, Sapphira is able to see them on the ethereal plane as they blink between planes, surprising the adventurers with their attacks. But Landen manages to sneak an attack better and kills one of the monsters. Soon the patrols of hell hounds and barghests are slain, and they approach the front of Pelor’s temple.
  • The temple of Pelor stands before them, a massive stone dome flanked by two story wings on each side. The once splendorous temple is now covered with ash, the glass dome on the roof shattered, and the column of fire roars into the sky. Climbing about the dome roof, a bone demon, osyluth, spots them on the street below and lets out a terrifying scream. Its tail strikes the air and he climbs through the broken roof, unaffected by the fire. In answer, Durgyn marches up the temple steps and kicks in the double front doors.
  • Inside, 6 clerics encircle the column of fire. The floor is coated with ash, and the column of fire lights the camber completely, filling it with radiant heat. The clerics attack, summoning magical weapons and striking with touch attacks, inflicting magical wounds upon the adventurers. They make short work of the clerics, although also taking damage themselves, and Sapphira battles the last standing near the column of fire. The cleric grasps Sapphira’s throat, draining her health, and Landen grabs the cleric’s other arm. He grabs the enemy and rips him into a grapple, freeing Sapphira. He forces the cleric towards the fire and pushes him towards it. The cleric’s robes catch fire on his back and Landen pushes him in and lets him loose, sending him fully into the stream of fire. The sanctuary is now empty except the adventurers.
  • Where the alter to Pelor once stood there is now a massive crater, belching the column of fire. Sapphira looks towards the ceiling, searching for the osyluth. “I can sense him here…” She casts magic circle of protection against evil, and as she turns around the bone devil suddenly appears. The osyluth bites Sapphira and strikes with claws, and its boney tail whips around striking through her armor. Landen charges in to join the attack, and the large sized osyluth has an opportunity and stings Landen with his tail. The stinger pierces his leather armor with ease and its point burns into Landen’s side. Before the battle had barely begun, Sapphira shouts holy words and casts a spell of dismissal. The osyluth fails to resist the effect, and as a vortex begins to envelop him he growls infernal words, summoning forth another of his kind. The vortex takes him into a portal, dismissing him back to his home plane. The room again falls silent of battle, the only sound is the roaring fire column.
  • Another osyluth bursts from the pillar of fire, flying around the dome above them. It flies down to strike and is kept at bay from Sapphira’s magical circle of protection. The adventuring party huddles around her to be contained within the spell’s sphere. The osyluth claws at the invisible dome protecting the adventurers and growls with a fierce hatred. He flies to the dome ceiling above them, slowly in circles, watching them, knowing that the spell will end before he must return to his plane. “You may be holding this one at bay,” Heronious speaks into Sapphira’s mind. “But it is only because he was called. The one you dismissed was not the only one that had come through the portal, and another will come forth of his own will if the portal is not closed soon.”
  • “We must close the portal,” Sapphira says to her companions. Hillfort taunts the osyluth in its own language: infernal. The osyluth looks right to Hillfort, and telepathically replies, “you will not be safe for long,” a growling, gutteral infernal voice says in Hillfort’s mind. “Then I will rip the flesh from your bones.” Landen notices a burning where the other osyluth had stung him, and a fierce pain suddenly spreads into his chest; his legs and arms begin to ache. Not knowing how much longer they will be standing under Sapphira’s protection, he steps to the pillar of fire and thrusts his ice blade in. The handle heats, and his skin burns from the radiant heat. Seeing no effect on the fire, he withdraws his blade to see it glowing red hot. The metal is so soft from the heat, gravity bends it out of shape. Landen steps back and the metal cools, becoming rigid once more, and the icy frost covering the blade before is now gone.
  • Sapphira remembers what Heroneous had told her when she asked how to stop the fire. She turned toward it and held out her holy symbol, calling forth the same holy power used to turn the undead. Her symbol glowed with light and she called for Heroneuos’ aid, but she sensed it was not strong enough to affect the fire. She tried again, and still the power of the column of flame was too much. Landen grasped his abdomen, pain now overtook him and he felt his strength leave him. He dropped his swords to the ground and fell to one knee. Sapphira calls forth all she can, and her holy symbol glowing bright. She yelled for the power of Heroneous and the fire seemed to writhe.
  • Landen’s vision goes blurry. His head is pounding with pain and he is barely able to understand what’s happening around him. Pain fills him; every limb. Through his blurry and dizzy eyes he sees Sapphira’s glowing holy symbol. The column waveres, loosing its jet-stream shape. Tendrils of flame brake from the main body of the column and then the room goes dark. Landen falls to the ground, unable to support his own body weight. The last thing he sees is the light from Sapphira’s sword illuminating his companions in the pitch black room that was once Pelor’s sanctuary.
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Return to Brindonford
The group returns to the city where they first gained fame.
  • After settling back into their home region, they prepare to return to Brindonford. After learning the details of the siege, the adventurers are ready to bring their part to the fight. Hillfort arranges for his coffee plants imported from Thaotrem to be stored and cared for.
  • The party makes way for Brindonford, following their same route they used when they left what felt like so long ago. They depart from the main road, follow the lake’s shore, and come to River’s End. Memories flood Sapphira and she instantly leaves the group to visit her brother’s grave. A few of the members come along to pay their respects as well. As they leave Helix’s grave, Gvados asks what happened to Sapphira’s brother. “He was a wererat,” Landen callously explains. Sapphira overhears, “bite your tongue!” Gvados carefully tries to continue with Landen, “what killed him?” Perhaps it was a slight anger born of a little guilt, but Landen replies sharply, “that’s no concern of yours.”
  • As the adventurers approach the keep of River’s End, and villager tells them it’s locked tight. “Only soldiers and wounded can go in there right now, and the nobles that live inside haven’t left either.” Landen suspects this to be something amiss. He turns to his companions that visited here last time, “Helinack’s in on it! He must be aiding those holding Brindonford.” The group discusses this idea… and quickly dismiss it. Sapphira and Durgyn put Landen’s concerns at ease.
  • They approach the keep and are halted by a guard. “The keep is secured. What’s your business?”
    Durgyn introduces everyone by their formal titles. “We have come to see Lord Helinack.”
    Landen smugly states, “we brought news of Brindonford.” “HA!” the guard laughs, “YOU bring US news of Brindonford? You think we don’t know of our neighbors being held under siege by demons?” Slightly annoyed but having patience, Landen tries to make the matter clearer. “No, we brought news of Brindonford, originally.” The guard rolls his eyes, “The heroes of Brindonford are the ones that brought us the news.” Landen lets the guard consider what he just said for a moment and replies, “exactly.” The guard looks at him and takes another moment to process… then his eyes open wide. He turns to another guard, “get Lord Helinack.”
  • Helinack comes to the gate flanked by a pair of heavily armored guards. “You have returned! Please come in.” Lord Helinack walks them through the keep’s streets, explaining that the nobles have converted the common areas of their homes into a place of healing and respite for wounded soldiers. He takes them to his castle, held within the inner keep. They discuss the siege, and Helinack speaks personally of the Baron. “The Baron’s proclamation took the entire town by surprise. Baron Euphemes was never a particularly popular leader, but he also never displayed such a streak of cruelty before. He is generally regarded as wise, benevolent, and authoritarian. He has taxed trade heavily, preventing the merchants from gaining as much wealth and power as they would like, and ruled consistently in favor of keeping the aristocracy in its favored place. However, no one ever would have guessed that he would institute such heavy-handed measures. Of course, no one ever would have guessed that he was in league with devils, either . . . it just goes to show how wrong you can be about a person.” He explains that the hellhounds and barghests police the streets of Brindonford. Many were killed initially, but it has not been an outright slaughter. All of the citizens that have complied to the new rule were spared, so killings within the city have majorly decreased at this point. The adventurers ask about the temple of Pelor, and Helinack confirms there is a massive column of fire, ever burning into the sky. He asks that the group rest in his guest rooms and provide him company in the dinner hall this evening. As the party disburses, Helinack stays and motions for Landen and Durgyn to speak with him. “I see you have a couple more new companions. Let’s not have a repeat of last time’s dinner.” Landen reads the seriousness of Helinack’s statement, but also senses a slight tone of humor. “Well the last one was a little feral, but this one’s straight from the woods.” Helinack gets a slight expression of surprise. “Your sense of humor is testing me… but I enjoy it.” The Lord of River’s End smiles and leaves the guests’ hall. “I hope your jail cells are empty,” Landen shouts after him. He hears Helinack chuckle around the corner.
  • At dinner everyone is dressed in their finest attire. Durgyn gives Gvados and Franz extra instruction to be one their best manners. Landen asks if Helinack has the same wine they enjoyed last time in his cellars. They share a bottle with much enjoyment. Landen asks where Helinack’s Master of Coin is, and with a slight chuckle he states, “He declined the invitation.” The party learns from Helinack that scouts of the Corumur army have found a hidden way into the city: aqueducts along the city wall against on the Brinding River. The portals are under water but give access to a few areas in the city via the underground channels providing the city with fresh water. Lord Helinack informs them to contact Commander Ramsey when they find the force assembled northeast of Brindonford’s walls. The scouts are using the aqueducts rarely to avoid the demons discovering they’re sneaking into the city. Dinner is enjoyable and the party decides to depart immediately after. Lord Helinack sends them off with greatest regards.
  • Before seeing the city walls of Brindonford the adventurers notice the column of fire shooting into the clouds. They find the assembled troops and ask to speak with Commander Ramsey. Ramsey briefs them on the types of foes the army has encountered: hell hounds, barghests, occasional imps, and most devastating are the osyluths. The osyluths seems to be the commanding officers of this occupation; bone demons that can fly and have a scorpions tail. The Commander tells the group he’s planning an assault on the gates of Brindonford; an attempt must be made to breach into the city. The adventurers state their intentions to attack from within the walls using the aqueducts. Ramsey states it would be a suicide mission with such a small force, but the adventurers insist. The Commander gives them his permission to do so, but says it will not affect his plans to attack. He directs them to one of the scouts to lead them to the Brinding River and show them the aqueduct entrances. Before going into the water, Sapphira casts divination to speak with her deity. With a time of meditation, she senses the presence of Heronious. “How do we stop the pillar of flame in the temple of Pelor?” She hears a voice resonate in her head. “The flames can be purged with the holy power you can summon forth; the aura that sends evil to flee.”
  • The adventurers dive into the river. Durgyn takes off his armor so that he may swim, and Sapphira casts water breathing on everyone. Then, Gvados summons a fleet of 7 dolphins to propel them through the aqueducts. The submerge and find the entrance that would lead them into the aqueduct running under a main road. They follow the round tunnel flowing with water. Small branches feed water through the city, all too small for a man to fit. They come to a fork in the main aqueduct, and turn left. The scouts told them this would lead to a porthole that opens to the street near the temple of Pelor. They find a column opening up to the surface. Landen climbs up and peeks out a well: they are underneath the West Hill district. They continue in the canal. When they arrive to the proper spot, Gvados changes shape into a racoon, and grasping his dolphin’s fin he rides the sea animal further down the aqueduct and finds a small supply channel branch from the main water flow. Being in shape of a racoon, he can fit down the small channel that runs to supply water to the temple. The tube is blocked by a metal grate, so he turns back. The water current pushes against him, and Gvados must claw and fight his way back to the main aqueduct. He rides his dolphin back to the rest of the group and shakes his head, signaling up: that the porthole is their only route.
  • Gvados and Landen climb up and open the solid stone cover to the aqueduct. On street level, they can see the temple of Pelor down the road. Gvados takes shape of a bird, taking to the sky to scout the city for patrols. Landen uses his slippers of spider climb to scale a building for a better look toward the temple. The 20 foot wide column of fire bursting from the roof of the temple sheds a glowing light in the area. Gvados spots a patrol of two hell hounds and a barghest rounding the corner of a street, soon to be within view of the adventurers climbing from the porthole. Gvados tries to warn them, but the patrol spots them and the kick their heads back and howl.
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The Return Home
An uneventful voyage home is relief for the party
  • On the journey back to the city of Rahtram, Sapphira casts restoration on the myterious rescued prisoner. He is refreshed and renewed, and introduces himself as a Paladin named Ansirus. He explains to the party that he has been captive of the emperor of Thatrem for more years than he can now recall. He was in Karadahan and discovered a buried palace with his companions. Inside a cavern they discovered what once was an ocean port for the palace, half of a ship sunken beneath. An extravagant chamber near the docks led to decorated doors complexly locked. The information they gathered led to a lost ship that held a great treasure that had been held by the Kingdom of Karadahan for centuries. They discovered where the ship was lost, and found half a hull wedged amongst tall rock spires on the coastline… the other half of the ship sunken in the cavern docks. Aboard they find the undead captain in his quarters, and after a battle which theyh found victory, the captain explained that he was cursed for failing to return the relic to his king. The ship was lost in a storm, half was recovered in hopes to retrieve the relic, but he held it in the half he had been cursed to occupy for years. He gave a golden wing talisman to Ansirus, stating it is half the relic and also the key to open the door in the extravagant palace chamber. Upon its return to the palace, he says he will be free of his curse and thanks Ansirus. Upon their return to the palace buried beneath the dunes, the talisman opens the doors, leading to a hallway filled with murals depicting battles won over the centuries, each with the Karadahan king of the time holding a scarab talisman over his head. The talisman seemed to protect the Karadaheen armies from flying scarabs that ravages their foes. Every army fell to the swarm of flesh eating scarabs, and every time the Karadaheen stood in victory, protected. At the end of the hall the other half of the relic, the body of a diamond scarab, was secured to the wall. Ansirus united the two pieces, and his adventuring party witnessed first hand its power. To shorten the story, Ansirus explained that Thaotrese agents were also seeking the relic in Karadahan. They had found the temple and confronted Ansirus. They fought to find the relic, then once it was in Ansirus’ control, the Thaotrese captain tricked Ansirus to surrender himself and his companions to speak with their emperor. They failed to mention the emperor was still across the ocean and they would be taken to him as prisoners. While his companions died tried to escape at sea, Ansirus remained in the hold of the ship, not rising to fight with them due to his depression of defeat. Ever since he united the pieces of the talisman, it seemed irreversibly linked to him. So he was kept prisoner of Thaotrem, and taken along with the relic to every battle as they waged war against the Kingdom of Karadahan, wiping every remnant of their existence from their land. Ansirus and the relic were being transported back to the emperor’s palace in Thaotrem when the duergar ambushed their caravan.
  • Upon return to Rahtram most of the prisoners shower the adventurers with thanks and part their own ways. But a pair of the rescued prisoners were always quiet and whispering together, always keeping their distance from Ansirus and never giving extra courtesy to the adventuring party. In Rhatram, once inside the gates they left the group without even the smallest gesture of gratitude. Ansirus stated he wished to meet with them again in the future and expressed great gratitude, but must leave to track the two prisoners that rudely walked away. He explained that they were agents of the Thaotrese emperor.
  • Hillfort loans Landen money (60gp) so he may provide a small portion of what is owed to Gerard for his mercenary services.
  • Rhinn develops a plan to return home… one where he and Landen could travel in comfort. Rhinn and Landen argue about relic, if they should recover it now while they’re on the continent. Rhinn states he had only requested guild help for rescue, not to recover the relic. He still considered it his personal undertaking and didn’t want Landen trying to swipe it from him. They eventually come to an agreement, and Landen tells Rhinn he’s okay with returning to the guild outshining him. Disgruntled, Rhinn states his intentions to return to Thaotrem after a respite on Gemstone Isle to seek out recovering the relic from the fortress.
  • The adventurers drink around the taverns in the city… on Rhinn’s coin. Although he recently escaped from a duergar fortress with nothing, he managed to pick enough coin as they tavern hopped to pay for the night. The next morning, Rhinn comes to the group and says he’s found a ship to voyage home. He’s dressed as a noble, even with a signet ring… a fact he enjoys jabbing at Landen with. “You don’t have a signet ring?” Rhinn says as he observes Landen’s noble outfit. “Who outshines who?” Rhinn explains his plan for ship travel: Landen and he posing as nobles, offering to pay for their voyage with the physical labor of their servants… represented as the rest of the adventuring party. Everyone is opposed, especially Durgyn. Rhinn begins to compromise, reassigning everyone different roles. They head to the ship, Rhinn unsure how his plan will work now that he had no manual labor to offer. Somehow, they still manage to find welcome from the ship’s captain, Rhinn even being offered the captain’s quarters.
  • Upon their voyage, Landen snoops through the cargo holds. He finds various goods, souvenir weapons in the style of the desert continent, and then a fine set of blades contained in a felt lined, custom case to display them. The most attention grabbing in the set is a pair of elven curved blades. The next morning at breakfast Landen comes clean with the captain and presents to barter for the blades. At first the captian is upset that he was snooping through the cargo hold, but Landen eases his attitude and the captain warms to the idea. The captain offers, “Once we arrive in Shiny Cove, if you agree to deliver a package to another ship’s cargo hold discreetly, you may trade the swords in place of yours. I don’t need the money, but this would be a great service to me.” Landen agrees and obtains his new blades, replacing them in the case with his scimitars.
  • When they arrive in Shiny Cove, the adventurers disembark the ship. Before Landen leaves, the captain hands him a package. “Deliver this to the hold of the Mighty Gull without anyone knowing. If you fail me, I will know.” As Landen takes the package, the captain looks at him with stern eyes, “you will not fail our agreement.” Meanwhile, Gvados stands by to receive a large crate being offloaded by the ship’s crew for him personally. He arranged for it’s transport in Rhatram, and with its arrival in Shiny Cove his companions learn of its existence. Gvados opens it and out steps a massive lion, instantly appearing loyal and connected to Gvados. The shape shifter ruffles the great animal’s fur and says to the adventuring party, “my god has provided me a faithful companion in thanks for the burned offering I provided to him at the duergar fortress.” Unbeknownst to them, he was speaking of Largo.
  • Sapphira, remorseful for being away for so long, immediately visits the temple of Heroneous. A cleric recognizes her and speaks with her for a while. When Sapphira explains that she’s been away, the cleric updates her on Bindonford’s current state. It is currently the main crisis in all of Corumur. Durgyn visits the minotaur smithy, Gronan, he hired to forge him a new set of armor and also learns of Brindonford. Brindonford is occupied by a demonic force, all the while the baron strangely assuring the people of the town all is as it should be, being placed into rightful order. A warrant was issued for the arrest of High Priest Forgrim of Pelor and Sun’s Champion Marith, as well as all acolytes who have served in the temple. Many of the worshipers were slain, but Forgrim and Marith managed to escape the city. A pillar of fire shoots into the sky from what was once the temple’s glass dome. An army built from the major cities of Corumur is formed outside Brindonford’s wall, but unable to mount a successful attack. Word that somehow makes it out from the inside of the city walls keeps getting worse, and just recently the occupying forces’ numbers grew large enough that they mounted an offensive attack on the Corumur force, scattering them back from Brindonford’s walls.
  • Landen and Rhinn depart on a midnight boat to Gemstone Isle by the usual means, posting a signal paper bearing a black starling to pier 7. Both are welcomed warmly. Landen is offered a small chest from Shadrach holding a reward for the entire party. Also, Landen is informed by his mentor that he has increased his standing in the guild and is now welcomed by the Night Starling as a full fledged member of the guild. Landen visits the guildhall’s fence now that he is a member, and the fence congratulates him, offering a discount on his first purchase. Landen buys a potion of silence for what he must do later in the night… The fence also informs Landen that all members have a safe holding box in the guild hall, kept secured in the fence’s storeroom.
  • Landen takes one of the boats from Gemstone Isle and returns to the Shiny Cove docks. He ties up his boat somewhere inconspicuous and located the Might Gull amongst the ships at pier. He drinks the potion of silence and stealthily makes his way aboard. Landen delivers the package to the ship’s cargo hold without anyone’s notice and returns to Gemstone Isle to stay the night in a guestroom.
  • The next morning Landen returns to Shiny Cove and finds his companions at their usual inn: The Tankard and Gull. Landen provides them each with their reward gold from his guild. He then shares a pint with Gerard and pays him in full for his services: being the greatest blade for hire he could have found, to cross an ocean by dangerous and magical means for a personal quest of his. Gerard expresses thanks and says he enjoyed his time. The mercenary reveals to the thief, who he know considers a good friend, a little bit more about himself. He explains that now he has saved a decent amount of gold and will head to Savon’s Reach. He’s from a kingdom east of the mountain region and was once a great knight. Although Gerard reveals much, he is still vague. He was greatly wronged by a powerful man and ousted from his own kingdom, by his own king whom he honored and served. He was now going to return home in an attempt to make things right. Gerard tells Landen that he would love to battle with him once more, and if the thief ever traveled east of the mountains, seek out Lord Calmbert and the banner bearing a griffin over three diamonds.
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Escape!
With the prisoners in hand, the fortress alarm sounds
  • While on watch outside the fortress, Gvados circles the sky in the form of an owl and spots something peculiar. A wagon approaches the front gate of the fortress, driven by their recent companion Largo. When he arrives at the gate Largo reads a scroll and speaks the language of the Duergar. They open the gates and let him in, closing them behind, keeping the wagon contained in the main tower. Two Duergar climb down from the tower house above the entry, and they begin questioning Largo. Although he cannot understand, Gvados can tell things get heated. One of the guards pulls Largo from the wagon, throwing him to the ground. He places his axe at Largo’s throat, yelling. Then Largo says something that gets the guard’s attention. Their gnomish friend speaks, and the Duergar relaxes his posture taking his axe from Largo’s throat. When Largo finishes speaking, they pick him up and let him stand by the wagon while one of the guards enters a side door in the tower.
  • Inside the fortress, Landen and the adventurers speak with Rhinn. “I’ve worked hard researching this valuable relic for the guild, I can’t loose all my work. If we can’t find the item now, we at least must take him.” Rhinn gestures toward the lone prisoner. “We’ve all been prisoners since the caravan was attacked and captured by the dark dwarves, but he’s been a captive much longer. The emperor’s men in the caravan were keeping him prisoner. And the more I researched I discovered that as long as the empire of Thaotrem has held this relic, that man has been their prisoner. During their campaign to destroy the Kingdom of Karadahan they had this relic and prisoner with them at every decisive battle; the battles when the Karad people were decimated.” He looks to the lone prisoner. “If we cannot get the relic, then we must take him.”
  • Gvados sees three guards emerge on the west tower. They notice the two guards posted there are missing, and see their crushed bodies below when they look over the tower’s edge. They get excited and one of the guards returns into the tower hatch, running into the fortress.
  • Hillfort, Landen, and Durgyn work together to free all the prisoners locked in chains. Sapphira goes into the hallway to watch for any approaching Duergar. Suddenly, the fortress rumbles with a loud, low humming sound. Gvados can faintly hear the hum coming from underground as well. The party knows it’s an alarm and look at eachother. Sapphira comes back into the prison, “Are all the prisoners free?” “No,” someone replies. “We’ll hold here ‘til it’s done,” Sapphira commands. The others agree and without a moment lost continue freeing the captives from their chains. Down the hall, at the extent of her vision, Sapphira sees the ranks of Duergar soldiers approaching, formed up in the hallway in two side-by-side lines.
  • Outside, Gvados sees a guard run from the gates in the cliffside towards the main entry tower. Gvados swoops down and casts a spell, grasping the guard just outside the main tower’s portcullis. The guard becomes alarmed inside as the ghostly animal jaws hold the other guard, shouting and fighting to get free. The chomping jaws take the guard’s life and fly at the portcullis, its teeth scraping at the bars. The Duergar inside back away, and much to their surprise Gvados swoops down again with fire on his wings. Two darts of fire blast into the gatehouse, striking the wagon and setting it in flames. The Duergar take Largo over to a ladder where they climb up into the tower house above while the livestock inside the wagon scream the beastly cries of animals in distress. As they take refuge in their little tower stronghold Largo spots an owl land in one of the arrow-slits. Largo’s eyes open wide, “you!?” Gvados winks and flies back to the sky as Largo shouts to the Duergar. They run to the arrow-slits and fire crossbow bolts through the air after Gvados.
  • With the prisoners free the adventurers run into the hall with Sapphira and see the ranks of soldiers. With a set look of determination, Hillfort steps forward forming a ball of fire in his hands. He throws it down the hall and a blinding explosion envelops the corridor. Although blackened by flame, a few Duergar remain standing, and behind them the party sees another formed rank of soldiers in the hallway ahead. A few form up in the hallway adjacent to them, and a robed figure appears from the doorway to the cleric’s quarters.
  • Sapphira casts a spell, sending a magical weapon into the ranks of Duergar, chopping them down. Hillfort throws another fireball, this one with more effect than the first. A wave of hot air from the flames rushes down the hall at the adventurers. When the blaze clears, none of the Duergar are left standing, yet behind those that fell are more forming into the same two line advancing ranks. Although they are falling in large number, their front line gets closer to the party. Franz’s badger rages as the dark dwarves in the side hallway. Bloodies from battle the badger lunges at a Duergar’s throat and rips the life from him. As the group advances with the prisoners in tow, they are startled and think the dwarves begin to attack on another front… then they realize it’s just a group of drunk Duergar emerging from the tavern to see what the commotion is. With his fireballs exhausted, Hillfort launches magic missles at the commanding soldiers, continuing to be the dominating force in this underground battle. As the party slowly advances, Landen notices the cleric cut back into the chapel. The theif breaks off from the party and chases the cleric.
  • Outside, Gvados knows the battle has begun underground after hearing the alarm. In his owl form he swoops over to the west tower, casting a spell sending piecing bolts of wood that skewer the two guards on the tower. He flaps his wings, circling higher, and glides over to the west tower. Two guards stand watch there as well. Gvados wants to make sure all possible exits are clear, and he blasts the tower with flamestrike. The tower hatch is blasted open and only charred Duergar remain. As he flies back to the main, central tower, he notices the wagon is fully engulfed in flames. The fire is burning so fiercely, the heat and smoke is invading the guardhouse above the tower. A burning Duergar jumps from an arrow-slit and falls to his death below. As they realize their fate, one of the soldiers points to Largo and yells with rage. Largo backs away, fear in his eyes, and the dark dwarf grabs him, throws him to the ground, and begins hacking with relentless violence with his axe. The other guards crowd at the arrow-slits gasping for air. Two more jump, one survives with broken legs. Inside, the remaining Duergar slowly burn, and even as the flames take them completely Gvados can still see the soldier hacking at the bloody mess that once was Largo.
  • Inside the chapel Landen spots the cleric running towards the other exit, trying to gain a surprise flaking position on the party in the corridor outside. As the cleric opens the door, Landen chirps a whistle to grab his attention. The cleric turns and shuts the door, and grins disturbingly at Landen.
“Welcome to the temple,” the cleric says as he slowly approaches the theif. “Where’s the relic,” Landen demands. “I know not of what you speak.” The clerics voice sounds slippery and conniving. “But I will show you something else that will open your eyes.” Landen looks confused, and tauntingly closes his eyes. The cleric’s brow furls in anger and he reaches toward Landen, casting a spell. Suddenly, the rogue is locked in place, unable to move in even the smallest manner. The cleric grabbed Landen by the throat and laughed. He moves the statue-like rogue over to the stone bust of an illithid at the chapel’s alter. Landen wills himself to be free, and he saves himself from the spell’s hold… but he successfully fools the cleric, making him believe the spell is still in effect. The cleric pushes Landen’s head back into the illithid’s maw, open tentacles waiting. To Landen’s surprise, the stone tentacles begin to move and wrap around his head; that’s when he knew it was time to move. Taking the cleric completely unaware, Landen slips from the tentacles and slashes both scimitars at the cleric’s throat, opening a deep channel and the blood flowed. The cleric’s limp body fell backwards off the alter’s stage, and Landen grasps the dead body’s robe, lifting him back to the stage and positioning the body slumped over at the foot of the stone bust.
  • In the hallways the Duergar ranks wield crossbows and the front row drops to a knee. In a synchronized attack, all ten dwarves in a unit fire crossbow bolts at the adventurers. Another firing squad forms up behind them at the other end of the corridor. A frightening number of piercing bolts now fly at them from every direction. Durgyn takes a number of the small arrows, like splinters in his furry hide. Gerard looks around, “Where’s Landen!?” “We must keep moving,” Durgyn’s gruff voice commands. Landen comes from the door to the chapel, rejoining with his companions. “Sorry I’m late,” He says sarcastically. “I had to kill the cleric.” Sapphira turns to look to Landen, “he was supposed to be mine,” she jokingly says. Their exit route blocked, Durgyn decides to solve the problem. He charges, horns down, at the formation of Duergar soldiers. He tramples them back, striking one solidly with his gore. Sapphira casts and obscuring mist to fill the hall behind them for protection against the other formation. Durgyn fights with the frontline soldiers while the ones in the rear continue sticking him with crossbow bolts. Falling in battle for a second time, Franz lifts his wounded badger into his backpack to carry him out.
  • Durgyn spotted two Duergar in ornate armor standing at the rear of the ranks, watching the battle with their hands rested on their large axes like a cane; it’s apparent these are some of the commanding officers. As the adventurers fight their way through the dwarves closer to the exit to the east tower, the two lieutenants lift their axes into a battle ready position. Hillfort launches magic missles endlessly at them, and Durgyn meets one toe-to-toe. The battle is fierce, Durgyn taking a large, severe gash from the dwarven battleaxe. Durgyn returns the favor with his longsword, driven down straight through the lieutenant’s shoulder.
  • For no apparent reason, Landen suddenly dashes in the opposite direction, into the obscuring mist. Gerard yells out, “you fool!” then dashes after him. He runs into Landen in the mist, “we need to stick together and get out of here.” “Grow a pair!” Landen replies. Stepping just to the edge of the mist so he can see the dwarves, with bow drawn, Landen emerges from the mist and lets an arrow fly. Gerard picks up a dead duergar’s crossbow and fires as well. Their small attack wounded a couple of the archers, and they withdrew through the mist to rejoin with the others.
  • When Landen and Gerard come out the other side of the mist they see their companions had fought their way to the east tower tunnel. As they’re running to the tunnel, Landen looks down the corridor towards the heart of the fortress where the soldier advanced from, and saw a menacing figure. Approaching their location is a duergar that could be no one less than the commander of this fortress. His armor is golden, his axe writhed in electricity. As he walks toward Landen, the thief is frozen in place by mixed awe and fear. The golden clad Duergar reaches up to his neck, where a necklace hangs with numerous glass spheres glowing like fire. Landen lets an arrow fly and misses. The dark dwarf plucks a sphere from the necklace and holds it in his hand. Landen sees all his companions escaping through the tunnel to the east tower and runs to catch up.
  • The fresh night air refreshes each of the adventurers, and even more so the prisoners, as they emerge to the top of the tower. Gvados spots the party on the tower and swoops down, his owl form large enough to carry a normal man. He works flying the prisoners to the top of the cliff one-by-one, and Landen gives Durgyn his slippers of spider climb. The minotaur walks up the cliff face while Landen rides piggy back. To buy time to get everyone off the tower, Sapphira casts a spell, shaping the tower’s stone to seal the opening to the stairs below. Now there’s no way for the soldiers inside to access the tower. Working quickly they manage to get all the prisoners and adventuring companions to the top of the cliff. With Rhinn, the mysterious lone prisoner, and eleven more prisoners in tow, everyone escaped the Duergar fortress alive.
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Infiltration!
The party ventures into the fortress, deep inside the cliff
  • When the sun begins to set the adventurers track up the side of the canyon. By the time darkness has fully emerged they are in position on the canyon wall over the west tower. Durgyn holds a rope ready to pull up Rhinn in case Landen finds him while inside. Landen perches on the edge of the cliff and drinks a potion of dark vision. After he watches the next shift’s two guards come up to the tower he signals to Hillfort. The two dwarves on watch talk with the two coming to relieve them… and the tower hatch is left open. Hillfort casts a spell of invisibility on Landen and the thief drops over the edge of the cliff. He runs down the rock face using his slippers of spider climb. Landen drops quietly onto the tower and walks down, invisible to the four duergar, into the open tower hatch. As he walks down the stairs he drinks a zone of silence potion. Down the corridor and into the halls of the fortress, Landen climbs onto the ceiling, his slippers allowing him to walk along above the hallways. Landen gets to the door noted by their duergar captive and a metal grate above the closed door, which allows for airflow throughout the fortress, provides the thief a look to the other side. Inside he sees a massive room with thirty duergar training in combat. Movable walls are set up in one section where they are running through tunnel combat scenarios, in another area pairs of warriors practice combat moves together, and in yet another a group practices weapon strikes on wooden dummies. Discovering that the captive dwarf the adventurers hold had lied about the location of prisoners (no surprise there) Landen decides to continue exploring for the short duration of the invisibility spell (7 minutes). He moves through the hallway ceilings, invisible and completely silent. He looks through the grate above another door and observes duergar setting up food in a large dining hall, preparing for the evening meal. He turns the corner and comes to another door, and inside he observes three desks; some sort of office for command staff it appears. Landen attempts to pick the lock upside-down while hanging from the ceiling and is completely baffled. He decides perhaps he can’t pick locks upside-down quite yet and places his feet on the floor. Even with proper orientation, the thief finds the lock beyond his skills, nearly getting a pick stuck in the tumbler. He continues on and observes another office, this one with one large desk and shelves with various trinkets from different cultures and races. Many documents and ledgers are also held in the office… and the door is locked. One item on the desk is some strange alien looking figure which runs a chill through Landen’s spine. It vaguely reminds him of the Reality Wrinkle back in Brindonford. That had been so long ago he had not thought about it, but this reminder brought back old thoughts he’d prefer forgotten.
  • Landen decides he’s lost and running out of time on the invisibility spell. The fortress is too large, so he heads back to the tower. He walks up the stairs and opens the hatch on the ceiling, giving no care to doing it quietly because the zone of silence aids him. The two duergar on watch and looking away from the door, leaning against the tower parapet having a mild conversation. Landen walks to the edge and stands between them. He peers over the edge and notes the considerable distance to the ground… then positions himself behind one of the dwarves. He grabs the duergar’s ankles and swiftly flips him over the edge. The dwarf screams as he plummets to his death and his watch companion watches him fall in panic. He draws his weapon and turns around, seeing nothing but the open tower door. He runs and looks inside, then yells out down the stairs. Weapon still in hand he returns to the tower’s edge and looks at the crumpled body of his watch-mate.
  • The adventurers above notice the commotion and Durgyn fires and arrow and it bounces off the parapet next to the dwarf. They do not see Landen and are worried they had been found out somehow… but knowing Landen they have an idea he might be involved with the excitement unraveling. Franz also fires an arrow, this one landing firmly in the duergar’s back. The dwarfs gives a harsh cry from the impact and slumps dead, his body draped over the parapet. Landen plants his boot firmly on the duergar’s rump and kicks him off the tower. The invisibility spells wears off and Landen reappears. He waves up to his companions, grabs the rope dangling down from Durgyn and ties it off taught to the tower door. He uses hand signals with Durgyn asking if he is coming down or Landen should go up. Landen climbs to the top and immediately points to their captive, “he lied to us.” Landen describes his findings inside the fortress, and Hillfort questions the duergar.
    “Perhaps they moved the prisoners, changed the use of space?” The dwarf claimed he was unaware of the room being used for combat training. Landen says the room was obviously always intended for training use, and appeared to never be equipped to hold prisoners.
    Hillfort confronts the duergar, “It’s been a training room for a long time. Just stop lying to us.”
    The dwarf becomes agitated. “What do you expect from me!? I’ve given you plenty enough.” The duergar looks at each of the adventurers, and when he notices Franz is nearest the cliff’s edge, he charges. Franz manages to step to the side, but they still become wrapped in a scuffle. Franz breaks free and kicks the dwarf in the chest, towards the cliff, but the duergar charges back. The dwarf grabs Franz and overpowers him, turning him toward the cliff and pushing the ranger back. Sapphira, the party cleric, steps forth and casts a spell, locking the duergar frozen in position. Franz untangles himself from the living statue
    “He is held,” Sapphira says. Franz picks up the immobilized duergar, carries him the 5 feet to the edge and throws him over.
    Their captive guide falls and impacts the tower with a sickening thud. Although his body is still frozen in the same grappling position, half of his body is crushed.
  • “Now we must go in,” Landen says. “At the changing of the watch they will notice the dead guards. We strike now or our element of surprise is lost.”
    Franz develops a battle scheme. “We should bottleneck those in the training hall and blast them with a fireball… or something!”
    “We don’t have anything powerful enough,” Hillfort retorts. “Plus there are so many and the area is so large, that might not be effective.”
    “We kill them the old fashioned way,” Landen says with a fierceness. He looks to Gerard, “blood and gold!”
    Largo becomes nervous. The idea of combating a fortress full of dark dwarves seems like suicide to him. “I thought we were going to be more subtle. Isn’t that why we got the wagon? I say we use the front gate.”
    “It’s too late for that,” Landen replies, his blood boiling and ready for a battle.
    “Well we could split up, one team the attack force to find Rhinn and the other a diversion,” one of the adventurers suggests.
    “Yeah, the wagon could be a diversion. Perhaps if there was an explosion to draw the dwarves away…”
    “Wait,” Largo says, “you’re not going to set my wagon on fire again, are you?”
    “That just might happen,” Landen says matter-of-factly.
    Noticing a delay in time, Sapphira interrupts. “Two guards were thrown off the tower. If we do something we better do it now.”
    Hillfort casts spells so everyone can see in complete darkness. Everyone prepares themselves… except Largo. He gives the party a look like they’re all insane. “Screw this plan! I’m not dying here! I’ve got a chance to get back into the merchant business, and this wagon’s the ticket. If it’s not a part of the plan and all you want to do is destroy it, I’m taking the wagon, going in that front gate, and making a bunch of gold. I’m selling the livestock and leaving this place.”
    Largo begins to walk away and turns around to face the party again. “Maybe I’ll get enough to buy a boat back in the city. Then, if any of you survive, you’ll come crawling back to me to sail you home!”
    At the moment of no turning back, none of the adventurer attempt to stop Largo from leaving. Ready for the infiltration of the fortress, Hillfort hands Durgyn a potion. “It would be a difficult climb for you, this should help.” Durgyn drinks and he becomes as light as air, levitating off the ground.
    “Come,” the minotaur says to his companions, “I can carry you all down.” Holding three of his compatriots, Durgyn floats to the tower below. Landen runs down the cliff’s face and Gerard decides to use the rope, climbing his way down with skill despite his heavy armor. Durgyn picks up the dead duergar they traveled with and tosses his corpse off the tower to lie with the other two below. Landen leads the way inside and down the tower stairs.
  • Landen’s zone of silence remains in effect and Durgyn drinks the other potion, creating two sources that move with them preventing anyone inside from hearing their movements. With their magical silence, the adventurers are able to run through the fortresses’ corridors unnoticed. They explore a hallway filled with doors; all are guestrooms. Durgyn is tall enough to look through the air circulation grates above each door as they pass by. All the guestrooms are dusty, any bedding or soft furnishings have been removed; it appears they have not been used in a long while.
  • They continue their search, and Gerard peeks around a corner. He spots four duergar loudly speaking outside a fancy set of double doors.
    “What are they doing?” Sapphira asks.
    “I think they’re drunk,” Gerard replies with humor in his voice. “If we’re here for blood and gold, here’s our first serving.”
    They quickly decide if they should attack or attempt to sneak past. Deciding stealth is not the best option, they also devise a plan to hide the bodies: Durgyn will carry them into the empty guestrooms. The party charges, and before the duergar even realize the attack they are nearly slaughtered. The zone of silence radiates from Landen and Durgyn in a ten foot radius, so once in combat with the duergar they are included in the silence… so no one else in the fortress can hear their death cries. During the charge Landen runs up the wall and stands on the ceiling, giving him a vantage point to fire his arrows down the corridor over his large minotaur friend. One of the duergar manages to draw his weapon and stumbles drunkenly toward Gerard, swinging his bastard sword and horribly missing (his balance and skills obviously hindered by intoxication). Another grabs Gerard, and with an enhanced, drunken strength, he holds Gerard’s sword-arm against the wall. The dwarves are swiftly finished off. Durgyn carries the four bodies all at once to one of the guestrooms while the party holds their position. Landen climbs up the wall and looks through the grate. On the other side of the doors is a large tavern, where a number of duergar are currently enjoying themselves.
  • The party moves across the hall and Durgyn looks through another grate. inside is something that disturbs him: a chapel with tapestries similar to those in the Reality Wrinkle. Alien colors, landscapes, and creatures adorn tapestries that hang on the walls. And at the front of the chapel is an alter with the bust of a strange alien creature coming forth from it. He describes it, and Sapphira asks to be lifted up to see for herself. She recognizes the bust at the alter; it is a creature called an Illithid. The stone statute’s arms hang down, long fingers outstretched, and the tentacles hanging from its jaw are cupped down, perfectly shaped to receive the top of someone’s head. They continue to another hall and find the priest’s office/bedroom connected to the chapel. Durgyn notices a list on the desk, appearing to be a ledger. Hillfort asks to be lifted up and casts mage hand, moving the ledger from the priest’s desk and through the grate. With the large book in his hands, he casts the spell to comprehend languages again. The contents are chilling. Pages and pages of names are listed, all with a box checked beside them. Occasionally there are some without a check, and they are rather crossed out. But on the most recent page there are three names at the bottom of the list, no strike-through and no check mark. One of the names is Rhinn Ch’tishiel. The title at the front of the book: Those to be Sacrificed to the Ones Who Rule Below
    “Well,” Hillfort says to Landen. “Your friend is here. Hopefully he’s alive… but it seems he’s soon to be part of some kind of sacrifice.”
    “Then we better find him quick,” he replied.
  • The next door holds a library on the other side. Hillfort gets excited. “Can we spend a moment here?” He notices the urgency and unamused looks on his friends’ faces. “Well… at least come back to it before leaving, after we find Rhinn.”
    Then a duergar turns the corner, walking down the hall towards them. He looks up to see them and stops, his surprise evident on his face. The dark dwarf turns around to run and the party gives chase. With the duergar currently outside their zone of silence they knew they had to catch him quick, but no one was gaining distance on him. Sapphira casts a spell, and a glowing spiritual weapon appeared. The blade darted after the duergar and with one swipe removed his head. Adrenaline pumping they catch up to the now dead dwarf. Durgyn picks up the body and hides it with the others, everyone still successfully avoiding anyone walking the hallways.
  • Continuing the search Durgyn looks through another door’s air grate. Inside are 12 duergar, in a large room with organized crates and trays holding various ores. The dwarves appear to be processing and sorting ore. A large door is across the room, presumably to a mine. Turning down another hall, their last to check before venturing into a long corridor more roughly cut and sloping downward, they discover a dark stone door with a grate higher than the others, nearly at the ceiling. Landen climbs up to look through, and inside he sees four duergar standing guard over 13 prisoners. He’s unable to see if Rhinn is inside.
    “This is it. The prison.” Landen says not even at a whisper, as the zone of silence works in their favor. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to open this lock…” he says as he returns to the floor and pulls out his lock picks.
    “You don’t need to,” Sapphira replies. She steps forward and outstretches her hands. With a few words, she moves her hands apart and the stone of the door moves with their directing. What was a solid barrier is now warped open, a hole giving passage into the prison. Landen sheepishly puts his picks back into his pouch, certainly feeling outdone.
    Inside the guards turn in bewilderment as the stone door seemed to turn liquid, and now attackers rushing in at them. A fierce battle erupts inside; the duergar warriors watching the prisoners are skilled and well equipped. Franz animal companion, the badger Hanz, enters the fray. Two guards flank the fierce creature and severely wound it. Hanz slumps bloodied to the ground, motionless and eyes closed. Hillfort fills the room with a flash of light as a bolt strikes from his hands to one of the guards, electrocuting him to death. After the combat is over and the guards are killed, not without difficulty, Franz checks his badger friend. Filled with grief, Franz thought he was surely dead…. but Hanz blinked his eyes and gingerly moved his legs. The badger was alive, but barely.
  • The prisoners inside were somewhat separated. The majority of them where chained to the wall in one corner, while three were chained against the wall with the doorway. One lone prisoner was chained into the farther corner of the room. Landen looks to the lone prisoner in the corner. Never meeting Rhinn, he was a little at a loss on how to find him.
    “Rhinn? Are you here?”
    From the group of three prisoners chained to the wall comes a groan. “Uhh? Who…?” The prisoner looks up and Landen walks to him.
    “Are you Rhinn Ch’tishiel?”
    “Who is it that seeks me?” Then it dawns on him. “The guild! My message made it?”
    “Yes,”Landen replies. The prisoners are shackled to the wall low enough that if they stand they must stoup over, and if they sit their arms are stretched above their heads. Most of them appeared poorly taken care of, so all were currently sitting with their arms dangling from the chains over their heads. Landen knelled to speak with Rhinn. “Do you have your coin?” The coin that Landen knew every member of the Night Starlings had to prove their membership.
    “Of course.”
    “You understand… Rhinn could be dead. You could be some other prisoner claiming his rescue.” Landen says jokingly with a grin. He picks the locks of Rhinn’s shackles, and when free Rhinn grasps at something then present an empty hand to Landen. Landen grasps his hand and feels something resting in Rhinn’s palm. He takes the invisible coin and feels for the relief of a starling. It is confirmed. Rhinn has been found.
  • Weary, Rhinn needs aid to stand. Sapphira offers some healing, and it helps him regain some energy. “Wait,” Rhinn says. “The relic I was tracking for the guild, it must be here somewhere. He knows of it.” Rhinn points to the lone prisoner in the corner. His hair has grown long, turning grey, and a long beard is grown unkempt from his face. He looked as if he’d been imprisoned here for years, but that couldn’t be true if he was captured with the caravan at the same time as Rhinn.
    “We don’t have time,” Durgyn says.
    “He’s right,” Landen agrees. “We need to get you out of here.”
    “Then let’s take him with us,” Rhinn replies. “I’ve worked too hard to just let it go.”
    With a sense of urgency, Durgyn steps over to the grey haired prisoner. The minotaur grabs the chains locking him to the wall and rips them free. He tosses the prisoner over his shoulder and the party prepares the escape.
View
Scouting the fortress
The plan is hatched and set into motion
  • Over the next three days Gvados used his shape shifting abilities to scout out the fortress. In the form of a hawk, he flies over the canyon. At the canyon’s end, a wall closes it off with three towers. The one in the middle is larger, with an enclosed structure on the top over large fortified gates. He notices each tower near the canyon walls have two guards always on watch. Observing them through the day he learns their schedule, and flies low enough to become familiar with one of the guards.
  • Gvados lands back at the camp and scrys on the guard he observed, learning a little of the inside areas of the fortress. He observes duergar eating at a dining hall, the guard’s bunk room which is made to house ten soldiers, and an unfortunate view of the privy.
  • The next day as Gvados flies in the air he observes two raiding parties, ten duergar warriors each, returning through the canyon to the fortress. They go inside the main gate, then through the courtyard, and into the gate in the canyon’s wall. After some time inside two fresh raiding parties emerge and depart the canyon, splitting up two separate directions, perhaps searching for the missing raid party that never returned. As Gvados does his watching of the fortress the other members of the party discuss plans back at camp. Hidden from the departing raid parties by the large boulders on the hill they’ve made camp, they consider attacking the raid party passing by. “We could ransom them,” someone suggests. “Or we could ransom the livestock wagon,” another says. “Ransom wouldn’t work. From what we’ve learned of them they wouldn’t care enough of the captured warriors to weaken themselves.” Then Durgyn has an idea. “Perhaps we could place the fortress under siege. We kill the two raid parties that have just left, then when more come out we attack them, dwindling their numbers and not having to take on the whole strength of the fortress at once. Then when they have been weakened we take a direct attack on the fortress.” That night Gvados scrys on another guard, observing the hallway leading into the fortress from the other tower. He scrys again and observed the warrior practicing combat in a large room.
  • On the third day they lie in wait, they see the wagon approaching. They try to set up an ambush, throwing gold coins in the road and leaving caltrops just before the coins. The merchant is driving the wagon and a man sits next to him. In the rear, main area of the wagon a third man looks out between the two on the drivers bench. As they approach Hillfort is able to hear them speaking in Thaotrese. The man is discussing with the merchant where he should stop before the fortress to let him and his companion off the wagon. He is asking the merchant what a good approach would be to the fortress on foot. The merchant is half dark-elf and the two passengers are human. The man sitting next to the merchant notices the coins in the road and hops off the wagon. The mare pulling the wagon suddenly rears up, frightened by the stinging pain in its hooves from stepping on the caltrops. The party lies hidden in the shrubbery and small hills near the road and Hillfort speaks out in the local language.
    “Stay where you are! You will not be hurt… are you friend or enemy of the dwarves?”
    “We have a profitable relationship,” the merchant replies.
    “Well perhaps I can offer a chance for more profit.” Hillfort pauses. “We need to borrow your wagon.”
    “Preposterous! Show yourself! You present yourself as a highwayman, offering me profit, and expect me to let you borrow my wagon?” He draws a wand from a compartment in the driver’s bench. “Over my dead body!”
    The man in the rear of the wagon jumps out and the two men draw a set of daggers. It now becomes more clear these two are assassins gaining transport from the merchant. One assassin says to the other, “We must’ve been found out…” and they quickly walk to the side of the road searching for Hillfort. Durgyn steps out and reveals himself, towering by the road. The assassins pause, startled, and the merchant is frightened. He whips the mare and the wagon begins to dash off. The whole party of adventurers jump from their hiding places, attacking to try and stop the wagon. Durgyn steps into the road in front of the mare and roars. The mare rears again and stumbles as the wagon stops, pushing against him. The others engage the assassins in combat. One becomes bloodied and yells out, “The mission must succeed!” He runs towards the hills and Hillfort sends a magic missile after him. When it finds its target the result is severe. The assassin was blasted into pieces, and Hillfort’s eyes open wide. “Oops.”
    The other assassin is hard pressed and vanishes; tendrils of shadow envelop him and he’s gone. Someone notices a pouch on the ground that broke from the assassin’s belt in combat. In the pouch and on the remains of the other assassin they find two potions each. Largo identifies them as ‘darkvision’ and ‘widened zone of silence’.
  • The merchant yields. Durgyn grabs the reigns of the mare so it cannot run again, but the animal panics. Franz steps up and is able to calm the mare. Landen jumps onto the wagon and pulls the fabric top aside to inspect its cargo: livestock. Goats, chickens, etc. The group ties up the merchant, and Landen hops down to assist. The merchant frantically babbles in Thaotrese, which none of them but Hillfort can understand. The merchant looks up to Landen, and in broken common language he pleads for mercy. Landen replies in simple phrases, “No killing. Just wagon. You could’ve made a profit you know.”
    The duergar captive steps up and examines the merchant. He pats Landen on the shoulder with a look almost expressing pleasure. Landen takes it as a compliment on his skills of tying up the merchant, and in the middle of his gloating the duergar picks up a mace and smashes in the merchant’s head. Everyone stands silent for a short moment.
    “That was the plan this whole time!?” Landen shouts. “I could’ve done that!”
    Largo runs up, “I’ve got dibs on the wagon!”
    Landen turns to Hillfort, “You did burn his… we kinda owe him a wagon.”
  • Before the party saw the wagon approaching in the distance, that morning Gvados prepared himself for a deeper examination of the fortress. He flew down the canyon as usual, but this time landed at the top of the canyon walls and changed shape into a monstrous spider, about the size of a cat. During the ambush on the wagon, Gvados was climbing down the canyon wall and squeezed through the gar above the main entrance door to the fortress. Inside he saw the great entryway. Squeezing through the next door, a stone door designed to lock into a groove in the floor, he crawled his way around the fortress halls staying hidden on the ceiling. Being in spider form, Gvados had the senses of a spider. He could feels when duergar were near by the vibrations through the walls. Scurrying around, being sure to avoid any tremors that indicated the presence of dwarves, he was able to scout a decent area of the fortress and a rough count of how many inside he had avoided. He estimated that he came across 40 occupants, and he expected there was still a large amount of the fortress that was yet unexplored. He crawls up the corridor to a tower and changes into his human form just underneath the door in the ceiling that opens onto the tower’s watchpost. With careful timing, he trows open the hatch and changes into the form of a small black bird, flying out of the tower into the sky. The two duergar on watch are startled and don’t know what to make of it. They seem uneasy as Gvados flies away, almost as if he were an ill omen.
  • As the evening approached the adventurers began to plan how they would infiltrate the fortress tonight. After some questioning of the duergar captive with Hillfort as their translator, Gvados drew a rough map of what he knew of the fortress and showed it to the dark dwarf. The duergar seems astonished, and asks how they could have such information. He doesn’t believe it possible that one of them could have been inside the fortress. “Tell him we have our ways,” Gvados says to Hillfort. “Now ask where the prisoners are held.” The duergar becomes angered and grasps the map in his first, crupling it into a ball. He tears at it and throws the destroyed paper to the ground. Gvados calmly steps forward, picks up the ball of paper, and says a small incantation. The paper opens up, the tear mends itself and the creases flatten, then held in his hand is the map in its original intact form. He presents it to the dark dwarf again. “Were are the prisoners?” Hesitently the duergar points to a door on Gvados’ map, not far from one of the tower’s corridors. The party is uneasy with the information, but decide they have nothing else to go on. Their plan is to come down from the cliff top onto the nearest tower to that room, using the cover of darkness. On a pitch black night, although the duergar could see in the dark their vision is only good for so far a distance. They expect the dwarves wouldn’t be able to see from one tower to the other on a dark night. After the guards change shift, they decide Landen will go in alone (as he is the most stealthy) and confirm if the room indicated by the duergar is indeed the prison.
View
Finding the duergar fortress
Two join the party... one friend, one foe
  • As the party leaves camp a man in the loosely draped clothing of Thaotrem approaches. They do not recognize him as one of the men in the camp. He introduces himself as Franz Mahteze, a guide from the capital city, Kalūtān. He speaks common better than Thaotrese, and the group can tell he is not a native of this land. Franz says he guides merchant parties back and forth across this stretch of road, making a fair amount of money. After guiding a group down to Thaotrem, he was on his way to return to Kalūtān and was hiding outside the camp, sizing up the merchants before he made his proposal to escort them on the road. When he overheard what the adventurer’s were planning to do, he had to be a part of it. He wanted to explore the dark dwarf lands further, but knew it would be foolish to do alone, so this appeared to be a perfect opportunity.
  • Now with Franz in their company, the party of adventurers travels into the arid hill country. They find a small cave for shelter to sleep during the day, and while on watch Landen hears a Dragonne in the distance, roaring aggressively. He can tell the sounds are battle cries, but he is unable to spot the creature on the skyline. Soon, he hears the Dragonne give it’s final cry: a screech as it dies. Gvados takes to the sky in vulture form and locates the battleground, spotting bloodstained ground surrounding a Draggone lying on the ground. After their rest, Gvados leads the party toward the slain Dragonne.
  • When they find the carcass Sapphira examines its wounds. She discerns that it wasn’t slain by a beast, edged weapons rather: axes and swords. As Durgyn walks the perimeter of the battleground, he’s ambushed by a Duergar warrior. Suddenly, eight of them appear from the nooks in the hills and from behind the shrubs that cover the landscape. It’s an ambush, and the party is thrown into battle.
  • The party clashes steel with the dark dwarves they’re seeking, and Gerard cries out “time to get paid!” The battle is fierce. The Duergar launch throwing axes as they charge in from their ambush positions, one landing firmly in Durgyn’s hide. Largo fires his crossbow but it overrun by a pair of the Duergar, and he avoids their attacks by tumbling over the Draggone carcass, using it for cover. Of course, while doing so he tumbles and rolls through its blood, becoming covered in it. Gerard slays the first with his flail, breaking its neck. The Duergar body falls to the ground and Landen’s sell-sword draws his longsword with his offhand and decapitates his slain enemy, shouting the sound of money with joy “ca-ching!” The new member of the group, Franz, sends his animal companion into the fray: a badger. The small beast flies into a rage and jumps onto one of the enemy, grasping into its neck with his sharp teeth. The Duergar fell, and the badger opened his throat. Landen decapitates a foe with one smooth strike and with great dexterity, knees the falling head towards Gerard. Gerard deflects the flying melon with his shield, “I was on my way over there, I could’ve got paid for him!” Gerard falls in by Landen’s side and the two fight together. The minotaur is surrounded by three of the little menaces. Many of the adventurers have their share of wounds, but Durgyn is starting to bleed heavily. With a strength that harkens back to the ages of Voalrikar, Durgyn runs his sword through the dark dwarf before him and rends it out his side, swinging the blade around to sink another savage blow into a second enemy. He hacks the other into death and continues the relentless attack. The third and final Duergar near Durgyn is brought to the minotaur’s mercy. Bloodied and near death, he falls and drops his weapon. Meanwhile, the other adventurers capture the last of the foes attacking them: he drops his weapon and yields. Durgyn looks down at his foe lying on the ground, while the dark dwarf looks up at the minotaur with hatred. His gladiatorial days flash into his mind, and Durgyn is filled with the thrill of battle. Near to loosing consciousness himself, Durgyn tosses his enemy a healing potion and bashes his sword against his shield. The minotaur tastes the hunger to fight til last blood. Durgyn also slides the Duergar’s axe towards him. The dark dwarf just stares at him. Durgyn grunts and spits on one of the other slain Duergar. The dark dwarf’s rage flares, and he downs the potion. The dwarf the reveals another potion from his small pack and pauses, looking to the minotaur’s reaction before placing the vial to his lips. Durgyn gestures for him to drink it, and with an evil grin the Duergar drinks the second potion. Now revitalized, he graps his axe and cautiously rises to his feet. The dark dwarf shouts, attempting to intimidate the minotaur, but Durgyn just roars beastly in return. The Duergar charges and lands his axe into Durgyn’s side, leaving himself exposed. Durgyn chops down with his sword and buries it into his enemy’s shoulder, slicing all the way down into his chest.
  • With one of the dark dwarves captive, Sapphira casts comprehend languages to interrogate their captive. Landen provides assistance with the edge of his scimitar at the Duergar’s throat, but the dwarf refuses to talk. Landen wipes the blood of his slain companions on the Duergar’s shirt. Gerard offers his methods of persuasion, yet it still yields no cooperation. Landen suggests they let him live… but horribly disfigure him. “Do you even know what you’re getting yourself into?” The Duergar asks Sapphira. “If you find the fortress you will surely die. How large do you think my clan is? I don’t speak and you will kill me, I tell you and my clan will kill me. I am dead either way and I will not betray my clan.”
    As the others look on not understanding the words spoken, Sapphira turns to them and says, “he wants us to kill him.”
    “Then kill him!” Landen says.
    “No, we keep him alive,” Sapphira replies.
    “Okay,” Landen steps up and lines his scimitar with the dwarf’s thigh. He raises his blade and Sapphira grasps Landen’s arm. “No!”
    The duergar laughs. “You are weak! I am your enemy yet you don’t have the guts to let something so brutal happen. You will surely die by my people.”
    Sapphira whispers in Landen’s ear, and the rogue lowers his blade, grabs a handful of the Duergar’s beard, and slices it from his face. Still in vulture form, Gvados digs his beak into an open wound on the duergar and gnaws on his tendons. The duergar kicks the bird from his leg and looks at his beard on the ground. “I have been shamed… I cannot return to my clan…”
    Landen cuts the ropes that bind him, setting him free. The duergar looks to Sapphira with a concerned face. “If you plan to follow me that will not work. I cannot go back to the fortress or any of our settlements. I will die out here in the hills.”
    Sapphira just replies, “Go, you’re free.”
    The duergar turns to Landen and screams at him, grabbing at his scimitar. Landen stops the duergar’s rage with a firmly planted knee to the groin.
    Sapphira tosses a small potion to the dwarf crumpled on the ground, “good luck out there.” The party begins to leave the area, then Sapphira hears a gruff voice call, “wait.”
    She turns back and the dark dwarf just stares at her with hate and discontent. In that same gruff voice, the duergar tells her “I’ll show you the way.”
  • As they travel, Sapphira and Hillfort cast the needed spell to communicate the the duergar’s language. He points off into another direction and tells them there is a decent size settlement of his people that way. Franz is curious, and tries to convince the party that they take him there. The party debates if they should go, but they end up agreeing there would be no purpose, as it is the fortress they seek. In vulture form, Gvados flies off in the direction the dark dwarf pointed. 8-10 miles away he finds a small settlement. There are 8 well hidden, small structures.The party makes camp. When it is time to continue on, Gerard wakes the uneasy to rouse duergar with a boot crushing his finger.
  • As the days of travel pass, Hillfort talks with the duergar occasionally. He offers to take him back to his home country, offering a new start at life working for his brewing business. The dark dwarf laughs. On the next day Hillfort mentions his offer again. The duergar replies, “You will not leave this land. You will die here.”
    “Okay,” Hillfort retorts. “In a perfect world, what would you choose?”
    “I would have chosen to kill you and loot your bodies,” the duergar frankly replies.
    Uneasy, Hillfort chuckles, “let me rephrase that.”
    “Not going to happen,” the dwarf says. Hillfort continues to press the matter, and resigned, the duergar tells him, “in this fantasy world of your imagining… sure, I would go to your land.” Hillfort then determines to himself that as long as they are not betrayed by him, he will protect this dark dwarf with his life.
  • The party begins to discuss camp, and the duergar suggests against it. He says they’re close to the fortress and should continue on. Landen comes to Hillfort and whispers to him. He requests that the wizard translate a couple questions for him and Hillfort obliges.
    “Is there another way into the fortress?” The duergar pauses, and answers, “Impossible.”
    “Is there treasure inside?” The dark dwarf grins, “great treasure.”
    “Is there a mine?” With pride, he replies, “much, much more than a mine.”
    “Who is your king?” At this the duergar tensed up. “I will not speak of him.”
    Landen pats Hillfort on the shoulder and steps away. Hillfort tells the duergar, “We want to be unseen.”
    “Not possible, the fortress is in a canyon, there are three towers.”
    “Surely there’s another option than walking up to the front gates?”
    “Well,” the duergar says as a thought comes to his mind. “There is another possible way…”
    Hillfort casts a spell to read his thoughts, wanting to know the true intent the dark dwarf has as he shares this information.
    “The fortress is mostly maintained from the inside, but not all supplies can come that way.” Hillfort reads violent thoughts towards him and his companions as the duergar speaks, but his statements are truthful. “There is a supply wagon that comes through the front gate. Fresh meat cannot be obtained underground, so one comes on a schedule to supply the fortress with livestock.”
    Hillfort shares this information with his companions. Largo gets excited, “If I only still had my wagon!”
    One suggests they return to the settlement to steal a wagon, but Gvados says he say no stables or wagons when he observed the settlement from the sky.
    Landen adds to the hatching plan, “Gvados, you’d be the perfect spy! Change into a chicken, or a cow…”
    Gvados becomes unsettled, “I don’t think so.”
    “But it’s perfect! You could scope out the inside, snoop around, and no one would…”
    “No!” Gvados sternly shouts. Thoughts of being eaten by a ravenous band of Duergar did not sell the plan for him.
    “Well I’ll drive the wagon,” Largo says. “I wouldn’t even have to bluff: I am a real merchant.” A grin covers his face. The rest of the party is unamused as they ponder how to find the components for this plan to work.
    “What are you all arguing about?” the duergar asks Hillfort curiously.
    Hillfort explains they’re debating on how to get a wagon and livestock so they can sneak into the fortress.
    The duergar gives Hillfort a dumbfounded look. “Are you stupid?”
    Confused, and taken off-guard by this, Hillfort replies, “umm, no?”
    “There will be a wagon… with livestock, on the way to deliver. Isn’t that what I just told you?”
    Hillfort laughs and mentions this overlooked fact to the group. They decide to wait in ambush and steal the supply wagon. The duergar suggests a hidden, rocky area on a hill just near the entrance to the canyon. He says they could watch the route the merchant takes to approach the canyon and be hidden from raiding parties leaving the fortress. Hillfort detects that he’s telling the truth, and something a little more. He reads in the dark dwarf’s thoughts that he hates this merchant and wishes to kill him. The duergar tells them although the rocky place is very close to the canyon, it will not be checked by duergar parties. His people have become complacent of the land since they have had such a firm grasp on it for years. No one has ventured into their hill country for as long as his clan could remember.
    Hillfort tells his companions what the duergar was thinking about the merchant who brings the livestock and suggests they let him have the opportunity.
    Someone asks why, and Hillfort suggests it could gain them a little favor with their captive, bringing him closer to their side. Hillfort continues to explain that the duergar said he’d come back to Calimshan with him and work in his brewery. “If he does not betray us,” Hillfort tells them with an honest gaze, focusing particularly in Landen and Gerard’s direction, “he is under my protection.”
    Landen asks, “If he betrays us, THEN we can kill him?”
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Into the desert hills
Exploring the desert lands
  • Hillfort and Hakiy arrive in Rhatram five days after leaving Ardan. The adventures have been on the desert continent for six days. Hillfort sells items (gems for full price to Abu Ghaary and studded leather to the weapon smith he works with, Najy). Hillfort describes his friends and Abu tells him he saw them not far from his stall, asks if one has a pet wolf. Asks about the minotaur, says him and the other merchants have been talking about them since the day they were in the market. Najy said he heard they were headed north to dark dwarf territory. They’re thick in those hills, no one stays longer than necessary. Now with light load from selling items, Hillfort’s ready for covering ground quickly. He casts ‘flight of the dragon’ (SpC96) and takes to the sky, following the road heading northward.
  • As the adventurers near the hill country, Landen takes a break to exercise his scimitar skills atop a large rock. Largo watches, Landen tells him to “get up here! You want to learn?” “Naaaa” Durgyn responds with a leap to the top of the rock, looses his balance and falls off. Landen laughs. “Geez Durgyn, I think Largo could’ve done better.” Largo practices with his crossbow. Landen is getting a sunburned head.
    Gvados takes to the sky and spots a dust plume on the road north of the dark dwarf hills, and spots something with dragon wings flying to the south behind them… and Hillfort spots a group of 5 travelers on the ground ahead.
    Durgyn jumps back onto the rock with ease, and keeps his balance with skill. Landen notices he’s more stable this time, sends a fake thrust with his scimitar and flips over him. “that’s a handy move, but try it again back to back.” Landen flips over Durgyn’s back and lands successfully on his opposite side.
    Largo spots Hillfort and identifies him looking through his scope. “Anyone want a beer?”
    “That’s not funny Largo,” Landen says.
    “No, look!” Largo points to the sky and Hillfort lowers himself from the heights on his magical wings.
    Considering the group had no idea what fate Hillfort had found after their ocean travel, Landen’s first words either show his conceitedness or his sense of humor. “Did you bring any wine?”
    Hillfort shares his water. Gvados lands and shifts back into human form. “Ah, hello huntsman.”
    Landen is constantly uncomfortable around Gvados as he changes shape. He then turns his gave from the shapechanger to Hillfort. He draws his scimitar and places its point near Hillfort. “You ARE Hillfort, aren’t you?”
    “Of course he is,” Durgyn states.
    Landen looks to Gvados, “well, you never can tell.” He sheaths his weapon.
  • Gvados describes the terrain he saw and the dust cloud of what could be a large group on horse. Landen asks Sapphira if she could do something about his sunburn, Gvados overhears and casts CLW and slaps his head with his hand to deliver the spell.
    “We should start traveling by night and camping during the day” Gvados suggests. “there’s a camp ahead then we’ll be into the hills.” The camp is large, a base camp for groups to assemble together to make the trek through the dangerous pass. Two wagons are already there. Largo approaches a wagon and they grab their sword handles shouting words. “No No,” Largo shows a gold piece and a bolt “I need these.” They understand and let him look. Gvados summons a pig to kill and eat.
  • 2 men are with one wagon at the camp, three to the other. All are well armed. Largo buys darkwood crossbow bolts for the first price the travelers ask. Gvados offers them to join in eating the pig and they gladly accept. No one understand them, Hillfort casts comprehend languages and understands them but hides it. They talk somewhat demeaningly about the group, can’t believe Largo didn’t barter. One man from the second wagon comes over and asks if he can join. Gvados says yes, and bring a bucket. The traveler returns with the other two from his wagon, Gvados creates water in the bucket. With the wagons unattended, Landen sneaks around to have a look.
    Hillfort starts singing a lullaby in Thaotrese and walks up to the group of travelers. They notice he’s singing in their language and look angry. “I would like to know about the travels ahead,” Hillfort asks. They stay silent and stare him down for a short while.
    “You speak Thaotrese?”
    “Through magical means, for short periods.”
    “When did you cast the spell?”
    “A few minutes ago. I found it amusing that my friend didn’t barter with you.” Hillfort attempts to remain friendly despite their now hostile attitudes.
    “He is a fool! What do you want to know about the road?”
    “How far until a safe area?”
    “Typically a little over 2 days, but everyone goes faster to get through in one. About 60-70 miles.”
    As this is happening, Landen gets Gerard’s attention as he’s sneaking around their wagons. He signals to kill the two merchants… then jokingly cancels that and just tells him to keep an eye on them.
    When the merchants leave the adventurers’ camp to return to their wagons, they spot Landen’s movement. They think it’s an animal and don’t find him. Landen rolls under the wagon and hides as they mill around. Gerard walks up to the rear of the wagon, creates an opportunity for Landen to get away. Hillfort flies off with his dragon wings, “want company?” Gvados asks as he changes into his bird from. The merchants are suspicious. Durgyn has been reading a book while at camp. Largo goes to sleep. Landen walks to Durgyn as says with a tone of concern, “I think somebody was in their wagon.”
    “I do too,” Durgyn replies with a wink.
  • The adventurers rest and prepare to set-out at nightfall. Gvados hands out hearth fire to provide a dim light (item from races of stone), then transforms into a wolf.
    As they’re leaving camp, one of the travelers approaches Hillfort. “It is unwise to leave this camp alone. Although we took offense from you, you should still travel with us through the pass when more merchant teams assemble here.”
    “Well, perhaps we could assist you. We plan to attack the duergar and free a hostage.”
    They laugh historically but see that Hillfort is serious. The traveler looks at him with disbelief of his foolishness. “We want no part of that. Good luck.”
    Hillfort asks for coffee and the traveler replies, “Sure, one pound for 3 tin… you are in the middle of the desert wanting to buy from this merchant.”
    --Encounter with Dragonnes in the valley pass. Durgyn enlarged at start. Wolf approaches, Landen too… ROAR!!! Landen is fatigued. Dragonne pounces on Gvados in wolf form. Durgyn runs up and draws warhammer. Largo snipes the Dragonne in the hill, it charges down to Durgyn and clings on with a bite. Landen gets behind the one attacking Durgyn. Gvados takes another pair of claws and a bite for damage. Largo shoots the one attacking Gvados, Hillfort shocks him with a lighting bolt. One fighting Durg and Landen flies into the air to reposition behind Landen and bites him in the shoulder and ROARS!! Landen is exhausted by the deafening roar, Hillfort and Gerard are fatigued. Gvados changes into a raven, flies to Landen and casts a spell to aid his condition. “Thank you night starling” and Landon’s reinvigorated, attacks the Dragonne. The other dragonne chases Gvados in flight. Gvados lands on Landen’s shoulder and the chasing dragonne bites at the raven, sinking his teeth into both. Durgyn steps up and slams one with his hammer, crushing its head into the ground. Largo double snipes, Hillfort fireballs behind the Dragonne. Fatigued Gerard comes into range and throws his longsword, misses. Gvados flies back from Landen’s shoulder, casts a spell (splinterbolt, 203SpC). Pierces it fiercely: dead.
    --Gvados lands and changes back into a wolf. Landen drops to a knee, “Sapphira…” Gerard comes to Landen’s side. Landen looks up at him, “I’m going to make a hat of these things.” Gerard apologizes his sword missed and he didn’t kill the beast. “The deal was dwarven heads… give me a hand up.” Gvados lays in the dirt and whimpers. Landen is fiercely wounded, near to death.
  • The group continues wounded and tired into the desert hills…
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Searching Rahtram for info
Across the ocean, the party finds Thaotrem very different from home
  • A dark skinned human and two dwarves find Hillfort unconscious on a beach. They lift him and take him to a small settlement, barely even established in the foothills boarding a desert. The settlement is Ardan, and when Hillfort regains his wits he finds himself being cared for by the man and dwarves who speak a strange language. He casts a spell and is able to understand them: he learns where he is, the local currency, and two of their names: the human is Hakiy, and one of the dwarves is Noori ibn Ma’sa.
  • Meanwhile the group finds their way into the city of Rhatram. Landen seeks information of his guild-mate Rhynn while shopping in the eastern market. He gets a haircut, skin bald, and the sight of Durgyn seems to distract the barber as he does his job. No one in Rhatram seems to have ever seen a minotaur, and Durgyn can understand why. They certainly aren’t native to the land; all the hair makes the heat unbearable. Landen overpays. When he exits the barber and finds his hired sword Gerard, he asks for an opinion on his new style. “Fearsome m’lord” Gerard jokingly replies.
    Largo finds a bank to learn the common currency and exchange money. He finds the bank is a fancy, large structure. Inside, Largo finds an agent and lays a gold coin on the desk, “ever seen one of these before?” he asks with a wink. The banker replies in common, unamused, “I know the Eastern gold currency… I work at a bank.” He learns the official exchange rate:
    EXCHANGE: 3cp=1tac, 1sp=1tur, 1gp=1gold, 1pp=2tin Tac are small, rounded bits of steel, Tur are larger, finished coins of a metal alloy, gold are hexagonal coins of gold, and Tin are spherical balls of precious metal.
    Sapphira speaks with locals to learn the culture and ways of this foreign place. Gvados changes to bird form and takes a view of the city from the sky. He sees a large ship at port bearing the name ‘Desert Wind’.
    Durgyn discovers coffee… and caffeine.
  • Hillfort imagines his friends must have made it as well, but obviously not to the same place as him. He figured if he could find his way to Rhatram, the group would converge there since it’s their destination. He learns from his hosts that Ardan is 9 days travel from Rhatram. Hillfort decides it’s time to leave and offers to pay the men for their aid. “We could not let you die, there is no price for hospitality.” Hillfort asks, “may I set a price?” “If you must” Hillfort gives them 10 platinum pieces in a pouch. Hakiy insists he travel with Hillfort to Rhatram, and Hillfort walks the small settlement while Hakiy prepares the horses. He casts dancing lights for children, and finds life there quaint, peaceful, and completely isolated.
  • Gvados lands on Landen’s shirtless shoulder. Landen shakes to get him off, but Gvados grapples to keep his footing with his talons. “Huntsman! Get off! Talking animals freak me out…”
    “But it adds to your mystique,” Gvados replies.
    “Fine…”
    The bird nudges Landen’s head, “What’s with this?”
    “Wha?” Landen touches his bald head. “My hair! Where’s my hair!? It’s hot you fool, I cut it off.”
    Landen finds an extravagant merchant’s stall with all sorts of jewelry and clothing. The merchant’s name is Fa’jy. Landen seeks purple and black fine garments of the local attire to keep him cool. “I want a shirt with one sleeve,” Landen states in his noble voice to the merchant.
    “Two weeks custom order, or I can modify a garment in my inventory,” Fa’jy replies.
    Landen finds a shirt he likes and rips a sleeve off.
    “How dare you profane my merchandise!”
    “You said two weeks!” Landen argues and knocks the bird off his shoulder to try on the shirt. Gvados flies around the stall, but it’s so cramped with merchandise he knocks clothing on the ground and crashes onto his back, feigning injury.
    “Get that bird under control or get out of my shop!” Fa’jy screams. “If any more garments are damaged…” The merchant scrambles over to inspect the condition of the items on the ground.
    Landen grabs Gvados and stuffs him in his backpack. “Knock it off,” he grumbles and he stuffs the bird in.
    “Mine are the finest!” Fa’jy growls. “You owe 9 tin!”
    “Okay!” Landen concedes and pays the requested amount.
    “Now leave so that bird is no more trouble.”
    When Landen leaves the merchant’s stall he opens his backpack. Gvados tumbles out and turns into a wolf, causing a huge scene, destroying Landen’s backpack, and bringing the guards running to the scene. Things are resolved… eventually.
  • The group continues to gather information on Rhynn and the emperor’s convoy he spoke of. Gerard seeks information at the taverns, Landen at the docks.
    A ship of the emperor’s, the Firestorm captained by Aan’ha al-Sabui, landed in Rhatram two weeks ago. One day later a caravan left from the ship and traveled northwest: inland to the capital. It is a 17 day journey on foot to take the road to the capital. Over two days travel out from Rhatram there is a long stretch of road that travels through dangerous hill country. A camp is on either end of the road where merchants and travelers wait until they are large enough in number to make the journey through the hills. The road is constantly raided by Duergar that live in the hills. It’s rumored there are so many and they are so established in the hills that settlements litter throughout the hills, hidden in the valleys, and that they even have a large fortress.
    Largo learns that there is no organization of thieves in the area. They cannot survive the harsh punishments in Rhatram and the duergar make it impossible for them to pillage merchants on the roads.
  • The adventurers wait a day for any sign of Hillfort. At the end of their second day in Rhatram they leave in the cool of night on the road to the capital.
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