The Free City

The Vaults Part 2

Puzzled by torture room

Room 2: A room filled with tapestries and antiquities…and rust monsters. A particularly unskillful blunder by Arauka found the party beset by insect monsters who damaged their weapons permanently. Once the battle was won, it was Pluefin who recalled the name of King Tomas’ sword, Heartseeker, leading him to cut through the tapestry containing an image of King Tomas right over the heart, revealing a hidden rune stone, marked “SWORD”.

Room 3: Inside was the statue of a satyr, who asked them 5 riddles. The first 4 proved solvable, but the 5th got the best of them…only to suddenly conjure a giant demon Monkey! A mighty battle found them ultimately victorious and in possession of the rune marked “KEY

Room 4: An apparent torture chamber with a faceless stone statue appearing to listen to a secret from one end of the table. One by one, each part member, upon laying on the table found themselves in a nightmare of their past that they had to attempt to best. Some failed, some passed, ultimately revealing the rune stone marked “CROWN

Upon placing the runestones in the appropriate statues, they were able to take the shard!

They debated/grappled over who got to carry the shard and where they would go with it, ultimately deciding to travel to Stonehaven and the Supreme Aetheneum for more info on the shard’s power.

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Race War, and the High Pengaard Vaults

With body and head, they convinced Queen Ulanova that she shouldn’t let the indignation of a bribed spy in her inner most circle pass. It was time to act. She gave them money for an inn, and told them to come back in several hours. While they settled in, Trag managed to get a note off to Ismael Deeb, care of a coerced rat friend.

The party (along with Arauka’s new bat companion, Winston) made their way back to the palace that night after resting…only to find it whipped up in a frenzy of activity! Guards were mobilizing, citizens were being recruited and the party was placed at the front of the Vanguard! They lead the whooping mob of hundreds of incensed kobolds through the tunneled city, up to the surface, across the bridge into High Pengaard and right up to the gates of the Keep! After a rousing speech by Grimpem, several MASSIVE fireballs from Hettle and the conjuring of a giant tree by Trag, the massive gates gave way and the mob of kobolds flooded into the keep.

Using this most effective of diversions, the group headed around the palace walls to the far western door where a single, highly distracted guard stood watch on the battlements. Hettle magic missile-d him off and a quick scramble over the wall by Squirrel-Form Trag got the group inside the walls and ultimately, into the palace itself. Following the hallways from his flea-form visit, Trag lead the group to the hallway with the entrance to the Vaults, where, as luck would have it, the same two new recruits that told him all about the vaults were there guarding the door!

One linebacker tackle/rapier stab/knock-out blow later and the group was down the stairs with their 2 incapacitated guards and into the Vaults.

In the antechamber, the group found 4 statues each with a divot where something appeared to be missing, and the learned the 4 figures were: Tomas, Odmaer, Bertio, and Hamish. As they entered the main chamber, they saw that main hall had a large column of stairs leading to a pedestal with an amulet displayed, matching the description of the shard they sought. Caution prevailed, and they chose to examine the surrounding rooms.

Room 1: They found a warmly lit study with naught but bookshelves and a desk within. Upon further inspection, they found a gilded mirror which appeared to show the room was filled with flowing orbs…but upon attempting to touch an orb found themselves beset by an invisible attacker who could only be seen through the mirror! A long and difficult battle was fought, rewarding them with a rune which read “ORB” in Dwarvish.

Room 2: A room filled with tapestries and antiquities…and rust monsters. A particularly unskillful blunder by Arauka found the party beset by insect monsters who damaged their weapons permanently. Once the battle was won, it was Pluefin who recalled the name of King Tomas’ sword, Heartseeker, leading him to cut through the tapestry containing an image of King Tomas right over the heart, revealing a hidden rune stone, marked “SWORD”.

Room 3: Inside was the statue of a satyr, who asked them 5 riddles. The first 4 proved solvable, but the 5th got the best of them…only to suddenly conjure a giant demon Monkey! A mighty battle found them ultimately victorious and in possession of the rune marked “KEY

Room 4: An apparent torture chamber with a faceless stone statue appearing to listen to a secret from one end of the table. One by one, each part member, upon laying on the table found themselves in a nightmare of their past that they had to attempt to best. Some failed, some passed, ultimately revealing the rune stone marked “CROWN

Upon placing the runestones in the appropriate statues, they were able to take the shard!

They debated/grappled over who got to carry the shard and where they would go with it, ultimately deciding to travel to Stonehaven and the Supreme Aetheneum for more info on the shard’s power.

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The Great Boris Chase & a meeting gone awry
  • Upon exiting the Underdark, they tracked their way back up to Yshka Byshka’s box. Loot wheels were spun, and their net worth was greatly increased!
  • Went to go see Queen Ulanova, but were headed off by by Boris, her weedy right hand man
  • He seemed enthusiastic and sympathetic to their cause, but when they met the queen, he didnt seem able to sway her.
  • Only slightly disheartened, they left the castle only to be reunited with Hettle, learned of his exploits of the night before
  • As they were getting caught up, a few of the party saw Boris sneaking away looking HELLA suspicious. They decided to chase him…stealthily at first, but he noticed the group and took off running
  • A big chase scene ensued, eventually Trag caught up to him and charmed him, which lead Boris to bring them to a secret meeting he was heading to
  • He lead them above ground, and into a ruined building where a contingent of guards and a noble of King Hamish’s court arrived. It was then the party learned that Boris was being bribed by King Hamish’s court. The Noble was too suspicious of this surprise situation, he ordered his guards to attack, but was ultimately charmed as well. The guards were confused, and they were all going to leave but Pluefin realized their predicament and that the complacency of the Noble wasn’t going to last…so he attacked!
  • In the ensuing battle, Boris, the noble and all of the guards were killed.

The group decided to burn the building and bring Boris’ body and the head of the Noble back to the Queen as leverage to stoke the fires of discontent!

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The Underdark

Yshka Byshka’s offer

The Underdark:
- tracked “something”
- Ambushed by a Roper
- Trag lost a ball on it
- tentacles galore
- finally knocked it unconscious and captured it.

Tried to leave to rest up and return full health and raring to go…popping in and out of the Underdark…only to find their exit trapped by a spider web!

Spider battle. All 3 spiders (giant, wolf, phase) captured (the phase long before being unconscious). As they were capturing the last one, a full battalion of Drow, lead by a Drider and a Priestess, rolled up furious about the desecration of their most sacred of symbols.

Trag dropped a “daylight” bomb
Arauka fired and hit the drider, Pluefin lit Trag’s web on fire, they all ran, the drider fired shots and hit Trag, and Trag popped his thorn wall at the very last second.

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Plotting in High Pengaard and Adventure in the Kobold Ghetto

“Do you really think NOW is a good time to go a-whoring?”

Trag shot a quick glance over his shoulder at the slightly aghast group of companions as he broke away from them as they left the Sin Spire.

“Yes,” he said, bluntly.

It wasn’t long before Trag found himself at the Gilded Lilies, the brothel of highest repute in the city. Upon entering and flashing some coin, the bouncer at the desk (a very large and imposing figure who seemed animatedly respectful towards the women…) called one of the Lillies over to accompany Trag to a room. Pushing open the fine oak door, Trag found himself in one of the nicest brothel rooms he’d ever seen. Plush furs lined the floor, embroidered cushions were strewn strategically around and heavy velvet drapes hung from the ceiling. A warm amber glow emanated from several alchemical lamps, and a fine clockwork time-piece sat prominantly featured on the heavy wooden dresser. A massive 4-post bed dominated the room, and as the young woman went over to the ornate clock and turned a few cranks to set the timer in motion, Trag heaved his heavy frame onto the edge of the bed. He tossed a bag of gold coins onto the dresser, startling the young woman, as this was an extra bag beyond the fee he had already paid at the door, and said to her without an ounce of lust in his voice, “all of this is yours if you tell me about this place and about King Hamish.”

Taken aback to say the least, the young women stammered through the first few sentences of her reply but eventually found her footing. She relayed the following information:

  • The Gilded Lilies is a whore-run brothel who won their sovereignty through espionage and the spilling of the blood of any man who tried to get between the women and their clients’ coin. Unwanted aggression against the women is not tolerated, strict rules of conduct and cleanliness are in place for their clients and they are known for their swift and brutal retribution for any act of transgression. It seemed to Trag to be quite the powerful and influential faction indeed.

After getting the info he felt he was after, Trag left the money and trundled out of the house of the Gilded Lillies, and headed for the home of Ismael Deeb.

He found the rest of the party already inside and Ismael Deeb, Council-For-Hire from the Supreme Aetheneum in Stonehaven, had them lounging comfortably in his Pagoda-style sitting room.

Many questions were asked of his reasons for being in High Pengaard, and he countered with some of his own. Through the back and forth, the party learned the following things:

  • King Hamish’s rose to power through the defeat of the evil Lich King, Thormar the Dread. Fifty years ago, Thormar had laid siege to the city with his massive undead hordelich.jpg (“the patience of those who are not mortal is a thing to behold. Each death through attrition won Thormar another soldier on the inside, and he was happy to sit back and wait.”). Hamish was a simple enlisted soldier, nobody of any great standing. But the story goes, on a moonless night he took it upon himself to sneak out of the city to Thormar’s camp and steal the source of the Lich’s power: his ornate phylactery. Upon the successful completion of his clandestine quest and the phylactery “dealt with”, Hamish was voted into power (a near unheard-of means of rising to power). He has been beloved by his people ever since.
  • There is definitely something magical at work in the city that seems to be soothing discontent. Ismael revealed himself to be a magic user and that he is shielding his mind from outside influence. He believes the magic at work is extremely powerful, yet almost diabolically subtle, in that he suspects it takes time to work on the minds of those within its proximity of influence…anything too strong would be noticed.
  • Ismael has been in Hamish’s presence many times in the last 6 weeks since arriving to Hamish’s council, and he notices that when dignitaries of extreme importance arrive, Hamish shows up wearing a large and ornate amulet around his neck. Most believe it to simply be a relic of his kingdom; some treasure of the realm. But Ismael suspects the ornate necklace gem Hamish wears could be the shard they seek.
  • King Hamish is without an heir, and those that should be posturing themselves for the struggle for succession (wealthy nobles with eligible sons of standing, etc) do not seem to be doing so. There is too much contentment within his council for there to be nothing going on.
  • He believes also that when it is not being worn by King Hamish, that the amulet necklace is held in the royal vaults below the castle. There is only one entrance to the vaults, and the castle is constantly patrolled by guards.

Over many brandy’s and hot herbal teas, the group decided that obtaining the amulet from the vaults is their ultimate goal here in the city, and they concocted a plan that was 3 fold:

1) Trag, in flea form, would ride into the citadel on Ismael’s shoulders, who would get him as close the newest recruits in the guard as possible. Hopefully while transformed Trag would learn the patrol schedule, the location of the vaults and which entrance to the castle made the most sense.

2) Arauka would learn of the best escape routes so that they could beat a hasty retreat out of the city should their intentions be discovered.

3) Grimpem, Hettle and Pluefin were intrigued by the existence of the Kobold Ghetto on the west side of the river that cut a smaller chunk of the city off from the main harbor. Their ultimate goal was to learn what they could about the Kobolds and to stir unrest among them in the hopes of eventually starting a riot against the citadel. This riot would act as the diversion they would need to sneak into the citadel unnoticed.

The next morning on their way across the river, Hettle discovered the Artificer’s District of High Pengaard, and that this city (and this district specifically) is renowned for extremely well-made clockwork gear, much to the liking of his Gnomish heritage. He suddenly noticed that things that he assumed were either alchemical or magical processes taking place all around him in the city were overwhelmingly done with this extremely subtle and finely-hewn craft of clockwork machines. He purchased himself the materials for several clockwork devices of his own making.

Trag and Ismael enacted their plan…Trag transformed into a flea and sat upon Ismael’s shoulder and the pair strolled into the Citadel. Ismael wasn’t out of place anywhere inside and very smoothly made his way as close to the Guard Barracks as possible…very quickly, they spotted the new recruits, fresh-faced and keeping to themselves along the far wall of the mess hall. Trag hopped off and found himself clinging to the uniform of a particularly nervous new recruit by the name of Lander, who, with his buddies, were so obvious with their complaining about their bitch graveyard shift that Trag was able to learn absolutely everything he needed: that the western most side door is the least monitored, that they are guarding the far back hallway that has the entrance to the vaults, that the door to the vaults is unmarked as such, and that they hated having to do the late-night shift.

Grimpem, Pluefin and Hettle made for the Kobold ghetto. Arriving, they discovered that the single bridge across the river was flanked on both sides by much smaller and much cruder chain bridges. They also remembered that Kobolds are nocturnal, so the daytime is a particularly dead time in that neighborhood. They also learned that most of the Kobolds actually live in a vast network of tunnels and caverns beneath this part of the city, but some of the seedier Kobold citizens could be found milling around. They approached one of these cloaked figures and met Igor, a merchant of oddities. kobold_IGOR.gif From him, Grimpem purchased an Oil of Slipperiness, and then through their charm, pumped him for information. He relayed the following information:

  • The Kobolds used to be enslaved in High Pengaard where they worked as miners. The White Marble that lots of the city was built from was their task, and they lived in extreme conditions for many generations as they mined the marble.
  • The ghetto is now a near-sovereign state (they are ruled by a queen). They don’t like “the big folk” across the river, and they are currently vexxed about the proposed tax on their make-shift chain bridges across the river. These chain bridges began as a way to avoid the toll that Hamish put on the only bridge in or out of the ghetto, and should they get cut down, they could easily be collected further down river to simply be rebuilt later under cover of darkness. Eventually, the officials of High Pengaard stopped cutting them down, but recently they have proposed a tax on these bridges, and this is the cause of much vexation among the kobolds.
  • Anyone is welcome in the Kobold’s realm, and oftentime non-kobold visitors are drawn by the grand games in the Fighting Lynx Pits underground…an arena for warriors and fighters to test their mettle against fearsome foes in exchange for the highest renown Kobolds offer, as they greatly revere prowess in battle, even though (or perhaps especially because) they themselves aren’t known to be great warriors. Anyone who bests the arena is granted extreme celebrity status for about “5-7 days” according to Igor. He told them that Yshka Byshka is the kobold in charge of booking the fights in the arena, and that there was an open call that night for participants.

While flea-form Trag/Ismael were in the citadel, and Grimpem/Pluefin/Hettle were exploring the Kobold ghetto and speaking with Igor, Arauka headed down to the docks district where he learned The Monsoon is the best sailor tavern and a great place to barter fast passage out of High Pengaard by boat. He also learned the Northeastern gate, called the “Dwarven Gate”, is the most direct exit that points towards Stonehaven, the home of the Supreme Aethenuem.

The Fighting Lynx Pits
The 3 party members returned to the Ghetto later that day with their remaining members, and the walked through the giant archway that took them below ground into the Kobold realm. There, they sought out Yshka Byshka in his fancy private booth overlooking the Fighting Lynx Pits. Normally combatants entered solo, and it took some convincing, but he eventually allowed them to fight as group if they fought his 3 hardest monsters. They agreed, and the deal was struck. They were relieved of all their possessions/equipment (in fact everything they owned), save for a single weapon each. On the way down to the pits, however, Trag was able to find a bookie Kobold in the crowd and placed a 50 gold bet on themselves at decently long-shot odds, and offered to split any winnings with the Kobold who would place the bet on their behalf.

A few moments later, they stood in the center of the large dirt arena surrounded by a couple thousand spectators. grick.jpegThe grand gate slowly creaked open, and out from the darkness of the tunnel slithered a beast of nightmares, a Grick! A large snake-like creature with a razor sharp squid-like beak in the center of 4 sprouting face tentacles, the beast stood almost 6 feet tall and was about 10 feet from end to end. They learned quickly of just how resilient the monster was to their weapons, and it was magic that finally took him down.

But that was just the first battle of 3, and it was promised that they would increase in their deadliness. Sverf.jpegAs the carcass of the Grick was hauled out of the arena, the gate creaked open again, this time producing a pack of tiny gnome-like creatures…but these were grey-skinned and wielded a wide variety of deadly throwing knives and wicked curved daggers that gleamed in the torch light. These were Svirfneblin, Deep Gnomes, devilish cunning and resourceful. Despite their small stature, they put up one hell of a fight as they coordinated their attacks and darted around the arena, providing only moving targets. Trag, deciding he’d had enough of their nipping weapons, raised his staff high over his head and slammed it down into the dirt. Bisecting the arena and tangling a few of the Deep Gnomes in its thorns sprung a massive wall of brambles, effectively isolating the little bastards and holding them in place to be eliminated one at a time.

The crowd roared and jeered in equal amounts, as the Gnome bodies that could be reached were removed. Yshka Byshka, up to this point having shown no emotion was now leaning forward in his seat, his eyes gazing sternly at the group.

The wall of thorns remained, blocking the party’s view of the tunnel as they heard the gate creak open again…soon, they felt a rumbling in their feet as the ground began to quake louder and louder until…SSMMMAAAAASSSHH Exploding through the brambles came what at first appeared to be a MASSIVE boulder…until it unfurled its limbs and stood up, revealing itself to be a most notorious creature of the Plane of Earth: A Galeb Duhr!Galeb.jpeg

Standing as tall as an Orc and made entirely of earth and stone, the bulky creature extended its stony hand towards some of the larger boulders in the arena and bellowed with an otherworldly roar. To the party’s horror, the boulders burst to life and attacked in a coordinated effort with the Galeb Duhr. The elemental foe turned out to be quite formidable indeed, nearly taking down a few of the squishier party members, but the battle finally ended with all members still on their feet! They were victorious!

As they were escorted from the arena floor, Trag received his cut of the winnings that he had bet on their victory. They were hurried towards Yshka Byshka’s private balcony…

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The High Seas (Part 2), The Kraken Chase and the Golden Steps of High Pengard

A few days of relative peace and calm aboard The Boundless were a welcome thing. The party took this time to get a handle on the ship and those aboard. Pluefin charmed some blue bloods and learned a little about their contact, Ismael Deeb. Most importantly, they learned he frequents the chance houses up in the Golden Steps, a district of High Pengaard that contains tier after tier of increasingly exclusive chance houses.

But the peace was not to last. A couple days from their destination, crew members began whispering about odd groupings of animals in the waters…such as normally solitary reef sharks were spotted below the surface in vast numbers. This culminated a member of the party noticing a flock of birds flying towards the boat…against the wind and at great speed heading straight for the ship!

As soon as the massive flock of gulls reached the deck, the group sprang into action and fought off the oddly-coordinated swarm. The crew became even more restless. Then, staring listlessly off the back of the ship, someone noticed (just before it was too late) a dark shape following in the wake of The Boundless…and just as they did, massive tentacles sprang up over the sides of the ships and began grabbing at crew members.

Kraken_attacks_2.pngA mighty battle ensued as the party scrambled to save those that had been grabbed and stave off the massive tentacles. As some of the massive grabbers had been thwarted, the massive beast reared up behind the ship…the most gigantic Octopus anyone had ever even heard of. As they continued to battle the tentacles (and a few shots taken at the head), it leaped into the air and came crashing down behind the ship, sending a monstrous wave up and over the side, taking nearly everyone off their feet and a few unfortunate crew members off the sides and into the swarming reef sharks below.

As quickly as it had come, the giant octopus retreated. But the next calm few moments were broken by a call from the crow’s nest down to Monte…

“Captain! Something on the horizon off our aft, sir…its…large.”
“How large exactly?” came the reply from Monte
“Hard to say. it just now visible on the horizon…but I’d say the size of a small island!”

Monte stood, stunned, for just a moment. He whispered under his breath so that only a few party members that were close enough could hear: “The Kraken. Iono help us.”

He sprang into action, barking orders and directing people around the ship. He turned to the party and said, “I know you’re not experienced sailors, but we’re gunna need all hands working to help us outrun this thing,” he gestured in the direction they were heading, “especially with that storm we’re about to run straight through.”

The next 12 hours were a hellish nightmare…the skies darkened, the ship rolled side to side as it was thrown around by the angry sea, waves towering over the ship making what once felt like a grand vessel feel like a rubber duck in a bathtub. Despite their lack of experience, the party made themselves quite useful in a variety of ways…working in the rigging to furl and unfurl sails when commanded, tying and retying knots, bracing rope lines, boosting morale, etc.

The looming shape on the horizon only seemed to make a little bit of ground on them, and just when they thought their strength would give out, the storm broke and the watch gave the all clear…followed shortly by that most blessed of calls, “LAND HO!”

The ship had arrived at its destination, High Pengaard, the Capitol City of Vramora and the realm of King Hamish.
High_Pengaard.png

Hopping off the boat, the party decided they needed to establish a home base before . Pluefin, through his charming of some blue blood passengers on the ship, he was given a place to stay as well as a few finer pieces of clothing so he would be “more presentable on the Golden Steps.” Hettle attempted to steal some clothes but failed and was forced to flee. Grimpem once again donned his Duke Ellington disguise and waltzed right through the front door of the Sin Spire. Trag and Hettle were forced to concoct a plan to sneak in through the servant entrance.

Inside the Sin Spire, they found extravagantly dressed nobles seated around many different gaming tables, sipping many colored liquids from tiny crystal goblets, many smoking from pipes or from long, thin cigars. A reserved murmur was the standard tone for the floor, broken occasionally by polite cheers or moans of sympathy from various tables, with occasional cheering from the floor above. The foppy attendant who greeted told them explained they were welcome to game on the 1st floor until they were invited upstairs. He then went on to tell of the evenings’ games that were available, helped them get their chips and helped them to their first table: a game of Avandra’s Favor. After rolling well and wining some chips, they moved on to the next table, The Gambit of Ord. After that, they were invited upstairs, where they arrived just in time to place their bets on the most prestigious game of the night, Quon A Drensal, or the "Run Of Luck.”

Bets were placed on the various racing lizards and the race was run, with the decisive winner being Meatball, followed by Relax, We Got This, Penelope in third, Ekog The Destroyer in 4th, and Mister Foxcastle in 5th. Arauka, being the big winner, went to go collect his winnings when he heard a group of gentleman laughing, and one of them exclaimed “HA! You really had me there, Lord Deeb!”

HalfElfDuelist02_zps10cf7e77.jpgTurning to see who this was addressed to, Arauka found himself face to face with a mocha-skinned Sand Elf with grey knee breeches, a dazzling navy blue coat with tails, a ruffled white ascot, rapier at his side and jet black hair that cascaded over his shoulders. Realizing this was the contact they were searching for, Arauka casually dropped the name of Kurgi Gemheart. Ismael Deeb’s eyes grew wider for a split second, and he drew Arauka near with a firm handshake. Leaning in, he whispered to Arauka in Elvish, " “We musn’t speak here. Meet me at my home in 1 hour. Try not to draw attention to yourselves, come one at a time.” As he with drew his hand, Arauka discovered a small business card with an address on it had been slipped into his hand…

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The Necromancer's Tower and the High Seas

Ambushed by a group of bandits and Chimeras who clearly had no intentions of holding up their end of the bargain for the party’s work of getting the wagon out of the city, they fought their way through the attack! Finding an old brass key, they decided to enter the dilapidated tower that sat in the clearing, only to discover that once they got inside, some sort of extra-planar magic was at work…for the inside of the tower was noticeably larger than the exterior of the structure should have been able to accommodate. 7161950754_543ff90b5d_b.jpg

They found themselves in a weird circular room with mirrors lining the entire circumference. In the room were 4 pillars in a square with a 5th at its center. Off to one side was a grimy cage, inside of which sat a greasy half-orc, covered in hide and furs. Despite his hangry-ness, they decided they could use the help and let the fellow out, learning it wasTrag, a druid of the nearby forest who had come to the Tower to investigate the unnatural magics taking place within, only to find himself ambushed and captured for what he imagined was a week or so.

Returning their attention to the pillars, they saw that the 4 on the outside held rectangular blocks with various symbols on them, and the one in the center was empty. A quick scan of the room and deciphering of the symbols lead them to realize they could “unlock” the blocks using 4 natural elements: fire, water, earth and air. Doing so at first didn’t appear to do anything, until one of the party noticed that what used to be a blank space now held an ornate object, but only in the reflection of the mirror! Looking at the reflection while attempting to grab it was the only way to secure the item, which was used to open the door on the far side of the room, revealing a set of stairs leading up.

Deciding to power on, they found themselves in another circular room, this one lined with murals depicting hordes of Minotaur in battle. Standing in the center of the room was a shadowy apparition of a Minotaur, motionless, seemingly unaware of their presence. In it’s chest where its heart would be floated the outline of an ornate key. Glancing around the room, they found a Minotaur in one of the sections of mural with a key hole in a similar location to the shadow Minotaur’s floating key. Reaching in to try to grab the key only provoked it into substance and it attacked them viciously (also allowing the party to witness Trag’s shapeshifting abilities for the first time). a210fa6832ad3e14ea3f53c5ff2e29fa.jpg One of the party had the brilliant idea to taunt it into a charge, causing it to run full speed into the image of the minotaur with the key hole, which LO AND BEHOLD, opened the door to the next level!

Ascending to the 3rd level, they found themselves in another make-shift Laboratory, which brought them face to face with the master of the tower, a Human woman in dark robes, black hair and eerily white eyes, and…KEITH THE MYSTERIOUS HALFLING.

Battle ensued, and the party nearly lost 2 of their own in the process, but it was Trag who eventually brought the fight to a close by luring the charging minotaur from the level below up to the 3rd level, grappeling the necormancer and allowing them both to be impaled by the charging beast. They left none alive, rested until all were fit for travel, looted the room, and set out back for…

Oh shit.

Sunrise. They had missed the boat they had arranged to take them to Vramora. The boat that Po had (unbeknownst to them) been clinging to the hull of all night.

As they made their way back to their city with their new companion Trag helping guide them through the forest, they devised a plan for re-entry to Mah’ Puana, since they figured they’d not be welcomed back warmly since their violent escape. Grimpem would assume the roll of an eccentric cult leader/noble and everyone else would be his entourage. No guard tried to stop them, and after a brief disagreement about how to proceed, decided the easiest course of action would be to sell their newly acquired horses and use that money to buy passage on a charter ship to the city of High Pengard.
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Once safely on board their ship, The Boundless, they left the port of Mah’ Puana and headed east, towards Vramora.

A couple days out to see saw the first action of their voyage.

“Sails ho! 3 points of the larboard bow,” came the cry from the nest above.

“Perhaps its just another charter ship?”
“Maybe its a merchant vessel?”
“It could be a Naval ship…what colors are they flying”

All these questions and more began to ripple through the ship. It didn’t take a discerning eye to figure out that this mystery ship was closing on them, their bearing taking them straight towards them.

A short while later, the boat appeared, a two-masted Brigantine flying neutral merchant colors…but as soon as it was within striking distance, another flag suddenly ran up to join those colors: The crimson flag of PIRATES.

And as fate would have it, this ship was fashioned The Maiden’s Vengeance!
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The Captain of the charter ship, along with his imposing first mate Montebank, rallied the ships crew and commanded all the passengers below deck…but was glad to have all the help he could get. Even though the charter ship was larger, the fighting force on The Maiden’s Vengeance was more battle-hardened and vicious, and the odds were not great.

A great battle ensued as the party attempted to repel the boarders and Dubdha, Dwarven pirate captain with whom they had originally made a deal, saw fit to lend them no quarter…but was slain in the battle! They finally managed to repel the last of the boarding pirates, but the captain of the Charter ship was knocked overboard…and despite Trag turning into an otter and jumping overboard, he was lost to Iono, the God of the Sea, Lord of the Grasping Waters.

With the party back aboard The Boundless and Monte now in command, the ship continued on it’s way towards the city of High Pengard on the continent of Vramora.

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Aethervox, The Fang of The Wild & the Eldritch Fragments of Duli

The puzzle wheel loomed before them in the moonlight, it’s cryptic letters gleaming with an otherworldly light that seemed to come from within. A few minutes passed as they worked to solve the riddle, eventually leaving one of them to proclaim what they believed (correctly) was the answer: “COMMAND WORD ORPAR

At first, nothing seemed to happen, but then…Thrum Thrum Thrum

The sound of giant beating wings grew louder and louder until from overhead came the group’s worst nightmare…a giant Ancient Green Dragon! It landed on the end of the ouctropping, dwarfing the party with his massive size. Aethervox, The Fang of The Wild Aethervox_-_Green_Dragon.jpg had come. It became clear that, despite his obvious capability, he didn’t seem intent on destroying them at that moment, mostly out of surprise they were able to make it to his inner sanctum at all. He offered a glimpse into his hatred for the city of Jiyutoshi, his seeking of balance for the lives of the animals/wilderness taken by the denizens of the city, and his desire to destroy Lady Kyoko. He offered them a dire warning: if anyone is to survive, they must convince the people to leave the city.

Pluefin noticed a green glow coming from the throat of the dragon, and also that upon inspection, the dragon seemed not to be made of dragon scales like expected, but rather seemed to be constructed of the wilds themselves. His body made from tightly woven vines and twigs, his massive horns resembling gnarled tree branches.

After he had delivered his warning, he transported them magically to the top of a long mining tunnel with 2 mine carts waiting for them…but behind them, the tunnel began to collapse! They hopped in and raced through the tunnel, dealing with the many obstacles that were thrown at them…vines across the tracks, a gap in the bridge, a giant spider setting a trap for prey…The last stretch of tunnel was done on foot and they dove out into the forest just as the tunnel came down JUST behind them.

They found themselves in the forest where they got lost on the way back tot he city, but eventually made it. Seeking information about what the hell just happened to them, they sought the council of Kurgi Gemheart, the librarian on loan from the Supreme Atheneum in Stonehaven on Vramora. Upon hearing of the green glowing light, he told them The Legend of the Eldritch Fragments of Duli, and bade them to seek the remaining lost fragments. He had 2 leads, one in High Pengard with King Hamish, the other in Tel Kir’ah on Sudreas. They chose King Hamish

They were given horses and set out for Mah Puana. Along the way, found a caravan of covered wagons where some shit had gone down. learned their kids had been stolen by a pack of Gnolls and Kobolds. Rolph the half-orc accompanied them. They got lost (Arauka) and accidentally disturbed an Owlbear which they miraculously killed. They eventually found the right path to a cave where the gnolls and kobolds were holding the children, under the command of a fearsome Troll! An epic battle ensued, and in the process, they discovered the grisly truth: 1 child had already been consumed, another lay dead in a boiling cauldron, and a 3rd was stabbed to death during the struggle.

Upon returning, they met Madame Wanderjoy of Madame Wanderjoy’s Traveling Cavalcade and Minstrel Revue. She rewarded them with trinkets and a safe passage back to Mah Puana. They stayed a few days and set off.

Arriving in the Capitol, the found a tavern, The Wench and Chalice, where the bartender Rolando directed them to the Wicked Squid, where he said they could procure inexpensive passage to High Pengard. Upon arriving, they found the rowdy bar a roiling mass of brawling sailors and scoundrels, but 3 captains sat undisturbed in the center of the room. The trio eventually learned them to be Mira Seaspray of The Windhammer, Dubdha of the Maiden’s Vengeance, and Sesca Veetay of The Leviathan. They relayed their situation, and heard the proposals of the 3 captains, eventually choosing Dubdha and The Maiden’s Vengeance as their vessel of choice, who was able to leave the next morning in exchange for their hard work and effort as part of his crew on the way.

They returned to the Wench and Chalice, and as they were having a drink in the great room, 11a89b2cf393f23c3f6c11dec106c2e8.jpga thin, mustachioed man approached them with a proposal…but it ended up being essentially extortion, as the man made it suddenly apparent that the entire population of the bar was under his command. He bade them to meet at “Wooden It Be Nice – Fine Carts and Wagons” and find a man named Cecil. From there, they would take a stocked cart to a designated spot about an hour’s ride outside of the city. He offered half their 100gp fee up front (suspiciously quickly), and said if no questions were asked and the goods arrived unspoiled and without the group looking, they would receive their 2nd half and be done.

As the party left the tavern, it was immediately obvious that they were being trailed by several individuals. Po decided he would not take part in this plan and headed towards the dock and The Maiden’s Vengeance to try to wait it out until the morning. The remaining 4 headed to meet Cecil and retrieve the cart. They concocted a plan wherein Hettle would pretend to be sick (and produce an awful stench with his magic) and the others would act as his concerned friends helping to escort their ill friend to a specialist outside the gates. The two guards, a young rookie and a jaded vet, began to allow them through, but just as it all seemed in the clear, their captain arrived and smelled a rat! He drew his weapon and called for more guards!

They fought hard to open the gates, and eventually overpowered the guards and managed to get the entire party (including an unconscious Hettle) onto the cart and speed off into the woods beyond the gates!

Meanwhile, Po found himself pursued by the agents of the skinny man from the tavern, but managed to evade their many furious attempts to tackle/injure him. He made it to the water where his Genasi heritage allowed him to escape safely under the surface of the water. From there, he found the Maiden’s Vengeance and clung like a barnacle to the hull, waiting until their morning meeting time…

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The Lost Mining Expedition

Arauka burst out of the burned husk that was once Crab’s Cup, in hot pursuit of the direction of Keith’s pattering footsteps…only to discover the streets outside barren and silent. No Keith to be found…somehow, this slippery halfling had evaded his particularly keep senses once again. As he grumbled under his breath and returned to his party, he cursed the bastard who ever first discovered the arcane arts.

A few hours later, the group brought the news of the lair below the former Crab’s Cup and of Keith the Halfling. Lady Kyoko thanked the party for their work putting this strange organization on their heels, and assured them that they would be able to help the women in captivity. But as they were talking, Kyoko’s Orc Sergeant at Arms, Lob, burst through the door, his usually stoic demeanor broken by a mask of confusion and urgency. He bid the Lady “Must come to the grand hall…one of the lost miners has returned and…you must see this with your own eyes.” The party followed Kyoko and Lob down the corridors to the grand hall where a small crowd had created a circle around someone. When they got close enough, they saw the poor fellow.

Horribly disfigured with a strange flesh-eating disease (that looked oddly similar, albeit way more extreme, to the group of leper-like infected that Lady Kyoko cared for in the upper reaches of the Iron Palace). He babbled his way through the lady’s questions, until Kyoko had a satisfactory jigsaw puzzle of what happened to his mining party: this male dwarf had been wandering the wilderness for many days, probably weeks. The expedition had been working on a particularly interesting vein of ore at the base of some mountains a few days west of town when their camp was suddenly attacked by a giant badger, and he described a sort of “black fire” that enveloped the creature (sounding very similar to the effect of the giant boar that the party encountered as they approached the city). He claimed his fellows barricaded themselves into the mine as the badger attacked. This dwarf made contact with this black fire and the badger as he retreated into the wilderness and very quickly became ill as this disfiguring disease spread through his body. His feverish haze caused him to stumble aimlessly through wildlands until by luck he was spotted by one of the guards on the walls of Jiyutoshi.

The lady Kyoko bid the party to please help the expedition and rescue anyone they could find. There were 15 folk on this expedition, 14 remaining with this fellow accounted for.

As the party ventured through the wilderness following the vague directions of the raving lunatic, they eventually came upon the mining camp. It was in chaos, the remnants of their belongings (along with several corpses) strewn every which way. Arauka noticed some extremely large paw prints and determined them to be those of a giant Badger, confirming the story. As they cautiously ventured into the mine, they experienced a number of challenges, as well as many more corpses of miners: Rust monsters, run-away mine carts, some strange floating monsters that appeared to form from Stalagtites.

Eventually, they came upon a large Dragon Statue, which upon approaching closely enough began to speak in a deep, booming voice: “You approach the realm of one to whom you must first prove your worthiness. You are not known to him, but your hearts are being watched. Answer wisely these riddles” and then asked them 3 riddles. Upon successful completion of all 3, the dragon began to spew water from it’s mouth, the water hitting an invisible barrier behind the party. This sudden “room” they found themselves in began to fill up very quickly, but an observant member of the party noticed a small hole on the ceiling and suggested simple patience, that once the room filled up enough with water, they could simply swim up and out the hole.

As they did, they found themselves magically pulled up the dark crevasse, and when they all emerged, they found themselves in what could only be described as a mini canyon…almost like a giant courtyard many hundreds of yards in diameter set deep into the middle of the mountain, but with the sky open above them. This craggy glade had it’s own waterfall and small river, many large hillocks and plenty of trees. As they observed the land around them, suddenly the ground began to tremble, and from the ground burst a Giant Badger. Screaming in from above came a Giant Eagle, and from around one of the large hillocks came a giant Hyena! A fierce battle ensued, and once the last of these unnatural beasts fell, the ground again began to tremble!

On a flat, rocky outcropping at the top of the largest hillock in the center of the miniature valley, the crew saw a large, standing stone disc rise up. As they got closer, they saw that one one side of it, around the diameter, were many finely-hewn shalestones and copper in a mosaic-like design…they approached with caution…

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Below Crab's Cup Tavern

…and act they did! Throwing caution to the wind, they group decided to go in after Po, as was their charge from Lady Kyoko to deal with the Shadowhands. As they entered the burned out tavern through the back door, Po suddenly awoke from his nasty bump on the head to find himself in a dimly lit block of jail cells. Looking around, he discovered that he was not alone, for each of the surrounding cells was occupied by pregnant women in various states of consciousness. The cell next to his held a young woman who appeared mostly lucid, so he inquired of her where they were and what was going on…but the young woman revealed herself to be not as lucid as she had appeared. Mumbling something about a “monster” who put a “darkness inside her,” Po wasn’t able to get much out from the poor woman, and decided to revert to his training and meditate.

Meanwhile, the group having discovered a trapdoor in the floor of the burned out tavern, they descended the ladder and began traversing carefully through the twisting corridors of the tunnels in which they now found themselves. Eventually, they saw a light from around a corner and, peeking carefully, found themselves in front of a relatively ornate door in a small antechamber. They checked for (physical) traps, but found themselves beset by a magical spray of acid when they attempted to open the door, scalding poor Grimpem (an oddity from what they expected were a bunch of hoodlums and sneak thieves…). As Arauka quietlyTESV_HQ_027.jpg opened the door, he say before him a large domed chamber bisected by a running waterway. One the near side were tables and chairs, an apparent eating hall. On the far side were more lavish accommodations: over-stuffed chairs, couches, luxurious pillows and such for pure comfort (an oddity in what they expected to be a den of thieves…).

Seated at the tables and on one of the far couches were a few thugs clad in dark leather and carrying nasty looking weapons. Arauaka, in a moment of inspiration, grabbed his pet mouse and flung it at one of the seated thugs….only to miscalculate his aim and simply lob the poor creature into the room in full view of the thugs! With their cover blown, the crew burst into the room and set into fierce combat with the 4 occupants. After dispatching them and hiding their bodies in the waterway, they opened a door to find the kitchen and a boistrous chef hard at work. Hettle, in an attempt to befriend him, managed to (quite quickly) earn the ire of the mustachioed chef, who then flung his bubbling pot of bolognese sauce at gnome in the doorway. It clattered with an enormous BANG off the door, and the trio quickly subdued the man as he slipped in the bolognese as he fearlessly attacked the crew with a kitchen knife. Binding his hands and feet and gagging him with a potent block of hard cheese, they hid the bound chef in the pantry and closed the door.

The mighty sound of the pot of red sauce crashing against the door was enough to rattle Po from his meditation, and he began calling loudly for help, and to his great fortune, Pluefin, Arauka and Hettle all heard him! They followed their ears to the door Po’s voice was coming from and jimmied the lock open, and the soon found themselves in the cell block with Po and the Pregnant women.

With a sobering realization, they deduced this must be one of the holding cells for the women Keith has been using in his dastardly experiments! With so many of the women appearing to be in such poor health and shell-shocked mental states, they decided that they would focus on springing Po from his cell and leave the women here to be retrieved later by Lady Kyoko’s guards.

Some mighty swings from Grimpem’s hammer freed the monk, but the sensitive perception of several of the party heard that the massive hammer blows had drawn the attention of some other undesirables in the stronghold. Realizing they were trapped in the narrow dead end of the cell block, they decided to set a trap as they had in similar situations. They heard the voices of multiple people and shortly thereafter, the sound of keys in the lock of the door at the end of their narrow hallway. The poor fool who came rushing through as the door swung open met with a grisly fate: in near identical circumstances as Arauka’s last trap, the man’s leg was completely severed, and he fell, shrieking to the ground.

BATTLE WAS ON!

As the members began to fall and the prowess of the party in battle became apparent, the apparent leader called out, “Master! Master, we need you!” From a door they had discovered earlier to be locked emerged…Keith the Mysterious Halfling himself! Despite the relentless bombarding the party with vicious spells, it only took a few solid hits for the crew to watch Keith’s expression of rage and ferocity melt to one of mortal panic, and in what seemed to be his preferred method of escape, filled the room with a magical fog and made a break for it.

Arauka, having magically marked the halfling as a target, followed the sounds of pattering footsteps as it beat a hasty retreat towards the entrance. Arauka followed the direction of the sounds and headed back towards Crab’s Cup.

The rest of the party remained in the stronghold for a few short moments, gathering what items they could find, including a few potions.

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