Dakkon

With Friends Like These
In which the party learns there's a traitor in their midst.

As we’re walking through Gloomwrought, we’re attacked by a host of beings—among them golems that rise from the street itself. We manage to defeat them all, save one, and attempt to question him. Jack asks the remaining archer who he’s working for and receives no answer. He attempts to heal him, but is unable to do so. He then continues attempting to question the archer, this time trying to scare the guy into talking. This also fails.

Aideena comes over and soothes the archer, which seems to work. He looks more at peace and willing to speak. When Aideena asks him why we were attacked, the archer replies that it’s his job. Aideena and Jack both ask who the archer works for and he replies that he works for the Borderlanders. He then promptly dies, which means we’re not able to find anything else out.

Aideena wonders aloud why the Borderlanders have followed us to Gloomwrought and Targoth wants to know why they’re out to kill us. Unfortunately, we have no answers and we’re in need of a moment to regroup. We look around and see that we’re in a low income, mixed residential and commercial area. Eben suggests that we take some refuge and we find an abandoned warehouse.

Once inside, I look around to make sure the room is defensible. Meanwhile, we discuss what we’ve just learned. We wonder if the Borderlanders have followed us, and then we reach a logical, though uncomfortable conclusion: there must be a mole.

There’s no other way that the Borderlanders could possibly know where we were headed since even we didn’t know where we were going until just before we left.

Daren asks us if these are the same Borderlanders who are viewed as an aid group in Easar and Jack answers that yes, they seem to be following us.

Somebody notes that one of the attackers got away, unfortunately.

We brief Daren on our history with the Borderlanders and mention Morage, the mysterious leader of the group. Daren remarks that he’s heard of Morage. He continues by saying that the Borderlanders approached the halflings about using their ships for aiding and trading. The halflings—or, at least, the Windrakers—declined, but Daren mentions that they were approached some time ago.

We question Daren a bit more on whether it’s possible to sail between Easar and Gloomwrought and he agrees that it is possible. Dangerous, he says, but also lucrative.

We then wonder if the Borderlanders might be involved in the kidnapping, but we don’t have any theories other than speculation.

Because we had success in tracking in the Dust Quarter, we wonder if the guy who got away from us can be tracked. We determine that it’s not possible. We’re no longer in the Dust Quarter, after all, and any evidence there might have been to follow has been destroyed.

We decide that our best course of action is to continue onto the House of Sterling, as was our plan before being attacked.

With that decision made, we leave the abandoned warehouse and continue to the House of Sterling, which is in the Drowned Quarter and is the headquarters of the Veiled League. We wait outside for a moment, debating how to present ourselves, when the door opens for us. It seems we are expected.

We enter a grand parlour and are greeted by a member of the Veiled League. He gives us a spiel about how we’re in the right place for any pleasure of this or any other world and that everything can be bought for the right price. He tells us all we have to do is name our vice and he will name the price.

Most of us are uninterested in the more salacious vices implicit in his speech and he then asks us why we’re at the House of Sterling in the first place. We explain that two nobles have been kidnapped and we’re trying to locate them. We are trying to find their whereabouts and learn who kidnapped them in the first place.

He then explains that information is yet another thing that can be bought at this establishment, telling us that the Bearer of Secrets can answer our question and that it lies below.

Targoth asks for clarification of what the man means by below. Instead of answering, the man tells us to follow him and then he leads us down a staircase. We don’t see anyone, but we’re on guard given the ambush we walked into on our way to the House of Sterling.

When we reach the bottom, it’s cold, but there is light. We continue forward until the man leads us to a door and it opens. Inside is a humanoid shape, but the incredible smell of decay is overwhelming.

The Bearer of Secrets lifts its shrouded head in a thoroughly unsettling manner. The man tells us that the creature is an incunabulum, that it came from Glimmer, which is a city in the Shadowdark, and that the creature and others of its kind are the ultimate secret bearers.

Targoth asks what he means and the man explains that these creatures collect secrets, but are persecuted and despised because of what they do.

When the man finishes speaking, the creature looks at all of us. It then opens its mouth and speaks in an incomprehensible language, which the man translates for us by turning to me and saying that the creature seeks the tome I carry.

I pretend that I don’t know what they’re talking about, saying, “What tome?”

The man then says, “The diary. It has knowledge that the creature does not possess.” The man then tells us that in exchange for me allowing the creature to see the diary, it will give us knowledge to help us find the kidnapped nobles and answer one question that I ask.

I’m still tempted to say no until the man explains that I will get the diary back in the same condition I handed it over when the creature is done with it. Still, I only reluctantly agree to the proposition and hand over the diary. The man takes it and hands it to the creature who then takes it and leafs through it. As the creature does this, the writing on the pages seems to soak into the creature, as though it is absorbing the knowledge from the page. The process is deeply unsettling and makes me nervous until the creature returns the diary and I look through it to make sure it looks the same.

To my relief, it does. At this point, I’m told to ask my question. I only hesitate for a moment before asking, “Is he alive?” In my mind, I see a room that looks like a cavern, filled with light from what appears to be reflected firelight.

Chained to the wall is Jalmari. His head is hanging low so that I’m unable to see his face or eyes, but his chest is moving.

The vision dissipates and I’m left to flounder in a sea of mixed emotions. The creature speaks in his incomprehensible language. The man tells us, “They are waiting for you,” and it’s clear that the creature means the beings holding Jalmari, rather than Jalmari himself.

Before I have much time to digest this vision, I have another. I see a tiefling and a shadar-kai bound to columns in a wooden room. Both men are sagging against the columns and I’m not able to see their faces. I can hear water and the vision pulls out to show a ship that’s sinking near the Shattered Isles. I don’t recognize the ship, but a single word pops into my mind: Nobletide.

The vision dissipates and the creature lowers its head, no longer appearing to be animate or alive. Jack asks me if I saw where we need to go to find his sister, but I answer that no, I did not. I’m still shocked by both visions and very aware of my surroundings as we begin walking back up to the opulent parlour.

Targoth asks me where we need to go next and I respond that we need to head for the Shattered Isles. Targoth then asks if that’s where they are and I answer that yes, they are. Plus, I add urgently, we don’t have time to waste since there’s no way to know if they’re still alive. I’m not only talking about the two men—who are our ticket to the hells—but also about what I saw in the first vision, though I’m not sure if anyone else picks up on that.

Eben, meanwhile, initiates a conversation with the man called Arras about communicating with the Raven Queen and how he might make that happen. Arras responds by saying he’d be more than happy to accept payment and then kill Eben to allow him to commune with the Raven Queen. Eben realizes that this may not be beneficial to him and declines Arras’ offer.

Arras then tells us that if we seek the Drowned Quarter and the Shattered Isles, we need to get there in a certain way and provides us with directions.

We then take our leave and make our way to the Drowned Quarter. When we get there, what we see puts us in mind of what happened at Cendriane, Tas Tarsel and Essend, and the Sunken City of Tarnebolge. Whatever destroyed this place was massive and some part of that horror clings to the place. Though we are reminded that Viri was behind similar destruction we saw elsewhere, here, it is well-known that Prince Rolan and his deva consort Feria played the key role in the creation of the Shattered Isles. We’re less sure, however, what power she channels or what god she serves.

As we stand on the quay, we see an assortment of strange and vacant people who all have the appearance of those who have let their bodies and minds begin to break down. Many of them have nervous tics and compulsively scratch at themselves.

The others ask for an explanation of what I saw and I told them that I saw the ship, which I know is called the Nobletide, wrecked on a rock in the Shattered Isles with the two kidnapped nobles, Addis Kadal and Ulan Tenebre, tied up and left to die.

From where we stand, we can see some of the Isles and we’re able to spot two ships. One of them, the one that’s further away, is broken, half of it missing and the other half run aground on rocky shoals. This matches pretty closely with what I saw and, despite our distance, we’re fairly certain this is the Nobletide.

The other ship is much closer and there appears to be activity at this one. We can see a large party of men and half-orcs around and on the ship. We know this is an unusual sight in Gloomwrought, especially because the ship has the look of a Dakkoni smuggling ship. These ships are very fast and designed to outrun any pursuits. The sails are also black or dark blue to provide camouflage.

A closer look at the men and half-orcs leads us to believe that they’re not Shadowfell denizens; none of them have the look of those who spend extended amounts of time in the Shadowfell. All of them also appear to be busy with their tasks and are taking no notice of either the other boat or us. In fact, they appear to be in a hurry, more than likely loading contraband onto the ship and preparing to depart.

As we stand there and watch this, we see five men stride along the quay, walking with purpose. They are not paying us or any of the shamblemen any attention and walk towards a rowboat that is tied to the quay. Three of the men get in and begin to row out to the smuggling ship while the other two continue walking. Jack and I decide to follow them and see where they’re going and begin to walk along the quay and amidst the shamblemen. As we walk, we can see where some of the shamblemen—who are clearly addicted to some sort of substance—have died from their addiction, their bodies left to rot and the stench clinging to our nostrils unpleasantly.

Jack and I carefully walk along the quay, trying to keep our distance from the shamblemen while also discreetly following the two men. When we’re about halfway along, however, two of the shamblemen whip out their daggers and start fighting in front of us.

We pull out our weapons to defend ourselves and the rest of the party come running, but it’s not until Daren screams Jack’s name that the attention of the shamblemen is drawn to us. We’re then pulled into the encounter and forced to fight the drug addicts.

While fighting, Targoth is inadvertently dosed with the drug, which unfortunately begins to affect him.

As we’re fighting, though, darkness coalesces around us and two women appear. We all recognize them as Jack’s older sisters, who kill the remaining drug addicts. Marja sticks one finger into one of the dead person’s mouth and tells us about the drug addling them—Fiend’s Breath. She then accuses Jack of dithering. And Berthe chimes in with her own accusations that Jack is taking too long in accomplishing what he needs to do. Jack explains that we’re tracking the ones that we’re trying to save the ones that can get us to hell to help save Helena.

The sisters then say that they bring instructions. Marja is disdainful, but Berthe shows a bit more patience by cryptically saying that Jack needs to move further towards solving both dilemmas and that he needs to do what needs to be done.

Jack, unsurprisingly, is confused.

Marja snaps at him to figure out, which provokes Jack into yelling at her to help or leave. Marja leaves, taking some of the darkness with her. Berthe tells Jack that he must rely on his allies and that she’s unable to tell him more than that. She also says that he needs to work this out and that he should think carefully about what he’s able to do. She tells him that he can follow two threads or follow one and allow the other to spiral out of control. This is his choice to make. She then implores Jack to find Helena before leaving, taking the rest of the darkness with her.

Jack turns to Aideena helplessly, saying he has no idea what she means. Aideena replies that she hasn’t any idea either. And then Jack replies that he knows he’s not the best at plans and he desperately needs help. Aideena then takes a stab at it and says, “Maybe we need to follow two paths.”

Jack latches onto this, even as he begins to panic, saying, “Yes, two paths.” He then turns to Eben and says, “I’m supposed to lean on you.”

“They only talked about Helena and the toxin in the city,” Daren pipes up, probably upset that Jack would talk about leaning on Eben in any capacity.

We all then wonder if perhaps the Borderlanders are supplying the Fiend’s Breath somehow, but it’s really all speculation at this point. By now, the rowboat we’d seen earlier returns and the men who are in it climb out and walk away. Jack, seeing this, jumps into the boat to begin heading out to either one of the two ships. I follow immediately, and then Aideena and the others climb in as well. Daren offers to steer, which is probably for the best since he’s the most familiar with ships, and we begin to make our way out towards the Nightrunner—the smuggling ship—and the Nobletide.

As we row out towards the ships, we argue about what our priorities ought to be. I’m in favor of going straight to the Nobletide since the situation didn’t look good for the two we are trying to rescue, but I’m outvoted and we decide to try and destroy the Nightrunner. Aideena attempts to set the ship on fire, but the fire does no damage despite the fact that Aideena aimed at the sail. We realize that the ship is enchanted to resist fire. I again argue that the Nobletide should be our priority, but I’m outvoted and we decide to attempt to board the Nightrunner and stop the smugglers.

We circle the ship as we decide, but as the deck is cleared and there’s a handy ladder to climb aboard, Daren steers us up the ship and we begin boarding. We make our way up the ladders as stealthily as possible and reach the deck. No one is there so we have Eben guard the stairs and quietly descend to the next level.

Down there, we see boxes of cargo. Jack stealthily breaks into one of them and pulls vials of Fiend’s Breath out. From the size of the boxes and the vials, it’s clear that there’s an overwhelming amount of the stuff being shipped.

What surprises us, though, is the fact that Fiend’s Breath is being smuggled away from Gloomwrought. The only place it could be going is the prime plane. We wonder if it’s possible to destroy the cargo, but Aideena can tell that they’re being arcanely protected.

Jack hauls the box up to the deck and tosses it overboard and I help him open another crate to toss more boxes over the side. It’s clear, though, that this is not really going to solve much as it will take far too long to dispose of the cargo this way. Also, we’re not even sure the cargo will be destroyed in the water. Jack is adamant, however, that we need to stop this from making its way to Dakkon.

We decide that we need to head further down, where the crew of the ship appears to be. Jack goes first, shoving Eben out of his way and quietly going down to the next deck. From here, we can more clearly hear the crew, who are one level below us, as they work. There are more boxes on this level, as well as a pair of grates through which we’re able to see what the crew is up to. There are so many boxes and the number of vials this represents is truly staggering.

From what Jack is able to observe, there are six men working below us. He is able to hear instructions that one of them, presumably the captain of the ship, is giving to the others. Jack can hear that the ship is bound for Easar.

He leaves the grates to tell us this, but the men can hear us and they come up to investigate. We have only a little time to prepare before we’re under attack.

I’m able to convince one of the first that we’re actually his ally and that he needs to head back downstairs and stop the rest of the crew from attacking us, but unfortunately this only works on him and no one else. We’re then in a fierce battle not only with the crew, but the captain and also a necromancer that they’ve brought with them.

As we’re fighting, the captain recognizes Jack and Targoth and mentions them by name. Jack asks him what his name is and the captain says it and mentions they’re with the Borderlanders. Targoth then realizes that this is what they wanted the halfling ships for and the captain says, “You’ve figured out our little plan. Now you must die.”

He exhorts the crew to kill us and tells us that Morage wants us dead.

The battle continues, though, and we begin to get the upper hand until we’ve killed some of the sailors and the captain is gravely wounded. That’s when one of the sailors surrenders. Another one then surrenders.

Aideena has primarily battled with the necromancer and surrounds him with fire before attempting to talk at him through it. Unexpectedly, the flames turn toward the necromancer and speak to him in an unknown language. When this happens, Aideena turns into the being of fire.

This all terrifies the necromancer, who promptly surrenders. Aideena accepts it for the moment and extinguishes the fire. She then asks him why this cargo is headed for Easar. The necromancer replies that it’s the task they’ve been given and that it’s what Morage wants. Aideena wants the necromancer to take us to Morage, but he doesn’t know where Morage is.

Aideena then tells him that we’re searching for some missing nobles and that we know where they are and they’re not far, but we’ll need a boat to get there. The necromancer agrees to assist us with this and tells us to let the captain die. We also discover that the necromancer doesn’t serve the Raven Queen.

Eben heals the captain to question him and he confirms what we already know: that the drug shipment is bound for Easar. We then ask why the Borderlanders are trying to kill us and the captain replies that Morage sees us as a threat and that the Borderlanders are in many places. He says that this is all part of Morage’s plan. We ask the captain who Morage is, but he says that he’s never met him.

He and the necromancer then get into a bit of a pissing contest about who is higher ranking in the group.

We then want to know how the Borderlanders knew where we were headed and we’re told that there’s an informant. We demand to know who this is and he says he’s never seen the informant himself, he only ever receives letters or emissaries. We find out, though, that the Borderlanders plan to take the city over and he hands over a note from Druuk authorizing him to have passage.

This information makes us wonder if Morage is in Easar, but we’re not sure.

We then question him about the kidnapped people we’re trying to rescue and the captain claims not to know anything about that. After we’re done questioning the captain, we decide we need to dispose of the cargo and make our way over to the Nightrunner to rescue the kidnapped people.

View
Welcome to Gloomwrought
In which the party returns to the Shadowfell

After defeating the frost giants and making a deal with the elemental, we begin our trek through the very northern reaches of the Frostmarch towards Gloomwrought. After some time making our way through the mountains, the ice elemental stops at a point that overlooks the city and turns to Aideena, telling her that if they go any closer, they risk their lives.

From our vantage point, we’re able to see the city but not closely. It’s dark this far north at this time of year, after all. We are able to tell that there is no real way to sneak into the city. There are large walls that surround it and only a few stragglers that make their way along the road to the city’s gates. The road is just about the only way in, too, because the city sits on a frozen fen that would be very difficult to traverse.

We also know that as the demesne of the Raven Queen, we will most likely be welcome in the city and there will be no need to hide or conceal our identity.

What we do know about Gloomwrought is that it exists in the prime plane only when there is no sun, but it exists in the Shadowfell at all times. At this point, we thank the ice elemental for showing us the way to the city and bid it a farewell. It takes its leave of us and we begin to proceed out of the mountains towards the city itself.

Targoth wonders what we need to do, as we only know that Solange is going to send a raven and get in contact with someone who will be able to lead us to the portal to the hells. I say that I think we ought to make our way into the city and then perhaps find some accommodation while we wait.

This seems to be the best plan for the moment, so we all agree that this is what we shall do.

As we draw closer to the city, we begin to feel the effects of the Shadowfell, which affects us all differently. Aideena is suddenly anxious and abrupt, almost manic in her need to continue forward and accomplish what needs to be done. On the other hand, I become tired and lethargic and have difficulty working up the energy to give much thought or care to anything. Jack grows forgetful and Targoth appears to be distracted and brooding. Daren clings to Jack even more than usual.

Eben appears to be the only one of the party unaffected by our proximity to Gloomwrought and the Shadowfell.

When we get close to the city, Aideena begins to run towards the gates and the guards manning the post. There’s something of a line to get into the city, but Aideena shows no concern for this and starts shoving people out of her way in order to get to the front of the line. It’s clear that the others are also experiencing some effects from being in the Shadowfell, as Aideena’s actions merely provoke glares and muttering rather than a fight.

We’re now close enough to the city to see that the walls aren’t still and motionless like they are on the prime plane. These walls writhe and move in and out, not unlike something breathing. It’s disconcerting, but I’m unable to work up much energy to be disgusted or to even point it out.

By this point, even Eben has noticed that we’re all behaving oddly. He asks Aideena what’s wrong with her because she has taken to pacing furiously. This is in response to being told by the guard that she has to wait in line like everyone else. Aideena, like the rest of us, doesn’t realize that there’s something odd about her behavior and merely snaps that we have things to do and she’s trying to get us into the city so we can get them done.

Unfortunately for her, the line moves more slowly than she’d prefer. We do make it to the front eventually, though, and Aideena presents herself to the guard first.

He tells her to state her name and business and she answers that she’s Aideena Caelan and that she’s trying to enter the city to get into the Shadowfell. The guard tells her that she has to sign her name in the book and pay a 50 gold piece fee to enter. Aideena is so keyed up that her hands are shaking too much to sign, so she spells her name for the guard who writes it down and then thrusts a handful of gold at him.

Once he takes it, he allows her into the city and motions Jack forward. The guard tells him to state his name and business and Jack is unable to remember his own name, hesitating over it, until Aideena yells at him to hurry up. The guard then prompts him about his purpose in entering the city and he stutters and stalls until Daren hisses at him that we’re planning to find a portal to the Nine Hells.

The guard then charges him 100 gold pieces. Daren decides that Jack is unable to manage it himself, so he reaches into Jack’s pockets for him and pulls out the right amount of gold and hands it to the guard. The guard then asks Jack to sign his name in the book, but Jack is not really capable of it so the guard does it for him and then allows him to pass into the city.

Next up is Eben, who is able to answer the guard with no trouble until it comes time to signing his name. He leaves a paw print on the sheet which infuriates the guard and causes him to rip the page out and then sign for Eben.

Targoth goes next without incident and then Daren also goes through with no trouble. I’m up next and am able to answer the questions but have difficulty gathering the energy to sign my own name, instead choosing to dictate it to the guard. He makes a sarcastic comment about my lethargy, but I don’t care enough to allow his comments to bother me. He then charges me 50 gold pieces and I lethargically hand him a pile of gold which turns out to be only 30 gold. He then allows me to also enter the city with the rest of the party.

We’re now all in the city—in the Fettered Ward, which is the entertainment district—and we’re trying to figure out where we should go to find an inn. What we know about the city is that the Drowned Quarter and the Ghost Quarter are slums and broken down places for the very desperate and poor. The Shattered Isles—scene of a cataclysmic earthquake—are close to both. We also know that the Dust Quarter is where the nobles live and where the main capital buildings and manor houses are. We also know that the Plaza District is where all of the marketplaces are, including the Harskel Emporium, which is the largest such emporium in the city. Lastly, there’s the Temple District, which is where the religious devotees of the Raven Queen can be found worshipping.

Within the Fettered Ward is the House of Sterling, a den of ill repute infamous for its “entertainments”—sex, drugs, and black market items, amongst many other things.

The streets around where we’re standing are very eerie. There aren’t many people about and the place is very quiet for such a large city. There is no smell, despite being on the sea and the sheer variety of people that live in or pass through the city.

As we’re waiting, three men approach us and offer their services as protection and guides in the city. None of us feel like we actually need protection—Aideena in particular—but we don’t tell them no outright. Instead, we tell them that we need to think it over during the night and we’d let them know if we need them in the morning.

While the discussions are going on, I’m still very tired and decide to sit down and wait for them to finish what they’re doing. Once the conversation is done and the men in the crimson sashes leave, Jack calls me Audra and helps me up so we can look for a place to stay. In normal circumstances, I might be upset that he calls me by the wrong name, but I’m too apathetic to care.

Targoth then leads us in the direction of the Dust Quarter. After a bit of walking, we come across a cheery, welcoming inn called Dorian’s Red Hand. We hesitate a moment and just then two bodies come flying out of the front window. Aideena runs into the inn and she finds a bar brawl just wrapping up. There are plenty of injuries, but the only two fatalities are the men that have been thrown out of the window. The brawl is being broken up by the Deathless Watch.

The rest of us express doubts about staying here, but Aideena insists that we should. While we’re standing there, we attempt to speak to the innkeeper, but he’s in no humor to talk to us as he’s very worried about the effect that the brawl is having on his custom. People are streaming out of the door and he’s fretting about losing all of that business. Meanwhile, some of his employees are trying to clean up the mess made by the brawl.

Aideena decides to assist and Targoth offers his services as a bard to bring business back. The innkeeper tells Targoth that if he’s successful, the innkeeper will give us anything we want.

Targoth and Jack begin to play and—with an assist from Jack’s magical flute—they’re able to bring customers back to the inn. People dance and even look happy or, at least, as happy as they ever look while living in the Shadowfell.

While this is going on, I sit at a table and fall asleep.

Because of their success at bringing people back in, the innkeeper grants us three rooms to use. Aideena carries me to one room and tosses me onto a bed, somehow managing not to wake me. Eventually, the rest of the party is ready to go to bed. Aideena comes back and begins to attempt to trance, though she’s still feeling the effects of the Shadowfell. Targoth and Eben share a room, as do Jack and Daren.

Jack and Daren get intimate in their room and, through that, Jack is able to finally throw off his forgetfulness.

Meanwhile, while sleeping, I once again experience a recurring dream that I’ve been having since we stormed the palace and Jalmari’s apparent death. Usually in the dream, I wake after indirectly seeing a flashing red light. This time, however, because the Shadowfell had exhausted me so much, I sleep through my usual waking point and see more. This time, I see Jalmari—body not moving—being carried away by demons.

I awake early and surprisingly feel much better than I did the day before, but it’s not long before paranoia begins to creep in and I see conspiracies and attackers in every shadow. In fear and to guard against a surprise attack, I pull out my dagger and settle myself in a corner so that no one can sneak up on me.

After a little while, Aideena begins to stir from her trance and opens her eyes. She looks incredibly out of sorts and fumbles to pull herself up from the awkward slump she tranced in. I keep my eyes on her while she attempts to put herself together without tripping or otherwise hurting herself. Aideena asks what’s wrong with me and I suspiciously ask her what that’s supposed to mean.

Aideena says that she just wanted to know why I was acting the way I am and I ask her why she can’t seem to stop running into things. Aideena gives up on speaking to me in return and heads downstairs. I follow her stealthily, suspicious of what she’s going to do and wanting to keep an eye on her.

At about this time, Eben goes to check on Jack and Daren, who are having sex, and walks in on them. What he’s able to see is enough to horrify him and he runs out of the room wishing he hadn’t seen what he’d just seen.

Meanwhile, Targoth makes his way downstairs from his room and sees Aideena running into things and me staying in a corner and looking around me suspiciously. He’s baffled by our behavior but is distracted before he can approach either of us about it. The innkeeper comes to him with two letters, one of which is addressed to The Favored of the Raven and the other is addressed to Eben of House Wylde.

Targoth goes upstairs to deliver these letters to their recipients, and I discreetly follow. No one notices me as I lurk in the shadows to discover what the letters are about and to make sure that there’s nothing suspicious going on.

As I stand there, Targoth hands Eben’s letter to him and he opens it. The contents are an invitation at the behest of Lady Selisse Tenebre to a ball at the House Harskel. Targoth goes to enter Jack and Daren’s room and Eben warns him off because of what he’d seen, but Targoth proceeds to enter the room. By this point, Jack and Daren are done with what they were doing and Targoth gives Jack the letter. His letter is an invitation to the same ball, but from a different person. This invitation is from Tazzak Kadal.

Jack, at this point, is dressed and Daren is not completely. He decides to head downstairs and tells Daren to catch us up. Targoth and Eben join Jack in heading downstairs and I follow them, still hidden.

Once downstairs, Targoth approaches the innkeeper and tries to find out any information about these people that he can. The innkeeper is able to tell him that the ball is an annual affair, held in honor of the Nadir. House Harskel is one of the most powerful in the city and it’s rumored that Prince Roland will attend. The innkeeper then opines that the only people attending are nobles, who are all listless fops. He can’t tell Targoth much about the nobles themselves except that they think they run things and they let Prince Roland think that he runs things. He doesn’t know much about any intrigue, as all of that would be way above him.

Targoth returns to the party and fills us in on what the innkeeper told him. We all decide that we should attend the ball with Jack and Eben. Ultimately, it’s decided that Targoth will go with Eben, since Eben’s invitation sounded more like it was just for Eben and possibly one guest. Jack’s invitation sounded far more open, so the rest of us plan to attend with him.

Attention then turns to what to wear. Darren, especially, is concerned about being properly attired and is dismayed at Eben’s plan to wear his regular armor. He argues that this makes sense because the invitation was addressed to the Champion of the Raven, and Darren gives up on him and tries to convince Jack that it’s important to look sharp. We all eventually agree that we should go to the marketplace and look for suitable clothes, as well as other items.

Before we can leave the inn, the three men from the night before who offered their services as guards and guides find us in the inn and ask us if we need their services. Surprisingly, it’s Targoth who argues that they would be a huge help to us as protectors. No one can figure why he feels that way, but only I argue strenuously against it, so we employ them with Targoth and Aideena handling their salary. After these negotiations are complete, we ask them to lead us to Harskell’s Emporium, which they do.

While at the Emporium, we spend time shopping for items they have, as well as clothes. After a few hours, we have significantly less money but more items and some noble clothing. When we’re done shopping, the guards guide us back to the inn. When we get there, we ask the innkeeper how to find House Harskel. He explains where it is and then hand us black masks that we will need to wear during the ball. He also informs us that we will need to get there early enough to find the people sponsoring our attendance.

We thank him and he agrees to hold our rooms for us in case we need them again. We then leave for the ball. The guards we’ve hired help lead us into the Dust Quarter and to House Harskel, where the ball is being held. As we walk through the streets, we notice that the walls seem to move, as if writhing.

Once we enter the Dust Quarter, it’s even more quiet and empty here than other areas of the city. There are a row of lanterns that are lit with an unnatural, steady glow.

When we finally reach the House, we are asked to state our business. Eben shows his invitation and introduces Targoth as his guest. They are allowed into an antechamber and are told to surrender their weapons. Both do, but Eben proclaims that his mace is ceremonial and has to stay with his outfit, and he is surprisingly allowed to keep it. They are then directed further into the House and told where they can meet with Lady Selisse Tenebre, who is Eben’s sponsor.

Meanwhile, Jack shows the guards his invitation from Lord Tazzak Kadal and introduces the rest of us as his guests. We are then also told to go into an antechamber and surrender our weapons. Most everyone holds at least one thing back and even I’m able to sneak in my new dagger which is fastened to my leg under my dress by a garter holster.

By this time, Lady Selisse has approached Eben to greet him. She politely greets Targoth as well, but then ignores him and begins to flirt with Eben, taking his arm and walking around the room with him. She points out some of the people in attendance, but seems very intent on flirting with Eben.

As this is happening, Tazzak approaches Jack and greets him and the rest of us. He thanks all of us for coming and is more gracious than Lady Selisse, but it’s also clear that he’s mostly concerned with Jack. Tazzak leads all of us into the main room and then introduces us to Dedrek of House Harskel. We spend a moment talking to him, during which he thanks us for coming and we thank him for his hospitality, before he wanders off and we ask Tazzak what the order of events is for the evening. He tells us that there’s drinking, dancing, and mingling until Prince Rolan arrives, which is when dinner will be served.

The party thanks him once again and disperses to mingle. I blend into the partygoers and scope out the room, trying to see if I can overhear any useful information. I carefully approach two men who are talking—one who is in a hood and the other who is a member of the Deathless Watch. I overhear the following:

“Veris Carradh was recently found dead in the canals of Gloomwrought. He’d fallen in love with a member of a rival house and drawn his father’s ire.”

“That reminds me of Jania Carradh. Her father had her lover killed.”

“You would think he’d disappear him into the hells instead of dumping him into the canals.”

After this, they go on to discuss more mundane and trivial subjects, so I instead turn my attention to the subject of their discussion. Tazzak had pointed the Carradhs out; the “Iron Lord”, the Head of the House, looks incredibly unapproachable. His daugher is standing with him, a sour look on her face. All together, they don’t look like they’d be much for a discussion, so I instead turn my attention to the host for the evening, Dedrek Harskell.

Still stealthy and blending in, I get closer to where he’s in conversation with another attendee. Dedric is discussing Prince Rolan and, specifically, how he’s lived for so long. Harskel suspects that he’s using the Deva somehow, as it’s been over 300 years. Harskel half-wonderingly and half-jealously wonders how the man has managed it and wants to find out so that he may be able to do the same.

The eladrin he’s talking to mentions that it’s the one area he hasn’t managed to master. This is somewhat interesting, but I continue to drift amongst the crowd as the rest of the party does the same. Jack skulks near the edges with Daren following in his wake; Aideena sits at a table to avoid further injuring herself with her sudden clumsiness, and Targoth approaches a pair of noble dwarves and begins a conversation about the people in the room.

They tell Targoth, after some introductions, that Harskel is wealthy, but is the Gloomwrought equivalent of nouveau riche. More esteemed—though less wealthy—families include our hosts for the evening and House Carradh, all of whom have ties to the hells. This, naturally, piques Targoth’s interest and he asks further, discovering that Carradh, Tenebre, and Kadal have portals into the hells for trading purposes and that each house has a portal master. For Tenebre and Kadal, these portal masters are their sons.

After a bit more verbal back and forth, the conversation ends and Targoth wanders off to locate the rest of the party.

Meanwhile, Jack and Daren approach Tazzak and Jack learns that he knows and is good friends with Solange, and that Tazzak is our contact in the Shadowfell who may be able to help us reach the hells. Tazzak almost makes mention that he has many powerful friends, Solange among them. When Jack expresses an interest in meeting these friends, Tozzak takes Jack around and begins introducing him to the most powerful nobles in Gloomwrought. Jack quickly loses interest and relies on Daren to help him navigate these introductions politely.

About this time, Eben approaches Selisse—who has been keeping an eye on him during the evening—and they begin to flirt once more. Lady Selisse informs Eben that a man named Tsal contacted her and told her to help Eben and the rest of us in whatever way possible. They continue to flirt with each other until Lady Selisse leads Eben from the room. The two find a bedroom and privacy.

Meanwhile, as the group socializes with the people in the room, we find out some information about those present. We discover that no one knows who the father of Lady Selisse’s son is, and that Tazzak doesn’t like her very much.

About this time, the sound of muted horns is heard and Prince Rolan arrives to the house with his consort Feria. Feria is a deva—a creature that live exceptionally long lives and are reborn. They are usually the servant of one of the gods.

The group—sans Eben—reconvene and share what information they’ve learned. Suddenly, the music stops and Prince Rolan and Feria are surrounded by gold-suited guards and quickly escorted quickly from the party. Harskel addresses the party and lets everyone know that the ball is over and that everyone needs to leave. We need to find Eben, but we also need to know what’s happening.

We decide that finding Eben is our top priority, so we search through the house. Jack is the one to find him, bursting into the room where Eben and Lady Selisse have been and startling the two in bed. Jack tells Eben to hurry up and the two attempt to quickly dress as Eben asks Jack what’s going on. Jack informs him and then Lady Selisse, Eben, Jack, and the rest of the party reconvene in the ballroom. Lady Selisse disappears as the party is herded out of the room and towards the entrance area. Through the door, we can see that Lady Selisse and Harskel are engaged in a heated conversation, but we’re moved away from the door and told to take our stuff and exit the house.

We gather our stuff, but we’re determined to find out what’s happening. We exit the house but look around to see if there’s another way back in since we can’t go back in through the entrance. We see patrols of guards in crimson sashes, but we see some running towards a spot where they’re all convening. We make our way over there and see a gash through the hedges that stops at the outer wall.

Eben doesn’t sense a divine presence and can tell the wall isn’t a false one. We all look up and, near the top, there are scratches, maybe from a grappling hook. Jack attempts to climb the wall to get a better look but is stopped from doing so by a guard spotting him. We tell the guard that we’re just trying to help with whatever is happening. One of the guards retrieves a captain, who asks Jack why we were searching the grounds. Jack answers that something happened and we were trying to assist the investigation. The captain will not let us help and tries to have us escorted away, but Targoth steps in and is able to convince the captain that our help would be invaluable. He’s finally convinced and allows Jack to climb the wall to investigate the scratches further.

Jack and I both climb the wall, but Jack is the only one to make it to the top—I fall off and over the wall into the street. Jack doesn’t see much where he is, but I find a piece of a frayed rope and four sets of tracks—two walking and two dragging. The rest of the group scales the wall to the street and we begin following the tracks with some guards accompanying us.

We’re able to follow the tracks in the Dust Quarter, but where they exit the Quarter to the north—into either the Ghost Quarter or the Drowned Quarter—we lose them.

With this lead dead, we decide that we need to know who is missing. We don’t know if Tazzak is missing, but we head to his house first. When we get there, the house is in an uproar. Tazzak has just arrived and Jack presents himself to the guards to gain entrance. The entire group is escorted into the house under armed guard.

Tazzak finally meets with us and tells us that his son Addis is missing, having been kidnapped. He has no idea about who may have taken him, or where, but he tells us is that we should seek out the Veiled League at the House of Sterling.

We agree to help with the search for his son in return for assistance into the Hells. Tazzak basically promises almost anything for the return for his son so we say our goodbyes and make our way over to House Tenebre and Lady Selisse. We discover that her son has also been kidnapped.

Our best lead is the information that Tazzak gave us, so we decide to head to the House of Sterling. Our guards tell us that they have to go back to House Harskel and we begin to make our way to the Fettered Ward and the House of Sterling. As we’re walking, we hear noises in some alleyways and, turning a corner, Targoth sees a part of the wall come free and move towards us.

It attacks.

View
Voices and Visions
In which the party is pushed and pulled in new directions.

We continue to battle what remains of Onath, our one-time companion. We’re managing to hold our own at first, but there’s an obstruction in the battlefield that—if any of us get caught in it—will rip any of us apart with no hope of revival. There are some close calls, but everyone manages to stay clear of it until Jack is trapped.

He is on the verge of being completely destroyed when Aideena makes a desperate effort—running into the void to save him in her place. In the midst of her gamble, she makes contact with the being that has been whispering in her mind for some time—an elemental being named Imix, who calls himself the God of Flame. He tells her that he will help her save Jack if she will swear a pact to him. Aideena has no time to consider her decision or weigh the consequences of it, so she agrees to it and is briefly turned into a creature of flame and given the ability to enter the void, rescue Jack, and get them both out.

Onath screams when this new version of Aideena comes rushing towards him, while Eben is stunned by the sense that the balance has shifted in some cosmic sense.

There is no time to truly stop and contemplate what has happened—and nothing can be done to stop it at this point anyway—so we continue to fight Onath and eventually kill him. Eben manages to strike the killing blow and, just before he expires, he seems to come back to some semblance of his old self and apologizes.

When Onath is dead, his body suddenly shows the signs of weeks of decay. It’s clear that something dark—the pearl, most likely—has been keeping what was essentially a corpse alive for some time. The pearl remains and is no longer active, so Jack picks it up and stores it with the others. Now that the immediacy of battle is over, we turn to Aideena and begin asking her what happened, and why she’s now no longer a fire elemental.

She answers somewhat tersely, merely saying that she saved Jack. Jack is grateful—as are the rest of us—but we’re also concerned about what happened to her and how she was able to do what she did. She does mention that she heard the voice again and says that he helped her save Jack, but it seems clear that she’s reluctant to say even that much.

Eben will not be deterred and continues to ask her specifically what happened.

Aideena reiterates that she saved Jack, and Eben fires back, saying, “At what cost?”

Aideena, in response, bursts into flame, causing Eben to jump away from her. To this point, I’ve mostly stayed out of the argument, but at this I look at Aideena suspiciously. Jack, in an effort to avert what looks like a massive row in the making, asks Aideena if there’s anything he can do to help her. This calms Aideena somewhat and she reverts back to normal.

Of course, Eben takes that opportunity to provoke Aideena once again, asking her, “Have you sold us out?”

Aideena responds in the negative but manages to not burst into flame once more. Jack, always awkward in social interactions, walks away from the group and uses his Ki focus to speak to the Raven Queen about what’s happened. He doesn’t feel anything, which is very unusual for him.

It’s so remarkable that he turns back to the group and informs us that he is unable to hear her.

The importance of the point that Jack is trying to make is disregarded for the ensuing confrontation between Aideen and Eben. He tells her that the gods are worried and explains further by saying that when she saved Jack, he became aware of some great shift in a cosmic balance of power.

This involves the rest of us in the argumentative discussion over what Eben’s perception could mean and what, exactly, Aideena did and why she’s so reluctant to discuss it. After some lengthy debate, Aideena finally admits that she swore herself to Imix, but that she isn’t really sure what that entails.

This infuriates Eben, who storms off.

The rest of us prepare to get some rest after a long day. I have my usual nightmare.

In the morning, Jack awakes and approaches Eben, telling him, “I have spoken with her. I can feel for the pearls now. I asked her if we were doing the right thing and she said yes. She said all of us have done right by her.”

Eben looks relieved to hear this and thanks Jack for telling him. Jack tells him that he didn’t receive any further feathers, but offers the remaining mundane feathers as a symbol of the Raven Queen. Eben demurs, finally only accepting one and giving the rest back to Jack.

Their conversation completed, Jack approaches the rest of the group and recounts his conversation with the Raven Queen. He also reminds everyone that we need to go very far to the south to find the next pearl.

Targoth, however, wants to return to Easar and speak with Saresh again about the mountain that he saw in the distance. We all agree that going back through the portal makes the most sense at the current time. Before we head back, Eben brusquely apologizes to Aideena for being so hard on her the night before.

Aideena accepts his apology and we begin the journey back to the temple that houses the portal.

When we arrive, we take the time to explore more of it than we did when we were here before. As we’re looking around, we find a room with a deep shaft. When we look down, the shaft is decorated with reliefs depicting three different scenes. We also hear battle sounds echoing up from the bottom and decide we should explore the lower level.

One other thing we hear is the sound of men shouting a battle cry, “For Yvanthor!” Targoth thinks it’s strange since Yvanthor was the capital of Arkhosia and hasn’t existed in a very long time.

We set up some ropes so we can make it to the lower level. Targoth, Jack, and Aideena are the first to be lowered into the chamber. What they see is a large hall, silent and still, with lots of dust. It appears to have once been a stronghold and a residence, but Targoth doesn’t see any recognizable names. After a moment of looking around, Targoth calls up that the hall appears to be empty.

Eben and I follow the rest of the party to the lower level and look around. It’s fairly dark, and the others need a sun rod to be able to see where they’re going. Targoth leads us into a hallway off the main hall and we don’t get far before we hear more noises and voices in draconic and abyssal.

When we round one corner of the hall, we begin to see signs—most prominently, the skeletons of long dead Tieflings and dragonborn—of a battle that happened here long ago. Targoth, at this moment, has a vision, seeing the place as it once was. In his vision, Targoth sees a huge dragon in the reception chamber readying for battle. He also sees the beginning of a battle between Tieflings and dragonborn.

Just after seeing these things, the skeletons of the Tieflings and dragonborn animate and attack. We quickly call out to the dragonborn soldiers and side with them and together, we’re able to stop the Tiefling skeletons. Once the battle is over, the skeletons become inanimate again and we try to determine what’s happening—if this is just an echo like the battle in Cendriane, or if this is something else. Eben discerns that there’s divine energy, but that is not the only energy source he feels. He tells us that he’s never felt anything like it.

Meanwhile, Targoth experiences an afterimage, echo, or remnants of Io, the god of the dragonborn. It’s clear, though, that Io is not the only divine energy present. The other presence, according to Aideena, feels more raw and primal, similar to what she experienced when she heard the voice of Imix.

We decide to continue moving forward and eventually find ourselves in the receiving chamber. There are tall doors with the engraving of a silver dragon on them. We all make an effort to open them, but they do not budge and there is seemingly no mechanism for opening them.

Those of the party who are more attuned to the divine feel a strong divine energy emanating from behind the doors. It seems to be the signature that we’ve identified as Io and it’s stronger here than the mysterious other signature.

At this moment, the standard gives Targoth a vision of another chamber within the complex, one that relates to the carvings on the wall of the shaft that we came down. From the standard, Targoth knows that this room is not the one behind the doors and that it’s one we need to find if we want to have any hope of opening the doors in the main hall.

So, because of that, we press on and continue to explore the halls and other doors that we come across. The first one we try has nothing in it, and in the second we find a room that is dominated by three mirrors—one large one on each wall. The room itself is surprisingly free of the dust that seems to be omnipresent elsewhere. On the fourth wall is a fresco which depicts a desert and a sunken city with giant flaming stones falling from the sky.

Targoth is able to determine that the city depicted is Tarnavulg, the city that was destroyed by the Green Dragon. But the fresco depicts a human woman dressed in green with her arms raised towards the sky as though she’s calling down the flaming stones.

In the mirror opposite the fresco, it appears fresher and not worn with time. When I step close to get a better look, it attacks my mind and suddenly I vanish into the mirror. I turn around and look back at the fresco. It now looks as though it has come to life and I’m able to clearly see all of the details and watch as the events depicted happen in front of me.. I’m able to get a close look at the human woman’s face and it’s one I recognize: Viri.

In the meantime, when I vanished from the room, a skeleton falls out from the mirror and onto the ground. In shock, Targoth comes racing towards the mirror and finds himself within it, spitting me back out into the room.

When he doesn’t immediately appear, the rest of us get worried, except for me, who is still affected by being within the mirror and wanting to return.

While Targoth is within the world of the mirror, he goes exploring, visiting the audience chamber and spotting a massive white dragon that he knows is Zubukiel. For him, only minutes pass, but for those of us on the outside of the mirror, hours pass without any sign of Targoth. Aideena and Jack, especially are extremely concerned. Aideena decides to attack one of the mirrors—not the one that Targoth went through—and, with Jack’s help—it’s destroyed.

Targoth doesn’t reappear when the mirror is destroyed and that is very worrying to everyone but me, who is still fixated on returning.

Aideena next tries to talk to the mirror, but there is no sentience to reason with. She does, however, feel a pull towards the mirror—a compulsion to step closer—when she tries to engage with it arcanely.

At this point, I run back into the mirror and, unfortunately, Targoth doesn’t reappear outside of the mirror. He does, however, finish exploring the chamber from the other side and I greet him when I see him, asking him where he’s been and what’s been taking him so long. Through our conversation, we discover that our perception of time is vastly different on either side of the mirror.

We turn to the mirror and try to communicate with the others, but it’s clear that we won’t be able to. At this moment, Jack makes the decision to attack the mirror I went through and, with every bit of damage he does to the mirror, I start to bleed. I send him a betrayed look and he finally stops when he notices the blood. We appear to be at an impasse now, with no known way of getting someone out of the mirror without sacrificing someone else.

Aideena and Jack decide that they should get Targoth out because he and Aideena could then confer about what to do, so Jack sacrifices himself and goes through the mirror, only for Targoth to exchange a short conversation with Aideena and then come back through the mirror I entered, allowing me to exit. Aideena decides that perhaps Targoth would—out of all of the party—be best able to figure out a way to allow us all out of the mirror, so she enters the one Targoth went through, sending him back into the real world.

Targoth then exits the mirror and leaves the room to retrieve some of the reconstituted dragonborns we’d fought with earlier. He asks them to go into the mirrors for us and they agree. When they enter, Aideena and Jack are freed. In the mirrors, they appear to be alive again. As a farewell, we destroy the remaining two mirrors in the room.

As we leave the room, we take a moment to fill the others in on Viri’s appearance in the fresco and Targoth muses on the fact that The Green Dragon has always sounded a bit like an honorific.

We then come to another set of doors that have runes on it. Targoth goes up to them and is attacked, his arm receiving necrotic damage. Aideena informs us that the runes on the door say that “only those who are righteous may enter.”

We give these doors a wide berth and continue on, finding another set of doors, which appear to be the main doors to the room we just attempted to enter. This time, the doors do not attack us. On the ground, there are three empty bowls and Targoth mentions that this room is from the vision the standard gave him.

The room is also clearly the source of the divine energy of Io.

We attempt to figure out what we should do when Targoth approaches the green bowl. When he steps into it, he has a vision of an old man. The vision fades and the bowl fades to an alabaster color.

Targoth then moves to the blue bowl and has another vision, after which the bowl again fades to alabaster. The same happens when he moves to the last bowl.

After, Targoth tells us that he doesn’t think Io is completely gone from the world because he saw visions confirming this.

Once all of the bowls have changed, we move to the main hall to find that the doors to the audience chamber are now open. Within, we can see a huge creature of bone. It speaks, revealing to us that it’s a dragon that was meant to protect this stronghold and that it intends to kill Targoth. It and its two servants attack us.

We battle for some time before we finally slay Flame the boney dragon. Once the dragon is dead, we take stock of the large chamber.

There is a simulacrum at the far end and Eben goes to get a closer look. He spots some gems that appear to be rather ordinary, but he also sees five astral diamonds. He calls Jack over, who attempts to pry one of them from the simulacrum. It reacts automatically, attempting to attack us.

We tell Targoth to try becoming the master of the simulacrum and it works. He doesn’t even need to speak to the thing before it stops attacking us and allows us to get closer. Targoth then uses dragon break on the diamonds and we are then able to remove them. Once we do, the simulacrum goes dim and any semblance of life or sentience leaves it.

After this, we leave the audience chamber and continue to explore the lower level. We discover one last room which appears to contain a pile of riches. I enter the room and notice some scratches and scrapes along the wall. We don’t see any way of triggering a trap, so we move closer to the treasure. Suddenly, the walls begin to close in and we don’t appear to have any way of escaping being crushed. Aideena is able to save us, though, and teleport the party back into the hall.

Upon further reflection, we realize that the horde was really very modest and that—this intending to be a stronghold and not a treasury—there was unlikely to even be a horde in the first place.

We decide that we’ve explored all we can and that it’s time to be getting back to the portal. We make our way without incident to our ropes and head back up them and to the portal without incident. Similarly, we have no difficulties going through the portal and back to Easar, where we reemerge in Saresh’s portal room.

It’s much colder here than the place we left, and it’s still mid-afternoon. We make our way down to Saresh’s chambers where we find Solange (looking the worse for wear) and Darren Windraker.

We greet them and explain our adventures to them from the last time we saw them. We especially make a point of telling Saresh what we discovered about the green dragon. He is very surprised by that information. He says that Arkhosia would have fallen much sooner if not for the victory at Tarnavulg.

We then turn to other topics, specifically where Solange has been. She tells us that she’s penetrated the nine hells, looking for Jack’s sister, and she tells us that we must get her back. Jack clearly agrees, and the rest of us are willing, so we discuss what we should do next.

After some discussion about how to make our way into the nine hells, we agree that the best way is to take a portal to a city far in the north where a crossing into the Shadowfell is nearby. This will take us to Gloomwrought and, from there, we should be able to find a way into hell.

This plan of action agreed upon, we discuss yet another subject, like how Druuk is part of the Borderlanders. Darren tells us that the Borderlanders are now an aid group and have done much good in the ravaged capital, but we’re all very suspicious given our past history. We also get an update on what’s been happening in Easar. We learn that the West Warrens are still in chaos, but that most other areas of the city are more settled.

Targoth also tells Saresh about the visions he had, and Saresh wants us to find Viri so that we can ask her some questions about what she was doing in Tarnavulg.

While they’re discussing that, Aideena pulls Solange aside and asks her what hell is like. Solange tells her a bit, and also theorizes that Helena might have been taken by Maphestopheles. She tells the group at large that someone should be able to help us find the crossing into the Shadowfell and that she will contact us once we’re through.

Jack and Darren have a private conversation in which Jack asks Darren to come with us and Darren is excited to be asked and to have the opportunity to spend time with Jack. We spend the rest of the evening preparing for our next trip—gathering clothing, rations, sun rods and anything else we think we’ll need on the journey.

The next morning, we head back up to the portal room. Solange tells us that she’ll send us a raven if she can find a guide to help us in the hells. We then say our goodbyes to Solange and Saresh and then enter the portal.

We find ourselves at a vacant watchtower. It’s cold here and there’s snow and ice on the ground—a stark contrast to the desert we were just in. The mountain path the goes between the two towers is churned and muddy, and the tracks are large and wide with clearly delineated feet that appear flat. The party theorizes that these are mammoth and frost giant tracks.

This theory is confirmed when some frost giants rumble up the path towards us. The group quickly splits into two and hides in separate towers. This goes well for us until, inexplicably, Jack and Darren leave their tower and attack the giants.

With them is an ice elemental that speaks to Aideena and tries to make a deal with her, seeing her as something of a kindred spirit. Once the frost giants have been slain, we agree to make a deal with the elemental: we will spare his life in exchange for transport to Gloomwrought.

Aideena doesn’t know—nor do the rest of us—if the elemental is sincere, but we decide to trust it for the time being. We then begin on the road to the Gloomwrought.

View
Old Friends and New Worlds
In which the party has unfinished business

While we’re fighting for our lives against the purple worm, Kasra and the resistance are making things difficult for the guards that have remained in the stadium. By this point, much of the audience has fled, while those that remain are cowering and trying to stay out of the way of the fighting.

The prince exhorts his guards to kill the resistance and is confident that the worm will finish us off. It very nearly does, but Targoth is able to deal a killing blow to the worm. The prince, enraged, jumps down into the arena to take care of us himself. Suddenly, however, we hear a voice in our heads. It’s Gavrash, and he tells us that he has an army of undead.

This is welcome news as the party is in dire straits. Gavrash attacks with his army and we keep fighting, but we’re weakening and it’s showing. Eventually, however, Jack goes to land the killing blow on the prince and, like his father in the throne room, he’s hit but disappears in a gout of flame.

The battle is over, but the entire party is worse for wear, especially Targoth, who has a strange affliction that has caused him to turn into a puddle. Jack, in an effort to help, focuses his ki to see if that will work. It doesn’t, though, because when Aideena asks him what he’s doing, Jack replies that he doesn’t know.

Gavrash looks Targoth over and says that he may be able to do something to help, but it will require a ritual to reconstitute him. We ask him to do what he can and so he begins. After some time, Targoth begins to reform into himself. He has no memory of what happened to him, so we tell him that he was merely unconscious. Jack, however, decides to inform him of what actually happened, our attempts to soften the blow useless.

Gavrash claims Orran in accordance with the deal that we struck with him, and he proclaims that the city will be the place where the Raven Queen is worshipped.

By this time, Kasra has made her way to where our party is and Targoth tells her what he knows about the disappearance of the dragonborn.

After this conversation, Kasra offers her assistance to Gavrash, which he accepts, naming her Knight Commander of the city. Bidding a short farewell to Targoth, she takes the guards that are loyal to her and leaves to begin securing Orran from whatever forces may remain loyal to the king and the crown prince.

Within the arena, in fact, there are still forces fighting, but our side seems to have things well in hand and the group needs rest desperately. As a result, we leave the arena and make our way to the baron’s manse.

Once there, Gavrash points to Eben and outs him as a liar, letting everyone—especially Jack—know that he kept the raven feathers that were meant for Jack. Jack is understandably unhappy about this.

Gavrash leads us up to the bedrooms upstairs so we can get some sleep. My sleep isn’t very restful and I have a nightmare, which wakes me up in the middle of the night. I decide to take off the ring that I’ve been wearing on my finger and put it back around my neck.

In the morning, Jack and Eben have a confrontation about the raven feathers. Eben clearly did not have a good night, either—having obviously had a nightmare. Jack approached Eben to see if he needed help, but Eben—with a single tear in his eye—returns the final feather to Jack and says that he’s sorry.

Jack pats Eben on the shoulder in a gesture that speaks to some level of forgiveness, but Eben apologizes once more.

While all of this is happening, I’m very preoccupied by my own nightmare. The others, too, seem—on the whole—quieter and keep mostly to themselves.

However, once breakfast is done, we agree that we need to send a message to Prince Navuul. Jack asks that Gavrash provide us with a messenger, but the rest of us don’t like the idea, fearing that we won’t be able to trust anyone who is sent.

Someone suggests that the manse has a rookery, so we make our way there to pick out a bird to act as an animal messenger.

We perform the ritual, but it doesn’t go well and we’re certain the bird won’t make it to Prince Navuul’s location.

Dejected, we decide that we can’t try again here and that it may be better to make our way back to Easar, which is closer to Prince Navuul’s location anyway.

We make our way back to the portal area, the trip uneventful until we’re accosted by an earth elemental, which we make quick work of. We then reach the hole in the path, which we have to get over to make it back to the portal. Everyone has an easy way across it except for Eben and me, so we decide to make a harness and attempt to cross. I don’t have any trouble, but Eben falls over the edge. Luckily, however, our reflexes are quick enough to keep him from falling all the way down. Jack, especially is quick to grab him and help him up, which makes Eben look extremely uncomfortable.

As we’re walking back, though, Jack and I notice that there is a pretty sizable vein of platinum ore, such that it wouldn’t be too much trouble nor take too long to get a fair amount. Jack and I tell the others about it and we agree to spend a little time mining it. Targoth hands us a couple of pick axes and Jack and I get to work. We are able to mine 50 pounds of rock and metal, most of which is actually platinum. Jack appraises the value to be approximately 100,000 gold pieces worth. To get money for it, though, we’ll have to find a moneylender who will exchange it for us.

After this, we make our way to the portal and go back through to Easar. Back in Saresh’s portal room, Jack once again feels a tug towards the desert portal and the jungle portal.

We make our way down to Saresh’s room where he’s in conversation with Janus and Kairon. Aideena is happy to see her friends and joins in the conversation.

Kairon reveals that he’s a member of the borderlanders and that Druuk has a fair amount of control of what’s left of the group. He also shows a slip of paper that was taken from a member of the borderlanders, which says: “They yet live. You have failed me again.”

The conversation moves onto the state of Easar. Someone mentions that there’s fighting in the West Worrens, but that the resistance has some degree of control in other places. We ask after our friends, but don’t hear much. There’s no news about friends who were captured or disappeared—Lord Miden and Pieter and Davina Allexi, respectively. We do think it’s unlikely, however, that Miden has survived this long as a prisoner of the king. We also find out that Baroness Orran was killed during the escape from the warehouse. It’s very likely that there are other casualties that we still don’t know about.

We ask after Solange and there’s no news on that front, either, but we do know that she led the assault on the castle. This sounds, to us, like a bad thing, given what subsequently happened to the castle.

Jack asks after Darren Windraker, but Saresh has no news of him, except that Windraker ships are offshore and have been working with the Borderlanders.

After this disheartening bit of no good news, we discuss amongst ourselves whether we’ve discharged the task that Prince Navuul assigned us and, thus, are free to pursue the pearls that the Raven Queen has charged Jack with finding and destroying.

We decide to try sending another animal messenger, but the ritual goes so awry that we manage to kill the bird. Somewhat sheepishly, we ask Saresh for assistance, which he provides.

Before we go, though, we decide to make our way to a moneylender to exchange the platinum we mined. We go out into Easar disguised as prospectors and find our way to a moneylender. When we enter, the man who greets us asks us what we need and we tell him why we’re there. He takes us into the cages. Lest Jack get any ideas, though, there’s a guard present to deter him from attempting to steal.

We are taken to a back room and meet up with a man who appraises what we’ve mined. He under appraises what we have and we threaten to leave. He threatens us that he’s the only one who can exchange the raw ore. We end up negotiating that the ore is worth 100,000 gold pieces and we’ll give him 2500 of it as a fee. He accepts this deal and we leave with our gold.

As we exit, a few street ruffians trail behind us before accosting us and demanding our gold. We refuse to give them anything and get into a fight. Aideena helps us escape the brawl without actually killing anyone and then all of us hide down an alley until everything dies down.

Meanwhile, Targoth heads to the Scrivener’s Academy and the library there in order to research our destination.

Later that night, Saresh returns to his rooms where the rest of us are waiting. We’ve had a return message from Prince Navuul, who thanks us and wants to speak to us when we return. He lets us know that he’s preparing to march on Easar.

We take this opportunity to send any messages we feel we should, since we know we’re going very far away without any notion of when we’ll return. I send a message to the Trowbridges to check on them and let them know I’m still alive.

We all get some sleep before our journey continues the next day. I have the same nightmare I had previously and, when I awake, I pray to Sehanine, but receive no answer.

The next morning, we bid Saresh adieu and make our way through the portal to the desert lands. We find ourselves in a dragonborn structure that’s completely dark inside until we light a sunrod. Around us on the walls we can see carvings and the atmosphere—on the whole—is incredibly warm, which just highlights how far south we are.

We find a magic monocle and then decide to leave the building.

As we begin to leave the area, we see holes in the walls. Jack trips a wire and a series of darts fly out, just barely missing him, and then a loud gong sounds.

Jack says that he thinks they’ve found us and Targoth confirms that we are definitely in a building constructed by dragonborn.

Now that we know what the wires look like, we carefully cut the others and move forward carefully into another corridor.

Jack takes the lead and, unusually for him, triggers another trap. This one also misses him, and we continue forward down the corridor, which leads us into another room. This one has statues of dragons made from precious metals around the edges. Of course, Jack wants to take them, but he can’t have them, with Targoth telling him to wait until we return to go back through the portal.

We look around the room, trying to decide which way will lead us out, when we notice a lot of scratches on a wall at the very top where it meets the ceiling. From those marks, we figure out that the ceiling is capable of descending. We take a careful look around to see what would trigger that trap and we notice areas of the floor that are slightly raised near the braissures and statues. In another corner of the room, though, we see daylight and steps that lead upwards, so we make our way in that direction.

As we move up the stairs, the temperature grows hotter and hotter. When we finally reach the top of the stairs and are able to look at the landscape, what we see is alien to anything we’ve seen before. The landscape is blasted—sandy, very hot, and stretching for miles. Way off in the distance to the north, we can make out the foothills of the Worldspine, and far to the south, there is a single mountain. As we gaze at it, we can just make out what appears to be a waterfall and a number of dragons circling the mountain.

We also see a figure moving south, one that appears tall and humanoid, though its skin glints in the harsh sunlight. The figure appears to be heading for the mountain and the dragons. Targoth wonders if the mountain is where the dragonborn that have disappeared are going, if that’s their ultimate destination. None of us really have an answer for him.

At this time, we decide it’s time to leave the shade of the building and make our way out into the desert. We begin walking and it is very hot. We walk for miles before we finally find an oasis. As we draw near, we see a figure ahead of us also walking towards the oasis.

The figure stops at the oasis and, as we get closer, we can tell that it is definitely Onath. He’s drinking from the water with his back to us.

Jack calls out to Onath, who turns and we all are shocked at how bad he looks. One eye is gouged out and has been replaced with something else, and he generally looks a mess. “I’m sorry,” he mutters, and then he says that he needs to find something. He repeats it again.

“Onath,” we ask, “what happened?”

He looks confused at first, and then he tells us that we can’t have it. He goes on to say that it’s his and then yells at us to stay back. Just as this happens, tentacles lash out from him and in our direction. We jump back and continue to reason with him, but he screams that we left him, even though we try and remind him that he left us. He says that we can’t have his eye.

Upon a closer look, we realize that he’s placed the pearl in his eye socket. Onath attacks again with his tentacles and we continue to try and reason with him, but he appears to be beyond rationality, blaming us for what he’s become. He rants that the pearl is the only thing he has left, and it’s clear that he’s so deluded that none of us are going to make headway with him.

We battle and suddenly there’s a void around Onath, and suddenly we’re unable to see him. We’re within a dark area, though, and we’re being bombarded by the creepy, terrifying feelings and sounds that the pearl gives off. Jack, in desperation, attacks the pearl—when he’s finally able to see it—with one of the raven feathers. He hits it, but isn’t able to completely neutralize it. Instead, the feather glances off the pearl, but it at least has the effect of causing the whispers to go away.

There are still other noises—terrifying moans, for example—which continue to haunt us as we fight our one-time companion.

View
To Kill a Prince
In which the party is entertainment for a prince once again.

After having slain Tanaidred in the theatre, we send Aideena’s weasel with a coded message to Prince Navuul. We’re fairly certain, though, that the weasel is never going to make it with the message, so we head outside and attempt to catch a bird.

Jack sees a tree with some blackbirds and ravens in it, and making the connection between them and the deity who so favors him, he decides to approach. He looks up at the birds and asks for help. To our surprise and slight alarm, not only do the birds from the tree swarm Jack, so do others from further away. Indeed, an entire murder appears to do Jack’s bidding. It takes a moment to get close enough to pick out a bird to deliver the message, but once we do, Aideena performs the animal messenger ritual and sends the bird off to deliver the message. Having put all her energy into the weasel, however, Aideena estimates that this ritual will only last about six hours, and we’re not sure if the message will actually reach the prince in time.

Once the birds disperse, Jack finds fifteen raven feathers and wonders whether they’re the “special” ones he has thus far been using to deactivate the pearls. Eben is able to see that some of them, in fact, are the blessed ones and cunningly separates these from the mundane feathers. Without explanation, he hands the mundane ones back to Jack—who is none the wiser—and keeps the special ones for himself. Aideena is suspicious of Eben’s motives but does not recognize why he would take some feathers and not others.

At this moment, Zanni approaches Jack and asks him why he’s still here. Jack responds that Zanni is always in a hurry for him to leave. Most of us think that we should get out of town despite the late hour, but Zanni himself is conflicted. It’s very clear that there’s a history between Zanni and Jack—so much so that all of us have noticed. Even Eben asks them if they need to be alone for a few minutes.

This seems to prompt Zanni to offer, in a flustered way, a place for Jack and the rest of us to stay until the morning.

But I’m impatient, anxious to be gone and on to our next task, and I manage to convince everyone that we can’t stay here.

It’s dark as we walk along the main street back towards the Blackfen forest we traveled through to get here. Luckily, no one seems to pay us much attention or say anything to us as we walk. Zanni accompanies us to the edge of town. When we get there, Zanni tells us to be safe on our travels and, in response, Jack grabs his arm and nods to him. Zanni nods back and then the two exchange some quiet words before going their separate ways.

The rest of us follow Jack into the forest and back to the portal we used. Aideena hypnotizes herself and is able to endure the harsh conditions of the swamp. Targoth and Jack make it through relatively unscathed, but for the other two of us, the journey isn’t as easy in the dark; I am swarmed by mosquitos and fall over a log, twisting my knee in the process. Eben steps into a bog and is swallowed up to his chin and must be pulled out.

We finally reach the site where the portal is and, fortunately, no ogres remain in the vicinity, having either died or fled the area. Targoth says “last secret” in Draconic to get back into the room where the portal is and from there, we go through to Scrivener’s Academy in Easar. We make our way back to Saresh’s quarters and tell him that we were successful in our mission. Saresh tells us that while we were gone, a note—which he hands to Targoth—was delivered by a blue jay. Targoth opens the note and reads it aloud, which lets us know that Prince Navuul received our message and will arrange for us to meet with some allies near Orran which is where the remaining brother—Crown Prince Ashtar—is preparing to have himself named Baron. In his note, Prince Navuul tells us that Ashtar is incredibly strong, but also incredibly proud, a weakness that could be used against him.

Saresh tells us that he’s going to check on our other allies, and before he leaves, we warn him about the Borderlanders and Moraj—specifically, that Druuk is working with them somehow and has hired assassins to have us killed. Again. Since he’s tried this sort of thing before.

Saresh tells us that, ultimately, we’ll need to be able to breach the castle to take the city, and because it’s floating, we’ll have to take it from the air. No such technology exists in the kingdom of Dakkon, but he tells us that the technology we need—some sort of flying mechanism—might be found if we head south.

This essentially ends the conversation and we all decide to go to bed so that in the morning, we can travel to Orran and attempt to assassinate the crown prince. Everyone sleeps, but I wake up during the wee hours of the morning from a nightmare. In the nightmare, I relive the moment when Jalmari told me to take his place and that he would hold off our pursuers. Except this time, I remember a flash of red that is similar in quality—if not in color—to the blue portal light that we’ve been exposed to repeatedly while traveling to and from Easar.

I wake from the nightmare and am unable to go back to sleep, entirely too preoccupied with what’s either a memory or the invention of my subconscious.

Once everyone else is awake, Saresh has some food prepared for us but is not there in person. The rest of the party eats, but I merely pick at my food, far too preoccupied to notice what anyone else is doing.

Meanwhile, Aideena asks Jack about Zanni. Jack merely responds that he and Zanni had dealings in the past without elaborating and Aideena doesn’t press the matter. After a moment, Jack adds that Zanni once chased him out of town because Jack stole things for a living.

Feeling that this is sufficient, Jack then turns his attention to the silverware and spots an ornate knife that appeals to him. He asks Targoth if Saresh would mind if Jack borrowed the knife, which is apparently a somewhat quotidien relic from Ternesh’rach, to use as a focus for meditation. Targoth thinks that Saresh wouldn’t mind, so Jack takes the knife and keeps it.

Eventually, we finish eating and head up to the portal room, directing our attention to the one that will leave us closest to the Orran.

Seeing the glowing blue of the portal is especially poignant for me this morning. We go through the portal and end up in a pitch dark place. The others aren’t able to see very well, but I’m able to tell that we’re in a place of rough stone walls and floor with a track used for mining carts. It becomes clear quickly that we’re in an abandoned mine outside of Orran. Aideena casts some dim light in the mine, and once we’re sure it’s relatively safe, we take out a sun rod and begin following the tracks in the hopes of finding our way out of the mine. As we walk along, we come across a large hole that appears to be not only wide, but also rather deep.

We ultimately decide to teleport across the hole—with help from Aideena—and then continue to follow the tracks until they end. As we’re going along, I take the opportunity to ask Aideena what the red color might mean when it comes to portal magic. Aideena isn’t well-versed in portal magic, but she says that it would probably be a different source of magic that creates a different color. She’s not able to say more than that, though, and I’m somewhat disappointed and suspicious of what I’ve remembered or imagined.

As we’re walking along, we can see that there are still veins of copper in the walls that are actually plentiful. The fact that the mine is very quiet—obviously abandoned, but not as a result of it being tapped out—becomes more disconcerting as we continue on. It’s becoming clearer—especially given the evidence of the massive hole—that something might have forced the goblins to abandon the mine.

Targoth knows that dragons really don’t live in mines, preferring to collect treasure rather than dig it out for themselves. He also knows that demons and drow prefer very deep mines and it’s clear that we’re not deep enough for that.

Targoth asks everyone to stop and listen. Not much is heard, per se, but as Aideena touches the wall, she can feel something moving, just under the surface of the rock.

In spite of Targoth’s speculation about the presence of a creature in the mines, we keep moving because nothing has attacked us yet. He even muses that such a creature might have tremor sense, but in light of the fact that there is no apparent creature, we press forward. When we look closer at the floor, we can see dark splotches that could be blood, a discovery which encourages us to keep moving even that much faster.

We then enter a wider corridor, and the earth begins to rumble deeply. Large jagged pieces of the earth burst out from the walls, and we’re confronted with earth elementals.

We fight them and are able to defeat them, deciding to take a short rest before continuing on. As we move forward, we’re able to see daylight for a bit before we finally find the exit and find ourselves in the mountains above the town.

We can see that there are people moving into and out of the town, some of whom are guards wearing red, which is Ashtar’s personal color.

As we observe the town from where we are, there are clear signs of a protracted struggle.

Further down the mountain, we espy a small band of people flying the colors of House Saborin. We see a noblewoman waiting with personal guards, a handmaiden, and two younger children. As we look closer, we recognize her as High Lady Rinna Saborin. She and her party have some horses without riders and we wonder if this means that they’re waiting for us, particularly because Prince Navuul told us in his message that he would arrange for us to meet some of his allies.

Before moving closer, I decide to become Audra Trowbridge again, because this is how the people we’re going to meet will recognize me.

We move a bit closer, Jack calmly playing his flute, and we’re able to tell that High Lady Rinna looks nervous while they watch the city and that her guard are not on high alert. Despite this, they notice us right away.

When we get closer, Lady Saborin rides over to meet us, and we greet her with a standard Second Dawn salutation, which she returns. She pulls a bit away from her guard and tells us what has happened recently—that the Crown Prince is planning to have himself named Baron after a series of gladiatorial games and spectacle. She tells us that she’s still trusted and is allowed to come and go in the town. We also learn that her children, Arlin and Elanna, are members of Second Dawn, but her guard are not. They are, however, steadfastly loyal to her.

We begin to head to the town and, as we approach the gates, the city guards don’t appear to pay any one person particular mind, performing only the most perfunctory of checks. They do, however, stop and lightly question her personal guard, but given the High Lady’s influence in the city and the disguises we five are wearing, we’re all allowed to continue on to her manse.

When we arrive, her personal guard fan out around the building and the party, High Lady Rinna and her two children enter the house and settle into a sitting room to discuss strategy. Jack bluntly tells her what we’re there for (after which Aideena fairly instinctively slaps him), and we ask her what our best opportunity to attack and kill Ashtar might be, especially bearing in mind Prince Navuul’s advice.

She tells us that the gladiatorial games will continue through tomorrow and, at the end, the crown prince will have a ceremony in public in which he is named the Baron. She thinks that this moment might be the best—Ashtar is rarely seen in public owing to the fact that he is now, like his father, demonic in appearance, so we must strike while the iron is hot. High Lady Rinna tells us that Second Dawn has been activated and that the resistance is on high alert. She tells us that they can get us close to Ashtar—probably within 100 feet—and create a distraction in the stands which should help us, but that we will have to face Ashtar’s personal guard and the crown prince himself on our own. We all feel that we can handle this.

Targoth asks after his cousin Kazra and High Lady Rinna tells us that she’s disappeared, not been seen in some time, but that she thinks Kazra has simply gone to ground and hasn’t been captured or killed.

We’re just putting the finishing touches on our plan when there the sound of doors crashing and soldiers burst in.

High Lady Rinna panics and hisses that they’ve found us, and she, along with her two children, attempts to run for it. We follow and as we exit the sitting room and enter the foyer, we are quickly surrounded by Ashtar’s guard. High Lady Rinna’s personal guard have all been slain and her handmaiden is nowhere to be found. Apparently, the cat is out of the bag, and the soldiers call us “traitors and would-be king-killers.” The guard quickly take the children hostage and threaten to kill them even as we fight back. Both Elanna and Lady Saborin are stabbed in the process, but we manage to not get them killed.

It becomes quickly apparent, however, that we’re outnumbered and unable to both save the civilians and defend ourselves, so we reluctantly surrender and are taken prisoner. We, along with High Lady Rinna Saborin and her children, are marched to the arena. There, we’re separated from the nobles and stripped of almost all our belongings.

We are then told that we have a few minutes to decide who will go first in the first round of gladiatorial combat; this person will be the only one to go, but also the only one given all of their gear back. The rest of us will have to make do with the weapons provided to us. We’re then left alone.

As we worry over who should go first, there is a changing of the guard.The new guard speaks to us in a voice familiar to me, Aideena, and especially Targoth, although he is unconscious and does not realize it yet. It’s Kazra, and we’re handed a potion of healing to help with Targoth, who had been almost killed in the fighting against the guards.

Aideena asks how we get out of here and Kazra answers that we’ll have to fight. She’s not able to help us escape, but she is able to tell us what’s coming and will help us choose what we’ll fight. She also tells us that she’ll help us get our gear back.

Kazra tells us that the rounds are as follows:
Round 1: A single fighter of our choice must face a Mountain Troll.
Round 2: Everyone fights EITHER Dragoran Mind Hounds OR Rine Hounds. It is currently set for the former, but she is able to make changes (and she does).
Round 3: Everyone fights EITHER a giant purple worm or a Remorazz. We elect the worm.

She also advises us on weaknesses the creatures have, telling us that Mountain Trolls are vulnerable to acid, fire, or radiant energy; Rine Hounds are vulnerable to fire; and the giant purple worm. . .well, we’ll have to be fast. For a brief moment, we consider sending Aideena out first because of the troll’s vulnerability to fire, but after careful consideration (i.e., realizing that she would not last 2 seconds on her own), we decide Eben is the best choice to go alone. Before he goes, he cleverly suggests to Aideena that perhaps she could aid him covertly through the single, barred, stadium-level window in their cell, which sits toward the top of the wall.

Eben enters the arena on his own and begins battling the troll. Even without the aid of the rest of the party, though, he’s able to hold his own. This is fortunate, given that it takes a few minutes for Kazra to begin getting our things back for us. The first item returned is Aideena’s wand. Once she has it in hand, she runs (and trips) very gracefully to the window and holds back the desire to just let loose with fire. Realizing such a blatant attack would not go unnoticed, she instead opts for distracting the troll with ghost sounds, whispering in his ear in Giant.

The rest of us receive our effects just as Eben slays the troll. We hardly have a moment to prepare ourselves, however, before we’re herded out to the battlefield to face the Rine Hounds. It doesn’t take us too long to slay them, but the third and final battle takes a tremendous toll. The giant worm, capable of burrowing and resurfacing anywhere and possessed of tremor sense, is difficult to prepare for and incredibly hard to predict. In fact, during the first engagement, the worm surprises us all—particularly me—by bursting from the sand and swallowing me whole. With help from the rest of the party and some incredible luck, I’m able to escape the worm without too much damage. During the course of the battle, Eben is also swallowed, but manages to escape before too long. Aideena is able to pinion the worm in the air for a few moments, but cannot keep him aloft for long.

It is when Targoth plants the Standard of Arkhosia that all hell breaks loose (though not literally. Not YET). The appearance of the standard provokes Ashtar as nothing else to this point has, causing him to panic and ask how DARE Targoth plant that here, in his domain? The members of Second Dawn who are sitting in the audience take this as their cue to attack, fighting the guards in the stands and forcing those uninvolved to flee. The entire stadium erupts into utter pandemonium. We begin taunting the prince in support of our allies, making appeals to his pride and trying to goad him into fighting. His guards hold him back for the moment, but he is seething and ready to fight us, going so far as to push the restraining hands of his retinue aside and coming right up to the edge of the battlefield.

At this point, Targoth is able to gain a small hold of the worm’s will, forcing it to change the focus of its attacks from us to the prince. Jack helps, batting the worm aside so that it topples into the prince and his guards.

It is a small glimpse of hope at an otherwise grim moment. We’re all struggling to fight the worm—exhausted and tapped out, near the limits of our abilities.

The worm still lives, its will is its own, and the Prince is still—unfortunately—in good health.

View
An Evening's Entertainment
The play's the thing.

As we finish our discussion with the Prince, two of his personal guard enter the tent and inform him that two bodies have been discovered at the latrine. Targoth and I are both interested in investigating, but the rest of the party is exhausted and needs rest.

So, Targoth and I follow the Prince and the guards over to the two bodies that have been discovered. Both bodies appear to have been pierced through their armor in quick, fatal thrusts to the chest. There are also slash marks across their throats and no defensive wounds; this leads Targoth and me to believe that at least two people snuck up behind these men and killed them quickly.

The armor the men were wearing is made of leather; Targoth attempts to get a fingerprint from it with his detection kit and is able to find a set where one of them was pushed. From the look of the prints, it’s clear that the perpetrators were human.

It also seems apparent, after a closer look at the wounds, that the fatal thrusts into the body were made with a sword and the slashes across the neck were made with daggers. Searching the bodies turns up no valuables.

Targoth and I expand our search to include the area around the bodies. Targoth finds the footprints of the dead guards, as well as some others that head in the direction of the latrines. He’s also able to see where the footsteps stop and is able to determine that that is where there was a bit of a scuffle.

From there, there are two sets of footprints that lead into the camp, apparently not running. It’s hard to say that these belong to the killers, but it’s definitely possible. Targoth is also able to determine that no magic was used to kill the guards. After telling the Prince all of this, he has the commander of the regiment that the guards belonged to called over.

The commander tells us who the men were, and is obviously upset at the loss of his men. He also comes across as slightly defensive, as if he has something to prove. He is able to tell us, however, that the men didn’t have any enemies, and that he’s had no intelligence of an assassination attempt against the Prince.

With nothing else to add to the investigation, the prince tells his commander that we’re to be allowed to move about the camp freely. This said, he leaves us and Targoth and I are led back to the tent the rest of our party is using.

They’re still awake when we arrive and we fill them in on the situation, deciding that there needs to be a watch on duty. We discover, also, that we’ve been assigned a guard to watch the front of the tent.

Targoth takes the first watch while the rest of us sleep, or attempt to. He wakes me after his shift and I take my turn to keep watch at the back of the tent while the men at the front are relieved by two new guards. After about an hour on duty, I notice four people race towards me—two from the left and two from the right—from the forest. I’m attacked and don’t call out, but my party is awoken when some of the assailants tear holes into the tent. As we fight, the guards from the front rush around the tent and join with the attackers, rather than fighting on our side.

We manage to kill all but one of the attackers, leaving the last, named Talin, alive for questioning. He capitulates quickly, telling us that he and the others were sent to attack us by a half-orc, on Morage’s orders. It’s obvious that the half-orc is Druuk and that the Borderlanders still exist. Targoth loses his temper in a way we’ve rarely seen when Druuk’s involvement is mentioned, screaming at Talin, “Tell me where to find him!”

Talin nervously explains that the half-orc came from the south. When we ask more questions about how the half-orc hired them, he tells us that the Borderlanders knew where to find him and the others and offered them money to kill us. He explains that the guards that attacked us were part of the cell and that there are other cells but he doesn’t know how they’re activated.

Talin pleads that he’s innocent, that all he cares about is the money and he has no personal reason to kill us—which is why he should be let go—but Targoth and I are skeptical and don’t believe him.

Some of the others talk us out of killing Talin, but we leave him restrained while we think of a plan. Meanwhile, Navuul arrives and now has evidence that there are traitors in his ranks. After some moments of discussion, we decide that it would be best if the Borderlanders think they’ve succeeded in killing us. To make the deception realistic, we all part with something that is important and valuable to each of us. For most, it’s a weapon, but for Targoth it’s an amulet.

Prince Navuul tells Talin that he’s now under the prince’s protection—which the assassin accepts—and is charged with going back to those who hired him and convincing them that we’re dead. We decide that we’ll have to sneak out of the camp so that no one sees us and go back through the portal.

As we’re preparing to depart, the Prince tells us that Ashtar intends to be named Baron of Orran in a few days’ time. He thinks that the ensuing celebrations planned will be a good time to assassinate him. He does think, however, that his younger brother makes a better first target, and he tells us to find a wheelwright named Tiania in Riversend who is part of Second Dawn. She’ll be able to put us in contact with the city’s resistance and help us plan to take down Tanaidred.

We bid him farewell and make our way back to the portal, which takes us to the Scriveners’ Academy. Saresh greets us and leads us to a place where we can bed down for the night. We explain to him what happened and how we’ll have to pretend to be dead. Saresh unfortunately doesn’t know anything about the Borderlanders, so we’re no closer to finding out what they are.

Saresh takes a moment, before we leave the portal room, to say that some of them have been tampered with and to mention where a few of them go: one to Riversend, one to a defunct mine north of Orran, one to Agramar (the capital city of Hazen), one to the Lone Mountain in the Sighing Desert, one to the home of the Bronze Dragon, one to Io, another to an abandoned dragonborn building in the Sighing Desert, and one to an Elven settlement in a jungle south of the desert. At the last two portals, Jack feels the familiar pull of the pearls, but does not make much mention of it. We’re all exhausted, though, so it’s with a huge relief that we’re able to get some sleep after so much time with none.

The next day, we pack up all of our things and make our way once more to the portal room. We take the one that will get us the closest to Riversend—a portal that opens in the middle of Blackfen, not far from the town.

After we go through the portal, we find ourselves in a small, uninhabited room. It’s completely dark and there are no apparent doors or windows. As we search the room carefully in the dark to find a way out, Jack notices a seam in the wall about the same time that Aideena notices an arcane signature in the same corner.

We move over to that corner. Targoth touches the wall and feels Saresh’s magic. We’re at a loss for a moment until I remember Saresh showing us something he referred to as the Last Secret—though he said it in draconic. When I mention this, Targoth repeats the words “last secret” in draconic. As he says the phrase, a door appears. We’re able to see glowing light through the doorway and, beyond, hulking shadows appear against a wall.

As we stand there, we hear a deep voice say something in a language that is not Common. Aideena, understanding Giant, knows that someone has said, “Hurry up with that cooking.”

We’re not quiet enough as we ponder how to make our way out of the room, and another voice pipes up and asks, “Do you hear something?”

We don’t have time to hide before we’re attacked by two massive ogres.

Soon a few others join the fight—including an ogre shaman who makes it rain—but we manage to kill all but said shaman eventually. Aideena talks to the shaman in giant and he agrees to not kill us if we spare him.

Through Aideena translating, we ask the way to Riversend. The shaman tells us to go north and follow the streams. Generously, he says he won’t pursue us.

After we’re done talking, he tosses a bag at us, which we find contains 5,000 gp of rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. We leave the orc in peace and follow his directions, heading north and sticking close to the streams. Crossing through the swamps of Blackfen is fairly uneventful, though at one point Aideena falls in quicksand, and Eben and Jack must pull her out. It takes the better part of a day, but we finally reach Riversend close to sunset. Before following the road into town, we don disguises.

Not long after we enter the town, we find an inn called the Lantern’s Keep. We go inside and mingle with the locals, listening in on several conversations to learn what’s happening with the town and, specifically, where we might find Tanaidred.

As we listen, we hear a number of rumors. One group talks about the strange happenings at the old Baron’s manor, making mention of a strange explosion about a day ago—just about the time that the Palace in Easar was ripped from the ground and began floating in the sky.

Someone mentions that no one has seen the Prince in two days. Some say he’s out traveling, but the person speaking sounds doubtful. Another man at the bar says he saw the old baron with his head cut off.

Not all of the discussion centers on these events; many are talking about the troupe that left the town for Tal Morai in a hurry, and that a new troupe is said to be on its way to perform for the mid-winter holiday.

After hearing this, Targoth heads to the bar and asks the barman about it. The barman explains that the troupe that’s going to fill in for the recently departed group is called The Players. Targoth, seeing an opportunity, especially given some of the news in the bar that the Prince plans to attend the performance, offers the party’s services as a troupe. The barman tells him that we should speak to the master of the theatre about that.

After Targoth plays some songs and I manage to get drunk, the barkeep tells us that there’s an inn around the corner where we can stay.

We make our way to the Red Hand of Kord, and Targoth greets the innkeeper, who gives us a good room where we can each have our own beds.

When we get to the room, I pick a bed and pass out on it. Jack heads out after everyone is asleep, but he doesn’t stay out too long. He wakes Aideena when he returns through the window. She asks him if he’s been in Riversend before and, in typical Jack style, merely responds, “A few times.” Aideena doesn’t press him about it.

During the night, Aideena dreams of a house on fire. She hears a voice speak to her, saying, “Come to me, child. Find me in this place of fire. You know me well and you will serve me.” After this, she wakes.

The next morning, Aideena looks ragged and I don’t feel much better. We all have breakfast and make our way down to the market. Eben, not seeing anything he wants to buy, decides to set himself up and offer up the wares that he no longer wants. This annoys the other sellers, but I think it’s a fantastic idea and decide to offer up something as well.

One customer offers very little money for Eben’s amulet of life, but Eben sells it to him anyway. This infuriates our neighbors even more and one offers us a few thousand gp for three of our magical items, including Eben’s Impostor Plate Armor and Blood Iron Plate Iron and my Thought-Eater Leather Armor. In a show of arrogance and chauvinism, the shopkeeper completely ignores me and tries to negotiate with Eben. Eben, however, defers to me and the shopkeeper is forced to haggle with me for our items. We eventually agree to a price that is well below market value, but not bad considering the location.

Afterwards, as part of our deal with the shopkeeper, we stop selling wares. While looking around, I purchase 10 mundane daggers. Meanwhile, Eben goes and gets himself a tattoo. I decide it’s time to go looking for our contact with the local resistance. I ask around and discover that the wheelwrights don’t set up their wares in this market; they set up on the docks. The person I talk to also tells me that Tiania is a very good wheelwright and tells me approximately where I might find her.

Jack, Targoth, and I head for the dockside. Aideena discovers that there’s a hedge wizard in the town and goes to speak with him and look over any scrolls or potions he might have.

When we get down to the waterfront, I greet Tiania who is dismissive until I give her the Second Dawn greeting. She recognizes it and leads us to an empty area. She informs us that Tanaidred hasn’t been seen in two days. Jack asks her if she knows anything about the Players, the troupe that’s going to arrive and perform in front of the Prince. She says she doesn’t, but that she can put us in touch with Zanni, the resistance leader who is watching the Mean Fiddler for their arrival.

She leads us to where the man is. As we walk along, Jack hangs back. I attempt to hurry him along, but he moves slowly. It’s at about this point that Eben and Aideena catch up with us. We eventually reach a large stall where we are introduced to Master Zanni. The man is missing part of his left index finger and stares at Jack.

Eventually he tells us about the local resistance, who number approximately twenty people. He also tells us that the Players have recently arrived at an inn nearby and that the program states they’ll be performing a show called The Earl’s Evening Delight. He confirms that the Prince will attend and we attempt to hatch a plan to get the Players out of the way so that we may perform—even though none of us know anything about the show we’re supposed to be putting on.

We finally decide that we’ll incapacitate the Players using any potions to hand—nothing that will seriously kill them, but will keep them out of the way for a number of hours. Throughout the discussion, it’s clear that Zanni knows Jack as they interact in a very strange way. No explanation is offered, though, and it’s really not the moment in any case. Aideena goes back to the hedge wizard and looks into what potions he has available, eventually buying two vials of a sleeping draught and a lovemaking potion for men. Targoth checks in with the apothecary who has some goodnight tincture. Jack and I both have some heartflow poison, which will cause anyone who ingests it to be sick.

Once we have our potions ready, we head to the inn and order meals for the troupe, posing as appreciative fans. After some thought, we also order them ale. Zanni, on cue, creates a distraction and in a moment we douse all of the ale with our potions. We wait for fifteen tense minutes until the server brings some of the dishes back out, saying that two of the troupe weren’t interested in ale.

We discuss the situation and decide that we’ll get ourselves some rooms and search the others for the members who hadn’t been dosed with something. After seeing the innkeeper for rooms, we head through the halls and listen at doors. Targoth approaches a door and, not hearing anything, knocks. When an old woman answers, Targoth knocks her out and places her on the bed. I reach one of the rooms and knock. A child answers and I knock him out and place him on the bed, having to be talked out of tying him down. I make sure to lock the door after I’m done.

From the other doors are issuing retching noises or snores, so we’re fairly confident that these troupe members are incapacitated. We exit the hallway where Zanni is waiting for us. He takes us to the theatre, where we discuss the next few steps. The first includes the performance itself, which we’ll have to improvise, not having found a script or directions. The only thing we have found is a brief summary, which states: “The Earl of Pandalion is smitten with a completely unsuitable lover. He must fight the disapproval of his family and advances from an amorous stable hand for the sake of his love.” We also discuss how the backstage area is a good place for an ambush.

Sooner than we expected, we begin the performance. Our story starts with the young Earl of Pandalion, Ogdenthorpe (portrayed by Targoth), confessing his love for his former nanny, Vela (Kaiva), to the audience. The lady appears oblivious, but the earl sings her praises. In the second act, the earl, nicknamed Oggie, confesses to his parents (Aideena and Eben) his passion. They are completely disapproving, but it turns out that their situation is very similar—though they continue to protest that it is not at all the same. In the third act, Jacques (Jack—quite a stretch, eh?), the stable boy, flirts with Vela, whom he believes to be playing hard to get. It soon comes to light, through song, that Jacques flirts with everyone.

In the fourth scene, Vela fusses over Lady Pandalion, leaving to take care of the youngest child. Lady Pandalion then believes that Vela is in love with her. She sings a song in which she questions whether or not she has come to the right conclusion, and in the end, she thinks she may also be in love with the nanny. In scene five, both Oggie and Jacques visit the priest, asking him to marry them to Vela during the mid-winter festival and ball. As they do, they realize that they’re fighting over the same woman and challenge each other to a duel, not realizing that the priest also is in love with Vela and is manipulating them into fighting each other. As Jacques and Oggie fight during the Midwinter Ball in Act Six, Jacques declares, “You may be earl-y, but you don’t have first dibs!,” sending the audience into riotous laughter. The performance has been going well—the crowd has been enjoying the performance and, more importantly, the Prince has been as well. This is imperative, since we’d been told that only if we perform well could we expect the prince to come backstage to offer us his patronage—and leave himself open to attack.

During the climax, though, is when things begin to go wrong. Three of The Players, whom we’d thought we incapacitated, storm the stage and try to break the performance up. We try, within the context of a duel in the final scene, to get them off stage and out of the way, but they keep fighting us. Luckily, we’re able to work their unexpected and unwelcome appearance into the play and manage to get the audience to believe that it’s all part of the show, which we achieve by creating complete and utter chaos, including a runaway weasel out of Aideena’s bag of tricks.

Just at the end, one of the party manages to lower the curtain and we hurry the Players out of there, explaining that they really don’t want to be backstage and that we mean them no harm, truly. We’re finally able to convince them to leave. Once backstage, we also learn that Zanni and Tad had been tied up, and we free them, urging them to leave as well. They heed our advice just in time, for they have scarcely left when the Prince appears backstage. He greets us and congratulates us and, without saying a thing, we attack. It’s a very difficult battle as he has his guards with him, but we finally manage to defeat and kill him.

We take a moment to rest, sending an animal messenger to Prince Navuul—in code—that the deed is done.

View
Escape From the Palace
In which the party is no longer on solid ground.

In the blink of an eye, we’re back in the mostly empty throne room. For a moment, everything is silent and then, all of a sudden, the ground beneath our feet begins to tremble. It feels like a massive earthquake, one that keeps going and going and gets worse as time goes on. The trembling gets so bad that we’re knocked to the ground, unable to stay on our feet.

As we stand and begin to run out of the room, we can feel our ears popping and the sensation of rising quickly. We head out of the front doors and run into scores of guards. At first, they don’t see us, as they’re looking towards the gates. Soon enough, however, they notice us because we begin running towards them and engage them.

While we’re fighting, Jack climbs up on a platform and is able to see the city far below us—several hundred feet at least.

Eventually we defeat all but one, leaving the last alive because he surrenders. By this point, the ground is shaking much less until, suddenly, everything stops. It’s clear that there is no way out of the gates, nor the way we came—that is, underground. The palace and the land that it sits upon has been torn from the ground beneath and is rising steadily further away. Targoth attempts to determine if there’s magic at work and, if so, what type. What he’s able to figure out is that the palace has been lifted into the air by some incredibly powerful and non-mortal magic—someone like Viri or her caliber—and that the magic feels demonic in nature, definitely from another plane.

Since we can neither go down nor out—and remaining in the palace is out of the question—we head upwards towards the battlements.

Once we reach the top, we have a much better view of what’s happened and it’s clear that, by now, we’re a thousand feet up and continuing to rise and move away from the city. But we’re not at all sure how to get down—it’s clear we’re going to need help of some kind, though where we’re going to get it is anyone’s guess.

While we’re up there attempting to work out how to get off, we’re attacked by guards, which are hideously transformed into demons. While we’re fighting, Aideena casts a spell of fire and, as she does so, hears a word in primordial—“Imix”—but she’s not sure what it means.

We’re getting tired and it’s getting more and more difficult to fend off attacks, but we’re in luck; out of nowhere, a great winged shadow flies overhead. It’s a large silver dragon, and it dives at our remaining attackers, clearing them away.

The dragon is an elder wyrm and, to our shock, lands and greets Targoth. The dragon is Saresh and he’s come to our rescue, proposing to fly us back down to the city. We climb on his back gratefully, wary of the fact that one of his wings looks burned, and begin to fly away from the palace.

As we make our escape, jets of fire rain down on us as arrows fly up at us. It’s clear that we’re in an untenable position and we’ll need to get off as soon as possible. Saresh flies near some rooftops and tells us to run across them towards the Scriveners’ Academy, where we should be safe and protected.

Saresh makes another pass of the rooftops and I’m the first to jump, landing safely. I’m quickly joined by the rest of the party.

From here, it’s difficult to miss the palace floating in the sky. It had been built upon a tor, which was then surrounded by Eastwind—the district where most of the nobility and wealthy citizens lived. But now, the entire tor has been ripped from the ground and Eastwind has been reduced to rubble.

We can’t take much time to gawp, though, as there are a number of guards who have turned their focus from Saresh to us and begin to attack. Jack and I are able to make our way quickly across the rooftop, unfortunately getting separated from our party in the process. As a result, we’re somewhat overmatched when we’re attacked by a demon.

The demon proceeds to hurl me off the roof; luckily, I fall through a roof and into another building, my location obscured from the demon.

While my compatriots continue to fight the demons and guards, I take a look at my surroundings. I’ve landed on a pile of expensive looking cloth. As I explore a bit, I see more fine goods—expensive cloth, lace, tiny boxes, masks, some mannequins—as well as crates and chests.

My party is able to kill the demon that dropped me and, once the danger has temporarily passed, I make them aware of my location and we quickly scavenge what we can from the room. As we’re searching the room for goods, we hear footsteps coming towards us. Jack and I make it up the rope before anyone comes, but the rest of the party does not. Lucky, the people who open the door are looking to lead us to the Scriveners’ Academy and Saresh.

Once we get there, we meet up with Saresh, now in humanoid form once more, and begin to discuss what on earth happened. We come to realize that the king has re-sworn the Anathema, the pact originally sworn by Bael Turath to the Nine Hells which led to the tiefling race’s creation and the war with Arkhosia, which is really bad news. Targoth asks Saresh about the wings and the standard he found in the King’s throne room, which we then find out is the Unconquered Standard of Arkhosia, which had been lost when Arkhosia fell and should never have been in the king’s throne room with the other vanquished standards.

Saresh also recognizes Targoth as the Many from the prophecy, explaining that he suspected this might be the case, but that all of the evidence—particularly Targoth’s visions—makes it certain. He tells Targoth: “You are our empire’s truest heir, the descendant of the great Maekrix Ageash Haurach, the Scion of Arkhosia. You embody the multifaceted jewel that was our ancient and lost realm. And your task, Targoth Ornkear Fastclaw, son of Korinn and Balthasar, is to bring the might of Arkhosia to bear once more down upon our nemeses.”

After we’re done talking, Saresh picks up a metal paperweight carved in the shape of a dragon from his desk and reveals a wall with symbols on it. He traces the Ikhoric words “karak irthos,” which mean “last secret,” on the wall. A door opens and, beyond that, there’s a long dark staircase that we climb, finally emerging into a circular room. The spire lacks windows, but what really draws the eye at the very top is the floor, as there are many symbols on it.

Saresh informs us that there are portals here, ones he’s been using to investigate the missing dragonborn. His investigation has revealed little—only that dragonborn generally go missing in ones or pairs, that nothing is ever found besides tracks leading southward and that the phenomenon seems to have been occurring over the course of a year. All of the clues he’s found lead him to conclude that answers might be found to the south. This resonates with Jack, who feels two pulls—one much stronger than the other, but both are generally pulling him south. He knows that they’re pearls and that one of them is Onath.

Saresh explains a few of the portals’ destinations, saying: “I have spent many years traveling as far as my wings would take me, preparing for a time when I would need to travel quickly across the continent. Here there are portals scattered across the far corners of Vaalbara. You see, this continent is much vaster than just the kingdom of Dakkon, or even the combined kingdoms of Dakkon and Hazen. There is the vast Frostmarch to the north and the blasted, war-torn lands of the Sighing Desert to the south. But beyond those lay lands more unknown still to most who live. A jungle realm overseen by regents awaiting the return of their Eternal Queen. A warring string of impoverished city-states sliding into a dark sea. An archipelago of fiefdoms dominated by captains, alchemists, privateers and slavers. Vor Kragal, the City of Ash, and the vast Hanging City of Andok Sur. These portals will take you to many places you may want to go, and to places where you must.”

We discuss our next course of action, but we all agree that we need to inform Navuul what’s happened in case he doesn’t yet know. So we enter through the portal and find ourselves in a clearing close to the road to Tal Morai.

As we look around, we see a massive encampment—Prince Navuul’s army, which is large but motley. Before we have a chance to do much, we’re accosted by a couple of sentries who demand to know what we’re doing. Explaining that we’re here to see the Prince is met with derision, so I show him Jalmari’s signet ring, which convinces the sentries to take us into the encampment to see the Prince.

The Prince greets us and we go into his tent to discuss everything that’s happened. Prince Navuul is aware of the floating palace and is disturbed by it. We proceed to brief him on everything that’s happened since we last saw him, including Jalmari’s death.

The Prince is surprisingly optimistic, saying that Jalmari could still be alive, that we can’t believe he’s truly dead without a body and that Jalmari has beaten the odds before. I try not to hope too much and, indeed, am incredibly skeptical about whether he could be alive or not.

We ask after some of our friends and find out some horrible news; that Solange has just managed to make contact, but that Helena has been taken, possibly to the Nine Hells.

Jack’s face goes white and hard at the news. We’re all stunned and saddened on his behalf, even the Prince, who hangs his head a bit. It’s difficult for him because the king is his father, the king’s top generals are his brothers—but they’re responsible for his sisters’ deaths—especially Fiamma—and that leads him to conclude that the next course of action is clear: he needs us to assassinate his brothers.

Despite the fact that Jack feels bound to do as the Raven Queen commands—as she’s told him she wants us to hunt down the pearls as soon as possible—we’re all in agreement with the Prince. It’s well-known that Crown Prince Ashtar is a supporter of his father’s and has probably sworn a pact with the same demon his father has, but we also suspect that the youngest prince—Tanaidred—is following in Ashtar’s footsteps.

We decide that, after a rest, we’ll begin on our quest to assassinate both brothers. Ashtar is still in Orran and Tanaidred is now in Riversend. It’s also clear that Easar cannot be left to the king, but it’s important to do away with much of the power support he has in this world.

After we’ve decided on that course of action and that we’ll be heading to Riversend after a rest, we go to bed down for the night in the camp.

View
The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

We gallop south on our horses (and donkey) and, in the distance, see the broken spires of the human city of Tas Tarsal. When we reach it, we see the abandoned city in ruins. These, unlike the ruins at (I can’t remember the name of the city), are not Arkhosian; Tas Tarsal was a human city and isn’t nearly as old. The city is, however, full of magic which Aideena is able to detect.

Jack spots some tracks which appear to be larger than an average human, but they’re not recent. Targoth is able to discern that the tracks are two weeks old and could possibly be troll or gnolls, perhaps a small family-sized group of them. There aren’t any juveniles, however, and the pattern suggests a regular patrol.

I am aware that the city is related to Tammarach Denadra, somehow, but I don’t really remember the particulars.

We decide to tie the horses to a tree and bed down outside of the city. Once everyone beds down and goes to sleep, we all have a shared dream. The dream is deeply disturbing because we all witness horrible events from each other’s pasts, before we see everyone we know and care about in a huge field bidding us a solemn and sad goodbye.

Upon waking up, though, we discover that Jack heard from the Raven Queen again, which put Eben in a foul mood that he had no desire to discuss with anyone. Jack tells the rest of us that the Raven Queen told him we need to find Onath. When Aideena asks why, Jack says that she told him, “We have to find the thing destroying him.” Targoth says what we’re all thinking, that she must be referring to the pearl that Onath still has.

We also discuss our shared dream, though Eben doesn’t want to talk about what he dreamed of. I’m not as affected by the glimpse of my past—which was a particularly memorable fight between my mother and I about my life choices—as the others are, and the end of the dream only galvanizes my resolve to continue forward on our mission to incite a few formorians to attack Easar as a diversion.

Jack, as a result of his dream, is convinced that we should go search for Onath, who’s far to our south. A huge discussion ensues, in which most of the party agrees with me, which is good because I would go it alone if I had to. After a lengthy discussion, we finally agree as a party to follow the original plan and begin to break down camp.

Once we have it all broken down and have retrieved our horses and donkey, we begin to walk through the destroyed city. There are lots of scorch marks and burned out buildings, along with piles of rubble and debris. I recall that Tammarach sacked the cities in the last days of the Long War because there were rumors that a great weapon capable of destroying the king.

As we walk through the city, a large house stands out. On the outer gate—which is still standing—there’s a crest of a moon waxing and waning. It’s immediately obvious what this is—the crest of the Moonghalls, my family, and I decide that I have to see inside.

We carefully tie the horses up not too far away but well clear of the house itself, which is only in slightly better shape than some of the other buildings. The front doors are half cracked and hanging open, and upon walking carefully inside, the first floor appears to be stable. The easily accessible parts of the house have clearly been ransacked, and there doesn’t appear to be any way to reach the second floor. Most of the right wing of the house has been destroyed, but there’s a dusty sitting room in the left wing still intact. There are statues of people, but there’s not a lot of detail to the faces.

Despite the second floor looking inaccessible, Aideena and Eben ponder a way up there. First, Aideena attempts to feystep to the second floor, but she lands on an unstable part of the floor and crashes back down to the first floor.

The noise is disconcerting, but we continue to look around at what’s been left behind. Jack and Eben attempt to pull some remaining sconces off the wall, and I move into the hall and ultimately to the furthest room from the front door.

The room clearly used to be a kitchen as it has a stove and a fireplace. In the fireplace, there’s a small box made of iron. I pull it free and inspect it. The box has been sealed, but only by mundane means, and, after a few false starts, I’m able to open the box.

Inside, there’s a book bound in a piece of fabric. I pull the fabric aside carefully and absentmindedly clutch it in my hand while my sole focus is on the book. I carefully open it, but it’s written in a language I don’t understand at all. The book is illustrated, though, and amongst the drawings is a face I recognize. The woman looks very similar to Viri.

I carry the book and the cloth into the other room to show the others and, together, we’re able to decipher a part of the book.

The pages we’re able to decode say:

Moonghall

Jump quickly! Five hexing wizard bolts!

Practice

The Moonghall Family.

House Moonghall.

Practice

Lady Vera Amyrillis.

Once the book has been partially decoded, I turn my attention to the cloth, which turns out to be a cloak with clasps.

Meanwhile, Eben and Targoth decide to see if they can boost Jack up to the second floor. They manage to get him up there, but when Jack touches the floor it collapses under him and he’s left hanging on a chain. From his vantage point, he’s not really able to see anything, so he decides to come back down.

We decide we’ve discovered as much as we can and decide to leave. A layer of light snow has fallen while we’ve been inside the house and, as we begin to make our way to our horses, we see a few shadowy creatures. We’re suddenly surprised by orcs and fight them.

Not long after the fight begins, some bugbears join the fray. One of them tells us that Nargash and his men are our enemies.” We decide not to only fight the orcs and form a temporary alliance with the bugbears.

During the battle, Eben divinely challenges one of the orcs and hears a low, female voice echo his words, which surprises him at first and then lifts his spirits.

After the orcs are defeated and killed, the bugbears allow us passage to where the worldfall is. When we finally get near it, we pass into the feywild. Once we do, there are five eladrin guards. They tell us to go back the way we came, that it’s not safe here. We try to explain that we want to go through, but they are resistant and want to talk to us in their tower.

Our group is escorted inside the tower and we discover that the eladrin will only speak to Aideena. We aren’t making much headway when Viri shows up. She tells them that she’s the Witch of Fates and proves it. They finally seem willing to listen and we explain that we’re in the feywild to draw a formorian or two into the prime plane to help with an attack on the king. Thanks mostly to Viri, they agree to allow us passage to do this.

Outside of the tower, we greet Viri. I confront her about her face in the book of my ancestors and she says that she was indeed Lady Vera Amyrillis and that she helped my family escape the destruction of Tas Tarsal. She is unwilling to answer any further questions and hurries us along on our mission. She warns us that the formorians have an evil eye that can curse us if we’re not careful, and that—once we’ve lured one or two through the worldfall, we should head for the sea.

She bids us to go and we do, traveling as quickly as we can to the entrance to the feydark.

We decide to leave our horses outside and try to tie them to trees, but we quickly discover that they are not trees, they’re sprigen. We manage to appease the sprigen with gifts and promises and they agree to allow us to leave our horses with tied to them.

Jack and Targoth stride into the cavern, with the rest of us following behind. We don’t encounter anything for some time, but soon we hear footsteps and see stalactites tremble.

Soon enough, a group of formorians show up. We take off as quickly as we can, under the mistaken impression that they’ll follow us. When that doesn’t happen, we stand near the cavern entrance and attempt to provoke the formorians into coming after us.

That doesn’t happen, either, and the sprigen laugh at our antics. We belatedly remember being told that formorians aren’t stupid, so we realize we’ll have to go back into the cavern and attempt to draw them out some other way.

Once we go back in, we’re attacked immediately by the formorians, who had simply waited for us to come back. This time, though, they follow us out of the cavern and we’re able to reach our horses and make a break for the worldfall.

When we reach the worldfall, we race between the turrets where the eladrin guards have erected a trap to trip the formorians. We get through and the trap is sprung and trips up the formorians, buying us a little bit of space.

We ride for six hours straight with the formorians hot on our tail. When the formorians spot the city, however, they break off from following us and make for Easar, just as we’d hoped they would. We, on the other hand, ride towards the sea as Viri instructed us.

Once we reach the shore, we’re not far from the secret entrance to the Thaumaturgy. There, on the beach, is Daren Windraker. He was directed to meet us here by the Witch of Fates, though she told him her name was Vastara. Off in the distance, we can see Halfling warships. He tell us that he’s here to take us to the bluffs and the secret entrance, which is two miles away and most easily accessible by sea.

We get onto his ship and he takes us to the secret entrance. He signals the other ship and tells us that it’s time—they’re going to begin barraging the city. Daren has to get back, but he and Jack still have time for an awkward moment that’s oddly sentimental as well.

Once he leaves, we make our way through the tunnels unimpeded. Once inside the Thaumaturgy, we head to Janus’s quarters. There we meet up with Jalmari and Solange. They are absolutely exhausted. Gavrash is here as well and he looks very worn, too.

They quickly fill us in on what’s happened: the guildhouse has been destroyed, as well as some of the noble houses—including Ortia and Allexi. Janus went to ground and then returned to the protection of the Thaumaturgy. The whereabouts of Lord Ortia and Lord and Lady Allexi are still unknown.

Solange, Jalmari, and Gavrash lead us out on the streets. It’s utter chaos; soldiers are barging into homes and turning out families, people are running from the barrage by the halflings and the attack by the formorians, and there are buildings on fire.

Solange tells us that she can buy us some time and so we follow Gavrash towards the cemetery. He raises them as a buffer, to lead the way to the city and allow us to make our way to the palace.

Once we make our way through the streets with the aid of the undead army, Jalmari and Solange lead us into a passageway which takes us underground. There, we split yet again; Solange and the guild are going to attempt a frontal assault and Jalmari is going to come with us to find the king.

We meet some King’s Guard in the passageway, but defeat them and keep going and into another corridor. Here, we find a necklace and a gem on some statues. We walk through a portal cautiously and hear hissing. The area is flooded with gas and we’re attacked by demons. We manage to get away and keep going, moving in the correct direction until we find a door. In the room beyond, we find treasure.

The demons, however, return. They’re slowing us down and are hitting us hard enough to be worrisome. Jalmari says he’ll hold them off. After saying this, he turns to me and tells me that he’s promoting me to Spymaster, the position he’s held as the Prince’s second in command and acknowledged head of Second Dawn.

I yell at him that he’s not staying here, but he tells me—and the rest of us—to go before turning away. I go with the rest of the party to the end of the passageway and the stone staircase that leads above ground and into the palace. We reach an empty room filled with dusty furniture. At this point, I know Jalmari is dead because I can no longer sense him through the ring.

We keep quiet in the room, since we hear a patrol on the other side of the door. The footsteps recede after a moment and, leaning against the door, we can hear that it’s quiet despite the pandemonium in the city. We can hear faint voices talking and so we crack the door quietly and look into the hall.

At one end is a massive set of double doors which appears to lead into the audience room, a place that we’d be very likely to find the king. To the other end, we see the patrol moving away from us. Quickly, we run towards the large doors, though we do so as quietly as we can.

Once through them, there’s a small antechamber. Inside, we can see some King’s Guard, Tavrix, some courtiers, and the king himself. The king is speaking and his voice is low and flat, condemning one group of his guard for allowing us to escape. Another group stands behind them and kills them as punishment.

Tavrix is the first to notice us.

Soon, we’re fighting the Guards and Tavrix and it’s not going as well as we would have liked when, suddenly, a girl of flame appears. She tells us quietly to be ready and then calls out her father, the king, telling him that he will do no more harm and accuses him of his crimes where all of his courtiers can hear. With her help, the fighting goes a bit better and soon we’re holding our ground. At this point, Targoth notices something fluttering in the audience room and takes a closer look. There are banners from conquered places hanging up and one of them is a golden banner which Targoth recognizes as the Unconquered Standard of Arkhosia, which doesn’t belong at all. Targoth reaches for the banner to pull it down and, as he touches it, everything changes, including us.

The king begs his master for assistance and he’s suddenly transformed into a horned, twisted version of himself. We’re transported into a horrible void with shards of the throne room separated by a terrifying blackness that seems to go on infinitely.

The evil king is rejuvenated and we fight him as hard as we can, but we’re without Fiamma’s help here. We start slowly making headway and I aim a killing blow at him, finally feeling that amazing feeling of realizing a lifelong goal. He, however, laughs at me and drains the energy from his servant, Tavrix, before disappearing. We’re transported back to the prime plane and the now mostly empty throne room.

View
Reunions in Riven

Jalmari leads us through Riven’s streets and towards the Keep, where Prince Navuul is. Even though he’s a known enemy of the king—as we all are—he assures us that it’s safe to walk through the streets because the town is under the protection of the Prince and is a city of resistance.

Jalmari also explains that the Prince thinks the endgame is near. That said, he leads us into the throne room, barely glancing around. The rest of us, however, take in the room, which is dominated by two thrones. On one of them is a young man who looks very different from Fiamma. This man is clearly Prince Navuul, who stands and greets Jalmari by name.

Jalmari approaches and the two men embrace. Jalmari steps aside and the Prince greets the rest of us. I, for one, am eager to greet the prince and somewhat in awe of him. I kneel and greet him deferentially, but the Prince gestures for me to rise. Everyone else does the same in their own way, but the Prince is less concerned with deference and more concerned with what’s going on.

He tells us that we have much to discuss. We take a moment to introduce ourselves, and he tells us that he’s heard about us. Jalmari then gives him a rundown of what he’s been up to in Easar, though he leaves the adventure to the Royal Archives out.

We then ask the Prince if he knows of the prophecy, and he answers affirmatively, though he doesn’t know the wording. Since it’s clear that Jalmari trusts him, and because most of us are working to put him in power, we share it with him though it’s clear that he doesn’t have any more insight into the meaning than we do,

The prince also asks after Fiamma and we describe her to him, and he appears sad when we tell him how she died. He visibly shakes it off and the we turn to other business. He tells us that he has grim tidings: that Lord Miden has been captured and—between that and the attack at the warehouse— Second Dawn is either entirely or on the verge of being compromised. This news is particularly distressing to me not only because he’s one of the few people to know who and what I am, but also because of the seeming realization Tavrix made during the battle at the warehouse.

We inform him of what we discovered about Lady Strael—namely, that she is probably dead and was replaced by a changeling, which explains how we were betrayed at the warehouse. We also tell him that her bodyguard is clearly on Tavrix’s side, though we don’t know why or how this was accomplished.

The Prince then tells us that he thinks it’s time to throw caution to the wind, that the time to act is near, telling us, “They will torture him to death for the secrets he holds. And he holds many. Between this and the attack on the warehouse, Second Dawn is virtually undone. We must throw caution to the wind—either we strike now or we allow our movement to wither on the vine. And make no mistake: my father will pick us off one by one. His Inquisitors and Skinwalkers are everywhere. They will find us all.”

So we begin to plan, and the first suggestion is that Gavrash could create a large undead army as a diversion.

None of us—particularly Eben—are fond of this idea, though. Targoth then suggests that we use the formorians as a decoy. Since we opened the Feywild, we would need a way for the threat to be legitimate enough for the King to send the King’s Guard away from Easar. It’s a risky plan because the formorians are really only interested in conquest, and unleashing them on the world—even one—could risk everything we’re fighting for.

Given the difference in manpower, though, it’s the only plan that we can all agree on. We learn that there’s a worldfall near Easar that the formorians have occasionally come through before. We also know that it’s far enough away from their main homeland that there’s little risk of more than one or two coming through. It seems the best strategy that we have at the moment.

We decide to eat and rest at this point, since we’ve been on the go for some time. Before we break, Aideena asks Prince Navuul if there was any word of the Allexis, who were traveling with Miden. He says that there wasn’t; they weren’t captured, but no one’s heard anything of them.

At this, we’re led to quarters and given food. The food is good but parsimonious—evidence that what money there is is not being unnecessarily wasted. We all rest for a few hours.

After resting, Helena tells Jack that she needs to go see the guildmistress. Jack asks her when she’ll be back, but Helena regretfully says that she thinks she has to stay with the guildmistress from now on.

Jack is upset, saying that he needs Helena. In response, Helena looks like she’s going to cry, and says that she’ll see Jack in Easar.

Jack says that this is fine, provided that he can see her again. He tells her he missed her.

“Is that emotion?” Eben asks incredulously, and a bit cruelly, given the moment.

“Yes,” Jack responds, hugging his sister.

“Eben, shut up,” Aideena reprimands him.

Jack is very emotional, even tearing up at this point, and it’s clear that Helena is on the verge of tears herself. They share one last moment of hugging before Helena pulls away and leaves very quickly, leaving out of a window.

Aideena attempts to be there for Jack and they share a friendly moment, which Eben proceeds to ruin by being rather mean. Jack runs off while Aideena tells Eben off for ruining Jack’s emotional moment.

Eben simply smiles in a way that Aideena finds infuriating, and she turns to leave. Just as she’s reaching the door, though, Eben says, “Nothing unusual for that witch.”

Aideena hears him and whirls around to face him, her wand drawn. As she does, she hears a whisper in deep speech, what sounds like two voices whispering, “fire.” Shocked, she drops her wand, and tells what she heard.

Eben remains unrepentant and Aideena storms out of the room. Targoth chides Eben, for all the good it does.

Meanwhile, I was in another room by myself looking over the ring I was given, and came out to witness the end of the confrontation.

I don’t have much to say about that, specifically, so I glance out the windows while everyone is otherwise occupied. Outside, I see an execution taking place. There is no way to tell who is being executed or why, and the whole scene fills me with a slight sense of uneasiness.

I then ask Targoth what was going on and he recounts the situation to me.

Jalmari shows up after Targoth recounts the scene and I ask about the execution I saw taking place. He seems as surprised as I was, though he doesn’t seem concerned, and says that he’ll ask the prince about it.

After this, we all head down to the dining hall to have lunch with the prince; Eben reluctantly accompanies us.

When we arrive, the prince greets us and says that we should talk. We sit down and begin to have lunch and Jalmari starts the conversation off by asking the prince what he thinks we ought to do.

The prince affirms that our best option is to use the formorians as a diversion. This means that we’ll need to travel back to Easar. Given that we’re wanted criminals, we agree that we’ll have to use the secret entrance into the Thaumaturgy once again. We’ll go on our own, since Prince Navuul—despite the very real dangers that the formorians present—doesn’t doubt our ability to protect ourselves and we can’t spare any further men.

Lunch wraps up and the prince asks us to leave immediately and head for the ruins of the Free Cities of Tas Tarsel and Essend, where the worldfall is located. We are told to look for the broken spires of Tas Tarsel; from what we understand, the ruins are about a day’s ride south of Aldastra. We also learn that we should be on our guard for orcs and bugbears in that area.

We head up to our rooms to gather our stuff and discover, on the nightstand in Eben’s room, a grey hat that wasn’t there before. No one recognizes the hat, nor where it came from, though there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about it.

Targoth, however, notices a disturbance around the window, but nothing seems to be missing. Aideena and Eben take this opportunity to snipe at each other again while we try to discover how that hat came to be in our rooms and who might have put it there.

We are able to discern that teleportation magic is probably involved, and from somewhere on the grounds. Furthermore, there appears to be very powerful magic woven into the threads. Eben takes this into account, but puts that hat on and decides to keep it.

When we come back down with our stuff, we’re greeted by Jalmari and the prince. We inform them about the hat and the teleportation magic, and then we leave the Keep to stop at the Sleeping Dragon. There, Targoth meets his mother and gets his new sword. When he touches it, he sees visions like he did at the dragonborn ruins. After seeing the visions, he explains them to us.

After this, we leave Riven and begin riding to Aldastra. The first day’s ride is uneventful and, towards the end of the day, we find an inn to stay at called The Roadside Inn. When we enter, though, we realize we’ll have to be careful since there are some King’s Guard present. Targoth inquires with the proprietor about playing for the audience in exchange for allowing us to stay the night. The owner does, so Targoth begins playing on stage.

I head to the bar alone and listen to see if I overhear anything of interest. All I’m able to hear is discussion of odd roundups in Riven, and a possible disagreement between the prince and his father. There’s also a rumor about a strange farm that everyone flees from, which I think sounds interesting enough to follow up on. I approach the group of men who are discussing it and ask them about it while flirting and buying them drinks and trying to avoid anyone buying me drinks.

At this point, unfortunately, I’ve drawn the attention of some of the King’s Guard, who approach me. I flirt and bluff my way out of it successfully enough to not be arrested, but not enough to make them completely unsuspicious, as they seem to think they recognize me. I’m forced to leave the bar and change my clothes and form in an outhouse before re-entering and sitting at the bar alone

Aideena, at this point, is staring into space and has generally removed herself from what’s going on around her and Targoth—who has finished playing—approaches the King’s Guard and begins to talk with them. Through the course of this discussion, Targoth is able to convince them that we’re a relatively well-known troupe of traveling performers and, thankfully, they don’t pay any of our group any further attention beyond Targoth offering them his autograph.

At the end of the night, all of us save Eben head up to our rooms. Eben decides to stay in the barn for reasons known only to himself. When he decides this, we are worried about the welfare of the horses.

When Aideena and I are alone, I show her a ring and ask her about it—specifically, if there’s anything magical about it. She is able to tell me that there’s a strong magic to it and when she holds it she feels compelled to put it on. She does so, and feels the presence of another person some distance away. She senses emotions from the person, particularly deep longing and regret, which then harden into steely resolve. At first she can’t tell who the person is, but then she realizes that it’s Jalmari.

I ask her what she’s experiencing, and she tells me that she felt Jalmari’s presence, and that he was longing for something or someone. I snatch the ring away from her and put it on and I, too, am able to sense exactly where he is and how strong he is. What I have is a ring of Brotherhood and Aideena gives me a look that is both knowing and slightly disgusted, which I ignore. We then go to bed with no more discussion.

The next morning we leave the inn and find the farmland around Aldastra. On the road we spot a thick knot of travelers and hear the screams of horses and the sound of steel on steel. As we get closer, it becomes apparent that a family is under attack by a group of bugbears, so we ride in to help them.

As we’re fighting, some of our horses get away—though we’re able to save all but mine—thanks to the family, which is able to escape. During the battle with the bugbears, however, the King’s Guard shows up and it’s clear that they know who we are. We engage them in battle and kill all of them to protect ourselves.

We drag all of the bodies off into the bushes along the side of the road and then Jack picks the pockets of the King’s Guards’ bodies, finding miscellaneous items along with 500 gp for each person.

After that task is done, we continue down the road to Aldastra. There are no walls around the city and, just outside of the city limits, we dismount and walk our horses in, tying them up outside of an inn.

We have to be careful because there are some guards present, but it’s not as many as we’ve encountered in other cities. We all decide to go shopping, though there aren’t that many shops and many of us are ultimately disappointed at the limited stock.

We then head back to the inn and hang out in the common area. While there, we notice that the place is fairly crowded and seems to mostly cater to families. We do, however, sit near a group of men who are discussing the fact that it’s been fairly quiet on the roads for this time of year. Too many families have had to leave their farms after the Garyerdra boys died.

Someone asks why families are abandoning their farms, and the man who’d mentioned the Garyerdra boys says that livestock have gone missing only to later be discovered dead without a mark on them. He says that the ones caged are even worse, because they are found with scratches and claw marks. He also mentions that even the hardiest roots won’t grow and that there’s an awful silence. There have even been some who hear voices.

Aideena is the only one of us who doesn’t hear this conversation, while Targoth quietly says what some of us are thinking: that this bears all the hallmarks of the pearls that we’ve encountered. Targoth then approaches the group and starts to talk to the man who seems to know all about these rumors. He tells Targoth that these strange events have been happening for the better part of a month and that the area we need to avoid is three hours south of the city where there’s a headstone within a copse of trees.

Jack noticeably reacts to these words in particular, but the man continues, saying that it’s the third farm on from there.

The conversation winds down after this and we make our excuses and head to our rooms for the night.

The next morning, we all wake up and ask Jack about what we heard the night before. He shares with us the note that the Rag and Bone Man gave him which details the location of Jack’s mother’s grave, specifically that her grave is on the road between Aldastra and Easar and is marked by a raven feather.

Jack wants to stop there, which we all agree to do, and then we leave the inn. On our way out of the city, we head to a stable and inquire about any horses they may have for sale, since I’ve been forced to share with Aideena. All he has available is a donkey, which he is willing to sell to me for 70 gp. I’m unwilling to ride the donkey, but Jack agrees to trade with me if I’ll purchase the donkey, which I’m happy to do.

Thus, we’re able to all have our own mounts as we leave the city.

We don’t meet anyone on the road. Soon, we reach the copse of trees the man described and tie our horses to a rock outcropping. We then make our way into the copse.

We reach a small clearing and see a tombstone that is mostly covered in snow. Jack is hesitant to approach it, but eventually does. The rest of us stay back to give him a bit of privacy as he digs at the snow to clear it away. On the headstone is a bird, along with the words: “Lemiye Hanswurst. She is gone to see the face of the inevitable and in Her judgment find peace.” Eben respectfully mutters a prayer to the Raven Queen.

Jack then finds an intact feather on the ground, which he picks up and puts away. He kneels, bows his head, and then stands, touching the top of the headstone as if in a gesture of farewell. He then heads back over to the rest of us.

Targoth claps Jack on the shoulder, causing Jack to leap away in surprise. Targoth asks if Jack is okay, and Jack answers, “I’ll be ok. We never really got along anyway.” He laughs a strange, bitter laugh, and then continues, “I never really knew her name.”

Aidena looks at Jack, but also keeps a suspicious eye on Eben.

We all then head back to the horses and head in the direction towards the farm the man at the inn told us about. Soon, the world around us becomes unnaturally silent and we reach a point where our horses refuse to go any further. We dismount and move closer on foot. The silence grows heavy and we soon reach the farm. Between us and the house is a cornfield with huge stalks that are taller than all of us. Jack begins to walk through the field on his own and becomes separated, forcing the rest of us to go in after him.

The stalks, as soon as they’re disturbed, burst and pollen explodes out around us.

Eventually, we’re able to find Jack, though when we do, we notice that he seems to be flickering, though we don’t know why. We keep pushing on, though, and eventually leave the field and reach the house. Jack picks the lock and we enter a large room which is shrouded in darkness.

Targoth lights up his sun lamp, though we’re still not able to see much. What we can see seems to be covered in grey dust, except for a few sinuous looking lines on the ground which seem to indicate that something moved through here relatively recently.

As we look around, we realize that things that should have kept have gone bad. Also, nonsense syllables skitter over our minds. Nothing seems to be on the lowest floor and the trail leads up the stairs. We decide to follow it, with Jack in front.

At the top of the stairwell, there’s a door and—as we approach—we hear a voice in our mind whisper. Jack opens the door and beyond is a narrow, cramped hallway ending in two doors. Unfortunately, the trail we’re following goes to both. Jack feels an itching sensation and decides to attempt to drowse which door to pick using the feather.

It’s not helpful, so Jack picks the door on the left and attempts to open it. It’s heavy and we soon discover why: there are two bodies pushed up against it, though they’re barely recognizable as bodies. The smell is so foul that Jack vomits.

The strange thing is that there are no agents of decay working at the bodies; there are no flies or maggots or any other type of carrion. Jack is forced to jump over the bodies to enter the room, which is a bedroom with furniture which all stands open.

Not finding anything in there, Jack jumps back into the hall and goes to the other door. This room is brighter, but there are two people on the bed, turned away from the door. It appears to be the farmer and his wife, though there’s an unnatural silhouette, something that doesn’t seem right about the shapes of their bodies.

Jack enters the room and moves closer. What he can see of their skin is taut and dry, and then he spots the pearl on the nightstand.

Eben whispers a prayer to the Raven Queen about the pearl. We all wonder whether the feather will work to neutralize the pearl again. Jack really doesn’t want to give it up, so he and Eben approach the pearl. Jack grabs the neutralized pearl and lays the feather on the pearl on the nightstand.

As the feather touches the active pearl, Jack gets a massive migraine, screams, and falls back. He’s in incredible pain, but the feather does sink into the pearl. Eben experiences a numinous presence in the room, and has the sense that the Raven Queen is acting at least partially in response to his summons. This contact thrills Eben, and Jack feels his pain recede when the Raven Queen’s presence departs.

The pearl is now inert and Jack is in a heap on the far side of the bed from the door. Targoth moves into check on Jack to be sure he’s okay and he seems to be, though he’s a bit weak.

At this point, we all leave the area and go back out to the hallway. The light in the house—which had been very dim and creepy—is improving, though it’s still too early to tell if the atmosphere is improving.

We decide to leave the farm and exit the house and head back towards where we left the horses. This necessitates us going back through the creepy cornfield, which are still grey but are no longer swaying towards the farmhouse like they were before.

Things seem to be improving until we’re attacked by all sorts of tentacles. We’re hit hard and are in grave danger, being attacked on the ground and from beneath it. At one point, Aideena gets pulled through the earth and deposited in a completely different place.

We are finally able to defeat the creatures attacking us and escape back towards our horses.

View
The Sundered Sword

We begin on board the ship, having just decided that we need to head back to Easar and the cliffs that will lead to the Thaumaturgy. The ship is being steered by the Borderlander we allowed to live and the rest of us—save Jack—have holed up in the Captain’s quarters so that we can’t be seen while passing near the city.

Jack, definitely not trusting the man we’re paying to steer the ship, sticks to the shadows on deck to keep an eye on him. Meanwhile, the rest of us are trying to decide what to do about the Borderlander. On the one hand, leaving him alive is a huge risk because he’s seen our faces and can easily report us. On the other, Targoth feels that we have an ethical obligation to keep him alive since we’ve told him we would spare his life.

Aideena, during the discussion, recalls that she had a disease that made her forget certain information (“Oubliette Mind”) and wonders if we can’t somehow replicate that experience and make the Borderlander forget meeting us.

Eben agrees to help her discern the nature of the disease and how she might be able to give it to someone else. Originally, Targoth agrees to help with casting the spell on the Borderlander, believing it to be better than outright killing him—which is what some of the party are advocating.

During the hour that passes as we make our way back towards the Thaumaturgy, Jack keeps an eye on the Borderlander and Aideena prepares to cast the spell. After that hour, the Borderlander comes and informs us that we’re now close enough to row to shore.

Eben, about this time, pokes around the captain’s quarters and finds a mask of an eladrin face that looks incredibly lifelike. We are eventually able to determine that it’s a Doppelganger Mask and is good for one use only.

Solange then finds a vial which she tells us is Hair of Fairy Hues—a fairy hair that will turn someone’s hair a different shade more or less permanently (or, at least, until the hair grows out). Eben also discovers a charlatan’s kit, three unknown vials and an unknown jar, and a chest which contains 3000 gp, which the party divides evenly.

While these things are helpful, they don’t help us resolve the issue of what to do about the Borderlander sailor. Targoth has changed his mind about helping, raising concerns about the ethics of messing with someone’s mind when we’ve promised not to do anything to him, and there’s a sense of urgency about the party as we know that we can’t sit around debating the issue forever.

We make our way onto the main deck where Jack has begun prepping a lifeboat for us to use. Most of the party—save Jack, Aideena, and Eben—climb into the lifeboat. Aideena then addresses Dax—the Borderlander—and awkwardly tells him to go take a nap while he waits for us to return. Of course, we had not planned to return at all, since once we’re done in Easar, we were going to use the portals in Saresh’s office to get out of the city. Targoth had decided to tell the sailor we were going to return, though.

Dax doesn’t quite know what to do with Aideena’s suggestion and more or less politely rebuffs it. That’s when Solange comes up with the idea that instead of making him forget about us completely, it might be better to plant a memory or suggestion. The idea arises that it might be better to make him think we’re in a completely different city instead of where we actually are.

Aideena decides to implant the idea that Dax has dropped us off in Il Aren, and then attempts to ascertain if it was successful by mildly flirting with the man. It seems to when he suggests that they meet up later at an inn called The Flayed Man and no one who knows Easar well has heard of the place.

Jack and Eben row the boat to shore and we all climb out on the beach. The beach is narrow and comes to an abrupt end in some sheer cliffs 50 yards from the ocean. Janus Swiftfoot leads the party over to these cliffs and searches along the face for a moment before a section of it vanishes and a sort of doorway appears, beyond which is utter darkness.

Janus begins to lead us into the doorway, though I stop him short because I hear shuffling in the darkness, which appears to be coming closer. Janus is unsurprised; he tells us that he forgot about the sentries that protect his way into the Thaumaturgy. They won’t attack him, he says, because he has the proper amulet, but he’s confident that we can handle them.

We make our way through the doorway and don’t have much time before the elementals are upon us. Luckily, we are able to defeat them—rather handily as well—and continue to the Thaumaturgy and Janus’s room without incident.

He then formally thanks Targoth and me for participating in the jailbreak to rescue Kairon, and gives us gold worth 1000 gp, which we split with the rest of the party.

We wonder if we’re okay to rest in Janus’s room, given everything that happened at earlier in the evening at the warehouse, but Janus tells us that the wards to his room will protect us. He also tells us that he won’t be accompanying us further as he needs to go to ground himself.

Before settling in for the evening, we discuss what our plans for the next day are. Given that we want as much information about the Royal Archives as possible, we decide that we should gather the information that Professor Aviel Evervale demanded we give her before she would help us.

Janus then gives us four scrolls that he thinks will be helpful the following day: two of Change Self and two of Chameleon Cloak. We thank him and divide these up to party members who might need them.

We then discover that the unknown vials we collected from the ship are Potions of Mimicry, and the unknown jar is a jar of Unreadable Ink which is invisible to everyone save the intended recipient. The intended recipient will not be able to read it either, but will know the message when he or she touches the paper.

Solange then gives us a vial of Goodnight Tincture, which causes someone to go to sleep when it’s ingested. There are enough for two doses.

Solange and Helena then leave to make contact with some of the others and find out what happened to them. Helena extracts a promise from Jack that he won’t leave without seeing her again.

Janus leaves to go about some business and the party decides to rest for the evening with the exception of Targoth and Aideena, who spend some time learning new rituals, which include “Duplicate” and “Change Self.”

The next morning, we prepare to go to the Scriveners’ Academy in disguise.

Aideena uses her Hair of Fairy Hues to change her hair to a dark reddish color—similar to auburn, Targoth uses the change self ritual to appear human, and the rest of us don disguises of some sort to make our way to the Scriveners’ Academy.

When we get there, we see many students milling about, and we know there are three main areas: the classrooms, the dormitories, and the front entrance.

Aideena tells us that she spent a short time studying at the Academy before she transferred to the Thaumaturgy, so Targoth asks her where we ought to go first. He wonders if we ought to ask some students or if we should look in books first.

Aideena mentions that looking in books might call less attention to ourselves, but the students are probably distracted anyway so we’d probably be safe.

Ultimately, we decide to head to the library first to see what we can find. The library is large and there are a number of students inside. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to the ordering of the books, though Aideena thinks she remembers where the history section is, so we—with the exception of Targoth—head that way first.

In the history section, Jack is able to find a picture book about dragons, while I find a book in Common called Of the Fall, and Aideena finds a book in draconic (Iokharic) called The Early Days of Arkhosia. Meanwhile, Targoth asks the librarian for assistance. The librarian tells Targoth that Laetan has really cornered the market on books about Arkhosia, but that he might be able to find something in the aisle where the rest of us are looking through books.

The librarian proves to be mostly unhelpful and soon leaves. Aideena’s book is not useful, as we are researching modern Arkhosian history, not the early days, but the one I grabbed has some information. In the book, I find a reference to Drail being the third emperor and mentions that Berylith was the fourth. There’s really nothing else helpful in the book that I can see and I stick it back on the shelf. Targoth decides that he needs to go through the book as well and he spots one reference that I didn’t, namely that Vanadius was not the last emperor.

Armed with these pieces of information, we leave the history section and spot a couple of older students who are close to being professors themselves. Aideena approaches them in the guise of a first year and asks for their help.

One of the students remembers that Atrakath was male and that Berylith is not male if Vanadius is not female or vice versa. Then the student gets into a discussion with another student about Verdigris, the Green Dragon, who they say destroyed the Sunken City at Tarnebolge. They argue over whether “The Green Dragon” is a description or a title, and what it might mean if it was a title conferred on one who was not a dragon. The students walk off, completely forgetting about us.

Aideena remembers some history professors that she knew when she was a student, so she leads the way to the classroom area in the hopes of finding them. She uses the same ruse on them—pretending to be a first year helping a friend write a paper on the topic and needing the information—and at first the professors seem very eager to help and perhaps get us to do some research for them in exchange. Once it becomes clear what we’re asking, though, their enthusiasm dies quickly, though they still attempt to help. One of them remembers that there were more males than females and—combined with our knowledge that there were no consecutive males which we received from the advanced students—we know that the order must be male, female, male, female, male, female, and male. We also know that this means Drail is male because he’s third and that Berylith is female, which means that Vanadius has to be male and also not seventh.

The professors also remember that Ferrus comes after Osmus but before Iridian. The professors then hurry off, promising us that if we give them a week to look over their notes, they should be able to give us the correct order. This, of course, is useless, so Targoth asks a student in the classroom if he can help. He remembers that Atrakath was the last ?? and that is the last piece of the puzzle we need.

We go to Professor Evervale with the information that the correct order is Osmus, Ferrus, Drail, Berylith, Vanadius, Iridian, and Atrakath. She’s irritable and sarcastic, but agrees to provide us a map of the Royal Archives.

We head back to the Thaumaturgy and Janus’s room to inspect the map and make plans for breaking in and stealing the map.

We know that the Royal Archives is a well-known building and that it’s located in Whitestone Tor, which is a middle class to upper middle class district. We also know that because it’s a well-known building, it’s incredibly well guarded.

When we inspect the map closer, it becomes clear that the best and easiest way in will be to go into an alleyway that abuts the building, climb over a wall to an outdoor passageway, and then to sneak into the building through a door that leads to a basement. From there, we’ll have to take the stairs up to the top level and go down a hall to reach the Arkhosian room, which is where the sword will be.

Aideena suggests that she might be able to use her Duplicate ritual to leave a copy of the sword so that it doesn’t provoke suspicion when it’s missing, but after a fairly inauspicious attempt at duplicating the map, which lasts all of ten minutes, we’re not convinced it’s the best option.

After looking over the map and discussing our options, we decide it would be best to wait until night to break in as that will give us the best chance to get in and out without being noticed.

Solange and Helena do not return while we wait in Janus’s room and eventually we prepare ourselves to go to the Archives by using a scroll or ritual to disguise ourselves or, in my case, to change my shape.

We make it to the alleyway and wander through it, noticing that there are some guards patrolling the area. I walk along with Targoth; both of us try to help Aideena and Eben blend in and look like they belong while Jack keeps to the shadows.

The guards notice us, asking Targoth and I where we are headed. After Targoth uses a glib (and rather suggestive) limerick to imply that we will be busy for most of the evening, the guards flirt with me shamelessly, as I appear to be a lady of the night. I flirt back and play up that perception, teasing one of them until one of the other guards pulls him away and tells him they’re on the job. Targoth apologizes to me for putting me in the position and I tell him it’s all right because I’ll just kill something later to make up for it. We take our time until the guards round the corner and walk off, leaving the area guard-free for the moment.

Jack immediately scales the wall and ties a rope to the roof to help the rest of us get up there. Aideena climbs up first and makes it safely, then drops to her stomach to make sure no one sees her up there. I climb up next with no problem and Jack asks for my rope, which I give him. He goes over to the other side of the building and attaches it to help us climb down.

Aideena climbs down as Eben climbs up. While Eben makes it onto the roof, Aideena’s descent is much more difficult and she reaches a point where the second floor juts out above the first. At the point where she no longer has the advantage of a wall against which to brace herself, the sudden lack of support causes her to fall. I head down next, have the same problem and experience the same result—a fall that is incredibly painful.

Eben makes his way down and also falls. Targoth makes it up to the roof and, just as Jack is hauling the rope off the ground, two guards round the corner on the street and notice the movement. They fire a weapon at Jack and Targoth before Targoth asks them not to fire, stating that he’s a member of the guards from Docksides and he’s helping patrol the Archives on special assignment. The guards buy his bluff and the three of them spend some time discussing what happened at the jail in Docksides—whether Druuk was okay, how a bunch of prisoners escaped, and how the jailbreakers managed to get in.

The guards eventually wander off, none the wiser, and Jack and Targoth make their way down to the alley where the rest of us are.

We all head over to the door and Jack and I take the lead. We quickly and quietly open the door to a totally dark room. Before we take a step in, though, we hear snoring and try to figure out the best way to deal with taking out the guard and getting to the other side of the room without being able to see. We don’t have much choice, though, and decide to go in and try to knock the guard unconscious. Jack takes a step in and falls down, though he’s able to avoid getting too hurt.

When I notice that he’s fallen, I get on my stomach to feel around for a ladder, which I find easily. I’m able to make my way down quietly and quickly and then the two of us begin slowly moving towards the snoring. Unfortunately, we don’t make it very far before multiple guards awake, the light goes on, and we’re attacked.

I call for help from the rest of the party and we manage to block the exits, preventing any of the guards from escaping to secure help and reinforcements.

We manage to kill all of the guards save one. He surrenders to us, tells us his name is Burran and that he has a wife and child, basically using every tactic in the hostage’s book to keep his soon-to-be murderers from finishing him off. His plea makes many of us second-guess our recent slaughter. Burran agrees to help us with whatever we’re trying to steal as long as we’ll spare him. Jack really doesn’t want to do that, but the rest of us decide that having someone who knows the Archives so well and can help distract and misdirect the other guards is probably worth the risk.

While we quickly discuss what to do, Targoth hides the bodies of the other guards and Aideena cleans up the spilled blood. We ask Burran to lead us to the room with the Arkhosian artifacts. He does so, leading us up the stairs to the right floor and indicating that the room is at the end of the hall and on the right.

The lighting is dim and it’s impossible to really see the guards that are far away; in fact, we only know they’re there because they have torches. Burran tells us that all of the rooms have guards except for the one closest to the stairwell we’ve just come up, which is filled with weapons. We decide to make our way stealthily into that room and then create a diversion that will allow us to get closer to the room we need without being seen. We all make it into the room without being noticed except Eben, who is unfortunately very loud and attracts attention. Burran is able to cover, though, and throw the guards’ suspicions off.

Once he enters the room, he tells us we have to be quieter. We decide that we’re going to have to leave Eben in this room—he’s too much of a risk to come with us—and then we come up with our plan of attack after some discussion. We’re going to send Burran into the room across the hallway with a biscuit laced with Goodnight Tincture and have him give it to the guard. It should put the guard asleep and then Aideena will be able to create a crashing sound in that room, causing the rest of the guards to come running. The fact that one of their fellows is asleep in the room will hopefully occupy them for long enough for us to get further down the hall.

We lace two of the biscuits with the tincture—one for the guard and one for an emergency—and Aideena tells Burran to take a bite of the one without so that he’ll know which is which. He then takes the biscuit across the hall and we wait.

Jack gets a bit anxious and wants Aideena to make the noise after a couple of minutes, but Aideena hasn’t seen a sign from Burran and decides to wait five minutes. Near the fifth minute mark, Burran exits the room and signals Aideena. She makes a crashing sound and the guards come running. From where we are, we can hear them find the guard and exclaim over what happened. In the confusion, none of the guards notice us leaving the weapons room and making our way to a room halfway down the hall containing what appear to be the three skeletons and portraits of Dakkon’s prior kings. We hide and wait for the guards outside to move away.

Once these guards—who are moving more slowly—pass, we quietly make our way out of the room and towards the Arkhosian room. There is, however, one guard who has remained in the hall and a couple of guards who are still in some of the rooms near the one we want. We decide to use the other biscuit with the Goodnight Tincture on this guard as another distraction. Burran goes to over to him to chat and give it to him, while we use one of the scrolls of Chameleon Cloak to keep ourselves hidden.

Meanwhile, Eben has stayed in the weapons room and kept quiet. One of the guards, however, searches in there and Eben takes an elixir that makes him blend in with a display case. The guard never sees him and moves on.

Burran returns to us, giving us a signal that the guard is down. While we’re hidden, Burran is not and soon enough the guards discover the sleeping guard. I tell Burran to go with them to keep up appearances, which he does. He returns just as we see an opportunity to get into the Arkosian room.

The guards are now on high alert, aware that something is happening. They go checking the rooms and, once they’ve checked the Arkhosian room and have moved down the hall from us, we make our way there as quickly as possible. Burran is with us at this point and he tells us that we only have a few minutes. We find the Sundered Sword quickly, but it’s clear that we’re going to have difficulty getting it out and that a duplicate copy is going to take far longer than we have.

There are two levels of protection for the sword: arcane and mundane. Aideena looks carefully at the sword and is able to determine that there are arcane filaments emanating out from the sword to all of the guards—twelve in all, including one to Burran. As a test to see what will happen, Aideena magically snips the one connected to Burran. When Burran doesn’t react, she cuts through the rest of them, thus taking care of the magical protection.

The mundane protection proves to be a lot more difficult. The three pieces of the sword are held in place by huge bolts which no item we possess will fit, and which prove difficult to get a purchase on using hands.

Jack has a crowbar and we do our best to be as quiet as possible while using it to pry the bolts off so that the sword pieces can be wiggled out from behind bars, but despite our best efforts, the bolts come off loudly. We know we have very little time, so we go as quickly as we can.

I tell Burran to go and keep the guards out as long as possible and we are able to work on the second and third bolts while he runs out, ostensibly to hold off the guards. Eben hears the noise and, assuming that a distraction is necessary, assists us by pushing over a display case in the room he’s in, which creates a loud crashing sound. This forces the guards to go in two directions, which enables Eben to run in our direction.

Just as we’re finishing with the bolts and wiggling the last piece of the sword off the wall, Burran betrays us (although at this point he has no choice), sending the guards our way. They burst in and move to surround us. Jack darts to the window, opens it, and ties a rope on the ledge to help us get down, then slides down the rope himself. The guards scream that there’s been a break-in, to catch us and get reinforcements, as Eben runs into the room. One of the guards attacks me and hits me pretty hard, but I’m able to teleport out of the window. I begin to fall but manage to grab onto the rope and ease myself safely down.

Targoth gets hit by a few guards but is able to make his escape. Eben follows him, leaving Aideena as the last person in the room. She runs over to the window, turns to glance at Burran—who looks conflicted—and then she fey steps out of the window to the ground where we are. We immediately change our shapes and take on completely different guises. Aideena appears as a female human clothed in a peasant dress; Eben is a human male with a leather coat and Jersey good looks, while Jack becomes a female dwarf and Targoth is a female elf. I change my shape to be still human, though taller and with darker skin, hair, and eyes. I’m the only one who is unable to alter the appearance of my clothes, though, but I’m not terribly concerned.

Jack moves quickly away, while Targoth moves a bit slower and as though he’s had a good time that evening. I follow behind Targoth, sauntering down the street towards the main thoroughfare, and Eben and Aideena are last, strolling along and acting as a couple.

The guards burst out, but by the time they reach us we’ve pretty much reached the main street and blend in well enough that the guards don’t given any of us a second look. We are then able to make our way to the Thaumaturgy without incident.

When we get there, we see that Helena, Solange, and Jalmari are waiting for us. Jack, forgetting that he has a disguise on, runs up to Helena to take her hand. She bats him away at first, and then asks, “Fritz?” Jack removes the disguise and the two siblings share a moment.

Jalmari, meanwhile, is clearly looking at all of us closely, and I’m a bit excited to see him, so I remove my disguise in a way to look much as Jack’s removal did. Jalmari immediately gets in my face, upset, asking how I could do something so dangerous and thoughtless when people have just died. I’m shocked at his attitude and speechless at first, before I manage to say that I thought it was necessary because the sword we retrieved was in the prophecy.

He’s still upset and I don’t understand why, though I try to explain. I’m surprised, confused, and not a little hurt at his behaviour, but Solange puts a hand on his arm and confirms that the sword was in the prophecy and needed to be retrieved.

Jalmari backs off a bit and tells us where everyone has headed, and imparts the news that he hasn’t heard from Miden or the Allexis and fears they may have been captured or killed. We’re all stunned and Aideena’s face tightens. Jalmari then explains that it’s time we meet Prince Navuul and he’s going to take us to Riven to do just that. We’re to leave on a halfling boat shortly, though it’ll take a week to get there.

We tell him that we’d planned to use the portals in Saresh’s office to get close to the Dragonchain. Jalmari is immediately suspicious and wonders if we can trust this dragonborn, and then we explain that Saresh is Targoth’s mentor and has been since Targoth was very young. Targoth vouches for him, and Jalmari agrees that a portal would be infinitely quicker. He urges us on, telling us that we have no time to lose. Aideena leaves a note for Janus in the invisible ink that simply says, “We’re gone,” and we leave the room and head for the Scrivener’s Academy.

Once we get there and to Saresh’s office, Targoth knocks and we’re all a bit surprised that Saresh himself answers the door. He ushers us inside and to his private quarters. He tells us that he had no luck tracking down the dragonborn disappearances. We introduce Jalmari, Solange, and Helena to him and ask him if any of the portals go near Riven. Jalmari questions Saresh’s view on the king and Saresh says that he’s felt for some time that something was wrong. He then tells us that one of the portals goes to a place that’s only half a day’s journey from Riven and, since it’s early enough in the morning, if we leave now we should be able to make it to Riven before dark. We all squeeze into the portal circle. I move next to Jalmari and it’s clear that he’s treating me coldly. I still don’t understand why and am beginning to be preoccupied by it.

But before I can think on it too much, the portal activates and we find ourselves in a cave. When we step outside, it’s much colder and there’s snow on the ground.

We’re about to start walking towards Riven, but Jalmari mentions that his father has been in contact with some of the dragonborn clans and is nearby. We offer to send a message via animal messenger to his father and are able to wrangle a stoat for the purpose. The ritual doesn’t go as well as we’d hoped, though, so we’re not sure if Baron Kaldashar will receive the message. We begin our walk to Riven regardless, though, and Saresh tells Targoth that he contacted Targoth’s mother and she can probably be found at The Sleeping Dragon. Also as we walk, Helena wonders if we’ll be safe in the city, but Jalmari assures us that the city is under the Prince’s control and there won’t be any wanted posters up.

Sure enough, once we get to Riven, it appears as though it’s a regular city, and is a complete contrast to the one we just left. It’s orderly and composed and there are no wanted posters with our faces on them.

We head for the Guildhouse and Jalmari immediately wants to seek out Navuul, but Targoth says that he wants to find his mother first since she can reforge the Sundered Sword. Jalmari argues for a bit, but we—mainly Solange—are able to convince him that it’s important. Helena then pulls Jack aside and tells him that she thinks she sensed their father when they entered the city. She wants to find out if it’s true and Jack, reluctantly, agrees to go with her. I’m getting emotional, however, and very preoccupied and for a moment my shape flickers. No one seems to notice.

We decide that the first place we’re heading is the Sleeping Dragon. When we enter, we see a number of dragonborn patrons and most of them recognize and greet Targoth with a hero’s welcome. Targoth makes small talk with a number of them, explaining in broad and vague terms what he’s been up to and the things he’s learned, as well as the reason he’s currently in Riven. He asks after his mother and someone goes to fetch her, mentioning that Balthasar—Targoth’s father—is also around. Targoth also asks after the disappearances and everyone goes silent for a moment. Then someone explains that no one really knows anything about them. Dragonborn have been disappearing and no one ever hears from them again, but no one knows where they go, why, or how. A couple of dragonborn named Zajj and Kerna have also disappeared.

The lute player asks Targoth to join him on stage and they, along with Jack, play for the patrons.

Drinks are on the house and Aideena chats with some of the other patrons, Eben talks about the wonders of Kord and arm-wrestles with some other devotees, and I sit off in a corner, pretending to drink the drink I’ve been handed, and brood.

Soon after, Targoth’s mother and father show up and wave him over. All three, along with Saresh, sit at a table and talk. Targoth’s mother asks after the sword she forged him and Targoth explains how Druuk destroyed it with a swordbreaker and that he needs a new one. He then pulls out the pieces of the Sundered Sword and gives them to her, asking if she can imbue this one with the same magical properties that his old one had. She tells him she’ll try, but the properties already imbued in this sword may overwhelm what he had before. Targoth understands that and thanks her, and she tells him that his new sword should be ready the next day.

After that, the party leaves and Jack and Helena want to head to the Ragged Quarter to see if their father really is there. We all follow and enter The Feather and Stone. It’s dark inside and there aren’t many patrons. Near one wall there are two women in black knitting and at the bar is a man who is far too drunk for the early hour.

Jack and Helena recognize him instantly and go over to him. After staring for a moment, Jack tentatively offers, “Papa?”

The man looks blearily at Jack and says, “Fritz?” His eyes sharpen a bit when Jack nods and he says, somewhat wonderingly, “You might be. What’s it been? Fifteen years or more?” He then asks Jack how he found him. Jack indicates Helena.

Jack’s father then recognizes Helena and his demeanor changes slightly. He blames her for his wife’s death, saying that Helena running away—and his wife going after her—is what killed her. Helena is speechless and horrified, her worst fears confirmed.

Their father then asks why they’re there. Jack asks after the rest of the family and their father admits that Jack and Helena’s older sisters, Berthe and Marja, also found him.

Before Jack can really react, a cold, imperious voice says, “You do not understand anything, Fritz Hanswurst.” Jack turns and the women in black who were knitting have stood and are looming over Jack and Helena. Marja tells the younger siblings to sit—which they do, shocked—and she orders in a commanding, compelling tone for everyone else to leave. Everyone except for Targoth and me do, in a hurry.

The sisters start to explain to Jack and Helena what happened to their father: that he was a preacher of the entire pantheon to start with and was trying to bring worship of the Raven Queen back in vogue. But then he went too far after their Mama died; the sisters blame Jack and Helena for this.

Jack is listening to this, more sullen than anything, and Helena doesn’t really understand. Once the two sisters place the blame on Jack and Helena, Jack jumps out of his chair and yells that they always blamed him for everything.

They answer that they were right this time, too. They say that their father became an eater of sorrows and took on the guilt and sins of other people so they were able to die in peace. People loathed him and needed him in equal measure, and paid well, but that he took on far too much guilt and sorrow and it started turning inward, destroying the man.

Jack tries to tell if the two are telling the truth, if the Raven Queen really wants him to be here, and he gets the sense that this is something that has to happen, though there’s nothing telling him what he should do.

Jack then sighs and asks what they want from him. The two sisters tell Jack and Helena that they have to take on the sorrows that their father has accumulated. Helena volunteers to do it, and because of this, Jack very reluctantly agrees.

The older sisters tell their father to go to sleep, and he does, his face still twisted as though he’s in pain. They place their hands on him and close their eyes, then tell Jack and Helena to do the same.

When Jack does, the room grows darker and Jack is able to sense a darkness in his father, wrapping around him like a shroud. The sisters tell him to pull the darkness free, which both he and Helena do. Once they do, the sisters tell them that it’s done, and they are suddenly back in the here and now. Neither of them feels any different, but the sisters tell them that it will have a different effect on them; to their father, it was a crushing burden, but for them, the darkness is a weapon turned outward, a weapon that will be able to be of use to Jack and Helena.

The impromptu family reunion ends and the sisters tell Jack and Helena to leave. Jack begins to, and then turns to face them and asks about the old man. The sisters begin to say that this will help their father, but Jack interrupts, saying he doesn’t care about him. He wants to know about the Rag and Bone Man who keeps following him.

The sisters sneer a bit and say that the Rag and Bone Man sent Jack to them, and that his purpose is to look after lost and forgotten things. “You’re not quite so lost and forgotten now, are you?” they ask.

Jack asks if they’re done now and the sisters tell him to get lost. We all leave the tavern. As I exit, I march straight over to Jalmari and engage him in conversation as we walk towards the Keep and a meeting with Prince Navuul. Our conversation continues until we reach the Keep, when Jalmari turns to the party and says, “Come. We have to go around to a side entrance to see the Prince.”

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