The Omerian Tales

**Campaign Suspended**

Due to GM ficklness (me), this campaign was suspended. A reboot with 4 of the original group using D&D NEXT has begun.

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Session #9: Beer and Ho's
**or: how the Pegacorn became a household name**

A quest turns into an interesting diversion for Aponi, Skelly, Tristana and Adrie, as the four become embroiled in the local politics (and lore) of Foursquare, a city with a labor problem. Arriving tired and somewhat saddleworn from their 3-days ride, the group takes up residence at a failing establishment known as “The Pegacorn.” Under the (evidently inept) management of one Dudley Plurp, the tavern/inn is more than grateful to have guests, especially one of such reknown as Aponi, a Knight of Silversword, represents. Instantly endeared to the talkative innkeeper, the group decides to aid his fortunes as they investigate the whereabouts of Robilar and Zhelig.

The combination of Aponi Brightblade’s influence and Skelly’s resourcefulness gains the party enough information to glean a general direction of the legendary adventurers. But it is the surprising appearance of Phineas Mumford that represents the greatest breakthrough. A dead ringer for Dennek (and obviously possessed of more information than he is letting on), Mumford agrees to lead the group to the mythical lair of R & Z.

Of course, this adventure does have to wait until the “big concert,” created, marketed, and executed by the group, comes to pass. A combination of performance by Skelly, plus the arrival of “nice ladies” and adult beverages (procured in part by the party Paladin, who reconciles the actions in her own inimitable fashion) makes the do a smashing success. A major sidelight of the preparation also includes agitating the local dwarven battle ragers to basically quit en toto as guardians of the Clockwork Quarter, where the Gnomish engineers have been unable to pay them. A previous trip to the Gimli mines points to disaster. Once the Dwarves find this out, they are more than happy to head that way to solve the problems of the currently inaccessible mines — but not before spending an evening at the new hot spot (i.e., the Pegacorn).

Somewhat refreshed from a night of revels, the group makes its way into the hills east of Foursquare. Two days ride, and they are in the foothills, where the temperatures are much colder than below. As advertised, they find the entrance to the supposed lair of R & Z, only to find the natural cavern already has occupants — a squad of Lizardfolk who claim the cave is “sacred.” Choosing diplomacy over combat, the party pays off the Lizardfolk leader with a valuable gem owned by Tristana. They are granted access to the cave, where they find a large Dragon skull, the “sacred object” of the Lizardfolk. Other than that, the cave appears empty.

But, of course, that is not the case. Tristana’s magic detection abilities detect a dwoemer coming from a water pool at the rear of the cave. Intrepid Skelly prepares for a swim, only to find that the water is illusory. In short order, the group members trudge into the “water,” making an eerie trek down a flight of stairs, surrounded by the glassy illusion.

They eventually come to a landing, where the body of an unfortunate thief lies, his head removed. A quick investigation reveals a sprung gas trap. Evidently, the thief’s failure proved his undoing — at the hands of his compatriots.

The bodies of those compatriots are found quickly, as the group investigates the passageways and chambers beyond. Locating a secret room of levers, the group quickly deciphers the machine, unlocking all the traps in the hall and the chamber beyond. The smartly avoid the fake door that killed the remainder of the previous adventuring crew, and head down a secret side passage. In short order, they find the lair of Robilar and Zhelig, a converted Dwarven outpost, built long, long ago.

Unfortunately, no one is home, so the group is on its own to find the object of their search (all “for the greater,” to be sure). The group encounters and overcomes guardian skeleton in a large entry chamber (Aponi taking the brunt of the attack for her compatriots). Two locked doors are easily passed, thanks to the clever Tristana, who recalls the story of Zhelig and Robilar’s love, the woman who caused their falling out, Beatrice, aka “The Radiant Rose.” The names are used in the exact correct order, and the party enters the lair proper.

Their good fortune continues, as, confronted with various travel directions, they go EXACTLY where they need to, passing through a secret door in a library, down into what can only be Zhelig’s laboratory. Here, their luck temporarily changes. As they search for the Gem, Tristana makes the unfortunate decision to pilfer a chest, out of sight of her searching colleagues. The chest launches a poisoned needle, which knocks Tristana unconscious and activates the guardians of the chamber — a pair of Stranglevines and a nasty Myconid. A life-and-death struggle ensues, in which Adrie falls to the Myconids deadly spores. Aponi revives Tristana long enough for the mage to unleash a fire blast, which has the unfortunate side effect of interacting with all of Zhelig’s half-finished experiments on the table beyond.

Yet, despite the very real chances of horrid magical aftereffects of such a combustion, the party, blessed by Raciata herself its seems, emerges victorius. The Stranglevines explode into a mass of fire, their weakness readily apparent. Stalwart Aponi delivers a massive blow to the Myconid, and somehow, someway, the group overcomes its mistakes. The contents of the chamber are theirs.

In short order, the Gem of True Sight is found. Certain “essential” items are removed from the chambers (but personal items belonging to Zhelig and Beatrice are left behind, at the Paladin’s insistence). Tristana makes use of a teleportation circle found in a side chamber, and the party is instantly back at their campsite, where Mumford has been tending their supplies and horses.

So, the mission to the mountains is a success. But rather than ride back to Daudale, the group instead decides to head to Omerton, and then, Rhoona, location of yet another Iron Circle. They head back to Fourquare for a night at the Pegacorn, before sending word to their friends of their direction of travel. All told a good 10 days has passed, and much has gone the group’s way. They can only hope their friends have fared as well.

Meanwhile…

Somewhere to the east, Dengar, Aelle, and a band of rogues is hot on the trail of Herion Aldadir, the one accused of being “The Bad Seed” himself. A motley crew of heroes and ne’er do wells, they are faced with the wilderlands between Dozelmair and Daudale, a land few bother to travel, and from which fewer still ever return.

To be continued

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Session #8: Of Costumes, Creeps and S&M, part I
**How the carpet was won**

After a night’s rest, the party sets about some investigation. They receive no help from Wayne, however, as the real Grayson Dent appears, and informs him there is trouble in Riverslye. Wayne calls on Dengar and Aelle to accompany him to a Moonblade conference to determine a course of action.

In the meantime, companions Skelly, Aponi, Tristana, Adrie and Zhael decide to ask the locals some questions of Mumford, a known friend of Dengar’s. Thanks to the wonderful reputation of Aponi’s Paladin Order (the Knights of the Silver Sword), they are granted the keys to Mumford’s old flat (the man himself having disappeared months ago). The flat is rather spartan, and appears to have been vacated in a hurry. On the table, however, is a chessboard with pieces on it in an endgame position. A pair of papers depicting the notation of said game are next to the board. The chess players in the party quickly determine that the position on the board could not come as a result of the moves on the paper. The moves on thge paper, in fact, reveal a stalemate.

The combined effort of the streetsmart Skelly, accompanied by the trained mind of Zhael determines that the chess grid matches the configuration of the Daudale sewer system. The stalemate square happens to the location of the Inn of the White King, an imposing castle built by famed courtesan Belle du Fayne.

The group immediately heads that direction. Thanks again to the Paladin’s sparkling reputation, they gain entrance to the heavily guarded castle, and are granted a tour by the head butler, Enkidu. As the hours long march continues, they discover a warded art room that features a massive tapestry depicting a great, stitched wheel. The wheel mirrors the shape of their crosses. They find out the tapestry was given by an anonymous donor over a decade ago.

Meanwhile, Tristana decides to do a bit of her own investigation. After convincing Enkidu’s assistant, Gilgamesh, that she is interested in sampling the “wares” of the castles more “risque” sections, he leads her to what can only be described as a hidden harlotry. Using her minor spell abilities, she befriends Gilgamesh, and plies him for information about the castle, its environs and who the anonymous donor may be. Of course, Gilgamesh has no trouble telling his new BFF exactly what she wants to know. Further, when Trista convinces him to visit his own favorite room in the harlotry — the one that features “the Eunuch” — he happily complies. Left alone to investigate the area, Trists begins knocking on doors.

Meanwhile, the group finishes its tour. They are led back downstairs by Enkidu, where it is discovered that Gilgamesh has left his post. When the grinning assistant appears, Enkidu chastises him, then inquires about Trista. Led by the enraged Enkidu, the party (with guards in tow), rumbles to the hidden harlotry, where they shove open one of the doors to find Tristana standing over a half-naked man strapped down to a bed. She evidently is preparing to pour wax from a lit candle on him.

Segue to…

The party is tossed out of the Inn. Gilgamesh is fired. Still charmed, he leaves with the party. Between the tour, the charm on Gilgamesh, and a bit of information obtained from the S&M expert Gray (whom Tristana insists she as “playing along” with to gain information), the group determines that Dennek donated the tapestry, and that the best way to get into the place is to crash the winter ball being held that very night. With that in mind, they set about gathering as much information as possible on the ball and the invitees.

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Session #7: A Tale of Multiple Denneks
**Trust no one (everyone?)**

With little time to digest Dennek’s long-winded tale of the past, present and future (and their role in it), the party is pulled from Dennek’s home by a knock on the door. A little girl appears, begging for help from “the old wizard.”

Please! Help me! she cries. They’ve taken my mother! Hurry!

Immediately, the party springs into action, chasing the improbably fast chika all along the streets of lower Daudale. Eventually, the little girl heads into the sewers. The party follows. Within moments, the door to the outside locks, and a gate drops, locking them in. They’ve been duped! After a few minutes of fruitless exploration from one dead end to another, stalwarts Aponi Brightmane and Dengar plunge into the sewer-swill and lift the gate. The party heads through, and locates a secret door leading up to a tavern storehouse. They make their way up and out through the tavern kitchen, and head back to Dennek’s. Once there, they find the wizard (who refused to help them with the “child”) gone.

There is some good news, however. As they made their way back to the wizard’s flat, they ran into Tristana, who left the Temple of the Four Winds mostly hale and hearty, rising from her healing slumber due to a bad dream. In her nightmare, Trista relived the murder of her brother, particularly the escape of the hooded figure through the window. In her dream, the face seemed to come into focus for a second. Though she could not fully make out the features, there was a sense of…familiarity…

In short order, the party begins tracking Dennek through the night streets of the lower quarter. They catch site of a Kestral spy, and race after him to the warehouse district. In something of a spate of bad luck, a bit of magic shoves the operative off a high rooftop, splattering him on the pavement below. The operative dies, granting no opportunity for the party to question him. They end up following a red herring to a Kestral cell, where the operatives there evidently have no information to offer (and indeed seem to be working on a different agenda).

Bereft of information, the group decides to head back to the tavern they found via the sewer entrance. A brief scry of the interior by stealthy Adrie showed operatives there earlier. As they stand at the entrance, considering their options, they are greeted by a familiar sight — Dennek exits the tavern. The party naturally accosts him, but the mage seems discombobulated, his answers slow and unsure. But this isn’t entirely unlike the mage they know, so when he calls on them to follow him back to the Sink to procure a “key,” the party follows (though not without suspicion).

Just as they enter the park area of the Sink, Tristana, who has been mulling over her nightmare, suddenly realizes who the face of killer is in her vision. It belongs to Dennek himself! The ruse discovered, a grinning Dennek calls on the dark forces of evil, raising a number of undead from the boggy park area. A great battle ensues, zombies, skeletons and a cold-magic wielding mage on one side, our stalwart heroes on the other. The party stoically shakes off the effects of Dennek’s first salvos, but the undead are closing.

Aponi Brightmane seizes the moment. The young paladin sprints past her undead foes, bounding across the swamp until she is face-to-face with Dennek himself. Unbeknownst to her, the party has a secret ally — the dark, mysterious Aelle, who uses the art of subterfuge to launch a sneak attack on the wizard. The combined efforts of paladin and assassin bring the wizard down, and with him, the horde of undead. Yet again, the party has won!

Of course, the question remains—what of “Dennek?” Naturally, the enigmatic Dedrick Wayne appears, and this time, he is more forthcoming with information. Dennek, it seems, has released many, many clones of himself, each created with the intention of protecting the Iron Crosses, but each also infected with Dennek’s paranoia over previous failures. The Kestral kidnapped the Dennek the party met earlier and dispatched him (as ordered by Dennek himself). The second Dennek, the one fought in the swamp (and a slightly younger version), was also a clone. Further, the party is told these dopplegangers have telepathy, and can thus glean information directly from anyone’s mind without them knowing it. Thus, the second Dennek was able to discern their names, bits of information, and so on (albeit, after a brief pause to process).

Though clones appear to abound, Wayne believes there IS a real Dennek…somewhere. How they have been created is a matter for concern, but in the meantime, the party does get some good news. They discover they are actually in possession of the real Crosses, so parts of the Dennek clone #1’s story were false. The Earth Clock DOES exist, however. And Wayne tells them there WAS an expedition, and that it did feature the group’s ancestors.

This leaves the party back to square one. Confused by recent events, and needing a rest as well, they retreat to Dennek’s flat to confer and contemplate their next move.

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Session #6: Blood, Hot and Cold
**They (keep) playing our (frigid) song**

The party’s tale takes a turn for the weird, as, finally reunited with Dengar, our heroes venture to the darker parts of the capital city of Daudale, to an area of Orks & mercenaries known as “the sink.” After a brief run-in with Grayson Dent (during which Wayne’s protege was made ill by a spiked drink), the group heads to the last known location of Dennek Elf-Friend, in search of clues (and possibly, a second [real] map room).

Commandeering an Inn, through Skelly’s use of song, Tristana’s drinking skills and a dash of diplomacy on the part of Aponi Brightblade and Zhael, our heroic strangers made uncovered additional involvement in their quest on the part of the mercenary band the Kestral, and a rather scary looking group of Enxian death worshippers. Granted magical access to an ancient shrine, they encounter cold-using clones of Dennek, along with some strange, spontaneously reproducing crystal guardians. The good guys naturally dispatched the clones and crystals, but the battle was not without cost. Mage Tristana fell, the first of the party to perish in this quest. Thankfully (and perhaps a bit TOO fortuitously, Grayson Dent showed up in the shrine, just as the party defeated the crystal guardians.

With little time to mourn, the group made its way into a lower chamber, where Dennek’s (?) body lay, suspended in cold embrace. The wizard rose from the icy grip of a self-imposed spell, demanding to know who his “rescuers” were, and wary of “foul changelings.” The heroes naturally passed Dennek’s test to confirm their identities. “Grayson Dent,” however, did not. As the party watched, a brief struggle between old wizard and powerful shapeshifter ensued. The changelings magical wards made him untouchable to the adventurers.

Not so, with Dennek. The wizard had planned ahead. Activating his own wards, he blasted the shapeshifter into nothingness. Then he led the party out of the Sink, and to his secret laboratory, where, indeed, there was yet another map room.

Many questions (and a trip to the Temple of Raciata, where Tristana’s body was given over for resurrection and recovery) later, the party was told all they had done was wasted. It appears the iron circles were fakes, lures for the white elves and their compatriots. Dennek then told them a wild tale of a great struggle betwen Lon Sheribus, “The Bad Seed,” who, having fallen to evil, continues to rise again and again.

His words were: “There is an unholy trinity rising: White Elves, Black Fire Druids and the Thorn Lords themselves. It is tied to the essence of The Failed King, Lon Sheribus, the Bad Seed. Sheribus’ essence has never been fully purged. For decades, the Moonblades have sought an answer to eliminate the essence itself. The only solution appears to be to kill it before it begins. To that end, myself, Xichil and Derreck Ironhart of The University of Metaphysics and Magic in Omeria, have been formulating a plan that requires pinpoint accuracy – to travel via the World Clock back to the point at which Sheribus gained his power. The problem is, no one has had any idea of when or how this actually occurred. TIll now…

“From what I can tell, Sheribus, the 3rd King of the Malachites, discovered the Well of the Furies somewhere in what is now modern day Malforia, during the height of his Reign as King of the White City. I can give you the information to arrive at approximately the right time. But before that, you will have to gather all the REAL circles, travel to the Earthwall, gain entrance through the Onyx Portal, then descend into The Deepwere. Somewhere below in this deep, dark realm, is the World Clock. Once there, you must place the Circles are in the correct Gear Slots, and you will be transported the party back in time to the days of the old Baldren Empire.

“It doesn’t get any easier, unfortunately. You will have to infiltrate the Malachite Kingdom, locate the old Well of Furies, and destroy it. The key to its destruction lies in your grasp. You, Zhael, are the first of the Dual Mote Borns to come to this plane in a thousand years. The book you hold can shunt the Well back to its own plane, cutting off Lon Sheribus for good. But only you, and you alone, can master its arcane secrets. If you have not done so by the time you reach the Well, everything will be for naught.”

“If you’re wondering why it must be you, you should know that we tried this once before, long ago. We sent Yosef, Zhael’s grandfather; Sir Gawaine 3rd Knight of Omeria, Belvedere’s and Aponi’s grandfather; the Lady Trent, Tristana’s Grandmother; Lord Valiant Hightower, Skelly’s Grandfather; Halien Falconeye, Adrie’s Great Grandfather; and Rynna Sunstar, the Grandmother of both Dengar and Herion Aldadir. They were sent because only they seemed immune to the greatest danger of the Circles — the ability to imprint an Aura on the holder that is unerringly detectable by Khan’s darkest avatars.

“Unfortunately, none of them returned from the quest. Through sheer luck, Xichil, Derreck and myself were able to retrieve the Gears in the present day, and place wards upon them before we were discovered by dark spies. Then we waited, for the lot of you, as it turned out. In the meantime,we have made it our quest to mislead the dark forces, until such time as we could attempt the mission again.

“And so, YOU must gather the REAL Iron Circles,” he told them, “and use them to activate the Earth Clock to go back in time and stop Lon Sheribus from making his dark pact.”

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Session #5: Over hill, over...water?
**Brain Games**

Breaking away from their enigmatic taskmasters, the party of Zhael, Adrie, Guinnivere and Skelly reunite with Dengar and Tristana, hoping to make their way overland to Hunter’s Haven, the midway point between their journey from the Battle of the Windmill and their eventual destination, Daudale—the blustering capital city of Dozelmair Province. After a brief beatdown of a wounded Ogre — a battle that saw Dedrick Wayne knocked unconscious, they gather their hot-headed human wizard and head for the rolling Barrowmounds, a vicious winter storm hot on their hills. As their weary legs carry them away from the slaughter, Dengar chooses to stay with the wounded Wayne, telling them (with no explanation) to “stay away from the river.” This riddle is added to yet another, as the party watches one of Dengar’s dead lieutenants morph into something none have seen, and few have heard of — a Doppleganger.

There are spies in the hero’s camp…or so it seems…

But off they go, seeking shelter from the icy winds headed their way. Tired, but still canny, the group pools their efforts to locate a perfect spot to hole up for the night, a rarity in the harsh country frequented only by horde creatures and “yellow dogs.” After spending a frigid night beneath the tangled boughs of a gnarled set of trees, the group wakes, bone-chilled, but refreshed (well, somewhat). They spend a second night on the trail, guided by druid Adrie’s sharp senses. A second night find them snug and safe in an abandoned cave cut into a hillside, a place where, at last, they can safely light a fire. Now as rested as the elements will allow them, they face yet one more day on the trail. Surely, Hunter’s Haven is just around the bend (so to speak).

Their journey takes an unexpected turn when they hear the baying of hounds just above the next rise — yellow dogs! And they’ve cornered…something (or someone). Zhael and Adrie make their stealthily way up the rise, where they spot an overturned wagon beset by a pack of the mustard-colored beasts. Sniffing, barking and digging, they seek their prey, a young dwarf named Drumteeth, of the surface tribe, the Lamare. The party springs into action, taking down the pack handily. The rescue of the child complete, they investigate the site. Their experience and senses tell them this is yet again the work of the winged raiders who hit the farm at Riversyle — minions of Clastryx! Perhaps they have gone out of the frying pan into the soup pot?

With more hounds baying in the distance, the group quickly decides to follow the well-used trail to Drumteeth’s village, hoping for succor and sustenance there, their rations almost used up. They escort their newfound friend (and grave responsibility) to the village, only to find it has been torched, the same fire-spewing evil-doers at work once again. But amid the charred ruins, they find no bodies, and very little of value. As Belvedere reconstitutes her baking supplies, and other members investigate the dead village, Tristana makes her way past a foul-smelling crack in the earth (which thankfully proves to be nothing more than a refuse pit). Beyond the reeking maw, she catches sight of a large, winged creature, scratching its back on a dead tree, grunting and growling — a wyrmling!

It isn’t long before everyone realizes they are not alone. The riders of the beast (which those in the know determine to be some sort of brass dragon), are quickly located in a building behind the creature. Though hid from Trista’s gaze, where she has taken up a keen hiding place amid a torn building, they are heard, banging on something metallic, spouting curses. What are these things? And why are they still here? The village, after all, is empty.

The answers to these questions are not be found. Still tired from their long trip overland, and with night quickly descending, the party hides from the eyes of the enemy, waits for them to mount the winged beast, and watches the great shadow of the beast pass overhead. The coast is clear. But whatever it was the creatures were doing and with what, the group doesn’t know. Still, they are now free to investigate the now quiet village.

A search of the rubble by Skelly and Adrie reveal a few useful items — fine daggers, a leather belt with impressive work stitched into it. And, of all things, a stone table that reveals the location (perhaps) of the ancient (and deadly) Tomb of Asherack, the dread mage of the Blood Wars, centuries ago (located some 600 miles to the northwest, the party realizes the tomb is an adventure for another time). An investigation of the nearby silver mines reveals that what was once a prominent vein has been drained, by magic (as Zhael’s unerring senses determine).

With little to do now but rest within the confines of the village. The party decides to skip Hunter’s Haven and ford the river, despite Dengar’s warning. Armed with Skelly’s knowledge of the route, they find a low crossing, and make their way to the eastern shore. Now safely, they believe, in the woods beyond, they make camp and set the watch.

But there is still, no rest to be had. In the night, as Adrie is on watch, strange lights appear in the wood, wisp-like bulbs of alluring energy that psychically call to the Druid. The stolid denizen of the wood resists their entreaties, however, forcing the wisps to reveal their true nature — they morph into tentacled horrors and attack the party. Momentarily stunned, the group makes a quick recovery, thanks mainly to the Lady Belvedere’s keen blade and Skelly’s pyshic powers (which have a strong effect on the creatures). They dispatch the terrors, but find that the wood is suddenly full of them. There is no recourse now, but to run.

Off they ramble, racing through the dark branches, the wisps blinking in the distance, their distance away impossible to determine. Before long, they are relatively certain they are safe—just as they encounter a hulking, dog-like creature that Skelly identifies as a member of the benevolent Barkburnish Gnolls. A group of kindly traders, the Gnolls welcome them to their lodge, where, after some canny gambling and diplomacy, they procure five horses. The next day finds them far from the forests of the Great Green, and entering the metropolis of Daudale.

With a chance to finally rest, the party ties up loose ends, and sets about their separate agendas. Fearing got the safety of her unborn child, the Lady Belvedere decides to leave the group, finding a safe, secret haven among the Rippington family, close friends of Skelly. She secretly contacts a former member of her household, a handmaiden named Aponi who has in the last few years, become a Knight of the Silver Sword. Belvedere impresses the knight to take her place, which Aponi gallantly does. The meeting also reveals that Guinnivere’s husband, Heri, has been in the city, and recently. The Lady’s heart leaps in joy (and worry, still). Maybe she will be reunited with her love soon. Maybe.

Meanwhile, the following:

*Zhael continues to study the Book of Evocation, coming closer and closer to the secret of her true nature (and finding useful Rituals in the book!). Even as her excitement over the find grows, she can feel its dark allure. This book is powerful and ancient. And deadly, if misused. Yet, she is determined to break its code, and hopes to perhaps find some help in doing so somewhere in the city.

*Skelly sets to working on the Heartwood he has gathered. His aim: the creation of special instruments to augment his power. Having fashioned the bowels of a fine lute, he but needs special strings to make it work. The best ingredient, though, would be dragon gut (not something one find in the market.).

*Adrie covers his elvish features under cloak and nightfall, takes up residence in hiding while Belvedere bargains for the perfect costume — a beautiful gown and long, flowing, blond wig. Not exactly enamored of being a princess, Adrie contemplates his options.

*Tristana seeks out one of the many shops dealing with magic, hoping to find useful items to enhance her own abilities.

Amidst all these individual agendas, the party also discovers that Mumford, friend of Denek Elf Friend, has sold his shop and skipped town. They also find out that Grayson, Dedrick’s ward, passed through Daudale, but has also disappeared. Still out to recover the secrets of Denek’s second map room, the party is presently safe, but at an impasse. They have the locations of the remaining Elvish crosses, but are left with additional questions:

*Where is Dennek’s maproom (and the associated trappings the mage surely must have)?

*What of Mumford and Grayson (and what do they know of Dennek)?

*What were the fell Wisps they confronted? Did Dengar speak of them when he implored them to “stay away from the river?”

*And what of the Doppleganger, the perfect spy found among Dedrick’s team? Does Dedrick know of them? Is he ONE of them?

Safe from the winter winds now rising in the west, each of the heroes reconstitutes, trains, ponders, as they decide…what’s next?

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Session #4--A Map of the World
*Bugged by Bears*

Having taken in all the available information, the heroes of Riversyle embark on a deadly infiltration of the Windmill, where their adventure basically began. As Tristana and Dengar work hand-in-hand with a misdirecting assault force made up of Dedrick Wayne and his men, a passel of halfling hunters, and three trolls named Drazh, Drezh and Oyvezh, Druid Adrie, Mage Zhael, Weaponmaster Belvedere and Bard Skelly rush into the heart of the Red Stick enclave, intent on finding, using, then destroying the map room. It quickly becomes a withering test of endurance for the heroes before they emerge beaten, but victorious.

As combustables created from Denek’s hidden workshop (by the illustrious Granny Phil) flame the area around the Mill, the four heroes plow their way through a token guard force and down a secret spiral staircase. The staircase delivers them to a dank, dimly-lit natural catacombs, where they quickly become embroiled in a vicious fight against Red Stick goblins and their watchdogs, a White Elven necromage, and giant Mistmane bugbear. A long, tough slugfest ensues, complicated by the arrival of a pair of sporeback frogs. Though bloodied, bruised and beaten down, the heroes ultimately take down the entire group. They then help themselves to a nice treasure trove of Daerkian silver (but not before Schmullus Biggerchest, a halfling rogue, is knocked unconscious by a poison needle).

With little time to scout the area, the group locates the entrance to the maproom, a long hallway flanked by protective statues that sap endurance from anyone not pure of heart (read: “Good”). At the end of the hall, the great double doors are opened by the staff-wielding Zhael. Inside, the map room.

But it is room that holds great danger, as the party find out when the little mage places the staff in the center position of the room. Seven sets of runes flare to life around the room as the doors slam shut behind the party. Each launches a spinning energy disk that targets party members, draining them of their strength. Zhael realizes she must disarm each of the runesets in turn, or the party will face the same dangers again. The magic-infused Gnome easily dispatches all seven sets, bringing the room to life. At last, the locations of the missing Circles are known: The Stagfell, the Daerkak Mines, the City of Oil, Daudale and the White City of Malforia. In addition, the party recovers the book of Evocation Zhael has long sought. It is indeed a huge victory for our heroes!

Armed with a lot of information, but little time to savor their victory, the group makes use of the explosives Phil gave them, and destroy the room. They then beat a hasty retreat topside, where, in the dusk of the early evening, they see the distraction provided by their compatriots working to full extent. They have succeeded in their goal.

Yet, the troupe has concerns. They keep getting sent places by Dedrick Wayne, whose affiliation is unclear. They all fear the Mind Flayer, who has been helpful to this point, but not forthcoming. They decide they are tired of beind led by the nose, and vow to break away from their less than honest taskmasters, charting a course toward Hunter’s Haven, rather than back to Riverslye.

So, this is where it stands — the battered group has a long, overland trip over dangerous country. They also have to figure out a way to secretly contact Dengar and Tristana, one that will not alert Wayne (or worse, Xichil). Their sites are ultimately set on Daudale, where another Iron Circle, and a second map room, await. The question is, can they, in their fatigued states. reach Hunter’s Haven intact?

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Session #3: Dead (wo)Men walking
*The fate of the Tomb Raiders*

More death and despair strikes Riversyle, as Billy Porridge expires from his wounds, another death somehow tied to the mysterious Elven Circles the party keeps finding. The town’s mourning over one of its own is short-lived, however. That same day (and a mere three days since their triumph over the White Elves at the Battle of the Mire), the group is summoned to a meeting with Hanley Sunwarm, and Dedrick Wayne. With them, Wayne’s protégé, Grayson Dent (a youthful ranger) and Xichl (ZIX-al), a Mind Flayer from the depths of the
Underdark. Here, at last, the party finds the common thread that knits their party together.

The Iron Circles, relics from the days of Dark Fire, are keys to closing off the Feydark, the realm inhabited by the White Elves and their masters, the Black Fire Druids. They also hold the secret of Elven immortality. Unfortunately, many of the secrets of the Circles – where they’re located, how to use them, how they can be destroyed – have died with Denek Elf-Friend. What is known about them, however, is the following:

-the party has 3 of 9 circles: one each for Skelly, Lady Belvedere and Zhael.

-the keepers of the circles were chosen by Denek 30 years ago, and consisted of: Denek himself (who hid 4 of the circles), Billy Porridge (a distant relative of Skelly), Herion Aldadir (the husband of Guinnivere), Meridith Heavensby (Tristana’s mother, who later passed the circle to her son, Victor), Garack Lofen (a cousin of Zhael) and Fanger the Recluse (the
great uncle of Dengar).

-the White Elves have at least 1 circle (gained from murdering Victor Heavensby, which sent Tristana out on her road to adventure).

-the circles “imprint” on those of the same blood as their keepers, which leads to the discovery that Lady Belvedere (not a blood relative of husband Herion) is pregnant.

-there are two map rooms used to locate missing circles, each activated by using one of 4 methods: (1) Denek’s staff (which the party recovered from the White Elves in the Mire); (2) use of the book of evocation (slow, dangerous, time-consuming and intermittent); (3) a ritual involving 3 of the circles (extremely time-consuming, and requires several rare elements to attempt); and (4) a “blood ritual” involving the sacrifice of an infant at certain types of the year.

The party is pressed into service by Hanley, Dedrick and Xichl, who believe their appearance at this time may actually be the hand of fate intervening on their behalf. They began to discuss options and share information. As the meeting went on, the party found out more about their adversaries: the White Elves known as the Sidhe are but weaker shades of the more powerful Black Fire Druids, who seek to return to the material realm from the Middle Realm between shadow and light. They have forged alliances with not only the Red Stick Goblins, but also, it seems, the Dragonscale Kobolds. They seek to take the Circles for themselves, just as surely as the party’s relatives sought to protect them (at the loss of their lives). In addition, Wayne believes the Elves intend to speed up the return of the 3-headed dragon, Calastryx, in an attempt to invade Daerkak, kingdom of the Mountain Dwarves (and perhaps the location of another Circle).

Between Zhael’s perusing of Denek’s notes, plus the information gathered by scouts Wayne and Dent, the party determines several courses of action:

(1) Return to Castle Bear Claw: the belief here is that Denek, who was captured in Allstop, was on his way to recover a circle from Fangar, who lived near the Mire.

(2) Scout out the Windmill for an entrance to the map room: if the party can gain entrance, they may be able to destroy the map, rendering the Elves temporary helpless when it comes to finding circles.

(3) Locate the Red Book of Remembrance: this item can be used to capture an image of the map room and recreate it elsewhere. Unfortunately, no one is sure where it might be (or if it truly exists).

(4) Find the second secret map room: Denek did not reveal this information to anyone, but Wayne and Sunwarm believe it can be found, with some effort.

Wayne and Belvedere take on the scouting mission, with Hanley Sunwarm in tow. Meanwhile, Xichl volunteers to research the whereabouts of the Red Book of Remembrance, using Denek’s library in Riversyle. Dent, in the meantime, travels up river to find out more about Denek. This leaves Skelly, Tristana, Adrie and Zhael to return to Castle Bear Claw to recover Fangar’s Circle (which Xichl believes is still hidden there – for the moment). Finally, Dengar decides to locate Drazh, just in case an assault on the Red Stick is imminent. Maybe, he thinks, Drazh has other goblin-hating friends. By the following morning, all are on their way to their respective missions.

Led by Numinar Wolfnose, Skelly and Company make their way into the Mire, their destination the only fully intact building of the Bear Claw area– an ancient temple that predates the Bear Claw reign. Their horses left behind with their faithful guide, the stalwart adventurers make their way into a misty graveyard, which they quickly determine once belonged to the Baldren King Harold Dresden. This in itself is something of a historical find, but the party soon finds more than it bargained for.

After dismantling a trap in an above-ground mausoleum/shrine (a trap originally sprung by Adrie), the party takes on a group of Twig Blights, who give them all they can handle before succumbing to the fire of Tristana’s spell. With the blights eliminated, the party investigates the shrine. There they locate the body of the legendary Gamby Playfair, Knight of the Watch. Playfair, a lowly foot soldier in Dresden’s army, once saved the King and his Queen, Christine, from certain death. Elevated to a Watch Knight, Playfair was later accused of philandering with Harold’s wife. Harold had both of them put to death, only to find a rival had planted the rumor and supposed proof. The distraught king built a small shrine to his faithful lieutenant, then had himself buried beside him, eschewing the noble burial that was his due. Thought a mere legend, the party makes note of the location, intending on passing it along to the Knights of the SIlversword, who revere Playfair as one of their own. They then proceed into the temple itself.

Once inside the structure, Zhael locates the locking mechanism, deftly disarms it, and reveals the secret stairwell down to the lower tomb. The party descends to find the burial crypt of the Dresden family – a hallway lined with sarcophagi containing the extended family of King Harold himself. Avoiding the many mechanical traps (thanks to ken-eyed Adrie) as well as magical wards (that the mote-born Zhael readily handles), as well as avoiding the greed that might lead them to tomb-rob, the party makes its way to the antechamber of “the lady of the manor.” The chamber, which features a magical pool of divine holy water, also contained 4 skeletal guardians, one of which was Fangar himself, transformed into an undead ward by the enigmatic “lady,” as the party comes to know here. Preferring diplomacy over violence, Adrie convinces the undead Fangar of their sincerity in locating the Iron Circle for the purposes of good by taking the Oath of Truth. The process scars and drains the Druid, but Fangar, who termed them “Sidhe Shapeshifters” when they entered the chamber, steps aside and bids them enter the chamber of the lady. Skelly flips the lever in the chamber, opening two great doors to the resting place of Christine Dresden (and, they hope, the room where Fangarhas hid the Circle).

The party enters, then seals the door shut behind them as a precaution. Inside the chamber they find several more sarcophagi, including the tomb of the lady herself. Across the room, there is also a large circle inscribed in the divine of the ancient ones. Tristana determines that, if she can decipher the runes, she can remove all the wards in the room (and there appear to be several powerful ones). AT first, he attempt appears to fail, and all the guardians in the room begin to take shape. Two violent pillars of dust and metal appear. A vicious red mist creature flows into the chamber. And a horde of insects begin to come out of the walls. But the mage pushes on, and, with extra effort, deciphers the riddle of the runic circle. The wards return to their otherwordly realm, and the lady herself appears before them.

Long dead, but summoned twice in the last 7 days, Queen Christine reveals to them that her “guardian” (Fangar) came to her with a request to watch over the iron circle. In exchange, he bequeathed his body and soul to her service, forever. Wary of the party as thieves and spies, she beckons them to tell their tale, and quickly. Skelly uses his knowledge of proper etiquette to gain her favor, and introduces the party and their quest to the dead queen. This favorable impression is solidified by Tristana, who recalls ancient prayer rituals precious to the lady. In the end, the party’s efforts, aided by a reminder of her family’s place in history by Zhael, sway Christine, and she allows the party access to her tomb where the recover the circle, then leave the temple.

But, of course, this is not the end of our story. When the party makes it back above ground, they are greeted by a pair of White Elves, one of them mounted on a huge Wyvern. It seems they expected the characters to do their dirty work for them, and now they want the Circle! The adventurers are simply not intimidated. Why should they be? They’re heroes, after all.

And so it goes. Threats and insults are hurled back and forth, and combat begins. The group quickly ducks back inside the upper temple, where they attempt to take cover from their enemies (particularly, the Wyvern). But the long, poisoned tail of the beast, and the unerring accuracy of the White Elf bows proves too much for them. Quickly, Adrie falls. In short order, the party members find themselves suffering multiple wounds. Several furious rounds pass, and the Wyvern had broken its way through one of the temple walls. One of the Elf hunters gains access to the temple from a separate door, and begins hacking away at Tristana and Zhael while his compatriot fires arrows through the windows, peppering party members with lethal blows.

Adrie falls, rises, and falls again. At one point, Zhael is knocked prone by the rampaging Wyvern. Each of the stalwarts receives a grievous wound, but all bind together, until, at long last, they emerge triumphant (thanks mainly due to judicious use of flames and lightning, plus the timely resurgence of Adrie from his second brush with death). The White Elves turn to ash. The adventurers triumph yet again. Taking no time to rest, they return to Numinar, mount up, and make their way back through the Barrowmounds, dodging several Red Stick patrols along the way). Twenty-four hours after leaving, they return, intact, and dog tired.

The party gets a good night’s sleep, and awakens to the news that Wayne and Belvedere have located the secret entrance to the map room. Unfortunately, the area around is crawling with Red Stick goblins. They’ll need some way to keep the army occupied if they want to sneak in. Perhaps Dengar will have an answer to that once he located Drazh. Xichl, meanwhile, manages to open the ensorcelled door in Denek’s library, revealing a scrying device, with he uses to communicate with Dent. Having travelled to Daudale, Dent reports that Denek was known to be fast friends with a man named Mumford, who seems to have disappeared. He believes that Mumford might know something about Denek’s second map room – if the man can be found. Xichl, for his part, reports that the Red Book of Remembrance, may be nearer than they think – he believes it is hidden in a pocket universe within the Feyrealm – in the hands of the Pan-Dancers, a group of malevolent satyrs (at least, this is what Denek’s cryptic notes tell him).

Their quest now clearly upon them, the party has several options to consider. Should they:

-Destroy the map room beneath the windmill (and maybe recover the book of evocation in the process; perhaps even an Iron Circle).

-Go to the Feyrealm and retrieve the Book of Remembrance. Then use the book to make a copy of the map room beneath the windmill PRIOR to destroying it.

-Locate Denek’s second map room (ostensibly somewhere in Daudale). Use the staff to pinpoint the relics’ locations before the White Elves can use their map.

-Try finding the Circles through some other means (perhaps even Denek’s notes that Zhael found earlier)

Whatever they decide to do, the adventurers now have a charge laid upon them, one that has already cost the lives of family members. There are still questions to be answered, of course: where is Heri Aldadir? Is he still alive? Who actually killed Victor Heavensby, Tristana’s brother? And how long is it before Calastryx rises to wreak vengeance on the Daerkak Dwarves (and will she stop there?).

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Session #2 -- A New Threat
*Of Muck, Mire and angry Trolls*

Triumph and tragedy both mars and illuminates the Riverslye Fellowship, as the goblin hexer Bettrix escapes, drawing the party into the wild of the Barrowmounds, after a pair of investigations leading to divergent conclusions. The first event concerned a trio of evil halfling brothers, the Grays. Exiles who had returned to blackmail Riverslye with threats of a “kobold army,” the Grays were thought to be behind a spike in criminal activity among traders east of the river. Accompanied by a ranger named Numinar Wolfnose, the beautiful, yet haughty Lady Belvedere tracked down the Grays, and brought them to justice – for a hefty fee.

The second event occurred at the nearby Burger family farm, a modest home torched to the ground (by magical fire, Zhael surmised) missing its not quite so modest flock of sheep. The combined tracking efforts of Ranger Dengar and Druid Adrie revealed that the perpetrators were also kobold – and that they must have flown in on the backs of lizards. Sharp-eyed Skelly the Bard located a lost kobold dagger with a strange symbol on it, which the fair Mage Tristana revealed to be the sign of Calastryx, the mythical three-headed Dragon of the Daerkak Heights.

Further investigation would have to wait, however. With Bettrix having escaped, and with a 2-hour lead on horseback, Hanley Sunwarm officially deputized the intrepid band of disparate abilities and attitudes. The crew pulled out and raced off into the night after their quarry. Some distance away, Bettrix’s trail stopped, dead in the middle of the slaughtered remains of Red Stick goblins. The teleporting hexer, drawing on the last of his resources, had disappeared into the night yet again – but this time, he was on foot.

But the party had other threats to deal with. Not far beyond that, wounded and holed up in a cave, the party found the creature that had sent the goblins to their dark gods – a weary (albeit ever dangerous) Troll Hunter named Drazh. Through the canny efforts of Skelly, and the well-timed offering of Bettrix’s horse, biscuits from Belvedere and a pie from Zhael, Drazh was placated, and then, incredibly, befriended. With the hunter’s keen nose now among its assets, the party quickly tracked down the cowering Bettrix. The threat of the troll was more than enough to convince the hexer to spill the beans on his plans – Tarpoo, it seemed, was right nearby. So, too, was Denek Elf-Friend, the very mage three of the party were seeking. The confrontation with the goblin commander was at hand!

But not with an exhausted party. While the majority of the group rested, Dengar and Tristana scouted ahead. Not far from their camp, where the Barrowmounds meet the Mire of the Dead Men, the two stalwarts spotted the goblin camp – 20, 30 of them, and a Worg tethered outside the command tent. To make matters more intriguing (and somewhat impossible), the mage and tracker watched in awe as the figure of a large, dark dragon, flew overhead and landed near the camp. On its back were three lithe, cowled figures.

Dengar delivered their findings to the resting party. With the odds very much set against them – even with a (presently gorged and sleeping) Troll in tow – the decision was made to wait to see if the riders would leave. Some hours letter, the party’s discretion was rewarded, when two of the figures headed off into the mire, with eight goblin minions in tow. The third rider departed southward. The time had come to strike!

It doesn’t take much imagination to envision what happens when a huge troll, angry at goblins for constantly interrupting his hunts, wades into a camp full of the same. A hint of such came when Drazh grabbed the hapless Bettrix and repeatedly slammed him into the ground before heading off for more victims. As the giant stalked straight into the camp, drawing the attention of all inside, the party took up a flanking position, then sprung the trap!

A host of goblins grunts, wild dogs, a massive Hobgoblin by the name of Ironteeth, all led by Tarpoo himself, proved no match for the augmented crew. As Drazh chewed through the minions, the party disposed of the massive warrior, Ironteeth, who, still fairly hale and hardy when he approached the party, was felled by a single, massive blow from Belvedere’s sword. Goblins began to fall left and right. Before long, the goblin commander was racing away on his worg, headed into the mire, dead on the trail of the lithe ones. Meanwhile, his anger sated, Drazh stuffed every single speck of food the goblins has into a huge sack, bid the party something of a goodbye, then stalked back into the mounds, leaving party members to breathe a sigh of relief (some more so than others).

As the party caught its breath they searched the remains of the camp, finding a mortally wounded Denek. With his last dying breath, the aged one exhorted them to regain his golden staff, which the “pale ones, the Sidhe” had taken.

The Sidhe. Adrie and Dengar shuddered at the thought. These were the very same elves that once spewed forth from the spirit world, minions of the Black Fire Druids. Could they really have returned?

The answer was yes. Not far away, the brave fellowship confronted two of their number, augmented by Tarpoo, his worg and eight goblin archers. An attempted bribe by the Sidhe mage was cast aside (literally) by Skelly. The Battle of the Mire had begun.

It started with a smaller version of the dark lizard they spotted back at Tarpoo’s camp rising from the muck, momentarily surprising them all. After shaking off the effects of its acidic breath, Lady Belvedere strode forward to engage the creature. She would fall and rise twice before the battle was done. As the warrior screened her party, a shifting, back and forth battle of ranged assaults, both magical and mundane (exemplified by the pinpoint accuracy of Dengar and his ash bow), ensued. Through a combination of clever spells, plus exploitation of a battlefield bottleneck, the Riverslye Constables eventually found themselves the victors, having taken the Sidhe mage prisoner. Of course, the mage had nothing but insults to toss their way. Screeching that they were “too late,” she delivered an incantation, then her body turned to ashes, leaving nothing of worth behind. The same could NOT be said of the archer, whose ashen remains dusted his magical bow, and a canvas sack containing Denek’s golden staff.

The fatigued party had a decision to make. Would they press on to Castle Bear Claw, the probable location of more evil doers, or return to Riversyle, Denek’s staff in tow , as well as a fine suit of armor from the corpse of Tarpoo, and the bag of finely-cut diamonds Skelly had tossed in the muck (and somehow located after the battle). Once again choosing discretion, the Riverslyle companions made their way back to the tiny hamlet. Along the way, Zhael discovered that the Golden Staff was actually a locater for the nine Elven Circles. They would just need to find the appropriate map room Denek used. While determining the staff’s nature, they also figured out that the Staff could track how many of the Circles had been found – five. The party has three. But they also have a way to find the rest before their enemy does.

The adventurers made their way back to Riverslye, this particular chapter drawing to a bittersweet control. For though they had found the staff, they had lost a Circle. On top of that, the enigmatic Dedrick Wayne had returned, having found Billy Porridge and brought him home. Unfortunately, the brave halfling had lost an arm in the escape.
But that’s a story for another time…

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Session #1--No Tarpoo!
*But THIS will do*

As the halfling town of Riversyle celebrates over the removal of the “threat” of Smiley Bob the Bear, the intrepid trio of Tristana, Adrie and Dengar is joined by three additional stalwarts: The Lady Belvedere, in search of her lost husband, ‘Heri;’ the puckish gnome, Zhael, who seeks Molok’s Tome of Elemental Evocation; and small-statured, sure-voiced Bard, Skelly of Daudale. The first of the additions came from the south, clad in obvious finery, but evidently lacking funds (as evidenced by the missing horse such nobility often has. She came to Riversyle in search of information about “Yona,” her husband’s long-lost sistser. The latter two adventurers made their way to Riversyle after swiftly fleeing the toll city of Allstop, where a passenger on Skelly’s raft named Billy Porridge quickly pressed a bag into the bard’s hands, along with the message, “give this to my wife in Riverslye.”

As it turned out, there was neither sister nor wife. Instead, Belvedere and Skelly were met by the enigmatic Dedrick Wayne, who enticed them (and Zhael) to join Dengar and company in their quest to root out the goblin war chief, Tarpoo. Thanks to the directions given them by the goblin captive Nozh, plus some excellent historical and recent data recovered by Skelly and Tristana, Druid Adrie and his Ranger companion were able to pinpoint the probable location of Tarpoo’s lair. After surprising and defeating a Red Stick party on the way (an affair complicated by the appearance of Fell Drake predators), the group made its way to a small cave complex, where they encountered a Goblin conjuror they believed was Tarpoo (this after tearing through the creature’s minions).

But, alas — the goblin was merely a lieutenant of the war chief. Worse yet, Tarpoo appears to be but one of several charismatic leaders now consolidating the Red Stick tribes. According to the captured conjuror, Bettrix, Tarpoo (a hobgoblin), Darmusch (a bugbear) and Rample (a half-ork) all lead contingents of 30 or more goblins. Their aim seems to be to locate a rather plain, somewhat worthless looking amulet called an “Iron Circle.” Of course, what makes this interesting is that two such items fell into the party’s possession earlier in the adventurer. The first circle was delivered to Guinnivere Belvedere by Dedrick (after revealing Heri had no sister). The second was in the bag Skelly was given by Billy Porridge.

Further questioning of Bettrix revealed that the three goblin leaders are working for a “dark man,” who may or may not be the same Dedrick Wayne that three of the party members have already met. A further surprise was in store for the party when Bettrix revealed that Tarpoo had recently captured “an old man who carries a golden staff.” Both Dengar and Adrie instantly knew that this was Denek Elf Friend. It seems the man they’re seeking is now a prisoner of the Goblins!

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