Halforums

Working Nine to Five

The doorway leads the party to a room with the dimensions of a giant cube. Before having a chance to explore, the room quickly transformed around them creating a hallway that vaguely resembled a generic dungeon. Venturing down the hallway they came to a sign that read “Good Monsters” and “Evil Monsters” with an arrow pointing in a direction for each word. Errik theorized that the structure was possibly similar to a dimension known as “Nirvana” or more accurately as “Mechanus”, which meant that the denizens, called “Modrons”, were a highly lawful race that didn’t really worry about if things were good or evil since they only went by what was most logical. Deciding that each direction probably lead to danger, the group split up. The group that headed down the Evil Monsters hallway found themselves in a metal forest that was designed to look as generically evil as possible (with even jagged monstrous faces designed on the trees), and a clockwork ogre that roared and raised a mighty club. The folks who traversed the Good Monsters hallway on the other hand found a metal “enchanted” forest, complete with a robotic unicorn that attacked them the moment they got too close. Both groups ran back down the halls quickly, nearly bumping into each other as they met back at the intersection. As they took a rest, they soon realized they were not alone and turned around to see a spherical creature with clockwork arms and legs that seemed to be fixing a sconce that the party had attempted to rip out of the wall earlier. Trying to speak and interact with it seemed completely useless, as it continued to perform it’s duty without acknowledging them. When the party dragged it away from the sconce a voice came up over an intercom system and asked them politely to not interact with the worker as he is not part of the simulation. When questioned “what simulation?” the voice replied “The dungeon simulation. It is the purpose of this unit to determine the point of a ‘dungeon delve’. After more questions with odd answers the party determined that the “unit” went by the designation “Nordom” (which is Modron spelled back-words of course) and that he had been at this post for several hundred years. He also informed them that the “prize” of completing the dungeon would be a portal to any location they wish. Attempts to reason with Nordom proved useless, so the party decided to tackle the Evil Monsters route together, as destroying a Robotic Unicorn just didn’t seem right.

Re-entering the evil, metal forest the party battled the clockwork ogre and two metal wolves. An oily moat down the center of the forest caught fire as Adia blasted it with lightning, and Serin blew one of the robot wolves into it. When their foes were taken down, the voice came on once again and asked the party politely to wait while repairs were made to the simulation. However, it also made the offer to send them home early if they so chose, and the party asked the Modron to send them to a city in the Razorpeak mountains where they could begin their search for the Deva bladesman. A white doorway sketched across the air, and the party passed through quite quickly.

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Blood of the Father

Heading east from Celia’s song, the party set out for the Kingdom of Calcazarr where rumors of rising tensions with orc territories are becoming commonplace. Hopefully the Dwarf Battlerager Dwar Steelgrand could be found involved with the battle in some manner. Adia, finding herself alone with her horse Fabio one evening, managed to get more information from him regarding his current form. The information he provided however seemed to Adia to be incredibly unlikely or cliche, including the classic fairy tale story of how love’s true kiss would restore him to his natural form of a prince. Fabio also mentioned that he knew of Adia’s father, and described him as a tall man with a long, thin, black beard who came to his Kingdom many times in the past. When Adia had enough of the conversation she wished Fabio a goodnight and left the stables.

Their expedition east carried on, and weeks after leaving Celia’s song they entered an area of mostly uncontested land often called “the frontier”. The first town the group came too seemed to be accomidating more people than it could hold, as several tents had been set up around the village. Investigating, the party found that many of the villages of the frontier had been attacked by a group of cultists who were recruiting from the locals and killing any who resisted. Adia, feeling the need to be charitable, began to hand out gold pieces to the misplaced families. She even found herself giving extra to a young boy who had been orphaned when his parents were killed by the cultists. It began to rain hard, and the party set about finding shelter in the local inn for the evening. But as they did a woman’s cry alerted them to trouble within the sea of tents. Some of the cultists had followed the peasants here, and threatened to finish the job. The party intervened, killing most of them. The leader of the group attempted to flee, and as he did so sent a bolt of magic the slew the young boy that Adia had befriended. Adia raged and released a dark evil that had been building up inside of her. Hoisting the mage up by the neck, she bit down into his shoulder and drained him of his precious blood as her party looked in horror. Beneath her feet the grass began to yellow and die. The rain stopped and a mist began to envelop the town. It felt to the party as if they were the only ones left standing among the tents. Then, the sound of footsteps on the wet grass announced the approach of another. Ring Master Euric emerged from the mist and tipped his hat to greet the party once again. He then gestured behind him, and the mist parted to reveal a dark red tent covered in vines. Adia stood in shock and Euric explained “you should have taken my warning and not let the monster out. You must prove you can control it. You may take anyone who wishes to accompany you, but let them know that your final fate will be shared amongst them”. The party nodded their heads and entered the tent together.

As the party went through the tent the world around them altered into a thick forest of massive overgrowth. Adia climbed to the canopy and looked around, noting they were within a valley surrounded by mist covered mountains. She also noted a village in a clearing and let the party in that direction. Soon the group heard the sounds of revelry and celebration, coming across the village in the midst of their 100th year of settlement. As Adia moved closer, and in sight of the townsfolk, the music went silent and all eyes laid upon her. Adia started to yell at the villagers for answers, but was answered with more silence and timidness. Finally, a man stepped out of the crowd and introduced himself as Leanu the town leader apologized for the reaction of his people, politely excusing them as unaccustomed to friendly meetings with an elf. Saryon, overhearing, quickly through a hood over his own elven features and joined the rest of the party who began gathering to get their own questions answered. Adia was shocked to discover that the townsfolk called this the valley of Yuirwood, as Yuirwood was her home and certainly never contained within a valley. Overhearing their questions, a traveling paladin by the name of Gaspar found their plight similar to his own and started to mingle with the party members and offered to join them for a time. During the festivities a man approached Saryon and claimed to know him. Saryon recognized the man as the same person he saw taken from a crate that once belonged to Euric. The man introduced himself as Strom and told Saryon that he had no ill feelings for anyone involved in his kidnapping, as he now accepted it as a method of keeping his loved ones safe. Leanu offered the party a home to stay the rest of the night, but Adia was compelled to seek out what she believed was the ruins of her home, unable to believe that her family was still alive despite Leanu’s claims.

Setting out the group found themselves at the mercy of some of the dangers of the Yuirwood at night, such as a young behir (a large, six-legged reptile with electrical qualities) that attacked them til they managed to dispatch it. As they came closer, Adia began to notice landmarks that she remembered near her home such as trees and rock formations. But for everything that was the same there were some odd differences, such as several dead plants and trees, and an aura of dread that seemed to be lingering about. Breaking through into the clearing where she expected to find nothing but the ruins of her village, she was shocked to find a populated village of elves, very much like the one she thought she had lost forever. At the center of the village, there was an unfamiliar oak tree that had taken root, and looked well over a hundred years old. Adia touched it and felt an odd sensation of reassurance and calming. Suddenly, from her child-hood home within the village stepped her younger brother (older now, but by elf standards) Orron. He seemed shocked to see Adia and returned the hug she gave him, but less enthusiastically. Over tea he told Adia the woes that had befallen the town since she had been gone. Over a hundred years ago her father returned to seek her out. Then a ranger named Leon, aided by a spirit of the wood, killed Adia’s parents and sent the village to this personal hell where they have been trapped ever since. Adia was heartbroken and vowed to destroy Leon and set out the very next morning to find him, despite Orron’s warnings that Leon would likely find them first. Partway through their search the party came across the band of gypsies again. This time Adia was called to the elder gypsies cart where she met with a blind, old and withered gypsy named Zasha. Zasha cut Adia’s hand quickly and gave Adia the warning “Know thy enemy.” She also spoke of this realm as a prison then disappeared into the shadows of her cart.

Journeying onward the group suddenly found themselves snared in a patch of living vines just as they approached a rushing river. Across the river, a man in woodsman gear aimed an arrow at them as a woman stood nearby. The man insisted to know why they were trying to find him and Adia accused him of killing her parents and damning her people here. Leon admitted that he had killed many elves, but claimed they all deserved it. As for being the reason the elves were damned here he claimed innocence on account of being born long after this world existed. Struck by this logic, the rest of the party managed to talk their way into being released. As answers were about to be gained, the trees behind the two strangers willted and died, and Orron and his wife Elania emerged from the rot. Elania drew a knife across the woman’s throat and slaying her, and Orron grabbed Leon and drained his beauty and essence from him, leaving him as a pale and withered husk of a man who crawled to cradle the dying woman next to him. Adia shrieked in horror, and Orron admitted to her that he had just used them to track down Leon so they may kill him. He also informed Adia that her father was not dead. In fact he had come to the village the night Adia and Feriel went to market seeking her out, but their mother, Roshell, refused to give Adia up. Her father then killed Roshell, drank her blood, then fled. Compelled by a lust for power, Orron too drank of their mother’s blood and the village shifted into this dread realm the moment the blood met his lips. He then found he had new powers unlike anything he could ever imagine, and craved the beauty and creativity of mortal beings. He warned Adia to never return to the village or she and her friends would die, then he and Elania merged back into trees (which quickly died) and disappeared.

Shocked by this discovery the party questioned their next actions. Noticing something in the trees Adia wandered off and found a decorative envelop on a tree. Opening it she found one of Euric’s tickets inside which seemed to stop time for all except her. Euric appeared and sympathized with what she was going through. He told her that she had two options: either make a home here in this valley, or kill her brother and be free. Adia became furious and Euric restored time to her friends. Requiring knowledge of how to face whatever creature Orron had become the party returned to the gypsy camp and Errik promised four favors to the gypsy fortune teller for the information. Armed with charcoal stakes the party ventured into the village during the night in the hopes of exposing Orron and his kin to moonlight which should slay them. While the party dealt with the guards, Adia confronted her brother who showed no shame for drinking their mother’s blood and becoming this undead beast. Just as Grendmir and Gaspar began to crash through the wooden walls of the house, Orron and his consort transformed into a swarm of songbirds and dove down into a small opening in the ground.

Following information from the frightened elves the party attempted to ambush the vampires by locating a cave where they may have fled to stay safe from the moonlight. While finding a possible safe room it had clearly not been used in some time. Going through some books left behind, the party found a tome of curses that had been recently translated into elven by Orron. One fairly important looking quote was translated as “a gift given in passion is lost until reclaimed.” Giving up on tracking Orron, the party ventured back into the woods and camped as a storm approached. During a watch, Saryon watched a bobbing white light in the woods and was forced into a meditative state. Adia awoke with a start and saw her deceased brother Ferial standing in the woods beckoning her to join him. When awakening her companions proved useless she ran into the woods alone, only to find Ferial standing in a clearing with the most unnatural and evil grin on his face before everything went black.

The party awoke and found Adia missing. While searching they noticed a faint white light (much larger than before) that seemed to guide them through the woods. Meanwhile Adia awoke and found herself inside a magic circle not unlike those Errik could make. Standing outside the circle, surrounded by a stone henge, stood a twisted gnome and Leanu. Leanu mournfully regretted what he had to do to “his own daughter” admitting that he was in fact Adia’s father. He activated the ritual and Adia felt herself being drained as the fortune teller’s voice exclaimed “A gift given in passion is lost until reclaimed.”. Leanu had given up his ability to feed in order to sire Adia, but now he was weak and defenseless without it and was willing to sacrifice his own daughter to get it back. As her friends found their way to the clearing they rushed in to disrupt the ritual, and Leanu turned to his Gnome asisstant Gimblethwip and ordered him to deal with them. Gimbletwhip summoned a horde of possessed squirrels to distract the party while he tried to bring Serin to uncontrollable laughter with a disturbing grin.

As the ritual neared completion and Adia slowly felt herself dying, a reassuring and motherly force began to interfere and force energy back into her. As the ground around the circle broke apart, Adia found herself in control of new powers and a kin-ness to nature. Transforming into a snow leopard she joined her friends in attacking Leanu. Suddenly Orron, Elania, and two other elven vampires appeared and joined the fight against the party. Leanu suffered early in the battle to a disabling spell by Saryon and was unable to contribute to the fight physically. Instead he changed into a mist to enable a quick escape and then began to dominate Grendmir from afar who constantly was forced to fight off the urge to attack his own teammates again and again. Eventually the elven vampires and Gimblethwip were defeated and Leanu dropped to his knees to await his fate decided by his daughter. Adia brought about the destruction of her brother as she plunged a charcoal stake into his heart and the sky rumbled as a result. While her friends finished disposing of the body, Adia turned to her father and asked “Why.”. He told her that he did not want to kill Roshell, but he became angry when she wouldn’t give Adia to him so long ago. He also informed Adia that he was grateful that the ritual did not kill her as it was supposed to. Adia, disgusted with her father, told him to flee and never return.

As the mist on the mountains flowed down and started to retake the valley, Euric emerged into the clearing and demanded the puzzle cube they had been keeping. Once in his hand he activated it, summoning a white doorway and ordered the party to enter as this was the only way he could keep his promise. Apparently the “Dark Powers” had decided they would not release the party as originally intended, and Euric was going against their orders. The last of the party managed to jump through the portal as the mist overtook Euric and the valley behind them.

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Mad Tea Parties

After getting the name of the surviving council member marked for death the party decided to pay him a visit. The guards, as usual, were resistant to allow audience with the council member, but eventually allowed them through. Offering them tea, the council member seemed, at first, to be mostly sane as far as Eladrin are concerned. However, after more questioning, the party began to wonder if he was all there in the head when he began to poor hot tea into his lap without even flinching. Adia, not being one to mess around, bashed the Eladrin with his own teapot which shattered and cut up his face. He simply smiled and asked “would you folks like more tea?”. Suddenly it dawned on the party that maybe Shandria and Alderbrush had reason for their deeds as it was clear that someone had clearly altered the mind of several council members in such a way that their decisions could easily lead to the city’s downfall at Fomorian hands.

Suddenly the city began to shake and towers began to crumble as the citizens fled in terror. A young Eladrin appeared and led the party to what he claimed was a safe location. Instead they found themselves in yet another long forgotten chamber. After facing some undead sentries, the party found an ancient chamber dedicated to Seline (the moon goddess) that had been altered with dozens of magical circles that seemed to be the cause of the quakes. Setting off these circles was a drow Necromancer claiming to be working for Acererack who attacked the party with an ancient trap that he could activate from across the room. A battle erupted as the Necromancer summoned skeletons and his giant, hulk-like, zombie abomination charged and battered the party. Midway through the fight the Necromancer offered a truce. He would allow the party to leave the city before bringing it to the ground. Surprisingly the party, who had already grown to dispise the Eladrin of Astrazalian, declined the offer. The drow, enraged, ordered his minions to kill Saryon first as it was clear that his abilities were aiding the party the most. With a few close calls, the party was able to destroy the undead and subdue the drow. Suddenly, the young Eladrin appeared again and changed into Ceradwyn. Ceradwyn explained that he had overheard the conversation between the party and Alderbrush about proving themselves worthy of assistance against Acererack. The drow’s plot provided a great opportunity for the party to prove that they were capable of putting themselves in danger for the sake of others and Ceradwyn offered to give his assistance when Alderbrush would not. In exchange for the amulet and a set of matching magical tatoos the Eladrin asked the party to leave the city quickly and quietly. He would leave the unconcious drow for Lady Shandria who would easily make the connection that the drow was responsible for the recent troubles. As the party left, they looked back and watched the city of Astrazalian fade away.

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Through the Looking Glass

Returning to Astrazalian the party was happy to discover Saryon waiting for them in Celia’s Song. Apparently he had spent the last week traveling with Euric and Morte, helping them run their small carnival. Saryon also mentioned an incident where a villager went missing after the carnival set up shop nearby. Later, Saryon explained, Euric brought the cart to a meeting with a band of gypsies who took a crate from Euric and pulled a nude and unconscious man from it. Saryon attempted to ask Euric questions but was given Euric’s typical half answers. Saryon was also shocked to discover that he had only been gone a week despite the month on the road with Euric. After reuniting and catching Saryon up with the party’s current issues, together they looked into notes taken from the mage and decided to investigate the hidden chamber that the Storm Crows had supposedly fought the lich from whom they claimed the stone and other secrets. In the mage’s journal there was a reference to a mirror along the floor within the Council of Houses chambers with the note “To break it you must say it’s name”. After trying to figure out the name of the mirror, Serin realized that the note was actually more of a riddle and suggested the answer “Silence?”. Immediately she sank down into the mirror. The others followed and found themselves in the ancient and dusty chamber. Encountering a fire skull with a nasty sense of humor and giant skeleton friends, the party fought their way to a library deeper down the corridor. In residence was a dryed up Eladrin who seemed annoyed with the party’s invasion of his private chambers. Ceradwyn, as he identified himself, claimed to be personally responsible for Alderbrushes’ current imprisonment because she was involving herself with the death of several council of chamber members. Sensing the power of the wrath stone, Ceradwyn offered them an “even” trade and gave them three options. They may either have a magic amulet that was a gift from the Ravenqueen to those who would defy death, a piece of the rod of seven parts, or he would release Alderbrush. Deciding that Alderbrush needed to be released for the party to find out what she knew of Acererack and also to gain Bertrow’s freedom the party made their decision. Ceradwyn gave them a bead that would melt the ice. When asked if he would free Kratash’s soul from the wrath stone Ceradwyn said “I will attempt to but make no promises. I will only dedicate 1 year’s time to this endevor as my time is incredibly valuable”. Returning to the surface the party released Alderbrush. However, despite being grateful to the party, Alderbrush was cautious about offering them assistance against a threat she felt they were not prepared in facing. When the party attempted to notify Lady Shandria that Alderbrush was involved in the plot against the council members, Shandria’s uncaring attitude made them realize that she too was involved. The two of them informed the party that the only way they would be convinced that the party was capable of facing Acererack and thereby be worthy of weapons and information, was to come with Astrazalian when it returned to the Feywild for six months. There the party would help the city defend itself against consistant Fomorian attacks. Should the party survive after the ordeal, Shandria and Alderbrush would consider their claims of being a threat to Acererack more seriously. Deciding that the two Eladrin were not being fair, considering that they were already likely breaking many of their own laws by murdering council members, the party decided they would decline the offer and find a way to expose the two of them.

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The Fallen

Following the “nudge” Adia led the group to a small chamber divided by a blue wall of energy. Touching or tampering with the energy wall resulted in a powerful electrical shock. The only clue the party had to work with was a hidden panel containing but a single distinct key hole. Serin, looking for options, attempted to teleport to the other side which surprisingly worked. But there he found himself facing down a translucent gnome tinkerer who smiled and lit up a pipe. He introduced himself as Illugi Nimblestone, creator of the traps that the party now faced, and made it clear from the start he was long since dead and looking forward to the party joining him. Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue, or maybe an intentional hint, Illugi mentioned to them that he always had the key on him. Taking this to suggest that Illugi was possibly buried with the key, Grendmir investigated the now abandoned mausoleum the Kenku were using. There he found a pair of sarcophagi that had been undisturbed and promptly disturbed them. Inside one, next to the remains of a gnome, he found a platinum key with a distinctive shape. Trying the key however resulted in a near fatal shock to the user. Noticing Illugi’s hand twitch in a counter clockwise motion, Adia suggested trying to turn the key in the other direction. This proved successful and the party was able to move on to the next room.

In the next chamber it wasn’t difficult to notice the paneled floor or the hundreds of tiny holes within the walls. The door opposite them once again displayed a distinctive key hole shape. Walking across the floor seemed simple enough, and the key was used and the door opened. Just as the party breathed a sigh of relief and headed forward together as a group, the pressure sensitive plates in the room were activated from the weight of multiple people and slammed the doors on both sides of the room shut, trapping many of the party inside. Suddenly the air was filled with hundreds of toothpick size darts, shooting back and forth like angry bees, delivering poisonous attacks to those trapped. Serin, thinking quickly and quite possibly selfishly, teleported out of the room. Luckily this reset the weight panels and the doors reopened. Being careful not to all enter the room at once the party crept foward as the Gnome laughed at their expense. The next chamber crackled with lightning that skipped along the copper laden floor panels. Realizing that only stepping on the floor would result in electrocution, Erikk summoned forth a transportation disk and road atop it to the far panel where he was able to decipher the code to deactivate the trap. As the party entered the next room the Gnome specter jumped for joy and claimed “My favorite trap! My favorite trap!”. Inside the room was a button, a number counter, a hidden panel, and drains along all the walls. Kratash and Grendmir entered the room alone, and Kratash pressed the button. The counter began at 10 and started to count down. Suddenly the doors shut tight, the room started to fill up with water, and an electrical rod much like in the last room lowered from the panel. Hoping for an answer, Kratash pressed the button again and the counter returned to 10 and began to one again drop. As Kratash pressed the button over and over again Grendmir frantically looked around the room, only finding an odd looking coin stuck within one of the drains. Eventually the two decided to let the button reach zero… at which point the room immediately drained itself of water and the lightning generator returned to the ceiling. A clever deception to stall would be intruders.

As the party reached the next room the Gnome claimed no responsibility for anything from then on. When asked if he would help them now he responded “Don’t get me wrong. I still want you to die”. The room looked like a training room that had been modified. A central brazier burned powerfully as four summoning circles glowed brightly. Suddenly a quartet of burning rock monsters appeared in the circles and attacked the party. As the fight continued more elementals began to appear, eventually alerting the party that the brazier needed to be destroyed to stop it from summoning further creatures.With that threat dealt with the party moved through a door and found a portal that took them to a hidden chamber. Inside they found a stone sarcophagus and a work desk containing dozens of tomes, vials, and notes regarding an unnamed artifact. Further scrutiny made Erikk realize that the last journal entry was written the previous day, but before he could warn the group the sarcophagus exploded and in it’s stead stood a drying female corpse with protruding devil horns and glowing red features. Around her neck hung a stone with a red symbol of a devil, much like one that Adia had dreamed of. Adia expressed interest in the stone and the woman gladly took the “wrath stone” in hand and demonstrated it’s power on Kratash, tearing his soul from his body which promptly turned to ash as his soul was pulled unwillingly into the stone. The others gasped and fumed with rage, and Adia stood stunned as she realized she just may have been responsible for Kratash’s death. Something she had often joked and thought about, but something she knew she would never have been able to bring herself to do. The fight was brutal as the undead mage used spells that turned the party against each other and often used a very similar black ice component in her spells. Finally Grendmir was able to lop off the bitch’s head and remove the stone from her clutches. Adia examined the stone quickly, but became increasingly frustrated as she discovered she knew nothing of how to use it. Erikk began to pour through the mage’s notes and discovered that the Wrath Stone was an artifact created by Acererack as a test to see if he would be able to steal the soul of a living being and feast upon it. The mage was able to use the stone to steal souls but had not yet determined how to intake them. Other reading indicated that the stone was taken as loot from a Lich that the Storm Crows had defeated within a hidden chamber in Astrazalian. It was from the same Lich that the mage had taken secrets of the black ice spell that she had used but hypothesized that a powerful being could use it to imprison another. With this information in hand the party considered their options and felt a return trip to Astrazalian to find someone who may also be in possession of the Lich’s secrets.

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She's as Cold as Ice

Before leaving the clearing, Saryon turned to the group and claimed that their time in Odiare needed more answers, and that he intended on following Euric and Morte to get them. He entrusted Grendmir with Oathbearer’s holy symbol and wished them good luck. The party continued onward, not stopping again until they emerged from the woods and looked down upon the lake town of Celia’s Song and the sparkling city of Astrazalian sitting upon an island in the middle. During the months that Astrazalian appears the town of Celia’s song becomes a very active market community, with the buying and trading of rare items. While trying to find an inn at a reasonable price, the party was shocked to find that their room was paid for by a member of the crow-like race of Kenku. However the Kenku, Cooper by name, seemed to have alterior motives concerning Errik, later inviting the halfling to have a chat with him and his kin. In a seedy tavern, the Kenku “politely” asked Errik to finish up his bussiness quickly, as they are a bit suspicious as to why a member of the infamous Lorreno clan would be conducting business on their turf.

Heading across the lake to Astrazalian, the party asked to have an audience with Marian Alderbrush. There was concern over their request and eventually they were given audience with Lady Shandria, First Sword of the city. Shandria escorted them to Alderbrush’s quarters only to find a grisly sight. The entire room was coated in black ice, with Alderbrush frozen solid within a massive, jagged block of it. Attempts to somehow free or get in touch with Alderbrush were in vain, and the ice burned any bare skin that touched it, with the odd exception of Adia’s. Shandria explained that Alderbrush was the 4th Council member to be assasinated (assuming she is in fact dead), though this attempt is much different as the others were mearly poisoned. Shandria then showed the group inside a nearby wardrobe, where a Kenku was also frozen solid. Deciding that Cooper and his clan were somehow involved with this situation, the party considered confroting him with the information. Shandria however had one more thing to show them. A “suspect” that had been caught trying to break into her quarters. This suspect turned out to be Bertrow, Serin’s missing cousin who she blamed for the kidnapping of her family. Bertrow maintained his innocence on both that and any suspicion of him meaning Shandria harm. He sought a puzzle box that Shandria kept as a curiosity, believing it was the key to saving his and Serin’s kin.

Following the lead left by the Kenku frozen in the wardrobe, the party went back to the Black Venom (the basement tavern that Cooper and his clan used). There they found someone who sounded like Cooper, but according to Adia’s keen perception skills was only pretending to be Cooper. Initial questioning of the Cooper impostor yielded nothing useful, however Adia was able to discover a secret trap door into a sub basement. Adia attempted to “bomb” the basement using the Tavern’s name brand ale and a torch. While she and others ran outside, the three Kenkus attempted to take advantage of the numbers being in their favor. They did not, however, take into account Serin’s powerful spells and Grendmir’s even more powering griping, which left two Kenku dead and the Cooper impostor visibly shaken. The party took him prisoner and pushed him ahead of the party as they traversed into the sub-basement (which had not exploded as previously hopped). When the prisoner complained that he was dead no matter how this played out, Kratash decided to take a page from the book of Adia and provide “physical encouragment” resulting in an accidental de-limbing and death of the Kenku. The party quickly found themselves involved in a battle against other Kenku guards who attempted to use a pair of “pet” Gelatinous Cubes to their advantage, but eventually found themselves falling victim to them instead when Serin caught on to their tactics and fought “fire with fire”. Kratash, trying to makeup for the fatal incident with the Kenku prisoner, successfully managed to save a Kenku from being eaten alive by one of the cubes. Adia was not very thrilled.

While questioning the prisoner they were joined by the real Cooper who continued his half of the resulting conversation on the other side of a massive door for fear of starting another fight. Suddenly trying to be civil, Cooper was true to his word about halting all hostilities for the return of the surviving Kenku and offering of information. After being told about Alderbrush’s frozen state and the frozen Kenku in the wardrobe, Cooper revealed that Alderbrush as not a target as she was actually their contact in a plot to kill other members of the council. This struck the party as odd as they assumed that Alderbrush was a being of good and righteousness based on her history involving the destruction of Acererak. As Cooper, his crew, and the party sat down to drinks and more revealing of plot specifics (including names of targets) several weights emerged from the walls of the abandoned mausoleum the Kenku were using as a base of operations. The weights killed off nearly every Kenku, with only Cooper and two others surviving. Just as the party felt they had rid themselves of the weights, spectral forms of the Kenku rose from where they fell. But instead of attacking the closest living being as they normally would, the simply shifted through the floor and disappeared. As they left the chamber, Adia felt a painless “nudge” in the direction of an unused corridor. Cooper, sensing their desire to investigate, warned against this action. He informed the party that this underground hideout had once been the HQ of a group of adventurers who were not known for being the most righteous of people. Even though they once rid the land of an evil lich the adventurers were also known for kidnapping/ransom attempts, pillaging, and assassinations. They disappeared 20 years prior and Cooper and his Kenku took over their hideout when it was clear they weren’t coming back.

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Raise the Curtain

A horde of vicious puppets descended upon the heroes, quickly incapacitating them one by one. When the party awoke they found themselves trapped inside hanging wooden cages, stuck in the body of puppets. Their real bodies, smiling evilly at them, exited the room with the puppet leader sitting atop Kratash’s shoulder. Before leaving he shrieks “See that they don’t escape”. Finding the cages poorly constructed, the heroes managed to blow them apart or otherwise break them open enough to escape, using powers that they luckily retained in puppet form. Looking around they discovered they were in a toy shop of some kind. A toy shop of evil looking toys that all seemed to be watching them from their shelves. As Saryon attempted to retrieve a spool of string from a work table, a massive Jack in the Box with a modified skull-like head and claws leaped down and threatened him. Saryon held his ground and taunted his aggressor, but before a fight could break out the door opened and the first adult the party had seen since arriving in town walked in. He was an older gentleman with white hair and mustache. When the party attempted to speak to him he seemed surprisingly unconcerned to see talking puppets. Trying, in vain, to enlist the older man to help them, they found themselves locked outside. Which initially was their plan, until they realized that their only source of information regarding their transformation (the old man) was now locked inside the toy store.

Surprisingly getting back inside was little hassle, as the Jack-in-the-box gladly opened the door for them. Once inside however the game was on and Jack and his friends (a stuffed crocodile and a metal figurine) attacked. Having been spurned by Saryon, Jack focused all his attacks on the priest. It was only fitting that Saryon’s sacred flame finish the evil toy off. With their obstacles defeated, the party made their way up the stairs. There they found the old man asleep, and his large cat on the prowl. Scaring the cat, and awakening the old man, the party learned from the man’s ramblings that he went by the name of Guiseppe, and that he was the father of Figlio. When they pleaded for his help, Guiseppe stuttered and under his breath said “seek the one like you” before rolling over and shutting himself down from further questioning. Downstairs the door opened, alerting the heroes. They feared Maligno may have returned, but instead it was another human trapped inside a puppet body named Leopold. Leopold brought the group to the outskirts of the town via fox mount, to a place where they could hide. He went over the history of the town of Odiare, claiming that two years previously the toymaker brought Maligno to life and then crafted others like him, though with less emotion, called carrionettes. Maligno then used his army of carrionettes to take over the town, switching bodies with the adults and locking their puppet forms away. Leopold managed to escape, but was unable to rescue anyone when all of the adult bodies withered and died, and Maligno destroyed all their puppet forms in a rage. Leopold also gave the heroes their key to getting their bodies back: silver needles. When a carrionette (or one trapped in it’s body) plunges a silver needle into the back of a living being’s neck, the souls switch places. According to Leopold, Maligno is incapable of this power, and it often drives him to the torture and murder of anyone he tries it on in vain. His “father” Guisppe also seems to be immune to the switch and only seems to be kept alive because the carrionettes need him for repairs and to make others like them. In the two years since the first incident, several of the children have reached adulthood, and they met similar fates as the previous adults. Just then a storm kicked up and Leopold commented “He knows you’re gone”, indicating that even the weather seems to react to Maligno’s mood.

Deciding that the best place to get the silver needles they needed would be at the Blacksmith’s, the heroes ventured their first. A few of the carrionnettes stood guard, but the party managed to subdue them and sneak away with enough needles to change their souls back and forth and then some. Plotting with some of the older children, the party were taken to the inn, where they found their bodies being used and mistreated as the carrionnetes fought amongst each other for control and would “pretend” to be real people as they overdrank, ate rotten food, and made out with each other. With the help of the teens, the group pushed their way in, and destroyed the remaining active dolls and quickly switched their souls back into their real bodies. They then scooped up all the inactive carrionnettes, put them in a pile out back and let Fyoosh light them aflame with a sizzling sneeze. Just then, the organs of the theater began to play, signaling a special show for just the heroes. Once inside the theater the doors shut tight and Saryon found himself locked outside as Maligno faced his friends alone. Maligno was full of tricks, but eventually the party whittled him down. As if sensing the coming end of the evil puppet, Errik’s book burned in his hand and beckoned him to open it. Turning the pages, Errik found a spell description for a Fireball that quickly etched itself in glowling letters, and he instantly found it ready to cast in his mind. Unleashing the fireball, then following it up with a flaming sphere was enough to destroy Maligno’s legs. As he pathetically crawled away from the flame, several shimmering ghosts began to appear from the ever closing mist, and they grabbed and drug him back into the flame. His shrill screams of agony bringing shivers down the backs of everyone. Except for Adia who was quite pleased with Maligno’s fate.

Eventually the mist consumed them, and they suddenly found themselves standing in the clearing where the circus once stood. Euric stood nearby, overseeing Morte as they packed everything into a single cart. He seemed generally happy to see them, but quickly found himself at the mercy of Adia and her friends as they threatened him with violence if he did not come clean about what happend. Euric claimed innocence, but his constant avoidance of direct questions suggested otherwise. Adia found herself struggling with a darkness that she had been keeping bottled up, and felt a rush of power and strength. She bit into Euric’s lip and erotically threatened him again. Euric remained calm (while Morte began to pee his pants) and seemed oddly fine with whatever fate Adia delivered upon him. He did however warn her that she would not like the results if she took that dark path. He also made a reference that she reminded him of her father, which infuriated Adia even more. Euric was allowed to leave alive, and he and Morte quickly did so. In the clearing the party found a small wooden box. Inside was the Leopold puppet, with a note tied to it’s foot that read “Thank you”.

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Dim the Lights

As they prepared to continue toward Astrazalian, Adia found herself alone with her horse Fabio. Fabio began to speak in the common tongue which nearly snapped the Elf’s already fragile mind. Once she calmed down, and Saryon began to approach from all the racket, Fabio quickly told her he would give her more information later, but would not speak around the others. As the party adventured forth they entered a dense forest that stood between them and their destination. Camping for the first night the party set up watches and Adia positioned herself far from the main group feeling somewhat isolated and hurt that the others were beginning to question her sanity. As Saryon kept an eye on things during the second watch, the odd sound of organ music, as if from a circus, began to resonate through the woods. Adia, mid trance, suddenly felt and heard the voice of her mother calling out for her. Startled awake she saw that the others were already moving about trying to learn more about the odd music.

Grendmir moved up ahead, and discovered that a small carnival of tents and wagons had been set up not far from their camp. A perimeter of lights made the place glow brightly and everything seemed in good repair, but not a soul was in sight. As the party moved closer they noticed a wooden booth on the perimeter with a loop of tickets, a wooden bowl, and a sign that read “Welcome to Ringmaster Euric’s Carnival of Wonders. 1 Gold per attraction”. Adia seemed delighted with this new concept and deposited 5 gold and took her tickets. Kratash decided to try this place as well and bought 3. Errik ripped off a ticket from afar using magic and didn’t seem surprised that nothing happened as a result of his “theft”. As Kratash neared a tent a tall and gangly gentleman in a black ringmaster’s uniform, handsome good looks, piercing blue eyes, and a tall top hat emerged and bowed. “Welcome” he said. When asked why he would set up a circus out in the middle of the forest he simply claimed “I go where the business is. And while business may be slow, it’s still business.” When someone remarked that he still didn’t have any business he countered with “Ah! But I believe I have already made 8 sales, plus one admission not yet paid” too which Errik couldn’t help but look guilty. When asked how he set this up on his own, he proclaimed “I have an assistant. Morte!” and out hopped a hunchbacked human who made a less than eloquent bow. The party addressed that he couldn’t possibly have set this up with only Morte’s help and Euric blinked and stated “Well he’s a very good assistant”.

When asked what he suggested Euric looked the party over and said “I believe you all feel you lack control over your lives. With that, I suggest the marionette show to give you a new perspective on how much control you actually have”. Adia was gleeful over this, and a bit smitten over the curious gentleman, and followed him to the puppet cart. Kratash slipped into the fortune teller’s tent and found Morte enter afterwards affixing a wig to his head. After giving several ambiguous predictions, Morte suddenly claimed “I feel that you have had a brush with your heritage, but did not know it at the time”. Kratash wanted more details but Morte quickly slipped away as he was apparently also the puppeteer for the marionette show and stepped into position behind the stage. As Adia and Serin watched form the seats and the rest from far enough where they didn’t feel they required purchasing a ticket, six puppets dropped onto the stage that seemed to be crude puppets of everyone in the party. “One day,” began Morte ”, six adventures traveled. Saryon the cleric. Grendmir the bold. Kratash the Impatient. Serin the master of disguises. Errik the righter of past misdeeds. And Adia the Dark.” and as Morte bounded the bundle of puppets up in down in a crude simulation of walking, the party lost focus of the world and found themselves walking in an unfamiliar and twisted forest.

Climbing a tree to check the stars, Adia concluded they were no where near where they started and that there was a village not far ahead. As dawn approached and Adia neared the town she saw two children doing chores in front of a farm house. They seemed surprised to see her and when asked where they’re parents were, the oldest of the two would only answer “They’re away”. The younger child, a girl named Giselle took a liking to Adia. As playful organ music started to play the children all dropped what they were doing and starting moving towards the center of town, with not an adult in sight. Giselle lead Adia to the front row of the theater, while the others filled in nearby. A miniature stage had been set up on the main stage, and a puppet show of expert quality began. A tale of a kidnapped princess, her dragon tormentor, and a brave knight with rosy cheeks who came to rescue her. As the curtain fell on the small stage and the children clapped and filed out, Errik noticed it was a bit odd that the performer of the show did not emerge to take his bows. Bez was sent in first but after a few minutes of no reply Errik realized that Bez had somehow been destroyed. As Errik concentrated to summon Bez back to the material plane, Kratash investigated the dark backstage of the theater, seeing nothing but lifeless puppets and stage props. Hearing someone whisper “psst”, Kratash leaned down to investigate, but as he emerged from the curtain he shrugged as his search didn’t seem to turn up anything amiss. The rest of the crew moved backstage to see what they could have possibly missed and how the puppeteer could have evaded them. Suddenly the main curtain rose just enough that the knight puppet from the earlier show dropped down and as the strings went taught it raised it’s sword and in a shrill voice said “You are surrounded! Give up while you still can!” Adia, in a move that seemed more Kratash-like in appearance, tackled the puppet and yanked on the strings to unmask the mysterious puppeteer. But the strings fell limp and no one was there to be seen. And that is when the puppet turned its head, scowled, and said “Oh now you’re really in trouble”.

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The Harder They Fall

Venturing towards the floating tower the party came across a Dragonborn warrior of the Zehir cult who tried to contend with Kratash over the title of “Worst Liar”. A fight erupted as Dragonborn snipers attacked from their hiding positions and a mounted wardrake flew into the fray. When their enemies were downed, the party began to question the two cultist survivors. Kratash and Grendmir’s preaching of honorable Dragonborn code caused their cultist to question his ways. Meanwhile, the beautiful and stunning Adia threatened her captive with violent torture and proceeded to prove she meant business by slicing off his scales. The moral questioning dilemma ended when the Dragonborn cultist refused to move another step and Adia obliged him by wrapping a fixed chain around his neck and kicking him off the top of the floating tower. Within the tower the party came across a magical circle (supposedly to keep away the ghostly residents of the valley) surrounding a desk and bookshelves filled with ancient Draconic tomes of their lore and heritage. On the table lay a patent of nobility listing Bejik as one of Vrak’s bloodline. However, within a locked chest that was obviously not Kratash proof, the group found a similar patent that lacked Bejik’s name. Figuring out the first was a decent forgery, the party made plans to find Vrak and inform her of Bejik’s treachery. But as they returned to the area where they first met Vrak they found the stature she emerged from unresponsive, and a trio of mindless spirits attempted to drive them mad. With no luck finding Vrak, the party made their way to the excavation; a 30 foot shaft leading below. Grendmir and Adia lead the party, and inadvertantly set off a poisonous gas trap that knocked the two of them unconscious. The rest, unable to awaken their comrades, set off further down the lantern lit hallway until it opened into a large, underground courtyard. As they entered the courtyard, a black fog enveloped the area putting everyone into complete darkness. A sinister and reptilian voice echoed through “Welcome Losssst Children”. When the lights returned, the party found themselves surrounded by Vrak, a Psuedodragon, and the Dragonborn/snakelike abomination Bejik himself, mounted atop one of his trained wardrakes. During the battle, Kratash managed to present Vrak with the two patents, and when Vrak read them she turned and glared at Bejik. Errik conjured a massive fireball that rolled across the debris ridden courtyard and toward the direction of Bejik. Bejik found himself impaled upon Vrak’s phantom sword and seared upon the fireball til destroyed. The Pseudodragon vanished and disappeared, and as the wardrak attempted to escape into the air, the playful wardrake from before crashed it’s way through the roof of the chamber and brought the fleeing drake down, snapping it’s neck between it’s teeth. As the playful drake bounded over to “papa” Kratash for celebratory licks, Vrak nodded at Bejik’s corpse and faded into the floor. Awakening their comrades and then returning to the surface, Kratash freed their last Dragonborn Cultist prisoner and gave him sound advice about his future. The Cultist asked for one of the ancient daggers the party had found, saying that selling it would help him start a new life. The party climbed back down the mountain, and returned to the village of Elkridge where they were thanked and given access to any of the town’s limited resources.

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Kratash and Burn

As they prepared for the long journey ahead of them, they were presented with suitable gear and magic items by Brother Lumar and the Church of Pelor to benefit them. Of these included horses for each member of the party, and a sword and shield that belonged to Brother Lumar’s grandfather. The group began mounting, but as they did Adia’s horse Fabio made an oddly human sound. “Ooof”. Adia’s temper quickly rose as Fabio remained quiet despite her demands for him to speak. She even resorted to threatening to brand the horse should he keep his silence but was dissuaded by Fabio’s cute, yet horse-like, affections. The party ventured south, and for many weeks nothing hindered them. But when they ventured away from the main road and toward the village of Elkridge they immediately noticed a few things amiss. Firstly the town’s homes seemed far too spread out to offer much defense against attacks, and secondly this theory was currently being tested by several winged drakes that were attacking the townsfolk. After rescuing a threatened family the party learned that the town was founded and once lead by a Warlord named Pholos. But when he died his tactical protection of the town died with him and these drake attacks began soon after. As the party discussed option with Mavros, the current leader of the town, a young boy ran to them crying about his father being slain and the creature still there. The party investigated only to find the boy’s father unconscious and the drake playing gently with him. Determining that the drake was somehow tame and playful, Kratash attempted to play with it and even mount the creature. The result left Kratash battered and bruised as the drake flopped away in pursuit of a butterfly. The other party members in the mean time came across the corpse of a Dragonborn who had fallen from a great height, and discovered a map of flight paths and a tabard to Zehir on his person. Following the map the party ascended a nearby mountain peak and found a large craterous valley where giant bits of rock and ruin floated above the ground. Kratash and Grendmir determined this was the remains of a Dragonborn floating city from long long ago. As the party moved towards a seemingly intact floating tower, they were stopped by a phantom Dragonborn who introduced herself as Vrak Tiburcaex. She politely requested that the party turn back and not risk being harmed. While she disapproved of the goals of her current master, Bejik, who is the last remaining heir to her bloodline, she had no choice but to follow his commands. Kratash attempted to lie to the observant Vrak, but eventually settled upon the truth. Vrak made a conscious choice to follow her master’s orders exactly as stated and determined that so long as Kratash wear the tabard of Vehir she would allow them to pass.

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