Feery's Leap

Session 74: The handoff

The party showed up right on time, and the Silver Serpent of the Ivory Tower welcomed them (and gave them a tour). He announced the function of each room, and presented to them the vampire (6) and mortal (3) survivors. Sender invited the surviving halfling minion to stay on with them in the keep. As for the two hobgoblins, he marked them with his arcane mark, told them that he’d be watching them, and sent them to Seth-Durrash in Feery’s Leap for training and reeducation.

When the tour was completed, the Silver Serpent led the party back into the foyer. He snapped his fingers to dismiss the sunshade in the courtyard (frying the vampires there). Then he called out in Draconic to Orovoël, guardian of the bridge to the Ivory Tower. A celestial (angel?) appeared in the teleport circle, saying, “As I am called, so I appear.” They clasped hands with the passive-faced celestial, and with a shimmer they disappeared.

Going through the keep afterward, the party found sunproof cloaks, masterwork shortbows, arrows (several poisons, acid), masterwork leather armor, bedding for 4 halflings and 6 goblinoids, summoned food, alchemical seasonings, several casks of sun-proof varnish, a wand of acid arrow with a hunter-seeker arcane embellishment, a drawer with some exceptional alchemical components, and the Silver Serpent’s notes.

The Silver Serpent’s personal notes take some time to decipher, but they talk about some ancient heretics who fled their rightful place in the Chain of Being (?) to fraternize with lesser races in the hinterlands. When their heresy was revealed, they went to war with the Empire, and were eventually defeated. This seems to have transpired shortly before the Empire’s precipitous decline. What is the link? Who were the heretics? What actually happened? This appears to have been his major line of research.

[The notes provide a +2 research bonus to Knowledge (history, ancient) on the subject of Oricha and the empire of the Dragon Kings. They may also give the characters a bonus to skill checks to figure out other puzzles yet to be discovered.]

In addition to the Oricha notes that were part of the agreement, there are some scrolls that bear transcriptions of Classic Orichalan texts, with several attached scrolls of commentary. The source documents are incredibly difficult to understand, and the commentaries speak at length about the possible or likely meanings of various passages. One of the pages appears to be nothing but numbers and abbreviations linked by strange symbols.

The alchemy lab had a short stack of extra-large sheets of parchment (2′×3′). Several sheets buried in the stack were full of extensive research notes for solutions that could (possibly) pinch space, smoke out teleport points, and induce powerful hallucinations of the ancient past.

Edane figured that some of these items may have been unintentionally left behind, and asked if either Aranethon or Gux would cast a sending to the Silver Serpent to let him know that they had these items.

The party then agreed to spend the winter tending to their respective affairs. Gux and Feordin traveled back to Feordin’s home town to bring lively stories, and stop briefly in Valon to make an appearance before Gux’s family. At both locations, Gux left an arcane mark to allow for easier return. Sefu led the conversion efforts at the keep, and oversaw construction of outbuildings and a well. Edane and Gâshek sailed around the Winedark Sea looking for settlement recruits and clues about her father, and Oervind joined them after some time laboring to enhance the keep/ settlement. Sender and Shegger Gork spent two months scouting the steppes, looking for places of interest near their new home. Aranethon spent the winter alternating between the Charm Tree and the keep, meditating on his past and recent discoveries. Seth-Durash whipped the hobgoblins into shape. After an unpleasant altercation, Seth-Durash, his child, and the hobgoblins relocated to the keep.

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Session 73: Raising the roof

The party threw open the door, and faced a mixed group of halflings, hobgoblins, and lavender-skinned humans. Most of these, it turned out, were vampires. Creative combat skills made short work of most of the combatants, until the halfling in charge (and his beautiful bauble of elemental power) retreated into the next room and a wall of force sealed him away from harm.

The wall of force was courtesy of another lavender human, a scholar whose paraphernalia suggested an alchemical bent. He addressed the party in Elven, asking to parley. Edane and Feordin took the bait.

The man identified himself as the Silver Serpent of the Ivory Tower. He and his colleague the Jade Raven (the spelly-rogue halfling) had traveled to the steppes at the request of their unspecified patron, a powerful figure who consorts with liches, dragons, and elemental princes. Their patron had a rubbing from an ancient Orichalan stela, and consulting with the Grand Vizier of Orgolash led him to search the Steppes for clues to the rest of the stelae.

The Silver Serpent showed them (from behind the wall) a rubbing from the stela, which Edane read aloud to the party. Her ability to read the stela impressed him, and eased the parley considerably.

The Silver Serpent agreed that he and the Jade Raven would leave the keep to the party, making the hand-off in 48 hours. They would hand over their servants (vampires and mortals) for the party to address as they see fit. They would also leave their servants’ goods, their rubbing of the stela, and some scrolls on Orichalan history. They would not return or interfere for three hundred years – if they sought to return for some reason, they would contact Edane, Feordin, or the current inhabitants to obtain prior consent.

In exchange for this, they received Edane’s transcript of the party’s stela and the freedom to leave with their lives and personal effects.

Both parties swore an oath of non-retribution: neither to attack the other party nor to bring the other party indirect harm through action or inaction. They agreed to meet again in 48 hours (just before noon) to enact the hand-off.

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Session 72: House Hunters, Steppes Edition!

After a two week hiatus, most of the party gathered in Orgolash, and teleported back to the Feery’s Leap access point. Their friends in Feery’s Leap gave them a list of potential sites, and they set off to pick up Aranethon and go on a tour of the sites.

  1. Norikhan is a now-abandoned nomadic settlement on a fork of the Dustwash River. The water is good for rafting and small boats, but too shallow for the Eyetalon. While it is 60 miles from the nearest teleport access point, it’s the nearest option to Feery’s Leap. It is good for habitation, but not their ideal choice.
  2. Sihan’s Fall is a shrine a bit downriver from Norikhan. About a dozen faithful are left to maintain the site, which features a crumbling wizard’s tower and sparse but active defenses. They have regular contact with Feery’s Leap, and have a partial teleport access point (requiring a caster level check). It is three miles from the river.
  3. “Leaping Fish” is a site on the Glinting River (tributary to the Dustwash). It is on navigable water, and features a good building site with teleport access. Its nearest neighbor is Sihan’s Fall.
  4. “Lakeside” is a host of potential sites on the Lake of Tears, where the Dustwash river goes to die. The lake is a little marshy, but not as salty as the sea. There isn’t much fishing at any point on the lake, but there are some game in the area, and some serviceable building sites with navigable water. The Lake of Tears has not been adequately explored; there may be teleport access, or other points of interest.
  5. A mysterious stone keep sprang up in less than a month on a riverside hill just downstream from Sihan’s Fall. A matching bridge was built to span the river. The residents warn and shoot all passers-by. They even shoot birds.

The last option caught the party’s attention the most. Considering how recent events have effectively depopulated the Steppes, it’s reasonable to be suspicious of any unannounced arrivals who can apparently whip a stone fortress out of thin air.

After napping with Aranethon under the Charm Tree (always a restful sleep, and a source of interesting dreams), the party followed the river to Norikhan, then continued riding until the river was deep enough to take the Eyetalon. They overnighted with the kind folks at Sihan’s Fall, where Edane plied them for information about the new keep. They underscored what little had already been gathered: two months ago there was nothing there, one month ago there was a paranoid keep.

The party set sail for the keep in the morning. As they spotted it on the horizon, they loaded Feordin up with protection and invisibility. He assumed crow form, and flew to check out the keep. It was of unfamiliar construction, but apparently local materials. It was octagonal, with octagonal towers on each corner. It had a central (octagonal) courtyard, and was lined with glass windows and arrow slits.

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After Feordin had flown by a few towers, an arrow shot out past him. Someone inside could detect invisibility – and apparently invisible visitors were even less welcome than visible ones.

The arrow shot, warning shot or not, sparked the party to launch a full-scale invasion. The defenders put up a sunshade over the entire building, and Feordin saw perhaps a dozen occupants gearing up before they drew a curtain over his window. The party started casting fly and other useful spells, and Edane took the boat closer (through arrow fire) until they were close enough for Aranethon to put up a wind wall beside the keep. That allowed them to get closer, as one by one they flew off the ship. When everyone else was off, Edane threw the ship in her pocket and flew to join her friends.

As he flew toward the keep, Aranethon found a good sight line for casting blistering radiance in the keep’s courtyard. The inner walls somewhat contained the dazzling blast, but Feordin and the rapidly-approaching Sender could clearly hear the shouts of alarm that ensued.

Sender did some scrying on his approach, to determine a viable dimension door location under one of the tower doors that Feordin had spotted. Once he’d done a little analysis, Sender popped into the tower stairwell, to surprise the halfling archer there. Gâshek followed to provide support, and to open the door while Sender took care of the archer. Within moments, the party was on top of the tower or in the stairwell, with the archer disabled by fits of magical laughter. Gâshek held the door as other guards gathered beyond, and the party readied to throw open the door and engage their “hosts…”

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Session 71: Changing Course

After defeating the ruin’s occupants, the party gathered their mounts and took shelter inside while they explored the ruin, most of which was blocked by a collapsed passage. After wracking their brains on possible ways to bypass the cave-in, the party opted for a less direct route.

Gux focused on identifying the potions, arrows, and other enchanted loot, while Sender and Gâshek (after some quibbling) collaborated to explore past the cave-in via successive castings of clairvoyance. It was slow going, with many castings required, since they had no good way to get light across the cave-in, forcing them to rely on the spell’s 10’ darkvision.

Immediately past the cave-in, their scrying revealed a pile of bones, debris, and possibly armor, in a small room. A hole in the floor, possibly once containing a ladder or stairway, led down to a larger room, with a rubble-strewn but moderately passable winding passageway. The passageway eventually led to a large room with a hooded altar (shrouded in darkness) and more than a dozen statues in several rows marching the length of the room. Debris in front of the altar is reminiscent of offerings.

A hall leading from that room goes past some caved-in rooms, and ends in a room partially shrouded in darkness. The visible portion of the room contains some arms and armor, a desk, and debris on the desk. The scale and articles in the room imply that it was a personal chamber.

The party discussed these findings, and decided to collect Manudhar to hallow as much of the premises as he can, and get Aranethon’s help to that end. They should be able to make at least the upper level into something sacred and well defensible. Once they’re done, Manudhar can meditate there and fight off any hostiles for a while. He is willing to hold this ground for a month.

At the party’s urging, Sefu persuaded its Elders and the Elders of the local enclave to intervene at the Shadowstitch encampment. The local enclave refused to intervene, but allowed the Irrelach enclave to remove the inhabitants for processing. This cleared the way for the local druids to clean up the site.

Flush with accomplishment, the group teleported all interested members to the Tarsh capitol of Orgolash. There Sender and Gux conducted magical research while Feordin caroused and exchanged gossip. Shegger Gork and Sefu explored the Tarsh capital, and Edane and Gâshek teleported to Tula to visit Edane’s mum. The group agreed to meet up in two weeks, after which they’d scout for prospective sites for a keep – a defensible position along a river (preferably in the Steppes), with enough workable land to allow a little farming, and teleport access. Aranethon took some time off for reflection. He handed Gux a short list of scrolls to find in Tarsh, and set off to sleep under the branches of the Charm Tree.

Once they have a chance to review prospective sites, they can get down to the business of setting up their new home base. And hopefully they can get that done before any pressing business draws them away…

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Session 70: Stalking The Elemental

Invisible and aflight, Gux and Sender followed the hallway until it emptied into a room aglow with freshly-cast spells. Upon their entrance, two troll skeletons emerged from invisibility, one casting spells (a bard and a wizard or sorcerer). Somebody, apparently, could see invisible foes. Gux and Sender both took a little damage as they tossed some good area-effect spells while their companions filed in. As one figure after another became visible, they eventually counted three troll skeletons, a wight, a troll, a goblin cleric, a powerful zombie with a prehensile tongue, and the elemental with a few more cockatrices.

The zombie briefly paralyzed Edane with its tongue before the tide of battle turned. Sender felled a skeleton, Feordin beheaded the troll. A few blasts and explosions later, the second skeleton clattered to the floor, releasing a malevolent ghost. Gux cast dismissal on the ghost, forcing it away for a while. The other skeleton was the last to fall, releasing another ghost who said in Tarshakan, “This is not over yet” before disappearing.

After that, silence hung in the air like smoke. The party noticed the furniture in the room. Crude though it was, some of it survived the battle’s various castings of fireball, cone of cold, and flamestrike.

Bedding and assorted clothing (enough for several people) hid a few coins and knives, nothing special. A decent carving knife and fragments of whittled wood suggested that someone spent a fair amount of time here. A small chest of herbs and spices had some salvageable contents, good for a goblin’s discerning palate. A larger chest, which apparently doubled as a writing desk, survived largely unscathed. A few legible shreds of documents survived the combat, with goblinic text written with the Dwarven alphabet popular in Tarsh. One of the larger fragments included the name “Fa-Sarun,” with a suffix denoting great respect.

The large chest, once opened, revealed ceremonial leather garments, a funeral shroud that carried a whiff of transmutation magic, some curative (3) and protective (2) potions, and some bane arrows smudged with grease paint(6 brown, 5 green, 6 yellow, 3 blue, 12 red). The goblin cleric’s body yielded a masterwork breastplate and shield, a +1 mace, a large pair of scissors marked by transmutation magic, and more curative potions (2).

A cave-in in the back of the room looked too serious too extensive to dig out, though extensive time and magic might prove otherwise. Another hallway leading from the ankheg-cage room leads to a similarly collapsed passage, which could be part of the same hallway.

Below is a picture of the space you’re exploring. Perhaps it will prompt more questions.
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Session 69: Shrinking, Scouting, Stoning

Oervind arrived, and the party spent a day burying or burning bodies, scribing spells, and scouting. Then Oervind cast shrink item on the construct, and Manudhar took him back to the tomb of the White Jackal. The rest of the party followed the army’s tracks several miles, to a clearing beside a rocky promontory.

More detailed scouting (invisible and flying) revealed a spot with recent magical activity, around a zone with suspiciously muffled energy. That led Sender to nearly stumble upon a goblin standing lookout in the stones. The party surrounded the goblin and broke invisibility. Chaos ensued as a dozen goblins screamed and bolted from various hiding places in the rocks, leaving only the unlucky scout to interrogate. He confirmed the party’s suspicion that the army had been gathered here from several points, courtesy of several bands of goblins (and one non-goblin band). The secretive cult that lived inside the hill was behind it all, he swore, but anyone else who went inside never came out alive. Studying the “non-magical” spot where the goblin said the door was, Edane found a visual flaw and pierced the illusion, passing her hand through apparently solid stone. The party told him to leave on pain of death, never to return, and let him run.

When Edane stepped through the illusory stone, she was attacked by what turned out to be a potent wight, drawn by the goblins’ screams. After the party fought it off, they found a room with a subterranean giant insect (an ankheg) and some eggs in a cage formed from interlocking animated troll skeletons. Strange, but not an immediate threat. It corroborated some divination that Sender had done while scouting the area.

Searching down an adjacent corridor, the party was startled by an earth elemental poking out of the wall with several cockatrices in its hand. It tossed the chickens and slipped back into the wall. Chaos ensued. A well-placed wind wall kept the birds’ petrifying bite at a safe distance, but not in time to save Shegger Gork. After the party disposed of the fowl, Aranethon begged his yet-unidentified patron’s lenience to exchange one of his known spells for break enchantment, to free Shegger from petrifaction. Fate (or his god) smiled upon him, and he freed his goblin friend from stony silence.

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Session 68: Sorting and Summoning

While the druids began working Hem Dokka-Qar’s hand into something to assuage his rage and humiliation, the party gathered to examine the inert golem and discuss their options.

The construct, eight feet tall and weighing at least a ton, promised to be difficult to move. Without an animating force, the limbs refuse to budge. A shrink item spell would be the perfect solution, but nobody thought to scribe it from Oervind’s spellbook. Aranethon used a sending to explain the situation to Oervind, and request his presence at the teleport point near Tirnoch-Avoleth’s shrine. Gux and Feordin went to meet him and escort him back to the site of the battle.

While they waited for Oervind, Shegger, Gâshek, and Sender followed the trail of the general’s army, which led to a rocky outcropping in the hills a few miles away. There were no obvious signs of defenses, but many natural bolt-holes and blinds.

While the scouts and escorts were away, Aranethon, Sefu, and Edane made a detailed inspection of the construct. They found several items on its “person,” mostly in concealed compartments.

  • Divine scrolls of slay living, deathwatch, cause critical wounds, poison (all of which they promptly destroyed), protection from energy, prayer, and entropic shield (all of which Anatheron took)
  • Assorted bones: bags of teeth sorted by race and type of tooth, jawbones, bones of the inner ear, bone dust, tailbones, and copious amounts of bones from hands and fingers (of which some are carved with characters in Old Draconic)
  • Skin and tissue: dried genitals, ears, preserved nose cartilege, and a magically perserving bag full of eyeballs
  • Gems (470gp; Edane took to appraise and sort)
  • Sheets of partially cured skin (including human child or gnome or halfling), suitable for making notes. Some of these sheets have drawings and doodles, which include a crude image that could be a dragon, a horse, or a map.

The inspection team agreed to hold most of these items for the rest of the party and the druids to review.

They also examined the construct itself at length. It appeared to be constructed mostly of crystal-crusted metal, with a degree of craftsmanship that would make the finest dwarven smiths blush. It bore no inscriptions, and little sign of wear. Mundane weapons were strapped to its form, and some gore and war paint crusted its surface, but the construct seemed to have suffered no significant damage since the party saw it in the spring.

One more item caught their attention, hidden away in a particularly well-concealed compartment. Blood-spattered black silk cradled a complex “doily” of hinged mithral sheets. Each diamond-shaped sheet bore a single character in an ancient language (a classical dialect of Kelnoran). The moment Aranethon touched the object, he felt that it had once been his. Comprehend languages allowed him to read the text. Uttering the first few syllables, he remembered the rest of the text, a prayer of illumination and wisdom. He had forgotten how to read the characters, but the spoken words and their meaning remained fresh and vivid even without the translation magic. The object had an obvious good-aligned divine aura, barely contained by the containment silk. As he handled the paper-thin structure, Aranethon almost accidentally folded it into a sphere, a 30-sided mithral orb covered in prayers.

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Session 67: Saving a God and Surviving to Tell the Tale

Bracing for the coming storm

Druidic magic stilled the restive autumn sky, driving away the clouds and stilling wayward breezes. In the dry, still air, the tang of powerful magic hung in the air like a grudge, thick and poisonous.

The party gathered to discuss strategy, and began casting their best fortification and protection spells. Sefu persuaded the druids to enter into its mental link, and they conferred with the druids to coordinate strategy. Invisible and shielded, Sefu flew far above the battlefield, both to coordinate forces and to stay out of danger as much as possible. Invisibility, flight, and protection from evil were passed around liberally.

Gux watched the flow of energies from the gathering ritual, looking for a weak point. On his word, the Windless Ring launched a salvo of spells and arrows at the ritualists, while the druids assaulted the earthenworks, covering it with brambles and miring it in muck. As several of the ritualists sunk into the mire, they turned the soil solid again, binding their feet.

While the druids worked more quietly and indirectly, the party made great show of its sudden presence, in hopes of luring out the hiding forces on the bluff. They heard a barked command from the hills, followed by a hail of arrows that filled the air with the drone of an enraged hornet’s nest. One shot grazed Edane’s thigh, and another hit Feordin’s hand. Even Sefu, far above the fray, was caught in the flurry of arrows. Still, their defenses held.

Another shout from the bluff sent shadows shuffling down the hills. Anatheron shielded the party in a warm swath of daylight, and Manudhar moved to the edge of the glow to take the battle to the shadows. The sound of rushing, slavering footsoldiers surged from the top of the bluff, and Sender, Gux, and Sefu could all see scores of ghouls, ghasts, and other cadaverous forms tumbling over the archers to run down the hills.

In the span of seconds, a smudge of darkness coalesced above the ritualists, spreading clouds that quickly filled the visible sky. Winds wipped up leaves and dirt, even as the druids summoned a treant and several massive earth elementals to disrupt the ritualists. Feordin heard the tinny sound of a spectral voice intoning a bardic chant from within the ritual circle, so Gux and Edane leveled their best transdimensional attacks into the circle. Sender, meanwhile, dropped a defenestrating sphere in the midst of the circle, where the ritualists were sacrificing the fresh-slain bodies of Hem Dokka-Qar’s priests in a mockery of his core veneration rite. The magic of the sphere tossed the bodies into the air, much to the horror of the ritualists. They continued their chant, but the full force of their rite could no longer be brought to bear.

Rain lashed down from the heavens, coarse with the sting of sleet. Another shout from the bluff brought another hail of arrows. At druid’s beckon, giant centipedes and worms surged from the ground, and lightning lanced from the heavens to strike the ritual circle. While the druids focused on the ritualists, the party turned its attention to the forces in the bluff. While the wizards tossed fire and ice into the hills, Edane flew out to see who was issuing orders.

Stormbreach

The sky tore open with a mighty thunderclap, and a lion’s claws slipped through the breach. Hem Dokka-Qar, Hunter of the Heavens, burst forth in rage and fury. Twenty feet tall, his centaur form blended the mighty torso of a bugbear with a lion’s forepaws and a gazelle’s aft. Seven-foot-long gazelle horns crowned his head, wreathed with a lion’s regal mane. He roared a curse upon the ritualists, and grabbed bolts of lightning with both hands to throw at them. Where the bolts fell, the wet ground exploded in steam and mud.

As soon as he appeared, most of the ritualists turned to focus their attention on him, leveling new weapons and making cutting attacks at the god. Perhaps bolstered by the completed portions of their ritual, their salvos struck true, and spatters of the god’s blood sluiced across the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the Windless Ring systematically focused area attacks on sections of the bluff, decimating the archers one company at a time. Edane found the one issuing orders, a particularly tough-looking troll. She also observed that trolls appeared to lead the archers as a whole – an uncanny development for such a typically savage lot.

Manudhar ran into the shadows and destroyed many of them with his god’s righteous fury. Then he ran up the hill, inciting dozens of undead footsoldiers to pile onto him. Again, a blast of glory turned them to ash. Anatheron cast more light on the scene, highlighting the ritualists and many of the bluffside combatants. Shegger Gork and Feordin joined Edane on the bluff, looking for trolls to slaughter. Sender, Gux, and Gâshek rained deadly area spells from above, while they and Sefu scrambled to move out of the way of the god’s wrath.

One druid, closing in to attack a ritualist, felt the full blast of one of Hem Dokka-Qar’s lightning bolts. The left side of her body exploded in a shower of gore, and her tattered remains slumped to the sodden earth. Sefu’s preparations sprung into effect, catching the fleeting soul and restoring the druid to life the moment after her breath had left her body. At the same moment Shegger beheaded the troll that had been issuing orders. Other trolls remained to direct their soldiers, but the tide seemed to have turned.

One of the ritualists threw a gleaming ring at the god, and it sliced off his black-clawed hand. The man-sized hunk of steaming, twitching flesh fell to the earth with a crash. Arcs of electricity flickered and popped all around it for several seconds as it flexed and groped, then fell still.

Sender noticed a silent figure gesturing commands from the bluff: a massive armored man, eight feet of imposing blackened metal. Gux moved in for a closer look, and recognized the golem-like figure they had found in the White Jackal’s tomb – which had disappeared from the tomb shortly after their initial discovery.

As they continued to clear out the bluff combatants, Gux and Gâshek saw a ghost carrying (or guiding) a spark of energy. It looked much like the spark that Sender had found. The ghost appeared to be pushing the spark from the battle site toward the golem/ general. Gux disrupted the ghost with a transdimensional spell, and left Edane to try to catch the slippery spark.

The bluff dissolved into chaos as a landslide liquefied a quarter of the hillside. The remaining troll lieutenants retreated around their general, who appeared to be casting a spell. Gux recognized it as planeshift, leaving him just enough time to make a few quick calculations and throw off a single spell before they slipped away, but which? He remembered that the “golem” didn’t have the right kind of construction for a normal animating presence, nor would it fit a summoned elemental the likes of which could propel the Eyetalon. But maybe a ghost – a deceased soul projecting into the material plane from the Shadowlands… he cast dismissal.

The general and his troll lieutenants were already phasing out of the material plane, but the dismissal struck true, and the golem-body slumped inert even as the trolls and their otherworldly leader slipped into the planar mists.

When the party stopped to survey the damage, they found the druids in tatters, another of their number having fallen to circumstances that Sefu’s powers could not remedy. Hem Dokka-Qar had suffered great damage, almost destroying his strongest avatar. But when a druid’s tornado carried away the last of the ritualists, the god clawed his way into the Shadowlands to pursue them there. The druid hierophant said, “let us be quick and quit this place; the Hunter of the Heavens is a churlish god, and not one to suffer embarrassment lightly. He will likely hunt us all now, for we have seen him in a moment of weakness. Do not expect him to be grateful.”

Shegger Gork sniffed and scratched at a spot on his arm where the god’s blood had struck him. Tawny hair grew from the spot. “Bet he can track us now, too. Blood calls to blood.”

The hierophant nodded, “But perhaps we can do something with his hand, and the remains of his followers here. One of us, and some allies, will stay here to make an offering to him. Hopefully he will return to the scene, see the gesture, and decide that some of us need not die to soothe his shame.”

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Session 66: Deathspeaking and Kidnapping

After making off with the dead Oracle and his erstwhile protégé, the party retreated to their campsite near the teleport point. They salvaged the Oracle’s sword, breastplate, cloak, and journal. With some effort, Gux and Edane managed to transcribe the Oracle’s quasi-literate chicken scratching into legible text, and translate it (into Durju written in Draconic). They gave this information to Aranethon, and helped him formulate questions to ask the corpse via speak with dead.

(the oracle’s sword)
Keen falchion

In the journal, the Oracle wrote erratically and irregularly about how his “dark lord” chose him for the privilege of joyous service. The previous oracle broke the shackles of his bondage, and freed him from fear, anger, and doubt. The lord only asks that each Oracle identify and “unshackle” children who have the potential to serve.

The journal also talked about Deathspeakers, the ghosts that come to use the “shadowbound circle” in the middle of the settlement. They work with his master, though the journal was unclear about the nature of their relationship. The Deathspeakers would often “meet” the Oracle in dreams to conduct their business. The Oracle and the Deathspeakers would actually find deceased souls on occasion, and bring them into the circle to speak, but at least as often they would use magic and detective work to simulate contact with a spirit that was unavailable or uncooperative. The Deathspeakers are part of some kind of group or society, but the Oracle has only ever seen four of them – and usually only the same two.

Speak with dead

Aranethon cast speak with dead upon the corpse. After ten minutes of chanting, incense, and tracing patterns in magical light, the spell took hold. The body lurched as it flexed and took a deep, groaning inhale. It gurgled, choked, and wheezed. Its eyelids fluttered open, and bleary, unfocused eyes darted around in dry, bloodless sockets. “What?” it groaned, “Where am I? Who… Edane…” Then its eyes fixed on Aranethon’s holy symbol, and the corpse fell silent.

“Answer my questions and return to rest,” Aranethon said. “How does your dark lord gain power from your people?”

The corpse’s mouth opened in a leering, mad grin. “My glorious lord!” it cried, “It does not need us. Its potency stems from the eldest of days, yes. Oh, yes! It loves us, it flenses away our frailties to make us strong. The Deathspeakers may need followers, but my lord is beyond such petty concerns. Pity you, pity them, so weak and fearful!”

Aranethon continued, undeterred. “And what are the Deathspeakers’ motivations behind working with your lord?”

The corpse gestured as if to spit. “Philistines!” it sneered, “They serve because it suits their ambitions. They do my lord’s bidding, know they or not.”

“Why was a pegasus watching over your settlement?”

The oracle’s corpse let out a rasping chuckle. “Heh. A good find! Clever Deathspeakers. A tireless flying scout. Strong as a horse, swift as an owl, sharp as a hawk, steady as a hound.”

Mustering the last of his spell’s power, Aranethon asked, “What were the armored general’s intentions in training the people of the camp?”

“He is wrath, he is the devouring swarm,” the corpse sputtered, especially manic, “He is the keen of the coming storm. He marshals every mote of power to pursue an old oath. My bleak lord allows him this, for now – for now. But soon…” the body suddenly sighed and went slack. The glow of power dissipated, and the faint iron tang of blood cut through the incense.

Manudhar cast gentle repose on the corpse, and they wrapped it and gave it to Gux to teleport to Feery’s Leap for further review. Someone else could inspect the body or query it with magic, or wait a week to compel the flesh again to parley.

A howl in the distance

After Gux’s return the next morning, the party heard a wolf howling in the distance. Shegger Gork recognized this as a secret druidic message. Though his understanding of the druids’ mysteries was incomplete, he recognized the message as a warning and a call to other druids: “Come if you are strong, stay away if you are weak. Near this sender, at [geographic feature], the holy balance is threatened!”

To sate their curiosity and possibly enlist the local druids in their quest to raze Shadowswitch, the party broke camp and rode east to follow the wolf’s howl. A few miles along, they heard a hawk cry, which Shegger Gork recognized as an equivalent message. And a few miles farther, a murder of crows screeching, and then an elk bellowing. The elk’s message led them to the clearing beneath a bluff. In this clearing an old earthwork circle stood, with shadowy figures gathered in a circle. A hawk overhead cried a druidic announcement, and began explaining the situation to Shegger.

An undead mastermind has gathered an army of followers, and has captured some priests of Hem-Dokka-Qar (the Hunter of the Heavens, a weather god worshiped by goblinoids and primitives in the steppes). The followers seem to be sacrificing the priests as if they were an offering to Hem-Dokka-Qar, and charging this offering with enough magic to really catch the god’s attention – and fury. In addition to the circle of mummies, ghosts, and their servants enacting the ritual, a small army lurks on the bluff. Their leader was seen among them, though not in the last hour.

The druids don’t have the firepower to stop this. If the circle completes their rite, the wrathful god will presumably descend upon them. If they have some means of defeating the god, they will unleash (and possibly harvest) a large amount of power. If they fail to defeat the god, then he will probably rampage and ravage the land until his rage is slaked. That could take days, at best.

Thus the call to druids far and wide. Once the characters arrived, the druids figured there was about an hour left (maybe two) before the ritual was complete. That should give the party some time to strategize…

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Session 65: Confronting the Oracle

The party gathered near the Oracle’s hut. Gux, Feordin, Sender (and dog), Shegger (and badger), and Gâshek were all invisible and flying. Edane knocked on the ramshackle wooden door, a man’s voice spoke up from inside, and she eventually enticed him to open the door.

The man, the Oracle, was naked from the waist down. He was surrounded by naked human youths, ages varying between four and fourteen. The fourteen-year-old, a girl, was visibly pregnant. A small child was bound to beams on the wall, hooded and gagged, with strange symbols scratched or painted all over his bruised body.

The Oracle and his charges claimed that Edane was trespassing, and had to leave. The child, they insisted, was their newest initiate. They were just breaking the shackles that bound his soul to misery.

Edane refused to leave, and stepped into the hut. Chaos ensued. Some of the children tried to grapple her, and the pregnant girl tried to shield the Oracle as the half-elf and her (visible) friends moved in. Shegger and Feordin concentrated on any guards and residents that might notice, while the others clamored to enter the hut or get good sight lines. Sefu slipped inside and dimension swapped with Gâshek, who then used his own power to blink back outside with the child in tow.

The party managed to subdue the children and slay the Oracle (and a bystander and two guards). They then grabbed the child and Oracle-corpse, and flew away to their awaiting horses.

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