Redemption War

Return to Fort Deeprun
The Iron Alliance makes its move against the Shadow Council

Having escaped the collapse of Elderburg, the members of the Treldor Historic Society dust themselves off (as best as possible), recover their horses, and make their way to collect the supply cache; en route, they discuss where to go next. They agree that they need to catch up on what’s been happening in the rest of the kingdom, and since Lady Yeselda of Fort Deeprun was the one who had informed them of the Iron Alliance’s intent to acquire the artifact now discovered to be the Key, she should be informed. And so, the decision is made to return to Fort Deeprun.

Along the way, thoughts turn to hot baths, soft beds, and other comforts of civilization, and spirits lift. However, a damper is placed on them when the party crests the last rise before Fort Deeprun and catches sight of the town. Outside the walls is a large encampment, and as the party stops and observes, they see it does not appear military; rather, it is a collection of travelers, traders, entertainers, and the like, waiting to be let into the town. Disconcertingly, the Efferveld banner is not flying over the keep, nor is any other. While the others set up camp in the forest south-west of town, Kalissa, Paxton, and Bud (in the guise of a mastiff) check out the camp and the gates. It emerges the Iron Alliance has occupied Fort Deeprun and locked it down. The gates are open only two hours a day, only one party is allowed in at a time, and while Deeprun guards man the gates, all visitors are searched by Iron Alliance troops once they are inside. Kalissa tries to glean some information from a guardsman at the gate, but he does not appear to know much, and turns decidedly pale at the mention of Lord and Lady Efferveld.

The trio rejoins the rest, and they move camp to the north-western side of town, near the river. In the course of the next day, Bud uses his druidic abilities to gather intelligence, some by listening in on the few fishermen allowed out on the river by day (under the eye of Iron Alliance troops), some by sending befriended rats into town and the keep. As best as can be gathered, the Deeprun guards perform their regular duties patrolling the streets and manning the walls and gates, but the Iron Alliance has taken exclusive possession of the keep, and is holding Lord Julius and Lady Yeselda in the dungeons under heavy guard. Suspecting the Alliance may attempt to transport the nobles elsewhere, the Society moves camp yet again, this time covering the road and the river east of town, as these are the routes by which the Alliance would most likely attempt to do so.

While maintaining surveillance on the road, the lookouts observe a long wagon traveling east, filled with what appear to be halflings and gnomes; Lessers. Fearing it may be a prisoner transport, the party mounts up, pursues, and soon intercepts the wagon. The occupants, it turns out, are all the Lessers who used to work for the Effervelds in the keep, but have been ejected by the Iron Alliance, and are on their way to Stormhaven, hoping to find refuge in the city which, they have heard, has become more resistant to the Alliance and more welcoming of Lessers in the wake of the Treldor Historic Society’s efforts. When the party advises them to get in touch with Ingo Furtoes once they get there, there are gasps and it emerges that Ingo’s name is already known to the refugees, and they want to know how the party knows him. When the party replies that Ingo used to be their butler/housekeeper, the refugees conclude that the party must therefore be the Treldor Historic Society. From this point, the refugees prove a very useful source of information: under the guise of a diplomatic delegation, a group of Iron Alliance personnel gained access to Fort Deeprun, only to let in an occupation force. The Lessers estimate there are 250-300 Iron Alliance troops, easily outnumbering the full-time guard (who number 80-100) and even if they would not outnumber a full mobilization of military-age males in town, they could nip any attempt to do so in well before it could be completed. Kalissa, being a noble, knows that even the Iron Alliance will not try and punish nobles, as this would form an infringement on the king’s prerogative. Almost certainly, the Alliance has requested the king to send a representative to sit in judgement on the Effervelds, and only when that representative arrives will the trial begin.

The refugees continue on their way to Stormhaven, and the party returns to their camp to confer. Everybody agrees that it’s too risky to rely on the Effervelds being acquitted and that they should therefore be broken free, but there seem to be precious few viable options for doing so. Given the numbers of Iron Alliance troops, a direct assault is clearly out, even if the Deeprun guards could be enlisted. Similarly, infiltrating by stealth seems too risky, again, even if the Deeprun guards or other loyalists in town could be enlisted to create a diversion. While the plotting is being conducted, one idea that comes up is to draw away at least some Alliance troops, and a fake message, supposedly intended for Lady Yeselda, is crafted and delivered by a bird (recruited by Bud) to the effect that the party is outside Elderburg with “the item” and representatives of “local tribes” willing to form an alliance with Fort Deeprun, but that the tribesmen want to meet with a direct representative of the Effervelds, and Her Ladyship please send one. Not long after the message is delivered to the keep, the town gates open and what appear to be a hundred-odd Alliance troops ride out, heading in the direction of Elderburg. The consensus is that they should be gone for three or four days, but with 150-200 Iron Alliance troops remaining in the town, a raid, even by stealth, still seems too risky.

Ultimately, Paxton proposes breaking the clay token given him by the mystery woman from Morgom’s Crossing. Aetadius and Kasglan have misgivings about calling in so potentially powerful a marker for a not-quite-critical situation like this, but concede that since nobody, themselves included, can come up with an alternative plan with so much as an even chance of success, they will go along with Paxton’s idea. Because various members of the party don’t fully trust “Sister,” the Key is given to Bud, who assumes wolf form and hides in the undergrowth 35 yards away (just close enough that Paxton can communicate with a Message cantrip). After some to and fro-ing on relative positioning, Paxton breaks the token.

A large bubble of magic forms around the group, bathing the volume within in purplish light, and while the landscape and the items in it do not move or disappear, their appearance becomes more somber: the landscape looks more barren, the trees are dead, the sky is dark and sunless. Before the group appears a figure, not “Sister” but (one manifesting as) a male with a very similar taste in clothing to hers. He asks, in so many words, what the party wants, and Kalissa explains that the party needs the Effervelds freed. “Brother” (for ease of reference) does not understand why this is important, and attempts to explain it to him unveil that those he represents do not take much of an interest in human(oid) affairs except as it pertains to the activities of “the evil we work against” (presumably Mother and the Sisters, but either way, an evil the party is “not yet ready to confront”), and it takes him a few moments to recognize the Alliance as “one of its tools.” Accordingly, he appears skeptical that springing Lady Yeselda is a sufficiently important use of his faction’s service, and seeks assurance that, in so many words, the party really wants to use their marker for this. “Brother” agrees to extract Lady Yeselda from the dungeons (she materializes in a disoriented state next to Bud’s hiding place) but not Lord Julius because “he is not important.” With that, the magic bubble and “Brother” disappear, and the party finds itself back in the woods by the Fort Deeprun road, soon joined by Bud and Lady Yeselda.

They are irked by the fact that “Brother” didn’t just spring Lord Julius while he was at it, but decide that the first priority is to help Lady Yeselda get to safety. She expresses a desire to go to Stormhaven as well (this apparently being the safest place in the Five KIngdoms for enemies of the Iron Alliance at present) so the party decides the most expedient way to achieve this is to unite her with the wagon of refugee “Lessers.” On horseback, they catch up in about a day, and the wagon’s occupants are duly amazed that the Society liberated Her Ladyship with minimal time and effort expended (little do they know). With Lord Julius still incarcerated in Fort Deeprun and little hope of extracting him, the party (with Lady Yeselda’s counsel) decide that the best they can do is hope to intercept the king’s representative and convince him that the Iron Alliance’s charges against the count are bogus.

A few candlemarks later, they come to the ferry across the Deeprun river. The ferry is on the far bank, and among the passengers waiting to board is a group of at least a dozen soldiers flying the royal banner. After some deliberation, it is agreed that Kasglan will cast Water Walk on the entire party (and Lady Yeselda) but that Kalissa will cross the river by herself and attempt to parley with the envoy (while Paxton maintains communication with repeated use of the Message cantrip); the rest of the party will hold back on the south bank, capable of crossing the river and intervening if Kalissa signals (by raising her hood) that she needs their help.

Kalissa’s arrival certainly attracts attention from the royal party, and upon reaching the north bank, she is met by a few soldiers led by a knight, as well as a white-robed mage. Even though the latter is evidently in the employ of the royal court, he wears the sigil of the Arcanum on his robes. Kalissa politely requests an audience with His Majesty’s envoy, and while the knight goes to relay her request, the mage attempts to quiz her about how she managed to walk across the Deeprun (correctly deducing that a cleric enabled her to do so). Ere long, the knight returns in the company of a young man of royal station, who turns out to be Prince Wilhelm, the king’s younger son, and invites Kalissa to chat over drinks in his tent. Kalissa plies the prince with brandy she recovered from Elderburg (which the mage tastes to check for poison) and then manges to get him to dismiss the mage; then, she presents the case as best she can that the Iron Alliance is attempting a naked power grab of Fort Deeprun and that the charges against Lord Julius are manufactured solely as an excuse to remove him from the picture. His Highness, unfortunately, appears decidedly uninterested, seems to already have made up his mind that Lord Julius is indeed a traitor, and is looking forward to watching him hang. Via the Message cantrip, Kalissa communicates this to the rest of the party, whereupon Kasglan cuts the guide cable across the river, leaving the ferry stranded on the north bank until someone can repair the cable.

When the prince adds that he hopes to get this over so he can go and look for something more exciting to do, however, Kalissa has a flash of inspiration. She reminds His Highness that Elderburg is only a few days’ travel from Fort Deeprun, and regales him with tales of her very recent visit to that ruined city, and before long, the prince is practically salivating at the adventure he could have there. “After all, Efferveld’s safely locked up, so what’s the hurry in getting to Fort Deeprun?” he says, and concludes the audience. Kalissa takes her leave, stating she must get back to Stormhaven, more for the benefit of any listeners than for that of the prince, who has already lost interest in her. She walks a short distance east along the road, away from the ferry, before cutting south and making it across the river in the nick of time. In doing so, she manages to evade the prince’s mage.

The party escorts Lady Yeselda and her retinue along the south bank of the Deeprun. Off-road, the going is rather slow, but after five days’ travel, they make it onto the road from Treldheim to Kilvad and soon arrive in the latter.

At this point, the session is concluded.

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Build it and they will come
The Society's foray into Elderburg comes to an end

The party takes a candlemark or so to recover from the last fight, with Sim keeping watch while the rest take a much needed nap. Aetadius is the first to rouse himself, and as he is relieving himself a short distance away, he notices something odd: a pebble is slowly floating past, a few feet off the ground. He calls Sim over and they each confirm the other is not hallucinating. The pebble acts like a twig drifting on a water current, but there is no discernible breeze, and when Aetadius grabs it and lets it go again, it falls to the ground. The two then notice a few more rocks behaving in similar fashion and alert the others, none of whom can come up with any explanation for the phenomenon.

As it happens, though, the stones appear to be drifting in the general direction the party was intending to go anyway, so while the rest of the party equips themselves, Aetadius scouts ahead, and soon finds a chasm, some forty feet wide, extending down through at least three or four more levels of the city. The stones, now accompanied by drifting dust, are flowing from the fourth level down to the fifth, and across the crevasse. The rest of the party catches up, and using Paxton’s Mage Hand rig a line across the rift to the far side of the lower level. One by one, the party tries to cross, but the precautions they have taken with securing each member prove valuable, as almost everybody has serious trouble negotiating the crossing, not least Sim, who slips and falls two levels before managing to arrest himself on the seventh level, incurring some severe injuries in the process. The rest manage to retrieve him and patch him up, and the party continues on its way.

They traverse what was once a quite affluent neighborhood before they enter what appears to be the temple district. Interspersed among dwellings and shops that once sold candles, incense, and other votives are various temples, many devoted to deities who are no longer remembered, let alone worshiped. Kasglan is sorely tempted to research as many as he can, but the dwarf in him (aware of the imminent collapse of the city) wins out over the sage. Rocks and sand continue to float by, in increasing quantities and of increasing size. Then, disturbingly, the group comes across a cluster of corpses; they are orcs, and the cause of death seems to have been being bitten by something with a large mouth containing large teeth. Only a few hundred yards further, however, the Society catches sight of its goal: the once majestic temple of Lantira, since mostly collapsed, to the extent that morning star that forms the goddess’ symbol is only partially visible. The temple is not what is attracting the floating stones as these continue past the edifice.

Entering the temple, they find that what is left of the ground floor is mostly buried in the rubble of what used to be the upper floors, but a staircase leading down to a crypt is still accessible. At the bottom is a set of double doors, and having established to the best of their ability that there are no traps, the group makes it way through. Beyond the doors is a room with a pair of tombs, and a passage on the far side leading to another, larger room containing a larger tomb. After a cursory inspection of the tombs, the party starts down the passage to the inner sanctum but are charged by a pack of five hell hounds. Kalissa and Kasglan manage to keep the passage blocked while the others attempt to carry out ranged attacks, but the party is having a hard time dealing more damage than it’s taking, especially from the hounds’ fiery breath. The tide is turned when Bud conjures a pack of wolves (actually fey spirits in wolf form) to attack the hell hounds from behind.

The hounds having been vanquished, the party advances to the tomb in the back room. Kasglan uses Detect Magic to discover that there appears to be something magical in the tomb, and he and Kalissa manage to pry it open as carefully as they can. Within, they find a skeleton once dressed in robed and armor, most of which has since rotted and rusted away, leaving a sword, a breastplate, and a granite cube (inside a leather purse), all of which are enchanted (especially the cube). Kasglan murmurs a placation to General Florian’s spirit, explaining the pressing need to, in effect, rob his tomb, before he and Kalissa take all three items. The sword (of fine Elven manufacture) goes to Sim, the breastplate to Kalissa, and Kasglan takes charge of the mysterious cube. The party briefly discusses whether to try to figure out the cube now, on the off-chance it may provide a means of escape from their current location, or to continue following the stream of floating stones. At this point, there are maybe three or four candlemarks left until the fourth level caves in, possibly continuing into the fifth level, and Kasglan estimates is will take him at least a candlemark to get some idea of the cube’s nature. A consensus is reached to continue walking at present, and take the time to rest while Kasglan studies the cube about a candlemark from now.

Outside, the stream of floating rubble is getting progressively thicker and faster, conveying larger rocks, and the party picks its way through the ruins of the temple district. Along the way, they continue to find corpses, ranging in freshness from kills maybe only two days to several months. Most are humanoid, including even a few minotaurs. In about a candlemark, the Society comes within sight of what appears to be source of the silicate attraction: a tower some seventy feet in diameter, rising from the floor and piercing the upper levels. The attracted materials, when they reach the tower, fly upwards along it, apparently to serve as building materials to build it ever higher. This is not superfluous, because it looks like the tower itself fell through the floor from an upper level. Disconcertingly, the ground around the tower is positively littered with corpses, matching those encountered earlier but in larger numbers. However, not all have died from large bite wounds; they now include ones that have been petrified or even without clear indications of what killed them.

The party finds a ruin that provides some shelter to take a rest. Kasglan spends the next candlemark studying the cube, and finds it appears be a magical key, though for what, he cannot tell. The apocalyptic engravings on the device are rather disconcerting. In the meantime, Aetadius scouts out the base of the tower and finds a set of double doors, but given the number of bodies in the area, decides not to enter the tower by himself. Kalissa has severe misgivings about entering the tower, but is persuaded by the argument that this seems the most (and possibly the only) viable escape route to the surface. The party straps on their equipment and prepares to move out.

Paxton opens the tower doors from a distance with his mage hand and Bud conjures a flight of giant owls (again, fey spirits in owl form). Entering the tower, they find it hollow inside, with a ramp jutting from the wall and spiraling upwards. Far overhead, there appears to be a circle of daylight. Bud sends up a couple of his owls to see whether the shaft does indeed lead to the surface; the owls return without incident and confirm that it does. When Bud sends one up again to scout ahead, it ascends less than a hundred feet before it falls to earth, petrified. The party speculates about what creatures exist that have large, toothy maws and can turn enemies to stone; Kasglan thinks it fits descriptions he’s heard of basilisks, and casts a protection spell against aberrations on himself (mistakenly thinking basilisks are “aberrations”). Kalissa considers using a mirror she found, but decides that her shiny new breastplate may be sufficiently reflective to allow melee combat without risking petrification. Bud redeploys his (remaining) owls into a pair of advance scouts, a pair of rearguard scouts, with the remainder circling in the central shaft.

The party cautiously advances up the spiral ramp until a they are verbally challenged from the darkness above. Unfortunately, the inhuman voice speaks no language that any of the group understands, and Paxton’s attempt to respond in Draconic is unsuccessful. The source of the voice hovers into view down the shaft: it looks like a grotesque disembodied head, scaly and a putrescent shade of purple, over a dozen feet in diameter, with a face consisting of a single eye and large toothy maw. Protruding from its scalp are ten stalks with eyes set in their tips. (It is a beholder for those who hadn’t guessed by now.) The eyestalks turn toward the party and start unleashing magical effects: Kalissa is paralyzed, Sim suffers a blast of life-withering magic that nearly drops him, and Kasglan narrowly avoids being charmed thanks to his protection spell. Bud sends his owls swooping in to attack the beholder’s eyestalks but the monstrosity picks most of them out of the air. Just as things are starting to look desperate, Aetadius and Paxton unwittingly carry out a combination of attacks that prove to be the game-changer: Aetadius drops a darkness around the creature just before Paxton paralyzes it with his Wand of Binding. Unable to move and mostly blinded, the beholder is almost helpless, and a combined barrage of magic and crossbow bolts wear it down until it tumbles to land with a squelching thud at the bottom of the shaft.

Bud sends one of his two remaining owls to check it is indeed dead while the party starts up the ramp toward daylight. The sounds from outside the tower indicate that, with the beholder’s death, the growth of the tower has stopped, and the collapse of the city is continuing. Time is running short indeed! Even so, when the party encounters the beholder’s lair in a niche, they pause to recover a massive amount of coin, along with a few magical items, before continuing their dash up the ramp. They reach the top just as it is starting to slip below the level of the surface and with an effort born of desperation, launch themselves at the lip of the shaft. Kasglan, being shorter of limb and wearing heavy armor, doesn’t quite make it, and after a moment of panic to see him missing, the others are relieved to discover him clinging to the inside of the shaft. With the aid of Bud’s last two owls and some rope, he is unceremoniously dragged up, and as the party gets clear of the massive sinkhole that used to be Elderburg, the session comes to a close.

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A Series of Pressing Engagements
Time begins to run out

Having finished dealing with the minotaurs, Aetadius, Kalissa, and Kasglan turn their attention to the large double doors out of the chamber, and find they have not been used for a very long time. Kalissa and Aetadius open the doors, revealing a hallway beyond, but they have only gone in a short distance when they hear a slithering sound, like reptile scales rubbing together, and decide to retreat for the moment. In the meantime, Sim has discovered a concealed doorway, that apparently has been used by the minotaurs, and the party decides to investigate this first. However, the passage beyond proves to lead upwards, to an upper storey of the guild hall. Making note of this is a possible return route, the party turns its attention back to the hallway past the double doors.

The passage slopes down and is wide enough for two people to walk abreast, and the party advances cautiously, with Bud in giant spider form moving along the ceiling. There are a few humanoid skeletons scattered along the walls, long picked clean of anything of interest. Large alcoves are set into the walls at regular intervals, most of which are empty. However, before long, Kalissa (who is on point) hears a reptilian whisper, offering to let the party pass unharmed if they sacrifice the cleric. The source of the whisper appears to be hiding in an alcove ahead on the left. As the party advances in formation, even more slowly and cautiously, Bud scuttles ahead to scout the opposition. As he passes the alcove, he sees a large (~14 feet long) serpentine creature, with a human-like face and particularly captivating eyes. The creature (a spirit naga) notices him but ignores him, apparently taking him for just another wandering monster.

Combat is remarkably swift. The party advances to just short of the alcove, Sim and Paxton step out to the far side of the passage to launch ranged attacks, and Kalissa, Kasglan, and Aetadius storm into melee. The naga attempts to cast spells but their targets (notably Kalissa) manage to shrug them off, and the naga soon lies dead. Kalissa extracts its fangs as a trophy, as the party recovers and divvies up a trove of coin and minor gems.

Continuing down the passage, the party eventually comes to another set of doors, which open onto a street on the fourth level of Elderburg. From a distance comes a booming sound, and the party is initially at a loss to interpret it, until Sim realizes that it is the sound of the upper levels of the city collapsing onto the ones below; specifically, the second level collapsing onto the third. Worse yet, as the fallen material increases the pressure on the floor of the third level, this too is almost certain to give way and collapse onto the fourth level, with predictably catastrophic results for anyone on that level. Kalissa mutters that she would not be at all surprised if the Arcanum’s agents have decided that destroying the city is worth stopping the Society, even if it means being subsequently unable to recover the city’s other contents. Sim’s best guess is that this will occur in seventeen candlemarks, give or take a couple, so the party decides to focus less on searching for interesting loot and more or finding a way down to the fifth level.

Still, there is some time to check buildings for supplies, and upon coming across an intact general store, the party decides to look inside. Inside, a pile of what used to be rugs or blankets has decayed into a large mound of dust, and as one of the party members stirs it, almost a dozen small creatures burst forth and attack the intruders. The creatures appear to be composed of dust, coalesced into a humanoid form, a few feet tall and with bat-like wings. Bud, still in spider form, manages to pin a couple down by spitting webs at them, but the others attack aggressively with a mixture of claw attacks, breath weapons of blinding dust, and in one case, a Sleep spell. Kalissa is blinded and succumbs to the Sleep, but Kasglan manages to get her back in action quickly by applying a Lesser Restoration with a slightly more forceful “laying on of hands” than would normally be considered seemly. As the party rallies and retaliates, the dust mephits quickly begin to fall, but this reveals a new challenge. As three mephits die in quick succession, each bursts apart in a blinding cloud of dust, rapidly filling the shop. For the most part, the Society members are able to withstand the effects, and Kasglan quickly takes cares of those who don’t. Even after the last falls to a barrage of Fire Bolts, arrows, and melee weapons, it takes a long time for the dust to settle, literally. A search of the store produces the mephits’ collection of coins, but little else of interest.

The party reassembles outside and proceeds down the road. The going is complicated by the now familiar obstacles of collapsed buildings and other fallen rubble, and the team periodically has to cut through other buildings to bypass such blockages. While moving through one such building, somebody on the upper floor hears the party, but their footfalls alert the party in turn, and both sides scramble to head each off at the stairs. Bud spits a web, blocking the stairs, and Kalissa and Aetadius take up position at the foot, as four rat-headed humanoids (wererats in hybrid form) appear at the top. Two of the creatures advance down the stairs to slash at the webs with their shortswords, while the other two ready hand crossbows. Sim looses an arrow at the latter, but fumbles his release and sends the arrow into Kalissa’s back. Kasglan is on hand to heal the wound, not least because he doesn’t want Kalissa to break off the shaft, as the arrow is Dwarven-made and enchanted. Bud plasters one of the wererats coming down the stairs to the wall with another web, and Kalissa and Aetadius begin to pound on the other. Paxton launches a Fire Bolt at the entangled wererat, setting fire to the web, which inflicts severe damage on the creature but spreads a horrible smell. However, apart from avoiding their bite, the wererats do not present a severe challenge and are soon overcome. Their lair on the upper floor contains some coins.

Emerging back onto the street, the Society presses on until they pass an especially large and ornate building. From the inscriptions over the door, Kasglan identifies it as some mages’ guild or society predating the Arcanum, and the party decides this is definitely worth investigating. During their search, however, they notice they are being watched; all they catch is a glimpse of single, large green eye peering at them before its humanoid owner bounds away. They start to ready themselves for pursuit, but this proves unnecessary as the observer quickly returns with reinforcements, and the party is set upon from two sides by half a dozen gruesome creatures. They are former wizards whose very being has been transformed by corrupt magic; still humanoid, albeit more slinky in form, they have grown clawed hands and (elongated) feet, and while their heads retain a roughly human skull form, they have grown a single, large green eye that takes up the upper half of their faces. As the nothics train these eyes on the adventurers, the latter feel the corrupting influence of the very gaze starting to rot their flesh. But while the nothics are relatively nimble, they are are not especially resistant to damage and the party’s counterattacks bite deep. Kasglan manages to disable one nothic’s gaze by inflicting Blindness on it, and the tested combination of spat webs and slung Fire Bolts softens up those enemies whom Kalissa and Aetadius cannot engage immediately. By the time the nothics lie dead, a few party members have been more than superficially hurt since the party left the third level of the city. While Kasglan tends to their wounds, the remaining members ransack the building, turning up large amounts of coin, over a dozen gems, and two unusual objects, or rather, sets of objects. One is a pair of what turn out to be Eyes of Minute Seeing, which are given to Kasglan; the other is a shattered stone tablet (albeit it with all its fragments present) about two square feet in size.With combined efforts, the party are soon able to assemble it into its original form, of which Kasglan makes a rubbing with paper and charcoal, before Paxton bags up the fragments and places it in his pack.
StoneTabletFourthLevel.jpg
Interestingly, while the stone is not colored, the triangular emblem is clearly that of the Arcanum.

The party decides to press on again, but they have barely gone a few hundred yards down the street when they are surprised by six creatures materializing around—and among!—them. The creatures are large (10’ across) hunting spiders, but not quite of this world, with large (apparently) non-faceted eyes, and mostly whitish coloration with blue markings on their backs and forelegs, and able to shift in and out of existence (they are phase spiders, able to shift between the Material and Ethereal Planes at will). As they shift into existence, the quickest attack with bites; these are not particularly harmful in of themselves, but the spiders inject a debilitating venom, which brings their victims close to the point of collapse. Bud, who has been crawling along the side of a building, realizes that this is one foe he cannot use webs against (though fortunately his spider form also renders him immune to other arachnids’ venom), and scurries to rejoin the main body of the party, which is trying to form a defensive perimeter. Despite suffering great pain from a spider bite, Paxton manages to undercut the spiders’ greatest advantage by casting a Slow spell that affects five of them, and prevents them from being able to attack and immediately shift away (or shift in and immediately attack). Kalissa, Aestadius, and Kasglan focus their attacks on the single unaffected spider, and manage to rapidly kill it.

Thanks to Paxton’s intervention, the remaining phase spiders still present a challenge but are not quite the mortal threat they would otherwise be, and while a few of the party are quite badly injured by the poison by the time the arachnids are dispatched (two of them by Paxton’s use of his heaviest spell, a Fireball), severe incapacitations are avoided. Having been out on the hunt, the spiders predictably have nothing of value with them, and there is no time to try to find their lair, if indeed they have one. For by the time the party members and their gear have been patched up, only ten hours or so remain until the roof is projected to collapse.

With the party ready to move on, the session is ended. After all the combat this day, everyone feels a little more capable of their abilities (read: everyone advanced to 6th level).

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On the horns of a dilemma
The scariest encounter is the one without violence

(Missing this session: Aetadius. No rationale cooked up for his absence.)

The party emerges from the basement to find the rest of the building above it collapsed. They are once again in a residential neighborhood, with a number of mostly intact buildings. As they look about for indications in which directions to go, Paxton notes a strange marking on a wall at an intersection, while Kalissa and Bud find an intact tavern on another corner of the same junction. The party decides to investigate the tavern, which seems to have been abandoned calmly, as if the staff left after closing without cleaning up first, as there are tankards on the tables and dishes piled up for cleaning. Their search is interrupted when what seemed to be a leather cloak on the coat rack takes flight; as it unfurls, a face with a tooth-filled mouth becomes visible and a barbed tail emerges. The creature (a cloaker) attacks Bud and wraps itself around him. The other party members soon find that it is impossible to hurt the creature without also hurting Bud, but no alternative suggests itself, so Kasglan attempts to keep healing Bud’s injuries (taking a few slashes from the cloaker’s tail in the process) while the others pour on the attacks. After taking several hits, the cloaker releases Bud and attempts to attach itself to Kalissa instead, but fails to do so. The party’s relief is short-lived when the cloaker then seems to divide into four creatures, each the same size as the original, but the relief returns when the “offspring” prove to be illusory copies that dissipate when struck. After the first illusion dissipates, Paxton casts a scorching ray at the three remaining ones, thereby eliminating the remaining decoys, and the actual creature is shredded not long thereafter.

A search of the hostelry turns up some coin, a couple of potions, and several bottles of what appears to be brandy made from mushrooms. After a brief rest, the group hits the street again, in search of a way down to the next level.

Their exploration leads them into a ruined part of town, where wooden buildings appear to have burned or rotted away into fields of rubble. The dankness of the air causes breathing trouble for a few party members, but Kasglan is able to handle this with divinely granted magic. However, as he is finishing tending to Bud (the last person to remain affected), the party is ambushed by seven giant spiders. A couple of the spiders spit webs at the party, immobilizing half of them, and as the others scuttle forward to sink their venomous palps into the adventurers’ flesh, Paxton decides that extreme measures are called for and drops a fireball into the middle of the party, scorching friend and foe alike, but also burning away the binding webs. While nobody is incapacitated outright, most are weakened to some extent, and when Kasglan is bitten by one spider, the injury is more than he can take and he collapses. Bud uses his own healing magic to bring Kasglan back in the fight, while Kalissa quaffs a Potion of Speed to boost the rate of her damage-dealing abilities. As the spiders were, for the most part, also badly hurt by the fireball, they start falling rapidly to her sword as well as Sim’s arrows, and the party prevails. In the process, Bud finally gains sufficient familiarity with the arachnids to be able to take their form, which he proceeds to do during much of the following day.

With everybody hurting to some degree, the party takes a long rest nearby to recover their strength before moving on.

Before long, they come across the site of a fight, and one that appears to have occurred fairly recently. The cave walls show scorch marks, most likely from fire spells, and also fresh gouges from axes. In addition, there is the corpse of a minotaur, evidently killed by fire magic but in state of rigor mortis, indicating that battle most likely occurred anywhere between six candlemarks to a few days previously. Sim finds tracks leading away from the scene, and the party follows these into a more built-up neighborhood before they peter out. While Paxton notices another mark on a building identical to the one he observed before (and neither he nor others in party are able to figure out), the party hears a voice calling to them, asking whether they’re tracking the minotaurs.

A female dwarf emerges from the shadows of a building, clad in dark red wizard’s robes bearing the mark of the Arcanum. She continues her exposition about the minotaurs, stating there were three others, but that they managed to escape. The party is immediately on edge to run into an Arcanum wizard, but each member understands that if this woman was able to kill one minotaur and drive three more to flight single-handedly, she is a force to be reckoned with, and she may well have had enough time since that fight to replenish her spells. There follows an extremely tense conversation, in which the party members try to divulge as little information as possible while not saying or doing anything that might provoke a fight. The dwarven woman identifies herself as Issilda, and is perceptive enough to recognize Kalissa’s coat of arms as being of House Tolvok, Sim as being a Lesser, and Paxton as being a spellcaster. She quizzes the party as to their purpose in Elderburg, and receives non-committal answers about treasure-hunting. She also needles the party about their Lesser being inadequately disciplined (Sim manages to walk a fine line between maintaining his dignity without being what a supremacist might consider insolent), tries to manipulate Kasglan into revealing the party’s purpose in Elderburg (which he manages to answer to her apparent satisfaction by saying they’re looking for historical artifacts without revealing specifics), and demands to see Paxton’s Arcanum-issued spellcasting license (he ultimately relents, and fortunately she is convinced by the forgery). Finally, Issilda takes her leave, but when she does, two armored figures who had previously remained motionless detach themselves from the shadows of the same building to follow her. While the party cannot ascertain precisely what they are, it is evident to them that the escorts are magically animated. After the trio passes beyond earshot, Kalissa reiterates her belief that it was a mistake to not permanently silence Morfried. Kasglan, for his part, remains skeptical that Issilda and Morfried were even aware of each other’s presence, much less collaborating (a wizard with two armored constructs supposedly capable of besting four minotaurs should surely have been able to see off the cultists who captured Morfried) but decides not to press the issue, and remains silent.

Heading in the opposite direction from the way Issilda went, the party find themselves in a cul-de-sac ending at a large stone building that is for the most part still intact. From the exterior, it looks like it was a guild hall, and the party decides that they may as well search it while they’re here. Upon entering the building, they find it is large enough that it might actually have housed multiple guilds, though there is little of interest on the “ground” floor. One stairway into a basement level, however, leads to what appears to have been a waiting room lined with benches and paintings on the walls. As Sim steps through the doorway into the waiting room, he drops out of sight into a pit masked by an illusion, taking severe damage in the fall (including three incapacitated limbs). Bud assumes spider form and retrieves him, and while Kasglan patches Sim up again, the others search the pit, which contains corpses of varying antiquity (up to several decades old), and dig up a variety of coins and a locked tome that appears to be magical. The party also collects the paintings, which despite their general kitschiness are probably worth some money.

After the return to the “ground” floor and resume their sweep, the party hears noises below their feet. A quick scan of the area reveals a downward shaft, about 10 feet deep, leading to a door. Kalissa and Kasglan lower themselves by rope to investigate, and upon opening the door little by little to peer into whatever lies beyond, discover a large chamber containing three nervous minotaurs, all armed with greataxes. One of them notices the activity, charges to the door and literally rips it off its hinges, and the fight is on. The minotaur goes for Kalissa, focusing on offense at the expense of defense, but not only does it fail to wound her, it leaves itself open to Kalissa and Kasglan’s counter-attacks. The minotaur’s size proves a liability as the doorway is too narrow for its companions to join in, and as Sim and Paxton drop down behind Kalissa and Kasglan and add their attacks, it is quickly dispatched. This, however, leaves the way clear for one of the other two to carry out an oblique charge on the doorway, and it manages to catch Kasglan with its horns and toss him into the open, where he is set upon by both remaining minotaurs. Things look extremely hairy for a moment, as Kasglan has been quite badly hurt and seems very vulnerable, but the minotaurs prove themselves incapable of penetrating his armor any further, and he quickly manages to patch himself up with a healing word and start fighting back. With both minotaurs focused on him, the rest of the party are able to pour on the attacks, and first one, then the last of the creatures is reduced to messy piles of ineptly cooked and carved roast beast.

A search of the corpses turns up a fair amount of coinage, along with a piece of charcoal that matches that used to make the strange markings Paxton has been noticing. As the party catches their breath, Paxton decides to take a look at the locked book they’ve found. The only external marking is an image of a winged boot on the front cover. The lock is not impressive and yields easily to Paxton’s dagger. Perusing the pages, he rapidly concludes that this is a Manual of Quickness of Action; if certain conditions are met, it will magically bestow a permanent increase in dexterity upon its reader, whereupon it will revert to a mundane book for a hundred years. The party is unanimous that it will be most beneficial if Sim reads it, so he is assigned some bedtime reading for the next few days.

As the party prepares to turn their attention to the set of double doors leading out of another wall of the chamber, the session is brought to a close.

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The Cult of the Pool
The THS continues deeper into Elderburg

Having reunited with Sim but somehow having lost Bud upon re-entering the depths of Elderburg, the party presses forward in its effort to find its way to the temple district, more so since the return journey is promising to become ever more difficult.

Having passed the gate from the wagon inspection station, the group finds itself making its way through a seedier part of the city, traveling through tunnels in which houses have been squished into the sides of the (rather narrow) thoroughfare. By and large, the houses are in bad enough disrepair that it would be quite dangerous to check inside, so the party keeps moving. Paxton thinks to mark the route the party has taken, and Kasglan lends him some chalk with which to do so. When the party encounters a corpse lying in what can only be called an alley at this point (barely wide enough to get a cart through), the cause of death soon becomes apparent when Kasglan triggers a trap that extends several spears from the walls, stabbing him a few times. Fortunately, between his armor and his dwarven fortitude, Kasglan is not severely injured (and rapidly heals himself) and the party learns to identify the type of flagstone that triggers the traps.

With their attention now somewhat drawn to the ground, the party approaches a crossroads, and almost fails to notice four creatures that come swinging down from above on hooked forelimbs and drop down on all four sides of them. Only Kalissa’s keen eye and shouted warning prevents the Society from being caught flat-footed. Their opponents are bipedal and nine to ten feet tall, with beetle-like bodies, vulture-like heads, and, as mentioned, large hooks for forelimbs (hook horrors); they prove to be able to absorb a lot of damage, and deal quite a lot of it too. The party’s first priority is to break the encirclement by focusing on one of the horrors so that they can retreat down that route and then present a united front to the other three monsters. While good in theory, the execution of the plan is hampered by the fact that only two of the party can engage the first horror, which (as it turns out) takes rather a lot of killing. The other three members strive to hold off the other three horrors while this is going on. Aetadius notices the creatures don’t seem to rely on their eyesight and, suspecting they rely on sound, tries blanketing the crossroads with a silence spell; this has the desired effect of impairing the horrors’ attacks but at the price of shutting down the party’s spellcasting and communications, prompting Aetadius to soon drop the spell again.

Paxton and Aetadius (with a little aid from Kasglan’s spiritual weapon) manage to reduce their hook horror to a pile of smoldering (and vile-smelling) chitin. By this time, Kalissa has managed to whittle down her opponent to quite a significant extent, occasionally getting in an attack on Sim’s opponent in the process. Kasglan, preoccupied with administering healing and directing his spiritual weapon elsewhere, has been on the defensive against the last one. With Paxton and Aetadius now available, however, the tide turns decisively, with Aetadius managing to leap/scramble onto the neck of one horror and aiding in its dispatch, then repeating the maneuver with a second.

When all four hook horrors lie dead, the party takes a few minutes to patch up the wounded and get their bearings. There is no ready evidence of the hook horrors’ nest/lair and the disrepair of the nearby buildings precludes a thorough search. The party does, however, notice graffiti on the corners of buildings. While none of them can identify the markings, their best guess is that they are characters of some otherworldy script, drawn from memory by human(oid)s who saw them in dreams or trances, and didn’t really know what they meant. The markings seem to urge the readers to go in the direction the party needs to go, so the adventurers keep an eye out for them as they proceed. The streets are now wider, with the ceiling being out of sight overhead. The air becomes increasingly humid, along with a smell of stale, stagnant water, and the party notices occasional puddles on the ground, apparently unable to evaporate in the humidity.

After less than half a candlemark, another smell penetrates the pervasive fug of stagnant water: that of rotting flesh. Shortly after, the party encounters two human corpses in the street. They appear to have died fighting back to back, and the robes they wear bear similar markings (drawn on with charcoal) to those on the buildings. They are not, curiously, the source of the rotting smell; rather, that seems to come from the half dozen humanoids that appear further down the street. As the humanoids advance, the party notices they have the appearance of ghouls, but nastier (with larger claws and tongues) and giving off a more overpowering stench of decay. Kalissa launches herself into a counter-attack on their line, and the rest of party scrambles in an attempt to prevent her from being surrounded. As each party member comes within ten feet or so of the creatures, they are almost overpowered by the ghastly odor (literally, for ghasts is what the creatures are), and as it turns out, their putrefied claws can inflict paralysis, but Kasglan is able to keep the few people who threaten to succumb in the fight with applications of lesser restoration. Additionally, he manages to channel the power of Lantira to terrify enough of the ghasts to break up their attack, and weapons and magic of the other party members subsequently make fairly short work of the vile creatures. Their lair is found in a nearby building, turning up a small amount of amassed treasure.

Close to exhaustion, and running low on spells, the party falls back a short distance to rest in a place that isn’t too smelly.

Once the party is rested, healed, with their armor and equipment maintained (and repaired as necessary), and their arsenal of spells restocked, the party probes ahead again, noting that the markings and puddles are becoming ever more frequent. Ere long, they emerge onto a wide plaza, with at its center a square stone building some hundred feet on a side. The building appears to have been damaged, patched up, damaged again, and patched up again. Windows have been barricaded and the lower reaches of the walls seem to ooze with a sheen of moisture; above, they are well nigh covered with the mysterious markings. However, enough ancient inscriptions are still visible to determine that this was once a shrine that was home to an oracle who consulted a “spirit of the pool.” The humidity in the plaza is downright oppressive and the building appears to be the source. From within, multiple voices can be faintly heard, chanting or singing in unison.

Having found the double doors that are the only entry point into the building, the Society formulates an entry plan: after Kasglan oils the (predictably rusty) door hinges, he and Kalissa will open them, while Aetadius (standing to one side) creates a minor illusion of the doors remaining closed. Paxton and Sim remain a good ten feet from the doorway to assess the situation within and launch ranged attacks if warranted. As the doors are opened, the interior is revealed to be an open space with half a dozen pillars holding up (what remains of) the roof; in the center is a large circular pool (a good thirty or forty feet in diameter), while on the far side is a dais topped with altar. A dozen robed humans surround most of the pool (inconveniently spread out too far to effectively strike with an area-of-effect attack) while three more ornately robed humans stand on the dais; on the altar lies a restrained middle-aged human male, apparently about to become a sacrifice. Reasonably satisfied that nefarious happenings are afoot, Paxton and Sim launch their attacks, dropping two of the cultists. Recovering from their initial surprise, the remainder and their three leaders surge towards the doorway, but channeled and distracted by a couple of area effect spells from Si, and Aetadius, their right flank rapidly falls to a withering barrage of ranged attacks from Paxton, Sim, and Kasglan, while Kalissa and Aetadius counter-attack the cultists’ left flank, making equally short work of them.

No sooner does the leader of the cult fall, however, or the object of their veneration reveals itself: from the central pool rises a horrifying creature, like a slimy tentacled fish, well over twenty feet in length and with three eyes set above each other over its wide, heavily toothed mouth. The “spirit of the pool” (an aboleth) proves itself amphibious as it flops onto the floor and advances toward the doorway even as it is pelted with arrows and magic, first catching Kalissa with a swipe from its tail and then (though this is not evident to the others at the time) attempting to telepathically enslave her. Mustering every shred of her willpower, bolstered by her warrior’s temperament and training, Kalissa is able to resist the mental onslaught and fiercely retaliates, repeatedly gouging deep wounds into the creature’s side with her sword. The creature turns its efforts to Kasglan instead, and this time it is successful! Suddenly convinced the creature is an avatar of Lantira herself, Kasglan turns against the others in an effort to protect his goddess. Sim was already having trouble when the string on his longbow broke, and as he is readying his backup ranged weapon, a light crossbow, he finds himself struck blind. Kasglan also direct his spiritual weapon at Kalissa, but it ineffectually glances off her armor. Before Kasglan can do any more damage, however, Paxton applies the lessons learned during the earlier fight with the ghosts (see previous entry) and paralyzes Kasglan with his Wand of Binding. In a supreme display of badassery, Sim brings his crossbow to bear on where the target last was, and looses a quarrel that not only strikes the aboleth, but proves to be the killing blow!

With the monster dead, Kasglan’s mental state is restored, and (once Paxton releases him) he is apologetic and sets about fixing up the others’ injuries. Meanwhile, the uninjured members of the group release the prospective sacrificial victim and start to quiz him. The man identifies himself as Morfried, a historian (with a somewhat overinflated notion of his professional prominence) who was hired by the Arcanum to lead a small expedition into Elderburg with the object of turning up anything useful for magical research and the like. However, his expedition was whittled down by successive encounters with various monsters, and after he escaped from the ghasts, Morfried was captured by the aboleth cultists. The strange markings on the buildings, he says, are the cultists’ work, and are symbols intended to compel passersby towards the shrine (at this point, Kalissa rubs the characters she had daubed on her shield off again). He is Not Interested in venturing any further, and only wants to escape the city and get back to civilization.

Upon hearing that Morfried is employed by the Arcanum, Kalissa reckons he is a potential security hazard and advocates killing him (or at least cutting out his tongue and breaking his fingers) lest he alert the Arcanum to the Society’s presence. Kasglan opposes this suggestion, taking the position that Morfried is not a member of the Arcanum but merely an employee (and Lantira knows that the Society has worked for some sketchy people in the past) and that he has done nothing to harm the party, and argues that the chances of a lone unarmored middle-aged academic with few combat skills and no supplies even making it to the surface, let alone out of the badlands, are negligible; and that if the Arcanum had any assets close enough to respond, Morfried wouldn’t have been the only surviving member of his expedition before coming a hair’s breadth from becoming a light snack for an aboleth. Kalissa responds that if Kasglan insists on being a bleeding heart, so be it, but that if the Arcanum does show up, she will not risk her neck to stop them.

Morfried collects a cultist’s robe and scimitar and makes ready to depart, but before the party lets him go, they get him to show them where the cult keeps its treasury, in the basement of a nearby house. As it turns out, a secret door in the basement leads to a spiral staircase, which goes down far enough that by the time they party reaches the bottom and finds the room containing the cult’s loot, they reckon they must be on the third level of the city. And indeed, another door leads into the basement of a building. As the party inventories the cult’s small hoard and plots its next move, the session is brought to a close.

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Nasty things that begin with G
The party encounters some of Elderburg's inhabitants

As the party approaches the rope suspension bridge (of the classic “planks and rope banisters” model), they realize Sil has gone missing at some point while everyone was trying to evade being caught by a collapsing building. They decide to press on, and a plan is made, whereby Aetadius will cross the bridge first, tied off with a rope in case the bridge gives way; upon reaching the other side, he will tie off the rope to provide a safety backup for the following party member. This succeeds, and Kalissa crosses second, followed by Paxton. When Paxton about two thirds of the way across, however, a quartet of creatures slither from the shadows on the far side and attack the members there. The monstrosities are snake-like creatures, with beaks surrounded by four tentacles (gricks) and though they give the party a fright, they are dealt with without too much trouble.

As the party completes their crossing, Bud notices some large (but not giant) spiders nearby and converses with one in an attempt to further his project of finding a giant spider with which to commune so he can take on its form. He does not divulge the results of the conversation, but it does not appear to have been particularly helpful.

Faced with a choice of routes again, the party advances into what appears to have been an artisans’ quarter. They take some time to search buildings along the street, resulting in some interesting finds. Kasglan finds an abandoned journal, some twenty-odd years old, from an earlier explorer, which describes similar experiences as the party has had, before the entries end abruptly. Aetadius, however, hits the jackpot when he finds a secret door to a concealed cellar, which proves to contain quite a large stash of treasure; mostly coins, but also some art objects. The major finds are a Wand of Binding, which is given to Paxton, and a chain shirt with lightning resistance, which the party keeps in the event Sim might want it. However, as the party moves to leave, two ghostly apparitions (ghosts, actually) of elven warriors manifest at the top of the stairs and, hissing admonitions against venturing further into the city, attack!

One displays its horrifying visage, which causes Kalissa to want to avoid it, while the other quickly identifies Kasglan as a major threat (having fortified the party with a Beacon of Hope spell and more than healed the damage caused) and possesses his body. After taking a blow from Kasglan’s hammer, Paxton (in a fit of inspiration) uses the Wand of Binding on him, causing the ghost to leave his now useless body, and it soon joins its companion in going to their final rest. Shaken, but physically restored, the party leaves the cellar and continues their exploration. Along the way, they notice holes in the ceiling (the result of collapses) which give a view of the sky outside. It’s raining.

They find a circular, downward ramp, leading to a gate. As they approach it, two creatures drop from the top of the gate with a third drops behind them. These are some vile hybrid of arachnid and humanoid (ettercaps), but while they inspire disgust in the party, they are dealt with with comparative ease. The party opens the gate to find a bigger problem: beyond is a large chamber, leading to another large gate. The chamber appears to have once been an inspection area for cargo vehicles, but the vagaries of time and weather have left the floor covered with a deep layer of mud, which Aetadius quickly establishes as being of potentially lethal depth in places. Kasglan suggests the party take an eight-hour rest so that he can study Water Walk, but he is overruled on the reasonable basis that this will take far too much time when other options are available and besides, there really is no good place to rest. Aetadius quickly establishes one such option, by identifying the fact that there are readily accessible rafters in the chamber, getting up to one, and dropping a rope so others can follow. Kasglan attempts to do this, but loses his grip and falls into the mud. To everyone’s horror, a large humanoid shape rises out of the mud and pounds Kasglan with its fists, driving him below the surface, though he does manage to hold onto a rope the others had thrown him.

Kalissa and Bud wade in, the latter in wolf form; charging the clay golem (for that is what it is), he manages to knock it prone. Aetadius jumps onto its form and delivers several blows. The golem quickly retaliates, however, and delivers a punishing two-fisted slam attack that effectively shatters Aetadius’ body, leaving him in a coma and making it impossible to heal him. While Bud, Kalissa, and Paxton deal with the golem, Kasglan manages to extract himself from the mud, magically stabilize Aetadius to that he will at least not die, and pull his body out of the fight.

When the fight is over, and everyone patched up as much as possible, the party deliberates whether to forge ahead or fall back to Fort Deeprun; the latter has the best chance of keeping Aetadius alive, but is complicated by the fact that the way back is obstructed by collapsed buildings and the like. In the end, a plan is devised to tunnel upward and out: Bud uses druidic magic to enlarge plant roots, which weakens the excavation site and provides an anchor point from which Kalissa and Kasglan can dig into the ceiling. After almost two days, the party emerges on the surface. The ride back to Fort Deeprun goes slowly but without incident, and once there, a cleric is found who can cast greater restoration, allowing Aetadius to be physically fully healed. He does retain some mental trauma, and as a result will remain phobic about mud for a good long time. For his part, Kasglan considers the (admittedly very short) time he was possessed as the nastiest time of his life.

With the crew restored to full (physical) health, shopping ensues to replenish depleted supplies, and Kalissa acquires a black cloak with silver trim (just her style), which the shopkeeper informs her was made by an eleven tailor named Sig, The One Who Got Away.

Shaking their heads all the way, the party returns to Elderburg and makes their way back down the route they cut to the surface. In the intervening ten or so days, the mud in the wagon inspection chamber has dried somewhat, but as they reach the inner gate, the floor gives way behind them, leaving a sinkhole and cutting off their way back.

With that, the session is concluded.

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I can wait all knight
Some loose ends are tied up

Having dealt with the Iron Alliance patrol, the party returns to Fort Deeprun, where Kalissa commissions modifications to her armor that will take a few days to complete. While she is waiting, Bud and Aetadius go for a jaunt upstream along the Deeprun and soon chance upon the encampment of a lone elf. Reasonably certain they have found Sil, the self-styled elven assassin and “the one who got away,” they return to town, collect everyone except Kalissa, and set off in pursuit. As they catch up with the lone elf, Aetadius takes to the trees, Paxton turns himself invisible, and Bud assumes wolf form, leaving Sim and Kasglan to approach and speak with the elf, who does, indeed, turn out to be Sil. After some discussion (in Elvish) during which Sim and Kasglan unsuccessfully attempt to get Sil to reveal some information about his employer(s), the situation devolves into a fight. Sil proves an extremely dangerous opponent but is ultimately bested. And thus is there is one fewer high elf left in the world.

The party decides to establish an emergency cache in the badlands a day’s ride short of Elderburg, which takes the better part of a week. Upon the party’s return to Fort Deeprun, Kalissa convinces the crew to wait a few days more while she awaits news.

In the meantime, Aetadius pursues a lead on another tiefling who is supposed to be in town, and manages to find him. The fellow has fallen on hard times and Aetadius manages to help him back on his feet, thereby presumably gaining positive karma or somesuch.

After a few days, the news Kalissa has been waiting for arrives: her personal sigil has been approved and she is now officially a knight of the realm in (more or less) her own right. The following day, the Society sets out for Elderburg.

Reaching the city without major incident, they find it much smaller than expected. Picking their way through the ruins, they manage to find a large ramp to the first subterranean level. Descending to this level, there is no readily identifiable route to the next level, so they hide their mounts in an abandoned building (with a supply of water and oats) and make their way down a major street. While they are exploring, there are apparent whispers on the wind cautioning them to turn back, and the rearguard spots a ghostly apparition of an elven warrior following them, though it sinks through the ground when they notice it. Sim suspects the area is crawling with undead, and while there are no hostile encounters, there are other hazards from collapsing buildings and bits of ceiling, and their choices are constrained so that ultimately, the only way they can go brings them to a treacherous-looking rope bridge.

As the party ponders how to safely cross it, the session is brought to a close.

View
To Fort Deeprun and beyond
An errant knight and a lady in leather

The party reassembles at the cave entrance to the abandoned temple in the Katoran Hills, and plan their route to Fort Deeprun. It is decided to leave the wagon behind (but take its draft horse) to facilitate a cross-country trek to the river crossing a few days west of Breggan. (Aetadius is engaged in another bout of mandatory meditation and is unresponsive for the duration of the trip.) The trip goes uneventfully, but on the final approach to the ferry dock (from which the ferry is absent, being moored on the opposite bank) the party encounters a lone dwarf relieving himself by the side of the road. As he finishes and turns, he reveals he is wearing Iron Alliance garb. He takes in the party and gives them a knowing look before starting down the road in the direction from which the party came. Fearing that the dwarf is a point man for a larger force, Sim puts an arrow into him, and the party quickly finishes the job.

Noting with some relief that the ferryman does not appear to have noticed the altercation, the party strip the corpse, weight it, and dump it in the water. By the time this is completed, the ferryman has disappeared. Bud tries the rope-and-pully system that operates the ferry, but the boat itself is tied to the dock on the far bank and cannot be retrieved. There are shelters for passengers on either side of the river, and Kalissa settles down in the one on the near bank; Bud assumes the form of a remarkably robust freshwater crayfish and hides in the river, and the others withdraw to a nearby copse of trees. Thus, the party awaits the return of the ferryman.

It’s almost dusk before the ferryman returns to the far bank and starts the (as it turns out) lengthy process of bringing the boat across. While he is still midstream, the party is startled by the sound of approaching boots, whose owners are revealed to be an armored human on horseback and six armed dwarves on foot. Kalissa manages to slip away from the shelter without them noticing her.

From the short distance away, the party can tell that the newcomers had expected to find the lone dwarf here, and are concerned about his absence. The knight rides around a bit looking for signs and comes perilously close to the party’s hiding places, but in the deepening gloom he fails to notice them. When the ferryman arrives, Bud (still in crayfish form) manages to climb aboard the ferry and overhears the Iron Alliance troops quizzing the ferryman about their missing scout. After some deliberation, they decide to proceed across the river. Bud hitches a ride undetected.

On the far bank, the Iron Alliance troops refuse to pay for their passage, and march off up the road. After a short while, the ferryman follows before turning off behind some trees. Bud waits an hour before reverting to human form, untying the boat, and collecting the other party members.

The party camps a little way downriver from the crossing point, which works out as Sim can spot what is probably the Alliance patrol’s campfire some distance up the road.

In the morning, the party initially trails the patrol, with Bud in wolf form keeping tabs. Deciding that it might be best to reach Fort Deeprun before the patrol, the party bypasses then through the forest and reach Fort Deeprun with a lead of a third to half a day.

Fort Deeprun, it turns out, is not only a fort but a small walled city surrounding the fort. While keeping a wary eye out for any Iron Alliance presence, the party enter town and find lodgings, after which Kalissa and Paxton seek an audience with Lord Efferveld. They succeed and explain the party’s business to Lord Julius and his wife, Lady Yeselda. The latter takes Kalissa and Paxton to a library and has the rest of the party brought there as well.

Lady Yeselda informs the group that the Iron Alliance appears to be seeking a particular artefact which is thought to be hidden in the ruins of Elderburg. This is an ancient city in badlands to the south-west of Fort Deeprun, originally built by dwarves or possibly drow, with multiple subterranean levels. In the closing stages of the revolt that toppled the Corovian Empire, it was besieged by rebel forces, who are thought to have allied themselves with otherworldly powers. One of Emperor Clavis’ foremost generals, an elf named Florian, was killed leading an unsuccessful sortie and was buried beneath the temple of Lantira, a funeral which the emperor himself attended in spite of the risks. No maps of the city remain in existence, and the precise location of the temple is unknown, but the temple district is known to be on the city’s Fifth Level. It is believed that Florian was buried with a powerful artefact, and it is this that the Iron Alliance now seeks.

The party makes preparations to travel to Elderburg. Kasglan spends some time in the Effervelds’ library digging up information on hags and Elderburg, while Bud and Sim browse the market, finding what turns out to be Belt of Dwarvenkind (which goes to Paxton) and a sheaf of enchanted arrows. Meanwhile, Lady Yeselda privately informs Kalissa that she (Yeselda) will provide the party with assistance in exchange for the party eliminating the knight leading the Iron Alliance patrol.

Accordingly, the party puts the preparations for the expedition on hold while Bud, in wolf form, tracks the patrol. He returns at dawn the following day to report the patrol has left the road and is headed for Elderburg, and while he catches some much-needed sleep, the others prepare the pursuit. They set off a few hours after noon and catch up to the patrol on the edge of the badlands.

Kalissa manages to lure the knight into pursuing her into an ambush, while Bud slows the dwarves with an Entangle spell. The ambush does not go quite as planned, but the knight, caught without his support, is overpowered fairly swiftly. The dwarven troops, having allowed themselves to get strung out, are dealt with piecemeal.

As the party mops away their sweat and the few wounds they have incurred are healed, the session is brought to a close.

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The Noble Thing To Do
One lead peters out but another springs up

Kalissa discovers her father’s purpose in putting her through charm school was to prepare her for imminent marriage. Not interested in being married off to some chinless wonder, she collects her possessions, leaves her parents a letter (saying, in so many words, “no way”) and sets off for the Katoran Hills. There, she finds the rest of the team holed up in the cavern leading to the abandoned temple. Paxton has been felled by a gastric condition that is beyond the others’ ability to remedy. Aetadius has concluded his devotions and is once again able to interact with others. Kasglan has just returned from a brief foray to Battlerock, a large Dwarven settlement a day or so west, to commission a harness of plate armor. Rumors are rife about disturbances, even civil unrest, in Stormhaven.

The Society confers about the next course of action, and decide to pursue the lead of the Warehouse Lady. Kalissa will scout the house, with the two Lessers as stealthy backup. Meanwhile, Kasglan and Bud (the latter in the guise of a wolfhound) go to pick up Kasglan’s new armor. While in Battlerock, they see a wagon convoy carrying building materials and heavily guarded by Iron Alliance personnel, and overhear that it is headed for some big construction project in the Breggan Hills.

Meanwhile in Stormhaven, Kalissa, using gentle but firm insistence, manages to get the family in the house to spill the beans: Warehouse Lady pays them to present an innocent front while using the house as an access point to the sewers. Kalissa gives them a purse of money and persuades them to find other lodgings for the present. Leaving Sim in a rooftop hide to keep watch on the house, Kalissa and Aetadius ride off to fetch the others.

Sim has terrible luck maintaining an overwatch, as he is repeatedly noticed and keeps having to move position. But when the rest of party arrives, Bud’s keen canine senses help track him down, and they all prepare to hunt down Warehouse Lady.

Following the sewer downstream, the group comes to a Y-junction, with growling and sniffing coming from the left tunnel. A short distance down it, they encounter Warehouse Lady’s massive bodyguard (a hill giant), who attacks on sight. Wielding an end of ship’s mast as a club, the giant clobbers Kasglan and Aetadius (the former’s shiny new armor notwithstanding), but is rapidly dispatched. At the end of the passage, a grating covers the sewer’s outflow into the harbor.

The other passage leads to a small chamber which appears to have been used as a semi-permanent teleportation site. The indications are, however, that Warehouse Lady has left Stormhaven shortly after Hegrin’s death and will probably not return anytime soon.

Just in case she does, though, Kalissa wants to relocate the family to Goodfish, writing a to-whom-it-may-concern letter asking the husband be found work. As part of this effort, Bud visits the Fishermen’s guildhouse to arrange passage, and learns of recent occurrences in town.

Following the party’s departure, Ingo Furtoes, their senior domestic, was detained by the local Iron Alliance. This led to escalating confrontations between the townsfolk and the IA which, despite the city watch’s efforts to maintain order, culminated in a full-scale riot in which the townsfolk sang Imperial-era songs, and retaliation by the Iron Alliance resulting in four dead, twelve wounded, and 28 arrests for inciting violence. At this point, the Baron intervened, demanding the IA’s justification for detaining Ingo. Having heard the Alliance’s claim that the THS raided their encampment in the Breggan Hills, his lordship ordered Ingo released until the Alliance could provide evidence to this effect. The 28 rioters, however, remain imprisoned in the cells beneath the Iron Alliance chapterhouse.

Kalissa, not having been identified as a “person of interest” by the Alliance, seeks an audience with the Baron to arrange a private meeting between him and the THS. This is arranged, and after some brainstorming about how much to divulge, the party is let discreetly into a side door and brought to the Baron’s study.

His lordship is amused rather than shocked at the presence of a tiefling and an elf in the group. He explains to the party that his goal in the immediate term is to maintain order in Stormhaven, and suggests that it would greatly help keep the party in his good books of they were to leave his fief at the earliest opportunity and sever any readily traceable ties to the city, i.e. by divesting themselves of any property in their name. However, he does not wish to set them adrift entirely, and tells them that Borum Brass, one of the visitors to the house the night of the first Alliance raid, represents a group calling itself the Shadow Council. This is a clandestine organization composed mostly of nobles who seek to sharply reduce the Iron Alliance’s power. If the party wishes to learn more, they should seek out Julius Efferveld VII, Lord of Deeprun.

The Society’s members take their leave, and Bud manages to quickly find a senior member of the Fishermen’s Guild willing to buy the house. (Since the warehouse is leased, the Alliance cannot readily identify it as belonging to the Society.) As the party prepares to leave town and ride west (collecting Paxton and the wagon along the way), the session is concluded.

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Fight or Flight

Following Hegrin’s murder, the party continued their investigation of the house where the mysterious lady with the large bodyguard had come and gone. They found that it was inhabited by a couple with one child. A cancerous rat was also found creeping along the outer wall of the house.

Bud used his druidic power to talk to the rat. It was discovered that other rats were also getting sick, and that they frequented the tunnels beneath this house, which are also accessible from the rest of the drain tunnels of the city.

With Kalissa still away at Charm School, presumably to be prepared for marriage, and Aetadius having to observe a special holiday for his order of monks, the rest of the party decided not to pursue this any further at this time.

On their way back from investigating the house and talking to a rat, they were intercepted by Ingo, their halfling servant. Ingo warned them that a squad of Iron Alliance soldiers were camped at the Historic Society headquarters, presumably to “seek justice for Breggan”. The group decided to avoid conflict, and instead camp out in the rented warehouse across the street from their headquarters.

Eventually, the soldiers headed off towards the nearest inn. Shortly thereafter, a tall, slender gentleman, wearing a floppy hat, a cape and a sword at his side, appeared and knocked on their door. It turned out to be “Sil” the assassin, AKA the one that got away. He requested a duel with his target, Paxton Wolfrain, and declared his return at dawn.

Shortly afterwards, another visitor approached. Borum Brass declared that he had urgent business to discuss with the Historic Society, and left information on where he could be reached. The group decided not to follow up on this request.

Once the coast seemed clear, the party quickly packed up their belongings. Messages were left with the Tolvok family, offering a hint at their destination: the caves where they had previously found the sword Kalissa now wields. Aetadius joined the group, but still remained passive in observation of his monk holiday. On arrival, the party quickly got rid of a handful of bugbears which had taken residence in the outer chamber. The party is currently in hiding in this cave, deciding how to proceed…

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