Prophecy of the Priestess
A woman who is about to be burned at the stake issues a dreadful prophecy...

The campaign begins with the adventurers’ arrival in the city of Telder, a city of commerce and culture in the center of the human province of Teluvia. They arrive separately, for as of yet, the adventurers know nothing of each other or the imminent crossing of their fates. Despite arriving on the holiday of Autumn’s Birth, the adventurers find the town empty and quiet, devoid of the celebration one would expect. The players use their skills to deduce what might be the source of this strange absence of celebration. They learn a little, but because they are foreigners to Teluvia, they cannot pinpoint an explanation.

They hear the clamor of voices near the center of the city and, following the sound, they discover of a crowd of peasants circled around a statue. They exchange minor acknowledgments to each other, for they have apparently all arrived fortuitously into a situation of which they know nothing. With caution, they approach the crowd and soon observe the source of the crowd’s fervor.

A woman, clad in little more than rags, stands chained upon the statue of a dragon, sticks piled below her. A priest incites the crowd with zealous words and looks beseechingly at a group of people sitting high above the city square. The PCs take a quick moment to appraise each of the people who are part of this obviously dramatic situation. There is little to distinguish the woman besides her long auburn locks and pale skin. She is obviously a foreigner, and, the PCs reason, must be of some importance, for she bears a seal upon one fingers. What the seal indicates, the adventurers fail to discern. Men, nobles by appearance, comprise the group that is perched high above the city square. Two wear crowns, the others are more difficult to distinguish.

Appraising these people, the players use a combination of skills and logic to try and deduce what the situation is. Gerhart, with his knowledge of this land, manages to reason that this is not the work of a mob but instead a lawful execution. Similarly, Mal manages to observe something of the exchange between the priest and nobles—he discerns a questioning look upon the priest, one that seeks approval from the nobles. Although he is distant from the group, he moves closer and succeeds in reading the expression of the two crowned men; one bears a hardened, grim expression, the other, watches stoically except for a hint of sorrow in his eyes.

The PCs have not yet communicated with each other besides an exchange of serious, questioning glances. They position themselves amidst the crowd, watching as the priest gives the sign to ignite the wood beneath the woman. The adventurers train their eyes upon the woman, who carries no fear in her eyes—only a fire as fierce and angry as the flames that begin to lick her flesh.

As the conflagration consumes her, she gives a curdling scream with an otherworldly quality to it. The strident scream is short, and despite the obvious pain, she speaks out: “I lay a prophecy before you—you who act from fear, beware. Before Spring’s Birth, the middlelands shall look into the eye of change and shall see an end to all nations. The Hellstone shall be unleashed, and blood will soak the grounds of these lands.”

The PCs strain to see amidst the crowd; both Kriv and Wilbur have moved to the middle ranks of the mob. Gerhart and Mal stand back further. None of them succeed in perceiving exactly what happens next, besides to say that Kriv notices the woman give a flick of her wrist and from there explodes a force that washes through peasants and adventurers alike.

The force appears like a swirling opalescent fog. Tendrils of the force snake outward from the woman, splitting into the composite colors of the opalescence, ranging the whole spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. The tide of gray knocks all but Mal and Kriv from their feet. As the currents of what can only be magic wash over the common folk, some begin to twist and writhe.

The PCs make a quick appraisal of the situation around them. The woman, consumed in flames, seems wrapped in a fog of the opalescent gray smoke. He flesh bulges and twists. Beside her, tendrils of darkness wrap about the guards; under the effect, their flesh sloughs from their bodies like dough. Near the PCs, a cord of putrid green light strikes a pair of peasants, whose bodies seem immediately to rot away, becoming like living corpses. Last among these hideous transformations are several villagers whose bodies contort, becoming gnarly and sinewy, their skin taking a deep umber color.

The PCs have before them 4 skeleton, 2 zombies, and 2 aberrant monstrosities.

Gerhart makes a quick check on his knowledge of such arcane transformations, but despite scoring an excellent roll, finds that this is unlike anything he’s ever encountered. None of the PCs have ever seen anything like this. Gerhart can only speculate that the chaotic energies of magic have warped these people into monsters.

One player makes the quip, “I always wondered where goblins came from.”

Time for Initiative! Battle begins and the players all score better initiative than the monsters. For both monsters and players, the first round is spent mostly standing up. A few that are close enough are able to stand up and attack. The players that succeeded in maintaining their balance against the magical force immediately engage the creatures.

Despite the complexity of the battle, events move quickly. In the midst of combat though, these chaotic magical energies begin warping the terrain as well. Using several suggestions from the playtest document, including some interesting and exciting new terrain features, the battlefield becomes dreamscape-like, with the ground shifting and changing color, spontaneous fogs of poison appearing, and the like. Incidentally, a fog of poisonous gas appeared on a pair of horses who, having already succeeded against fear, also managed to fend off the poison. Go horses.

The PCs manage well, despite a critical hit from a zombie and goblin. They focus on the weaker undead first before launching after the goblin who, in the mean time, slay several fleeing peasants. The nobles rush to aid the adventurers, but several swift and skillful blows manage to eliminate the threats before the nobles can reach them.

Success is bittersweet, however, for several townsfolk die amidst the violence of battle, and the woman strapped to the statue escapes. However, before escaping, she undergoes a hideous transformation, sprouting wings from her hands and arms, and taking on the mutated form of some half-beast. Mal makes a valiant effort to stop her, but the result is a release of the chaotic energies pulsating inside her. After seeing the violent effect this magic has on the terrain around, he turns his attention to helping his new allies and saving the townspeople.

Knife in the Dark
The characters are lauded for their bravery, but someone sees them as a threat...

This  session introduced more NPCs and included mostly social encounters. It also introduced Michele Carter’s character, Valenae Alstaer, an elf from the Aryllien Woods. Valenae and her people have recently been displaced and she, unlike most of her people, is curious about the world. She has joined an order of paladins known as the Shield, who had helped defend her homeland from Shadar-kai and the unknown evil that drove them to invade the forest. With the Shield, she has traveled eastward, where she is soon to meet the other PCs.

The battle with skeletons, zombies, and goblins concluded with the PCs intact, finishing the last of their adversaries just as the unidentified nobles arrived to offer aid. The magic-touched city square is disfigured from chaotic energies. A gaping chasm spans across the southern side. The ground in some areas has adopted a suspicious red tinge. Buildings phase in and out of existence. Terrible brambles block passage down the roads. Whatever power has warped the landscape and townsfolk is certainly powerful—now the PCs must learn more of this woman who was slated for execution, this Witch Queen. And they must find out more of this “Hellstone” if they are to uncover the terrible source of the chaos.

Introductions come swift, with Mal and Kriv offering names and respect to the nobleman who, in turn, off the same back. One of the crowned men is hard-faced and middle-aged, and he introduces himself as Clauden Teluvis. The other young man, a bright-eyed youth whose eyes seem to reach in and search one’s soul, is his nephew, Thander Teluvis. Clauden is the regent of Teluvia while his nephew, still 16, waits to come of age. While Mal and Kriv listen attentively and respond in turn, Wilbur is ignored, having quickly earned the disrespect of Clauden by cleaning his blade on the shirt of one of the corpses.

Gerhart receives the attention of a fellow accompanying the rulers, a merchant named Aban Aldoria who hails from Littoria, far to the south. He immediately identifies Gerhart as a magi and explains that he is a dealer in magical items and well-acquainted with the arcane arts.

Clauden recognizes that the PCs have selflessly offered their aid to his countryman and so extends an invitation for them to accompany him to the keep where they might further the events that transpired. The course of their conversation on the way reveals that the woman being executed was a queen and priestess of the barbarian nation of Karthia, which lies several provinces to the east. Her people were recently responsible for the death of Thander’s parents, and the people of Teluvia demanded justice be done.

Nothing is known of the chaotic magical energies that ravaged the square, beyond what Gerhart can deduce—clearly the magic was a chaotic effect that combined the various composite forces of magic. None of them know anything of the so-called “Hellstone” that the priestess mentioned, but Clauden thinks that it bodes ill for his countrymen if it even remotely compares in power to the force she unleashed. He explains that war has been mounting between the Karthian barbarians and the civilized nations of the middlelands. He believes that the escape of the priestess may be enough to push them over the precipice.

The PCs listen attentively and ask questions, trying to piece things together. Each offers more of their personal history, finding connections among themselves and to the events transpiring. Gerhart suffers personal frustration at learning that the priestess was also a seer, the very thing he’d traveled north seeking.

The PCs arrive in Telder’s Keep and are introduced to several other important personages. Clauden’s other nephew (and Thander’s cousin), Gaelen d’Cygniette, arrived earlier that morning from the far off city of Eleusis. He is alarmed by the reports of what happened in the city square, and he questions the PCs about what happened. He also introduces several knights of the Shield, who are part of his retinue. These include ranking officer, Gavin Arnoldt, and junior members Kira Usil and Valenae Alstaer, Michele’s character.

The PCs were asked questions of their backgrounds, through many of them remained reserved, withholding secrets from both NPCs and fellow PCs. Over the course of several conversations, characters managed to put together several key plot points. They discovered that war with Karthia is imminent and that efforts are being made by Thander Teluvis to unite the fragmented human lands. Wilbur eagerly rose to the possibility of going into Karthia to learn more of the Witch Queen and the “Hellstone.” Mal supported the idea. Valenae preferred diplomacy over espionage. Clauden Teluvis reserved the decision for upcoming days, though, for despite the aid the PCs offered to the town, he was hesitant to trust the PCs with such an important mission.

The PCs also meet with a diplomat of Delos, a city in the province to the east. The man’s name is Garen Vindal, and though he expresses an interest in the PCs, particularly the elf, Valenae, he offers little of himself and his feelings on the events that transpired. He expresses concern that this Hellstone could endanger his people. Mal tries to coax more forward, honest words out of him, but meets with little success. Kriv, who comes from a family of merchants, quips that diplomats are like traders without goods, for they have only words to offer.

During the discussion after the diplomat’s departure, a stabbing headache strikes Kriv. He has a vision, of sorts, in which he sees another place that appears to be a den or study. There, he sees hands holding a sheet of glass, and within the glass he sees a view of himself and his companions, as though from a bird’s eye view. The vision is brief and when it ceases, the headache stops and the strange muddled sensation that had plagued him and the other companions since the encounter with the chaotic magic ends. He tells his companions of this, and they are alarmed to learn that someone may be watching them; they wonder if perhaps it is the Witch Queen.

Kriv, however, is not the only one to experience a strange vision. Each of the characters appears to have some sort of strange quality or effect that resulted from their exposure to the chaotic magic. As a DM, I chose to add these extraneous qualities (whether one considers them a gift or a curse) because as of yet, that sort of material isn’t in the 4E core books. Materials from books like Heroes of Horror, Unearthed Arcana, DM2, and PH2 will doubtlessly appear to some extent in the core books, but until subsequent supplements appear, I am borrowing ideas from 3E material to add a little flair to the campaign. I believe there is a variety of 3E material unrelated to mechanics, which will still be pertinent as 4E campaigns begin; the older books won’t become entirely obsolete. Indeed, I find myself often referring to 3E books as I work on my 4E campaign.

The next character to have an extraordinary experience was Mal, who has a vision of two spectral forms standing over Thander Teluvis during dinner. No one else can see these spirits, and he describes these forms to the NPCs, who were mostly alarmed, especially given that their descriptions matched Thander’s deceased parents. Mal, like Kriv, feels better after his vision, as if his head and body were cleared of the crawling sensation that had plagued them.

The PCs and NPCs retire for the evening, awaiting further discussion the next day with regards to the Karthia situation. The night is not to be peaceful, however, and Gerhart is the next to have something strange happen. In his dreams, he sees a disturbing vision of his younger sister, covered in blood that is not hers. Then he becomes her, and he is covered in blood, only the blood is his, and he bleeds from a wound above his heart. He sees a figure standing over him, wearing a featureless alien face unlike anything he’s seen before. In the midst of this dream, he awakes with a start, calling out and waking several of the other PCs. Looking around, he sees a dark figure poised to strike him a fatal blow.

Battle begins with a surprise round that includes all who awaken at Gerhart’s call. I tried to incorporate some of the rules for character condition following waking up, but I found that they delayed the drama and action and instead moved the PCs directly into battle. Mal, who is in the room with Gerhart, does not awake at his call. Neither does Kriv, who is in the room with Wilbur. Valenae is in a separate room and though she awakes, she finds no foes in her room and hurries to join the fray.

The battle is swift, only a few rounds, and the PCs dispatch the adversaries with relative ease, especially given that none of the PCs were armored. This alarmed me a bit because I had intended the encounter to be more threatening and instead, the foes hardly scratched the PCs (despite Wilbur’s complaints of the grievous wound he suffered).

Once dead, the PCs discover that the men, who were dressed darkly and bore the crest of the Teluvian house, were not humans but doppelgangers, which Gerhart identifies with a skill check. Mal searches the bodies but finds nothing on them beside the short swords they wielded. Valenae’s fellow knight of the shield, Kira, who had gone for help, returns with the rest of the NPCs, who question the PCs.

The PCs consider that the Karthians might have been responsible, but it seems to soon to have arranged assassins. They do not come to any consensus, but during their discussion, Wilbur is affected by the strange headache that has struck the other three magic-exposed PCs. Within himself, he senses strange disembodied feelings, as though from some other source. He feels an inexplicable suspicion toward the Littorian merchant, Aban Aldorian. He also feels a sense of fear. He cannot discern the sources of the feelings. Aban had warned him earlier that the PCs were in danger, but they did not heed the warning and during the discussion in the aftermath of the assassination attempt, the Littorian merchant gives Wilbur a significant look.

Clauden promises to have trusted guards posted outside the PCs quarters and invites them on a hunt the next day, promising to discuss matters of Karthia and the assassination further. The PCs retire back to their room, but not before Mal and Kriv notice that the muddled feeling within them, which had vanished after their respective visions, has returned again.

Escape the City Unseen
With the city gates watched, the heroes must probe the depths of an ancient dwarven city to escape unnoticed...

 This session marked a turning point for the players and their characters, for having now learned something of the precarious diplomatic situation between the western human nations and the barbarian nation of Karthia, the PCs are equipped to make decisions about their fate. Bonded through combat, both from the terrible affair in the city square during the Witch Queen’s blundered execution and through the assassination attempt on their lives, the PCs are poised to venture forth into lands unknown, filled not only with dangerous beasts, but dangerous people, who would see the PCs stopped.

After the attempted assassion on them, the PCs sleep and then awake to a gentle knock, roughly six hours later, just as the dawn light is breaking through their windows. They’ve had enough time to rest, and yet they are surprised at this early awakening; the purpose soon becomes clear.

Three NPCs, Thander Teluvis (future ruler of Teluvia), Clauden Teluvis (steward of Teluvia), and Aban Aldorian (merchant of Littoria), gather with the PCs in Mal and Gerhart’s room to discuss how matters should proceed, for the group has formulated a plan in which the PCs play a central role.

Clauden explains that he had intended to go out hunting with the PCs in the morning to give them the opportunity to discuss the assassination attempt and what the PCs might do next. However, given Wilbur, Mal, and Gerhart’s eagerness to travel east to Karthia (as discussed in an early encounter), Thander has developed a plan for the PCs, should they be willing to accept it.

He explains that the hunting trip works as a useful pretense under which to distract whatever enemies might be pursuing the death of the PCs. Instead, he suggests that they surreptitiously sneak out of the city that morning, avoiding the notice of enemies and perhaps having the opportunity to shake off any pursuers.

That is where Aban Aldorian comes in. As a proprietor of magical items, he is a student of arcana and history. He knows of a secret way out of the city that requires the PCs to venture down beneath Telder’s Keep. The PCs naturally question why they might not simply walk from the city, given what dangers might lay in the crypts and sewers below. They are skeptical of Aban Aldorian, using skill checks and questioning him, searching for his motivations. Mal, in particular, presses him. Aban remains cool and confident, explaining that they are better off facing dangers head on then to have a knife in the dark, approaching from some unseen direction. Thander comes to Aban’s defense, telling of how he has known Aban since childhood and considers him as much a second father as he would Clauden.

Thander asks that the PCs escape from the city and head eastward to learn of Karthia’s intentions and investigate the Hellstone mentioned by the Karthian Priestess’ prophecy.  He asks each person individually, and all offer their devotion to the cause. Some travel eastward for more personal reasons, but all are willing to help Thander and his people reveal the imminent dangers. Even Valinae, newly arrived to Telder and recent friend of the adventurers, offers her aid as a representative of the Shield and champion of good.

Thander thanks the adventurers, and the trio of NPCs accompanies the PCs into the depths of the keep. There, they pass through the Teulvian ancestral crypts, where Thander’s recently slain parents are now entombed. Beyond this crypt are heavily sealed doors that lead to the remains of the dwarven keep, which stood here many centuries ago. Aban instructs the PCs to head eastward until they reach the sewers and from there, travel beyond the city. The players, eager for action and adventure, travel forth, down into the pitch-black depths of the crypts.

The stairs descend into the subterranean depths of the keep until all natural light fades from sight. The stairs end at a hewn corridor littered with rubble. A dank smell pervades the area, a combination of stale air and fungi. Four sarcophagi sit in the room, evidence that once this room was a burial chamber of some sort. The lid of one sarcophagus appears shattered. At the back of the room rises an altar, now covered in cobwebs.

The PCs stride carefully forward, evaluating their options. No corridors head eastward, but there are paths north and south. Arbitrarily, Wilbur decides north. However, as Kriv nears the altar…

    Dark forms move seamlessly out of the darkness, silent as death.

These shadowhunter bats weave in and out of the torchlight, striking the PCs on the fringe of the light. After a surprise round, combat begins.

Obstacles, like the coffins and statue, make navigating the room difficult for the groundbourne PCs. They focus on one or two of the bats at a time, usually the ones closest, but the mobility of the creatures works to the bats’ advantage so that no one bat is killed right away and instead they are all brought down a little at a time. Finally, Valenae manages to strike around one of the statues, cleaving one of the bats and knocking it from the air. Gerhart follows up by spraying fire upon both injured and uninjured bats, bringing them ever closer to death. And although it is Wilbur and Valenae that manage to deal mortal blows to the bats, without the support of Kriv flanking and Mal employing his warlord abilities to help keep people up and fighting, the battle might have gone ill. Still, the first room expends a good deal of resources, yet no one suffers too severely.

The PCs take some time to recover and explore the room, and they find several points of note. The coffins bear an inscription in dwarven, Here lie those who First Father, Sum’Dukat, gave honored deaths. May the dishonor of the elves feel their spirits’ vengeance for all time. With some skill checks, the PCs learn that Sum’Dukat is the father god of dwarves, and they figure out that these crypts must date back to the Elder Wars, the war between dwarf and elf fought two millennia ago. Dwarves call the conflict the War of Betrayal.

Kriv finds a helm upon one of the statue and despite Gerhart’s attempts at dissuasion, takes the item and puts it on. He hears a brief message, “May all elves freeze in Hell,” but nothing else. He then casually stows the helmet in his pack.

The PCs proceed into the room to the north where they’d been heading for before the fight. They enter the room to this scene:

The air in this room seems somehow cooler, as the breath of death itself was somehow breathed into the area. Four sarcophagi occupy the room, along with a few scattered bones and miscellaneous pieces of rubble. To the north are a pair of sealed doors, while to the south, a corridor continues. At the back of the chamber are two statues, each armed with stone spears.

As soon as they come to the center of the room, though, the lids slide of the coffins fly off, revealing a zombie in each. There eyes glint with deathly vengeance, seeking to slake not a hunger for flesh but a hunger for retribution. Initiative!

Combat goes smoother this time, for the PCs are better prepared and organized. However, a round into combat, the statues, previously thought to be just features of the room, begin hurtling spears into the midst of melee. Kriv turns his attention to the statues, moving to disable them. Meanwhile, the zombies focus their attention on Valenae, the elf. One of the zombies manages to grab her, and both deal significant damage with their jagged rotten nails, which dig at her flesh. The zombies are quickly dispatched though, and Kriv manages to take care of a statue just before it launches another spear.

Once combat subsides, Gerhart has the chance to inspect a pair of sealed metal doors, which exude an unnatural cold. The doors bear the inscription, “Only the worth may wield the Ruby Hammer,” in dwarven. No attempt is made to open the door, though the PCs do take a moment to look around the rest of the room, finding yet another inscription, “Vengeance be ours in death,” upon the sarcophagi. Once recovered, the PCs press forward to the south, the only route available to them given the sealed metal doors to the north.

The southern room is an intersection of ten-foot passages, adorned by several statues and flanked by small alcoves. Wilbur heads in first, leading the group, however he fails to notice the zombie slouched against the well and suffers an attack as he steps into the intersection. Combat begins as that zombie and another lurch forward. The battle is at first difficult because of the width of the narrow corridors. When two more adversaries appear down the corridor, battle grows more dangerous. A corruption corpse and deathlock wight lumber forward, using their powers to aid the zombies and harm the PCs.

For a round or two, battle hovers on a precarious edge when Wilbur is sent fleeing and the remaining PCs are dropped to dangerously low hp. However, the tide of battle turns when the two zombies are destroyed and the PCs focus their attention on the more significant threats. Valenae uses her abilities to inflict her divine powers on the enemy, while Gerhart employs the power of thunder to drive back the enemy. The situation is improved by Kriv, who scores a critical, and Wilbur (now returned to battle), who uses his abilities to drive back the enemy forces further. The battle concludes with Valenae smiting the corruption corpse into oblivion and Kriv launching a dagger into the deathlock wight’s head. Beaten and battered, the PCs emerge triumphant and discuss the prospects of continuing forward.

Echoes of Vengeance
The heroes must escape the ancient ruins of a dwarven city before the vengeance of the dwarves takes them...

After last session’s string of successive encounters, the PCs were beaten and battered, but still alive and kicking. They had descended into a series of ancient dwarven crypts in an attempt to escape the city of Telder without notice. The idea was to evade whoever might have coordinated the assassination attempt on them the previous night. After fighting through a series of undead, they reached an intersection where they were given the choice between going south or continuing east.

Tulach was absent for this session, so with only four adventurers now, the threats of the dwarven crypt were ever more dangerous. The PCs after some discussion, decide to continue eastward, the direction in which they were told to go. However, as they head down the eastern corridor, it begins to slant back toward the south, eventually depositing them in a small room with a set of doors ajar.

Suspicious of everything after having fought three encounters in a row, the PCs proceed with caution, sending Kriv, the Dwarf Rogue, to go investigate the door. He checks the door but finds no traps. Gazing beyond, through the opening, he sees a larger room, dark except for the swathe of light from his sunrod.

The PCs forge ahead, entering into a large, deserted room. Aside from some dust and scarce bits of rubble, it appears empty. Then, the PCs notice a large plaque set on the northern wall in a large alcove. They attempt to read it from afar, but alas the writing is too small and in a foreign language, so they’re not able to distinguish it. Thus, Kriv heads in to try and read the plaque. Just as he comes within a distance to distinguish the writing, however, a blade springs from the wall, cutting toward him.

Kriv is not to be caught off guard, however, and ducks just in time. The blade whooshes past him, coming to a rest. Kriv doesn’t move for a moment but examines the writing and sees that he can’t read the writing but does recognize the language as Elven. He crawls back to the rest of the companions and they send the Elven Paladin, Valinae, to go investigate. She approaches cautiously and, without incident, comes close enough to read the writing. What she reads is a simple phrase, “If you are reading this, Vengeance be upon you.”

The PCs wonder at this, for the entire crypt seems a place of contradiction. On the one hand, it seems to have once been a sacred, religious place. On the other, the place contains traps and fiends aplenty. Valinae and Mal both try to recall what they know of elven and dwarven lore. With their combined efforts, they deduce that this must have once been a dwarven crypt but during the Elder Wars, when land was constantly being exchanged between dwarf and elf in battle, the crypt must have been trapped against elves who might find their way into the depths. Dwarves, they know, have a propensity for vengeance. It is even said they have a tome called the Tome of Remembered Wrongs.

The only path before the PCs is to the south, lest they should return in the direction they came. They decide to continue forward and soon find their path circles back in a westerly direction. They arrive in a cluttered room.

Ahead lies an intersection of a couple corridors. Dusty rubble fills most of the area, indicating that the place must have once hosted a wider chamber that has now collapsed. The northern wall contains several empty alcoves. The chamber gives a sense of the forlorn desertion that comes with centuries of neglect.

They proceed with caution, the two defenders, Wilbur the Half-Elf Fighter and Valinae the Elven Paladin, proceeding first. They step amidst the rubble, climbing through some difficult terrain and coming down into a small section of clear floor. However, as they do so:

The ground begins to seethe and move about, like a cauldron of boiling oil. Accompanying the movement are the shrieks and squeaks of hundreds of rats. They flood forward, like one living mass.

One of these swarms of rats forms up around Valinae and Wilbur, moving into their space and snapping at their ankles. Another forms from the rubble behind them, moving back to the remainder of the group, biting at Kriv. The party members manage to defend themselves from the swarms, cutting through many of the rats, yet as the tide of battle shifts in their favor, a shadowy figure emerges from the corner of the room, snarling and launching himself at Kriv. This rat-like humanoid sinks his fangs into Kriv’s neck, inflicting a serious wound and causing Kriv to feel ill. Kriv strikes back while Mal moves forward and with his glaive, trying to dispatch the rats.

With a series of good rolls and potent damage, Wilbur and Valinae cut through the rats and move back to aid their allies. However, they are not able to dispatch the rat-like humanoid before he again manages to bit into Kriv, bringing the dwarf precariously close to death.  After another round though, having been flanked and reduced to little hp, the creature melts into the smaller form of a rat and attempts to retreat. The strategy meets with failure though, for Valinae and Wilbur both take the opportunity to strike out at it, skewering it against the ground.

As they take a moment to recover, Mal begins to sift through the rubble and finds a small statue of a dragon tucked away in the corner where the beast had been hiding. A further examination of the room reveals a couple alcoves that might have once hosted statues but have since been emptied. One alcove, they note, has a deep scratch leading away from it and into the room to the north.

The PCs decide to follow the path north and come to a room that glows with the faint blue light from a basin of water. In a couple alcoves to the north there are masses of webs, which the PCs don’t hesitate to quickly search for spiders. They find them. A spider lurches outward from the webbing and attacks Valinae. Wilbur moves in to attack the creature. However, another of the beasts emerges from another alcove and attacks from the other side, threatening to flank the PCs. The PCs divide up, two to each spider.

Kriv is the first to dispatch one of the beasts, scoring a critical. His dagger pierces it through one of its eight eyes, and he then proceeds to go and attack the next creature. The spider, sensing the danger from all these opponents, jumps out of their reach and attacks one of the companions on the edge of battle. This also gives the opportunity for the skeleton—one of the spiders’ former victims—to emerge from the webbing and strike at Wilbur, beating his high AC and striking a significant blow.

Valinae, eager to unleash her paladin’s divine powers on the skeleton, turns from the spider to face the creature. The other three companions struggle to finish off the beast, failing to meet its high AC. Eventually though, it is slain and the group encircles the skeleton, with Kriv slipping in and dealing a significant strike, severing the creature’s spine.

As the PCs recover, they examine the room, in particular, the basin with the glowing blue water. Without the wizard, they are unable to figure out what magic might be the source of the water’s glow. Mal is the first to touch the water and finds that it clings to his skin, giving off a faint illumination. They read a message across the basin that reads in Dwarven, Drink of this drought and be purged. An etymological debate over the context of “purged” ensues, and eventually Kriv takes an experimental lick of the substance. It is without taste, and he finds that the ill feeling suffered from the spider’s poisonous bites has diminished.

Valinae and Mal are the only two who eventually drink of the liquid, and they immediately feel cleansed of any residual poison. They also feel good, as if their spirits had been lifted (later, discovering they receive a bless effect). The group then debates what to do next. A path to the north and east lies before them. The scratch they’d seen in a previous chamber leads into the eastern passage. They decide not to venture in that direction, fearing that some beast might have dragged a statue into its lair.

Instead, they return in the direction they came and head back west (much to the DM’s frustration!), and search another room. The room is filled with rubble and is in exceptionally poor condition. Exploration down the two new corridors leading from the area gets them only collapsing tunnels, one of which catches Wilburs foot, wrenching it for some damage. Unless the PCs wish to return back to the first chamber into which they originally entered the crypt, they must go back and explore one of two paths, the room that they believe to be a lair, or else the sealed door that emanated cold.

The PCs do gain one bit of knowledge from exploration of the collapsing chamber. They find the rotted remains of a rug that depicts an ancient dwarven city which, from its distinct shape, Mal reasons must be Tel’verik, a mighty fortress from the Elder Wars. Although the location has been forgotten, the PCs reason that the Teluvian fortress that sits above them must have been built over the dwarven ruins.

They PCs return to the spider chamber and head eastward, following the deep scratch in the floor.

Deep scratches in the floor lead into this room, eventually coming to a stop in the southeast corner of the room. A statues lies on the ground there, surrounded in a pile of shaved gold. The statue bears short chisel marks and several large cracks. Beside the statue and small pile of gold is a skeleton, its fingers clutched around a chisel. The bones look to have been stripped bear, and they trail into the wide hole in ground, from which can be heard the murmur of sloshing water.

The PCs, examining the scene, reason that the skeleton must have been a grave robber (and had they bothered to search the webs and skeleton in the spider room, they might have found treasure and a clue linking that skeleton to the dead fellow here). Kriv eyes the gold eagerly, saying things to the effect of, “Well, it is just sitting here…” The party doesn’t stop him as he collects the shavings together, stashing them away for safekeeping. No one is eager to explore the hole, but eventually Wilbur volunteers, setting aside his shield that he might lower himself down.

A rickety ladder descends thirty feet, and though Wilbur has no trouble climbing down it, Kriv does, and falls to the ground. Wilbur slows his fall some, lessening the degree of injury. A small trickle of water flows down the tunnel toward the east and the companions follow it for about a quarter of a mile before coming to a wide expanse of sewers.

They are forced to break through a gate to gain access to the sewers. Unfortunately, only a small lip allows one to climb to a nearby stone walkway. Wilbur makes the first attempt but rolls a critical fail, slipping into the sewer below. Up to his shoulders in excrement, he heads for the stone walkway and ties off a rope to help the rest of the group.

Unfortunately, everybody except Valinae rolls dismally and by the time they’re done, three of four PCs are covered in sewage. In ill spirits, they head eastward through the sewers.

They occasionally glimpse shadowy movement from the corner of their eyes, but they’re never able to detect whatever creatures skulk in the darkness. They pass through the sewers without harassment and eventually come to a large colonnade with a frieze along the top. The area has pillars that must have once been covered in fine stone or metal but have since been worn to only the bare rock. It is in this strange place that Valinae begins having visions.

Valinae, unlike the rest of the companions, was not exposed to the chaotic magic that the Karthian Queen released. Instead, she explains to the companions that she’s had strange visions before—visions of the past, or so she believes. What she sees are the foggy, specter-like forms of dwarves milling about in the area, examining the frieze and going about their daily business. They all glow with a strange, purple hue. Some figures walk through the walls and grating of the sewer, but all seem sensitive to the presence of the columns.

The companions reason that this must be some kind of vision of what was once here. They deduce that these sewers must have once been part of the city that they’d seen below the keep of Tul’verik on the rug. When they examine the frieze closer, they are able to distinguish religious images—those showing glowing humanoid beings bestowing education and civilization to the barbaric dwarves. Mal recalls something of his childhood tales about the Terganiels, ancient beings said to have brought divine knowledge to dwarves, elves, and humans. He reasons that these might be those same creatures.

After some discussion, the PCs continue on. Gradually the sewers become more confined until eventually all the waterways combine into one route. As they go down this tunnel, the rank smell of excrement diminishes. Eventually their stone walkway comes to a dead end, as does the flowing water. However, they realize the water has to flow somewhere and Mal, feeling brave, removes his armor and shield and takes a swim.

He finds that there’s a narrow tunnel that leads from the sewers into a fresh water stream. The PCs reluctantly pack away their gear and one at a time, dive in and make skill checks to find their way through and tunnel and into the stream. Mal holds a rope on one end, with Wilbur on the other, to help assist those less skilled in swimming. No one manages to drown and they emerge, happy to have washed away the sewers filth and come through the dwarven crypt unscathed.

A Traitor in the Midst
The characters discover a letter discussing them and alluding to a much greater conspiracy...

After the companions’ journey through the dank tunnels and sewers of Telder’s underground, they were happy to emerge into the warm sunshine of early afternoon. After a brief respite to consider their options, the companions head eastward into the woods. They are only a few miles east of Telder, and so it isn’t long before they come to a road.

The road cuts through the forest and lies at the base of a hill (we used the King’s Road Battle Map). The companions take a quick appraisal of their surroundings and succeed in hearing the sound of battle up ahead. They hurry forward and discover a handful of swarthy bandits fighting a pair of caravan guards. Bodies of dead caravan guards litter the ground, as well as the corpses of a few bandits. The PCs are still far from the group, but they run forward to help the guards.

Wilbur is the first to reach the fight, employing a special resource to get him to the battle when most of the other PCs are still only halfway. He moves and then charges in, scoring a good hit and setting himself up for flanking once the rest of his allies arrive.

The bandits, sensing Wilbur to be the greater threat, turn their attention to the plate-armor-clad warrior. They also call in several friends, one of which flanks Wilbur and strikes a critical blow, quickly putting Wilbur into a perilous situation. He also draws the attention of a gnome arcanist, who hides among the forest cover. This gnome sends bursts of magical energy that target one of Wilbur’s weaker attributes.

Fortunately, his allies soon arrive. Kriv goes searching for the unseen magic-user, but has difficult finding the critter amidst the thick foliage. Valinae engages the other of the brawnier two bandits, and Mal moves in for the flank. Gerhardt stays near the rear, firing precise blasts of magic into melee.

The bandits continued to abuse Wilbur, and Valinae suffers a few hits, but in a string of fortuitous critical hits, the battle quickly turns. Mal employs a warlord ability that gives bonuses to his allies when they score criticals, and it turns out to be a good choice, for virtually every character strikes a critical hit at some point in battle.

The opportunistic bandits manage to keep Wilbur from taking full advantage of his fighter abilities, some of which focus on taking opportunity attacks. With Wilbur disabled, they try to make an escape. One breaks off toward the hill, but one of the two remaining caravan guards manages to catch him with an opportunity attack and deal the killing blow. Three of the bandits the come together in a perfect position for Gerhardt to employ a cone, so he heads closer to battle and sears the enemy with fire, felling one of them and bringing the other two precariously close to death. Kriv and Valinae manage to finish off the remaining bandits.

But that still leaves the gnome. The companions do not yet know who or what the source of the magical blasts is. Regardless, they’re not about to let it slide. Kriv heads back into the forest and searches for the source, while Wilbur, Mal, and Gerhardt wait patiently outside the stand of trees. Kriv manages to spot the small figure and fling a dagger at it, but the gnome has a magical defense he didn’t account for, and the dagger flies wide.

Valinae, in the mean time, attends to the fallen guards and speaks with the survivors. Members of the merchant caravan begin to return.

The other PCs continue to search the woods until at last, they flush out the gnome, who goes running. The tenacious companions pursue, firing ranged attacks at the gnome. The fight continues off the map, even as the gnome disappears into another stand of trees. Only Valinae stays to attend to the needs of the victims and to speak to the leader of the merchant band, a dwarf named Vascal Medul.

As the gnome flees, he throws up a bag of gold, which, instead of distracting the companions, only gives cause for them to pursue him more resolutely. Once they catch up with the nimble fellow in the forest, they have to once again find him. They issue all sorts of commands for him to give up, claiming he won’t be injured. The gnome had no intention of revealing himself, but this time he got a poor skill check to hide, while one of the players rolled well. As soon as he is spotted, the gnome promptly gives up and the PCs seize him.

He pleads and tries to bribe the companions. He offer lie after lie, only some of which the PCs. The gnome tells how someone hired him to plunder the merchant caravan, but he doesn’t know who. This only hardens the resolve of the PCs to find out the truth. The gnome seems deathly afraid of the merchants, and at one point, realizes the PCs aren’t going to release him.  He wriggles from Wilbur’s strong grasp and runs. The companions pursue and the gnome fires a bit of magic back at them, inciting their anger. The companions pursue and attack. They try to subdue him, but after several missed attacks, Kriv’s dagger (dealing lethal damage) quashes any hopes of taking the gnome prisoner.

The four return and find Valinae talking to Vascal and his wife, Melaine, a human. Vascal explains that they were heading east toward Delos, and Valinae suggests (after talking to her companions) that they might be able to accompany the group and act as guards (since many of the former guards were now dead). After some discussion, it is decided. Wilbur tries to persuade the group to cut across country, believing it to be shorter. The route the merchant’s intend to take heads to the northeast, which arguably might be faster since the geographical barriers will be fewer along the roads. The rest of the companions, out of goodwill and the promise of a little pay, outvote him though.

Vascal asks very little of the companions’ background, figuring out quickly that they are running from something and had no desire to share whatever incident brought them to the road. The PCs learn that Vascal and his wife are merchants from far to the south, near the dwarven lands. He says he didn’t know the gnome, and couldn’t imagine why the poor creature was so afraid of a group of merchants.

Once bodies are buried and things gathered up, the companions join the caravan and get some much-needed rest. Near the evening, the PCs awake and join the rest for dinner at the campfire. A deal is made to exchange the merchants’ horses for the service of the PCs. Vascal and his wife intend to stay in Delos for about a week and then travel south down the river, so they have no need of the animals.

A tale is told relating some of the history of the campaign setting, including the origin of humans, elves, and dwarves. The night is uneventful, but Gerhardt has another disturbing dream:

As sleep descends over you and the fog of dreams slip in, you feel yourself inexplicably drawn out of ordinary sleep, beyond ordinary dreams. You see a woman, hair is spilled over her face and she kneels on the ground, weeping convulsively. She weeps over the body of a dead person, whose face shifts in features. She raises her heard and looks around, her eyes train on you. You recognize her, Gerhardt. It is Lilliana, the Queen Priestess of Karthia, the Witch Queen. She stares at you, unrecognizing, then after a moment, her features change too, and she becomes your sister. She looks at you without recognition and then turns her back and walks to the east. Though you call out and run after her, you can’t reach her. She grows more distant as she walks until finally you give a great cry and come awake suddenly.

A week of travel passes uneventfully, but near the end of that week, the characters encounter a creature on the road. The black-scaled reptile is hunched over a corpse on the road. The PCs immediately moved up to the front to defend the caravan in case the creature proves hostile. A few tense moments pass and then, without a care, the beast slides from the road and into the adjacent swamp.

The characters remain skeptical of the beast’s retreat, and Valinae and Mal both keep a wary eye on the water while Gerhardt, Wilbur, and Kriv investigated the body. The corpse is the body of a tiefling male. His clothes and equipment are unremarkable, but the PCs are able to figure out that he’d been walking south (the direction from which they’d come). Gerhardt takes a CSI moment, searching for clues, but he could discern no others. Mal, however, at learning that the corpse is a tiefling, investigates and discovers a tattoo on the fellow’s back. The tattoo has the appearance of a sinister eye.

The PCs guard the wagons’ flank as they traveled by the marsh. The merchant caravan manages to pass uneventfully, unharassed by the reptilian creature, though the PCs remain a little unsettled by the incident.

Later that night, they gather around the fire, as has become tradition in the preceding week. Amid talk, Kriv becomes transfixed by the fire, which quickly melts away into another vision:

While you sit around the fire, Kriv, become entranced with the flames. The flames dance around but then become smaller and smaller until they’re only the flicker of a candle. Your eyes shift from the candle and focus on an envelope in your hand. You withdraw a small ornate dagger with a green gem on its end and slice open the seal of the letter with the hot blade. The seal on letter bears an elaborate V with an eye scrawled between the two strokes. You read the letter.

All Seeing One,

The priestess was burned as you anticipated, however, there was a complication. She appears to have had a fragment of the Hellstone that the Karthians have been alluding to in her signet ring, and the release of the chaotic energy transformed her and those around her, save for a few. I tried to stop these few “heroes” as the people are calling them, but to no avail. I was unable to catch them on the way out of town so I send this courier to deliver my warning. Be wary of these adventurers: [names]. They resisted the Karthian weapon and may be able to interrupt our plans.

-Your faithful servant.

When Kriv returns, he tells his companions about the vision. Vascal and Melaine overheard and offered their input, but Kriv decides to remain tight-lipped and tell the other PCs later. When he does recount the experience to the other PCs, he suddenly realizes that the place where his vision took place bore a striking resemblance to the inside of a wagon—to the inside of their wagons.

Hunt for the Raven-Haired Women
When hobgoblins crash a small town's festival, it is the PCs that must come to the rescue and learn the cause of the attack...

The story opened in the town of Brindol, on a night of festivities. It was the Festival of the Green Moon—a celebration of a rare celestial event upon where the world's two moons came into alignment. Masked revelers, assuming the guise of various fey creatures (both beautiful and monstrous), rejoiced throughout the town. The dragonborn fighter, Aphinius Kaelvar, wandered about the various stalls, entertainers, and onlookers, accosted by swarms of children begging for candy. Instead of encouraging their bizarre human eating habits, he attempted to entertain them with a tale of dragonborn courage, bravery, and honor, punctuated with flashy displays of his two-handed greataxe and culminating with a spectacular blast of flame breath. Unfortunately, the last touch proved too much and frightened the little ones away.

Nearby, the fighter spied another dragonborn—a female. Intrigued, as the sight of dragonborn (and female dragonborns at that) were rare in the area, he approached. After watching her gleefully hand out candy to the children (who apparently decided, curiously enough, that she was now their new favorite dragonborn), he introduced himself. She returned the greeting, introducing herself as Surina. She had come to Brindol in search of the great dragonborn warrior Maygar. Surprised, Kaelvar sadly told her that Maygar had recently passed on, but he had been Maygar’s student. Surina agreed to companion with Kaelvar during the festival in an effort to learn more about the deceased master.

Once again finding himself surrounded by children, Kaelvar impressed them with another tale, again coupled with a flashy display (and this time wisely omitting the fiery breath), and an awed child told him that he should go to the arena and fight. As it sounded like precisely the type of thing he enjoyed to do, Kaelvar agreed, and the two dragonborn followed the swarm of children to the recently dug out pit, where a brawny human was busy working over a challenger with his fists. The announcer—a fighter in chain mail armor—called for anymore challengers. The two dragonborn both spoke up at the same time, and Kaelvar deferred to his new companion. As she readied herself to take on the human, another human from the crowd spoke up and offered to fight alongside “his kind” against the dragonborn.

As they took off their armor (since the bout was to be unarmed and unarmored), a female tiefling cleric (Thorn, worshipper of the Raven Queen) who stood in the crowd offered to watch their possessions. Surina, who had taken umbrage with the man’s comment about “his kind” and dragonborn, said to Kaelvar as the two entered the pit, “He’s mine.”

After a couple of clumsy swings, Kaelvar got his opponent’s rhythm down, and both he and his companion made short work of the men. After they came to, Kaelvar offered to buy the two humans a drink (since Brindol had served as his home for some time, he figured it was best not to appear as a bullying dragonborn to the onlookers), as well as the generous tiefling cleric and his new dragonborn friend. Suddenly, a half-elf warlock approached him and congratulated him on the bout. Kaelvar grinned with a shrug and offered to buy him a drink as well.

The six then made their way to a nearby inn, where Kaelvar ordered a round of ale. A brief conversation ensued, during which Thorn asked Kaelvar how Maygar had died. Kaelvar, who did not wish to disappoint Surina with the truth about what Maygar had become, skirted the issue, but Surina, who listened on, sensed that he was not being entirely forthcoming.

Screams of pain and panic shattered the sounds of celebration outside. Kaelvar, Surina, Thorn, and the warlock rushed outside, along with two others who had been in the tavern: a male genasi named Talib and his companion, a female elven rogue. They witnessed an attack on the town by goblins and hobgoblins. The attackers had infiltrated the town by wearing fey costumes and blending in with the crowd. Now, their masks were off, and instead of candy and fireworks they held swords and bows. People were scattering in all directions, while others—including children—were cut down where they stood.

The six adventurers, united suddenly under a common cause, launched into action. Kaelvar saved the nearest townsman from a certain death by separating a hobgoblin’s head from its body, though he was too late to save some others. Enraged, he threw himself at the attackers, quickly killing two more.

It was after this initial wave of attackers when Kaelvar saw a new menace: a massive ogre (not a troll) harnessed to a large wagon like a beast of burden. The ogre was pulling large casks stuffed with oily rags (i.e., giant Molotov cocktails) out of the wagon, lighting them, and then throwing the explosive devices for devastating effect. Behind the wagon stood two hobgoblin archers, who fired from cover.

Kaelvar charged across the courtyard to the alley, where he found his companion dragonborn, Surina, already engaged with the massive brute. Though it clearly pained her to do so, Surina obliged Kaelvar when he asked her to step back so he might breath fire at the ogre—and more importantly—the casks of oil. He unleashed a blast of withering flame, and a moment later the cart of oil exploded, leaving the ogre a black, twisted ruin.

Meanwhile, the two hobgoblin archers had climbed the alley walls to the rooftops. Kaelvar attempted to pull himself up, but found that it was difficult when carrying a two-handed greataxe. As if mocking him, the rogue’s feet pattered by his face across the rooftop as he scrambled for purchase. He eventually managed to pull himself to the top and throw himself at one of the archers, who attempted to flee. He and the rogue gave chase (the latter launching herself across one rooftop to another in a rather spectacular display), and soon the hobgoblin fell dead at Kaelvar’s feet. The fighter kicked the corpse contemptuously off the rooftop to the dusty alley below.

Afterwards, the group, alongside townsfolk who had reappeared from their hiding spots, set to putting out fires that had been started by the invaders. Kaelvar was surprised to find that one of the goblins had been spared by his companions, and at the suggestion of Talib, the group took their prisoner to the town’s jail for interrogation.

Randomly, Talib then asked Kaelvar if he knew anyone by the name of Zertania. After not remembering at first, Kaelvar then recalled that Zertania was a human female and castellan of the Hall of Valor.

In the jail, they were approached by a clerk of Lord Eoffram Troyas, one of the three merchant council members who, under Lord Orenna, ran Brindol. He told them that his master requested their presence—urgently. After some slick diplomacy on the part of Surina, they sent him on his way, assuring him that they would be along shortly. In the meantime, they wished to turn their attentions to the goblin. Fearing needless bloodshed, Talib, his elven rogue companion, and the warlock left Kaelvar, Surina, and Thorn to the business of interrogation.

Inside the cell, they managed to successfully terrify, bluff, and all around manipulate the goblin into not only giving them his master’s name, Sinrith, and the name of his organization, the Red Hand of Doom, but also a hand-drawn map to their hidden fortress. Once they had what they needed from him, the two dragonborn—much to Thorn’s chagrin—let the goblin go, who scampered off into the night.

Afterwards, they found the warlock just outside of the building. Talib and the rogue were nowhere in sight. The four decided to head to Lord Troyas’ estate. Halfway there, they ran into Talib and the rogue, who were on the way back. They explained that they had went to the Hall of Valor, only to find that the relics stored there had been plundered, presumably by more goblins. They also had found a mysterious—and seemingly powerful—human female being attacked by a group of hobgoblins. After saving her, the woman inexplicably killed herself by throwing herself off a cliff. Curious, Kaelvar asked Talib why he was so interested in the Hall of Valor anyway. In a characteristically rogue fashion, the elf attempted to get her genasi companion to remain silent. Ignoring her, the genasi simply explained that he was a wizard, and he was searching for ruins where it was believed he could find lore that would increase his powers. Considering it a noble cause, and not one to meddle in wizards’ affairs, Kaelvar nodded and wished him luck in his search.

A short while later, the companions arrived at the lord’s estate, though it was humble by most standards. Inside they found some of the most powerful men in Brindol: Lord Eoffram Troyas, host of the meeting; Lord Ackann, tiefling; and Lord Orenna, head of the merchant council, who appeared to be in great distress. After thanking them for their heroism, Lord Troyas told the group that several members of the town—including Lord Orenna’s 18 year old daughter—had been kidnapped during the raid. While the lords wished for the adventurers to find the missing townsfolk, one of them—Lord Ackann—was distrustful. After listening to a few of his snide comments and not-so-subtle innuendos, Kaelvar told him to do him a favor and stop his wagging tongue, while turning to Lord Troyas and assuring him that not only would he find the missing townsfolk, but that they also had a map to their hideout (which provoked another outburst from Lord Ackann, at which point the other adventurers—in particular Surina—displayed how wonderfully irreverent toward authority they were).

The group finally agreed, and through the delightful arrogance (and greed) of the party’s ½ elven warlock, managed to acquire a sum of 100 gold for supplies (among which were “locksmithing tools”for the rogue, 2 javelins for Kaelvar, and a community healing potion by the foresight of Surina). In addition to the gold, the lords had also parted with additional information. They explained that they believed (confirmed by what the group had learned through their interrogation of the goblin) the attack was committed by a resurgence of the Red Hand of Doom. They told how 10 years ago, a great hobgoblin army conquered much of the kingdom of Latoria, but the vast host was broken and routed here at Brindol, large and in part due to the actions of the great dragonborn hero, Maygar. Surprised by this information, Kaelvar felt a sudden pride—and sadness—for his dead master.

The adventurers retired to the inn for the night, deciding to head out in the morning. A short time later, a courier arrived with a complete list of names and descriptions of the missing townsfolk:

• Zertania: Castellan of the Hall of Valor. Human female, raven
black hair.
• Jalissa: Human acolyte of Ioun. Human female, raven black hair.
• Mertalla: Human female, raven black hair.
• Arian: Human female, raven black hair.
• Thuranna: 18 year old daughter of Lord Orenna. Human
female, raven black hair.
• Kartinex: Human male, captain of the guard.

It was the others who quickly put together that there was a very clear pattern of those who had been kidnapped (all humans look alike, anyway). However, Kaelvar did find it curious that Kartinex was missing. Having sparred with him in the past, the dragonborn fighter always found the man personable and well-liked. But that did not make his disappearance any less suspicious, especially since he had no personal ties (e.g., family) in Brindol, and he clearly fell outside the kidnappers’ modus operandi. This suspicion was further deepened when Kaelvar learned that the captain was last seen with Thuranna, Lord Orenna’s daughter.

Most of the adventurers went to sleep early. Kaelvar, having reflected upon what he had learned about Maygar, decided to stay up and share more with Surina. He realized that it was not only that he did not want Surina to be disappointed about a dragonborn to whom she clearly looked up, but he had been ashamed of his old master. So he told her that his scale armor, his greataxe, and his amulet of protection had been Maygar’s. He had taken them after the great warrior drank himself to death. For that is what had become of him—disillusioned, broken, with no honor or respect for his ancestry, the great and mighty Maygar had died, alone, with a bottle in his hand instead of a sword.

Surina nodded, untroubled. She pointed out to Kaelvar that Maygar’s death served as a final reminder from a great warrior—the warning of what happens when the dragonborn lose their way. Together, the two stood above his simple grave, below the tree where he had trained Kaelvar, whispering an ancient draconic prayer to their god, Bahamut…

Early the next morning the group headed out atop borrowed mounts. Kaelvar only had minor difficulties following the goblin’s sloppy map, and they were all relieved when it finally led them to the bones of a crumbling fortress deep within the woods. The rogue scouted ahead, and upon finding the area clear of guards, gave the all clear. The group quickly found a secluded area for their mounts and inspected the entrance. It had appeared that it was recently refortified (in that wooden beams had been hastily thrown up to support the leaning walls), and a wide staircase fell away into shadows.

Creeping down the stairs, the rogue once again scouted ahead. Just at the bottom they found four guards: 2 hobgoblins and 2 goblins. After a fierce battle (and an encounter with a bizarre fire trap involving two mobile braziers), their enemy lay dead, and three doors—along with one decision—lay before them…

Shadows of a Larger Conspiracy
The character confront the Red Hand of Doom's leader, but in doing so, they learn of a greater threat...

The second session began with the unexpected departure of the party’s genasi wizard and elf rogue. After the two left, the remaining four turned and plunged deeper into the ruined hold of Rivenroar. They soon found a mysterious dungeon feature: large tree roots growing through the sturdy stone walls. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that the roots had not grown through the walls, but in fact seemed as though to have been put in place. For what purpose, the heroes could not say.

Continuing on, it did not take long before the group ran into more guards, and during the ensuing battle (during which Surina single handedly defeated two goblin snipers, sending their bodies down a deep, dark pit), a distant call for help could be heard. After the fighting, the PCs discovered that the source of the frantic screams for help emanated from a rather strange and out-of-place hut. Though its roof was constructed of giant, layered leaves and its walls were comprised of a variety of exotic woods, the hut—like the large tree trunks—was incomplete, the stone wall of the dungeon behind it seeming to cut it in half.

Wasting no time, Kaelvar threw his shoulder at the simple door, which shattered under his great weight. Within, he found what he at first mistook for some sort of hairy lizard. He soon discovered that it was a manacled dwarf—though unlike any dwarf he had ever encountered before. The captive—a male—stood the normal height of dwarfs, but he was thin, more like a halfling. His hair was a wild, tangled mess, he wore only hides and reptilian skin, and his body bore all sorts of bizarre fetishes. The odd nature of the dwarf was further deepened when he displayed a wide-eyed marvel at both stone and metalwork, in addition to showing no recognition of the name Moradin, the god of the dwarves.

After being released from his manacles, the dwarf introduced himself as Thorngrim. He was from a village, he explained, one that was “pulled here, deep beneath the earth.” He knew not why, only that his village’s “center tree” had flared with tremendous light just before it occurred. He said that this happened one month ago, and the hobgoblins had been keeping them prisoner ever since.

Asking Thorngrim many questions, it did not take the party long to deduce that he was from the jungle land of Mystrar (where the remnants of the noble Arkhosian Empire existed). How or why the village was pulled so many leagues to the ruins of Rivenroar they could not say, though after their discovery of a portal nearby, a theory began to form.

The portal, carved of stone, sat in the shape of a circle, its lower half seeming to be sunk beneath the floor. Strange runes ran along its length—runes that none of the party could identify. While copying down the runes for later study, Kaelvar overheard Thorngrim explaining that in his village, there was a similar portal, one made of wood. Ancient and mysterious, it existed on the village’s center tree—the one from which the great light flared the night they were transported here.

It became apparent that somehow, through the relationship of these two portals, Thorngrim’s village was phased into the same space as Rivenroar. The parts of his jungle village that rematerialized in space already occupied by earth and stone were destroyed, while the rest occupied sections of rooms and hallways, though incomplete. In addition, many of Thorngrim’s fellow dwarf villagers lay dead throughout the halls, their moist, decomposing corpses in various states of decay. Kaelvar helped the dwarf bury his fellows within one of the large tree roots—as was their custom—and then they all set aside the mystery to continue their rescue mission.

In a crypt lined with sarcophagi containing the copses of a long-dead human house (the Von Urstadt), the party confronted a goblin and arbalester. By opening a nearby door, the goblin somehow reanimated the Von Urstadts, who stumbled from their places of rest as undead skeletons. It was at this moment that, for the first time, Thorngrim revealed his rather spectacular (and somewhat unsettling) ability to effortlessly shift into the form of a wide variety of animals, exposing himself as a druid, a rather rare sight on the continent of Keslinn.

After the short but fierce battle, Kaelvar gathered the bones and replaced them in their sarcophagi, angered at the goblin’s desecration. The party then continued, and soon found a frightened woman in a nearby cell—one of the kidnapped townsfolk. After soothing her fears (and after convincing Thorn that she wasn’t a planted spy), the party learned that it was Jalissa, human acolyte of Ioun. After Thorn healed her wounds, Jalissa revealed that she had seen other prisoners: Adrianna, Zurtania, a wounded Kartinex, and another whom the group did not know was taken—Thorn’s missing friend, Zarixa.

Jalissa decided to follow the group, too afraid to be left alone or attempt a journey back to Brindol by herself, and the party continued in their dungeon delve. A short while later, the adventurers came upon two sets of stairs—one falling further into darkness and one ascending to a closed door. Both stairways were attached to a room filled with large, ominous spider webs. In the center of the room lay a corpse stripped of its flesh. After a bile-summoning inspection of the poor, dead humanoid, it was determined that it had been Kartinex, captain of the guard of Brindol. He had been bound and placed here… as a feast for the spiders.

The crawling swarms fell out of the webs, twitching across the cold stone floor toward the heroes. After a very dangerous (but thankfully short) encounter, the spiders had all been destroyed, along with their webs. Kaelvar untied Kartinex’s bonds and attempted to place him in a more dignified position, vowing to return his body to Brindol and burying him next to Maygar.

The PCs then decided to take the stairs down deeper into the dungeon, as there was evidence that this flight of steps had recently been excavated (along the way having an entertaining discussion about the various racial customs concerning inhumation). At the bottom they were met by two large, cumbersome doors of stone. Carved into the face of these doors were dwarven symbols. It became clear that this lower hold was more ancient than the upper hold. It was not uncommon for humans and other races to build upon ancient dwarves structures, as was clearly the case here.

Beyond the doors, they were attacked by a group of hobgoblins with a couple of pet drakes, all led by a crafty little goblin. This time, the party killed all but one hobgoblin and the goblin, keeping them alive for questioning. In an adjacent room, they found another prisoner—Lord Orenna’s 18-year old daughter, Thuranna, along with three ancient dwarven sarcophagi. Proving to be of little use, the goblin and hobgoblin were bound and tossed into one of the sarcophagi, and the PCs continued with their search.

Traveling into the next chamber, the PCs discovered several menhirs covered in arcane dwarven runes that glowed a chilling blue. The runes seemed to suck all warmth from the air, and any who passed near them soon found themselves covered in a bitter frost while suffering from a deep, biting cold.

Past this grouping of strange, magical standing stones, the heroes finally found their quarry: the hobgoblin leader, Sinrith.

During the terrific battle that followed, Surina was knocked unconscious, though she quickly recovered. However, upon seeing his dragonborn ally fall, Kaelvar flew into a fury and managed to deliver the finishing blow, turning his blade flat and merely knocking the hobgoblin leader unconscious instead of decapitating him.

While he was unconscious, the group explored the room. Of note, there sat a desk and another dwarven sarcophagus. The sarcophagus was marked in dwarven runes, which read, “Kelek son of Nyrad.” But of particular interest was a letter, written in common and addressed to Sinrith. The letter revealed that the attack on Brindol—and the kidnapping of raven haired women between the ages of 20 and 40—was orchestrated by someone other than Sinrith. The women were to be taken to Thunderport. The letter read as follows:

Brave Sinruth,

The Red Hand will rise again! We’re pleased with your ability to inspire ferocity in others, whether they have true goblin blood or merely wish they did. To be blunt, we believe you should have many more soldiers under your command. Many more. As assurance of our continued support, we have sent armor, weapon, and provisions.

Once you have put Brindol to the sword, we will order Krand and his followers to submit to your leadership. Before you destroy the town, though, you must seize any women who have hair like the raven and are between ages 20 and 40. It is essential that you do this! Fail in this, and the Hand will never rise again.

Once you have achieved this, destroy Brindol and seize its treasures. Fight with the valor of your ancestors, and you will be rewarded.

Send those you capture to Thunderport. Krand will know what to do with them.

~The Emissary

In addition to the letter, the group found the artifacts stolen from the Hall of Valor. Among them was a platinum sword, purely decorative as its balance was off and its handle was shaped into the likeness of an angel (not the best for gripping). The angel’s arms were positioned in such a way to be holding a gem of some sort, though it was now missing.

While they were searching the room, they spied a dark figure near the menhirs, unbothered by the standing stones’ chilling effects. Terrible and mysterious, the shadowy figure glided forward like an awful phantom, gazing at them, studying them. No words ushered forth from the figure’s gray, sickly lips, but his eyes bore deep into their souls. One eye was but a dark onyx, dull and gleamless, and the other contained no humor or mirth. Black leathers wrapped tightly about his ashen colored skin, and gray, loose-fitting robes seemed to move gently as if by an unseen wind. Rings pierced the flesh of his face, and jewelry adorned his long, slender fingers. One of these he gently brushed, and when he did, shadows erupted from the floor at his feet, crawling over him like serpents. When they collapsed back into the ground, he was gone, and the group was left only with a chilling memory of this silent and mysterious foe.

After Sinrith awoke, the group set to interrogating him. However, the hobgoblin proved to be far too arrogant to be intimidated, insisting that they send him to his god, Bane. When the disgusting creature insulted the dragonborn and all dragonborns’ honor, Kaelvar snapped. He grabbed Sinrith by his throat and dragged him to the menhirs, placing him at the base of one of them, images of the children of Brindol being ruthlessly slaughtered playing through his mind. He then stood back, watching the hobgoblin’s frozen breath grow thinner and thinner as hypothermia set in.

Just before life left the foul murderer, Kaelvar called out to him, saying that if the Red Hand of Doom were to arise again, it would be under a different leader, and no one would remember Sinrith’s name. The hobgoblin spat a curse at Kaelvar, just as his last, shuddering breath left his body. He died beneath a single dwarven rune: it read, “Loyalty.”

The group then returned to the two rescued townsfolk, who had remained nearby but behind. It was at this point when Thuranna seemed to take a liking to Gentoo, who quickly realized that Thuranna and Captain Kartinex had been lovers. Not wishing to tell her that he was dead, Gentoo instead asked Thorn to do it. The tiefling cleric took to the assignment with enthusiasm, leaving the young human noble a shattered, sobbing wreck.

Down a hall, the adventurers discovered a large, square room containing something none of them expected to find: the tree from Thorngrim’s village, the one etched with the portal. Only the lower half of the bole of the mighty tree existed. The group set to examining the strange runes, and it was obvious that the bizarre language matched that of the stone portal they had discovered upstairs. Through their study of history, the two dragonborn began to piece together some of the mystery (see the Kinslayer Years entry in the Everdusk Campaign PDF, pp.4-5).

Tieldeth, unlike the other primordials, had refused to take part in the war against the gods. For this, he was banished to the world in the form of a sword. He also had a counterpart, a god who refused to take part in the fighting and had likewise been sent to the earth—a god named Calinbrin.

During the War of the Forsaken (refer to the PDF), the dwarfs had split into two cultures. It was obvious that one of those cultures had created the lower holds of Rivenroar and the stone portal, and that Thorngrim’s people were descendents of the other.

Suddenly, two great forms emerged from the tree. They were woodlings, guardian spirits in the shape of giant dwarves made of wood. Before the party could communicate with them, their bark began to sicken and turn black. They collapsed, and from their corpses sprang several dark and twisted aberrant creatures. During the battle that followed, the creatures seemed to be attracted to Gentoo…

Still weakened from the fight with Sinrith, Surina finally succumbed to her wounds. She collapsed, and one of the foul creatures attempted to suck the life from her as she lie prone. Kaelvar and Thorngrim rushed to protect her and managed to do so, though she barely clung to life.

They eventually managed to defeat the creatures, after which Kaelvar sat down heavily next to his unconscious companion, laying his great axe across his lap. In the morning, they would set to clearing out the rest of Rivenroar and rescuing the other kidnapped townsfolk. But first, they would need to rest…

Summons of the Prophetess
The heroes make their way out of the dungeon, but not before a halfling delivers a strange message...

After their rest, the heroes returned to exploring the dungeon, intent on rescuing the remaining townsfolk. It did not take long before they ran into a female halfling rogue, who was about to be introduced to what passes for hobgoblin hospitality. After the battle, during which the feisty rogue proved how foolish it was to take your eyes off an aggravated halfling with a dagger, the heroes learned that she had been hired to give them a message by a woman named Eomir.

Eomir was one of three prophetesses, and arguably the most powerful of the trio. Her two contemporaries were Lady Sar of Delos and the former queen of Karthia, Lilis. Eomir was considered not only the most gifted, but also the most mysterious—you did not find her, she found you. She had hired the rogue, instructing her to come to the ruins of Rivenroar and tell the heroes to “come at once” (and apparently failed to mention to the halfing that the ruins were filled with hobgoblins and other foul beasts). In addition, the halfling—who introduced herself as Tzira—was told to accompany them until they did so. Not about to turn away such a capable companion, the group gladly accepted her offer.

However, first the mission of Brindol’s missing women still needed to be completed. The next two they rescued were Mertalla and Zartania, who were both bound in a room containing four grim statues of displacer beasts, near an ancient (and long neglected) altar. Nearby lay a recently drawn binding rune, one that Gentoo deduced was designed specifically to prevent someone with magic from being able to access his or her powers in order to escape.

So, with four rescued women in tow, the group pressed on to the final battle of Rivenroar, fought against two goblins and two swarms of baby “needlefang” drakes (which had apparently decided that dragonborns are the tastiest of humanoid flesh). During the battle, Thorngrim used his druid powers to pull one of the swarms onto a series of magical sigils lying across the floor. Glowing a mysterious arcane blue, the runes justified the dwarf’s intuition by zapping the deadly (yet adorable) baby drakes with crooked fingers of lightning, leaving them quite crispy and quite dead. After the battle, the runes were recognized as being an archaic form of Common, and they spelled the name of the long-dead human dynasty: The Von Urstadts.

Nearby, the adventurers discovered Arian, who explained that the final prisoner—Thorn’s friend Zarixa—had been taken away only hours before by a hobgoblin with a limp. Much discussion ensued; in the end, they decided to first return the townsfolk to Brindol, then return to examine the mysterious portals (much to Gentoo’s insistence), travel to Thunderport in search for Zarixa, and then travel with their new halfling ally to speak with the seer.

In Brindol, the rather irreverent Mertalla decided that she would rather go back to her tavern than see the nobles, and Thorn and Tzira decided to join her. Meanwhile, Kaelvar, Surina, Gentoo, and Thorngrim traveled with the remaining rescued women back to Lord Troyas’s estate, where Thuranna was reunited with her father, Lord Orenna. Though it was a touching reunion, Surina had a different objective in mind. She turned to Lord Ackann, presented her boots (covered in a fresh coat of horse dung), and demanded her formerly agreed upon payment: the tiefling lord clean her boots and apologize.

The arrogant lord was clearly annoyed, but he eventually acquiesced to the cleaning, and with a snap of his finger, Surina’s boots were magically wiped clean. Surina, however, remained quite unimpressed, and continued to press the haughty noble for the apology. Eventually, unable to suffer the dragonborn’s presence any longer, Lord Ackann excused himself and then returned a moment later, tossing a sack of gold to her, saying, “This is the only apology you will get from me.” Surina, disgusted at the lack of honor from the so-called nobleman, dropped the sack of gold contemptuously (though it was quite quickly snatched up by Gentoo).

The half-elf warlock, meanwhile, had secured a dinner date with Lord Orenna, and it had became quite awkwardly clear to everyone in the party that Lord Orenna’s budding 18-year old daughter was becoming ever more taken with the dashing—and yet damningly arrogant—half-elf.

The heroes then returned to Brindol to buy supplies (and for Gentoo, supplies meant an expensive wardrobe with which to impress his lord host) and take care of other matters. Kaelvar and Surina returned to the guard barracks in order to ensure Kartinex’s proper burial (the acting captain, one lieutenant Eldol, assured that it would be taken care of), while Thorn and Thorngrim returned to Zarixa’s wooded cabin to search for clues, though no new light was shed on her kidnapping…

Clouds Gather Over Thunderport
Thunderport holds all manner of unscrupulous characters, and the PCs meet most of them...

The characters arrived at Thunderport, the shattered, cobbled road (which was flanked by a gauntlet of worn, dilapidated demonic statues) leading through a great tear in the side of a grim mountain. Within, they discovered an ancient, underground city of stone, now under the vigilant eye of their latest caretakers, the mages of Sarun, who warned them not to enter the Underdark via the Dragon Door, the Shining Road, or the Road of Shadows.

After passing by the customs agent (and his battered ogre guard named Brug), Kaelvar stabled the party’s mounts with a rather profane wainwright before meeting back up with his companions at the 1/2-Moon Inn. Rather than sitting with his companions, he witnessed a couple of humans playing 3-Dragon Ante at a nearby table, and decided to join. He soon learned that these self-important men worked for a tiefling named Noristro, who in turn worked for Valdago Lassar. Recognizing the name of the man who took his sister as a bride (against her will), Kaelvar launched to his feet to go confront the tiefling to find out where Valdago was, but his hot temper was soon pacified by Surina, and together they returned to the inn.

The rest of the group learned from the inn’s halfling proprietor that her nephew was missing. After promising that they would keep an eye out for him, they visited the temple of Erathis in order to return the relics they had discovered in Rivenroar. However, the priestess would not accept them, and so the party decided it best that they hold onto them. From this cleric they learned that a mysterious raven-haired woman was seen in the pigeon holes: cramped, narrow holes in the wall that Thunderport’s citizens—mostly miners—used as makeshift homes. When they arrived they found a woman who matched the description of the woman on the wanted posters and who had supposedly killed herself. Extremely morose, the woman (named Mirana) was less than forthcoming. She insisted that she did not know why they were after her, only that it never ceased. As soon as the party turned to leave, the woman threw herself from her pigeonhole, shattering her skull on impact, killing herself.

When he examined her corpse, Thorngrim discovered tattoos of black angel wings on her back. Thorn, meanwhile, sensed that the woman’s soul had left her body, but it had not traveled to another plane…

After the suicide, Gentoo suggested they go to a tavern called the Tap Room (the name of which, given the warlock’s carnal propensities, seemed to take on a whole new meaning when uttered by him). There the party found a half-orc bartender and several duergar patrons. After Thorn insulted the half-orc and left to wait outside, the rest of the group managed to intimidate him into telling them that a group of hobgoblins were camped down the Deep Stair, and they were associated with a group called the Blood Reavers.

The half-orc also happened to know what happened to the beat up ogre named Brug. Apparently a big armed fella (whom the group had seen at the ½-Moon Inn) had smacked him around. That individual, and those who had been seen with him, were part of a mercenary group known as the Talons—elite soldiers with a penchant for evocative and descriptive names and a reputation for being terrifying opponents.

While waiting outside, Thorn witnessed a homunculus fly out of the upper floor of a nearby trading post, which was owned and operated by duergar. When she and Gentoo went there, the duergar refused to let them use the homunculus (which was owned by a duergar named Kidira). While they were arguing with the duergar, Tzira and Kaelvar went to see the drow Gendar, who owned Gendar’s Curios, who told them that in exchange for finding out what the duergar were sending out on their next shipment, he would reveal information about Krand.

Back at the inn, Surina and Thorngrim learned from a group of miners (the Deepgem Miners) that they had discovered one of the stone portals recently, and he said he would lead them there, if they agreed to take care of it.

At this point the party decided it was time to do some killing. They descended the Deep Stair and attacked the group of hobgoblins, who had been busy torturing the missing halfling. One of the hobgoblins, whom they kept alive for questioning, told them that they had come to Thunderport to do business with the Blood Reavers, and they were about to head back to Rivenroar. He knew nothing else.

Down at the air docks, the group found 3 airships at port. While Surina distracted the harbormistress, Tzira sneaked into the offices to find out what the duergar were shipping. In the harbormistress’s ledger, she learned that the duergar, at the behest of Lord Ackann, were (and had been, starting recently) shipping all manner of dwarven artifacts to Valdago Lassar.

Returning to Gendar with the information, the drow told them that Krand is the leader of the Blood Reavers, and that he could be found in the Chamber of eyes, just off the Road of Shadows. Furthermore, Terrlen Darkseeker could show us the way, and he could be found in the ½-Moon Inn. When the party returned to the inn, they found Terrlen, who agreed to take them to Krand. Meanwhile, Surina recognized one of the Talons, Kena Draken, and old friend of hers from the academy. And, she learned, Kena was the Falcon, the leader of the Talons…

Assault on the Chamber of Eyes
The heroes confront the Bloodreavers and rescue the orcs' captives
So the heroes traveled with their guide down the Road of Shadows to the Chamber of Eyes. Along the way, they passed several chambers shooting off from the main hall, twisting off into darkness. The road itself traveled a circuitous path, which the party followed until they came upon a large, ponderous stone door. A large eye carved into the dull, gray stone dominated the center, with various eyes surrounding it. As Thorn touched the door to push it open, all of the eyes shifted, as if suddenly aware, focusing on her for but a moment before snapping back to their previous, motionless forms. Leaving the guide outside, they entered…

Inside, the heroes found many rooms filled with orcs, all fanatically loyal to Krand. After fighting their way through several rooms, the heroes discovered many black-haired women chained to the walls. Among them was Thorn’s missing friend. After questioning one of the orcs whom they kept alive (Kaelvar dangled him upside down by his ankle from a tall ledge), they secured their prisoner upside down by the chains with which the women were kept prisoner. However, seeing no utility in the prisoner, Thorn promptly sliced his throat with her scythe, sending his miserable soul to the Raven Queen.

Moving on, the heroes defeated the last of Krand’s guards and found that the orc vanished down a hidden trapdoor. Wasting no time, Kaelvar rushed down the ladder after him, landing in a chute filled with swift-flowing water, which swept him several hundred feet and finally dumped him out along the lower docks of Thunderport…
As the aerial battle over Thunder Lake ensued, Krand was pulled from his manticore by Tzira and fell into the lake below. Thorngrim also went for a swim but, although incapacitated by the fall, he was saved by several creatures he would later remember as 'aquatic elves'. However, Thorn was eventually able to drag him back to the surface and back up onto her mount. Meanwhile, Surina and Dalarina pursued and shot down the remaining orc.

Eventually Zerrixa and the other dark-haired women were taken back to the Half Moon Inn in Thunderport. Exhausted from the day's activities, the adventurers retired to their rooms at the inn. Gentoo's night was cut short, however, when he awoke to find several blades being shoved into his ribcage. Employing a bit of magic, he left the room with a pop, after which his companions were able to swiftly dispatch two of what appeared to be doppelganger-like creatures and take a third hostage. Unusually undaunted, Gentoo selected another room in which to sleep; the rest of the band soon followed suit.

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