Eberron - Dreams of Xen'drik

The Everice – A Despot Driven Mad
Session Thirty-One

Moving on, the group decided to head to the bear village of Oksaahka, hoping to find more clues about Philippe Heyerdahl and the Meydani Map. Old Will Dyer had warned them that the bears were distrustful of outsiders, but if they were approached with respect and caution, they could be helpful. As they grew closer to the village, the group intentionally put away their weapons and set up a small camp outside the village proper, away from the walls but still obvious to the residents. After a short time, a large armored bear made his way out to the group, stopping outside their camp but between them and the village. Malaxder went out and spoke with the bear, who introduced himself as Amak, one of the chieftains of Oksaahka.

Malaxder laid out their purpose for visiting, and their intentions to Amak, speaking politely and truthfully. Amak was impressed with Mal, and said that while they would not be welcomed into the village, they were welcome to stay in their camp outside, and he would consult with the village elders who might have dealt with Heyerdahl. The next day, he returned with a request of their own: in exchange for the information, they wanted the group to do some scouting for them. The bears were in thrall to an ice dragon named Krikhesmeth, who regularly demanded tribute from them. While Krikhesmeth was not a kind creature, she generally left the bears alone as long as they stayed out of her territory and gave regular tribute. However, she had not demanded tribute from them in some time, and they bears worried not so much about her health but about something that might have been powerful enough to stop her from leaving her lair. Amak asked if the group would be willing to travel to her lair and investigate, and see what might have become of the powerful dragon.

Traveling to her lair was uneventful, but approaching it became suddenly difficult. A field of towering ice spires lead up to the frozen cave she occupied, and while Mal could not detect any magic in them, Dor knew that these formation could be dangerous nonetheless. As they entered the field, arcs of electricity jumped from spire to spire, creating a dangerous path for the group to traverse. Dor’s speed and quick reflexes allowed him to safely cross the spires, and the rest of the group followed in his wake before the natural hazards could reset their stores of energy.

Continuing up and into the lair, the group’s attempt at announcing themselves was met with no response. Entering the cave, they were attacked by bound ice elementals, who lashed out at them with wicked sharp icicles. Defeating the bound guardians, the group then encountered a gathering of ice mephits. The mephits attempted to scare the adventurers with blustery words, but Malaxder saw through them and convinced them to stand down. After a bit of talking, the mephits revealed that they had been learning from the dragon, but something had happened to her recently and they were afraid to approach her space deeper in the lair. Malaxder convinced the mephits they were there to help, and they agreed not to attack him if he would go and see what had become of the dragon. They also warned him that the dragon had a powerful animal companion, which would fight to defend its mistress.

Going deeper inside, they came across strange scratchings on the walls, and a terrible smell. Looking over the scratchings, Anton feared that something terrible had taken ahold of the dragon, as the “writings” were mostly mad ramblings, and mentions of some terrible thing. Coming around the corner, the encountered the dragon herself – her eyes had gone white and rheumy, there was spittle flecked around her mouth, and several of her claws were gone. All over her body, patches of scales were torn out, and they were stacked across the floor with more writings on them, some of them written in the blood dripping from her fingers where she tore her claws out. In the corner, a gigantic wolf-like creature whose fur seemed to be made of ice was cowering, her animal companion clearly in fear of whatever had affected the mighty dragon. Obviously driven mad by some terrible power, she lashed out at the group with her breath weapon, which they narrowly avoided. Gathering around Malaxder, they quickly teleported out of the lair and back to Oksaahka, dodging another clumsy attack from the dragon as they fled.

Returning to the bears, they quickly gave their bad news to Amak, who invited them into the village to give their report directly to the council of elders. Entering the village, they followed Amak to the council’s hut, and presented their story to the elders. As they finished, however, a terrible sound, half roar, half shriek of pain, echoed across the tundra – the dragon had come to the village, and she was berserk with rage.

Running outside, the group fought valiantly to defend the bears, who did their best to fight off the maddened dragon. Dodging blasts of wintery breath, the group engaged the dragon and her massive animal companion in combat, bringing fire and magic and swords to bear against the awesome beast. After a terrible battle, Shackleton finally plunged his sword into the dragon’s heart, and Anton felled the wolf-like creature with Baph’s help.

For their valiant defense of the village, the bears happily agreed to tell them everything they knew, and also used their skills and magic to upgrade the groups armor, granting them all a greater chance to survive future battles. The bears told them that Heyerdahl had come looking for clues to the mythic demon city of Icerazer, which the bears did have knowledge of. They explained that Icerazer exists on an iceberg, perpetually floating around the Icemaw Sea to the south. However, Icerazer’s drifting followed a pattern, and those who understood the pattern could predict where the iceberg might be found. Explaining this to Dor and Shackleton, the pair pooled their knowledge and determined that Icerazer would actually be coming close to Tilkatukus soon. They thanked the bears for their generosity, and decided to return to Tilkatukus gear up and prepare to make the oversea trip to Icerazer.

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The Everice – A Sunken Wizard’s Tower
Session Thirty

The next morning, the group woke to find that Tierel was gone. Ral was certain that she had taken off looking for her mother on her own, and decided to try and track her down. He left the group and headed back north, intending to stop at Stormreach in case she returned there. Mysteriously, she left all her belongings as well, which Ral gathered up and took with him. As the days progressed, the rest of the group found it more and more difficult to remember Tierel’s face, and eventually her name. Much like Garignak, only Ral would remember her in time.

Leaving the village of Tilkatukus, they decided to head towards the wizard’s tower of Delzomen. According to Old Will Dyer, the wizards of Delzomen were mostly hermits, although they would occasionally accept a visit from a visitor who was polite or interesting, and would not disturb their studies. Malaxder felt sure he could get along with the wizards, so they made their way there first.

The tower itself was no longer a true tower. During the age of Giants, it was definitely a tower, but the epic magics cast by the giants to rid themselves of the Quori shattered the southern part of Xen’drik, and much of the land sank beneath the ocean, becoming frozen in the ice. 40,000 years later, only the top section stuck up out of the ice, although the lower levels were secured against the frozen water, and were occupied by the reclusive wizards.

Approaching the tower, the group was surprised to find that only a small section remained above the ice, barely enough to offer shelter against the cold winds. Approaching the structure, they spotted several rough-looking figures lurking inside, possibly preparing an ambush of some kind. Malaxder called out to them while Dor and Shackleton snuck around the side, hoping that perhaps they were simply guardians employed by the wizards to keep undesirables out. Seeing them closely, they didn’t seem like guardians after all. Speaking to them, they seemed to know nothing of the wizards, although they tried to lie to Malaxder about their reasons for being there. Unfooled by their lies, Mal called them on their bluff, and they gave up any pretense and attacked. Roaring with a fierce rage, icicles formed on their fists, and they flew into combat with the group in a terrible battle fury. They were quickly put down, however, and the group scoured the rest of the area for clues as to what they were doing here. Anton theorized that they might be the wicked Frost People that Old Will had warned them about, and their presence here was probably not a good thing. The group decided to descend into the depths of the tower, and see what they could find.

Going down into the tower, the group found the place trashed. Shattered containers of supplies, shredded scrolls and books, broken furniture and other detritus littered the entire place, punctuated by filthy stained mattresses and sleeping nests, obviously once occupied by the barbarians above. Exploring further, they found a chamber of horrors – the torn and shredded body parts of various humanoids were hung from the ceiling with some kind of string, dangling in a horrific mobile all around the room. The floor was slick with frozen blood, and piles of bones and viscera were shoved into a corner. The few heads that remained, the faces were frozen in terror, obviously the remains of the wizards. In the back, a pile of valuables lay beneath a strange symbol on the wall, one that Anton almost recognized. As Anton and Dor moved into the room to examine it, some of the corpses stirred to life, pulling themselves from under the piles of gore and attacking the group. Baph was again frustrated by his mental power’s ineffectiveness against the undead, but he lashed out with his other weapons. Shackleton quickly found that even drawing near these monsters caused the heat and life to drain from his body, and the group fell back to try and fight them with ranged weapons.

Finally destroying the deathless terrors, they made their way down to the next level of the tower. Here they found more living spaces, as filthy as the ones above, and more scattered trash from the Frost Folk’s rampages. The windows of the towers seemed to be frozen over somehow, creating a “plug” of ice that kept the water from coming in. The constant freezing temperatures served to keep the ocean from washing away everything in the tower. However, the pressure of the water outside was definitely still palpable in the air, and it seemed to some that they could hear something as they went deeper, something on the edge of hearing but somehow audible in the bones, like a strange chanting.

Further exploring this level, the found another charnel room, only this one seemed to be lived in. Within the cramped chamber there were skulls of all shapes and sizes tucked into every nook and cranny, and a cocoon-like net hung in front of the frozen window, a collection of femurs and vertebrate sticking out of it, looking like twigs caught in a spider web. Scattered around the room were balloon-like chunks of ice, each containing a small animal or bird, frozen in movement, some with bite taken out of them. Searching the room they found a small amount of treasure, and Anton noticed another of the strange symbols on the wall. He finally remembered where he had seen this image before – it was the symbol of Ibhorighu, a terrible god of madness and slaughter, which most scholar supposed was simply an aspect of the Fury.

Proceeding further downward, the pressure and the strange noise were growing greater. On the next level they found more living chambers, another slaughter room hung with grisly trophies, and a kitchen for preparing food. Strangely though, they were not finding any people. Only the guards above and the undead had accosted them thus far. Going down to the final level, the chanting below was now becoming audible. As they entered what was once the grand entry chamber for the tower, they saw the remaining Frost Folk worshippers and the evil cleric leading them, engaged in a terrible sacrifice. The great door of the tower stood frozen open, the water stood frozen in the act of spilling into the room thousands of year ago. Stuck in the icy wall created by the doorway was the last wizard, his hands and feet frozen into the ice. As the group entered, the cultists finished their chanting and a dark, shadowy shape could just be seen moving beyond the ice. Suddenly, the wizard was pulled through the ice, screaming as he went, disappearing beneath the surface and leaving no mark of his passage. Their final sacrifice complete, the barbarians and their leader turned on the intruders, and the battle was engaged.

Malaxder spent his efforts countering the spells of the high priest, preventing him from bringing his magic to bear on the group. Meanwhile Baph, Anton and Shackleton engaged the warriors, while Dor slipped unseen around behind the battle, meaning to put an arrow into the skull of the cleric. Before he could act, however, a pair of terrible shapes stepped back though the ice behind him. Towering humanoid shapes of ice and blood, the figures of the sacrifices could be seen within them, frozen corpses granting terrible life to these abominations. One of the grabbed Dor before he could escape, and began to drag him back into the ice to a frozen death. Thinking quickly, Baph time-hopped Dor, robbing the creature of its prize while Shackleton moved to distract them and Anton and Mal finished off the last of the cultists and their wicked leader. A combined group effort finally managed to destroy the horrible undead, and Dor popped back into the time stream immediately after, saved from a horrid death. Looking up at the frozen doorway, the group could just make out a tremendous fish-like shape in the darkness beyond, which flicked its tail and vanished into the inky depths. Having barely survived, the group quickly abandoned the depths of the terrible tower, and decided to head to a more hospitable region of the Everice, away from the unspeakable terrors beneath the waves.

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The Everice – A Changeling Scout
Session Twenty-Nine

Returning to Stormreach, the group decided to take some downtime and relax before deciding where to head next. During their relaxation, they were approached by a Changeling Scout who introduced himself as Dor. Dor told them he was looking for a particular artifact, a map known as The Meydani Map. The Map was last seen in the hands of a dwarf explorer named Phillipe Heyerdahl, more than 100 years ago. Heyerdahl was mounting an expedition to the Everice, in the distant southern reaches of Xen’drik, but he never returned. Dor believed that the Map was still down in the Everice somewhere, and he wanted to recover it. However, he did not have the resources to make the trip alone, and he knew he would need the aid of a group to acquire the artifact. He had approached the Savage Company, but they were not interested in helping him. However, he had heard of a rival group who had tangled with the Savage Company in the past, and decided to seek them out. The group asked Dor to give them some time to consider, and he agreed to come back the next day.

When Dor left, Anton told the group that he remembered that the Meydani Map was an artifact all right – it was an artifact of The Traveler, and would be considered sacred to those who worshipped him. Shackleton didn’t have a big problem with that, as long as Dor’s money was good. Tierel wanted to travel south to the Everice anyway, as her mother had also headed in that direction at some point in the past. The group finally decided to take Dor’s money, and journey south to the Everice.

The next day, they met with Dor and agreed to his terms, and Shackleton set about gearing the group up for travel to the arctic climes. Dor had arranged passage on a ship heading south, and they set out a few days later for the two week journey to the Everice.

During the journey, they were attacked a few times by marauding Drow, and they had a chance to fight alongside Dor and see the measure of his abilities. Dor was an expert archer, as well as being an accomplished Scout and tracker. His nature as a changeling was sometimes annoying, as he had a habit of imitating those around him in an attempt to “fit in.” Over time, they grew to trust him more and more, and the group learned to fight alongside each other effectively enough.

During the quieter times of their journey, Anton brought up something that had been disturbing him. As they traveled and learned more about Tierel’s mother, the timeline didn’t make much sense. It seemed that much had happened during the time that Tierel was growing up in Morgrave University, but almost too much had taken place. It seemed that too many things had happened, and in a strange kind of order, and some of the events didn’t make sense. Moreover, Anton could not get a clear picture in his head of how long the group had been journeying together. As he mentioned this, each of the members of the group realized that their own sense of time was off somehow, and they couldn’t clearly remember how long they had been in Xen’drik. Malaxder suggested that this was possibly an effect of the Traveler’s Curse, which distorted both time and distance wherever they went. In the end, no one was able to come up with a good explanation for what they were feeling.

After two weeks travel, the ship docked at a tiny, nameless trading village, which was as far as the ship was traveling. There the group resupplied, and made their way on foot towards the village of Tilkatukus. Dor and Shackleton spoke to the local residents, who warned them of the dangers of their road – Frost Giants had been seen roaming the lands more frequently, and Dire Polar Bears were becoming more active for the start of their mating season. There were other dangers as well, but the group was confident they could survive whatever the Everice could throw at them.

As they traveled a few more days, the group got their chance to test that theory – they were attacked by groups of bloodthirsty Yeti on the open plains, frost salamanders in the icy canyons formed by the howling cold winds, and finally ambushed by a Dire Polar Bear, who managed to sneak up on the group while they walked. All the while, they kept their eyes peeled for Frost Giants or their tracks. After a few days, Dor found some tracks that definitely belonged to giants, and followed them as far as he dared. Cresting a hill, he spotted a giantish scout and it’s frost wolf companion, but it seemed to be heading away from them and from the village they were headed towards. Dor’s ability to camouflage came in very handy, and the giant took no notice of him.

Finally, after a few days of travel in the bitter cold, they arrived at the fishing village of Tilkatukus. Most of the year, the village’s ships were frozen into port on the Icemaw Sea, but now the ice was thawing a bit and the ships could make their trips into the waters, which meant that trade of all kinds was picking up. Dor was fascinated to meet all the different people and races throughout the village, learning more about each race as he talked to everyone. He and the rest of the group went about gathering information on Phillipe Heyerdahl, trying to see if anyone in the village knew of him, or what happened to him. After a great deal of searching and talking to people, he finally met a sage named Will Dyer, who had been living in the village his entire life. Approaching the sage politely and with coin in hand worked out well, and Will was quite happy to share all kinds of information with him. He had never met Heyerdahl himself, but his grandfather had, and he told him of the dwarf explorer. He said that Heyerdahl was planning to explore several sites in the Everice – The wizard’s tower of Delzomen, the bear city of Oksaahka, but what he really sought was the legendary demon city known as Icerazer. The location of Icerazer was unknown, but Heyerdahl was sure that clues to the location of the city could be found in the other locations. Will also spoke of the map that Heyerdahl carried, that would supposedly allow him to find the mythical city, and of the dangers of the Everice, including dragons, creatures, frost giants, and the twisted humanoids known as the Frost Folk, who sacrificed unwilling victims to their evil gods.

While Dor was looking for clues to the Meydani Map, the rest of the group was securing shelter and exploring the village. Tierel and Mal acquired a small hut in the village version of an inn, and found that the hut was populated with tiny hearth spirits called Domovoi, who enjoyed keeping the house warm and cozy, and thus made excellent keepers for the various huts owned by the “inn.” Anton, in the meantime, warned the village elders about the frost giant scout they had seen, and Shackleton and Baph wandered the village taking in the sights and doing some shopping.

As night fell, Dor got ready to take his leave of Will Dyer. Will had taken a shine to the young changeling, and as he was leaving he pulled Dor aside and warned him in a whispered voice about “the madness beneath the ice”. Apparently, something lived beneath the frozen surface of the Everice, something that drove any being that encountered it insane. Will warned Dor that whatever searching he did, not to delve beneath the ice for too long, or to look too deeply into secrets that were best left buried. Dor took his warning to heart, and rejoined the group for their rest before making their way out into the icy wastes the next day.

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Dal Olam – The Haunted Ruins
Session Twenty-Eight

The following day, Lakshmi returned and asked them if they were still willing to help her. She had found the location of an ancient Quori outpost in the jungle, and wanted to explore it for clues to the ancient denizens of the Plane of Dreams. However, the ruins were said to be guarded by a tribe of giants, and Lakshmi knew she could not manage the journey alone. The group agreed that they had time to help her, and they set out into the jungle once again.

They traveled in a somewhat haphazard fashion, Lakshmi leading the way under the guidance of shared memories with her Kalashtar sisters, each descended from the same ancient spirit. Some of the group, notably Ral, did not fully trust her. One even, she sat down to explain to them more about the Path of Light, and the secret history of the Kalashtar people.

The plane of Dal Quor, she explained, was a cyclical place that ebbed and flowed with the changing of the epochs. Each time a great age came to an end of Eberron, Dal Quor collapsed in on itself, and then was reborn anew. Whether Eberron affected Dal Quor or Dal Quor’s changes brought upheaval on Eberron, no one knew. The patterns became obvious to the immortal Quori, who encountered evidence of interplanar contact on Eberron that no Quori who currently lived were aware of when examining the dreams of mortals from the material plane. They also did not know what had happened during the Giant-Quori Wars, or even what sparked the conflict. It was an answer each Quori deeply desired to know.

The current incarnation of Dal Quor was that of a living nightmare. The current Quori spirits were servants of a new power at the heart of the plane, known as “il-lashtavar”. The Quori had become slowly aware of the connection between Eberron and Dal Quor, and through endless examination of the dreams of mortals became once again aware of the cyclical nature of the connection between Eberron and Dal Quor. This terrified the current Quori, who feared the death that this change would bring them. Rather than submit to their fate, they decided to act on the Material Plane, to make sure another change would never come to pass.

Slowly, over the centuries, they manipulated the dreams of mortals, changing the destiny of the land known as Sarlona. They masterfully manipulated bloodlines to create races that would host their spirits in the material world, allowing them to take direct action. Over the course of hundreds of years, they manipulated events to create the totalitarian society of Reidra, ruled by the Inspired – those humanoid vessels specially bred to serve as the perfect hosts for their Quori masters. The Inspired had one overriding goal – to create a new world order on Eberron, one which would allow no change, and which would ensure in turn that Dal Quor never changed. The servants of il-lashtavar, “The Darkness That Dreams”, became known as The Dreaming Dark on Eberron.

However, some Quori did not agree with this path, and felt that the actions taken by the Dreaming Dark were wrong. For their temerity, they were hunted down and destroyed on Dal Quor, and the survivors fled to Eberron. There, they met with a group of ascetic monks in the mountains of Adar, and told them of the terrible actions of the Inspired. The monks agreed to allow themselves to be hosts to the renegade Quori spirits, who subsumed their power and their personalities into the bloodline of the monks, and created the race known as the kalashtar. Each kalashtar is descended from one of those monks, and each bears a fragment of the soul of one of those renegade spirits.

Ral found all this very difficult to believe, as it was in direct conflict with what he had learned from the Inspired as he had grown up. Lakshmi, however, continued to explain that the Quori still punished renegade spirits by trapping them in mortal forms, like his. Ral knew he was a prison for an “evil spirit”, so this was no surprise to him. However, Lakshmi explained, some spirits were too powerful for just one mortal form to contain, and had to be split into more than one. When this was done, the two mortal forms were put as far from each other as possible, because if they were to meet, the spirit could regain some of it’s potency. As she said this, she looked meaningfully at Storm, who glared impassively back at her.

After several days travel, they finally approached the area Lakshmi knew the ruins to be in. While traveling, they found themselves being stalked by a group of jungle giants, who leapt from the canopy and attacked. While the others beat back the giant’s attack, Malaxder managed to charm one of them, and ordered the giant to protect him. When the fight was over, Mal asked his new “friend” to guide them to the ruins. The giant did so reluctantly, but when they drew near he said he could not approach because those who entered the ruins often came back “not themselves”, seeming to imply possession of some kind. After much discussion, the group decided to talk to the leader of the jungle tribe, a female named Alda. Alda was fairly reasonable, but also insisted that the group not enter the ruins for the same reason. She said her tribe was sworn to protect the rest of the world from whatever lurked in the ruins, and if she found that the group had entered the ruins, she and her people would fight to the death to keep them from leaving again. Malaxder assured her they would not enter the ruins, and left the Giantish camp in peace.

In the meantime, the group headed as stealthily as possible into the ruins, hoping to avoid being noticed by the giants who were no doubt following them. Entering the area, they found ancient astral constructs still functioning, some formed into artistic shapes like decorations, while others were lit from within like torches in a sconce. Approaching the entrance, they were suddenly ambushed by yuan-ti, who struck from the shadows with psionics and arrows. After a brief fight, they drove them back as much as they could, and headed into the ruins.

Inside, they found a huge seal on the ground which radiated magic. In addition, the walls had mysterious grooves cut into them, seeming at first to be decorative geometric patterns. While Malaxder examined the seal, Ral studied the grooves and found that some of them contained what seemed to be psionically-charged ectoplasm. The entire structure was cracked and damaged by some massive force, and the connections between the walls were broken. Mal, meanwhile, discovered that the seal was in fact a permanent gate, most likely to the plane of Dal Quor. The gate was non-functional because of whatever epic magic the ancient giants had used to block travel to and from Dal Quor.

Exploring deeper within, they encountered a patrol of what seemed to be giant-sized Warforged, each with a mysterious cavity in their chests. The Warforged attacked suddenly, and the group defended themselves as best they could against the gigantic constructs. Ral noted when one of them fell, it’s chest cavity was filled with the charged ectoplasm. As it lost function, the ectoplasm evaporated back into the astral plane.

Moving even deeper, they finally came across what seemed to be the control room for the structure. This room was very badly damaged by what Ral guessed was probably an earthquake, sometime in the distant past. In the room was another group of the giant Warforged, although they seemed to be dormant, and four large pillars, pulsing with energy. All around the room, the ectoplasm-filled grooves came to a point at a central dais, where a small round orb seemed to have been knocked out of it’s place. As Malaxder approached the dais to try putting it back again, the yuan-ti attacked again, determined to take control of the ruins for themselves. Malaxder was dealt a vicious blow, but Baph managed to get the drop on the leader and destroyed him with his powerful psychic abilities.

After the battle, Malaxder examined the orb a bit more and found that it was a docent, a powerful Warforged component. Inserting the docent into the Warforged present, it quickly took over the warforged’s functions and spoke to the group, introducing itself as Warden. It explained that the ruins were originally a Quori outpost on Eberron, but were captured during the war and used by the giants as a prison of sorts for the invading Quori. Warden’s role was to keep the Quori prisoners trapped in the pillars around the room. However, he noted that the prisons had slowly weakened over the years, and the Quori within were likely to try and escape if they had the chance.

Lakshmi wanted to try and contact the trapped Quori, to fulfill her goal of learning about the ancient history of her race. However, Warden warned that the only method of contact available would also open her to possession by the Quori, who would then try to escape by any means. Despite these warnings, and before anyone could stop him, Baph reached out and touched one of the pillars and was immediately possessed by one of the now-insane Quori. The Quori lashed out with Baph’s psychic powers, attempting to shatter the other prisons, but Malaxder acted quickly to drive the spirit from Baph and back into the pillar where it came, before too much damage was done.

With more time and care, the group gleaned as much knowledge as they could from the trapped spirits, which was not much. In the end, they decided to return Warden to his spot on the dais and allow him to take control of the facility back. When the time came to leave, they decided it would be more prudent to teleport back to Stormreach, rather than face down the tribe of giants that was no doubt waiting for them to return.

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Stormreach - Resentful Dead

The next day, Ral decided to visit the Giants of Rusheme, and Malaxder and Anton decided to accompany him. Walking through the Grindstone district, the three of them overheard a group of the Swords of Karrn discussing some kind of problem happening in the district. Malaxder stopped them and offered to give what aid he could, but he was rudely rebuffed by the leader of the patrol, who informed him it was a Karrnathi problem and none of their business. Mal shrugged off the man’s rudeness, and the three of them continued on to their destination among the giants.
Later that evening, a House courier arrived at Erel’s Emporium with a message for Mal from a nobleman named Major Boyd Leonus. The Major invited the group of them to his home, on the condition that they be discreet about the problems that Grindstone was having. The group followed the Major’s instructions, and arrived at his manor home in the Karrnathi district escorted by a group of The Swords of Karrn. Entering the estate, they found that Karrnathi undead soldiers patrolled the grounds, although the gate guards were living humans. Inside the estate, more undead stood guard, tucked away from sight, no doubt to avoid offending or upsetting the citizens of Stormreach.
Escorted upstairs by Lt Barren, the Major’s assistant, they finally met with the Major himself – a large middle aged man, dressed in a an officers uniform. He offered the group a libation, and sat down to explain the situation to them: He and his men were in Stormreach in pursuit of a dangerous war criminal from the Last War: a necromancer named Jolan Tankran.
Jolan was responsible for many of the atrocities visited on the enemies of Karrnath during the Last War, and when the war was over he refused to cease his necromantic experiments. When he was finally caught, he used his knowledge of magic and his many undead monsters to escape into the Karrnathi countryside, where Major Leonus and his unit have pursued him ever since. They finally tracked him down in Stormreach, where it seems he has been continuing his experiments. The current problem is a plague that Jolan has released into the city, one that slays it’s victims and reanimates them as zombies. The zombies then spread the plague to victims they attack, making it a potential disaster in a small city like Stormreach. The Major said that Jolan had taken refuge in the tunnels beneath the city, making it very difficult for he and his men to track him down and capture him. Lacking the manpower to explore the tunnels, the Major was forced to rely on the group to bring Jolan back out.
He insisted that Jolan be brought out alive, so that he could be taken back to Karrnath to stand trial for his crimes. The group agreed, and the Major informed them of the last place the zombies had been seen in Stormreach, a crack in the walls that led to the catacombs below. The group decided to rest for the night and recover their strength before entering the tunnels. Back at their home, Ral told the group he did not trust the Major, and he felt that he was unnatural somehow. Mal joking suggested that perhaps he was a vampire, and Ral’s face paled. Ral & Tierel decided to stay behind the next day and see what information they could dig up on the Major, while the rest of the group journeyed into the sewers to track down the necromancer.
The next day, Shackleton, Anton, Baph and Mal made their way down into the tunnels beneath the city. Traveling for some time, they wandered into several dead ends and switchbacks in the maze-like tunnels, and in one were ambushed by a group of cannibalistic ghouls. Some of the tunnels were rough hewn-stone, while others were clearly shaped and worked into rooms and tunnels.
Tiring of attacks from the undead, Anton cast hide from undead, and they made their way deeper into the catacombs. In one room, they found themselves suddenly surrounded by plague zombies, a large group of them shambling through. Each of them stayed as still as possible, hoping not to touch any of the undead and break the spell protecting them The zombies shambled dangerously close to them, nearly touching Baph, but in the end they continued past the group and on into the tunnels.
Pressing on into the depths, they finally came across a doorway in the wall with a curious sign: “The Home of Jolan Tankran.” Why Jolan would clearly label his home was a mystery to them, but they entered carefully and began exploring. Entering a short way into the catacombs, they were set upon by terrible undead constructs, whose teeth and claws were shaped from black ice, and who drained the life from the victims they bit. With the help of Anton’s holy power, they destroyed the undead and continued exploring the tomb.
Finally, they came across a room with several plague zombies strapped to the walls, chained so that they could not attack but still quite active. In the room beyond, they saw the necromancer bent over another form strapped to a table. They remembered that the Major had warned them that Jolan was a dangerous necromancer, and he had advised them not to let him speak, but to attack him immediately. Malaxder prepared a counterspell in case he attempted to cast, and the group entered the room.
Jolan looked up from his work, but rather than attacking immediately he asked them who they were, and what they were doing there. When the group explained, he sighed resignedly and asked that before they drag him off, he be allowed to try and heal the victim he was working with. As Malaxder moved closer, he realized that the “victim” strapped to the table was not human but a plague zombie, and Jolan’s was casting protective and cleansing spells, not curses. Mal agreed to let him finish, and clearly observed Jolan cast remove curse.
The spell did not have the effect he had hoped for however, and the zombie simply died on the table. Mal asked Jolan what was really going on, and he gladly explained: He really was a Karrnathi necromancer from the Last War, and he really had created a great many undead soldiers during that time. He continued his work after the war in secret, mostly due to pressure from a cabal of Karrnathi officers who felt that the war was not over and Karrnath needed to continue being prepared for the inevitable conflict. However, when the cabal of officers was discovered they pinned their crimes on Jolan, and betrayed his location to the King’s Inquisitors. When the inquisitors attacks, Jolan fled into the countryside. Rather than admit their guilt, the officers pinned all their crimes on him, and a few more besides. Jolan traveled incognito as long as possible, but when he heard that the zombie plague was loose in Stormreach, he journeyed here to try and unravel it, recognizing it as a doomsday weapon developed during the war to loose in case of Karrnath’s defeat.
Leonus was not only a member of that cabal, Jolan informed them he was also a vampire, and a powerful one at that. The Major had sent another group of adventurers to find him before, and Jolan was able to bribe them off with what supplies he had left. However, he now had nothing left with which to bribe the group, and had long ago sworn he would never take another life, having seen far too much death during the Last War. Shackleton was enraged at having been duped by the Major, and the group agreed that they were tired of being pawns. Jolan told them that if they were willing to help him, the group of them together might stand a chance of defeating the Major and his vampire spawn. They readily agreed, and made their way out of the tunnels to confront Leonus.
Meanwhile, back on the surface Tierel spent some time monitoring the entrance to the ruins. Sitting and watching carefully, she managed to spot someone else doing the same thing. The man was wearing a dark colored Karrnathi uniform, and was hidden in a slightly less effective spot. Tierel easily snuck up behind him, putting her dagger to his throat. She tersely asked him what he was doing there, but he vanished rather suddenly into a puff of mist, leaving her holding her knife alone in the alleyway. Not long after, the others emerged from the depths with a disguised Jolan with them. Tierel joined them and they made their way to the house to gather Ral in preparation for the confrontation with Major Leonus. Informing Ral of the truth of the major, they steeled themselves for the battle and made their way to the Major’s mansion in Grindstone.
Arriving there, they were welcomed in by the Major’s men, and brought into the same waiting room where they had met before. Through gritted teeth, the Major informed Jolan he would now be punished for his crimes. Jolan responded that he could do as he wished, but it would not bring the Major’s son back. The Major turned then, his eyes glowing red with rage, and finally revealed his undead nature. Anton immediately attempted to turn him, but the Major vanished suddenly from where he was standing, and several vampire soldiers appeared and the battle was joined.
Anton channeled holy power while Malaxder and Jolan cast their best defensive spells. Tierel and Shackleton tried to flank their attackers, while Ral used psionic power to fling rays of fire at the undead surrounding them. One of Ral’s rays went astray, and the floor beneath them began to smolder and burn. Beating back the vampire spawn, the group began to make their way down the stairs to the ground floor, fighting off skeletal soldiers and vampire spawn all the way. While the house burned down around them, the group fought their way to the front door, only to find the Major himself blocking their exit at the end. However, even his vampiric strength was no match for their combined might, and his physical form was broken, forcing him to retreat in mist form and flee the battle.
The group gathered what little they could from the wreckage of the burning house and fled into the night, hoping that the Swords of Karrn would not pursue them. In the following days, it seemed the Swords had not noticed them entering the Major’s house, and the fire was dismissed as an accident. According to reports from Grindstone, no bodies were found in the wreckage, and the Major was considered to have disappeared mysteriously. The group decided to give Jolan shelter with them, and Malaxder asked him to aid Andraste in tracking down Fury. Given Jolan’s degree of magical knowledge, he would be a great boon to her, and she could help keep him safe from any more vampiric retaliation.

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Stormreach – A Fair Market Value
Session Twenty-Six

Returning to Stormreach, the city seemed much the same as when they left, only perhaps a bit smaller. Returning to their home, they found Erel waiting for them, and another surprise – a piece of floating ruin had been secured above their house, tied in place with heavy ropes. Asking Erel about it, he said the piece had floated over during a windstorm and he paid some ogres to secure it for them. It wasn’t perfect, but it would give more room to expand. In the corner, Erel pointed out another guest – Shackleton’s valet Alfred Bunter. After introductions all around, Bunter told Shackleton that his mother had sent him to bring him home again, but Shackleton said he had no intention of leaving yet, he was still enjoying himself. Bunter had already spent some time cleaning and tidying up the upstairs, so the group settled in while Malaxder took off to spend time with Andraste.

Settling in, they told Erel about the various treasures they had to sell on the market, and asked him if he knew someone that could help set them up with a buyer. He did not, but he knew that only a few Letters of Marque were given out by the Storm Lords each year, and the last ones had been bought by The Savage Company, who had recently returned from the jungles as well. Ral suggested that they use their favor they had curried with House Tharashk and see if the House could somehow arrange for both a sale and a Letter of Marque.

Upstairs, Ral and Tierel examined the floating rubble that was chained to the roof. Ral decided to get ahold of a wand of stone shaping and create a floating home for them to live in. He began poking around on the rubble, trying to envision the best way to make use of the space. Tierel, ever watchful from the roof, noticed a strange figure in the street below. She seemed to be watching the door of the shop, trying to stay unnoticed in the crowds below. She was unarmed, but she had an odd appearance about her. Summoning Baph, she leapt down into the street and tried to follow this mysterious figure. The woman disappeared quickly into the crowd, but they caught enough sight of her to recognize her again if they saw her. Baph wondered if she was a minion of the Silver-Eyed Woman, but no one knew for sure. Erel had never seen or heard of her before, though he promised to look into it.

The next day, they met with the local baron of House Tharashk, who was quite willing to help them set up a sale in exchange for their letter of credit with the house. He even managed to pull some strings and get a legitimate Letter of Marque, allowing the group to sell their goods without the huge taxes levied by the Storm Lords. After a few days of preparation, the group gathered in the back room of a local merchant with their invited guests, prepared to wow and dazzle them with tales of their adventures and perhaps raise the buying price for the treasures. Each of them dressed in their best “adventuring” gear, Shackleton in his nicest clothes with his mithral shirt on, Tierel covered in Drow tribal body painting, Malaxder in his glamour-weave robe and with his arcane sight spell making his eyes glow ominously, Anton in his shiny polished armor and his holy symbol prominently displayed, Baph in his tattered rags splashed with blood, and Ral in his normal outfit. Erel attended as well to help manage the paperwork and the various bids, and Andraste helped Anton manage the security for the meeting.

The first guest to arrive was Lady Darnys Giorello, a wealthy Gnome noble from Khorvaire known for her interest in ancient relics. She was accompanied by a group of gnomish bodyguards, all well behaved and polite. Next was Prince Wilkes, a young Karrnathi noble who was already half-drunk, and a giggling young girl attached to his arm. Third was Lionel Day, a Halfling artificer who resided in Stormreach and occasionally purchased relics for his own research and study. Next was Saeragar Marmagilda, a ruthless merchant with a bad reputation for brutally crushing his competitors through any means necessary, and a cadre of warforged bodyguards to protect him. Lastly was Lord Katanavash, the Reidran Consulate to Stormreach, who caused Ral to immediately freeze up with nervousness. Lord Katanavash was very polite, but Mal noticed some odd energies coming off of him when he interacted with people. Marmagilda lurched his massive bulk around the room, critically examining the items on display, while Lionel made friendly conversation with Malaxder.

While Prince looked around the room talking to his giggling date, Tierel spent some time talking to Marmagilda, offering her services in exchange for payment. Mistrusting her at first, Marmagilda quickly warmed up to her after seeing a kindred soul, especially one that could be as useful as her. Shackleton regaled Lionel and Lady Giorello with dramatic tales of their adventures, and Ral jumped whenever Lord Katanavash spoke to him, looking like a deer in the headlights much of the time.

Finally, the prospective buyers each made their offers, and the group took them into an adjacent room to consider them. In the end, Lord Katanavash’s offer was the most generous, but Malaxder and Anton were wary of selling the artifacts to him. Malaxder pointed out that he had been using some kind of magic on everyone he spoke to, and might have managed to affect their minds in some fashion without them knowing. Ral explained that enlightened being like Lord Katanavash were inherently magical, and the effect was probably harmless given the great beneficence of the Inspired. The others were wary of this story, but eventually they decided to sell the items to Katanavash.

Collecting the payment, Mal asked Katanavash outright what the magical effect he was doing was, and the Reidran ambassador confessed that he knew of no magic he was using consciously. Ral spoke up again with the same story as before, that the Inspired were simply great beings, and sometimes they exuded magic unconsciously. Katanavash smiled warmly, and Malaxder accepted his explanation. The ambassador presented the group with a satchel of platinum coins, and arranged for the delivery of the artifacts with the hosting merchant.

After everything was done, Andraste suggested that they go out for a celebratory dinner at the Chapterhouse. Tierel and Baph decided to go home and change first, while the others went ahead to secure a table. Approaching the house, Tierel’s keen eyes saw that the door was slightly ajar. She snuck in quietly and found that the house had been ransacked, top to bottom. Even Erel’s rooms were trashed, and their belongings were scattered everywhere. Walking in a few minutes later, Erel cursed and began cleaning up his space, trying to find what was missing. Heading upstairs, Tierel and Baph found that while their space had been trashed, nothing was actually missing of theirs. Leaving Erel and Bunter to clean up, they returned to the Chapterhouse to join the others.

Back at the Chapterhouse, the restaurant and bar were packed. A popular Halfling band was playing on stage, and few tables were available. After a short wait, during which Tierel and Baph returned and told the group about the robbery, they were finally taken to a table with a view of the stage. Walking by, they saw Prince Wilkes once again, who threw them a friendly salute. Settling into their places, Shackleton suddenly felt a chill up his spine, and turned towards the door.

There, walking in like they owned the place, was the Savage Company, led by Jackson Savage himself. Jackson saw him in the same moment, and the group began sauntering towards them. As Ironsides and Tara Hawk moved to flank them, Anton activated his ring and donned his armor, while Tierel vanished into the crowd. Shackleton and Savage exchanged a few terse words, while Ral and Mal watched Endel Sorra and Saavedra Sevenleaf, waiting for signs of spellcasting. Finally, Savage uttered some insult and Shackleton could take no more, pulling his sword and leaping at him. The two began immediately tumbling around the restaurant, leaping over tables and vaulting off walls, their blades flashing like lightning. Anton turned and extended his hand to Ironsides, and when the warforged accepted it Anton activated his gloves of thunder, sending electricity surging through his opponent. Tara Hawk grew a pair of powerful claws and moved into an offensive stance against Anton, while Tierel pulled her dagger and prepared to stab Jackson as he and Shackleton tumbled by. Suddenly, she felt a dagger tip at her throat, and the changling Tally whispered a warning into her ear from behind. Baph prepared to psionically attack Jackson, but found he was somehow hampered by Endel Sorra’s influence. Malaxder watched Saavedra carefully, but the elf seemed to be watching the battle impassively, making no action to cast or use any magic.

As Shackleton tumbled around the room, he was impressed to find that while Jackson was not skilled enough to land a blow on him, neither was he skilled enough to hit him back. While they danced around the restaurant, Shackleton noticed a familiar figure out of the corner of his eye – The Silver-Eyed Woman, sitting at the end of the bar past a group of dwarves. Turning to avoid a close strike by Jackson, when he looked around again seconds later she had vanished. Tierel, meanwhile, spotted the mysterious unarmed woman she had seen in the street a few days ago, leaning against the wall at the opposite end of the bar, watching the battle unfold with everyone else. She went to move towards her, but found her path blocked by Anton and his battle with Ironsides and Tara Hawk.

As suddenly as it had come, the desire to fight left Shackleton and Jackson, and they stopped their rapid fire attacks. Looking around at the chaos, they saw that while some patrons had run for cover and the employees were summoning the guard, others were greatly enjoying the show. Putting his sword away, Jackson called to the rest of the Savage Company and the group made their way quickly out of the Chapterhouse, leaving just as the Stormreach Guard was coming in. Malaxder and Anton stepped forward to speak to the guards, using diplomacy and a little bit of gold to smooth the situation over with everyone. The Halfling band, who had never stopped playing the whole time, began a more mellow set of songs, and events in the tavern finally began to settle down.

Flanked by Baph and Ral, Tierel finally pushed her way past everyone else and cornered the mysterious woman by the bar. The woman introduced herself as Lakshmi, and told them she had information for them, and a warning that they were being manipulated. She confessed she could not share her information in public, but admitted she had been following them through the city and asked if they would be willing to meet her later. Tierel did not trust her, but agreed to allow her to present her case to them the next day at Erel’s shop.

Finishing speaking to the proprietors, Malaxder came back to the table, which was now overflowing with drinks and food bought by various admirers in the crowd, including a very nice bottle of wine complements of Prince Wilkes. While Baph downed the wine, Mal told the group that he felt that some kind of magical effect was used to start that fight. Shackleton agreed, and told them how he and Jackson both suddenly lost the urge to fight immediately after the Silver-Eyed Woman vanished from the crowd. Tierel told them about Lakshmi and her warning, and the agreed it would be good to meet Lakshmi and see what she had to say.

The next day, Lakshmi appeared in the shop precisely when she said she would, and told them that they were being manipulated by agents of something called The Dreaming Dark. When they asked about the Silver-Eyed Woman, she told them that she was definitely one of those agents, as was Lord Katanavash. Ral spoke up then, saying that he recognized her for what she was – a kalashtar, a being possessed by evil spirits. Ral explained that the kalashtar were known for horrible acts of terrorism in Reidra, and were considered to be monsters. Lakshmi patiently explained that Ral had been misinformed, and there was much he did not know about the world. Mal agreed with her, because he had never had a good feeling about the Silver-Eyed Woman anyway. Ral asked her why she thought Lord Katanavash was in league with them, and she told them that it was Katanavash who sent the thugs to ransack the house. Erel commented that nothing seemed to be missing, including some relatively expensive reagents of his, and Lakshmi told them that Katanavash was only looking for one thing – the Dream Stones, which they were wisely carrying on their persons.

Before leaving, Lakshmi asked them if they would aid her in searching the jungle for a lost ruin she had been sent to find. They told her they would consider it, and she gratefully told them she could not ask for more than that.

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Menechtarun – Epilogue
Session Twenty-Five

Walking back out of the tower, the group began their trek into the desert, this time with their full magical protections active. They got only a few short steps, however, before the desert sands opened up and the great dragon Sunataderapophis appeared before them. He regarded them warily for a moment, as if unsure of what he was seeing. Finally, he said he was surprised to see Ral, and to see that Malaxder was alive once again. When pressed, he said that the Prophecy had said that Ral would not survive and Mal would remain a ghost. The party confessed their ignorance of the Prophecy, and the dragon refused to speak on it anymore, although his words haunted them later.

He demanded the return of the Arcane Shard, and of his price for it’s use – the statue of Montu Chezzak to add to his “collection of conquerers.” The party turned over both gladly, and also surrendered the epic rings that had allowed them to survive the battle. The dragon collected these carefully, securing the shard again beneath his scales. He then bid them farewell, and disappeared back beneath the sands, to return to his city and contemplate the Prophecy.

Returning to Al Shiraz, the group found it had changed dramatically in their absence. The walls seemed less sturdy, and the gate was guarded by a single sleeping guard. Stikuchi, looking much older and frailer, met them and confirmed that they had only been gone a few days, less time than they had experienced themselves. As promised, she presented Tierel with the Dream Stone, and asked if they still wanted to meet with the Shiek. Baph definitely did, as he wanted another bottle of the Shiek’s fine wines, and they made their way through the seemingly transformed city.

As they walked, they saw that the buildings were far fewer, the tents smaller and less elaborate, and the Sheik’s palace was entirely gone. In it’s place stood a low ranch, dozens of herd animals gathered in the middle around a small well. The Sheik’s children worked lazily around the ranch, tending to the animals and staying out of the scorching sun.

Walking along, they passed a stone monument, carved with an image of a armored figure riding a sandworm. Anton recognized the image as being Amahapar, and asked Stikuchi about it. She explained that Amhapar Nadeeha was a desert paladin who lived more than 100 years ago, and who was a great hero to the desert peoples. When they said that they had met Amhapar, Stikuchi nodded sagely and told them that the people believed that Amhapar’s spirit still wandered the desert, helping those in need. When they told her of rescuing Amhapar from the evils of Dendera, she seemed to disbelieve them.

Making their way into the Shiek’s home, they entered a low building, smelling of animals and dried fruits. Simple wooden furniture filled the small space, and paintings and other bits of art covered the walls. Looking closer, they saw that some of the images depicted were things they saw themselves – the room of sages, floating on magical platforms; the chamber filled with board games, with the players stooped over examining their pieces; even the throne room lined on both sides with advisers, generals and magicians. As they looked around in growing disbelief, the Sheik entered the room. He no longer appeared as a quasi-magical being, but as a simple man wearing working clothes and covered in dust. He amicably shook hands with each of them, delivering to Baph the bottle of fine wine he promised. When they asked about Makarim, he told them he’d married her off to a trader in Ghammas, years ago. After a bit of chatting, he took his leave again, citing his need to attend to his herds and the laziness of his children. Stikuchi escorted them out once again, and they finally took their leave of the desert city, disturbed by the transformation they had witnessed.

With no further business in the city or in the desert, they took to the road again and made their way back to Stormreach.

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Menechtarun – The Mirage Tower
Session Twenty-Four

Steeling themselves for the journey into the desert, the group took their leave of Stikuchi, Amhapar and the Sheik. Stikuchi gave them potions of hydrate, which would help them shake off the effects of dehydration and sunstroke they were going to be experiencing. Looking back at the city one last time, they took off their magical gear and walked unprotected into the desert, hoping to find the Mirage Tower.

The walk at first was not too difficult. Certainly, it was hot and dry and the sun baked them mercilessly, but it seemed they were going to survive easier than they thought. By the end of the first day, however, Malaxder and Ral were nearly collapsing with exhaustion, and Ral thought he could make out the tower in the distance. After another day of hiking through the desert heat, Tierel and Baph could see it as well, and it was taking much of Ral’s and Anton’s magic to keep them alive but still on the very edge of death.

Finally, after almost two days of walking in the scorching heat, the tower appeared before them, shimmering into existence like a heat wave. They immediately took their potions and rejuvenated themselves, quickly shaking off the effects of the desert heat. Searching the outside of the tower they found no obvious entrances, but Ral approached it and simply willed an entrance to appear, and one did. Stepping inside, they beheld a vast wasteland stretching out in front of them, clearly larger than the space inside the tower should hold. Off in the distance, the opposite wall could be seen, very far away. Grouping together, they began to trek across the space within, making their way as quickly as possible.

As they moved across the wasteland, Mal fell into a sand pit, sucked down under by the loose sands. He shifted into his ethereal form and drifted back up, unaffected thanks to still being a ghost. The group tied themselves together to avoid losing anyone else, and continued across the sands. The more they traveled, the more traps they encountered, and they seemed to be making little progress towards the far wall. Looking behind them, the door and wall had disappeared, and nothing remained but empty space and open sky. Ral took it upon himself to sprout some wings and fly up into the sky, searching for a limit to the space they were in. From this vantage point, he was finally able to see that the room was a mirage itself, and was much larger than it seemed. With this viewpoint he was also able to spot the sand traps much more easily, and the group finally made their way to the opposite wall, and a staircase headed up.

On the next level, a powerful sandstorm was blowing constantly, making visibility nearly nothing. Malaxder was nearly blown away by the powerful winds, and the group remained tied together to keep from losing anyone. As they pushed through the storm, the encountered more sand creature patrolling the level, unaffected by the powerful winds and blowing sand. They managed to avoid them for the most part, and finally made their way to the next staircase and the next level of the tower.

Peeking up into this level, they found themselves surrounded by massive piles of treasure. Gold, gems, magic items, works of art and statuary, all piled higher than Anton’s head on either side of them. Up ahead, they beheld a tremendous balcony, looking out across the desert. The view seemed to be much higher than the three levels of the tower indicated, a sure sign of magic at work. And standing in front of the balcony, ready for their assault, was Montu Chezzak. The sorcerer tried one more time to convince them to join his efforts and to conquer the desert by his side, but they refused, and the battle was joined.

Montu summoned more powerful sand knights to his defense, while Shackleton charged through them and knocked them over. Malaxder stood back and dropped his most powerful spells on Montu and his guardians, while Baph blasted Montu with mental power. Anton and Tierel advanced, Anton drawing the attention of the sand knights while Tierel tried to sneak around behind Montu to deliver the telling blow with the Arcane Shard given to them by the dragon. As Anton approached, Montu cast a scorching ray at him, which only barely missed. As the spell came spiraling in, Anton realized it was MUCH hotter than he expected, and he was disturbed to find that the heat scorched his face a bit – clearly, Montu had some ability to increase the power of his spells, possibly even overcoming the fire resistance granted by the rings the dragon had given them.

Ral fired spells and powers at the sand knights, while Anton and Arsen crossed swords with them and Malaxder focused on trying to dispel Montu’s magical protections. Montu teleported around the battle, always moving to the most protected position he could find behind his sandy constructs. He continued to fire terrible scorching blasts of flame, the heat of which was clearly felt past the protections granted by the dragon. However it was not enough to stop them, and they finally cornered him against one of his treasure piles. Shackleton knocked him to the ground, and Tierel vaulted up and over the piles, landing on him and striking him a solid blow with the Arcane Shard. The shard activated, drawing all of her power out of her in a huge surge and sending her tumbling backward. Still flat on his back, Montu grabbed the shard to pull it off of him but it was already too late – in a matter of seconds, he was frozen forever as a statue of glass, clutching the shard to his chest, and the battle was ended.

Exploring the treasure room, the group found hundreds of valuable treasures, relics from the age of giants, powerful magic items and heaps upon heaps of coins – a thousand years of plunder from all of Montu’s campaigns. Malaxder found an especially valuable treasure – a ring of wishes, which he used to wish himself back to life again. Gathering up all the treasure their bags of holding could store and collecting the glass statue of Montu Chezzak, they walked back out of the tower and into the desert once more.

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Menechtarun – Battle in Al Shiraz
Session Twenty-Three

Returning to Al Shiraz, the group found that the city was on high alert – scouts had reported that Montu Chezzak’s forces were moving towards the city, and would arrive in less than a day. Meeting with Amhapar, Stikuchi and the Sheik, they decided to leave the defense of the city to the Sheik’s children, and try to take this opportunity to attack Montu himself when his forces were engaged with their assault. The group spent the evening preparing themselves for the battle, and the following morning found them waiting pensively for the attack to come.

When it came, it came suddenly – the wind kicked up fiercely and the sky darkened as a massive cloud of sand and dust rose up from the desert, towering hundreds of feet above the city, and then just as suddenly slammed down to earth, rushing towards the city walls like a terrible wave. Stikuchi stood in the middle of the city, focusing all her magic on holding back the dust storm, and finally driving it around and over the city walls, keeping everyone within from being bowled over and flensed alive by the terrible force of the attack. Shortly afterward, the sounds of battle began coming from all sides of the city as the defenders engaged Montu’s sand-form constructs and Harssaf allies. Taking this as their cue, the group exited the city over the walls and began to search the battle field for Montu himself.

Moving across the desert outside, they found that the sands had been reshaped into hills and berms to funnel possible offensive strikes into groups of ambushing sand creatures. As they watched, the desert sands took the shape of huge scorpions, dire lions, giant lizards and other creatures, but the group used a few potions of invisibility they had to safely bypass the worst of the patrols.

Finally, moving beyond the controlled chaos of the battlefield and out beyond the city, they came across Montu himself, hovering crosslegged above the sands, his eyes closed, and the dust from the ground swirling into magical patterns around him as he concentrated on maintaining his spells and sandy constructs. The trip across the battlefield had used up their invisibility potions, and as they approached Montu opened his eyes, dropping to his feet and summoning half a dozen sandy constructs from the ground in between them. These humanoid figures positioned themselves to guard Montu, deadly blades of superheated glass appearing in their hands. As the group moved in for the attack, they slashed at Shackleton as he numbly slipped in among them, knocking a few down as he passed and putting himself right next to Montu. Tierel slipped in quietly as Anton invoked the power of Dol Dorn and charged the sand knights, while Baph and Mal focused their powers on the battle.

Montu lashed out with a pair of fireballs just as he had in the Valley of the Marru, but was shocked to see the firey blasts wash over the group, leaving them entirely unaffected – the dragon’s gift was working, and the magic rings had made them immune to fire. As the battle progressed, Montu tried in vain to use his fire magic to damage them, while the sand knights moved to defend their master. Finally, unable to even touch them with his magic, Montu shifted into sand form and flew away from the battle with all haste, leaving his sandy constructs to be beaten down by Anton and Arsen.

Though they were disappointed by Montu’s escape, they had saved the day by driving him back – the sand walls and creatures collapsed again and the sandstorm raging around the city vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Making their way back to the city, they told the Shiek and Stikuchi what had happened. Stikuchi told them that Montu had undoubtedly retreated to his fasthold – The Mirage Tower. If they were to defeat him, it would have to be there. When they asked how to find the tower, Stikuchi explained that the tower wasn’t in a particular place, but there was a way to find it – they had to walk unprotected into the desert, and let the desert consume them. Before they died, they would finally see the Mirage Tower. Left with no other option, the group steeled themselves for this final task, and for the battle to come.

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Menechtarun – The City of Glass
Session Twenty-Two

Receiving the map and the shard from Amhapar, the group departed directly for the City of Glass, hoping that the great dragon could give them some insight into how to defeat Montu Chezzak. Shackleton led them through the desert sands, following the ancient landmarks and the clues given to him by Amhapar, until finally they stood in the spot where the city should be. All around them, the desert sands twisted in the emptiness, showing no signs of the ancient ruin. But when Tierel held the glass shard up to her eyes, she was suddenly able to see the towering city walls in the light of the setting sun. When they grew closer, the city itself suddenly appeared like a shimmering heat haze, the last rays of the setting sun refracted through the glass walls.

As the sun went down, the group cautiously made their way into the city, wary of the unknown terrors that might lurk within. As they traveled the ancient streets, they noted that many of the features of the city still remained, but all was turned to glass. Giants, elf slaves, animals, plants, strange vehicles and buildings – all were now statues of blackened and sand-scraped glass. Giant figures stood frozen in running positions, or cowering from some terror above them. Others sat inside the glass houses, still feasting on dishes that had turned into glass with their eaters, and drinking from glasses that had contained no liquid for millennia.

As they approached a small crossroads, Ral stopped to examine some plants in a small garden that had been petrified, their brittle leaves snapping easily off in his hand. Looking up, he saw three gigantic figures moving through the darkness towards the group, one from each of the roads leading to their position. Finding themselves trapped, they fought bravely against the animated statues of the ancient giants. The giant’s hands were broken and cracked, making their attacks that much more dangerous from the sharpness of the broken glass. Anton took a wicked hit from one of the giants, laying open his side and nearly felling him. After finally defeating the giant statues, Anton healed himself with holy power and the group continued their explorations.

Moving further into the city, the group found themselves walking along a curved street, the houses above them decorated with odd glass statues and gargoyles. Mal was distracted by the walls as they walked past them, noticing that the pattern of light reflected through the broken and chipped glass had a familiar pattern to it. Stopping to examine it, he realized that the patterns constantly moving through the glass resembled Dragonmarks. Ral suggested that perhaps the city itself had some connection to the draconic Prophecy, which caused Mal to reel back away from the walls, warning the others about the dangers of trying to understand too much about the Prophecy. Suddenly, the group was set upon again by more glass giants, now accompanied by glass mephits who used their breath weapons to heal their larger allies. The battle was hard fought once again, but the group prevailed, shattering the statues and driving off the mephits.

As they moved towards the middle of the city, they found a large open courtyard, filled with blowing sand and dust devils. Overhead, the moons shone brightly enough to give a clear view across the empty space. As they began to enter it, the ground itself rose up, and a massive dragon’s head the size of a house emerged from beneath the ground. As the great dragon Sunataderapophis stepped out of the earth, it closed neatly beneath him, and the massive being regarded the little intruders to his domain. Mal stepped forward and politely addressed the dragon, presenting the glass shard and apologizing for the intrusion into his city. The dragon collected the shard, and in a voice like the rumbling earth asked Mal what boon the Asherati had come to ask of him. Mal told him they had come on behalf of all the desert to ask the dragon’s aid in defeating Montu Chezzak.

The dragon sat back and considered this for a moment. As he thought, he turned his head side to side, examining the large buildings on either side of him, apparently studying the dragonmarks as they shifted and changed on the glass around him. Finally, he declared that it was apparently time, and agreed to aid the group. From his massive scales he produced a large flat violet stone, sparkling from within with power. He told them that this was a Shard of Arcane Endowment, and that if one among them that could use magic were to strike Montu Chezzak with it, it would turn him to glass just as the giants of the city had been. However, they would need to get close to him to use it, and land a solid blow for it to have effect. Mal graciously thanked the dragon for this gift, and the dragon informed him it was a loan, not a gift, and he expected it returned. He also informed them that the price of this gift was that they were to bring the remains of Montu Chezzak back to him, along with the Shard.

Looking around at his companions, Mal felt emboldened to ask for another favor. Addressing the mighty dragon again, he asked if there was anything else he could give that would aid them in getting the prize the dragon wanted. The mighty beast narrowed his eyes at this request, but after considering it for a moment reached back beneath his scales and produced six rings, casting them unceremoniously onto the sands between them. He told them these rings would protect them from the worst of Montu’s magic and perhaps even the odds in their battle. However, he said, bringing his massive head down to their level and fixing them with his powerful gaze, the rings were very valuable and must also be returned when their task was done. His gaze seemed to linger on Tierel for a moment, and then he turned and dove back into the sands, vanishing like a stone thrown into a pond. Their audience at an end, the group quickly left the haunted city and made their way back to Al Shiraz once again.

GM Commentary:

Montu Chezzak was far more powerful than the PCs, as was ably demonstrated in the battle in the Valley of the Marru. The rings the dragon gave them were Epic Rings of Fire Immunity, which would allow them to shrug off the worst of his magic (including the dual fireballs that killed Malaxder), but Montu also had a feat that would allow him to damage creatures with immunity to fire. This meant that the group would be mostly safe from the worst of his magic, but I could really pull out the stops with Montu and have him use his most powerful abilities without having to worry too much about killing everyone first turn. When I told them the market value of the rings (240,000 gp), Tierel actively considered trying to find a way to keep them. I warned her that would give her a dangerous enemy, and she decided it wasn’t worth it. :)

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