Aphonion Tales: Adventures in the Spice Lands and the War in Hanal, a tween and teen D&D game (edited notes, posts Tuesdays, most recent 10/4/22)


Session 38 (January 23, 2022)

15 Vaen
The group discusses some astrological portents, and whether to go now or delay. They agree to go now.

They march through a gate, with the entire army. They arrive in a city that has seen some destruction in recent days, but is in fairly good shape. A unit of Ecsilias troops waits to greet them as they come through. A one-eyed commander says, “Welcome to the hopefully free city of Meziya. You’re planning on heading on directly?”

“Yes, we are.”

“The area around here should be clear. You may encounter some difficulties around the western edge of Bormark’s area. We have also heard reports that she has unleashed some of the blooddriven beyond the city. There are disturbing reports from some of the villages near the capital.”

“We understand that one of your field armies will join us?”

“Yes, they are formed up on the north road. I thought there was no need to bring them into the city to march them back out.”

There is a quick discussion about the chain of command. They all agree that the Strom of Amrapt will serve as the overall commander, with the rank of field army. Na-Strom Noah receives the rank of general and command of the army from the southlands, with the rest of the party (except Sr. Agnes) as staff colonels effectively. Noah also takes direct command of the orkish group, with Iados commanding the scouts (including about 25 additional scouts) and Ravokris commanding the small group of magi supporting the army. Elyn takes a role leading the rangers trying to find any natural warnings.

They march forth, expecting to travel about 25 to 30 days to reach Dwarf Mountain, 350 miles on.

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[Session 38, cont'd]

They march north for about half a day, when one of the scouts stops reporting in. Iados, a few orks, and Noah head out to investigate. As they approach, they see a statue, in a crouch, that looks exactly like the scout. They begin to hear beautiful singing, not in common, but entrancing. At about the same time, they need to make saving throws—Iados and one of the orks begin turning to stone. They see a beautiful winged woman, singing, descending to one of the lower branches of the tree she’s in. They have no doubt that it is her singing that is petrifying people.

Noah kneels. “Oh great lady! What have we done to offend you?”

“My Lady commands that we do what we can to slow the advance of your army. But if you were to join the service of the Queen of Chaos, you would be most welcome.” Noah begins to conclude that she is some form of demon.

“Come down and show that you are here, and we’ll go to talk to our commander about your offer.”

“I fear that I must come down, as there is nothing more that the Queen of Chaos wishes than your lives. Your army will fall into chaos without you to lead them.” She swoops down and sinks her fangs into Noah’s throat, critting but for pathetically low damage (13).

Noah says, “New plan—I will present your head to the Strom of Amrapt as a gift!” He begins raging, and then orders the other orks to fetch reinforcements from the main group while he attacks her with his silver greatsword. He misses once, then smacks her for 13 damage—it’s not as effective as he hoped, but it does do some damage.

She hits with one claw (would be 6, but 3 because of rage), and sucks blood for another point of damage. He begins to feel stiffness spreading from her bite.

Noah hits her twice, for 17 and 14.

She claws him twice, doing another 5 damage total and sucking one more point of damage.

Noah hits with his first swing for 14, then gets a critical hit for 25 damage.

Meanwhile, the orks run back into camp and say to Ravokris, “Boss chief fighting demon thing! Stones! Stones everywhere!”

Ravokris and Elyn head out to assist Noah, while muttering about whether he’s getting himself killed.

Sr. Agnes runs over to the nearest group of paladins or lyans she can find, and yells “Demon spotted! That way!”

The demon continues to claw Noah, doing another 6 with her claws and draining 7 points of blood. He needs to make another saving throw, which he succeeds at, resisting the petrification.

He hits her again, and she is looking increasingly wounded.

She claws him again, and drains some more blood. He needs to save again, at a higher DC, but succeeds.

He gets another crit in the last round before help arrives—he can hear them crashing through the brush. He does 26 more damage, and she is barely hanging on.

She claws him again, and then sucks a little more blood. People rush into the clearing. Elyn believes that she is a demon/harpy cross-breed. Elyn shoots the demon, hitting her easily, she does 10 damage. The arrow sinks into her, but doesn’t do any damage. Ravokris runs up and casts burning hands. She fails, partly because she’s unwilling to release her bite on Noah. As the fire courses over her, she suddenly sags, hanging from its fangs. Noah spends some time chopping at the dead body, and hacks off the head as a present for the Strom.

Iados is still a statue, with a very surprised look on his face, as is the ork and the scout. Ravokris believes that the most effective way to restore them would be stone-to-flesh.

Noah gives the head to one of the lyans. “For study, and as a simple of the inevitability of the defeat of chaos at the hands of order.”

The three stoned people get carried back to the army. One of the ranking priests, a bishop without portfolio, casts the greater restoration—one today on Iados, the others tomorrow.

“Strom Amrapt, she said she was sent by the Queen of Chaos to stop the army.”

“Eminence?” asks the Strom.

“Yes, we know that our enemy counts among her allies both the Lord of the Ram and the Queen of Chaos. The Queen of Chaos remains imprisoned in the Abyss, but she clearly has some followers, and like this one, they tend to be clever.”

Noah then heads over to the representatives of the SHH, hoping to contact the Wolf-Eyed Man to begin a spirit quest to learn more about their enemies. The master of the contingent copies the image from his mind, and then three of them, all with the exact same color stripe on their robes, reach out for him.

“He has not been made blooddriven, but we fear that he has not survived. We find no trace of the living mind. We are sorry, na-Strom.”

Sr. Agnes cautions Noah and Iados about the dangers of exposing themselves to personal danger now that they are among the ranking officers of the army. Noah is pretty dismissive of the risk, focusing on the idea that without him being there, the demon would likely have killed many more soldiers.
[End Session 38]


Session 39 (February 6, 2022)

16 Vaen
They still have 24-29 days of travel to reach Dwarf Mountain.

While they’re in camp in the morning, Noah and Elyn approach the ork shaman to discuss the idea of a spirit quest. The shaman tells them that contacting spirits of nature is easy, but that they are affected by what’s going on. The nature spirits may be hostile and dangerous. For contacting the dead, there are dances they can do, but the spirits of the dead will not have changed.

That evening, the shaman throws some very odiferous things into the fire, begins dancing, and asks Noah to picture the spirit he wants to contact. Noah pictures the Wolf-Eyed Man. The herbs and mushrooms change the colors of the fire, and then a familiar face forms in the flames.

“I can hold this for three minutes.”


They eyes in the fire focus on him.

“I am glad to be reunited with you, but I need aid in mastering more of my rage and my skills as a barbarian. Is there someone else who could mentor us?”

“The land is being destroyed. Within the City, no spirit could reach you that you would want to see. Where you are and as you approach the dwarven city—when you are no more than 3 or 4 days away—you can contact the spirits of earth and trees. As you travel on towards the City—I know where you are going—there will be no spirits that can help you. Perform the ritual of earth when you are near the dwarven city, in the evening.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry I was not there for you when you needed me.”

“When she became a creature such as she did, the fate of people like me was sealed. You must redeem your people.”

The shaman is exhausted. “It was an honor. It is hard to reach them. The corruption is spreading.”

“We will cut it off at the source.”

Later that night, during the first watch, the chief scout on the left side sends back one of the other scouts leading a snake-like thing with a human head back to the command group. The Strom identifies it as a naga. “A naga! I wonder what she wants.”

“You must stop. You must wait.”

“Why would that be?”

“An army will cross your path heading towards the border. If you continue on, you will meet it. Two field armies.”

“Would you say that they are of the Houses of Green?”

“They are of the Green, and they have demons with them. I am a creature of law.”

Noah says, “We respect you, but we will still need a zone of truth. This is not a matter of lack of trust, but we have faced lies before.” He also dispatches Elyn and Iados with some of the rakasta scouts to confirm the enemy army and mark its location.

The zone of truth confirms the information.

The Strom asks the naga to show where it is on the map, and where they’re heading. They are trying to bypass the rebel army and reinforce the border.


[Session 39, cont'd]
Noah suggests that they adjust their own course so they don’t need to stop entirely but can still bypass the enemy army without a battle.

Meanwhile, Iados and Elyn scout forward, accompanied by 5 of the rakasta scouts.

A demonic screener for the army sees Iados. But it assumes, because of Iados’s wings, that he is one of them. The demon says that they’re supposed to make a push against the Inquisition troops, but that they’re being delayed by the woods that they’re moving through, and asks if Iados has seen anything. Iados says that he hasn’t. He then pops up in front of them, and can see that they’re cutting the trees and making a corduroy road of them. In the back of the army, they have a large number of siege engines—mostly heavy power bows—being dragged along by mules.

Iados and Elyn send Metsuki back with a written message describing what they’ve seen. Noah then says that they need to send a sending to the Inquisitor General to warn them: “Two field armies approaching you, equipped with powerbows and some demons. Intended to stop push, use caution when fighting. Currently 20 miles northwest of Meziya.”

They look at a map, and Noah suggests that they angle around behind the enemy army’s path, and incidentally attack and destroy any supply train they can find. They also pass on the information to the Eldar war voller, suggesting that it fly a route across the tail of the enemy army and bombard the powerbows with their energy lances as they cross them. (Sister Agnes also spends some time scourging herself and weeping for any casualties the bombardment may cause.)

They easily capture the supply train. The officer of the group tells them that he believes that the Queen-Empress is possessed, but that they have to fight anyway, because their families are held as hostages. Prisoners: Captain Lucius Everheart -- (non-noble) 40 standard Iron Legion troops. Captain Everheart Ftr. 5/Expert 2. All surrendered. There’s both an above ground holding area in the capital, and a second holding facility underground, where there’s also some horror.

Noah suggests that after they bring down the towers, they may want to try to liberate the above ground prison.

Noah asks the prisoners to describe where the prison facilities are to a cartographer with their army.

17 Vaen passes peacefully.

On the 18th of Vaen, the day passes peacefully, but then at night scouts hear movement through the trees around the forest. They then hear a baby cry.

The sentries call out, “Who goes there?”

A voice calls out “No one?”

Noah calls out, “If you’re civilian, none of you have anything to fear.”

A group of several hundred refugees, led by an injured priest of Paranswarm, comes out of the woods.

“The blooddriven are outside the city. They attacked our town. We were not in this war before that.”

Noah gives them a pouch of 100 silver. He also recruits a handful of civilians to join the support force for their army. The rest they send on to Meziya.

Sr. Agnes sorts out the refugees who need healing and also checks them all for Eldritch taint. None have taint, but some of the ones who have claw wounds have a type of poison in them.
[End session 39]


Session 40 (February 20, 2022)

19 Vaen
Noah sets some codenames for the plan, along with a dummy plan with a much more obviously significant name, as an effort at simple counter-intelligence.

The march over the day is peaceful. That evening, there is a Greater Festival of Mists, Ruby and Sapphire. Nothing bothers them, but they do see some lights off in the distance.

20 Vaen
Peaceful march and night, though there is another Ruby and Sapphire Greater Festival of Mists that night.

21 Vaen
In the morning, they see smoke in the distance to the northwest, roughly in the direction they’re traveling, perhaps related to the lights they saw two nights ago. Most of the farmsteads they have passed up to this point are abandoned. Iados takes a small group of rakasta scouts and heads forward to check out what the smoke is from.

After traveling through some wilderness for a while—about 45 minutes-- they come upon a stockaded village. It looks like much of the stuff within the stockade has been burned, and some of the logs in the stockade are scorched and charred. Iados has his scouts wait outside and flies up to get a better view. Iados hears a distant buzzing, and he sees two of what look to be giant flies are in the stockade. Iados also sees a half-dozen or so tieflings of some sort, with clear demonic parts, lightly armed and armored, standing around a group of captured villagers, who they are holding as prisoners. The two flies are flying back and forth as if looking for something. Iados realizes that those are cambions—half-demons with male demonic parents. The flies, he concludes, are chasme, which are fly demons. The village militia appears to be dead, defeated in battle. The two chasme appear increasingly agitated as they fail to find what they’re looking for. Sometimes, after searching through a building and failing to find anything, they light the building on fire with a spell. They do seem to have noticed Iados, but they show no signs of caring, presumably assuming that he is also demonic.

Iados heads down to the scouts and dispatches one back to the army to tell them about what he saw, and asking for them to come quickly and not to bring many people with them.

Iados stays hidden and keeps observing some more.

The scout reports to Noah, “I’m supposed to tell you that the conditions are bad. There are demons on the loose. They’ve wreaked havoc. Come fast, but don’t bring many people.”

Noah quickly organizes a flying column of lyans and the rest of the party, and they ride towards the village as hard and as fast as they can, limited by the rough terrain. He tells them that they want prisoners to interrogate.

Iados flies over to the cambions.

One of them greets him. “Hail, cousin.”

“Is there really a need for so many hostages?”

“The chasme wanted them out of the way, and the wizard told us not to kill them if we could avoid it. So we killed the ones who fought, and then let the others live. The chasme haven’t found what he sent us to look for, though. They haven’t thought to question the prisoners. Do you think we should suggest it? I’m enjoying the chasme driving themselves crazy.”

While they’re talking, they start to hear the hoofbeats approaching. One of the cambions gets upset. “It’s one of the armies! The chasme will make us fight them, and then teleport away!”

Iados says, “Don’t worry about it. They’re some of my colleagues.”

The group thunders in. Noah calls out, “Attention! Any of you who are willing to surrender will have a less painful transit to the Abyss.”

Iados tries to maintain his front, calling to Noah, “Why are you so angry?”

“You’re summoned, right?”

“We are.”

“Then you’ll return to the Abyss at the end of the duration, right?”

“No! Now that the Red Moon is over, we’re stuck here until the wizard releases us, and he headed on on his flying chariot.”

“Then we’ll kill the wizard and release you.”

Two of the cambions surrender; the other 4 charge.

Iados fades over to the cambions who surrendered, gives them some fruit, pats them on the back, and returns to combat.

Ravokris casts burning hands, burning one for 4 and another for 9.

Noah rushes up to one of them, rages, says, “just remember, you chose this,” and begins hacking at them with his cold iron axe, hitting twice, once with a crit, doing 12 damage with the first blow and 32 with the second.

Elyn shoots the most wounded one, doing 12 damage.

Sr. Agnes casts hold person on the unwounded one, holding him.

The lyans then gallop through and hack the fighting cambions to pieces. Sister Agnes tries to save any that she can, but fails miserably—the lyans left nothing to save.


[Session 40, cont'd]
Noah begins interrogating them about the wizard. They tell him that he told them he was heading towards the capital city of Hanal before flying off towards the capital. “But he wants this bag that someone stole from him. He sent the chasme to look for it. He said that he followed it all the way to Hanal.”

Noah draws a picture of the person that he saw in a flying chariot before. “Did the wizard look like this?”

“Yes! That’s the one! Said some giants took the bag.”

One of the cambions agrees to switch sides. Sister Agnes works on convincing him to become a devotee of the Weeping Woman, with some success, while bringing over a priest to Endarken him.

“Did the wizard have any other minions besides the chasme and you?”

“Oh yeah. That thing pulling the chariot. It’s a giant wind elemental. Fun thing will be when he catches up to the chasmes… they failed him, and ran away.”

Noah executes cleanly the cambion who refused to convert.

Two of the younger prisoners join the civilians supporting the army. The others say that they will head to join the refugees in Meziya.

One of them hesistently says, “I served in details years ago in the Legions near the capital. I don’t know the Undercity, but I know where there’s an entrance.”

“Is this entrance within the city or beyond the city?”

“Outside the city. It was sometimes guarded.”

Noah sends him to the cartographers.

“Do any of you know anything about this bag that they were searching for?”

“Oh yeah! It’s straight under the altar.” He points to the temple of Paranswarm. “I’m afraid they killed the priest.”

Noah searches under the altar and finds a velvet bag, apparently empty, that weighs several pounds. Noah puts on some heavy gloves, and reaches in—and his arm goes in up to his shoulder. An orange cat emerges from the bag, looking around wildly. They have let the cat out of the bag.

The cat is very unusually intelligent, apparently able to understand human speech. It has no desire to go back to its old owner, which put it in the bag.

Elyn casts speak with animals. “Hello!”

“Hello! Who are you? Not a cat.”

“How has your day been going?”

“Stuck in bag for many days.”

“Who put you in the bag?”

“My ‘owner.’ Owner strong word. My… mistress better word.”

“She put you back in a bag?”

“Yes, I’m a dual-purpose familiar. She only takes me out when she wants to use me.”

When asked what a dual-purpose familiar is, it turns from a house cat to a sabre-toothed tiger. “I can only do that for a few hours a day.”

The cat tells them that the witch was already aligned with the Queen-Empress.

When Sister Agnes says that the witch told them that the Queen-Empress was foolish, the cat asks, “Why would you believe anything that a demon-summoning witch told you?”

They release the cat. It promises Ravokris 3 favors in the future.

Iados takes the bag of life holding, but they also put it inside a lead coffer in case the witch can detect it.

The rest of the day passes uneventfully.

In the evening, a group of bandits is near the army, but they have no willingness to tangle with an army.
[End session 40]


Session 41 (March 6, 2022)

22 Vaen
Noah asks Ravokris whether there’s any way to send a message forward to the future worlds that the Pariah Gods might attack next, in case they fail to stop them here. Despite his expertise in arcana, Ravokris has no idea (rolled a 1 on the check). Noah wants to research this, so that if they fail, the next world has a better chance, even though they hope to win.

A day of march passes uneventfully.

23 Vaen
The day passes easily. That night, an ork guard wakes the command group.

“Narzugon approaches and wants to enter the camp.”

Sr. Agnes explains that narzugons are petty devil nobility, approximately of a rank with mariliths and below the rank of pit fiends. They are typically diabolic military officers. She describes them as similar in rank to pallans or perhaps low stroms in the nobility of Hanal.

The party heads over, though Elyn stays back in case this is a demon appearing perfidiously. The ork chieftain is speaking to a more than 7 foot tall, pitch black creature, with a long hooked polearm, and two chain covered fiends behind it.

“Greetings great narzugon. What business do you have with us?”

“We were the remains of a strike force bound by the sorcerers that serve the Kov of Bormark. We were driven from the battlefield when the army we were with disintegrated, but we are still bound to fight against the enemy. We thought we would offer our services to your force.”

“You said you were summoned. Would you expect to be freed upon the sorcerer’s death?”

“No, he was smarter than that. We are bound until we are discarnated or the enemy is dispatched. I only have two of my bone devil squad left, yet we must fight on.”

“Are you among the devils that are loyal to Lord Paranswarm?”

“Of course.”

The group discusses. The strom points out that this means that the Kov of Bormark's archmagus is dead—he keeps his devils close, and would not permit them to range if he still lived.

They agree to have the devils accompany the army, though they extract a promise that the devils will not seek to make deals with members of the army or otherwise lead them to Hell.

24 Vaen
Passes peacefully.

25 Vaen
Small, quiet celebration of Noah’s birthday.

26 Vaen
Late that day, Iados notices that there’s a hideous smell. There wasn’t before, but now something awful is in the air. One of the scouts lets out a yip from off to the right somewhere. Iados heads over, and the scout says, “Sir, that tree tried to grab me. Some sort of tentacle. But now it looks just like normal branches once I dodged.”

After a little while the irregulars behind the scouts start bellowing as gray tentacles lash out from among the trees. Some of them begin to be pulled into the ground. Elyn casts Hunter’s Mark and shoots one of the tentacles, hitting easily for 14 damage. When her arrow slams in, the tree shimmers and is replaced with a stubby, stalagmite like creature with a mouth and a collection of tentacles. She then runs back to tell Noah about this.

As the army attacks them, they get hacked to pieces, though they killed some of the irregulars (and one scout, who died without making a sound) first. After some thought that they might be ropers, Sister Agnes realizes that they are likely demons instead. The devils confirm they are yochlol, and that while they should be servants of Lolth, these were summoned and bound to this plane—presumably as a trap to slow the army down. They speculate that the large army that they passed may be trying to catch this army.


[Session 41, cont'd]

27 Vaen
Ravokris notices that there is a dimensional weakness ahead of them. They call a stop, and then Noah flings a rock further. A stream of a thick reddish liquid begins pouring out of it. Noah begins to reach out to it, but Sister Agnes stops him in time. He then puts a stick in, which comes back out much shorter. They gather some “death juice” in a bucket. [The “death juice” is ochre jelly.] They then use detect magic to find an area around the dimensional weakness, and find a whole line of these weaknesses. Ravokris believes that they will fade in 10 to 12 hours. They also splash some death juice on a beetle which dissolves.

They extract some more of the death juice to carry with them, and otherwise make their way past the marked areas of weakness, losing about an hour and a quarter but continuing their march.

Late at night, the ground shakes, and a distant smell of burnt metal and grass reaches their noses.

28 Vaen
In the morning, they can see that north and slightly east, at a considerable distance, there are pillars of smoke rising to the sky. Iados sends a small group of scouts to investigate, and the army presses on.

The day’s march goes uneventfully. The scouts return at the end of the day and tells them that volcanoes are erupting.

29 Vaen
Passes uneventfully.

30 Vaen
The day passes uneventfully. That night, both the Silver and Violet Moons are full.

That night, Noah has a dream. A beautiful mouse lady appears to him in his dream, and touches his head. He now has control of his transformations under non-emergency circumstances, able to change voluntarily and to resist changing.

31 Vaen
A bedraggled looking farmer makes his way into the camp in the evening. “Thought you should know. The Queen-Empress’s army is moving at an angle, trying to cut you off. Don’t know what’s going on, but I thought you should know. At the speed they’re going, they’ll catch you in about two days. I don’t really understand this war, but seeing as you have the likes of them with you,” he says with a nod towards Iados, “you must have Lord Paranswarm’s blessing.”

The strom suggests that they send a devil to scout the enemy army from the air. He also suggests that they might make a hard march towards Dwarf Mountain, to try to outrace the enemy. They decide to begin a forced march in the morning.
[End session 41]


Session 42 (March 20, 2022)

1 Tar-Vaen
Noah imposes a set of procedures with passcodes and identity markers to prevent infiltration of the army.

They also begin a forced march.

3 Tar-Vaen
During the day, as they continue a forced march, several wounded people from their pickets and scouts come in for healing, muttering that they were attacked by a single undead. He was quite potent, and active during the day, but they destroyed it. It looks kinda like a zombie, but it doesn’t stink like a zombie. The wounds are unusually cold, and take extra warmth to warm, but they do warm up. The army presses forward, but Sister Agnes keeps an eye on them to make sure there are no further problems.

7 Tar-Vaen
That evening, eight gargoyles examine the army. They decide that attacking would be disastrous, so they leave the army alone.

9 Tar-Vaen
At the end of the day’s march, they arrive at an incredibly fortified gate into the mountains. The dwarves clearly expect them, and hurry them in. The entire army fits in the reception area. There are then small passages leading off from it, deeper into the mountain, with murder holes along the city.

Noah asks an officer to take him to the leader of the city, and they promise to take him to the governor. The dwarves are also happy to discuss the importance of the defenses in dissuading the Iron Legions who might want to take their wealth.

“Lord Governor. I have here Noah, na-Strom of Arendale.”


“Greetings to you as well. We are here as the primary coalition military force for the attack on the capital.”

“We have never allowed such a force in before. If you were not observed entering—and we believe you were not, though we have less means of detecting scrying than others—they may not know where you vanished. We will provide guides so you can travel through the Underdark to the mouth closest to Hanal City.”

They discuss planning on resting for four days of rest and recuperation, while the army takes leave and recovers from the forced march, before heading onwards through the tunnels underground with guides.


[Session 42, cont'd]
10 Tar-Vaen
Noah and Elyn prepare for their spirit quest during the stop.

The ordinary spirits—bears, wolves, etc., do not seem to be approaching them. And then a large moss-covered shape rises in front of them.

“Greetings, spirit.”

“Greetings. One day, you will return to the womb, but it is not yet. What do you wish assistance with?”

“We hope that we might assist you.”

“In ridding the lands of the abomination that dwells within its midst?”


It nods a giant mossy head. “You must take extreme care. You have brought an army with you, and though the abomination has wasted much of its army, yet it remains much stronger than what you have brought. You must fuse stealth, care, and caution.”

“We can work with that. Is there concrete aid you can give?”

“Few of my people there are who have not been returned to the land by the enemy. I can give you much information, though of what value it is to you, I am not sure.”

“We’ll take information.”

“You know that there are two great forces within the city. There is the Queen-Empress, whose blood runs in horrible colors, and there is the Lord Quinliart, or what was the Lord Quinliart at one time. She rules the city. She has released the whole of the blood-driven, and they age—with each year of age they gain power, until they cease. He rules beneath the city. He has taken the ancient tunnels, the ancient undercity, and he has begun to fuse. Both of them take the energy of the living. Both of them seek to betray the other and the outer powers they deal with so that they can end up on top. You can use that. Though their forces appear to be one, they plot against each other as they seek power. Now, I am of the earth and of the trees. Ask what you will, and I will answer.”

“How can we better attain skill in working with the powers of nature?” asks Noah.

“What’s the meaning of the universe?” asks Elyn.

“I cannot answer that. I can tell you the meaning of nature.”

“Tell me that then.”

“To grow, to live, to take joy, and to produce. We are not complicated.”

“What should I do with my life?”

“What makes you happy?”

“I don’t know. Existing?”

“Then exist! Be joyful!”

It turns to Noah. “You have concerns?”

“I am concerned that we may not make it.”

“Is that not true of everything?”

“Yes, but if we fail, everything may die.”

“Yes. You are not the only that has trod our surface to struggle against them.”

“That is fair,” says Noah. “This is a strange question. Do you know of any powerful artifacts or items of magic that are now on the surface?”

“Deep in the South there are some, but I know of the one that is near here but below the surface. You must not underestimate the one who once dwelt in that cavern.”

“Is it a dragon?”

“They were not a dragon. There are things in that cavern that are used by the great enemy beneath. He has chosen this place, and one item in particular. If you could obtain it or destroy it, it would slow him greatly.”

“So, should we go to this cavern?”

“Yes, yes, yes.”

“Can you give us someone who knows the way?”

“I can give you a spirit that knows the way. When you enter the cavern, you must have a distraction in place, and you must have a plan to escape with the item. That will weaken and slow him.”

“Thank you for your counsel.” Noah turns to Elyn. “We’re going on a dungeon crawl!”

“Oh, no,” she replies.

The spirit is slowly fading and is replaced by a mobile sapling with eyes. It introduces itself as Twig.

“We’re trying to do an important and good thing.”

“Yes, you’re trying to get the resonator.”

“Is that what it’s called?”

“Yes. It’s a very important thing. It was made by the ancient elves. And he’s sort of an ancient elf, but he needs the resonator to complete his fusion. When he completes the fusion, we won’t exist at all, even as shadows.”

“Has this ancient elven device been corrupted by things that aren’t from this world?”

“It’s not really corrupt. But it magnifies the energy he’s stolen from living beings—if he gets it to work, it will increase the energy he gets three fold, which will allow him to fully fuse with the land. He’s having trouble getting it to work, because he made himself bound to a specific place, and it’s not very near. That and he’s trying to open up a gate to bring through a prince, but the lady above doesn’t want to open up a gate. She wants to become a god. That’s why they’re plotting against each other—I’ve been watching it.”

(Twig turns out to be a baby ent.)

“They don’t have enough life energy. Someone’s cutting off the feeders, thank the God. They were trying to draw on the life energy of living beings, especially any with elven or fae blood. Or if they captured one of us, that would be dreadful. And then they’re corrupting the land, which will cause all of us to fall, if they succeed.”

“The resonator harnesses that energy?”

“Well, it increases its return three times.”

“So any mage powerful enough to use it could use the resonator and the gathered life energy to do crazy stuff.”


“It would have to be a psion?”


They prepare a pot with soil for Twig to travel in as he’s carried along, because that seems easier than having him walk.

The group discusses how they might turn the two enemies against each other. They contemplate stealing the resonator and leaving evidence suggesting that it was agents of the Queen-Empress, while perhaps suggesting that she was stealing more of the life energy.

Noah then leads the army in vast consumption of alcohol. A dwarf beats him soundly in a drinking contest, but it makes him friends once he wakes up again.

The dwarven food is ludicrously heavy, but it’s nourishing.

Iados starts developing various mixed drinks by combining his strange fruits with alcohol. Ravokris starts recording various drink recipes.

They spend an enormous amount of time working on different drink recipes.

The group will resume moving on 14 Tar-Vaen.
[End session 42]


Session 43 (April 3, 2022)

14 Tar-Vaen
Noah gathers the war council to speak with them and with Twig. He raises the fact that the enemy is divided between two factions—the underground one trying to bring through a prince, and the false queen-empress trying to become a god. Noah proposes that the vollers bombard the cavern where the resonator is, while the group attacks the resonator. He then realizes that this might involve a collapse on them.

They ask about the cavern where the resonator is.

“The cavern is large, but the entrances are small. You have to travel through tunnels to get in. Once you get in, it’s big.” Twig draws a map of the cavern—there is a mouth to the cavern in the southeast, with barrack rooms on either side of a narrow tunnel. The tunnel is blocked by about 20 feet of stone, but it might be passable. Just before the blocked tunnel, the main passageway from the dwarven lands passes along the shore of an underground sea, before turning north towards an ancient fortification—which the dwarves identify as where they believe Lord Quinliart is. The resonator itself is located in a substantial subcavern, perhaps 100 feet across, set off in a bulge in the northern part of the main cavern. There is a clear exit to the cavern in the northwest. Shortly after leaving the cavern, that tunnel splits in two, with one branch leading to the Palace of Blood—where the usurper Queen-Empress reigns—and the other leading to an unknown area, about which Twig can sense nothing. The cavern is within a few miles, at most, from the capital.

They then identify a plan for the diversion: they’ll use a dwarven force with a dwarven drilling machine to draw attention away from where they will enter.

It will take the drilling rig and the whole army about 25 days to get there (325 miles). They plan on sending a small group forward—Noah, Ravokris, Elyn, Sr. Agnes, and Iados, along with some powerful lyans and paladins, and the rakasta scouts, plus Twig and some dwarven wayfinders. They will outpace the army, and scout the target resonator cavern before the main force arrives. The hope is to find an entrance to the tunnel in the northwest, so that the drilling apparatus could provide a diversion in the southeast while a small strikeforce grabbed the resonator and withdrew, initially towards the Palace of Blood (hopefully throwing suspicion on the Queen-Empress’s forces) and then actually escaping through the unknown tunnel. It will take the small group about 15 days to get there.


[Session 43, cont'd]

28 Tar-Vaen
The advance party pulls within one day of the capital, leaving the part of the Near Underdark controlled by the dwarves. They have the scouts—a mix of the rakasta and the dwarven wayfinders—in the lead, fanned out basically at just maintaining visual contact. The then have Noah and Elyn at the front of the main body, followed by lyans, followed by Ravokris, Twig, and Sr. Agnes, followed by the paladins as a rear guard. They decide to continue at basically full speed, hoping that traveling quickly will get them through the enemy controlled territory safely.

They make it approximately 3 miles in, then there’s a thump as something drops down from the ceiling. A brief scream and a snarl follows. One of the rakasta is killed, while a figure retreats ahead of them, with some rakasta throwing javelins ineffectually after it. Noah chucks a silver hand axe at it. He hits it hard in the leg, though it doesn’t bite in quite as much as it should have—but the rakasta javelins bounce off entirely. They believe it is a blooddriven, though it did not seem verbal. It dashes out of sight.

Noah smells the blood on the axe, and it smells more wrong than the blood of the undead to him. He thinks he would recognize it if he smells it again.

About a mile later, another figure drops from the ceiling, though it’s not as effective in its attack. The scouts were poking at the ceilings with javelins and staves, but this creature was too far up, in a tall atrium whose ceiling they could not reach. Noah charges forward, raging, as the other rakasta start poking at it ineffectively with their javelins.

Noah hits it twice with a silver battleaxe, doing some damage but less than he would have normally. Elyn does just a tiny bit of damage with a normal arrow. Ravokris hits it with a bolt of fire, burning it. Sr. Agnes attempts to hold person on the blooddriven, but this one is sufficiently mature to not count as a humanoid. [The PCs don’t know, but this blooddriven is one of the 20 year 10 blooddriven—the most powerful and most individualized, as they approach the end of their lifespan.]

It claws Noah, and breathes a vile breath at the people around it. One of the rakasta appears to be literally melting. Noah orders the other rakasta to fall back.

Sister Agnes presents the icon of the minor saint of Paranswarm and casts Banishment. The creature has a surprised look on its face as it disappears, with a small pop indicating that it’s not native to this plane. She holds the spell for the full minute, and it is banished permanently. The icon’s face is slightly melted. She confirms that the creature was clearly eldritch in origin, not diabolical, but does not know where its home plane was.

The “melted” rakasta is beyond the ability of anyone to heal. Shortly ahead, the tunnel branches with several side chambers. The group decides to rest in a side chamber, to mourn the dead, recuperate, and take advantage of the potable water in one of the chambers, before moving on.
[End session 43. We'll have a gap in posting for a couple weeks because we're not playing again until May 1.]


Session 44 (June 19, 2022)

28 Tar-Vaen—early afternoon, about 16 miles out from the cavern

They continue onwards towards the capital. The next 11 miles are uneventful. As the corridor starts to widen out. Ahead, they can see a dullish red-and-mauve light—quite offputting. They discuss what to do.

Noah suggests that they send Iados forward to bluff being one of them and to scout out the situation ahead. Iados heads ahead, with the stealthiest of the rakasta scouts keeping him barely in sight as back-up.

As Iados moves into the area where the reddish-mauve light touches him and pulsates on him, he sees a single creature, seemingly made of various bones, sitting holding a huge axe made of an odd dull metal, sitting at the very tip of the wall in front of him—where the passageway forks left and right. The creature is large, about 10 or so feet tall, and the light is emanating from him.

Iados tries to casually walk past it to the left, as if he belongs here. As Iados moves forward, he feels a heaviness, as if everything in him is being drawn downward toward his feet. His boots got "squishy." The creature looks at him, and the bones of its face rearranged in what seemed like a confused expression - though there was no skin, so Iados wasn’t sure. Iados feels weaker. All the squishiness in his boots has now moved to the toe end.

As he slips past the creature, he approaches a large pile of rocks that block the passageway, almost like an avalanche fell. They’re roughly stacked, with some gaps in between them, but not enough for him to pass through. But he can see over the top of them, where there’s a small gap near the ceiling. He could wriggle through, although a more heavily armored or larger person might not be able to. As he looks through, he can see a yellowish light ahead, and some figures moving around. There are two different groups moving around beyond the wall—a group wearing imperial green that he is pretty sure are members of the Queen-Empress's guard, and another group dressed in white ivory, carrying bone staves, and wearing bone masks over their faces. Iados has never seen that group before, unlike the imperial guard. At this point, he decides to report back to the rest of the group and makes his way back through the sickly reddish-mauve light. By the time he makes it back to the rest of the group, he feels much weaker.

As soon as Iados gives his report, Sister Agnes begins examining him, starting by removing his boots to look at his feet. His boots are filled with blood, which pours out as they are removed. Looking at his pale face and trembling body, Sister Agnes concludes that he was bled severely, although he did not seem to realize it as it was happening. She casts both cure spells and lesser restorations on him, healing the wound damage, and ameliorating but not fully curing the Strength and Constitution loss he suffered.

Sister Agnes suggests that this sounds like a bone golem of some sort—she never studied them in detail, but some of the other students who she trained with did. Even so, she has never heard of this specific type or of powers like the reddish light that bleeds and weakens.

Also, they are certain that if it hurt a hero like Iados this badly, regular scouts or soldiers—even dwarven ones—would surely die. Since the aura covered the entire passageway, this presents quite a challenge. They discuss possible ways to bypass it or dispel it. Eventually, they realize that the effect began to hurt Iados when he was directly illuminated by the golem, so they wonder if a darkness magic could stop it.

Sister Agnes does not have a darkness spell prepared, but of course the lyans of Paranswarm do. They cast darkness on a convenient rock, blocking all light from reaching an area of fifteen feet around the rock. Sister Agnes takes the rock and moves forward, keeping a hand on the right hand wall at all times, to carefully move into the reddish light. She feels no ill effects, although she does feel like something is at first pushing back against her and then later pushing her onwards, and so proceeds until she estimates that she has passed roughly 50 feet beyond the intersection. She then puts down the rock, carefully placing it at a corner between the wall and the floor so she will be able to find it again, and walks forward out of the darkness. The area beyond the darkness appears to be ordinary tunnel—rough-hewn rock with no carvings or decorations. But instead of the dome of darkness she would have expected to see looking back, she sees what looks like a wall of darkness holding back streamers of the reddish light that peak through around the edges. Sister Agnes removes her boots and some of her armor to examine herself, to make sure she has no injuries. She has not been bled, but she does have some light bruising—nothing serious, but likely the result of the force she felt pushing against her as she approached and then pushing behind her as she left the area. She then returns, picks up the token, and uses it to pass back to where the rest of the group waits. She reports that, since creatures of chaos are particularly susceptible to the power of Paranswarm’s darkness, magical darkness is sufficient to hedge out the evil of the golem’s light.

They discuss, and conclude that this may not be sufficient to move the whole army with the digging machines through, simply because of the number of soldiers and amount of equipment relative to the amount of magical darkness they can create. But they have 10 days to figure that out, and this is sufficient to move the entire scouting party across.

As they move the scouting force past, they feel a powerful, pulsing magical energy, though they are not harmed by it, and they hear heavy footsteps. Iados flies up to the top of the magical darkness to look over, and sees that the golem is pacing the area—not entering the darkness, but almost pacing back and forth between invisible lines that it cannot pass. It also gathers in all of the light it has been emitting into a bright sphere in the center of its chest, which it then blasts out through the darkness.

The rest of the group has finished getting clear by this point, and sees the blast of light emerge from the darkness without being harmed by it. Iados notices, however, that the bats and vermin in the area with the golem are now entirely dead, desiccated and decayed.

One of the dwarven wayfinders gives a low whistle. “That blast aged the stone itself. A few more of those, and the whole ceiling might come down.”

They carefully get the whole group through, and then withdraw the darkness, since they don’t (at least currently) want the golem to cause a collapse, which they figure would happen if they left it hemmed in by darkness.

They then proceed down the passageway, looking for a way to loop around to the far side of the cavern. They find that the passage opens out onto a large underground body of water. The rock of the passageway gives way to a sandy beach, and then the area opens up to a wide area, with the far side too far to see by torchlight, and some glistening stalactites hanging down from the ceiling.

One of the dwarven wayfinders decides to scout ahead by swimming, doffing his armor and tying up his beard before diving in, a knife between his teeth. After a while he returns and reports that he found another beach to the north about half a mile, but opening westward. There were boats on that beach, with guards—perhaps 35 humans, some dressed in imperial green and some dressed in bones, plus about 5 drow. The drow were clearly in command, and they had insignia that he did not recognize—although close enough to what he had seen before that he could identify them as cadet house drow, not Lolthian drow, though what rank or status he could not be sure. The odd thing was that they had defaced the badge that would show what house they were from.

Iados and Elyn looked around to see if there were signs that the boats ever came here. There is no mooring equipment or pier, but they do find marks in the sand where the prows of boats have been pulled up in the past.

[End Session 44]


Session 45 (Sept. 18, 2022)

28 Tar-Vaen (evening)
Noah suggests that Iados could fly over to the other beach and talk to them. Ravokris endorses this idea, and Iados unfurls his wings and begins to fly over.

As he flies over, he sees a small group of humanoid snakes or serpents poling a barge along. The barge is under water. They have arms, they look almost human, but he can see their scales and their eyes seem to glisten. They are clearly angling toward the beach from which Iados came. At first he thought they were wading, but then he realized they were poling a partially submerged platform. It is clearly a bundled net, laid over top of what looks like a large woven basket that would hold, perhaps, 200 pounds of things and is empty. It appears to be woven of toughened fibers, perhaps from some underdark plant. They appear to be merchants of some sort. He returns to the group and reports this.

Shortly later, they come in sight. A leader calls out, “Friend or foe?” in passable surface common. Noah calls out “Friend!” and they come over to the beach.

Ravokris is sure that they are yuan-ti, but they don’t seem to be dangerous like most yuan-ti. The big one looks carefully at all of them. He then points in the direction Iados was headed, and says “Danger.”

“What danger?” says Ravokris.

“Ancient eaters. Eat,” and he taps his chest and passes his head over his head a couple of times. “Come first father’s time. Now, more. Much, much more.” Meanwhile, his yuan-ti are dragging out fish, and dumping them in a basket. “Much time, empty.”

“Do you know of the bad light to the south?”

“Yes. New. Kill.” He looks confused. “You pass light?”

“Our god is powerful and protected us. His Daughter, the Weeping Woman, weeps for all, even such as you.”

The yuan-ti leader seems confused by the second sentence, but nods respectfully.

Noah tries to pay him to make a map, but he doesn’t know how to use parchment, quill, and ink, and it’s unclear whether he understands the idea of money. After a little more stilted conversation, they realize that the yuan-ti are subsistence fishers, not merchants. Noah then starts drawing a map in the sand, and the leader realizes what Noah means. He points out a few features the group doesn’t know about--another tunnel that goes east, somewhat north of where they are, and their village—north of the “Eaters” at the other beach. They also show the body of water extending indefinitely to the north. After some discussion, they say that there is also a secret tunnel past the Eaters, and offer to bring the group across on their barge.

The group agrees to spend the night at their village, and then proceed onwards via the secret tunnel.

As they talk, they seem terrified of, and extremely respectful, to Ravokris and Elyn—apparently they recognize and defer to elves. Noah suspects that they had Drowan protectors and lords, before the “Eaters” came and killed their lords.

The yuan-ti begin ferrying the group across, while Elyn and Noah do spear-fishing and Ravokris uses shocking grasp to electrocute batches of fish. Noah and Elyn each get about 10 fish, while Ravokris cooks about 44 fish.


[Session 45, cont'd]
When they make it to the village, of about 150 people, the leader brings Ravokris and Elyn to a very elderly member of the yuan-ti people, with old healed battle injuries, and an elaborate staff with shells and decorations on it. He says, “You return.” to the elves, in pidgin elven.

Ravokris says, “We’ve never been here before.”

The elder then leads them into the biggest hut, where there are two corpses on an altar, wrapped in fine silks and in black armor, both sucked dry of all moisture. They are clearly elves or drow, but it’s hard to tell which at this point. They have large fishing hooks in their hands. At the side of the two bodies, there are two beautiful books, bound in silver.

“You return.”

“Ah. They were your protectors?”

“Protectors, rulers. Life was good.”

He bows down before Elyn and Ravokris and carefully places their feet on his neck. “Serve you.”

Ravokris realizes that, while he’s not speaking it well, the old yuan-ti is speaking Light Elven, not Drow.

After what seems to be a carefully measured period of time, the shaman removes Ravokris and Elyn’s feet from his neck and stands, though bowing a little to be shorter than they are.

“Do you follow a god?” asks Sister Agnes.

“Eru!” replies the shaman distinctly.

The group is very surprised to hear that they follow the elven Creator, but assumes at first that that was the work of the dead elves—only to be even more surprised by the explanation.

“Long follow Eru. Then they come.” The shaman gestures at the dead elves. “Was shrine to Eru. Then way cut. Long, long time—many parents and children. Then they come. Then Eaters came. Then they fought Eaters.”

“Did they ever talk of Eru?”

“Yes, yes! Eru. When they come, others left. Not long, then Eaters came.”

“So, the way to the shrine to Eru was cut long before they arrived? Not by the Eaters, then.”

“Yes, by Eaters. Eaters come long, long ago. Cut way to shrine. Eaters go away. Long time. People suffer. Then Eru sends them. Life good. Children heal. Then Eaters return.”

The group carefully examines the bodies. They are wrapped in silk, but wearing armor that has been rent and torn by violence.

Noah recognizes the heraldry incised in mithril on the elves’ armor: the elven House of Menen, modified with the sign of the servant house of Nimroshannar, the Bearers of the Water Jewel. Ravokris explains that the House of Menen is one of the six houses of the Eldar—the greatest of the elves--and that the servant house is a gray elf house. They are very powerful—therefore, whatever killed them must be very powerful because even young gray elves are very powerful.

Sister Agnes suggests that they may have enchanted equipment. Ravokris detects magic as a ritual, while Sister Agnes detects holy and unholy. The male's sword detects as Holy, and something else that you can't quite lay a finger on. It's blade is finely honed and edged in a silver metal that you think is mithril -- and its hilt is set with a net of small crystal gems.

Ravokris examines two books. One is a spellbook, while the other has wards on it, but they are not triggered by Ravokris or Elyn touching it. The one with wards on it is clearly a journal, while the spellbook is a ninth level spellbook of an abjurer. Ravokris looks at the journal. It begins with “Haleth and his sister Melian.” Haleth means “Exalted One” and Melian means Precious Gift.

The two elves set out into the world, and they fell into an adventuring party, without really realizing it. The adventuring party traveled down the tunnel the group just left, and they came upon the village. The people were not in the best shape—they had many diseases and their children were often born twisted. But they worshipped Eru, and Haleth and Melian were moved and decided that they couldn’t abandon them. So they stayed, while the adventuring company moved on. Eventually, they received word that the rest of the adventuring company had died.

They started teaching the yuan-ti a little Elven. Then they tried to restore the shrine to Eru, but neither of them were a cleric. One of them, however, was a redactor, which allowed them to do a lot of healing among the people, and they taught them how to fish with nets instead of just with spears. They were actually quite proud of the people who continued to worship Eru, and they fell into the role.

They were young--very young by the standards of gray elves, little more than children. The more Ravokris reads, the more he realizes that they fell into the role of protectors, and when the people started worshiping them they didn't really notice, because they're from an extremely regimented part of Elven society and having the people that they were helping become extremely regimented didn't particularly shock them. There are a couple of discussions of the Eaters, and apparently Haleth was the mage, and he may have been a very low level paladin of Eru.

He was troubled by the force that was growing that apparently had caught these people off from their shrine, and he made the mistake of taking an investigating journey. He returned, and then the journal almost immediately thereafter stopped—they assume that the “Eaters” followed him back.

The group decides to take the sword and give it to Elyn—they figure a paladin of Eru would prefer that his sword be used against evil, and while she is not very religious, Elyn is nominally a follower of Eru (as most elves are). The sword is a +2 Holy sword. (It also has some psionic capabilities, but the crystals are discharged and our heroes may not even realize that’s what they’re for.) Ravokris takes a magic ring from Melian, which is a Ring of Armor +3, as well as a diadem of mithril set with crystals that glow with an inner fire—they can’t tell what that is, but hope it may be helpful. Ravokris also takes the spellbook, and after some discussion, the journal, because they worry that the yuan-ti might otherwise accidentally set off the wards at some point. When he decides to take it, fresh words appear on the first blank page: “This is the journal of Ravokris and Elyn...”

[End Session 45]

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