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 11/29/22)

CPaladin

Explorer
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.
[cont'd]
 

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CPaladin

Explorer
[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]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
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.”

“Greetings!”

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.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[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]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
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.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[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]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
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.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[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]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
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.”

“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.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[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?”

“Yes.”

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.”

“Psion.”

“It would have to be a psion?”

“Yes.”

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]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
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.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[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.]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
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]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
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.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[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]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 46 (October 2, 2022)

29 Tar-Vaen
In the morning, the yuan-ti load the group onto their submerged barges, and take them to a narrow tunnel near their village—a much smaller tunnel than they have been traveling through before. The yuan-ti, including their shaman, touch the edges of the clothes of the elves, as if to receive a blessing. One of the young yuan-ti takes the lead, saying “follow,” although with obvious trepidation.

Noah sends forward a few scouts to scout ahead—the tunnel is narrow enough that they are essentially single file. After a little while, a scout comes back and reports a three-way split. The yuan-ti wants to take the leftmost passage, and the group agrees.

They proceed onwards, and a scout comes racing back to Iados. [They rolled an encounter, and then rolled onto the “special subtotal.”]

One of the scouts reports to Iados, “There is a cyst that opens in the rock ahead and there are a group of female drow there. They are dancing in a frenzied manner about the chamber with glowing swords and daggers, screaming in one of the old tongues and casting sparkling dust about. We tried to pass through but they barred the way and spoke to us sternly. Fredrick has been drawn into the dance and now dances madly with the best dressed of the maidens.”

The drow have no obvious holy symbols, but are dressed in silks of many colors. The group is befuddled by this—they know of no drow that dress in many colors. Sister Agnes wonders if it might be Whimseyite drow, but she’s never heard of Whimseyite drow. Ravokris says that some drow have started following Whimsey and some of her avatars, and that that’s what he think the dancing represents. They decide to send Ravokris forward, along with a dwarf, who insists on playing the bagpipes. (Sister Agnes takes out her mortification bracelet and turns it around her wrist.)

When the drow see Ravokris, they call out delightedly, “Cousin!” and dance towards the opening of the cyst.

“Why are you here, cousin?”

“I am here to get Frederick back.”

“Oh, he’s yours? Have him.”

Frederick slumps against the wall, no longer dancing in his long dance.

“Is that your only purpose, cousin?”

“Yes.”

“Forgive our separation.” She kisses Ravokris on the cheek, while still gyrating.

“Let me get in there with my pipes!” says the dwarven wayfinder. “Maybe I can get them over to the wall, and you can slide across on the other.”

“Sure?” says Ravokris.

The dwarf begins playing a jig on his bagpipe and dances into the circle and begins dancing with them. The drow are delighted and welcome him to the dance, and he herds them into a corner. The rest of the group hurries past.

About 15 minutes later, the dwarf catches up, perspiring heavily and with a combed beard. “They combed my beard… still worth it to get us past them safely.”

As they proceed onwards, another scout comes back. The tunnel ahead is blocked by a number of drow - about 30, with 6 pack lizards-- they are in great consternation, we did not approach. A couple minutes later, the yuan-ti launches into an absolute speech in his own tongue, which no one understands.

They decide to send Noah, Iados, and some rakasta forward—hoping to avoid any difficulties that might happen if the drow saw Elyn, Ravokris, or even the dwarves. The rest of the group hangs back some distance.

The leading group sees that there is a whole force of the drow, all male. They are all wearing silks, though reinforced with silver wire. There are a small number also wearing armor, standing around the six pack beasts. One stands off to the side, holding a banner, while the two senior most—wearing more silver wire, talk.

“Hail.”

“Hail. We do not seek conflict.”

“Neither do we.”

“Let us parlay then. How did you pass the followers of the Dancing Maiden? We don’t expect problems in this area, but we are blocked ahead. The forces of the enemy are more active than they have been. They seem to be searching for something.”

“We played a song for them and they let us pass.”

“They are servants of the Dark Dancing Goddess, some minor goddess we know nothing of. We have a flautist among us—he’s a hobbyist, but it might be enough.”

“We wish to pass forward.”

“We can back up to the bend, but be warned—there is a blockade some three bird flights ahead, manned heavily. They just established it. They seem to expect an attack towards the accursed compound ahead of them that they have infested. If you are simply taking the tunnel towards our home, they might let you pass, if you bribe them.”

“We represent an interested party for an alliance with the drow.”

“Rebels, or cadet houses?”

“Rebels.”

He shudders. “Go then, and may you meet the fate you deserve.” [The PCs could have realized that he was cadet house (i.e. Morgothian, not Lolthian) based on his clothing, or could have looked at the banner and seen what it indicated, but they didn't have enough experience with the drow to recognize the dress and didn't think to examine the banner.]

The group decides to wait until the main force is in position. They expect that to take about nine days, so they pull back into the cyst where the drow allowed the group to pass and make camp.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 46, cont'd]
1 Kas
A few days later, the scouts watching the corridor dart in. “A group of octopus heads approach. With them are small monkey beings with javelins. Oh, and they have a pack of dog-like things that also have octopus heads.”

“Oh, those are illithids,” says the dwarf.

“Does that mean they’ll try to eat our brains?”

“Depends. There are illithids that eat our brains, and illithid that don’t. There are illithid that reproduce in the normal way, and ones that lay eggs in corpses. Do they have gold on their tentacles?”

The scout has no idea, but ducks back out to check. He comes back after a couple of minutes and reports that yes, they have gold on their tentacles.

“Then they’re ‘vegetarians.’ We might be able to get intelligence from them.”

“Perhaps we can persuade them to join our army,” says Noah.

“You could try.”

First one of the monkey-creatures pokes its head around, then runs back. Somewhat later, two illithid approach. (The dwarf says that they are elders, based on their wrinkles.)

“Be careful. The accursed eaters of worlds have set up a blockade ahead.”

“That is our objective.”

“Ah. You are from the … Ecumenical Council. You do not know what the accursed eaters of worlds can do to a world. They forced us to travel here from our homeworld. And they twisted some of our kin until they could no longer be recognizable. We suggest ethereal travel—it let us pass them without difficulty.”

“Would you assist us, if you hate them as well?”

“Yes, we could do that.” She breathes on a crystal, which glows. “When you are ready, have the strongest of mind among you use this. It will bring eight of you to the ethereal for 20 minutes—should be plenty to get you past the barricade. Beware of our twisted cousins. The klaves were twisted even on our homeworld. Here, they consider making alliance with the eaters of worlds, despite what they did.”

3 Kas
They hear a clash of weapons in the distance.

“Uruks fleeing this way!”

Moments later, three bloodied, bleeding uruks stumble past their hiding place.

None of the garrison followed. However, when Sister Agnes realized that their wounds would not be survivable without aid, she emerged from the group’s hiding place. “The Weeping Woman cries for your wounds. May I treat them?”

The leader of the three nods curtly. It doesn’t look like he’s an actual officer, but the others defer to him.

Sister Agnes casts various healing spells on them, closing their wounds.

“There is a great bad ahead,” says the leader.

“We are aware.”

“We came from below, from the cadet city. We were in service to an important man who wanted to return to the city. When we came to the barricade, we expected to pay a toll, but they attacked us immediately. Well, they attacked our charge, and we defended our charge, for we have Law.” As he says the last bit, the uruk touches a small downward arrow on a chain around his neck, marking him as a follower of Paranswarm. “We could not abandon him, even if we were all slaughtered. But then they touched him, and he vanished, and we fled.”

“What was the nature of your charge?”

“We were to protect him, for so long as he lived, until he made it back to his people on the surface.”

“What type of being was he?”

The uruk points to Elyn.

“You said he disappeared when touched?” Elyn asks.

“Yes, one of their bone men touched him, and he disappeared.”

Noah comments, “I don’t think we’ve seen that.”

“This is very troubling. Did they cast a spell before they touched him?”

“Not that we saw, but the bones he wore glowed. He could have been still when he cast—we have seen our shamans do that.”

“It could be a banishment of some sort,” muses Sister Agnes.

“Or a disintegration,” says Noah, “though you’d expect to see dust afterwards.”

“I think if we’d disguised him, they would have let us pass. I think we failed our charge.”

“You may be right,” replies Sister Agnes. “One of our number is a noble of Paranswarm from the surface.” She gestures at Noah, and the uruks give perfunctory but honest and respectful nods. “If you would wish, you would be welcome to join our forces. We intend to harm those who set up that barricade.”

“They are many.”

“We have a plan.”

After a moment’s thought, he says, “We will join you.” He then turns to the other two and explains in their own language (which Noah can understand, although with occasional unfamiliar words and different accents from what he’s used to) that they will join this force that intends to fight the enemy they just fought, so they can get revenge for their lost brethren and their charge.

The uruks are 8th level fighters: 8d10+16 hp each. Their names are Zhor the Ruthless, Podagog, and Ronkros.

5 Kas
A yuan-ti slithers along the wall, moving as secretly as he can. “The way behind is cut. A group of us waited beyond the shadow, in case you needed assistance, lord and lady. A few hours ago, enemy came up main corridor. We fled back towards village. They triggered? Fired? They make golem do many things, quickly. The roof of the chamber beyond collapsed.”

“Back where the golem was?”

“Yes, where you were going to flee. One of them in robes, with bones and whisps of darkness, did something with the golem. We watched from the edge of the lake. It collapsed. It is loose. It could be cleared. But it will take many strong hands. Do you wish us to begin to shift the stones?”

The group discusses, and decides to send a sending to the army, telling them what to expect, and to clear the stones but not too deep (to not reach the golem, and to send a sending back when they make contact with the enemy).

8 Kas
Sister Agnes receives a sending. <<Rubble down. We are in combat. May Dain's hand guide our hammers.>>

She sends back, <<May Dain guide you. The Weeping Woman cries for you. We move.>>

They move forward as close as they can and then think at the stone. They are now in a misty, shadowy area, where they can see the Prime, but can’t interact with anything in the normal way. They pass beyond the barricade, which is indeed heavily guarded, but cannot see them as they glide past.

They see a trio of whispy, snake-like beings with human heads, which slither away from the group rapidly—apparently wanting no conflict with a large group.

They make their way past the defenses and then pass back into the Prime.

[End Session 46]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 47 (October 16, 2022)

8 Kas (cont’d)
They dash into the cavern. As they round the corner, they can see the device—it looks kind of like a rack, set to stretch things, but there are gems set in it here and there, but there are some gems glowing sullenly here and there. There is a person strapped to it, and a tendril of visible energy heading off towards the Palace of Blood. There are three large undead amalgamations of flesh, two yuan-ti with strange body modifications and ritual scarification—definitely from a different group of yuan-ti, and a human in bone armor. The yuan-ti draw short curved blades and speak to the flesh golems, apparently ordering them forward.

Ravokris responds first, dashing forward and casting an Agganazor’s Scorcher at the yuan-ti, which saves and takes 6 damage. Noah shouts “For the Queen-Empress!” rages and charges the magus, while the bones in his armor seem to move under their own power to block his attacks and seek to grapple the axe. Noah shouts back, “It’s not living! Try to dispel it or something!”

Elyn moves forward, casts hunter’s mark, and then shoots her longbow at the magus, hitting it for 15 damage. Her first shot hits, and her second gets snatched out of the air by one of the moving bones.

The yuan-ti that Ravokris damaged slithers forward and strikes with his dagger at Ravokris, hitting easily, and inflicting 10 points of damage and poisoning the wound, though Ravokris saves. The larger of the yuan-ti does not move, but makes a series of crossing maneuvers with its hands and knives, and creates a wall of poison droplets between the group and the device.

The magus’s tongue is preternaturally long, forked, and lashes out at Noah, touching him and inflicting 11 points of damage, as well as forcing two Con saves. Noah resists both successfully.

The uruk rush at the yuan-ti fighting Ravokris, and hit it three times for 27 hp of damage. Sister Agnes drapes the green of her house around her shoulders, moves forward, and turns undead. One turns and shambles away. One is unaffected, moves in and grabs the resonator, and begins shuffling away. The third is nowhere to be seen.

7 round count; 5 round count.

Ravokris rushes forward, dodging the yuan-ti’s attack of opportunity, and Ravokris unleashes a 4th level Aganazzor’s scorcher at the fleeing undead thing, hitting it for 20 hp.

Noah continues hacking at the magus, missing once and hitting once for 17 hp. Elyn fires at the magus twice, missing both times. The yuan-ti continues to gesture and the mist of poison becomes thicker. The other hits one of the uruk for 4 damage and a saving throw that it makes.

The magus casts a lightning spell at Noah, and he dodges for half-damage, taking 14 hit points of damage.

The uruk hits the yuan-ti for 13 hit points of damage, with only one landing a blow.

Sister Agnes approaches the bone magus, judges that it’s possessed in some way, and casts banishment. There is a loud pop [indicating that it was extraplanar, although that’s usually a quiet pop], and the bone magus collapses, unconscious, with the bone armor still standing and moving.

The flesh golem thing moves through the rain of poison, and the figure on the rack gives a weak cry and probably dies.

6; 4.

Ravokris hits the yuan-ti casting the poison wall with a scorcher, doing 21 points of damage.

Noah rushes through the poison wall and swings his axe at the legs of the flesh amalgam, taking a mere 12 points of poison damage. He misses once, and hacks at it for 16 hp.

Elyn shoots the yuan-ti caster, hitting it for 20 points of damage and 18 points of damage on the two shots. The poison wall stays up, however.

The yuan-ti continues casting, and the barrier begins thickening further, obscuring sight and becoming persistent. The other attacks the uruk leader, missing twice.

The armor unleashes a swarm of small bone shards through the poison barrier, attacking Noah. Two clouds of shards hit him, with a third missing. He takes 10 points of damage and makes another poison save successfully.

The uruk finally cut down the yuan-ti they have been battling, killing it.

Sister Agnes casts a dispel magic at the poison wall, bringing it down.

The flesh amalgam keeps moving on, and Noah hacks it for another 15 damage.

5, 3

Ravokris moves forward and hits the amalgam with another scorcher, doing another 20 damage. Noah continues hacking at it, doing 19 and 16 damage in two hits, toppling the fleshy creature and causing the resonator to drop and skid a little along the floor.

Elyn shoots the other yuan-ti, doing 17 hp of damage.

The remaining yuan-ti rushes over to the resonator and tries to push it along the floor. The armor unleashes another blast of boneshards at Noah for 7 points of damage and a DC 13 poison save, which Noah makes.

The uruk rush over and hit the yuan-ti for 30 damage.

Sister Agnes casts dispel magic on the bone armor, rolling a natural 20 on the effect level, and it collapses to the ground.

4, 2, and 3

Ravokris scorches the remaining yuan-ti, albeit with a lower level spell slot, and does 9 damage after a successful save. Noah hacks at the yuan-ti, hitting and then hitting critically, inflicting 51 damage and slaying the yuan-ti.

The uruks lift up the resonator and begin carrying it out.

Sister Agnes examines the bones, which seem to have something incised in abyssal on them. It looks like the entire skeleton of a creature plus. Noah attacks the skull helmet.

Noah spends a while smashing the bones.

Sister Agnes dumps all of her holy water on it, doing 35 points of damage.

Elyn stabs at the bones with the holy sword. She hits them 5 times with 2 criticals. She does 80 points of damage.

Ravokris also bangs on the bones with his quarterstaff, doing 8 damage.

Sister Agnes drops a few scraps of imperial green uniforms as they move. She has just rounded the corner with the uruks, as the bone armor arises once more, though in tatters.

It releases another burst of shards at Noah, doing 8 damage to him. Noah slams it one last time, getting a critical hit and smashing it to pieces.

They all then run like mad around the corner. Somewhere back behind them at the far end of the cavern, they here a whining sound. Ravokris recognizes it as unmistakeably the sound of a gate opening. Taking a last glance behind them, Ravokris and Elyn, with their elven eyes, can see heavily armored figures moving out of the left hand barracks alcove, with a high degree of discipline. Noah can recognize them from the description as royal guards.
[End Session 47]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
Session 48 (October 30, 2022)

8 Kas (cont’d)
They continue hurrying along down the passageway, into the unknown. The passage turns clockwise as it cuts steeply down. Soon, they are passing beneath the chamber they were previously fighting in. Iados scouts ahead by a short distance, followed by Noah and the uruks with the resonator, followed by Ravokris and Sister Agnes. Elyn is bringing up the rear, and can see light behind them, likely chasing them—but the light is not closing rapidly.

They soon come upon a toll booth structure, staffed by 4 male drow and a priestess of Lolth who emerges from a small stone building as they approach. "Hail, travelers!"

"Hello," calls back Noah.

The priestess speaks. "You don't look like... what is that thing you're carrying?" She makes a couple of gestures, and she says, "that is an abomination."

They've all now stopped, and in the distance they hear marching at double time.

Elyn calls forward, "Can you help destroy it? We need to move. There are very, very powerful forces approaching."

"Hanalian troops would dare intrude into the Underdark?" asks the priestess haughtily.

The person who is obviously the male lieutenant gets a worried expression. "May I ask if you know how many of them there are?"

Noah replies, "A lot. Let's see... in a standard Hanalian field army, there are 5000, organized in legions of 1000 and companies of 100."

"Not the time for math," mutters Elyn.

"Could be 100 or 1000. But I'm not sure of the organization of the royal guards..."

The lieutenant grimaces, sure about what will soon happen. "Your reverence, may I suggest humbly that we permit these good folks to proceed on with this abomination and go their way, while we attempt to prepare a defense against this intrusion?"

"Good luck," says Noah. "We firmly believe in your noble cause of defending your homeland."

She reluctantly nods, he moves aside the toll barrier, and they hurry through as she starts to cast spells in preparation.

Just beyond the barricade, the tunnel splits three ways. The center descends even faster, while there are passages to left and right that seem roughly level. Since left would take them towards the lake and beneath areas they have already been to, they head to the right, hoping to find a way to the surface. Behind them, they hear the priestess’s voice call out, “Stop in the name of House Kilsik!” They then hear the sounds of violence behind them. A few rounds later, the legion continues on, unfortunately following our heroes.

After about a day of travel—miles and miles along the corridor—Sister Agnes is fatigued. The uruks, fortunately, are indefatigable. The enemy, however, is also falling behind. Elyn can no longer hear them, nor see any light from them.
[cont'd]
 

CPaladin

Explorer
[Session 48, cont'd]
The group enters into a huge cavern—several miles across—with the ruins of buildings. Abruptly, Iados, who has been scouting ahead, appears and reports. There are hundreds of buildings, most ruined; thousands of long-dead humanoid figures; a smattering of still living humanoids, but Iados thinks different from the long-dead humans; mushroom fields, once tended and now growing wild; and a large number of pig like things. Iados believes that the attack that destroyed this settlement came from behind them. There are no signs of skeletons from the attackers, which suggests that the victors took their dead with them. The field looks like it was abandoned two years ago.

Elyn can hear the pursuit behind them, though it is more distant and moving more slowly. The group decides to hide in the city, hoping that Sister Agnes can use a sending to the dwarves to find out where they should go. They decide to go deep into the city, heading straight ahead and then breaking to the left before finding a building to hole up in.

Iados splits off to the right, planning on leaving a false trail and then flying back. A small lizard person runs out in front of Iados and grovels. “Great lord! You return! We loyal. We wait for us. We tend the rothe.”

Iados says that he is not who they think he is. The lizard person does not seem to believe him, but defers to Iados’s wishes, telling him that they will continue to wait.

The rest of the group heads towards a tower to use as a hiding place. The tower is fairly defensible, though the door was battered in with a ram. There are more skeletons here-Ravokris is fairly sure they were drow, with black metal armor that is likely adamantium. There is an alchemical lab, not even disturbed, on the second floor. The third floor is a sumptuous living quarters, though with chains from the headboard of the bed—likely they kept slaves here. There is also a journal with a sigil that they have also seen on banners near the skeletons embossed in gold on its cover. The sigil is of the drow House Maerret, one of the Lolthian drow houses.

In the distance, they can see lights as the enemy search buildings in close to the entrance. After some time, they pitch a camp blocking the entrance to the cavern. Iados makes an overflight and sees some more details. The troops are obviously exhausted. There are now roughly 120 of them, and they are being led by a captain.

Iados also sees that some of the small lizard people are watching the Hanalians, and some large fungi are slowly closing in on them.

Noah suggests they need to push on, despite their exhaustion, to escape the pursuit.

Sister Agnes makes a Sending to the best dwarven wayfinder from their group. <<Have resonator. In ruined city of House Maerret due south of chamber. Need guidance where to go. Under pursuit.>>

She receives back: <<Didnvor: once great city. Drow. Ravaged as most were along Western passage by huge army headed to surface Spicelands. Best head right, surface sooner.>>

Sister Agnes removes her armor, retaining only the padded gambeson, and puts it on the resonator. She would not be able to maintain anything approximating a good pace if she continued with it.

Ravokris finds three potions in the alchemical lab. They also grab the journal.

Iados scouts aerially for the right-most exit, finding three exits. One goes more or less north or northeast, one east, and one roughly south.

Sister Agnes has two levels of fatigue; everyone else is roughly unfatigued, but will gain a level of fatigue in 6 hours more of travel without sleep.

They exit from the south passage, and will resume on the wee hours of 9 Kas.
[End Session 48]
 

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