Eberron - Dragonflies in the War Garden of Sulatar

Isida Kep'Tukari

A player from my usual game (Forgotten Realms - Family Matters) was going to be away for six sessions, so the rest of our group decided to do a short Eberron campaign to fill in the gap. This is a continuation, in a way, from the previous Eberron campaign we played. Without further ado, I present:

The Dragonflies

You all share the same father, one Connor Shepherd, a native of the Eldeen Reaches who traveled to Sharn looking for grand adventure.

He found it, in spades.

After a long career of adventuring, thrilling, heroic, and occasionally absurd (no one could forget the perpetually-falling sheep. No one. Not even with modify memory spells), he eventually married a fellow party member, a dragon(fire adapt) smith called Tamara. But before that, and occasionally after, Conner was extremely popular with a wide variety of ladies, particularly fey, and even a few dragons. So popular, in fact, that they mothers of his children eventually created a town, called Shepherdton, where the children could be raised together.

Any child of Conner's lineage can find a home here, and the place is a happily chaotic, bustling village that doesn't look like one at all. Founded by the fey, particularly those associated with the Greensingers sect of druids, Shepherdton is in a lush corner of the Eldeen Reaches, and resembles a series of interconnected groves with tree-house in them rather than the more traditional villages that dot the countryside.

Any child growing up in Shepherdton can't help but learn something about nature and something about magic, considering the wide diversity of mothers in town. (All Children of Conner have a +2 bonus to Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (nature), and Survival checks. Those skills are always considered class skills for you.)

Now that you've proved yourself aiding the Greensingers or the Wardens of the Wood, it's high time to assuage the adventurer in your blood!

You're going to Xen'drik.

The Siblings

(All characters started out at 5th level, with either the half-fey or half-dragon template, with the other half being human. I was somewhat flexible on what spell-like abilities the half-fey had, depending on their fey mothers.)

Junior Shepherd - CN Female half copper dragon human wilderness rogue 2. (Conner named the egg, but the offspring turned out to be female. The others call her "June" or "Juju", unless they're mad.)

Cricket Shepherd - CN Female half-fey human (grig mother) spirit shaman 3, with spirit companion Charlie the buffalo. Conner named her, but he wasn't feeling creative that day (grigs have cricket legs/wings). She does indeed have cricket wings.

Veylan Shepherd - CN Female half-fey human (baccae mother) barbarian 2/sorcerer 1. Conner didn't name her, because her mother was a baccae, and their "free spirits" often end of orgies of violence as much as the other sort. Her mom said Veylan while in her cups, so Veylan it is. Her wings look like glistening wine. Accompanied by her hawk familiar, Krell.

Luna Shepherd - CG Female half red dragon human swashbuckler 2.

Dusty Shepherd - LN Female half fey human (oread mother) rogue 3. She doesn't fly, but rather burrows.

You've Got To Be Kidding Me That Isn't Even Possible Shepherd (commonly known as Buzz) - CN Male half fey (atomie mother) druid 3, accompanied by Unholy Terror, his giant Yorkshire Terrier animal companion. Buzz, despite his half-human size, is Small, due to the smallness of his mother. His conception involved a lot of shapechanging spells. Don't ask.


When we first meet our intrepid heroes, they were all back in their home village of Shepherdton. While some had been working with different druidic sects (the Greensingers, Gatekeepers, or Wardens of the Wood), others might have been working with caravans as guards or perhaps just wandering about doing what they felt was right and/or fun.

In the late morning they were called by one of their dryad “aunts,” Lytheria, to a small grove in town. “You are all destined for great things, and you have all proven yourselves to be more than capable of handling as much trouble as you create. We have a task, a trial, we think you would like, a grand adventure with a prize at the end. See this?” she held out a wand, the grain of it twisted and gnarled. Lytheria aimed it upward and colors burst from the end in a spell of faerie fire. Then Lytheria held the wand out again and pointed out that the grain was noticeably straighter.

“Eldritch whirlwood, it’s called,” she explained. “It’s a very rare plant that only survives under magical care, and the only living ones are in Xen’drik. The Greensingers want seeds, we want to save the trees and give them new life.”

To that end, Xen’drik being full of many dangers, they needed someone who knew where they were going, so they didn’t wander about there for too long. Lytheria tapped a leafy mound on one side of her tree, which started and moved, revealing itself to be a gnome hunched over a book. She was a woman of late middle age, her hair done up in silk cords. She introduced herself as Killabee, a scholar of the Age of Giants.

She gave them a quick run-down of Xen’drik’s history, how over 40,000 years ago the giants had a huge empire with powerful magic, and were assisted by countless elf slaves. The beings from Dal Quor, the plane of dreams, invaded, and the giants had to turn their magic to violent purpose and vile destruction, using blood sacrifices and even worse to try to drive the nightmare-fueld quori from their lands. They eventually succeeded, sacrificing and twisting much of their magic to sever Dal Quor from Eberron for all time. Hard on the heels of this bitter victory, the elf slaves took the opportunity to rebel, and the giants were ready to turn their war magic on them.

The dragons, who had been the ones to teach giants magic in the first place, would not stand to see their gifts turned to basest genocide, and destroyed the giant empire with a united assault that broke the continent apart with magic and dragonfire, cursing them forever. Now all that is left is ruins, and secrets. The giants that exist in Xen’drik now are degenerate primitives compared to their sophisticated ancestors, and the magic that they once commanded only exists in small remnants. The continent itself is twisted with the force of the magic unleashed on it, and is inherently unstable; environment, distance, and time are all fluid.

Killabee had learned of the existed of something called the War Garden of Sulatar, said to be a wonder of strange plants and magic, also said to contain eldritch whirlwood trees. She described it as far as she knew – low mountains surrounding a valley, with fortress walls of stone and trees together, with the garden in the middle. Killabee wanted to study the ruins, and needed protection. There might be giants, drow, both, or worse. She said she’d contracted an airship out of Sharn to get them there.

The group, colloquially known as the Dragonflies, was always up for something interesting. And this looked mightily interesting. They set off for the lightning rail station, Dusty a bit disconcerted at the whole “moving without touching the ground” thing once they got going. The airship was going to be a real challenge.

After several days on the lightning rail, they disembarked in Sharn, the City of Towers. It being built in a manifest zone to Syrania, the Azure Sky, it was a treat to the flying half-fey, as flying became incredibly easy within the bounds of the city. The rest of the ground-bound traveled by sky coach to the Lyrander docking tower to meet one Medishi d’Lyrander, their airship captain, dragonmarked heir of the house, and part-time adventuring scoundrel. Her airship was The Sylph’s Bride, and painted in blue and white in sky camouflage. Medishi seemed a happy and adventurous sort, and hit it off well with the group. Cricket, their resident spirit shaman, wanted to meet the air elemental that powered the ship (The Sylph’s Bride had an air elemental bound to it instead of the more common fire elemental).

Medishi said Killabee had introduced her to the Power of Purity some years ago, so the air elemental, Rufus, was her partner and friend. (The Power of Purity was an organization that believed in working with elementals so they wanted to be bound to vessels, instead of binding them unwillingly and treating them like objects). And Cricket was welcome to meet him.

(During the embarking, Killabee had been dealing with her homunculus, a packmate called Raleigh, who teased her about some documents by sticking out of his mouth like a tongue. She swatted him, and he finally started behaving.)

Thusly prepared and aboard, the group set off across the sky, Rufus circling the ship in their own private windstorm as they soared above Shargon’s Teeth and the Thunder Sea. Dusty didn’t like that, not one tiny bit, and stayed within cabins a lot of the time when she couldn’t pretend she was just on a really high mountaintop. Below, once they saw a dragoneel big enough to be seen swimming even from their impressive height.

Eventually, they came to the city of Stormreach, built up within the ruins of the giant city, the center for trade and last bastion of civilization in Xen’drik. They docked at the half-finished docking tower and disembarked to gather some further specialized supplies before heading into the jungles proper. Dusty picked up some “lock assistance” tools sized for giant locks, while Killabee picked up rations and a new round of glyphbooks to help with her translations. The others picked up little knickknacks and looked around at the wonders of the marketplace. One odd thing they found was a bunch of bright green bananas for the high price of one gold apiece. The stall owner said they had been regular fruit, but had gotten caught in the shifting landscape of Xen’drik, which had turned the tree into an arctic version of itself. Now the bananas were perpetually cold and tasted like a lime slushy. Enchanted, everyone got one.

Provisioned and ready, the group set off. Finding something in Xen’drik was always an inexact science. You can pick the right direction, even follow certain landmarks and blazed signs, but how much time it took you to get there was variable from trip to trip, or even day to day. Killabee was doing her best with the clues she had.

On the third day out, around nighttime, right before Captain Medishi was about to be relieved by the other crewmember with the Mark of Storm, some of the group saw a falling star. Then another. And another. Commenting to the Captain, she took a second look and cried out, “Shardfall!” Dragonshards from the Ring of Siberys were falling! Luna went to put a shield up over the captain while everyone else tried to dodge the rocks or get below deck. Luna and some of the others were slashed up by the falling crystals, but there was an ominous crack from one of the ship’s binding struts, which held the elemental in the ring shape necessary to keep the ship moving. Then there was a shout for’ard.

“I’ve got good news and bad news,” Medishi said, clutching the wheel as she tried to dodge the worst of the remaining shardfall. “Good news is, someone spotted the garden. Bad news is we’re going down, and might possibly hit the ground and die. Brace for impact!”

Medishi aimed to get the ship below the canopy, and finally managed to convince Rufus to go back into his Khyber shard before they hit the ground at speed. The ship halted a few feet above the forest floor, its soarwood construction letting it float, if not move. The crew swarmed over the ship, assessing damage, while the Dragonflies tended to their own, and Medishi thanked Luna for protecting her.

The crew returned with the new a binding strut was definitely broken, and they would need a new one. Densewood if possible, and the most likely place for that would be the War Garden. They were perhaps a day away, maybe more on foot.

The next morning, after keeping watch, the Dragonflies gathered themselves and Killabee together and started for their destination. A few hours in, they were attacked by a nest of tentacle spiders, and after a short, messy fight (June used her acid breath to dispatch over half of them), they prevailed. Scraping away the nasty webs from all of them, and dispelling the willies (tentacle spiders truly should not be allowed. Ever), they marched on.

They made excellent time due to Cricket using her easy trail spell, avoiding the need to hack through the undergrowth or try to find trails of their own. Towards the end of the day, they were confronted by a voice out of the jungle, a sharp, staccato demand in the Drow dialect. Killabee spoke it, and would act as a translator, but wanted someone else to actually figure out what to say, because this was far from her forte!

Luna stepped up to begin with, but eventually everyone began to put words in, Buzz, Cricket, Dusty, June, even Vaylen. Usually drow met intruders into their territory with poisoned arrows, followed by further swift death, but the Dragonflies’ unusual look made them pause and consider they might not be mere treasure-hunters.

When asked who they were, Luna explained they were family. (Cricket showed a picture of their dad, Conor, and said his name. Killabee translated that some commentary from female voices that they found the man a “handsome devil.”) After a good deal of back and forth, the drow said they would have one of their own guide them to the war garden, if the group would bring back the skulls of three drow warriors killed by giants who lived in the ruins.

Their guide was called Kessar, a white-tattooed warrior-scout wearing chitin armor and bearing a drow scorpion chain. His Common seemed limited, and he explained, with short phrases in drow and some drawing in the leaf litter, that there was a gorge, a “rift to the underworld” filled with “horrors” all around the garden, and that a “dead giant” guarded the garden itself. When Buzz started to live down to his name, Kessar did let a very clear, “shut up” in Common, though. His mate, he explained, was one of the slain, and he wanted to be able to honor her death.

With Kessar as a guide, he led them through a narrow pass through the mountains, and then, below them, lay the War Garden of Kessar. A deep rift, over a hundred feet wide, lay all around its tree-and-stone walls, and the strange plants of the garden rose within them. Inside were at least several live giants, probably one dead one, and that was only the things they knew about. It was called a War Garden, after all. But first they had to get inside, and the best way they could see was one Kessar suggested, a crude bridge formed of a huge tree.

With giants probably watching it, the group elected to wait until night. None of the group was strong enough to bring everyone over while flying, and it would be very dangerous to get caught if something attacked them in the air. And most of the Dragonflies could see in the dark, or at least the half-light of Xen’drik’s jungles with their weird phosphorescence.

When darkness fell, they began to walk across the huge tree, the flying members of their party ranging up and down to hopefully avoid any attacks. That was when Vaylen saw two horrors, dolgaunts clinging to the underside of the bridge, one of whom caught her in its tentacles and began to drain the life out of her! The rest of the group swung into action, sometimes literally. Cricket tried to use magic, Buzz got a bit too close and got grabbed, Luna protected Killabee, and Dusty and June did something clever. Dusty tied a rope about her waist, and June did the same with the other end. Then Dusty jumped down and fired her crossbow. Then June jumped down the other side as Dusty was pulled/climbed back up again. In this fashion, they played conkers with the dolgaunts with crossbow and sword. Veylan tangled with a dolgaunt for a long while before raging and slashing it down with her father’s sword, Orange Crush.

Up above, Luna saw four ugly dolgrims racing along the tree trunk towards her and Killabee. She breathed fire on them, frying them all dead, but that attracted the attention of the giants. Boulders began flying, one winging Luna, the others either missing entirely or crashing against the trunk, making it shake. Cricket tried to use her ventriloquism power to fool the giants into thinking they’d moved, but only one fell for it. Killabee translated the giants’ cries, mostly entreaties to “get them,” and derision against their fellows, taunting them for missing.

Dolgaunts and dolgrims dead, the Dragonflies got off the bridge and circled around the wall until they’d found a convenient cave to wait for dawn, and the start of a new adventure…

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Isida Kep'Tukari

Session 3 & 4

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they were camped out in a hollow in the outer wall of the War Garden of Sulatar after a battle with dolgrims, dolgaunts, and giants throwing boulders. In the morning, the group was trying to figure out a way in. Flying or climbing straight over the walls was dangerous because of the possibility of being spotted by the giants or being picked off by flying monsters. The main gate was out for obvious reasons. Discussing their options, Killabee piped up with a suggestion. She had been making various rubbings of the inscriptions on the walls in the hollow, and thought she had something.

The ancient giants’ elf slaves sometimes built their own entrances and exits in their masters’ structures so they could slip in and out of their masters’ gazes. Killabee thought she’d found one, albeit one trapped by the paranoia of the long-ago elves. Known as the Passage of Whispers, it was a three-foot-high passage, twisting and corkscrewing through and under the walls. But if voices were raised very loud, the passage would seal off with them in it. Dusty wanted to go straight through or under the wall using her native burrow ability, but found her way blocked, much to her dismay. The War Garden had been built during the Quori War, and as they were incorporeal, the walls could not by passed by anyone trying to phase through them on any plane. Miffed, they carried on, crawling in for the most part.

Luna was in the lead, and inadvertently triggered a trap, opening up a small side passage where dozens of tiny needletooth dinosaurs swarmed them! Buzz quickly talked to them, using his ability to speak to animals, before they could nibble on Luna or June too much, persuading them they could go around them and eat some horses back there for food. Cricket supplemented that by summoning a monkey and having it scamper back the way they came, and then used her ventriloquism ability to make a distant sound of a horse. The needletooth swarm clambered over the party and ran off down the passage towards the theoretical food.

The group quickly crawled away, dropping a noxious smokestick behind them, just in case. After a long trip, they emerged into the beautiful garden, full of enormous soaring trees, elegant plants and flowers none of them had seen before, and undoubtedly, great danger. Traveling carefully, wending their way, they spied a tree person, a wood woad, watching them. With careful diplomacy and their mastery of the Sylvan tongue, they learned that the vari-colored flowers were not just for beauty. They marked different “paths” to different places: yellow to the walls, blue to waterways, red to the inner grove.

Thanking the wood woad and moving on, they spied a big inlaid stone circle in the ground. A summoning circle of some kind, Killabee thought. Beyond that was a very large patch of bright red flowers. And then there came a whiff of rot and decay… the flowers were rooted in the body of a triceratops. They were dread blossoms! The dread blossoms took to the air at the approach of fresh meat and went to attack. They were met with June’s breath weapon, swords and arrows from the rest of her siblings, and thrown flasks from Killabee, even as they tried to paralyze them and drain their blood.

The blossoms finally defeated, Killabee had a moment to take a closer look at the summoning circle. She thought it was less proper summoning, which would vanish when the spell’s power ran out, and more a sort of gate, automatically set up to bring in animals from another part of the country, presumably to feed the garden. Killabee pulled out a magic item, a sort of pane of glass that would capture illusionary images of things, to supplement her notes.

In a short time, the group realized their fight had attracted more attention than they had realized, a wandering giant! As they heard him coming, everyone went to hide; most of the flying members of the party up trees, Dusty in the ground, June in some foliage, and Luna and Veylan with Killabee, who used a wand to turn them all invisible. Except, in everyone’s haste, Unholy Terrier, Buzz’s animal companion, wasn’t able to hide well. He tried to hide under the triceratops carcass and failed.

The giant strode into view, a big, stinking hill giant. He looked around, and only spied Unholy Terrier. His ugly face splitting into an even uglier grin, he strode forward to grab the dog for a meal. Luna wouldn’t let that happen to her brother’s dog, so before even Buzz could act, she stepped out and breathed fire on the giant, breaking her invisibility and scorching the brute badly. Battle was joined, with Dusty having a little trouble with her crossbow before getting it right, June closing in with Luna, Cricket supporting them with magic that let them attack again and again, and Veylan lingering just enough next to Killabee to have some of her items infused with the strength of a bull and the endurance of a bear. Veylan then invoked her own magic, growing to the giant’s own height, and then waged, raging, into the fray, shouting, “Pick on someone your own size!” The fight was short but vicious, the giant brutally strong, but eventually falling to the Dragonflies’ combined power.

They hunted through the bag the giant carried with him, and found, amongst other things, a drow skull, one of the very they had been tasked to return!

Trying to figure out if any more giants were about, Veylan sent her hawk familiar, Krell, up to do a bit of scouting (just a bit, though, they didn’t know what flying predators were up there). Krell spotted a giant, indeed, but a four hundred foot stone one, a short distance away. Killabee, there to uncover giant secrets couldn’t get there fast enough.

The giant was a huge stone colossus atop a short base with steps leading up to a door under its feet. Its head had broken off in the distant past, and so had its upraised sword arm; both now resting at the statue’s base. There was a small pavilion (small being relative in things built by giants) near the colossus’ clearing, then a wide, slow-moving river, then the clearing itself. The pavilion had a pool in it with some faint divination magic about it. If one cast a divination spell there, Killabee reckoned, it would be more accurate. Rigging up a canvas cover over the crumbling roof, the group would sleep there for the night.

Well, or so they thought. As darkness fell, the fallen stone sword began to glow with ghostly blue flames, and the eyes of the fallen head opened, shining with blue light. Killabee could not possibly wait until morning, as some magic only worked at night! With a small sigh, the party got back to work, getting Veylan to run a rope across the river for the heavier, non-flying members of the party to pull themselves across the river. The river was, thank goodness, not full of piranhas, though there were a great many turtles who bumped into them on their way over.

In front of the colossus was an avenue of columns, one of which had toppled. And from the stains on it, it had been used as a sacrificial altar in the not-too-distant past. Killabee eagerly went to the head and studied it, eventually speaking to it in the ancient Giant tongue. It actually spoke back, and she rapidly took notes as it answered her.

While this was going on, they group could hear what sounded like a warthog or three in the close distance. They got louder, and eventually the group could see them emerge from the trees… and they were made of trees! Topiary guardians in the shape of warthogs, the three were ready to charge! Veylan snatched up Killabee while Luna grabbed Raleigh, her packmate companion, and they all ran for it. Luna and June were able to get safely across the river (turtles bumping them again), Raleigh swimming along behind them. The warthogs chased them to the edge of the river, then stopped, muzzles down, and froze into place.

Being plant-based constructs, and guardians, apparently they had a talent for seeming innocuous. Right now they looked just like clipped bushes, and were waiting for the party to cross the river again. Keeping one eye open, the group rested that night. In the morning, Killabee supplied them with alchemist’s fire, and with Veylan and Buzz, they fire-bombed them from on high, burning them where they stood.

Going back across the river, the turtles bumped those swimming again. Intrigued, Buzz went to talk to them. They said, “Bad place. Bad bad, don’t go, bad bad.” He agreed to be careful…ish.

Killabee was able to look around the colossus more freely now, and was happily capturing the images of everything and taking copious notes. Examining the great sword, she discovered the pommel was hollow. With Dusty and June figuring out how to get it open, they found a great stone slab inside, about the size of a tabletop, with runes inlaid with Siberys dragonshards. Extremely excited, Killabee said it was part of an artifact spell, one the ancient giants’ great and powerful magics! They hid it back for the moment so they could explore the interior of the statue’s base.

Inside was a short hallway with two suits of armor in niches. Approaching them, they turned to face the party, swords raised… and abruptly fell apart, the magic that animated them exhausted. Going beyond, there were two large iron doors. Wresting open one, they found it to be a great audience chamber of some sort, with a huge dry pool on one wall that contained the skeletons of large fish. The walls were covered with mosaics depicting the strange plants, including the dread blossoms, the wood woads, and even a strange plant (the “inviting death”) where the injured could bathe their wounds and be healed. Some showed trolls emerging from the blossoms of the inviting death, looking renewed. The wall on one end of the chamber was partially collapsed, but the party could squeeze through the corridor to the next chamber over.

This was a throne room, and still contained a throne covered with gold and jewels atop a small dais. Veylan muttered there was some magic on it, but June and Luna both ran up and sat down on it at the same time. June found she could see through the eyes of the statue head outside!

Luna turned into a turtle.

Realizing that all the turtles outside must have come from those unable to resist the throne’s magic, Dusty picked up Luna (who tried to kick her, because she luckily still had her mind), and they quickly went to the next chamber, squeezing through more rubble, hoping to find an answer to Luna’s predicament. This last chamber (which, they realized, had been behind the other door in the hall) had been a workshop. The murals on the walls show the colossus striding through the jungle, and the partial notes showed there must have been some way to make the colossus move at some point. Killabee collected those notes and captured images, but none of this helped Luna.

Putting their thinking caps on, the group realized they had seen something that could help. They went back into the room with the plant mural, and realized the “inviting death” plants, with their big blossoms and healing waters, might be able to restore Luna like it had the trolls. Veylan helped Dusty climb to the top of the colossus and sent up her familiar Krell as well. Between the both of them, they spotted a clearing with what they thought was inviting death flowers, about a dozen of them in a circle. Dusty decided to take several of the turtles from the river, and brought Buzz along to talk to them, to see if they could help them. June suggested they take one who didn’t have their mind too, to see if the flowers could restore them.

They trekked carefully to the clearing, and put the other turtles into the flowers (as their huge petals formed a shallow basin). The sweet, head-spinning scent of the flowers was a warning, that those without their wits about them would become food, rather than being able to use the plant’s healing abilities). Eventually the blossom closed in around the turtles, and after a long, agonizing hour, split apart again to reveal… drow! Naked, naturally.

Between Killabee’s translation, and the rudimentary command of the Common tongue of a few of them, they learned they were members of the tribe the group had met outside the War Garden, some of them hundreds of years cursed. The eldest was Pagrollex, a six-times-great grandmother to the current tribe, and a warrior with a grudge. She was grateful to the party for freeing them of their curse, though she was eager to get payback on the “new masters” (giants in the garden).

Cricket and Buzz conspired to ask her if she would come back with them to meet their family (they were trying to set up their dad, Conner, with a drow bridge to get a new brother or sister). Pagrollex found him a “handsome devil,” and said she would go, but only once she’d gotten the rest of her tribe out. She warned the party about the “old master” in the center grove, that he was “like mist” and full of “old magic.” She would remain here with the others, bringing the rest of the turtles from the river and disenchanting as many of her tribe as possible (as the inviting death could even restore the minds of those that lost theirs in the turtle curse). Though their gear was long gone (they were all quite thoroughly naked) the resourceful drow were already making loincloths and spears out of the surrounding vegetation.

They would help them storm the main gate and get past the giants, and would ready themselves as many weapons as possible for that happy occasion.

Now sure the inviting death would help, they popped Luna in a flower and waited for her to be restored. After a tense hour, the flower opened, revealing a naked Luna! June gave her back her clothes and gear, and Luna quickly got herself back together (and shook off any lingering need to eat fish).

So all the party had to do now was travel to the center grove, find densewood to repair the Sylph’s Bride, defeat a ghostly giant, fine eldritch whirlwood seeds, and get back alive…

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