Kid Charlemagne's Story Hour, Pt II

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
This is a continuation of the Story Hour from the old boards. If those boards look like they will not be retained, I will post an archived version here...

This is the link to Part I.

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Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Previously, in The World of Crystalmarch

Our heroes are investigating the cause of a breakdown in communications between the underground dwarven town of Kazathun, deep beneath the Vokal Mountains. In so doing they are about to travel to the town of Shadow Springs, where they have heard there is an access point to the Underdark, and a guide who can help them find Kazathun.

They are recently come from the city of Mahanaim, where they participated in defending the city from a mercenary army led by Elros Ekozius, a former Count of Ghithor who was exiled after a long Civil War in which he took the losing side.

They are also investigating the provenance of a magical Egg, which has caused Aris to have visions, apparently of people who previously possessed it. The meaning of these visions is not clear, and Aris is trying to learn more about the Egg, and about its previous owners. He is having difficulty doing so, as the Egg’s history appears to be remarkably lean, as if those owning it have been trying to keep it as far under wraps for the past two millenia as they could – and succeeding. The Egg radiates warding magic, and evil; it is as if the evil is contained inside the Egg, and held back by the wards cast upon it. The Egg was last seen when the party returned it to Lord Masato, a Ralt Gaitherese priest of Ameterasu, who planned on returning it to its rightful place in the Song-Ling Monastery, a holy place under the protection of the Emperor of Ralt Gaither.

Reana Stormblade (Half-elf, Ranger 7) – Reanna is a local girl, born and raised in Oakendell, a small village in the Doriath Forest. She comes from a tradition of rangers, beginning with her half-elven grandfather, Erethel Mileki, who was a reknowned ranger in his time, but is now quite old and a little bit senile. There is enough elven blood from various sources running through Reanna’s family that she still retains the half-elven attributes, even after a couple generations. Reanna is related to many of the families in Oakendell and Sickle Creek, as Grandpa Erethel was quite a wanderer in his day, and is currently on his 4th wife. Reanna has something along the lines of 80 cousins. Her father was a mercenary in the southern part of Ghithor, and Reanna spent a large portion of her early days as an adventurer attempting to locate other members of her father’s family. Since the party seperated after their last series of adventures, Reanna has been living the life of a ranger on patrol in the the forests and mountains of northern Ghithor.

Batista (half-elf, Ranger 6) – Batista loves the forests, and seems to sometimes actually fear big cities. He’s a little uncivilized in some ways. His mentor, Vershanion, saved him from death (details will come out in the course of the story) at an early age, and then trained him to be a ranger. Batista has been living the life of ranger on patrol for many years, rarely returning to civilization. Like Reanna, he receives his orders primarily from Ryla, a Druidess based in Sylvan Fields, the northern most town in Ghithor. The Rangers receive orders from a council of three, ordinarily made up of a Ranger, a Druid (or priest of Leonus), and an Elf. This has been the traditional makeup of the Rangers command for centuries. There are 6 Ranger territories in Ghithor and Ambardor, and each has between 18 and 30 rangers. The Rangers follow three Strictures: Own no more than you can carry; Owe no alliegance greater than that to the Rangers; and never operate in groups of greater than three.

Jalea (High Elf, thief 9) – Jalea is from the Marquisate of Ulfang, in the southwest of Ambardor. He was active in that city’s Thieves’ Guild, but left town most recently after an unspecified incident that he hints has made him unwelcome at home. Early in his career, he served in the Army of Ulfang as a scout, and has since used that euphemism to describe his talents. For the past several years, he has been working his way up the ranks in the Thieves’ Guild of Fencig, a large northern city. Previous to their recent “vacation” the party had inadvertently aided the Guild by wiping out a group of wererats (known as the “Lumpers”) who were working to take over the Guild. The Lumpers were being aided by the Priesthood of Tyaa, who were enemies of the party, and who were financing the takeover through money earned through their gambling operations at “The Falcon’s Club,” an upscale casino in a very nice section of Fencig. The casino fell into disrepair, only to eventually be bought and reopened by the party’s Priest, a gnomish priest of Bes (God of Luck) named Jovah. Jalea has been keeping the Guild off Jovah’s back in regards to protection money, with the aid of Morris, a Guild Lieutenant who was their primary contact during the Lumper incident.

Brennan D’Loxor (Human, Sword of Kelanen 7) – Brennan is a worshipper of the demigod Kelanen, the Prince of Swords. Kelanen is one of those rare individuals who transcends mortal status through great deeds. In his case, he was the catalyst behind the overthrow of Vecna and Kas some 2,000 years ago. He was the only man to ever defeat Kas in single combat, although Kas used treachery to then capture Kelanen. Kelanen’s chief followers are known as “Swords” and practice a windmilling, twin-longsword style that is heavy on offense and light on defense. They also can cast spells in a manner somewhat similar to a Paladin. Brennan fought for King Yarzhen’s forces during the Civil War of 412-416, and for his heroic efforts in previous adventures, has recently learned he is to be knighted by King Dengar of Ghithor, who is the nephew of Yarzhen, and whose accension to the throne effectively ended the Civil War. Brennan is also from Oakendell, and is the son of a local landowner-farmer.

--->These stories are from a 2nd Edition campaign, which we just (in 2001) converted to 3rd Edition. The Swords of Kelanen is a homebrewed class for 2nd edition, which has been converted into a Prestige Class for 3rd Edition.

Aris (High Elf, Bladesinger, Fighter 6/Mage 7) – Aris joined up with the party during an expedition to recover an Elven artifact from a group of pirates, and continued with them in order to gain more knowledge of the humans, as well as learn more about the increasing sightings of Drow in the wilderness of Ghithor and Ambardor. The Drow had been laying low for over a century, and Aris was the second Elf to lay eyes on a Drow in over 100 years (the first was Jalea, but he went unconscious shortly afterwards). For the past year or so, during the party’s “vacation,” Aris has been travelling the northern lands, visiting Elven cities that are forbidden to any humans. He has just recently returned to Cape Varna, his hometown, in order to catch up with his mentor, Tolaro Telegar, an elderly Grey Elf, and former Dean of the Mage’s College at the University of Cape Varna. The University is considered by many to be the foremost academic institution in the area, although there are some fine universitys and mage’s schools in Ghithor and Ambardor. Cape Varna is the chief city of the Princedom of Krone, a nation of elves and humans. The elves constitute the upper class, and the major nobility are all Grey Elves. There are only 3,000 or so Grey Elves left in the Princedom, and their numbers are slowly declining.

Shyne Jovah Rockbrite (Gnome, Priest 8) – Jovah is a priest of Bes; one of a very few priests, as a matter of fact. Bes belongs to the Murkraal Pantheon, one of the gods of a long-lost civilization that disappeared into the sands east of the Ar-Ainadorian Empire more than a thousand years ago. Jovah’s parents were jewelllers, and Jovah initially left home to investigate a jewel robbery, and later inherited a tower (and its attendant debt) from a roguish favorite uncle. In the course of paying off the debt, he met and joined up with Brennen, Reana, and Jalea. They have travelled together for nearly four years, and have made quite a name for themselves. Jovah now owns the Fox Club, a swank casino and restaurant in Fencig. He helps out those down on their luck, and uses the casino as his base of operations. He is constantly keeping tabs on the Church of Reksus, which is also powerful in Fencig; Reksus is the most powerful remaining God of the Murkraal Pantheon, and has spread the story that Reksus is the Chief Diety of that pantheon in order to boost his credibility. In fact, this is not true, and Jovah has a set of scrolls dating back to Murkraal’s peak that reveal the truth that Reksus was actually a trickster god, God of Magic and of Power. (And Public Relations, as Jovah likes to say). The Church of Reksus does not want these scrolls to reach wide distribution, but Jovah has been hiring scribes to copy them and send them to scholars across the land to spread the truth.

Gavin, (Human Fighter 8) - Gavin hails from near the mountain town of Cardell. He served as a cavalryman in the Rebel Army during the Ghithor Civil War, and was involved in the campaign in the North, including the Occupation of Fencig. After the war ended, and the Rebels lost, he made a living as a mercenary working the Copper Pass connecting Carandor and Ghithor, picking up a working knowledge of Caradinian and Orcish. He joined up with the party after his friend Koth was kidnapped and turned into a strange sort of ghoul by Virenzo Staris, the necromancer. Since joining the party, Gavin has earned more money than he ever could have dreamed of as a mercenary, and come closer to death as well. His rallying of the cavalry in Mahanaim to fight off Elros Ekozius is frequently credited as the turning point in that battle, and along with his adventurous exploits with the party, seems likely to earn him a knighthood. Gavin is an excellent horseman, and likes the trappings of money and nobility. His more mercenary nature has been tempered over time by exposure to the more altruistic and idealistic members of the party.
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Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Belluin, Ghithor, December 10th, AE 419

“Do you know what I really like about Jovah’s Dimensional Folding spell?” Aris asks Jalea.

“The way we can be snowed in, in a blizzard in Mahanaim, and be sitting by the beach in Belluin by noon, drinking expensive fruity drinks out of glasses with little paper umbrellas?” Jalea conjectures, doing just that.

Aris scowls at his fellow elf. “No, the way we can accomplish anything we want to without regard for distances, or the time it would take to merely arrive at the source of a problem. Fruity drinks, indeed.”

Jalea shrugs. “I’m kind of partial to the paper umbrellas, myself.”

The weeks after the Battle of Mahanaim have been a blur. The party convinced Count Graymalkin to let them deliver the news of the victory to The Duke of Belluin and the King of Ghithor, and they folded out of the snowbound city and into the mid-70’s tropical warmth of Belluin. They have just delivered the news to the Duke, and plan on delivering the news to King Rolan the following day.

“Bes’s message service,” Jovah grumbles. “Not exactly the reason one normally petitions one’s God.”

“Cheer up,” Sir Brennen says. “You could be stuck in Mahanaim for weeks, watching three feet of snow melt.”

“You have a point,” Jovah concedes.

They fold to Gujo, the capitol, the following day, and are quickly ushered into the King’s Court. News delivered, they decide to take a breather. Aris contacts Gerika at the Ralt Gaitherese embassy, and arranges for the party to have dinner with the Ambassador. He wants to try and dig a little deeper for information about the Egg, now that he has had yet another vision, this one during waking hours. After dinner, Aris asks Gerika and the Ambassador if they know if the Egg had ever been lost at sea. Perhaps the Egg was stolen once before?

“Our knowledge of the Egg begins with the first Emperor placing it in the Monastery of Song-Ling,” Gerika replies. “As far as I know, it has remained there ever since up until the thief stole it to deliver to Virenzo Staris. It had been long forgotten. We have no knowledge of it ever being lost at sea.”

Aris is dejected, but thanks them for their help. The next day the party folds to Fencig. Everyone goes their separate ways, taking care of individual business. Jovah is in his office at the Fox Club when an old friend pokes his head in the door to say hello.

“Hello, Hildebrecht!” Jovah says. “What are you up to? A journey, from the looks of things…”

Hildebrecht is a dwarven friend that Jovah made during a short, separate adventure involving a pilgrimage to Karnof, a vampire, and the Caradian secret police.

Hildebrecht adjusts the pack slung over his back and nods.

“I’m off back home. Trouble brewing, I hear. There hasn’t been any word from Kazathun for a couple of months. There has been a call put out for any dwarves to assemble in Shadow Springs in order to try and find out what has happened.”

“Kazathun…” Jovah wracks his memory, trying to recall what he knows of Hildebrecht’s home. “That’s under the Vokal Mountains, right? Actually part of Carandor, technically?”

“Technically, I suppose,” Hildebrecht answers. “Carandor controls the only usable access to the Underdark trade route from Kazathun and the rest of the Lake of a Thousand Waterfalls. We’ve been forced to pay tribute to the Caradinian King for the last two hundred years. It’s a pretty uncomfortable situation. Lots of dwarven insurrections, lots of Caradinian reprisals. We’re fearing the worst. It could be that, or the Duergar from Druga.”

“Well, maybe we can help,” Jovah says. “None of us are very fond of Carandor, and if we can tweak the King of Carandor’s nose, I think we would.” And the Church of Reksus, Jovah thinks to himself.

“Wait a minute. Did you say Druga? That’s the place Batista was going to be taken to…”

The party decides to see if they can help out. They stop off in Sylvan Fields to pick up Batista to see if this has anything to do with his disappearance, and for some added frontline fighting skill, and fold to Oakendell. The rest of the way, they will have to go on foot, since Jovah is not familiar with any area closer to Shadow Springs. The dwarven buildup is slow; the encroaching winter weather is slowing travel down considerably. One of the dwarves in Oakendell suggests a guide for their travels in the Underdark, a dwarf named Vekkoth. They thank him for the advice.

“We should just take the winter off, relax, spend some time in Belluin, maybe hit the casinos,” Jalea offers hopefully, not exactly looking forward to a wintertime expedition into the Vokal Mountains and then under them.

“Maybe after this, Jalea,” Brennen says. “We need to check this out.”

Batista is a little nervous about all of this. “Are we sure this is a good idea? I’m a bit concerned about going intentionally to a place that my kidnappers were originally going to take me. Kind of the opposite of what I’d want to do, actually.”

Aris trys to reassure the half-elven Ranger. “You do want to find out more about the Ranger disappearances, don’t you? This may all be related in some way.”

Batista nods. He knows it’s the thing to do, but that doesn’t make him like it any more. The party leaves the next day. They pass through Hawk’s Roost, and within days are making their way up the winding road to Shadow Springs. The weather is brutally cold, and they are well-bundled up. As they continue up the road, it occurs to them that they haven’t seen anyone coming down the road the other way. It is mid-December, but some traffic would be expected from the mining town.

“Let’s keep our eyes open,” Reanna says, but everyone is thinking the same thoughts.

Finally, after four days, they arrive at the outskirts of Shadow Springs. A stone wall blocks any view into town, but the vultures circling above do not bode well. The roofs of some buildings can be seen, a number of them burnt severely. They listen closely, but can hear nothing.

Shadow Springs appears to be a ghost town.

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Shadow Springs, Vokal Mountains, December 22nd, AE 419

The party digs in a little way from the town walls and watches. The gates facing the south road are open and intact, but some of the buildings inside the walls appear badly burnt. A few wisps of smoke rise from various spots inside the town.

Aris casts invisibility on himself, and goes to check things out. He climbs over the wall and makes his way towards what appears to be the town hall, and sees only signs of scavenging wolves. There are dead dwarves. He is just about to report back when a large, hulking figure steps out of an abandoned tavern, and walks over to the town hall.

“An ogre,” Aris notes. He tries to get up to the door and slip in before it closes, but can’t quite make it; he catches the door before it latches, and tries to open it slowly, betting that anyone inside would think it was the stiff, cold wind. Just as he is about to slip inside, though, a large, strong hand reaches out and grabs the door handle, slamming the door shut.

“Watch the door you idiot! It’s freezing out there!” a gruff voice yells.

The door latches. Aris decides to get back to the party before anyone notices the footsteps appearing in the snow where he walks. He explains to the others what he saw.

The party approaches town, and sneaks over the wall, approaching the tavern cautiously. They hit the Tavern and the Town Hall at the same time, facing ogres in each place. The ogres go down fairly quickly, but when Reanna steps out from the Town Hall, she is hit by an arrow that explodes on contact into a small fireball!

“That’s MY bow!” Batista yelps.

Batista’s main magic item before he was kidnapped was a magical bow. With the bow came three arrows; one was red-fletched and would make a 6d6 fireball once per day; another was white fletched and cast faerie fire on its target; and the third was black fletched, and created a sphere of darkness that only the bow-wielder could see in. Each arrow was usable once per day, and would reappear in the quiver of he who held the bow at dawn the next day.

They quickly pinpoint the area the arrows are coming from; the bell tower on the Town Hall. Reanna and Batista start making their way up inside the building, Jalea starts climbing up the outside. More arrows rain down on them before they get under cover. Just as Jalea gets up to the top of the belltower, the unknown archer (who appears human) jumps down to the roof of the Town Hall. He slips part way down the icy roof, but catches himself before falling into the street.

“Those are my boots!” The half-elven Ranger screams. “You b#stard!”

The chase is on; the archer appears to have no place to go, and is now being pursued by the whole party. He runs towards a grove of trees, drawing his sword as he runs. He runs into the grove, and directly into an oak tree there! Reanna checks the tracks to make sure she saw what she thinks she just saw; the tracks lead up to the tree and stop. She sticks a dagger into the tree half-heartedly, but just manages to get tree sap all over her dagger.

“Nice trick,” she says. The party spreads out and starts looking for other people. Other than a few hungry wolves that avoid the group, they see no one.

The party surveys the town. There are dozens of dead humans and dwarves in town, and most of them have been pretty thoroughly gnawed on by the wolves. Identification of the dead, or even of the cause of death, seems a pipe dream. Luckily, however, there is some other evidence to point to a cause of the destruction. There is a long swath of burned ground, nearly 100 feet long down the center of the main street. Many horribly burned dwarves lie in its path. This, and the other burnt buildings, seem to suggest the attack of a Dragon, probably a Red Dragon.

“I’m not so certain about that,” Jovah says. “You’d think that someone would have managed to survive the attack, and run off to tell the tale.”

“And besides,” Aris says. “That guy had Batista’s bow. That means that this has something to do with the Ranger kidnappings. Considering that, I’m guessing this Dragon thing is misdirection to fool the casual observer.”

They keep searching the town till night fall, hoping to find more clues. As day turns to night, and the temperature plummets, they take refuge in the tavern where they fought the ogres. The open gates allowing access to the town are closed, blocking the wolves’ access to the town. Watches are divied up, and on the middle watch, Aris is awakened by Jalea.

“Hey,” the elf-scout whispers. “I found something. Come check this out!”

“Can’t it wait till morning, Jalea?”

“No, this might be important.”

Jalea takes Aris down to the first floor, where he had been searching the premises to pass time while watching for activity. Behind the bar, under a woven-straw mat, is a trap door. Jalea opens it up and shows Aris the dug out passageway underneath.

“It looks like this goes a long ways east. Maybe under the town walls. Someone might have escaped this way. And check this out.” Jalea lowers his lantern into the hole.

There are dwarven runes inscribed on the stone wall of the passageway. They are painted on, and appear to be relatively new, compared to the dusty passageway.

“I don’t read dwarvish,” Aris says. “But Jovah might. If not he can cast a spell to figure it out.” He closes the trapdoor, and puts the mat back in place.

“Keep it closed. Keep watch down here, and don’t go down there until morning!”

The next morning they check it out. Jovah casts tongues and reads the inscription:

To any survivors: we will assemble at the Sky Temple. Meet us there.

“Ok, so what’s a Sky Temple?” Batista asks.

Reanna starts walking down the corridor. “They left some tracks. I can follow them, at least for now.”

They follow Reanna down the long, dank passage. It is about five feet by five feet, and runs almost a quarter of a mile. It emerges outside of the town walls, and Reanna follows the tracks until they come out from cover of trees. Then, the snow obscures the tracks.

“I can extrapolate where they were headed from what I’ve seen so far,” the Ranger says. “I might not be right, but it’s the best we can do. Let’s go.”

The party begins to climb up into the mountains. Soon, the Rangers find a narrow path, leading up even higher. As they continue up the narrow path, Jalea pauses.

“Do you see that?” he says, peering through the sunlight glinting off the snow.

Up ahead, and heading towards them, is a group of 6 large figures, and one smaller one. The small one stops, draws back a bow and fires an arrow, high into the sky. At this distance it is nearly impossible to hit a target, and the arrow lands a good sixty foot uphill from the party

And explodes.

This causes a small avalanche, and the party is covered up to their armpits. They have to spend all their effort just getting out, and the large figures, which turn out to be more ogres, are upon them!

The smaller, human figure (who turns out to be the archer again!) arrives in the midst of the party, leaping into action with a prodigious jump, and slicing into Batista.

Brennen, Gavin, and Reanna are making extremely fast work of the Ogres. The archer soon realizes that he’s in trouble, and begins angling for an escape route. Two of the ogres try to break for it, and are punctured by crossbow bolts from further uphill! Gavin looks up to see three dwarves emerging from a small cave, already reloading their crossbows. Gavin gives the dwarves a thumbs-up.

The archer makes a break for it, jumping down the mountainside, losing his balance and tumbling, with the only thing to stop him a gnarled old tree.

“You’re not getting away again!” Aris yells, and levels a lightning bolt at the fleeing archer. It catches him about 10 feet away from the tree, and knocks him clear away from it, sending him plummeting over a cliff in addition to the electrical damage. Batista rushes over to make sure he’s not getting up, and he isn’t.

The dwarves come rushing down the path towards the party.

We saw you fighting the ogres, and we figured we had to help!” one yells out. “They were searching for us, but we thought that with two groups, we could take them on!”

Jovah dusts off the remaining snow from the avalanche, and turns to greet them.

“We’ve been looking for you, or anyone else from Shadow Springs,” he says.

“Well, then you’ve found us,” the dwarf replies. “Welcome to the Sky Temple. My name is Vekkoth.”

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Shadow Springs, Vokal Mountains, December 23rd, AE 419

“Vekkoth?” Sir Brennen asks. “We were given your name by a dwarf in Oakendell. We may need your help…

“What’s going on here? What happened to the town?”

Vekkoth and the other two dwarves lead the party up and into the Sky Temple itself, which is a low lying structure at the top of a rocky precipice. A low door leads into the structure.

Vekkoth introduces the party to several other dwarves who escaped the fall of Shadow Springs. They include an elderly priest of Moradin named Valarin, who is helped along his rather rickety way by two priestly aides; Vekkoth’s son, Dumas; and Blyndras, a blacksmith from Shadow Springs. Valarin and his two aides are from Kazathun, and Dumas led them here by the underground route the party hopes Vekkoth will be able to show them.

“So what happened to Shadow Springs?” Brennen asks again.

Vekkoth explains, “The town was attacked about a week ago by a combined force of Orcs and Drow, about 200 in all. We were vastly outnumbered, and the Drow went around making sure that all the townsfolk were dead. They kept the orcs from cannibilizing the dead..”

“Well, that’s a plus, anyway,” Jalea says.

“It wasn’t for that reason,” Vekkoth goes on. “They went around randomly setting fire to buildings, and burning various bodies. It wasn’t until they cast a wall of fire down the central street that we understood what it was they were doing. They were trying to make sure the attack looked like a dragon attack. When they left, they opened the gates so that wolves could come in and feed off the bodies, obscuring any evidence of the sword blows that killed them.”

The party takes this news in solemnly, and then Reanna speaks up.

“What about Kazathun, and the Lake of a Thousand Waterfalls?”

Kassaroth, one of Valarin’s aides, responds, “We were attacked with no notice at all. The first warning signs were a series of minor tremors in the center of town, then a large force of Drow and Orcs burst through the cavern walls. The holes had apparently been made by Umber Hulks, which were also used in the fighting. Maybe two hundred orcs, and around sixty Drow.”

Aris whistles. He’s been tracking the Drow activity for a while now, and the previous largest group seen in the past hundred years was around a dozen.

“We were overwhelmed. Kazathun was taken, and the dwarves who weren’t killed in the fighting are being forced to do the Drow’s bidding. We escaped about three weeks ago, and made it this far. But maybe the Drow didn’t want us escaping any further.”

“Well, we can get you out of here no problem. Jovah here will have you presenting this information in front of the King in… what is it Jovah?” Brennen stops mid sentence as the luck-priest tugs on his cloak.

“That might not be a great idea,” Jovah whispers. “That Valarin guy has got to be the oldest dwarf I’ve ever, and that trip through the mountains didn’t do him any good. I’d hate to have this one jump be the one that gives an old dwarf the one year’s worth of aging that kills him.”

“Yeah,” Brennen replies. “That wouldn’t exactly endear us to the dwarven community, huh?”

“Not really,” Jovah agrees.

“Okay, then,” Brennen says. “We’ll get you guys out of here on foot, to Oakendell. Count Rovan can help you out as well as anyone can.”

The dwarves begin to make preparations to leave, and the party gets Vekkoth to agree to take them to Kazathun once the Dwarf-Priest is safe in Oakendell.

Batista searches out Harak, the younger of Valarin’s aides.

“I have a question,” he says. “I’ve always thought of dwarves being an underground kind of people, but then there’s this Sky Temple thing. What’s this place all about.”

Harak grins. “Let me show you.”

He leads Batista to a stair leading up to a trapdoor, and throws it open. The dwarf and the half-elf step out on to a flat platform, completely open to the freezing air and the cobalt-blue sky. Shadow Springs sits between three immense peaks in the Vokal range, and the view is spectacular.

“This is a place of reflection,” Harak says. “And of facing one’s fears. Dwarves are commonly agoraphobic by nature. Decades and centuries spent in close, underground mines, and small workshops make us fearful of open spaces. This is a place for a Dwarf to come and face those fears, and lessen them, perhaps overcome them completely.”

“Great view,” Batista says appreciatively.

“For some dwarves, it’s a terrifying view. Once we can overcome the fear and appreciate the beauty, we have passed the test.”
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Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Shadow Springs, Vokal Mountains, December 24th, AE 419

Some identification of items takes place the next day. Aris has finally managed to learn the identify spell, and is eager to try it out. The party recovers Batista’s bow and boots from the dead human, as well as a ring with a white and black spiral design, and a sword with a leafy motif.

Aris identifies the ring as a ring of humanoid control, capable of charming orcs, and ogres and such. The sword appears to be a Goblinslayer blade, with extra powers that Aris can’t discern. The party saw the sword’s wielder vanish into a tree, so Batista gives it a try. After some experimentation, he is able to transport himself from Shadow Springs all the way to Belluin! The sword gets passed around a bit, as no one really seem perfectly suited for it, but eventually Batista gets it, for now.

The sword’s extra ability is transport via plants. The sword’s full 3e workup can be found in the ENWorld Rogue’s Gallery forum, along with 3e writeups of several PC’s with more to come. Batista took the sword initially even though he’s not very good with a longsword.

The party manages to sneak the dwarves out of the Sky Temple the next day, and several days later, they trudge into Oakendell, where they introduce Valarin to Count Rovan. They dimensional fold to Belluin with Kassaroth, so that he can take the news to the Duke of Belluin and from there to the King. After that, they fold back (along with Vekkoth) to Shadow Springs to continue on to Kazathun, and the Lake of a Thousand Waterfalls.

The Lake of a Thousand Waterfalls is so named because it is a massive reservoir of fresh water in the Underdark of the Vokal Mountains. Fissures in the rock allow melting snow and rain water to seep into the Mountains, and the Lake has hundreds upon hundreds of areas where water is pouring from the ceiling and into the Lake. The dwarves use tarpaulins to keep the barges that they use on the Lake dry.

Vekkoth explains that it will likely take three or four days to reach Kazathun. He takes the party to a Iron Smelting factory in town, and into the basement, where a secret door leads into some ancient mines.

“The path from here to Kazathun is not an easy one, and not one suitable for trade, so no improvements were ever made,” Vekkoth tells them. “The entrance was kept secret.”

They walk through seemingly endless mines, until they reach a depression in the mine floor.

“Interesting,” Vekkoth says. “This is the entrance, but ordinarily it is hidden by a pool that conceals it. The water is drained off by pumps whenever someone needs to use it, but it looks like the mechanism has been broken.”

“I’ll go first,” Gavin says, waving off Jalea.

Gavin steps onto the top step at the bottom of the shallow depression, and there is a flash as writing along the edge flares up brightly. All of a sudden, Gavin is contorting in all sorts of strange ways.

“What’s the matter?” Reana asks.

“Spiders!” Gavin yells. “Little, biting, spiders!” He shakes his body trying to get the multitude of tiny spiders infesting his armor off of him. He begins pulling off his breastplate.

That’s when the Guardian Daemon attacks.

Unfortunately for the Guardian Daemon, the party is ready for a rumble, despite Gavin being essentially hors de combat. The Daemon’s bite is worse than his ability to absorb bites, and he goes down quickly and noisily.

“Maybe I should go first,” Jalea says, smirking as Gavin shakes the last spiders out of his clothes.

“Yeah, why don’t you do that,” Gavin grumbles.

They are in caverns now, leaving the mines behind. They climb deeper and deeper, until they find a very deep cavern that they must traverse by climbing down one wall using ropes. The cavern is partly carved out, apparently used as a burial ground in the distant past, much like the Druidic burial ground under Axehead Peak. The dead here pose no threat however, and they continue onward and downward. Jalea takes a quick look, but their possessions must have been plundered long ago.

Not long after that first climb, Vekkoth decides to make camp.

“We’ll have a long journey tomorrow, and a couple of places where we’ll need to scout very carefully. The Drow may have set up other traps or defenses to guard against any intruders from the west side of the Vokals.”

They camp in the caverns without incident, and move on the next day.

Early the following day, Vekkoth has the party dim their lights. He explains that they are coming up on one of the major chokepoints in their journey, and they need to be careful. The cavern ahead is almost 350 yards long and 20 to 30 yards across, with a constant slope upwards. It would be a perfect defensible location for the drow and their orc allies. Jalea moves up ahead to scout it out.

Jalea sneaks along the cavern wall, and about 30 yards in, he sees a lone orc, hiding behind a roughly built ten foot high stone wall. He pulls back his bow, and prepares to take the orc out with one shot.

He wings him. The orc drops back behind the wall, although he is not dead. Jalea hears the sound of a couple of crossbow bolts fring in his direction, and bolts hitting the cavern wall near him.

Back at the end of the cavern, Aris looks at Jovah.

“Does this seem in any way familiar?” the bladesinger asks. “What part of ‘scout’ does he not get?”

They rush forward to check out the commotion; Jovah takes one of his softball-sized continual light rocks and tosses it up so the humans can see. With more illumination they can tell that the wall runs the width of the cavern, and has a gate that appears to be made from the shields of dwarves of Kazathun. Jalea appears near them, coming out of the shadows.

“They fired and fell back further into the cavern. There were only two. I thought I could take the one that I saw. Sorry.”

They take cover behind their side of the near wall as a hail of crossbow bolts falls near them. Vekkoth climbs up the wall, and peers over.

“About 45 feet up a steep slope to another wall. I can see eight orcs up there.”

They clamber over the wall, and rush the second wall. Another hail of crossbow bolts lands, with a few hitting their marks. This wall is taller than the first, and there are stairs built to allow passage through, but only through a very narrow channel. As Gavin and Brennen reach the channel, the orcs collapse the wall on them! The orcs get in a few pokes with spears, and fall back further into the darkness. Aris and Batista jumped over the wall and took down a couple of orcs, but at least six got away.

Vekkoth helps the others dig out the two fighters. They’re bruised and batteredbut not horribly injured. “I can’t see anything further down the cavern. If there are any more fortifications, they’re out of my range of sight.”

Jalea goes down to check it out and comes back this time, having learned a lesson.

“One more wall, a pretty high one. Lots more orcs, maybe twenty. There’s a steep stair going up the center of the wall to a higher area behind it. Its about two hundred feet over level ground. We’d have to rush them and take the bowfire.”

“Not necessarily,” Aris says. “Light an arrow and fire it down there as close to the wall so I can get a line of sight, Jalea. I’ll take care of them.”

Jalea sneaks a little ways down and sets an arrow on fire, and fires it at the wall. As soon as Aris sees the arrow hit, and can see the wall, he casts a fireball about fifteen feet behind the top of the wall. The orcs are screaming, and on fire, and the party charges. The otherwise occupied orcs don’t get many crossbow shots on them as they rush the wall, and Brennen and Reana hit the stairs at full speed, only to find that it has been greased. They fall back, ignominiously, to the base of the wall, where the few unfried orcs pepper them with rocks and crossbow bolts. The wall is too high for Aris to merely jump over, but Jovah motions to him.

“I’ve a got a new trick I’ve been waiting to try. I can get us both up there,” the gnome luck-priests says.

Aris is skeptical, but just then, is hit by a flurry of magic missiles.

“Alright, let’s go!”

Jovah casts etherealness and grabs Aris. The two find themselves in a greyish, insubstantial world, only vaguely reflecting the true world. Jovah and Aris pass through the wall, and rise up behind the orcs. Aris is looking for the spellcaster, and soon finds him; stuck securely to the ceiling by virtue of spider climb. He also sees about two dozen bodies fried by his fireball, some large, orcish, some shorter, perhaps goblins, Aris thinks. He nods to Jovah, who ends the spell.

Aris immediately lightning bolts the unsuspecting spider climbing wizard, who promptly drops like a rock from the ceiling, utterly electrocuted. He is Drow.

Meanwhile, Batista and Reana have made it up the stairs and are slicing up the few orcs that weren’t taken out by the fireball. Soon, Vekkoth, Brennen, Gavin make it up to the top.

That’s when Aris realizes who the smaller figureswere who were killed by the fireball he had blindly cast up onto the top of the wall


Dressed in rags, malnourished and skinny, weak from being used by the orcs as slave labor to build the defenses in the long cavern. Former citizens of Kazathun. Chained to a pillar so they couldn’t escape. Twelve in all.

Vekkoth looks at the carnage, and slowly turns his gaze on Aris. He is shaking in rage.

“You!” he screams. “Elf! Does it ever occur to you to think before you throw your spells around!”

Brennen and Gavin hold the furious dwarf back from the bladesinger, who stands there, shocked. Aris looks at Jovah.

“I… I didn’t know they were there,” he stammers. “How…”

“How could I have known they were there?”
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Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Somewhere beneath the Vokal Mountains, Feastday of Pendorianus, AE 420

The Feast of Pendorianus marks the end of the year, and the beginning of the new. It is an immensely popular holiday, along with the other four major feast days, and is not counted as part of any month. Festivities are marked by sumptuous meals, bonfires, and good drink.

Our heroes, however, mark the Feastday of Pendorianus, and the dawn of the year 420 by sleeping in a cold, damp cavern, after spending the better part of the day (or is it night? They can no longer tell) building stone cairns for the dwarves killed in Aris’ fireball. Jovah offers a few prayers for the dead, and Vekkoth adds a few dwarven songs of mourning.

Aris has gone through a whole range of emotions, from denial (“How could I have known they were there?”) to transference of guilt (“It was the Drow’s fault. They put them there!”), finally to acceptance, anger, and resolve.

“Vekkoth,” the bladesinger begins, approaching the dwarf, whose jaw is clenched so tightly that the veins on his head are standing out.

“I am truly sorry for what happened. I had no idea that any dwarves were in danger; it did not occur to me that they Drow would use their captives in such a way. I apologize, and I want to let you know that I will make it up to you, to the dwarves of Kazathun, and the dwarven people.”

“I’m not exactly sure how, but I will make it up to you.”

Vekkoth breathes deeply, closes his eyes, and lets the breath out.

“I accept your apology, and your offer of aid. None of us could have known that this could happen. But now that we do know that the Drow will not hesitate to place the blameless in harm’s way, we must take care not to let this happen again.”

“Yes,” Aris says, and walks off, lost in thought.

The party divies up the items found, with Reana taking one of the Drow wizard’s shortswords, and Jalea taking the other. Aris takes his spellbook, which will take some deciphering due to the differences in surface magic and Drow magic.

They begin the third day’s march, and after several miles come into another very tall chamber. A roaring waterall from an underground stream cascades down from the ceiling. Narrow steps are carved in the wall, slippery from water. The party cautiously navigates the misty cavern, and continues on for another several miles, still descending.

After a while, they come to another underground waterfall, this one much more calm. Jalea catches sight of something, and finds an orc in the water, dead, incredibly battered and bruised. This is confusing to them at first, but after some further investigation, Jalea removes an arrowhead from the orcs shoulder. It’s one of his own.

“He must have run out after getting hurt during the fight, slipped in the waterfall cavern, and the water carried him through the mountain to here, where he washed up,” the elven scout says.

“I’m pretty sure only the one got away,” Jovah says. “If this is him, then the Drow still don’t know we’re here.”

The path now leads more or less level, not climbing back up yet, but not descending any further. After another few hours, they find themselves in a carved out chamber, now long-deserted. Vekkoth tells them that this area is occasionally occupied by dangerous creatures, so Jalea goes scouting. All he finds are spiders, and a statue. The rest of the party comes up behind the elf as he looks at the statue, a representation of a man with a bird’s head, and avian wings. The carving appears to be malevolent, even covered in cobwebs. Investigation reveals that it is neither magical or evil, although it appears to be the representation of something evil.

“It’s Pazuzu,” Jalea remarks matter-of-factly, as the rest of the party speculates.

This burst of scholarly knowledge from Jalea is not terribly common, so Sir Brennen looks at him curiously. “Who’s that? And how do you know?”

“He’s a demon prince. He commands the skies of the Abyss.” Jalea takes a deep breath, as he’s been avoiding this conversation for years.

“I’ve been doing research into Pazuzu, because there is a cult of his in Ulfang. That’s why I left town. The leader of the cult is one of the top nobles in town, and has been getting more and more powerful. Probably the number two, number three guy there now. I did a job a couple years back, breaking into this guy’s house. Lord Arlen Kentfield. His dad was involved in a demon cult scandal, and killed himself in jail. Arlen was supposedly clean, but when I cased his house I found a little shrine.”

“There was a statue just like this.”

“In his house?” Reana asks.

“Okay, smaller,” Jalea says. “The guy I was working with got killed, I got caught. Kentfield had been made Chief Jailor of Ulfang after the Siege ended, and Ekozius was driven off, back in 416. He controlled all the war prisoner camps, and he took me to one. They had another shrine there. I think they planned on killing me, but I escaped. I’ve tried very hard to never go back. I didn’t want to ‘disappear.’”

“Those prison camps were pretty big, Jalea,” Brennen says. “Wouldn’t the prisoners of war have known that something strange was going on?”

“I’m sure they did,” Jalea says, blankly. “But I didn’t see any prisoners when I was there.”

“Then how come they didn’t tell anyone?”

“You’re not following me, Brennen. That camp could hold hundreds of prisoners. It was supposed to be holding hundreds of prisoners. But when I was there, it wasn’t.”

“They were all gone.”

The others pause, taking in what Jalea has told them. Jovah finally speaks up.

“Well… Sounds like we have another portion added to our plate. We’ll have to look into that; but right now, we have to take care of this business. Let’s move on.”

The rest of the day is spent in relative quiet. The path soons begins climbing again, and after a long climb, the party finds its way blocked by a rusting iron door.

“Beyond this door we meet up with the main trade route,” Vekkoth says. “On the other side is a small side passage that joins up with the major route. There is a gatehouse that guards the docks along the Long Lake. That Lake leads all the way to the Caradinian side of the mountains. The opposite direction is an underground river with a wide path that leads all the way to the Lake of a Thousand Waterfalls. We’ll go that way.”

“We’ll rest here. I think we can safely assume that the gatehouse will be held against us. Be ready for action soon, its less than a mile from here.”

Early the next morning the party finds itself at the gatehouse. A long cavern ramps up to the gate, which blocks the entire passage. Two sets of arrow notches flank the gate, like a pair of sniper’s nests. Near the bottom of the wall are a series of gaps, perhaps six inches tall, and twelve inches wide apiece.

“What are those for, Vekkoth?” Gavin asks, peering at the gatehouse from cover.

“I don’t know. I never served in the guards here. Your guess is as good as mine,” the dwarf replies.

“I can cast etherealness again and get some of us in the gatehouse,” Jovah says.

““Hold on,” says Gavin. “I’ve got this cool ring of humanoid control from that guy in Shadow Springs. I’ll just command them to open the door.”

“Are you sure you want to to risk that?” Reana says. “You’ll be right out in the open.”

Gavin nods, and starts walking up the ramp, bellowing out in his best orcish for the guards to open the doors. Aris casts invisibility on Jalea, and the scout sneaks up to give Gavin backup if needed.

Orcish voices yell back at Gavin, who stops and mumbles something, then starts yelling back in orcish again. A moment later, the unseen Jalea whispers to the party.

“They want a password.”

“Uh oh,” says Jovah, and casts etherealness and grabs Brennen and Reana. They pass, ghost-like, by Gavin and through the walls of the gatehouse, where a half dozen orcs are gettign ready to pepper Gavin with crossbows. Jovah cancels the spell, and they fall upon the orcs in a sudden assault. In moments, its over, and the orcs are dead. Gavin comes in through the opened gate, and starts pestering Jovah as to why the orcs didn’t do what he told them to.

“I don’t know!” the exasperated gnome says. “Maybe they were just strong-willed.”

Aris figures out what the gaps at the bottom of the wall were; throwing a lever in the gatehouse lets water from the Lake shoot at high pressure down the ramp, making it very difficult for an attacker to keep their footing.

“That would have been nice,” Gavin says. “Getting knocked over by a wall of water.”

A sharp hiss from Reana silences the bickering fighter. It seems that the gatehouse also looks out over the docks, and some one is approaching. The rest of the party goes to take a look. Looking through an arrow slit, they see a wagon being pulled by a large pack-lizard, guarded by about two dozen orcs. The orcs are led by two Drow, one male, one female.

“Cool,” Batista says. “Let’s get ready to rumble.”

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Somewhere beneath the Vokal Mountains, January 1st, AE 420

Batista is spoiling for a fight, especially against Drow. A Drow killed his mother, and almost killed him. Aris is just as ready to take them on. As a Bladesinger, he views himself as the pinnacle of Elven civilization, Master of Sword and Spell, and the Drow are his sworn enemies. Sir Brennen is the only one who has actually fought Drow, facing off against three in a tower north of the Endicott Mountains, and he wonders what the point of being able to deliver crippling blows is if the subject of the potential crippling blow won’t stand in one place long enough to get whacked like a proper warrior. Jalea’s memories of Drow are fleeting; he found the three Drow that Brennen fought, and had only time enough to yell a warning before being rendered unconscious.

Reana and Gavin wonder what all the fuss is about. They’re ready to put a hurt on somebody.

“We need to see what’s in that wagon,” Aris states matter of factly. “Jalea and I can check it out.”

The bladesinger casts invisibility on himself, and rushes up the path with the already invisible Jalea. They reach the slow-moving wagon, and Jalea knocks a box off the back to make the procession stop. Then he and Aris rig a wheel to break as soon as they start up again. In the confusion, they check out one of the crates inside the wagon, finding that is full of…

…Cast iron cooking supplies.

“What the heck is up with this?” Jalea asks. They look in another box; same result. Checking any more would drastically increase their already substantial chance of being caught, so they make their escape and report back.

“Interesting,” Vekkoth says. “That would be a typical kind of shipment to be coming this way under ordinary circumstances…”

The wagon is moving again now, and the party moves out into the docks area to try and ambush them. There are a number of stone buildings here, some damaged in recent fighting. As the wagon approaches, Aris sees only the one Drow – the female, who he thinks is a priestess.

“Where’d the other one go?” he wonders.

Reana comes back from checking out the docks. “There’s some lights down the Lake a ways, maybe a barge coming this way, but they won’t be here for a while.”

“A welcoming party,” Jovah says. “We’ll give them a welcome.”

The party springs into action. Aris drops a fireball on the orcs and the priestess; the orcs are fried but the priestess shrugs the fire off without even a singe. Brennen, Reana, Batista, Gavin, and Vekkoth all charge her, and she responds by casting a spell that cloaks her in an aura of fear. Batista and Gavin resist the spell, but the others run off in various directions. The remaining orcs spread out and start trying to pick off the frightened fighters. Gavin moves to engage the toughest of the orcs, a pair of large and scary creatures who are quite a match for him. Batista is left to deal with the priestess himself, as Aris slings spell after spell at her, and she at him.

The priestess avoids Batista’s whirling scimitars with an air almost of disdain, slipping under a blow here and casting a spell at Aris, sidestepping another there, and spinning another spell at the bladesinger. At the same time, arrows are raining down from a skillfully hidden archer on the rooftops. Things begin to look a little grim. Jovah casts a spell that grows a small grove of trees around the main fight in hopes that it will provide cover from the unseen archer. Jalea gets up on the roofs of the buildings and starts trying to track down their assailant.

Finally, Brennen and Reana make it back into the fight, just as Aris finally fails to resist a spell, and is held. The bladesinger goes stiff moments before Brennen and Reana dig into the suddenly vulnerable priestess, who goes down like a sack of potatoes. Batista just stares at his scimitars in disbelief. He never laid steel on her once.

Just as Brennen turns to see what can be done about Aris, a burst of lightning crashes down on the party. They look up for the source, and find it: A human wizard, flying about thirty foot up in the air, or to be more precise, five identical wizards.

“Mirror Image,” Aris thinks to himself, unable to move, but uninjured.

The wizard tosses two lumps of gold to the ground, and they grow into huge lions and attack the party. Batista and Jalea return fire with bows but find the wizard a difficult target, even without the images, which they start slowly removing. Brennen, Reana, and Gavin are having difficulty with the lions, and losing copious amounts of blood. The wizard tosses a magic missile at Brennen, and follows it with one at Gavin. Both fighters are severly injured. The wizard backs off, as his last image is taken away by one of Batista’s arrows, and they turn back towards the frozen Aris.

From the shadows of a building near the elf, a Drow steps forward, and places his cruel looking dagger at Aris’ throat.

“Surrender,” he says in the common tongue. “Or I will kill the elf.” Aris is utterly immobile from the hold person spell.

“Hold on!” Brennen says quickly. “Do you really expect us to believe you? How do we know we can trust you to let him go?”

The Drow shrugs.

“I suppose you can’t,” he replies, and slits Aris’ throat from ear to ear.

The party rushes him, but he creates an area of darkness around himself, and retreats. They regroup around Aris amongst the grove of trees Jovah created, and the priest tries to staunch the bleeding from the elf’s jugular vein. Jalea rushes down from the rooftops to join them.

“There are more men on that barge. They’ll be here in minutes.” He holds out his yellow ring; the one that will transport its wearer to the interdimensional castle.

“We have one way out, far as I can tell.”

Brennen nods. The party members all join hands, and Jalea puts on the yellow ring, and they all fade from the cavern into the pocket dimension’s entrance cave. Brennen casts a dispel magic on Aris.

Jovah starts casting cure spells on the profusely bleeding elf. Luckily, Aris was uninjured before the Drow cut him open, so he’s held on much longer than he would have had he been seriously hurt. Finally, Jovah staunches the bleeding, and Aris stabilizes.

“Don’t talk,” Jovah says. “We don’t want to reopen the injury.” Aris nods, weakly.

“We lost Vekkoth,” Reana says. “The priestess drove him off with that fear, and he didn’t make it back by the time we left.”

Gavin grimaces. “If anyone can find a place to hide down there, it’d be him. He knows those caverns well.”

The party takes four days to heal up completely in the pocket dimension. At the end of the fourth day, they prepare to return.

“Can we use dimensional folding from here?” Brennen asks.

“No,” says Jovah. “It can’t cross planar boundaries.”

“We have no idea what we’ll be going back to,” Gavin says. “They don’t know what happened to us, but there could still be people there.”

“We’ll take a look, and I’ll be ready to cast dimensional folding right away. We’ll go back to Fencig, and get a couple things there. Then we’ll come back to the caverns and finish this up.”

Jalea puts on the green ring that transports its wielder back to the place on the Material plane that he came from, and they materialize in the cavern. The half-dozen trees of the magical grove Jovah created have been cut down, and on each is a spear pointed up. On the tip of each spear is the head of a dwarf. A note hangs from one spear:

For each of us that you injure, 10 of these will be killed.

Very soon after that, bowfire starts raining down on them, and soldiers begin pouring out of the gatehouse into the cavern. Jovah quickly casts dimensional folding and the party makes its escape to Fencig.

The collapse in exhaustion in Jovah’s drawing room. After a few minutes, Hendrik, the manager of the Fox Club, comes rushing into the room. He is carrying a small crate.

“I just heard you got back!” he says. “Wow. You guys look awful.” No one even has the strength to shoot a stern glance his way.

“Anyway, this just came special delivery for you today.” Hendrik places the crate on the floor by Jovah and leaves. The gnome watches him run off, and tiredly glances at the label on the box.

He immediately springs alert.


The elf looks concernedly at the luck-priest, and then goes to take a look at the box. It has a neatly written label:

To: Jovah
The Fox Club

The handwriting is identical to that on the notes hanging from the spear in the cavern they just left.

Jovah cautiously opens the crate, looks inside, and then collapses on the floor in despair.

It is Vekkoth’s head.

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Originally posted on the old boards by Sir Brennen:
This was bad on so many levels. The Drow knew our (or at least Jovah's) names. They knew where to find us. :eek:

Aris was devastated because the one person he felt could help him gain absolution was staring up at him from a FedEx box. He did not know how he could possibly explain the death of the dwarves in the caverns to anyone who wasn't there.

Don't worry. The party won't take this lying down. When something makes the usually-reserved Aris angry, he gets ... crazy. ;)

From a DM standpoint, this was all just a confluence of things coming together. I didn't expect Vekkoth to get seperated from the party, but once it happened and the party was forced to retreat, I saw only one logical path to take, and took it.

From a roleplaying point of view, it worked out beautifully.

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Fencig, January 11th, AE 420

The party is furious – and a little bit scared. They’ve just returned from the Underdark of the Vokal Mountains, after having gotten their butts kicked by Drow just a few days ago, and the Drow have twisted the dagger a little bit by capturing and killing their guide, Vekkoth, and delivering his severed head to Jovah’s casino via parcel post.

“They know who we are!” Jovah says. “And where we live! Where I live!”

“That does it – we’re going back there and blowing the whole place up!” Aris yells, furious. Not only did one of the Drow slit his throat – which he barely survived – they killed Vekkoth, whom Aris had promised to make amends to for the deaths of the enslaved dwarves he had accidentally fireballed.

“Hold it,” Reana says. “Hold it!”

“We can’t lose our focus here. We were going down there to find out information, not to try and retake Kazathun. We can’t just blow up all the Drow in the Underdark.”

“Yeah,” Gavin adds. “Vekkoth said there sixty of them there. And we got our asses kicked by two.”

“Okay.” Aris has regained some of his composure. “But if anyone had any doubts about whether this was important or not, I think they can cast those doubts aside!”

They calm down, and take stock of their situation and capabilities. They replenish their stock of arrows and spell components, and Jovah dimensionally folds them back to the long cavern; this time under the cover of a darkness spell. The guards at the gatehouse never see them as they slip up the path towards Kazathun.

“Luckily, we’re almost there,” Batista says. “Or we’d never even be able to find it!”

Within a couple of hours, they are in sight of the gatehouse to Kazathun itself. The town lies along an underground river that is fed by the Lake of a Thousand Waterfalls, and is built around a harbor created by a series of locks that allow river traffic to be raised and lowered from the level of the Lake down to the river, and back. A spillway blocks most of the passage, and whats left is stopped by a gatehouse.

“This one won’t be easy to take,” Sir Brennen says.

“That’s why we won’t be taking it,” Jovah says. “I have two etherealness spells that will get us inside. They don’t last really long, so we’ll have to move fast and find a place in the town to materialize.”

In second edition there was spell (whose name escapes me at the moment) that allowed short Ethereal journeys. Sadly, that spell will not be as easy to come by for Jovah in 3e, as Ethereal Jaunt is 5th level and only takes the caster…

Jovah takes the first group into town, and they find a small storage room to materialize in. As Jovah goes back to get the rest of the party, Sir Brennen and Jalea take a look around the room, determining that they have popped into a dwarven accounting firm. The peek into the next room and see a solitary dwarf with a green eyeshade visor working at something.

By the time Jovah gets back with the rest of the group, Sir Brennen has befriended the dwarf, and begun to get information out of him. The Drow are using the dwarves as slaves, working them hard but not to the point of death; the Caradinian government seems to be friendly with the Drow (the human Mage they fought in the caverns is a Caradinian ambassador, it turns out); the Drow control the upper levels of the Kazathun’s chiseled-out town, and only venture into the lower areas with heavy orcish bodyguards; and if any Drow is killed, 10 dwarves are killed in retaliation.

They decide to try and scout around and get some information. Aris casts invisibilty on himself and Jalea, and they go out to take a look.

They find that the very upper level of the town is only reachable by heavily guarded gates, and they deem it too risky to try and slip through. The next-to-top level is also teeming with a fair amount of Drow, however, and Aris and Jalea start tailing them in hopes of overhearing interesting info. Eventually they follow a few into a bar that the Drow have commandeered. An enslaved dwarven bartender gloomily serves drinks to the Drow officers, and tries to stay out of trouble.

After a while, Aris tires of all the inane Drowish chit-chat. He looks around for the apparent highest-ranking Drow, a male in drow chain, bearing two shortswords.

“Jalea,” he whispers to his invisible elf compatriot. “I have an idea. Go back to the party and get them ready, and then use your ring.”

“My ring? Which…” Jalea trails off.

“Yeah. That ring. Get there as fast as you can.”

“I’m going to get us a prisoner.”

Jalea leaves as quickly as he can, and Aris starts looking for some way to create a distraction. He slips behind the bar, avoiding contact with the bartender, and finds a bottle of elvish wine under the counter. He wavers for a moment, then sticks the bottle in his backpack and rummages around for something less refined.

He finds a bottle of dwarvish ale, and slips back out near his mark. After a few minutes have passed, he decides he’s given Jalea enough time, and he tosses the bottle of dwarvish ale against the far wall of the bar. It explodes into fragments, and everyone in the bar turns to look at what happened.

Aris is already moving, though. His target is sitting on the ledge of a balcony overlooking the town harbor, and as everyone’s attention is averted, Aris tackles hims over the edge of the balcony, slipping on his yellow ring as he goes.

Aris has an identical pair of yellow and green rings that access the interdimensional castle to the ones that Jalea has. For a long time, the party thought that Aris’ rings were the only ones, not knowing that Jalea had palmed the other pair.

The Drow never sees it coming. The next thing he knows, he and an apparently insane elven bladesinger are in a strange cavern whose opening overlooks a deep chasm, and a rope and wood bridge connecting the cave to a small keep in the center of the chasm. The Drow slips away from Aris grasp, and draws his two shortswords. Aris draws his flameblade and activates it. Flames leap from the sword’s blade, and the two racial enemies square off, alone.

“Where’s Jalea?” Aris begins to wonder, as the fight progresses.

The two opponents begin dueling, and the fight is a drawn out one. Aris is exceptionally tough to lay a hand on, and the Drow are reknowned for both the quality of their armor and their own innate quickness. Steel and adamantine alloy blades flash impressively, but very little blood is drawn.

Aris also has very few HP, as did the Drow, being also multiclassed. This fight went on for a while, and neither guy seemed to be able to touch the other.

Eventually both begin to wear down. The few strikes that are landed cut deep, and Aris is about to get worried when the Drow strikes awkwardly, and momentarily loses his grip on his off-hand shortsword. Aris kicks the blade over the edge of the precipice, and just as that happens, the rest of the party fades into view, with Jalea.

The Drow hesitates for a moment, and then runs for the ledge. Gavin and Brennen tackle him before he can hurl himself over the side. They bind him thoroughly and bring him into the castle, tying him to a chair.

Aris pulls up a chair in front of the Drow, and sits in it backwards with his arms crossed over the backrest.

“Alrighty then,” the bladesinger says with a smile. “What shall we talk about?”

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Dinkeldog said:
Just to show how far behind I am...

Fear of open spaces is agoraphobia.

Grrrrr..... <pounds head against desk>

Just went back and edited it! Thanks for pointing it out!


I also went back and added Gavin to the post with the party recaps.


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Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
The Interdimensional Castle, January 12th, AE 420

The Drow prisoner looks stoically back at the arrayed party. He does not seem intimidated or afraid.

“Do you speak common?” Jovah asks. The prisoner does not reply.

“He speaks undercommon, I’d wager,” Aris says, and switches to that language.

“What’s your name, and who are your commanding officers?”

The prisoner raises an eyebrow almost imperceptibly, but does not answer. Aris cracks a slight smile, and continues.

“Why did you attack Kazathun?” The Drow looks away. Aris’ smile vanishes. The party had tried to use a charm spell on him, but it was a long shot, and apparently failed.

“Are you working with the Caradinians? Do you have anything to do with the disappearing Rangers in the Sylvan Fields area? Do you know anything about a small, jade, Egg?”

The prisoner’s eyes open a little wider at that last question. He looks at Aris, and then at the rest of the group.

“What do you know about an egg?” he asks in undercommon.

Aris is surprised to have gotten an answer from him, especially since he was just fishing for anything to get a reaction.

“Just that the Drow are interested in it,” he says. “But you’re the one being interrogated. What do you know about it?”

The prisoner bites his lip for a moment; the wheels are clearly spinning behind his white, salamander eyes. Finally he answers.

“I know that it is magical. And I know that the Loraxites want it. I do not know why.”

“Loraxites?” Aris leans forward. “What’s a Loraxite?”

The Drow grins. “The surface elves are well-known for rewriting history. Perhaps you should not take the stories of your elders for granted on matters of your own past. The Loraxites are followers of Loraxus, of course.”

Aris looks back stoically. In fact, he had generally skipped history class at the University of Cape Varna.

“Never mind that. Who are they, and why do they want the Egg?”

“The Loraxites are… shall we say, dissenters. A rival faction in the underdark. They do not accept the primacy of Lolth. As I said, I do not know why they want the Egg. My superiors have merely indicated to me that their interest in this thing could help us locate them. They have told me nothing more, if they even know more themselves.”

“Why are you looking for the Loraxites?” Aris asks.

“We seek their destruction. They are heretics, rebels, traitors to the Drow cause.”

Jovah leans over to catch Aris ear.

“So, are Drow that are the enemies of evil Drow good?”

Aris shakes his head, “I wouldn’t count on it. I also wouldn’t count on him not understanding common just because he says he can’t.”

“Um, right. Carry on.”

Aris continues the conversation. “So why did you attack Kazathun?”

“The Loraxites had a base in a Duergar city near here called Druga. We needed to wipe them out, and establsih a base near the surface. The Loraxites have been making inroads near the surface. We need to be able to counteract them more easily. We had not intended to re-establsih ourselves so soon.”

Aris fishes a little further. He describes the Drow girl from his waking vision on the Belluin docks.

”Does that girl sound familiar to you?”

The Drow’s eyes widen perceptibly. “You have seen Illyana? Well done, none of us has seen her in ages. Where did you see here?”

“I’m the one asking questions. Who is she?”

“The leader of the Loraxites.”

Batista taps Aris on the shoulder, and the party retires to the far end of the room, leaving Gavin and Reana to watch the prisoner.

“Aris,” Batista says. “Why is this guy telling us all this?”

“I think he’s trying to figure out what we know about the Loraxites,” Aris offers. “He’s interrogating us as much as we are him. He might also think that if he gives us some info on his enemies, we might take care of his problem for him.”

“What are we going to do with him?” Sir Brennen asks.

Jovah replies, “I think we should deliver him to the Duke of Belluin. The dwarves we dropped off down there can give testimony as to what the Drow have done here, and he can get a trial. I’m sure it won’t be a very pleasant outcome for him, but it’ll get him out of our hair.”

Everyone agrees on that course of action, and Aris returns to his interrogation.

“How do we know that this information is true? How are you in a position to know these things?”

“I am a liason,” the prisoner replies. “I receive information from Thetra, and pass it up the chain of command.”

“Who’s Thetra?”

The Drow grins and points at Batista.

“He knows Thetra. Quite well, if memory serves. Thetra certainly remembers him… he still bears a scar from their last meeting, long ago.”

Batista’s eyes go wide, and his face flushes with anger. Gavin holds him back before he can rush the Dark Elf.

Batista’s mother was killed by a Drow about ten years ago in game time – Batista was kidnapped and almost killed before being saved by Vershanion who put an arrow through the Drow’s hand in the fight that ensued. The full story is here.

Aris is also quite angry; he feels fairly protective (and a little conflicted) towards Batista.

“Watch yourself!” he hisses at the Drow, and gets up to confer with his compatriots.

“Do we need any more from him?” he asks. The group thinks for a while, then decides that they have gotten all the useful information hey will get from their prisoner.

“Let’s deliver him to Belluin then. We’ll go back to Kazathun using Jalea’s ring,” Aris says. “I wouldn’t want to go back to that bar full of Drow.” Not without a Fireball memorized, he thinks to himself.
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I have arrived!

I was going to make a smart-arse comment about the Loraxites and how they fight for the trees (Dr. Seuss) but I'll hold off. Oh wait...


It seems like the scope is getting wider here, involving multiple factions in the underdark, dwarves, humans. And it seems like Aris is somehow finding himself right in the middle.

Glad your're posting Brennan, it's good to see some of this stuff from a players perspective, not to mention you drop intriguing hints!

Didn't the rings have limted uses? I thought I remembered that, but I didn't look back to check. If so, they're using them pretty freely here!

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Re: A-ha!

Matchstick said:
I have arrived!

I was going to make a smart-arse comment about the Loraxites and how they fight for the trees (Dr. Seuss) but I'll hold off. Oh wait...


The line forms behind my players. Mock my Loraxites will they?


Didn't the rings have limted uses? I thought I remembered that, but I didn't look back to check. If so, they're using them pretty freely here!

Yes, they do have limited uses. There might be a total of 5 round trips left at this point of the story, in both rings combined. That kind of accentuates teh danger they felt they were in, and the importance Aris gave the idea of getting a prisoner.


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Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Belluin, Ghithor, January 13th, AE 420

The next day the party folds to Belluin and deposits the prisoner in the surprised hands of the Duke’s jailor. Having taken care of that, they contemplate their next piece of business.

“We need to take care of Ekozius,” Reana says. “He’ll probably besiege Mahanaim in the spring.”

“Yeah,” Gavin says. “But in the meantime its mid-January. All the news from there is that its all quiet for right now. We’ve got a couple of months to play with.”

“I want to do some more investigation on the Egg,” Aris says. “If I go to Cape Varna and get some help from Tolaro, I can search the University archives. If there is any information about the Egg, or about these Loraxites, it would be there. It’s the best library in the world.”

“Maybe we should split up and take a short vacation,” Jovah says. “I’ve got some business to attend to at the Fox Club, and Samsen is going to be made Marquis in less than a month. I’d like to do some work on possible damage control, so that if he starts letting the Reksus people take over right away, I’m ready for it.”

“Alright,” Brennen says. “We’ve all got individual things to take care of, and no incredibly pressing issues. I’d like to take care of the Drow in Kazathun, but it will take months to get suitable forces to Shadow Springs to retake the Underdark areas. That will have to wait till spring, too. Maybe we’ll just split up for now, and regroup back in Fencig for the Marquis’ coronation?”

They all agree on this course of action. Then attention turns to Batista.

“The Drow seem to have some interest in you,” Reana says. “Maybe we should get you somewhere safe for the winter, if we’re not going to be doing much till spring.”

Jovah thinks for a while. “How about Cristof’s place? He owes us one, and I can fold us there and back easily enough. That mountaintop will be as inaccessible to anyone as anyplace we could pick. We’ll all fold to Fencig, and I’ll fold people to wherever they’re going.”

“Sounds good to me,” Aris says. “Maybe I can get Cristof to finally give me that reading he promised.”

Batista is not too thrilled at being stashed in a remote corner of the country for the winter months, but agrees to go to Cristof’s home for safe keeping. The party folds to the Fox Club, but first Aris writes a quick letter to Tolaro indicating that he will be returning to Cape Varna within the week.

As an afterthought, he scribbles a final note after his signature:

PS: What’s a Loraxite?

The following day, Jovah folds Aris and Batista to Cristof’s place. They explain their situation and Cristof agrees to look after the half-elven Ranger.

“So I’m going to have to come back here to fold you to Cape Varna, huh?” Jovah asks Aris.

“Don’t worry about that,” Cristof says. “I can cast dimensional folding, too.”

Jovah folds back to Fencig, and Aris tells Cristof he’d like to have that reading now, thanks.

“Certainly. I will begin my preparations. What question would you like answered?”

“I want to know what my visions mean.”

Aris has had three separate visions since he started poking around with the Egg. The first two were while asleep, and while the Egg was in his possession. The third was while awake, and after he had returned the Egg to Lord Masato, the Ralt Gaitherese emmissary whose quest it was to recover the Egg for the Emperor.

In the first vision, Aris saw (from the point of view of the owner of the Egg) the Egg being placed in the Song-Ling Monastery; and the subsequent stealing of it by a thief.

In the second, he saw the Egg being handed over to Virenzo Staris by the thief, and the subsequent killing of the thief by Virenzo. The vision ended with Virenzo’s death, seen by Aris through Virenzo’s eyes, as the necromancer was run through by Gavin.

The third vision involved a sea journey interrupted by a Drow attack, and the owner throwing the Egg overboard to keep it out of the Drow’s hands.

Aris believes that the Egg must have left the monastery at some point and been lost beneath the sea at some point in its history. That missing bit of history might give an important clue to the Egg’s power, and its value to both Virenzo and the Drow.

Aris enters into Cristof's room in the back of the small house he lives in on the mountain. Cristof has candles lit, and a fire is roaring in the fireplace. There is a table with a cloth embroidered with astrological and mathematical symbols (it looks somewhat like a black, silver and gold version fo the map from Time Bandits).

He sets a bowl out on the table, and two decanters. He pours liquid from one into the bowl, and then from the other he pours a small amount of a different liquid. To Aris' eyes, it appears merely to be oil and water, as the smaller amount of oil moves over the surface of the water.

"So, you want to know about your visions, and what they mean..." Cristof says in a low voice. "Let's see..." his voice trails off, and he closes his eyes. Aris watches him intently, but suddenly realize that the water and oil are beginning to bubble, to boil. Cristof's hands are on the table next to the bowl, face down, and some of the waterbubbles over the edge, scalding him slightly and jarring him from his trance-like state.

There is a sharp intake of breath, then he looks at the water, whose bubbling is subsiding, and says, "Interesting... I've never seen that happen before.

"I'm sorry, Aris, I don't think I got anything. Quite unusual."

Aris utters a sigh of dissapointment, and slowly gets up and turns to leave.

"But you do realize that you're seeing things in the order they happened, don't you?"

Aris stops dead in his tracks, still turned away from the Oracle. Cristof can only see the elf’s hand grasping the stair rail, and his knuckles going white as he grips the rail ever harder.

Aris turns back towards Cristof, his eyes wide as saucers.

“But… that means…” He stops in mid-sentence, and turns, running out into the snowy night.

Batista! Get your things! We’re leaving! NOW!

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
This is a map of the Southern Kingdoms. It is about 500 miles wide x 700 miles long. It was created in Photshop 5.5.


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Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
MasterOfHeaven said:
Nice story hour. How soon will the campaign shift into 3rd Edition, by the way? I'm looking forward to reading more.

Thanks! This entire Story Hour is 2nd Edition, but we've redone all the characters for 3e, and are actually starting play again the second weekend of February. I hope to have this Story Hour completely posted by that time - at least that s the goal.

Then I will start a new one up with the new adventures.


Sniper o' the Shrouds
You could always just axe the Loraxites ( ;) ) retroactively using the almighty DM power: "From now on, the Loraxites will be known as Sneechites."

It might help.

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