Tempest Rising

On a Wing and a Prayer
Or-- Murder, she crowed

murdercall1.jpegOur heroes gathered and Dremahl cast the Plasmic Pedigree spell on Celeste. They confirmed that she was close to the head of Omaro family bloodline, and that there is indeed golden dragon blood in her veins. They also learned that she has a younger half-brother to the south and east, in the Baorn-held region that was once the town of Chalced.

Not knowing a nearby source for a large amount of gold dragon blood, they decided to shelve that problem and face the more immediate concern or a possible dragon scourge in the Erarohn.

While they rested, two foragers appeared at the gates with wild tales of fire and death. Guard commander Stieve sent a messenger to the group to hear these stories first-hand, as he was concerned that the two might disappear into the Oxenhold and never be heard from again. The two men, Furrow and Fenn, claim they had come across a number of horses on a trail that has been torn to pieces, and burned with some kind of unearthly fire. They also had a scorched and bent piece of shoulder armor carved with the ram-horns of House Kapra. This family is not known to have local holdings, but members had arrived with the newcomers in the Spring.

With a desire to view the scene before it was overrun by curiosity seekers and would-be dragon hunters, the group gathered their belongings and sent off. They tramped for a day through the swamp, noting that is was eerily silent. They also spotted a crow seemingly paying closer attention to them (and, apparently, undead), but they chased it off. Either it came back, or there was more than one, as this repeated itself throughout the afternoon.

They eventually came to the spot of the attack, and indeed found a warhorse and three smaller pack horses torn apart by claws and burned by eldritch fire. They noted that the horses were going toward town when they were brought down. They also looked into the trees to see if the fires had started from above, and if the canopy was broken by a plummeting dragon. It was not.

Boomah paced out scorch marks to determine size, and they also discovered signs of two small chests being drug away from the scene.

Meanwhile, more and more of the otherworldly crows had arrived on the scene, and one dropped to pick at a horse carcass. When they threw a rock at it, the others flew into a frenzy and dropped on Luix and the warhorse. He struck with his flail, but it did little damage against the tiny undead birds. Boomah tossed a bomb into the fray, and Calls followed with burning hands. Finally, the priests channeled their gods’ might at the swarm, and the horde of tiny beasts were dispatched back to hell.

Scanning around, they saw a slim line of smoke rising above the trees. Unfortunately, Luix had been struck blind by the crows and they could not heal him until dawn. So they made camp.

The night passed in eerie silence. In the morning they restored the big northerner, ands struck out for where they had seen smoke. After a couple hours march they came across a ride trail in the marsh. Following it, they soon saw the scorched and broken timbers of a hunting lodge in a raised clearing. The trail came to two raised cairns that marked the entry to this rustic retreat. Seeing no immediate threat, they crossed the threshold of this unmarked complex.

Suddenly (as these things happen), marshy ponds and muddy low-spots erupted into action as nine lemures — the lowest denizens of the Hells — crawled out of hiding and began to lurch toward the party.

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Boxing Match
Or-- Are you the Key Master?

hellraiser_lemarchand_puzzle_box_by_destro2k-d7z01uc.jpegBased on the info gained from interrogating the drakes (both living and dead), our heroes decided to run out and tell Uncle Griza what was going on. Not finding him at home, one of the Redmond brothers directed them to the Three Keys, a formerly grand tavern and noble boarding house. They found the place darker and less respectable than they remembered, with a number of liveried bodyguards milling about the outside. Inside, they found that Patr ren Acero was still managing the place, and he welcomed them (as long as they kept a close eye on Boomah).

Looking around, the room was filled with darkened corners and curtained alcoves and many indiscretions being performed. Using his urban ranger skills, Saerin discovered an alcove where Griza was playing a game with strange stacked tiles. Not surprisingly, he was winning.

The elves joined the game, along with Griza and a trio of unknown compatriots, and they played one round. Griza pushed up the bets quickly, and when the round ended the other players bowed out.

Alone, they order fine wine and explained the updated situation. He told them they had probably not acted judiciously by calling out the Valessan, and perhaps they should keep more professional distance. He encouraged them not to take direct action against the foreigners and to just assume they are being spied on from now on. As proof, they found a maid ‘cleaning’ the out alcove after the conversation, and watch him casually cast memory modification on her.

The next morning Boomah and Kallius went to the Tower of Secrets to open the thrice-warded key. The magus managed to defeat the outer lattice withe the aid of a mage hand. He was acid burned by the second box, but managed to combine magical efforts to send the pin unerringly into the second box, unlocking it.

The third box proved a stumbling block . Every time he tried to unfold the box into a specific shape it would do so, but never seemed to open. Boomah used the lens to try and see through the illusion — and was subsequently teleported from the chamber. The elf struggled through a few more attempts before declaring he would disbelieve. This shattered the illusion that there was a puzzle box at all, and he found himself holding a wooden cube with the phrase “The Key is Always Within You” carved into it. Armed with this knowledge, he climbed the stairs to the inner sanctum of Seius’ tower.

A small library held several magical tomes, and a stand with the holy book of Seius — ’A Glimpse of the Truth’ upon it. The book contained any spell he served, and the Kallius retrieved the Plasmic Pedigree and copied into his own spell book.

Further reflection revealed that it would be best for Dremahl to cast the ritual, so the two returned to the shrine of Methys and the rest of their group.

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Subdued dragon
Or -- Speaking with a forked tongue?

drake.jpgFollowing the shadowy dragon shape, Boomah took to the sky and Kallius followed along as bets he could. Celeste summoned an air elemental, and it kept a better eye on the fleeing creature better than the humanoids.

They were blindsided when a second drake appeared from the shadows and breathed stygian fog at them. The tiny beasts tried to keep distance form their pursuers, but it did not take long for our heroes to catch up. Kallius slashed out with his magically charged rapier and sent one crumpled to cobbles below.

The other turned to flee again, but was stuck fast by the goblin’s adhesive spit. Unable to escape, they bundled the creatures up and returned to the shrine of Methys.

Once together, they interrogated the survivor. It refused to discuss its master, but was willing to speak on other subjects. It confessed that it was sent to spy on them, but did not know why. Previously it had spied on prominent locals, since arriving on a ship from the old world. It never attacked on behalf of the master, just listened and reported. They chose not to kill the little spy, but they did alchemically glue a bell to its tail, and sent it back to its master.

Then they interrogated the dead one. They learned that the master was a Valessan named Pinion, and he was staying at estate called Bar Vigla. It did not know the Valessan advisor to the prince, but thought that the tow had some connection.

This was expanded by Ebn, who is also present — and Valessan. He explained that his people worship abstract ‘Virtues’ for productive, successful living, and that it is speculated that there is a secretive heresy that believes these virtues did not originate with humans, but with dragons.

With this information to consider, the group considered its options.

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Five O'Clock shadow
Or-- Gutter sniping

47c385c0_repute_of_the_dragon.jpegThe group separated and retired to their beds after a long night Uncle Griza. Most found space at Ebn’s tower, while the devout returned to their places of worship. At dawn, Celeste was wakened by noises below in the shrine, and found the huntsman Kunola maintaining her shrine. She asked why he was not off chasing dragons in the forest, and he told he was never going on another dragon hunt. He had been with a group that hunted the dragon Khallid-Duz back in the Old World, and said that gnomes dropped a mountain on it.

When the time came, they went to see Eika about removing Celeste’s dragon curse. She suggested that the safest way was death, and added an arcane ritual involving bathing in a vessel filled with the correct variety of dragon blood might work.

Kallius went to the temple of Seius to see if he could find a spell to determine Celeste’s dragon blood-type, and was shown the thrice-warded key needed to see the higher levels of the Tower of Secrets. Since he had already prepared his spells for the day, he decided to return at a later time.

They did some shopping, and then decided to spend the day lounging around Celeste’s shrine and drinking. As the shadows grew longer in the evening, Kallius noticed a shadow moving against the direction of the setting sun. Peering closer, it had a distinctly draconic shape, and scuttled out of the shrine.

He and Boomah followed it as it took to the sky, and flew in and out around eaves and chimneys. While the flying goblin closed on it, another shadowy drake appeared from the growing darkness and breathed a cloud of dark, choking cold at them.

With battle imminent, we paused.

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'Family' Dinner
Or-- This doesn't taste anything like revenge

1be3e831e0c3c6760878097f554fbbab.jpegWhen ‘Uncle’ Griza made a surprise appearance as our heroes were leaving Brann’s private office, they were taken aback. When he publicly carried on polite conversation with the goblin in the middle of crowded market, the standers-by were confounded as well. In the end, the group agreed to join him and man-servants for dinner at his new townhouse.

Then they went to visit Nana Bethel to discuss the selling some noble trinkets and get a better lay of the social landscape. She told them about Griza’s rise, and that he seems to be a friend of the locals — or at least more of a friend than the other newcomers — and that his niece is quite the social butterfly.

They cleaned up and went to House Ombar at the appointed hour, impressed at how he managed to so drastically improve his position in such a crowded city. One of his black-blooded bodyguards (disguised as bearded Valessans) came to the door and invited them in, the other was cooking.

Boomah immediately demanded to know why Griza had tried to kill them with the cursed fireball necklace, and the man looked honestly surprised. After they explained their story, he told them a tale about his ‘niece’ losing her young lover in a mysterious sewer explosion and getting very upset. More upset, it seems, than he thought.

He also confessed that the keys that our heroes had retrieved had been crucial to his recent success, and said he hoped they could still work together.

They sold him a few of their more notorious magical booty (like the Mephitan weaponry and golem manual) in exchange for more magic armor and protections. He suggested a few mutually beneficial larcenous activities, but our heroes were unwilling to commit and any new any new ventures.

The group retired to his upper drawing room where the brothers Redmund shed their disguises and all shared toasts until late in the night.

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Phat lewt
Or-- How many gold pieces are in a Benjamin?

crowd.jpegWith nothing on their immediate agenda, our heroes set about the task of portioning out their spoils from the last few weeks. But first, Celeste and Dremahl returned to the Serachle to check in on their respective shrines. Strangely, the rough-hewn shrine to Methys seems to be have been taken care of in her absence, and even some fresh-cut herbs were found drying on the lines. Ellicott Ganz was still heading the house of the Maker, and mentioned that most of the glory and attention had been going to the Crystal Corncob of Aerin. Otherwise, most of the community’s problems were of the world over-crowded and over-priced varieties.

After hashing out new weapons and other items, the group decided that the best place to sell extra equipment, as well as the dragon skins, was at the House of Brann. They regrouped and set off for the dwarven enclave through the crowded streets.

They were escorted to the master smith’s private office overlooking the trade floor, and reported back about their achievements in the mines. He added that ore had been flowing again, although strange tales of monsters and battles persist.

They traded the dragon’s scales for two suits of highly enchanted chain, and sold some other items. After the visit, they were dismissed to the trade floor to make any additional purchases. As they came down the wide stairs, the crowd below parted, and their old patron ‘Uncle’ Griza Ombar waved upward to the gathered group.

“My friends! How wonderful to see you healthy and hale again!!”

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A sort of Homecoming
Or-- Doorway to doom

PZO9028-Cover.jpegNear a gathering of people near a sheltered cove, our heroes decided it was best to determine the nature of the enchanted door from the Longshadow before traveling farther. So they leaned it up against a large rock some distance from the crowd, and opened the door.

As soon as they did, a long chained blade in a pair of pale, bony hands lashed out at the goblin — tying him up. Thinking quickly, Luix slammed the door shut, severing the gateway to wherever the ship’s cabin might be.

They decided it was best to face the danger immediately, and prepared themselves with all the protective magic they had available. Then they smashed the door frame, opening the portal to face whatever emerged. Again, the chain lashed out from the hands of bone devil, along with four bearded devils. The diabolical quartet took one look at their situation, and vanished into the ether.

The bears of hell’s magical defenses slowed the terrible damage that the party dished out, but it could not withstand the combined assault if the entire group. It fell, leaving behind only a cloud of card smoke and its Mephitan chain-blade.

Spent, our heroes rested the night in the woods with the other refugees and made their way to Wytchport in the morning. There was discussion about forcing their way into the ‘high’ city gates by right of religious authority, but finally decided to keep a lower profile.

The city had expanded in the weeks since their departure, and even the low gate was no situated in the middle of a bustling district of shanties and hastily built structures. They found their old comrade Stieve, now commanding a squad of soldiers guarding the entrance. He gave them a brief update on happenings around time, and collected a nominal tax from them, and led them through the gates.

Then they went to see Boomah’s mentor Ebn. His complex was now fully walled, with a minotaur guarding the gate. They gave him an overview of their activity, and he explained why the Aerinorns were still around. He confirmed that there really was a dragon, and that it undoubtedly came from the wilds of the Erarohn near Bar Omaro.

After that, they went down the circus cart where Eika had taken up residence. They knocked, and she kicked the door open with a wand in her hands— hissing. She told Boomah to get that scaly filth off her doorstep or she would be forced to kill them.

Celeste stated calmly, “I am not now, nor do I ever want to be a dragon. How do I stop this?”

She slammed the door and told them to come back tomorrow.

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Uruk-Hai tide
Or-- Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the (under) world

c2837cd2ae43f2e27fbf050156341144.jpegOur heroes spent a day trying to direct their new ship toward Wytchport under the command of Luix, with minimal success. While the big northerner was best equipped to deal with strength-draining power of the helm, his lack of sailing knowledge slowed their progress.

Their experiments with connecting the helm with the notes found in Menso’s belongings made little progress as well. So they stayed in sight of the shore, kept a watch on the horizon, and made as much progress as they could.

Luix was still at the helm, refreshed by Celeste’s divine powers, in the deepest part of the night that is sacred to the lady of the Veil. A strange mist rose up around the vessel, not following the trade winds. Out of the mists four outrigger canoes splashed up, rowed by dark humanoid figures. There were archers as well, and black-fletched arrows began raining down on the deck.

Boomah and Celeste cried out to wake their comrades in the cabins, and prepared to defend themselves. The goblin took flight and launched fiery bombs at an oncoming canoe, revealing cadaverous orcs bloated with sea-water rushing toward their ship.

More arrows clattered down as the canoes got closer, and others came out on the deck to defend the ship. Out of nowhere, a huge wave lifted one of the canoes above the swell and crash it into the rigging, leaving its passengers to drop on our heroes.

Their sodden claws tore at their enemies, and the wounds seem to fill with black water and disorient their victims. Kallius appeared on deck and launched fireballs at oncoming boats while Boomah continued his fiery barrage.

The wave-soaked deck was soon crowded with orcs, who seem to have been drowned and dragged back out of the waves for this attack. Both Dremahl and Celeste called on the power of their patrons to strike down the undead, and their advance faltered.

Meanwhile, the warriors grabbed their weapons and started hacking away at the monsters. After nearly a full day at the helm, it was a test of will for Luix to release the enchanted wheel. But he succeeded and soon the comforting feel of his flail was at hand.

As quickly as the danger appeared, the swords and spells of the defenders removed the threat from the vessel. They dumped the bodies overboard, and continued on.

Concerned that perhaps Mephitas was not going to just let them keep her sacred ship, they decided to focus efforts on reaching Wytchport as quickly as possible. Giving the helm over the trained sailor Kallius, and using a fan token that Boomah had collected, the Longshadow leaped forward and made hast around the northwestern reaches of Malabar and up the coast to the city.

As dawn approached, the came in sight of the isle of Drakona, home to multitudes of small flying lizards. Seeing them swarming in the trees along the shore, our heroes took to the main island coast and gave the creatures a wide berth.

By late afternoon they were seeing small fishing boats beached in small coves, and makeshift buildings put up on what was once desolate coast.

Deciding that they did not want to be seen in a ship dedicated to the goddess of lies, they found an abandoned stretch of short and beached. They decided to completely dismember the helm and destroy any remnant of the rune circle Menso had scribed. They also thoroughly minimized any chance of the wizard returning, too. They believe that the secret to the extra-dimensional capability of the ship’s cabins is in the door-frame, so they took diligent effort to removed it intact, and dragged it up the shore.

While they were stripping the ship, a trio of beachcombers were spotted on the edge of the clearing. They welcomed them over, and learned that many fisher folk and other poor Wytchport residents had been pushed out of the city due to overcrowding from Aerinorn nobility and their retinues. It seems as if the Crown Prince has not begun his march to Cyr Regus, and the delay has swollen the population beyond its resources.

It is said there is a ‘dragon’ loose in the Erarohn forest, and it is not yet safe to travel. A few groups of knights, including the seraschal Telline, have been dispatched to either slay or disprove the creature, but neither of these goals have been achieved as yet. Many of the smallfolk believe this is one more trick of the Otter’s, to delay the prince and his old world parasites while he can concentrate his power and reinforce the capitol.

The beachcombers agreed to give the group passage on a fishing boat close to the city in exchange for the fittings and fixtures of the Longshadow. It was agreed, and the end of a long journey was nearly in sight.

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Come Sail Away
Or-- A draining voyage

f563b356653ed7e2518be11e7bf8881f.jpgFollowing their harrowing fight near and on the harbor at Otterdam, our heroes surveyed the damage. Menso had been slain, and lay lifeless on the deck. A handful of sea devils littered the deck and the pilings below the warehouse, and Burl and his cultists had been left above.

They quickly moved through the emptied space collecting interesting items. They found a small bedchamber under the warehouse where Menso had apparently slept. There they found the ancient book and notes, but not Menso’s spell book. The old wizard’s book had been marked with a dagger blade, and the page featured a simple divination ritual and a strange rune combining both the dragon and human primal runes. Otherwise, they gathered they weapons and other items from their enemies, and a collection of strange, small objects from the Mephitan oracle Burl.

Back on the ship, Boomah grabbed the wheel and the vessel took off. He managed to break free, and the sails went slack, and he was officially worn out form even that small effort.. The group rigged the helm with ropes so they did not have to touch it, and sailed out of Otterdam in the middle of the night. Once they explored the vessel, and learned that its aft cabins far exceeded their temporal space, they realized the ship had been shrouded in illusion, and was indeed a well-maintained ritual vessel sanctified by Lady of the Veil.

After some experimentation, they learned that the ship could be ‘manned’ by merely grasping the helm and allowing magical forces to work as crew. But this drained the life force of the helmsman. They soon figured out that Celeste could replenish this as quickly as it was drained, so they drafted Luix to take the helm.

The sailed all night that way and rested. They brought out the gold dragon statue and asked it about the helm. They were told that it was a ‘Hound’s Helm’ and used blood or valued items of people to track them wherever they were. They also asked about the four dragonstones, but it did not know much more than they do — that they are keyed to various dragon types and bound by platinum which could signify the dragon ruler. 

The night passed, and they made their way across the Gulf of Niktas toward Wytchport, and the political turmoil they left behind more than a month ago.

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Rock the boat
Or-- Something fishy going on here

29d870c7c24248b0f1476a26f64cc131.jpgWith the mysterious shipwright and his masked underlings defeated, and the flying sharks brought down, our heroes had a moment of rest. Unfortunately, Boomah chose to explore the hole down to the water rather than resting.

There he found a small group of assuaging warriors standing guard on rickety docks, and they opened fire with crossbows as he flew back up into the warehouse. The others became aware of the danger as bolts rocketed up through the hole and stuck into the ceiling.

Undaunted, Saerin leaped through the hole to face the danger, followed by the flying magus and the big northerner. As they faced off against the enemy, the area was rocked by a sonic blast from somewhere beyond the warehouse pilings. The warriors pressed on, and began carving a path through the sea devils toward a small ship that was moored just beyond.

As their enemies fell, the area was blasted again, this time by a burst of cold that filled the pilings with ice and sleet. Boomah flew out from under the warehouse as the ship began to pull away. He spotted the wizard Menso at the bow, along with another sahugain. Two other sea devils were aboard, one manage the helm and the other standing guard. The lines and sheets of the small ship were swinging and filling of their own accord, untouched by visible hands.

Luix and Saerin both jumped across the derelict moss-covered vessel, and clambered over the side. Boomah and Kallius remained airborne and tried to harass the enemy progress from above. One sahuagin warrior charged unto defend the ship, while the other held firm to the helm. The ships boom swung about and nearly sent Luix tumbling into the sea, but he deftly ducked away from the blow.

Menso cast some kind of illusory web over the deck, and Saerin found himself stuck in place. But not so stuck that he could not slash out at the guarding fish man.

Menso flapped his grafted wings and took flight, imploring the group not to continue the fight, and offering to work together toward common goals. Our heroes did not concur.

The lead sahuagin channeled the power of the Veil to keep her minions in the fight. Luix hammered the helmsmen to the ground, and when he did the sails went slack. Menso blasted the stern with another cone of cold, dropping them magus, and the priestess drew her long curving blade and rushed into the fight.

Fearing the wizard might escape again, Celeste spoke her Oracle’s Curse at him and struck him blind. Dremahl gifted Kallius with his healing, and the elf leaped into the air after the wizard. All available attacks were sent toward the now blinded wizard, and he faltered. Kallius’ final extra efforts with his now-ununenchanted rapier dug two new rents into the horrible hybrid creature and he dropped into the dark waters.

Meanwhile, the sea devil priestess had jumped overboard. Boomah feared she might try to recover and heal their enemy, so he dove down to retrieve the corpse. He grabbed up the lifeless foe, and dropped him unceremoniously on the deck of the small ship, now bobbing in the waters off the pier.

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