The Freeport Chronicles

Milton's Folly

The smile of Milton Drac is a curious thing. Most smiles invoke a warm-hearted feeling, a friendly state of affairs between the presenter and the recipient. Not so for the Sealord – receiving an impish grin from Milton Drac delivers a cold shot down the spine. The companions, who have faced down dragons and lived to tell the tale, think nothing of the steely gaze. Maintaining eye contact, Anton winks back with a double gun solute.

The receiving line to greet the Sealord well attended at the moment, the companions decide it best to explore the room. Off to one side, providing endless entertainment to the guests, is spotted their good friend Ansor. The amiable fellow is working a card table and motions for the group to attend. A quick game of chance ensues, with the companions fairing surprisingly well. “Winner, winner, everyone’s a winner. Well played folks. Here’s a prize fit for champions!” Ansor slides across an envelope with several tickets sticking out of the top, the stubs gleam with an opalescent sheen. In a whisper, “Keep these close to the chest friends, away from prying eyes. They will come in handy should you require a quick exit.” With a wink, he guides the companions away from the table.

The rest of the room appears in order, so the companions venture back to the procession. As they do, their colleague Dune Glintmoss joins them at the back of the line. A man of his word, he outlines what he was able to dig up on Draghor and Triggs.

  • His contacts were unable to unearth anything on Draghor, the hobgoblin is suspiciously clean. That said, his political leanings are straight forward. He is involved with a civil rights movement in the Blood Salt, working to promote the rights of the working population of orcs in the city. He has met several times with Milton about a seat on the Council to better represent the needs of the Blood Salt.
  • His sources uncovered that Triggs is heavily invested in Milton. Should the lighthouse result in increased trade, the Syndicate will benefit greatly given their strangle hold on the smuggling business. His level of investment, however, suggests that a power struggle could occur should things not work out so well.

As Dune moves on to mingle with others, former crew member Draghor situates himself behind the companions in line. The group engages him in conversation, relying on their station on the Bloody Vengeance to establish that they similar ideals with respect to the plight of the orcs. Draghor is interested to hear about the group’s escapades in Everstand, however, he is a rush. In return for good standing with Milton, he has agreed to usher as many guests as he can to the top floor of the lighthouse for the unveiling. Apparently there will a special celebration that Milton would appreciate being well attended.

Instinct guiding their actions, the companions excuse themselves from the line, wishing to precede the crowd that is likely to congregate at the top of the lighthouse. As they do, they see Triggs disappear behind some curtains. Although they follow closely, they soon lose sight of him in the corridors of the banquet hall. The trail dead for the moment, the companions make their way to the interior staircase.

Ascending the stairs, the companions admire the opulent means with which the interior of the lighthouse has been built. The uninhabited rooms feature floors inlaid with jewelled mosaic patterns, the walls adorned with lively frescoes showcasing the history of Freeport. After twenty or so flights, a half-finished room draws the group’s attention. Materials are piled in one corner, the outline of a half completed masterpiece dominate the wall. While investigating the room, Anton perceives a draft originating from one side of the room. His curiosity piqued, the halfling locates a hidden seam that opens a secret door. The portal leads into a small corridor that circles the tower, revealing that the room on this floor of the tower was built slightly smaller than the footprint of the lighthouse. A rancid stench quickly alerts the companions to a group of bodies hastily piled into the corridor. The dead persons are identified as artisans, likely those that were working on the lighthouse. Dressed in their best fineries, the companions surmise that they were to be honoured for their skillful work, but were instead unceremoniously murdered and hidden in the wall of the tower.

The first real evidence justifying their intuition that the unveiling is simply a cover for some sinister scheme, the companions are on edge as they continue to ascend the stairs. Given the deaths of the artisans, the companions are not surprised to see the interior workmanship deteriorate as they climb. The stairs begin to curve noticeably as they rise, indicating that they are nearing the top of the lighthouse. Out of breath, they finally achieve the summit of the structure.

The top floor is grand by all manners of definition. The walls of the structure, which are made up of floor to ceiling windows, curve sharply to form a domed ceiling several stories above. A giant rotating pedestal stands in the centre of the room, sitting atop the immaculately carved dark stone can be seen a huge lens of glass. Above, a balcony circles the room housing a ring of magically illuminated lights, the bright rays shining inwards on the massive lens. Three pillars support the ceiling, the columns predominately made of stone with the exception of ingeniously positioned glass to allow the lighthouse’s beam to be cast outward without limitation. A canvas is draped between two of the pillars. Some scaffolding stands adjacent to the pedestal providing access to the lens.

A resounding cheer from below indicates the end of the Sealord’s address, and the beginning of the unveiling ceremony. Before the companions have a chance to act, a sharp clap signals the arrival of Milton Drac himself by magical means. The Sealord appears invigorated, energy rippling across his barbarian features. He addresses the group with the confidence that only one assured of victory can muster, “In truth, I am overjoyed to see you here. I cannot explain to you how important it is to share this occasion with you. Considering your involvement, the implicit link – some would say it is destiny.” A manic giggle momentarily interrupts the discourse. “Can you feel it, deep down in your very soul. How close we are to achieving resolution. Let us not delay.”

Anton breaks for Milton, charging full steam at the Sealord. Before he can reach him, however, Milton completes an incantation, swirling power releasing from his core. The room erupts in chaos, raw energy buffeting everyone present, manifesting in the centre of the room to reveal a massive black tentacle where once was the pedestal and lens. The revolting form elicits a nauseating feeling in the companions. The group watches in horror as the writhing tentacle sucks in the cascading rays of light, refocusing the energy into a two dimensional wall of offensive yellow light. The trajectory of the beam is directed toward the workman’s canvas, projecting the symbol of the cult of the yellow sign across its expanse. The room becomes dim and hazy, as if the energy illuminating the light was somehow slowly being drained by the tentacle.

Fighting back intense nausea, the companions regroup and decide it best to concentrate their focus on the tentacle. Anton and Freight charge toward the tentacle to engage the sickly mass, while Nor’easter Face provides magical support from the periphery with the child. Lando creates a wall of illusion in the stairwell, hoping to cut off the top floor from the masses making their way up the stairs. Freight attacks the creature from the floor, although Anton must climb onto the scaffolding to reach the emanation. Both successfully land blows on the tentacle.

Milton walks calmly toward the canvas curtain, “All of mankind’s achievements are for not. The nations of the world worship the artifice of the universe. Like this tower, my master will consume all. These works mean nothing, are nothing. True majesty will be unveiled here today.” The Sealord grips the canvas, slowly turning toward the companions before dropping the curtain unceremoniously. The foul yellow beam projects onto the city below. “We will reveal to the resplendent dignitaries below the madness of my master. They will in turn depart to the nations of the world to pass on his word, and in this way, the world will be united again as one.” A chaotic energy envelopes the room, permeating somehow through nonexistent cracks in the wall. Milton raises his arms and howls in delight as he steps into the beam, his cry transitioning into a blood curdling scream. He surges toward Anton in a barbarian rage.

Freight and Anton pay no heed to Milton as he barrels down on them, continuing to hack at the corrupting manifestation even as sickly tentacles lash out at them. The pedestal begins to rotate, swinging the chaotic light in an arcing fashion. Lando masks himself in the patterns of illusion before rushing to the centre of the room to push the scaffolding that Anton sits atop, attempting to keep him away from the light. Freight follows suit.

A keen wail picks up in intensity from the city below. The Sealord revels in the sound, “Feast on your future, fearless ones. Many timelines, across multiple planes and realms, they all converge when the Unspeakable One unites us all in unconsciousness.” Fires begin to populate the night sky from the city and harbour below. Chaos stalks Freeport, disrupting the evenings festivities and pitting revellers against one another. Dark energy continues to circulate into the tower.

The crowd from below, their size causing those in the front to be pushed unwittingly through the wall of illusion, begin to cascade into the room. They mill about at the top of the stairs, entranced by the enormity of the situation. From the back of the room, Nor’easter Face unleashes a powerful ray on the tentacle before being enveloped, along with the child, by the rotating beam. Both fall to the ground unconscious. Milton turns to regard the child, leaving Anton and Freight to continue their relentless attack on the tentacle. Deep purple cracks begin to form in the emanation.

The Sealord’s fervour escalates, “The masses will come, they will arrive and worship and so become his army. Each are vectors for the madness – they will rise and touch another, and so become one. And he will be the first.” The Sealord points toward the unconscious child who begins to vibrate, a radiance building from deep within.

Sensing that the child is in immediate danger, Freight drops back from the melee to attend to his unconscious colleagues. Nor’easter Face stages a remarkable recovery, however, the child is unresponsive to Freight’s healing touch. As they look on in horror, the child begins to slide toward the tentacle as if succumbing to a gravitational pull. The movement occurs in strange fits and jerks, as if time and space are somehow being affected. The radiance continues to build in the child’s core, flaring with the effort of resisting the pull.

The beam passes through the masses at the top of the stair, instantly incinerating the crowd. A pile of bones, stirring with dark energy, is the only evidence of the crowd’s former existence. Anton continues to hack and claw at the tentacle, the deep fissures becoming more vibrant and robust.

Milton completes an incantation, causing an infinitely deep pit to blink into existence in the path of the scaffolding. Anton performs a miraculous feat of athletics, catapulting off the falling structure to land on the opposite side of the pit. The swashbuckler rolls acrobatically to arrive on his feet, continuing his dance of death with the tentacle without missing a step. Lando, however, falls prone into the path of the chaotic beam. The chaotic energy attacks his very soul, providing glimpses of the past, present, and future filled with dire portent. Lando manages to shrug off the psychological effects, although the experience leaves him with a unique physical ailment. The gnome trails a translucent ooze that smells of necrotic power.

The wily wizard senses an opportunity. Allowing his invisibility to wear off, he flashes a blinding orison at the Sealord to gain his attention, before sprinting in the opposite direction. Milton rises to the bait, unable to overlook the vulnerable gnome. The Sealord’s pursuit takes him through the trail of necrotic ooze. His bloodlust so strong, the raging barbarian is unable to veer off the path, continuing through the translucent ooze and slowly draining his life energy away. Despite the deteriorating physical effects, it does not take long for the Sealord to catch up to the wizened gnome. Before he can smite the seemingly defenceless illusionist, however, Lando uses dimension door to move to a safer position outside of the immediate threat range. His prey beyond his reach, the Sealord howls in fury.

Despite the assistance of Nor’easter Face, who holds firmly to the child, Nemesis appears to be losing the war of wills with the tentacle. Not wanting to give in, Nor’easter Face takes flight by magical means, propelling he and the child toward the tentacle, but at a slight angle. The centripetal force of the orbit pushes them far beyond the tentacle’s grasp.

Dark energy stirring, the pile of bones organize into a group of skeletons that rush toward the tentacle. They ring the pedestal, slashing at the swarthy swashbuckler. Freight follows in their footsteps, delivering Besmara’s wrath on the unholy creatures. Through it all, Anton continues his unrelenting attack on the tentacle. Fissures in the manifestation begin to bleed a dark purple ooze and the room begins to shake. Dust fills the air as the pillars creak violently in protest. Milton turns, his confident visage disappearing to be replaced by a look of confusion. The barbarian, weakened from the life-draining necrotic experience, attempts to rush back to defend the tentacle.

But the Sealord is too late. Anton buries his kukri deep into the heart of the manifestation, twisting as he drives the weapon into its dark core. The dark onyx tentacle shatters in slow motion, pieces flying in every direction. A bright light flashes, visions of different timelines, of unique geographies, of other dimensions, collide and break, refocus and fade. The chaotic energy in the room dissipates, the dark onyx pieces banished across space and time. The companions look at each other in wonderment as the realization begins to sink in – that their actions here today were responsible for the shattering of the dark onyx tentacle, the physical manifestation of the Unspeakable One, that virtually everything experienced to now was a consequence of this moment. Overwhelmed with the immensity of the thought, Lando falls awkwardly to the floor, attempting to take a seat but only half succeeding.

The Sealord arrives at the now empty pedestal, his barbarian features beginning to atrophy as he retreats from his battle rage. His voice is sullen, disbelieving, “Why have you forsaken me? I did everything that was asked. I was promised so much. My disparagers were right, this is truly Milton’s Folly.” The Sealord strikes at the pedestal, severing the stone cradle. The tower shakes with the effort, the pillars crumbling. The dome above cracks, large pieces of rock falling to the floor. The walls disintegrating around them, the companions understand that an exit by conventional means is not possible. Reaching into their pockets for the tickets received from Ansor, they are instantly teleported to another dimension as the ceiling caves in and the lighthouse topples into the harbour.

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Making an Entrance

Before entering the harbour proper, the flagship of the Sealord’s Armada signals to the Shadow Swift their intent to board. Several dignitaries, including members of the Shadow Council, cross to the Shadow Swift to congratulate the companions on their defeat of the dragon, and further, to provide invitations to the gala dinner at the lighthouse this very night. The group thanks the courtiers for the invite and ensures them that they will be in attendance.

The companions cleverly arrange for the dignitaries to have a tour of the ship so that they may have several minutes to converse with Thuron, Marcus, and Dune. It is especially good to see Marcus as the group was unsure whether he had survived the attack by Yarish. The Shadow Council rarely has an opportunity to meet these days, but felt it was important to bring the companions up-to-speed. Noble persons from many nations are in Freeport this eve to attend the gala and partake in the great unveiling of Freeport’s new lighthouse. The project has come under signficant controversy given that it has basically bankrupted the city. This has resulted in much internal strife within the Captain’s Council, which is now split between those loyal to Milton Drac and those who are not. Despite the great show involved with the invitation, the companions are not meant to attend the unveiling. Milton has arranged for an accident to occur before they reach the banquet hall. Although they have no evidence, they are convinced that Milton has something sinister planned for tonight.

The Shadow Council has had several days to plan, and they have learned that Drac has requisitioned reinforcements to be made available in the basement. As such, the dwarven contingent of battle clerics will be positioned near the basement entrance to the lighthouse, ready to cut off Milton’s reinforcements. With this in mind, the Shadow Council recommends that the companions walk directly into the trap. Trusting their assessment, the group agrees, understanding the advantage that a creative entry will achieve.

In the meantime, the group would like some information:

  • The companions would like to understand how they can “see” serpent folk in disguise. Thuron provides a device to assist in with detection.
  • There are two remaining artefacts needed. Marcus advises that he has found mention of an object, a jade serpent, that can help to locate the last two onyx crystals. The jade serpent was last seen in the Temple of Yg, which sunk into the ocean during the apocalypse when the Unspeakable One was summoned. He provides a general idea of where the temple may reside today.
  • The group would like to understand who will be in attendance tonight. The list includes the who’s who of Freeport. The companions ask for intel regarding Draghor, the representative for the Bloodsalt and former crew member of the Shadow Swift, and Triggs, head of The Syndicate. Dune needs some time to touch base with his contacts and will provide a report once inside the banquet hall.

The companions thank the Shadow Council for their assistance before they head back to the Sealord’s Armada. The group takes the remainder of the day to rest up and refresh, before heading to the lighthouse for the evening’s festivities. As they near the feat of engineering wonder, they are amazed not only at the sheer size of the structure, but also by the richness of the massive purple velvet curtain that drapes it. The Sealord has spared no expense for the unveiling. The invitation includes a VIP tour before dinner, which begins in the basement of Milton’s Folly. The companions pass through a group of rowdy dwarven revelers, their friends from Highhelm, before entering the lighthouse through the servant’s quarters at the rear of the building.

The basement of the lighthouse represents a large open format with several distinct areas. Of note, the designer appears to have paid more attention to form than function. The word opulent would not do justice to describe the materials used to construct the tower; however, the layout leaves much to desire – for example, a kitchen is built next to a stable, and much of the floor is yet unfinished. Several stable hands can be seen within the stables, a chef and his two assistants are busy at work in the kitchen, and a team of construction workers attend to a stack of materials opposite. A janitor slowly mops the floor in the middle of the large room.

Before they can cross the room, the companions are stopped by the janitor. He welcomes them to the lighthouse on behalf of the Sealord Milton Drac, who has been awaiting their visit for some time. In fact, a special welcoming committee has been hired for their entertainment.

From the stables, several farm hands rush toward the companions. Lando advises that the apprentices are but puppets being directed for slaughter. The companions split into two groups – one to attend to the janitor, and a second that magically transports behind enemy lines to where the stable master is located. The stable master – a wizard is disguise – appears surprised by the turn of events and is quickly disposed of. The janitor meets a similar end as well. As the life slowly drains from his body, he smiles, advising the group that they were just a diversion meant to delay them until the main force could arrive. The companions do not refute his monologue, allowing him to pass peacefully. Glassy eyed, the stable hands appear confused, the dead body of the stable master not helping the situation. Lando engages them, advising that a cruel trick has been played on them. The companions have no ill will for them, they are free to leave at their convenience. They look around in confusion before rushing for the exit.

Wishing to push the advantage, the companions run into the kitchen area before the chef has time to organize. His assistants turn slowly to meet the rush, but are ineffective at halting the group’s charge allowing the companions to bypass them. The group rushes head on at the chef, putting him immediately on the defensive. With the greater numbers, the masquerading chef is quickly deposed. The companions help his assistants come to terms with the situation once the mind control ends, allowing them their freedom.

While this occurs, the construction workers have had time to prepare themselves. Anton makes a wild dash towards their line, a slick feint that draws their attention, allowing Freight a free lane to charge the foreman. The cleric’s strike proves true as she runs the foreman through. The workers quickly regain their composure and are granted their release.

All in all, the companions are happy with their progress and the minimal amount of bloodshed required to clear the basement. The sound of battle from outside, however, wakes them from their premature elation. Eyes on the prize, they ascend the stairs to the banquet hall. The entrance to the hall is not guarded, and the companions strut confidently through the atrium and into the main concourse of the banquet hall. As they are announced, the eyes of Sealord Milton Drac instantly snap to their location from across the large hall, a slow smile spreading across his face.

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A Magus Ending
A bittersweet return to the City of Adventure

The dragon conducts a hit and run campaign, assaulting the Shadow Swift for short bursts as it crosses Lake Encarthen and navigates the river system back to Augustana. The city’s heavy artillery ensures peace for the crew while the ship resupplies. Under the cover of night, the Shadow Swift sneaks out of port and into the Inner Sea. The ruse appears to have worked, as the ship enjoys a few days of dragon-free sailing.

As the ship nears Freeport, however, the dragon reappears on the horizon. It quickly gains on the Shadow Swift and performs several strafing attacks, damaging the ship. The companions man the cannons, not an easy feat considering the short handed crew. The child is sent below decks, the group unwilling to risk his life again.

The cannon fire proves inconsistent, as the agile dragon is able to weave around many of the shots. A shift in tactics is required – a grappling hook is loaded into one of the cannons along with the stalwart swashbuckler. As the dragon performs a fly-by attack, the cannon is fired. The shot strikes true, the grappling hook managing to wrap around the creature. And further, Anton is successful in his act of daring do, landing lithely on the creature’s back.

The dragon is understandably upset about it’s restricted flight path, so it flies close to the ship before banking sharply to speed directly away from it. Understanding that the dragon is attempting to snap the chain attached to the grappling hook, Anton reaches deep into his bag of tricks. Pulling out an immovable rod, the swashbuckler plants the cylinder into the great maw of the dragon. Forward motion halts, and the rod lodges deep into the creature’s throat.

The dragon suspended in mid-air, the companions open fire with their full complement of cannons. The dazzling display is supplemented with magical balls of fire. The dragon takes a beating in short order. Taking advantage of the vulnerable creature, Anton climbs it’s neck and jabs his short sword into it’s body with all his might. The offensive proves successful, but comes at a cost. The dragon twists around to grasp the swashbuckler in one of its paws, attempting to squeeze the life from him. As it does so, the dragon strains against the rod and manages to overpower the magical force keeping it in place. The creature bursts forward.

Cannon fire following his every move, the dragon doubles back to strafe the ship again. As it flies by, Lando casts a well placed grease spell on Anton. The lubed up halfling manages to slip between the claws of the creature to land politely on the deck with a flourish. Nemesis, watching the battle from the safety of the cargo hold, applauds the majestic feat of acrobatic prowess.

As the battle rages on, the Shadow Swift continues to make progress toward Freeport. The harbor appears congested, with ships of many different shapes and sizes vying for berth. The dragon threat detected, the Sealord’s Armada has roused and navigates out of the harbour cautiously. The fleet keeps a safe distance from the battle, taking a wait and see approach to the conflict. Members of the Shadow Council can be seen amongst the sailors, although unable to act without bringing unwanted attention to their affiliation with the group. In the distance, the lighthouse known as Milton’s Folly awaits it’s unveiling, covered for the time being with a massive purple velvet canvas.

The dragon gravely wounded, the companions focus fire on the creature. The artillery bombardment is complemented by magical means, with Magus Mike unleashing several fireballs from the stern of the ship. The magical fire draws the attention of the creature, who flies in close to the ship so as to concentrate its electrical breath attack on the magus. The proximity allows the crew to score severe damage on the creature, shattering one of its wings. The dragon unsuccessfully attempts to gain altitude while sustaining several more shots from the cannons, before plummeting into the ocean several spans from the Sealord’s Armada.

The brilliant nautical display, however, comes at a cost. The companions rush to the aid of their companion Magus Mike, who lies prone at the stern of the ship. Despite a valiant effort at resuscitation, the magus’ mangled body is beyond the healing abilities of mere mortals. The elation of defeating a formidable foe pales in comparison to the loss of such a cherished colleague. The Shadow Swift sails into Freeport harbour at half mast, oblivious to the festive mood that has overtaken the city in anticipation of the long awaited unveiling of the lighthouse.

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A Touch of Chaos

From the crow’s nest, Tessinger messages down that there are two ships speeding toward the Shadow Swift – one appears to be the Hellknight flagship, The Impervious, the second is of unknown origin.

The companions are unable to ready the ship for battle given they are presently engaged in dealing with the chaotic influence ravaging the ship. Each has been afflicted in a different manner – one of Anton’s arms has mutated into a large anvil that he is forced to drag behind him, Poots shakes uncontrollably from an unnatural cold, the open sores on Freight’s skin pulsate with dark purple energy making it hard to move, Lando is afflicted with an intense melancholy and collapses to the floor, and Magus Mike is struck by a wave of chaos that pushes him overboard.

The scream of Magus Mike as he is tossed into the water whips the companions into action. Lando grabs a rope before diving over the ship’s gunnels into the water, grabbing onto a flailing Magus. Freight attaches the rope around her midriff and begins to reel the two in. Poots and Anton make their way to the altar to participate in the theurge. Each donate the magical daggers given to them in Everstand to complete the ritual and purge themselves of their respective chaotic afflictions.

A brilliant flash coruscates near the back of the ship, where appears Lector Severous, Captain of the Hellknight ship. He draws a ceremonial dagger from his belt and draws them across his wrist, sprinkling blood over the deck. He mutters an incantation and time seems to almost stop, as if everyone but Lector was moving in slow motion. Lector regards each of the companions in time, “You corrupted her, you let her die for a cause unknown to her purpose. Her blood is on your hands. As you have cursed me, I now curse you each in turn.” Stones drop from his hand, they bounce and roll across the deck to form a summoning pentagram. Lector enters a trance-like state, his body swaying in pattern. The sea begins to boil, a red trident breaks the surface in the grip of a red scaled hand. A massive devil rises beside the Shadow Swift, the body impossibly large, as if standing on the ocean floor. The smell of brimstone and sulphur ride the waves. Mephistopheles, Merchant of Souls and second in command to Asmodeus, regards the companions.

By this time, the second ship, a ghostly vessel that appears incorporeal nears the Shadow Swift. The figure of Yarish, former first mate to Besmara, stands astride the bow. The ship makes a sharp cut and the pirate demigod jumps easily across the gap, landing magnificently on the deck of the Shadow Swift. Making a swift bow to Mephistopheles, “There is but one reason you would venture from Hell. Well, you have competition this day, as I have plans for those shards. Why don’t you take the souls, I’ll have the shards and we’ll call it a day?”

A giant fist reaches across the ship with impossible speed to grasp at Yarish, as the pirate demigod responds with magical energy. Both attacks, however, are rebuffed after meeting some unseen resistance. The archdevil and demigod appear disgusted and concerned with the interference as they peer in the general direction of where the comatose child is being attended to. “What foul affliction has tainted this child such that he can turn back even the gods? You know not what you risk here, there are consequences to this type of power. Consider this a warning.”

Lando, onboard but still dripping wet from his time in the water, recognizes the pirate demigod’s lust for the power of the shards, but he is not so sure he understands Mephistopheles’ interest. So like any inquisitive soul, he simply asks the archdevil his purpose for being here. “As an agent of Hell, I am interested in order above all else. The stench emanating from that child corrodes all, leaving only chaos where once reigned the rule of law. The need to harness the power of the shards, it corrupts in an absolute sense. This must be avoided at all cost. The shards must not be allowed to come together, the temptation is too great.” Lando nods in agreement, intrigued with the reasoning. The archdevil turns his attention back to Besmara’s former first mate.

From the crow’s nest, a shout from Tessinger alerts the crew that the chromatic blue dragon can be seen on the horizon – the magical conflagration has drawn its attention. The ship is a sitting duck at this time, with the cannons engulfed in dark purple biological matter and insufficient crew to man the stations besides. Sensing the situation has gone from bad to worse – with Yarish and Mephistopheles resuming their battle, and a dragon soon to join the fray – the companions are at a loss for what they should do.

Confusion reigning amidst the chaos, Annabelle gathers the companions, “This is but a vision, a sample of what will become of the world should the Unspeakable One return. I have looked into the dark tapestry, to the place between the stars and beyond, into the chaos where I have sensed the Unspeakable One, the King in Yellow.” Her eyelids shut, a radiance begins to build behind them, a glow suffusing the group. An ancient voice continues, “Yog Sovoth knows the gate, Yog Sovoth is the gate. Yog is the key and guardian of the gate to the past, the present, and future. They are all one in Yog Sovoth. He knows where the old ones broke through, and where they will break through again.” The glow fades, the eyes open to refocus on the companions, Annabell’s voice returns. “We must do what is necessary to ensure that the Unspeakable One not manifest. We must all make sacrifices to do this. Today, I will make the first sacrifice, to do what I must, to do what is necessary.” Lando becomes frantic, “No, there must be another way.” A hand on the shoulder and a knowing glance calms the gnome, “There is no other way. I must end this now.” A pipe appears from her sleeve, black greasy tendrils of smoke snaking into the air. She takes a long haul from the pipe, eyes glazing over with an oil substance. Visions begin to substantiate in the minds of the companions, of events occurring, not occurring, possibly occurring, alternate timelines playing out at the same time. And then a singular strand gains in substance as the others fade away. On the strand, the Shadow Swift can be seen navigating a strange river, a river made of time. Annabelle’s voice, barely audible now, “The timeline was stuck, the ship was unable to continue. The child, he must survive, it is important that…”

The whisper fades, the companions open their eyes. The dark tentacles and organic matter engulfing the ship are disappearing from view. The crew appears to be gaining strength by the minute. Indeed, the companions feel wholeheartedly better. At the altar, rising from the remnants of his cocoon, Nemesis appears sprite and healthy, the child now a young adult. However, there is one notable absence, Annabelle is no where to be seen. Lando’s shoulders slump as he wonders if he’ll ever see her again.

A different voice invades their thoughts, sinister and confident, “All debts must be paid. You have signed the contract, and your soul is destined for my realm. See you in Hell.”

The companions rush to the cannons as the dragon wheels overhead.

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Battle Chess

The companions barely have time to set their things down before the crew of the Bloody Vengeance push off to navigate down the River Path. The ship has seen much use of late, ferrying fleeing civilians down the river, and the crew wishes to get as far away from Everstand as they can. Of note, the number of sailors has been bolstered, with many escapees from the prison joining the crew.

The Vengeance strikes a heady pace down the river, managing to stay slightly ahead of the chromatic blue dragon, which harries the ship constantly. The Vengeance’s journey, however, is temporarily halted by a barricade of barbarian ships near the confluence of the River Path and Lake Encarthen. The companions disembark to discuss terms of passage.

The leaders of the barbarian tribes, sensing that their trade route along the River Path has been sundered with the fall of Everstand, attempt to recoup some of the lost trade by way of charging an exorbitant tariff to those wishing to pass. The companions are unwilling to pay the toll, so they retire to their ship to discuss their next course of action.

While on ship, the group learns that the elven armies have continued to progress and are now approaching the blockade. Further, a large contingent from the orc horde has travelled down river from Everstand. It seems that the companions have been successful in achieving Besmara’s vision – war is brewing, and the companions are uncomfortable being at the epicentre.

A plan forms quickly – the companions, accompanied by the crew of the Vengeance, head for the shore. As the armies near, Anton performs the summoning ritual for the Iron Tower, planting the edifice on a grassy knoll just back from the water. Safe inside, the companions witness the forces converge. Several days of carnage ensue, with all three armies taking heavy losses. The elven and barbarian armies are eventually concede, and both retreat into the surrounding hillside pursued by the chromatic blue dragon. The orc contingent, bloodlust sated for the time being, march back n the general direction of Everstand.

The threat level reduced, the companions set the refugees from Everstand free before reversing the ritual to return the tower to its card format. The card is given to Freight for safekeeping until such time as it can be returned to Besmara. With the barricade sundered and the dragon likely to return at any minute, the group return to the Bloody Vengeance and sail to the mouth of the river where awaits the Shadow Swift.

As the Vengeance rows into the harbour, the companions note a white flag hanging from the mast of the Shadow Swift, and a small boat is dropped into the water. Unsure of what to do, the Vengeance pulls up a hundred feet off of the portside to await the visitors. Soon thereafter, Mario Poffal himself is aboard the Vengeance. He appears sickly, and wasting no time on pleasantries, launches immediately into an update. There is some sort of unexplainable sickness afflicting the crew of the Shadow Swift, as if chaos itself has someone spread onto the ship. An altar has been built mid-ship, where Thwicket, Northeaster Face, and Annabelle attempt to purge the crew by combining their arcane, divine, and oracle powers. The theurge has resulted in some progress, as the sickness has been expelled from certain crewmembers at a cost – each has had to give up something of importance in return. The companions advise Mario that this may have to do with the child – Mario is visibly shaken when he hears of the child’s near death. He is furious at the companions for putting the child in danger, and further, blames them for what has befallen the Shadow Swift.

Action is required before the dragon returns. The companions instruct the Bloody Vengeance to return to the River Path to search for the Kraken’s Spite while the group return to the Shadow Swift with Mario. Before they can board, Poots and his animal companion Scoots are forced to accept terms and sign on as crew for eternity. Both appear excited for the opportunity to join such an illustrious group of sailors. Poots is graced with a king cobra tattoo on his left hand, which Scoots appears to approve of.

As they get closer to the Shadow Swift, the companions note a sickly aura that seems to permeate across the ship. Topside, the handful of crew that can be seen move sluggishly as if ill. Boarding the Shadow Swift, a dark purple translucent tentacle attaches to each of the companions, working its way across the skin causing open sores. The companions are afflicted with visceral visions, their bodies attacked by a chaotic matter. Not surprisingly, each is affected in a different way. The influence, however, cannot be articulated, instead each companion is on their own to deal with the dark taint in their own way.

A shout from the crow’s nest breaks the unnatural silence, two ships have been sighted on the horizon and are closing quickly on the Shadow Swift.

—> Flip to next chapter
—> Return to prior chapter

The Fall of Everstand

A platoon of rangers works on battering down the reinforced front door to the tower, which Anton believes will not hold much longer. With Palomina taken care of and the onyx shard contained, the companions rush to the top of the tower. A viewing platform overlooks the city and surrounding territories, revealing chaos in 360 degrees. The orc horde has amassed outside the walls, a vanguard of orcs from underground fights through disorganized groups of guards toward the front gate. An army can be seen on the horizon to the south, presumed to be elven. And overhead, a chromatic blue dragon circles the city, fomenting anarchy and disorder.

Gauntwood, appearing dishevelled and unwell, stands in the centre of the tower. His mouth moves rapidly, but no words usher forth. The companions ignore him as they move to the side of the tower for a better vantage. Of note, it appears as if the majority of residents have successfully been evacuated; two groups of citizens, the followers of Groum as well as merchants from the market plaza, remain in the city.

Afraid that the remaining citizens will perish in the onslaught, the companions attempt to distract the dragon to provide time for escape. Lando messages the dragon to discuss terms of engagement for a one on one – champion vs champion – battle with Maydrane. The dragon banks sharply and blankets the top of the tower in electrical fire. The companions escape the worst of the attack, although Gauntwood was not as fortunate. With the dragon returning for a second run, the companions use magical means to travel to the grounds below.

Transported into the midst of the chaos, the companions quickly organize themselves – Magus Mike and Anton engage a group of orcs harassing the remaining Everstand citizens; and Lando and Maydrane sprint across the plaza toward the towers that house the mechanisms that open the main gate.

The orc contingent within the city is made up of the remnants of the orc vanguard that gained entry through the cyrpts as well as their newly freed compatriots from the city’s jail. It proves a difficult task to convince the blood-thirsty orcs not to murder the remaining citizens; however, cooler heads prevail, with Magus Mike and Anton successfully persuading the orcs to herd the innocent townsfolk into the Iron Tower for later judgement. The citizens saved, the two set off to assist in opening the gate.

With Maydrane leading the way, Lando and the Mistress of Blades cleave their way across the open ramparts of the merchant district toward the gate. The door to the first tower is unlocked, allowing for easy entry. Inside, Maydrane quickly disposes of the guards while Lando operates the gate mechanism. One half completed, Lando and Maydrane make for the second tower to finish the task of opening the gate.

The companions reunite as they cross the plaza. The doorway to the second tower is locked; instead of taking the time necessary to batter the door, they ascend to the top of the tower with the help of Magus Mike, who was able to fly to the top and drop a rope. Gaining entry through a rooftop hatch, a well placed fireball allows the companions to swiftly take control of the tower. The second gate mechanism is engaged.

Exiting the tower, the companions are ambushed by a squadron of rangers. Arrows rain down on the companions, an effective tactic given the wide open nature of the inner courtyard. Circling above, the dragon senses the companions’ vulnerability and flies over the plaza, carpeting the courtyard in electrical fire. The group is left reeling from the attacks, pinned down and unable to counter.

Rising to the occasion, Maydrane charges through the ranger contingent, creating an opening for the other companions to exit, but taking heavy damage in the process. As the group escapes from the ring of assailants, a second blanket of electrical fire explodes across the courtyard, injuring the companions as well as the ranger squadron. In the ensuing bedlam, the child, Nemesis, becomes separated from the group. Hearing the panic in Anton’s voice, Maydrane doubles back to look for him while the rest of the group flees to the safety of an adjacent building regroup.

With the gate open, the orc horde streams into the city of Everstand victorious. The remaining city guard and ranger contingent flee to the crypts in hopes of circumventing certain death and finding a way out of the city. The dragon follows suit, pursuing the escaping citizenry away from the city. An unsettling calm descends over Everstand.

The companions exit the building to locate Maydrane and the lost child. Amidst the rubble strewn plaza, within a ring of ranger bodies several deep, the body of Maydrane is found. The Mistress of Blades stands motionless, her inert body is held up by several spears and pikes protruding from her, allowing her to maintain an intimating pose even in death. She is positioned protectively over the child.

Rushing to the still form, the companions are elated to learn that the child still lives. Encased in a protective cocoon infested with dark onyx energy, the child appears to have survived the worst of the battle thanks to Maydrane. Anton lovingly hoists the child over his shoulder as the other companions attend to Maydrane. As is the custom with the Hellknights, she is laid upon the war sanctified ground with her weapon in hand to make the journey to the afterlife along with the souls of her victims. Unable to find the words, the group leave small personal tokens next to her body to acknowledge the sacrifice she made.

The need to leave Everstand is strong; however, the companions must complete one more task before exiting the city. The group return to the Iron Tower where Anton performs the ritual learned from Besmara. The tower reverts to its original design as a card within the Deck of Many Things. The remaining citizens safe inside, the card is pocketed by Anton as the companions make their way to the river to make their escape aboard the Bloody Vengeance.

—> Flip to next chapter
—> Return to prior chapter


The top floor of the tower is of similar design as the main floor being structured as a large open concept room with a mezzanine level above. The room sports four large pillars, each topped with a beacon top representing one of the four cardinal elements – water, earth, fire, and air – and each are guarded by the respective elemental. From the mezzanine level, Palomina smiles at the companions’ entry and motions haphazardly to her elementals to depose of the group.

The battle tests the companions on many different levels, with the elemental guards invoking the wrath of their respective natural forces while receiving tactical support from Palomina above. The companions are hit by a well placed fireball as they charge the centre of the room. They concentrate first on the earth elemental, surrounding the creature to inflict maximum melee carnage with ranged support from their new found friend Poots. The companions take a beating as they reduce the earth elemental to its natural state; as it disintegrates into dust, a final surge of energy is released. The beacon atop the earth hub explodes, resulting in several members of the group being knocked unconscious. Lando, who had retreated from the battle scene after being scorched by the fireball, expends a hope stone to return the group to full health.

Learning from their near death experience, the companions employ a modified strategy to battle the remaining elementals. They continue to concentrate on one elemental at a time, but before the death blow is dealt by Maydrane, the other companions duck behind several walls of elemental force that Palomina employed to control the field of battle. In this way, the air and water elementals are quickly destroyed although a second hope stone is expended to keep the group in prime fighting condition.

With three of her guards destroyed, Palomina transitions to more aggressive attack spells as opposed to providing tactical support. Further, getting close to the fire elemental to attack with melee weapons proves a dangerous game given the potential to be burned. The companions play a game of cat and mouse with the elemental, charging in for several hits before dodging back out of the line of fire. To cap the strategy, Anton completes a feat of daring do, jumping up to the mezzanine before diving directly down on the unsuspecting elemental. The resultant elemental blast catches several of the companions in addition to damaging the fourth relic.

Unable to heal, the companions quickly mobilize for an assault on Palomina. The death of her elementals has resulted in several levers appearing, which lower the stairs to the mezzanine. While the group charges up to engage her in melee, she readies herself by casting mirror image. The companions surround her and fastidiously knock off the magical images while she scorches the group with several fire-oriented spells in response. Magus Mike counters her spells with a flaming sphere of his own. A vicious hit from Anton drops her to her knees just as Maydrane completes a charge, rendering her unconscious. The remains of her body crackle in the intense heat of the fire.

As her life force dissipates, an onyx shard rises from the ashes. The child of Captain Sil and Ancias, who was magically hidden during the assault on the tower, steps forward to consume the physical manifestation of the Unspeakable One. The orb attempts to flee but is caught in the child’s gravitational pull. It adjoins to the boy’s chest seamlessly, adding to the intense iconography already displayed there. The child voices a soundless scream as he grows physically in both stature and maturity. As the companions watch, the child’s face changes into the inquisitive features of a teenage boy. The transformation is almost complete.

—> Flip to next chapter
—> Return to prior chapter

The Iron Tower

“Can I go?” The pristine silence is broken by the question. Maydrane raises her halberd to strike down Invigilator Cheltey, before being stayed by Lando. “Despite your association with Palomina, we are willing to let you go. Before you leave, would you be able to assist us with these relics?” Cheltey moves quickly to decommission the corrupted relics. “Thank you Cheltey. There will be much violence in the city over the next few days. I would recommend that you seek out Wall Lieutenant Briggs, he will provide you with safe passage from Everstand.” The Invigilator nods as he heads for the door.

The silence restored, the companions investigate the room. There are two plinths within the room, the corrupted nodes feeding power throughout the tower. The companions remove the hope stones from both. More broadly, the walls are adorned with guard schedules, information on prisoners, and crypt schematics. But the main item of interest, the journal of Palomina, sits open upon the desk.

Flipping through her recent entries reveals the results of ongoing experiments – she appears to be closing in on a discovery. Of note, the purple circlets store energy generated from the shards to “power” her guards; however, the circlets lose power over time. Hence, the guards must be rotated to maintain maximum efficiency. Further, several entries discuss the Pathfinder couple. Palomina believes she tricked the couple into inadvertently travelling to Hell, a death sentence for someone not expecting such a trip. The entry does not align well with information received from the changeling, nor does it mention their dwarf ally. Lando takes the journal for further review.

Unsure of how best to proceed, the companions ask Freight to summon Besmara. The sound of the ocean nears and the smell of brine permeates the room as the Pirate Goddess coalesces in the room. She is not happy at being called to Everstand, “I admit your progress impresses me; however, your lack of judgement belays any pleasure I take in your pursuits. The city of Everstand is sanctified to another, my being here brings unwanted attention. Recompense will be required for this inconvenience. I hope my boon proves worthy of its cost.”

The companions advise that they wish guidance regarding next steps. Besmara smiles guilefully and agrees to answer questions; in turn, the companions must play a game of chance – each question will result in a flip of a coin; heads means that fate has decreed the question necessary, tails means the question will be paid for in blood.

Freight agrees to terms of the exchange. Four questions are asked, two of which are paid with in blood.

  • Can Palomina be saved? She does not wish to be saved. Do not forget, it was she who sought the shard, and not the other way around.
  • How can Palomina be defeated? She has no discernible weakness, however, her strength is tied to the power of the shard. If she is unable to harness its power, she can be defeated in combat. Destroy her ability to interact with the shard – through the relics, nodes, and hubs – and her strength is nullified.
  • Can Gauntwood be saved? There is nothing left to save.
  • We believe the dragon that resides in the Fangwood will accompany the attacking orc horde. How can we save the citizens of Everstand? The Iron Tower originated from a card pulled from the Deck of Many Things. The ritual may be reversed with the appropriate knowledge, allowing those with in the tower to survive. If you are willing, I will share with you the process. However, you must agree to give me the card when all is said and done. The companions agree and the essence of the card, the ritual of retrieval, is shared.

Armed with this knowledge, the companions ascend to the main floor. The four guards attack as the group enters the throne room; however, with insufficient time to harness the power of the shard, they prove no match for the companions. When the last is disposed of, the group notes several glowing levers that illuminated upon the death of the guards. The levers correspond to the raising and lowering of stairs that lead to the mezzanine and beyond, and through trial and error the group is able to align appropriately.

With alarm bells ringing in the distance, and the evacuation of the city underway, the companions bar the door to the Iron Tower in hopes of buying sufficient time to defeat Palomina with further interruption. The group ascends the stairs to the upper levels of the tower.

—> Flip to next chapter
—> Return to prior chapter

The Underground Resistance

Understanding that the attack on the rangers will set events in motion in the morning, Lando and Briggs strategize next steps. Once the Iron Tower is notified, it will be more difficult to access. With that in mind, it would be beneficial to explore the tower tonight. Before that occurs, however, Lando and Maydrane would like to chat with Basril, the fiancé of Vin, to enlist her assistance. Briggs will dispose of the bodies of Darius and his rangers, and then meet with the blacksmith in hopes of aligning him with the cause. as well. Although the Wall Lieutenant is optimistic of the allies presently in the fold, he advises that the underground resistance will still be needed to help evacuate the city. Lando and Maydrane agree to continue their pursuit of leads.

The kennels are located in the Charity District, not far from the Iron Tower itself. Entering the stone building, the Head of the Kennels, Basril, can been seen sitting by a central fire pit attending to a large pot. The city’s renowned dogs, bred for their size and intelligence and trained for hundreds of years to hunt orcs, rise in their pens at the sight of Maydrane.

Several of the kennel’s keepers turn at the entrance, and Lando takes note of one in particular, the changeling from the Shadow Swift. Her cover blown, Lando saunters over to say hello. She provides an update on her journey:

  • she thanks Lando again for his assistance on the ship and apologizes for leaving so swiftly, she was compelled to fulfill her destiny, which has brought her to Everstand
  • meeting her mother, Palomina, proved a gift and a curse but provided her a release from her innate maternal yearning
  • feeling an obligation to better understand her mother, she leafed through her personal diary, which resulted in her being thrown into the dungeon
  • her mother’s meticulous notes relate how Palomina sought out the shard – she travelled from a neighbouring kingdom, Cheliax, home of the Hellknights, when she learned of its existence
  • her studies provide a history of the shards, remnant pieces of the shattered onyx tentacle, the physical manifestation of the Unspeakable One on this world – many generations ago, the tribes of mankind summoned the Unspeakable One and attempted to trap his essence within the onyx tentacle so they could take advantage of his power for their own design
  • the Unspeakable One is ancient, older than humankind – his objective is to seek out and destroy species with conscious thought in an effort to return things to the way they were before time was recorded
  • interestingly, Palomina’s records confirm that the tentacle was shattered in the future, the pieces scattered across both time and geography
  • after enduring weeks of torture, the changeling managed to escape her captivity and lived in the crypts for a period. She learned that the Pathfinder couple brought on to study the illness that afflicted Gauntwood’s mothers kept secret records that outlined what they had learned, including the location of all the shards. They hid the tome under the stacks within the archives before they vacated the city

Excited to hear news of the Pathfinder couple, Lando decides it an opportune time to spill the companions side of the story. Cutting to the chase, Lando presents Hercluf’s dagger as evidence of their dedication to the cause. The changeling is surprised, the Warden obviously sits in her good books. Interests aligned, the changeling advises that the underground resistance can be counted on to lead the evacuation of the residents from the city. While in the dungeon, the changeling learned of the four noble truths, the original ethos of Everstnad – when the four relics are combined, they create a beacon in the sky. The resistance will activate when the signal is lit. The companions must find a way to position the relics appropriately, and will likely have to take out Palomina to do so. The changeling wishes Lando good luck, she has much work to do to activate the necessary sleeper cells in the meantime. Before she leaves, she provides Lando with the key to the Charity District crypts.

Below ground, the companions are surrounded after the prisoners exit their cells at the behest of Samdolf. The group is allowed one last chance to lay down their weapons, which they quickly refuse. The escaped prisoners – which include a larger fellow in a Lastwall uniform, a gnome in robes similar to Brother Tef, and spell casting brothers of the arcane and divine variety – launch a disorganized attack. The offensive is met with a coordinated defense and the prisoners are quickly routed.

Samdolf appears unimpressed, “Well that was disappointing. Given you made quick work of my friends, why don’t I just let you leave peacefully?” Before the companions are able to chat with Samdolf further, dozens of prisoners from the general populace stream into the confined area. Anton appeals to the prisoners to embrace freedom and join with the group to fight for liberty. The speech unites the riled up prisoners including a deadly looking hunter and his tiger companion. The hunter, introduced as Poots, works with the group to put together a plan to guide the escapees out of the prison with minimal bloodshed. Unfortunately, the ruckus provided cover for Samdolf to vanish into the crowd, the wily wizard is nowhere to be seen.

With the guards turning a blind eye, the companions and resident prisoners escape the prison into the crypts. Directions are provided to the escapees to exit near the river in hopes of joining with evacuees in the not too distant future. Understanding that Lando and Maydrane will be making their way to the Iron Tower soon, the group ties up several loose ends. Specifically, the two hope stones from the prison that correspond with the Vigilance District are removed, one of which is reinstalled underneath the Temple of Imodae. Lastly, the key to the Charity District is obtained from Lando and Maydrane. Ready to join the assault, the group travels back to the nexus.

Before heading to the Iron Tower, Lando and Maydrane check in with Ken, who had been given instructions on where to find the Pathfinder couple’s journal. He has had time to leaf through the book and is excited to pass along some notes related to the missive:

  • the artefacts have been corrupted by the Iron Tower, the effects influencing the citizens of Everstand to help support Gauntwood’s totalitarian regime
  • the couple had recommended that the nodes, artefacts, and hubs in the Iron Tower be reversed to rectify the situation, or if not possible, destroyed
  • to preserve the knowledge gained from their time in Everstand, the couple allied with an ancient dwarf who helped them to escape through a portal that sent them into the future
  • Palomina in concert with the Hell Knights had tampered with the portal which sent the Pathfinder due to Hell; the couple was aware and able to plan for their travels
  • the book details the location of the shards, including the two remaining shards – one was acquired by the Hellknight Boneclaw Deverie, lord of Citadel Vraid, from Baba Yaga; the other is in the possession of Mephistopheles in the sixth layer of hell known as Caina

Lando and Maydrane thank Ken for the information, and with the fourth relic in tow, travel to the Iron Tower. Entrance to the structure is gained through magical means, and the two move stealthily to a corner to observe activity. The primary hall, which serves as the formal throne room, is dark and devoid of people. Three arefacts can be seen tucked into individual alcoves, the fourth of which remains empty.

From a distance, Invigilator Cheltey, in Hellknight armor, rises from an unseen egress in the floor to levitate to a mezzanine level that overlooks the hall. He strides over to strike a circular gong, causing several stairways to descend, allowing access to the upper levels of the tower. Four gaunt-faced figures wearing purple flame circlets around their head stand to attention in the respective alcoves and walk in unison to the staircase to ascend to an upper floor. A separate set of similar looking guards walk robotically down the staircase before splitting off to guard individual alcoves. Satisfied with the rotation, the staircases are pulled up again and Cheltey descends by magical means to the basement of the tower.

Under the guise of invisibility, Maydrane had followed the exiting guards up the stairs to the mezzanine level. A wave from Lando signals Maydrane into action as she strikes the gong. With the guards ascending the stairs for rotation, Lando fits the fourth relic into the appropriate alcove. Maydrane circles the room, activating the other relics in turn as Lando completes the installation. The fourth relic ready, Lando initiates it – a translucent beam of power fires from each relic, forming a small globe of sizzling energy in the center of the room. Attaining sufficient size, a larger beam shoots from the epicentre of the ball through a small hole in the ceiling to the sky above – the signal to the Underground Resistance to commence efforts to evacuate the citizens of Everstand. The signal activated, Maydrane helps Lando uninstall the fourth relic for future use. As the new guards come into view on the stairs above, Lando provides a magical exit from the room via dimension door before they are spotted.

While this occurs, the companions below ground bust through the door to the Charity district, thereby entering the basement of the Iron Tower. The group finds themselves in a giant room, a mirror image of the throne room above complete with copies of the four relics. However, a necromantic aura permeates the area, providing a corrupting touch that has altered the relics. Of similar size and configuration, an oozing organic substance appears to drip from the relics when glanced at, although the companions are unable to hold their gaze on the objects as they give off a sickly feeling.

A desk is centered in the middle of the room where sits a surprised Palomina, Cheltey at her side. Startled from her writing, she stands quickly, knocking over her chair. Four orbs emanate from her hands, the purple globes moving toward the corrupted relics. The companions organize an offensive as Lando and Maydrane suddenly appear behind the desk.

The Mistress of Blades senses an opportunity and immediately charges toward Palomina, catching her unawares. Maydrane spears her unsuspecting foe through with her halberd, scoring a ferocious hit. The body of Palomina slumps, falling through the weapon to congeal on the floor before transforming into necromantic energy that sweeps upward through the ceiling. No evidence of her body remains on the coruscated floor. The companions, as well as Invigilator Cheltey, look at Maydrane in awe.

—> Flip to next chapter
—> Return to prior chapter

Breaking into Prison
Samdolf makes a cameo

The companions take some time to regroup after the loss of a dear friend, the crypts of the Hope District as good a place as any to commemorate the life of Romica. Composure restored for the time being, the group acquires the hope stone corresponding with the Temple of Gorum as they travel through the district.

In discussion with Quinn, the companions learn more about the jail beneath the Vigil District. New prisoners are sent to this dungeon for processing before they are transitioned to other areas. Quinn has seen many sent to the laboratories beneath the Charity District, although he has not seen any return. When pressed, he advises that he has no way to enter the laboratories, nor the willingness to should he have the means. He also notes several points of interest in the jail including a sealed door made of a bluish stone, a material that reminds the companions of Ironjack. Intrigued, they decide their next course of action should be to examine this door further.

Returning to the nexus, the companions push past the recently opened iron door into the Vigil District. A long hallway greets the group, the noted door halfway up the corridor. Upon investigation, the bluish stone appears to be the same as that favoured by Ironjack. Several runes adorn the portal, similar to those seen on other items accredited to the famous dwarf. The companions try their Ironjack related keys, the last one of which opens the door on hidden hinges.

The inside of the room has an industrial feel complete with a crude iron forge. The implement phases continually between planes, resulting in a semi-transparent look. Investigating further, the group confirms that it is of a similar design as the other hell-oriented relic found, and therefore likely related. Opposite the door, the wall is scorched with the exception of three forms – two of the three humanoid shapes shorter in nature – where no soot is present. The room has the smell of brimstone.

Continuing down the hallway, the sounds of a working prison – screaming inmates, rattling chains, water dripping – become clearer. The companions decide it best to use the chime of silence to mask their entry. This allows them to bypass several sets of guards on patrol. Ahead, a gate can be seen in the distance. Quinn notes that it leads into the prison commons, where many guards reside. He also points to an older looking door in the wall and notes that he was unable to open the lock. The guards appear not to pay attention to whatever lays beyond.

Their curiosity piqued, the companions use their chime of opening to unlock the door. The rickety portal opens to a converted storeroom that appears to be a headquarters of sorts. There are various food stores, equipment for a guard including a uniform, a bed, a map of the underground on the wall, and various notes strewn about. The food has gone moldy, the person that used this room has not likely used it for some time. The companions would guess the former resident was female. A detailed search reveals an old set of manacles complete with a key, as well as a hidden compartment under the floor tiles. The small partition holds a formidable short bow as well as a dog collar embossed with the name “Fluffy”. Could the changeling from the Shadow Swift have travelled to Everstand?

Above ground, an invisible Maydrane patiently waits for the rangers to fan out before charging the unsuspecting soldiers. Her vicious attack spears the lieutenant of the brigade, dropping him to his knees. The superior numbers prove a minor inconvenience for the Mistress of Blades, as the rangers are disposed of in short order. The door to the temple is barred to deter further unwanted entrants. Lando performs a detailed search of the Head Priestess Ilidia’s quarters that reveals nothing of note.

Exiting the temple, Lando and Maydrane are reunited with Briggs, who is dragging the crumpled form of Darius Pritchard behind him. He motions to the temple, Lando nods. Briggs hands over two guard uniforms, “Things are going to escalate from here, you guys will need to get a move on, I’ll take care of this mess.” Lando and Maydrane strategize next steps.

The companions continue into the prison. The group is able to gain entry to the guard room through stealth, scoping out the premises. Several guards loyal to Hercluf are on-duty. The companions make contact with the guards and bring them up-to-speed on events. The guards provide a break down of the jail as well as the prisoners presently being processed – there is a central area as well as isolated holding cells for those that are deemed high risk. Several persons of note, including an elven hunter and a wizard, are currently held there. Regarding the base of operations, the guards advise that the room was used by the leader of their cell, whom Hercluf was in touch with. She has not been seen in several months.

The companions don guard uniforms and bypass the prison commons to gain entry to the holding cells. As soon as they enter, they are addressed by the wizard, who wishes to make a deal. He introduces himself as Samdolf, a relic hunter – he has no interest in staying in Everstand and attempts to enlist the companions help to free him. The group attempts to gain knowledge from the wizard about what is going on outside the walls of the city, but Samdolf quickly bores of the conversation. With a snap of his fingers, the doors of the cells open and the other prisoners rush out.

—> Flip to next chapter
—> Return to prior chapter


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