The Freeport Chronicles

A New Hope...Stone
A story of betrayal and redemption

The companions continue their exploration of the catacombs. A corridor leads from the opposite side of the room into a larger area. Bright green and blue fungi illuminates the space, which appears to have once housed various sarcophagi. The strange light adds to the reverent spirit of the room. From its expanse, several passage-way lead in all directions. However, the companions interest is drawn to a large door that adorns the west wall.

Using his gloves of magical insight, Anton places his fingertips on the door, providing of view of the opposite side. Nothing happens, which the halfling attributes to interference from the fungus that lines the door. Inspecting the frame, the group is unable to discern how to open the portal, no hinges or other mechanisms are visible. Stumped, they decide to remove the algae on the doorway’s surface, uncovering Varisian script underneath. The letters of the alphabet are outlined on the door in both upper and lower case. Touching one of the letters results in the character alighting for a short period of time. The fungus removed, Anton again attempts to see beyond the doorway by magical means. This time he is successful; the portal leads to a simple square room, with each wall containing a different type of door. He notes a mechanical door with many gears, the mechanisms hiding his ability to see a keyhole. There is also a solid iron door with no hinges. And lastly, the third wall appears to be cloaked in an opaque energy.

Unable to open the door before them, the companions decide to explore the passageway leading south. The unnaturally long corridor triggers the group’s spidey senses, and the companions move forward slowly in anticipation of potential traps. The caution proves well-founded as several pressure plates are located. As the companions attempt to understand the mechanism, a bullette bursts from the wall ahead. The rampaging land shark sprints directly for the group. Using the trap to their advantage, the companions trigger the mechanism as the land shark nears, perfectly timing its progress with several saw blades that extend from the floor. The weakened creature is quickly overcome.

The group carefully traverses the traps to continue down the hallway. The bullette’s passage has, unfortunately, resulted in a cave-in; however, the group is able to travel up the make-shift tunnel created by the land shark’s burrowing. The passageway angles up, leading toward the surface. A gentle light pierces the darkness of the tunnel, indicating just how close the tunnel gets to the city. Anton uses his gloves to get a peak topside; it is early morning, and with Lando’s help, the companions believe they are located somewhere underneath the discipline district.

Not wishing to cause a disturbance, the group backtracks to the crypt. They investigate several family plots in the area, which from the age of the tombs, likely contain some of the early inhabitants of the city. Nearby, a secret door is located that opens back to the original chamber used to enter the catacombs. The companions consider heading back out to the river to rendezvous with their orc friends; however, their progress is deterred by the guardian ghouls, which have grown in number to encompass several orcish kin. The group decides to head back to the door with Varisian script for further study.


The gnome saunters over to the table and sits opposite Gradiant Hempf, inquiring into his services. Gradiant is forthcoming – he can offer safe passage, forge citizen passes, provide information regarding secret entrances into the city, and fence stolen goods. His relationship to Kurt Bangalore is similar to many in his network, he provides services as recompense for business forwarded his way. Lando advises that Kurt recommended that he chat with Gradiant regarding the Underground Resistance. Gradiant nods, for a modest sum, he is willing to make the introduction. An agreement is struck.

Lando and Maydrane follow Hempf from the city, eventually following a worn forest trail. Conversation is meager, but Gradiant mentions that they are travelling toward a clearing in the forest where he will signal the Resistance. Lando and Maydrane are to remain silent until contact is made. Suddenly, the three are surrounded by bandits. Hempf makes a show of attempting to stop the bandits before they attack, but his theatrics are unsuccessful as the gnome sees through the charade for what it is – Lando and Maydrane have been betrayed. Lando takes a viscous hit to the head, falling senseless to the ground as Maydrane stands over him defensively.

When Lando regains consciousness, dead bandits form a ring around Maydrane. Gradiant is also down, blood pooling around his body. Believing that deep down inside, the Gradiant has it in him to be a good person that helped many refugees to safety, Lando uses several potions of healing to stabilize him. Maydrane restrains him to ensure he is unable to escape into the undergrowth. The bandits are searched and the two head back to the city with Gradiant in tow.

Unsure of what to do, Lando decides it best to return to The Cupped Hands to speak with Vin and Lodmar. Entering the tavern, the gnome is happy to see Ken, who has recently returned from leading the refugees to the Bloody Vengeance. Lando comes clean with Vin and Lodmar; the city is likely to fall within days, and he was attempting to work with Gradiant Hempf to lead an evacuation of townsfolk. However, they were betrayed by Gradiant, who tried to kill Lando and Maydrane, and they are now unsure of what to do. Although Vin and Lodmar find it difficult to accept the veracity of the story, they agree to hold Gradiant for a day, providing the necessary time to gather evidence. Lando advises that his companions are presently in the catacombs; however, they are unable to continue their exploration given they have are unable to find the password necessary to proceed. Lodman, the former High Priest of Imodae, and therefore someone that has spent time in the crypts, advises that the codeword is simply the district name, in this case “Discipline”. The information is passed along and Lando thanks the two effusively for the assistance. Lando, Ken and Maydrane head back into Everstand to continue their mission.


The companions, with the assistance of Lando’s knowledge of the Varisian alphabet, key in the codex on the door. The portal slides soundlessly on hidden joins, revealing the room beyond with its three additional doors. Much investigation reveals the following:

  • Clockwork door – the entire surface consists of spools and gears, so it takes some time to even locate the keyhole; it appears that some of the teeth for several gears are missing. A sign above the door references the Charity District.
  • Iron door – the block appears solid in substance. Surprisingly, it is slightly ajar; however, no matter what the companions attempt, the portal will not budge an inch. A parchment can be seen on the opposite side. Magus Mike uses mage hand to push the note through, which reads “This section of crypt is being used for…..can be accessed via North-Western Gatehouse.” This corresponds with the sign above which notes Vigilance District.
  • Opaque energy door – a strong magical aura emanates from the portal. Although it appears translucent, the companions are unable to see through the surface, nor is it reflective in nature. A sign above the frame reads Hope District.

Returning to the Better Business Bureau, Kurt Bangalore appears momentarily surprised to see Lando and Maydrane. The gnome advises that they met with Gradiant and agreed to a course of action. However, they need to deliver payment to Hempf’s personal residence and are unsure of where it is located. Although coy, Kurt eventually details that Gradiant lives next to the chaplain’s quarters on the grounds of the Temple of Our Lord in Iron. Understanding that Kurt was likely involved in Hempf’s attempt on their life, he asks that Maydrane stay at the Bureau to keep Kurt company, while Ken accesses the archives. Maydrane takes the opportunity to lay her assortment of weapons on the counter for inspection and polishing while she keeps a watchful eye on Kurt.

Lando makes an uneventful trip to the house of Gradiant. The key-ring which was found on Hempf while he was unconscious provides entry to his front door. The interior is primarily nondescript and particularly squalid in nature. Two items of note are found – forgery equipment and a large safe. With no need for the forgery equipment at present, Lando focuses on the safe. The key-ring again provides entry, allowing Lando to find over 60k in gold coins as well as a hope stone. The excited gnome scoops all into his handy haversack for later consumption.

Back at the Bureau, Lando learns from Ken, who is studiously making quick work of the archives, that the fourth relic was reported to have stopped working some time ago. The artefact was dismantled and auctioned off to the highest bidder, the two pieces being purchased by the Temple of Gorum and the Temple of Imodae. There is no mention of Palomina, which is surprising to a scholar of history such as Ken; it is as if any mention of her name has been removed from the records. Lastly, Ken provides a detailed map of the city, broken down by district, which may be of use.

Kurt is becoming stir crazy under Maydrane’s watch, and it is clear that something must be done. Lando decides it best to dimension door to the catacombs to entrust his care with the companions. Satisfied with the outcome, the gnome quickly returns topside to continue the investigation.

The puzzle pieces beginning to fall into place, one lead sticks out like a sore thumb. Leaving Ken to continue his studies, Lando and Maydrane head out to the North-Western Keep to chat with Hercluf. The gnome’s personal intuition justified by Sylix’s journal, Lando believes that the Warden is someone who can be trusted. So he spills the story, that the city is likely to fall, that Gauntwood, likely under the influence of Palomina, can not be trusted, and that something must be done. As Warden of the Keep, the so called last bastion of free will and front line against the orcs, Hercluf admits his suspicions. However, he will require proof before taking action. Lando advises that his companions have proof, both in the journal of the former Wall Lieutenant Sylix, as well as the rescue of Ranger Perry Ledue; however, they are presently stuck in the catacombs behind a solid iron door. Hercluf is well aware of the door, as Warden he administers the prison beneath the Keep – the door has been hammered shut and is reinforced by pitons. It will take need to be opened from the inside. Lando relays the information to his companions, as they discuss their next course of action.

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All Roads Lead to Hempf

The rattling bones provide sufficient lead time for the companions to structure themselves in a defensive arrangement. Before the undead ghouls can attack, Freight channels energy, causing both to fall to the ground inert. In the distance, obscured by mist, two plinths stand about waste high, a light glinting from the top of each.

Anton, ever curious, approaches the closest statue. The mists part to reveal some sort of ceremonial artefact – ancient bones, respectfully placed, have cemented themselves to the structure to create a burial shrine. However, more recently, newer flesh has been heaped around the plinth, likely as part of a ritual. The light atop the structure originates from a gemstone that is held in place by a beveled setting. The gemstone focuses the light upward through a telescopic device in the ceiling. A small sign in a foreign script hangs from the ceiling.

Unsure of what the device does, the companions decide some investigation is in order. Freight uses magical means to divine that the sign denotes “Barracks” in an ancient Varisian dialect. The other plinth, similar in appearance to the first, has a label that reads “Library”. Curiosity getting the better of the halfling, Anton picks up a large bone and waves it through the light, breaking the stream destined for the barracks for a brief moment. The companions feel an instant wave of laziness that lifts as suddenly as it descends. A similar experiment at the other plinth, which corresponds to the library, results in a sudden but temporary loss of focus.

Water cascading into the chamber from several sources, the companions decide it best to keep moving. Before they can do so, however, ghouls rise again from the water to attack. The orc contingent break off from the group and engage the undead. Freight notes that the bones of the ghouls appear to be altered in a ritual binding, meaning they are likely to continue to harangue the orcs for some time.


Back at the Iron Tower, Lando is summoned again to the dinner hall where he is asked to provide a report to Gauntwood and an attending aristocratic retinue. The gnome provides a glowing review, remarking that is due to the city’s strong leadership that Everstand not only survive but thrives in the face of the Belkzen threat. Gauntwood is pleased with the report and provides Lando with free reign of the city before departing to attend other matters.

Freedom to explore the city granted, Lando summons his companion Ken, the elven scholar, before venturing back to the Better Business Bureau in the Workshop District. Their investigation of the Bureau, however, is hampered by Kurt Bangalore, who requests a favor. It seems that his daughter is intent on dating a chap from Squiretown, which reflects badly on Kurt. He asks that Lando to attempt to rectify the situation, and in return, Kurt will allow access to the back rooms of the archives. Further, Kurt provides Lando with a contact for the Underground Alliance.

Both roads lead to The Cupped Hands, the same tavern the companions spent the night prior. With a few minutes to spare, Lando and Ken explore the publicly accessed portion of the Bureau. The foreign script glimpsed in his prior visit turns out to be an ancient Varisian dialect, with the letters identified on the stacks corresponding linguistically with their common counterpart. Lando notes the conversion for future reference. As they are about to leave, Lando spots a book of interest that he receives permission to take with him. With Ken leading the way, the gnome is able to leaf through the book, which coincidentally concerns the fourth relic, the only one presently missing. Lando learns that the relic has the ability to focus healing powers across great distance without impediment. To do so, however, special artefacts known as hope stones must be consumed.


The hallway ends in an intersection, with the group choosing to explore the passage to the left first. The corridor leads to a medium sized chamber, the interior of which houses mostly empty manacles and nasty torture devices. A ghostly figure appears in the centre of the room to regale the companions with a tragic story. The apparition’s beloved wife was killed by orcs on patrol, the loss of which he was unable to bear. His suicide, however, did not relieve him of his burden, as the aristocrats of Everstand failed to intern her ashes. He has been banished to these hallways ever since, until such time as her ashes are honoured with an appropriate burial. Sympathizing with the still mourning ghost, the companions agree to look for her ashes and the haunt, appeased for the time being, disappears.

A noise originating from the corner of the room draws the group’s attention. An emaciated ranger, still manacled, rises to his feet. The half-deluded man, introduced as Ranger Perry Ledue, demands his freedom. The companions are disgusted at the scenario and happily provide him his freedom, along with rations and water. He is grateful for the assistance and relates to the group that he was a ranger with Gauntwood’s own guard, an elite force within the city. With the city taking a turn for the worse, he attempted to broker his way out of the city. Through contact with Kurt Bangalore, he was directed to contact Gradiant Hempf, who he describes as a dangerous man, to obtain his freedom. However, he was a few hundred gold coins short on payment and was double crossed, ultimately ending up imprisoned in this dungeon. He has been experimented on by Palomina, wife of Gauntwood, although he is unsure of what she was trying to do, as the exploitation was primarily magical in nature. He does recall that her crown, a circlet that glowed with a deep purple emanation, pulsed as she experimented on him. He was left for dead many months ago and has been sustained by the ghost for reasons unclear to him. This information is relayed to Lando magically.

No further leads, the companions double back to explore the remaining passage, which ends in an octagonal room of shoddy craftsmanship. The walls have begun to crumble, allowing vermin to populate the room. Bodies are piled haphazardly in the center of the room, the flesh apparently serving as a feeding ground for swarms of beetles that take form and attack the group. Quick to react, Magus Mike sends a fireball into the room while ducking out of the blast radius. The room erupts in a shower of light before all is silent again.

The deadly swarm vanquished, the companions are free to explore the room. Freight investigates the pile of bodies, which appear to be split into three different stages of decomposition. The first set is fairly recent, as the clothing is still mostly intact; the second set is in the beginning stages of decomposition, with bodies that showcase the type of wounds that one would identify with torture; the third set is tough to tell, as the bodies appear as empty husks, as if the bodies essence has been drained, similar to what was viewed at the plinths.

While this occurs, Magus Mike speaks with Perry Ledue in case there is any further information that can be gleaned. While they speak, Perry recognizes one of the bodies as Wall Lieutenant Sylix, one of the most senior members of the City’s Guard. Within his cloak, the companions locate a journal in a secret compartment. The journal is written in Varisian, which Freight is still able to understand. A cursory read reveals increasing paranoia, as Sylix felt that he was being undermined by people more senior in the chain of command. In fact, he was concerned he would deposed any minute. Interestingly, the only person he felt he could trust was a man named Hercluf.

This episode reignites Perry’s fear, and the ranger attempts to bolt. The companions, understanding his value in this scenario, warn him of the dangers in the adjoining chamber and plea with him to stay. Not only will his help be welcomed in freeing the prisoners in this dungeon, but they would be grateful for his assistance in bringing Gradiant Hempf, and others like him, to justice. Perry takes a moment to consider his options.


Back at The Cupped Hands, Lando and Ken take a seat at the bar and motion over the owner, Vin Vasquez, to get a lay of the land. Lando comes clean with Vin – the gnome is here to speak with Bazril Bangalore at the behest of her father. Vin takes a moment to compose himself before advising that it is he who is dating Bazril. Kurt has it in for Vin, believing him beneath his daughter’s station, and will not let them marry. In fact Kurt has personally stood in the way of Vin being able to get a permit to move his business within the walls. Perhaps it has to do with Vin employing Lodmar, the deposed Priest of Imodae. Kurt was formerly a labour organizer that was bought off by Gauntwood. He has continually propped himself up by pushing others down. Lando thanks Vin for the information and sympathizes with him regarding his situation. The gnome will attempt to assuage things when next he speaks with Kurt.

Regarding the other person he is to meet tonight, Lando asks Vin if he is aware of any contacts in the Underground that frequent his establishment. Vin recommends that Lando speak with Father Lodmar, who is more attuned to that scene. Lando is happy to oblige and waves Lodmar over. The barkeep does indeed have contacts in the Underground, but will require a favour in return. The father wishes to assist a group of displaced citizens in escaping Everstand. Lando advises that he has the means, with a crewed ship moored at the trade docks. In recompense for transporting 50 passengers down river, Lodmar will provide a contact to the Underground Resistance as well as a hope stone. Lando eagerly agrees, and advises that he would like to assist others in escaping the city as well. Lodmar thanks the gnome effusively as he passes over a milky white stone that radiates a pale light. When asked about the stones, the father advises he is unsure of how many there are. There used to be more, they were granted to devoted disciples of the various gods in Everstand. As the number of gods that were worshiped dwindled, so too did the occurrence of hope stones. Further, the father has not seen the relic that the stones correspond to in years, and has heard rumours that it has been dismantled. Each of the four artefacts is linked to a certain district, the healing portal corresponding with the Hope District. Lastly, the Father advises that his contact is Gradiant Hempf, and he points to a table in the back of the tavern. He has dealt with Hempf on various occasions in getting nobles out of the city. As long as he is paid, he is true to his word.

Lando thanks Father Lodmar for the information and instructs Ken to work with him to arrange passage for the fleeing citizens on the Bloody Vengeance. Attempting to formulate a plan in his head, the gnome strides toward the back of the pub to speak with Gradiant Hempf.

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Into Everstand
Never split the party

The companions wake to a new day and quickly formulate their plan of attack. The party will split into two groups – Lando, Maydrane, elven scholar Ken, and the captains of the Bloody Vengeance and Kraken’s Spite will embark under the guise of emissaries, seeking entrance to Everstand on a diplomatic mission. The remainder of the group, including Wes Bestern, will attempt to find an alternate way into the city. The two groups will stay in touch via a magic communication device.

By the time the group visits the city gate, it is already busy with citizens milling about the entrance and several lines of people queued to gain entry. Anton attempts to slip in with the companions by using his magical mask to disguise his features; however the ruse proves unsuccessful. The halfling begins a dissident chant before blending into the surroundings and leaving the scene. With tensions rising, Lando speaks with the gatekeeper to advise that their group is on a diplomatic mission – they have the lost ark of Everstand in their possession and would like to deliver it safely to Gauntwood. The guards surround the ark and escort the group into the city.

The remainder of the companions learn from a local information peddler, Gradiant Hempf, that there is a secret way into the city. For a handsome sum, the coordinates of a cave that lead into the dungeon are provided. The peddler advises, however, that the way is fraught with danger. The group heeds his warnings as they hastily make their way toward the cave system.

The diplomatic entourage is led into the city central to an Iron Tower. The unique architecture of the building is notably different from those around it, the iodized stone structure appears natural in formation – the stone glistens like an ingot before it is fired. Inside, the interior walls are inlaid with a blue filigree that frames the windows and doorways.

The group is invited inside to a large room that features a massive table laden with food and drinks. Gauntwood himself, a tall and lithe paladin with a well trimmed beard, greets the group and offers them a seat. Glasses full of a hearty brew are provided. “Welcome humble adventurers. It is a joyous occasion indeed that brings us together this day. The return of the ark, my, this is momentous!” He raises his glass in toast, and takes a long drink. Lando, a light weight in the drinking department, nurses his drink while Maydrane matches their host glass for glass.

Looking around the room, it is easy to pick out a symmetrical pattern with four alcoves. Two alcoves contain relics of the city – from conversations with J-Todd, the companions have prior knowledge of both, a porridge pot that can create enough gruel to feed an army under siege and a stylized eye that allows the perimeter guards true seeing – while the third has a stand appropriate in size to seat the ark. The fourth, however, is conspicuously empty. With a wave of his hand, attendants in ceremonial armor enter the room with the ark and place it in its respective alcove.

A sudden hush permeates the room as a woman enters the chamber. She walks with purpose to the ark, where she performs an elaborate dance around its perimeter. Radiant tendrils of magical power emanate forth from the ark, providing a lavender outline around the ancient artefact. Gauntwood speaks, “My wife Palomina has completed the ritual, the power of the ark will soon suffuse the keep again with its protective aura. You’ve brought glory back to Everstand, with three relics united again, we cannot be defeated. We are indebted to your kindness, you and your descendants will be richly rewarded. But for now, drink up and be merry!” Lando spills his goblet to avoid having to drink the contents, while feigning ignorance. While doing so, he uses the diversion to get an understanding of the ritual that just occurred – a necromantic taint is sensed, an interesting revelation given that the aura that emanates from the ark is divine in origin. That said, the power of the ark now blankets Everstand in a golden glow, providing its protective powers to the city’s inhabitants.

By this time, the other companions, having circumnavigated a massive armored bear, have made the uneventful trip to the top of a cliff overlooking the entrance to the secret cave. There is no easy way down the sheer escarpment, so the magus utilizes his magical abilities to fly out from the cliff for a better viewpoint. He is able to pick out a natural switch back that is hard to see, leading to the beach below. At the bottom of the cliff, he also spots a camp with many figures. As he watches, several more, wearing specialized equipment, make their way from the river to join their companions, before making their way toward the entrance to the cave. They cover the tracks as the move.

Sensing potential allies, Magus Mike flies ahead of his companions to land near the humanoid figures, who turn at his approach. Drawing their weapons, the troop of orcs do not take kindly to the intrusion. Introductions are hastily made – the orcs represent an elite strike force hailing from the Belkzen Hold sent to rescue and extract imprisoned orcs – and the magus is able to convince them that their interests are aligned as the companions are here on a divine mission to liberate the city of Everstand from its oppressive regime. Given the companions ties to the Bloody Vengeance, and by extension the Blood Salt, they agree to join forces for their assault on the dungeon.

The emboldened group scouts out the entrance to the cave, which is partly underwater. Adventure senses tingling, the magus halts the orcs entry into the water and uses a shocking grasp to shoot an electrical volt through the entrance-way. The dead corpses of many small eels float to the surface. The magus steps aside and signals that it is safe for the orcs to enter.

Following the orcs inside, the entrance leads into a large cavern that housed a mining operation at some point in the not so distant past. Most of interior is well maintained; however, one side appears to have experienced a cave-in. A steady flow of water trickles down several walls, and the floor of the cavern is immersed in water. The group decides to scout the unfinished area of the cavern, cognizant that it may still be unstable from the recent cave-in. The air becomes thicker with a pungent, rotting smell the farther in they travel. The rattle of bones halts their progress as ghostly creatures shamble out from the darkness.

Back in the Iron Tower, located in the Charity District, the festivities are beginning to wind down. Gauntwood suggests that the companions be shown to their quarters so they can wash up for the evening. Further, Lando is introduced to High Interrogator Chetley and Wall Lieutenant Briggs, who offer to provide a personal tour of the city. Lando accepts their kind invitation as he hopes to get a better understanding of the cities quarters. The set tour is organized to showcase the very best that Everstand has to offer, and includes:

  • Bureau of Better Business (Discipline District) – Lando is introduced to Head Economist Kurt, Chief of the Better Business Bureau. He speaks of the cities prosperity, and how the bureau has been integral in enhancing the local economy through free trade and open borders. It becomes clear that these concepts are a farce, given a system of tariffs and subsidies that serve to control the availability of many goods to the public. Lando notes a foreign script that he would like an opportunity to investigate later.
  • Temple of Gorum (Hope District)- our lord in iron has a strong presence in Everstand, which has grown materially in recent months. Worship is fervent, with Head Priest Ilidia Vassen preaching to a packed house every Sunday with a message infused with a lust for war. Is it no wonder that her motto – a good defence is simply a good offence – speaks to the common citizen living in a border town constantly on the verge of war? Her adherents trust in her with their lives, and her advocacy of Gauntwood and his goal of taking the fight to the orcs is absolute. Lando notes that the Temple’s interior is inlaid with orange filigree.
  • Everstand Barracks (Discipline District) – unfortunately, this stop is short-lived as Captain Darius Pritchard is on his way out with a band of rangers to apprehend a potential spy. That said, Lando gets a glimpse of the interior of the structure which features a blue filigree inlay.
  • Northern Keep (Vigilance District)- the last stop on the tour is located on the far side of the river. The keep has a different look and feel than the other buildings, beyond the yellow filigree that is featured throughout the structure. The two custodians of the keep – Balmorf, who was appointed to his post, and Hercluf, who is a staff-member – are arguing how best to manage schedules as Balmorf is attempting to change how things are done by acting Lieutenant Slice. Hercluf is notably upset, but provides a brief overview of the keep, which represents the first line of defence against the orc horde. As an autonomous keep, they keep the old traditions alive, meaning vigilance in their purpose in protecting Everstand from the orcs. Lando thanks them for their time.

While they return to the tower, Lando makes small talk with Chetley, who mentions that gnomes frequent Everstand from time to time. In fact, there was a couple here not to long ago. When Lando attempts to inquire further about whether they were of the Pathfinder Society, Briggs interrupts the conversation to continue his commentary on the city’s geography. They reach the tower soon thereafter where Lando retires to their quarters to freshen up.

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The River Path
There are two paths you can go by

The companions are provided a small vessel and safe passage across the lake, their ship representing a small island of calmness cutting through an otherwise stormy environment. Nearing the opposite shore, where the mouth of the River Path empties into Lake Encarthen, the group is excited to see the Shadow Swift, fully repaired and upgraded.

In chatting with the crew, they have had success in recruiting new members and stand ready to sail at full complement. Further, the companions learn that both the Bloody Vengeance and Kraken’s Spite survived the negative energy storm – the Vengeance has rowed upriver in case the companions had traveled ahead, and the barbarian ship is patrolling the lake in search of clues of their whereabouts. The Vengeance may also have an ulterior motive, that being to investigate rumours of imprisoned orcs being tortured in the dungeons beneath Everstand.

The officers of the Shadow Swift also bring the group up-to-speed on the present political situation. The region is teetering on the brink of war, with elven armies approaching from the east and west. The confluence of the River Path is populated by a large band of barbarians that expect to battle the elves within the week. J-Todd also reports on his research relating to the ark. He advises it is one of three relics that has allowed Everstand to hold back the Belkzen horde. The ark exudes an aura that empowers the Everstand army, thereby equalizing the playing field with the orcs.

With the Shadow Swift unable to make the trek upriver, the companions disembark and head into the barbarian camp to discuss transportation alternatives. There is a lot of talk in camp about the impending war with the elves. The barbarians are being pushed hard to get resources out of the region – the River Path represents a silk road of sorts, allowing the Shoanti tribes to move relics from the Belkzen area down to Lake Encarthen for trade.

The companions learn that there are two main roads that lead upriver to Everstand – an ancient river road that follows the curves of the River Path, and a supply highway that represents a more direct route but travels through the fabled Fangwood Forest. Alternatively, the companions could hire a river craft, though it will cost a pretty penny given the political climate.

With little time to spare, the companions decide to traverse the supply highway. The route takes the companions out of the river basin and into more rugged territory. Whereas winter weather had dominated their travels through the Lake Encarthen region, the local environs are in more of a fall season. The trail makes for easy hiking and the group soon nears the fringe of the Fangwood Forest several hours later.

Exiting the southern portion of the woodlands, the companions see what looks to be the remnants of a refugee train. The group strikes up a conversation with the roaming band in hopes of garnering information about some of the rumours heard regarding the state of affairs in Everstand. The refugees are not forthcoming , but through skillful diplomacy, the companions learn that:

  • if you have the ear of Gauntwood, Everstand is a great city; if not, it is a tough place to live due to social injustice/prejudice
  • the city is slowly losing touch with its traditions and ideals
  • the city’s crypts used to be a respectful place where the dead could rest in peace; they have been gutted, however, to make room for dungeons
  • at first, orcs were the enemies, but now the crypts hold many from the local populace
  • the wife of Gauntwood is head interrogator, and rumoured to be some sort of sorcerer interested in performing experiments on her victims
  • diversity used to be accepted and many gods worshiped; over time, Gorum our lord of iron has ascended to power – known as a sentient set of armour, the god of war is worshiped through acts of valour on the battlefield

The companions thank the refugees for the information and wish them luck on their journey. Continuing on, the trail leads directly into the forest, the threshold marked by a post and lintel. Egg-shaped, spherical cairns illustrated with simple faces dot the landscape. Lando advises that the cairns represent offerings, tokens of good-will to the guardian of the Fangwood, an ancient dragon. Many heroes from prior ages have hunted the great wyrm with no success. As such, it is rumoured the creature relies on deception and illusion to hide itself. That said, it makes it’s presence known every 100 years or so, pillaging the countryside. The local orc tribes take advantage of the creature’s movements, often coordinating efforts with the dragon to ransack the cities in the region.

In ages past, the Fangwood was an impenetrable forest; however, the ambition of man has resulted in a new highway that has gained critical mass, given that it decreases travel time materially, and thereby creating safety in numbers. With that background, the companions leave an offering and plunge into the forest paying special attention to stick to the trail.

Giant trees and an eerie mist soon encircle the companions as they travel deeper into the forest. The preternatural silence is interrupted by the flight of an arrow, the shaft striking true into the back of Magus Mike. Lando quickly casts an invisibility sphere on the group, as they pick up their wounded companion and haul ass. Once a desirable distance is attained, the magus is attended to and the arrow examined. There is no denying it is of elven origin.

Continuing on, the dense forest gives way to thick copses, and finally intermittent stands of trees. With the city of Everstand visible in the distance atop a low rise of hills, the forest trail meets with the trader track following the meandering Path River. The trail opens into several clearings, one of which features an altercation between a single elf and a group of several Shoanti. The drab grey elf, who has the appearance of a scholarly fellow complete with an open backpack full of scrolls, is being pushed from one barbarian to the next.

Unable to accept the bullying, Romica charges into the barbarian’s midst and, holding eye contact with the largest of the Shoanti, unleashes a ferocious roar. The barbarian’s are surprised by the action and question the newcomer – on the eve of war, why would someone intervene in an altercation between an elf and barbarian tribe. The elf replies that he is on a diplomatic mission and that it is of extreme important that he make it to Everstand Keep, and that he has no ties to ongoing hostilities in the region. That proves sufficient for the companions as they move to engage the barbarians, allowing the elf time to escape. The Shoanti, intimidated by the martial prowess of Romica and disappointed that their prey has left, leave the clearing hastily.

The companions complete the remainder of the short journey to Everstand, which resides strategically on a hilltop at the confluence of two powerful rivers. With the setting sun creating a romantic halo behind the city, the group notes a certain drab looking elf boarding a familiar looking vessel – the Bloody Vengeance – moored at the town’s trade piers. Given the gates have likely closed for the evening, the companions decide it an opportune time to catch up with their friends aboard the Vengeance. Drinks are had, camaraderie renewed, and information shared. Further, the companions get an opportunity to chat with the intrepid scholar. The elf is upfront in terms of his mission – he is the last of a decimated band of Pathfinders destined for Everstand. He has received a prophecy that the great city will fall within three days. As an acolyte of the God of Knowledge, he has been tasked with saving as much of the city’s archives as he can. With that in mind, he is happy to share any knowledge that he may have in recompense for security. The companions are quick to accept the offer. The elven scholar advises that:

  • Everstand is split into four quadrants representing hope, discipline, vigilance, and charity
  • the city used to have checks and balances in place to remain in equilibrium, not just in terms of political structure, but also geography
  • the city was designed to represent the four ideals, both on top and beneath the city i.e. the city’s crypts represent a mirror to what resides on top
  • the work performed in the crypts, to retrofit it as a dungeon, has upset the balance
  • the balance out of order, civil strife has increased and resistance has formed, which in turn has been met with tyrannical rule and prejudice
  • hope and charity have been pressured as a result, vigilance and discipline have gained in power, exerting more control over the population
  • the balance is so far out of order that the city will fall in short order unless someone intervenes
  • the elf has received a prophetic vision, a divine mission to follow in the footsteps of a storied pathfinder couple that traveled to the region to pursue this ancient knowledge and save it for future generations
  • the couple has not been heard of for some time
  • the elf has a writ of clearance that allows for access to the archives – he just needs to get it to Gauntwood

The companions thank the elf for the information and advise that they will do what they can to assist him and get the writ to Gauntwood. Unsure of how to gain entry to the city, the group next meets with the captain’s of the Vengeance and Kraken’s Spite, both of whom are aboard the Vengeance. They advise they have made preparations to enter the city through cloak and dagger methods – one group plans to gain entry by disguise under cover of diplomacy. Another group will create a diversion to allow the first group time to make their way into the crypts and rescue their orc brethren. Each party will be able to communicate with the other via magical devices.

No better plan in store, and the gates of Everstand shut for the night, the companions decide to reconnoiter in Squiretown, built just outside of the city’s walls. The established village has several taverns, with one such providing a warm light that calls to the group. Entering the humble abode, named The Cupped Hands, the group makes small talk with the tavern’s owner, Vin Vasquez, who is happy to have new business. As a long time resident, he provides a local’s take on the history of Everstand. The ruler-ship has always been passed down from father to son over many generations. In times past, desperate times, this ruler-ship was provided additional rights, incremental powers, and slowly transitioned from a militarily-oriented democratic state into more of a dictatorship. This has never been an issue, given the fiduciary responsibility instilled in the ruling family; however, the most recent reagent, Gauntwood, has used this power to clamp down on diversity and “radical” elements. The populace has seemingly fallen under a spell, allowing for these abuses of power in the name of order. The result has been a noticeable loss of balance and stability, with those that do not conform to the new order threatened with imprisonment, or worse.

The political climate well understood, the companions decide to bed down for the night. No sooner is sleep achieved then a vision granted to Freight, one that is shared with the other companions. The dream centers on a large table with two figures – Besamara, and a sentient suit of armor – engaged in a game of chess. The two gods move their various pieces around the board, not caring about the outcome of the game, of the battle being waged. It soon becomes clear that the pieces correspond with real armies, and that the gods are attempting to foment war, but for different reasons: Gorum, Our Lord in Iron, is a god of war whom benefits from the worship of battle, but Besamara’s motives are not quite as clear, although piracy indirectly benefits from the chaos created by war.

At this, the visage of Besmara turns to the companions. “While I do not lust after it as does Gorum, understand that I deem it necessary. There are two elven armies that, if they are able to unite, will cut off the barbarian’s supply train and with it, the war. If the elves are unable to, however, the barbarians will live to fight on. This I command. Invading orcs are even now making their way to Everstand. You are to assist them in overtaking the walls of Everstand. It does not matter the means, even if every man, woman and child must die on an orc sword, that army must pass through these walls. And thereafter ensure that the elves are unable to unite under one banner. This war is to be bloody and long. Make it so.” Disgusted, but individually compelled, the companions spend the remainder of the night in a fitful state of slumber.

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The Jewel of Zindafar

A single glance and nod suffices. Lando prepares a spell as Maydrane drops from the ceiling. The gnome launches himself into the air, reaching out to touch the centaur in mid-flight and transport both via a dimensional portal to the opposite platform. The cultist wizard flees from the balcony and exits the vault.

With the other companions battling the giant naga-worm, Maydrane and Lando follow the retreating wizard. The ante-chamber beyond features several marble statues around the room, with alcoves to either side. Two of the statues portray the same man, a tall regal individual that points to his mirror image. The other statues depict female figures, both of whom direct their gaze towards a door leading from the room. One scowls accusingly while the other smiles knowingly. The marble representations appear similar to those featured in the murals viewed before entering the subterranean city.

The cultist wizard speaks with a robed acolyte near one alcove, while a similarly adorned figure stands threateningly on the other side of the room. Maydrane addresses the group, requesting that they lay down their weapons and leave in peace. The offer spurned, the centaur charges the wizard to engage in melee. While this occurs, Lando creates an illusory image of the other companions entering the room in hopes of tying up the other acolyte. The ploy works as the robed cultist unleashes a lightning bolt, destroying the magical decoys.

The two acolytes prove adept at sword fighting, and the ensuing melee costs both sides dearly. Although Maydrane bests the two, the cultist wizard is able to retreat from the battle. Opening the door to the inner sanctum, he pleads to his master to join the battle. The request is met with soft laughter and a lightning bolt blasts through the doorway, incinerating the wizard in the process. Silence descends.

Maydrane and Lando take a short breather and prepare for their assault. Lando magically enlarges Maydrane and cloaks her in invisibility before entering the shrine room. An intense heat meets their approach, as if the two were entering a furnace. The chamber features unadorned granite walls and a vaulted ceiling. A large block of granite sits on a square dais in the centre of the room, a grasping hand rising from the block. A female cultist, her robe thrown haphazardly on the floor, stares intently at a large jewel gripped in her hand. Molten gold flows from the jewel, dripping down her arm.

Although she cannot see Maydrane nor Lando, she senses their presence and turns to their approach. Her gaze never leaving the jewel, she creates a magical web that suffuses the room. Maydrane strides purposefully through the strands, landing a vicious hit on the cultist. Unfazed, she responds with a magical ice storm that bombards the room.

Gold continues to seep from the jewel, completely covering the body of the cultist leader. As the spell fades, a blast of energy emanates from the jewel. The air crackles and flames come to life around the room. The energy swells, engulfing the cultist leader in a swirling ball of fire. The flames build higher and higher, producing a heat that causes Maydrane and Lando to look away. Finally, the seething elemental force bursts through the ceiling, the temple unable to contain it any longer.

With the roof of the building removed, a growing sound draws the companion’s attention. Behind them, molten gold has risen beyond the banks of the canals, covering the city again in a new blanket of gold. Above them, the gilded undead dragon regards the scene. The massive fire elemental towering above them, Lando utilizes a pearl of power to magically enlarge Maydrane again. The centaur increases in size to match that of the fire elemental and they engage in hand to hand combat.

Given her training, Maydrane is able to quickly gain the upper hand and pin the elemental. She makes eye contact with the undead dragon as Lando teleports magically to the creature’s side. The wizened gnome advises the dragon that they are here to save the city, and redress past wrongs in the process. They watch as Maydrane reaches into the chest of the elemental to tear out the jewel. The magical entity implodes, the swirling fires dying down until only the dead carcass of the cultist leader remains. Maydrane tosses the empty husk into a nearby canal as she, and the other companions who have dispatched of the giant worm, join with Lando.

With the fire elemental destroyed, the undead dragon entertains the companions in conversation. A bit rusty after not having an opportunity to chat for many millennia, she relates that she was lured to the city by the Whispering Tyrant, captured, tortured, killed, returned to life, and finally enslaved to serve as an eternal guardian of the city. The jewel carried by Maydrane represents the essence of Zindafar, and as such, must remain in the city. Although they wish to keep it for further study, they understand the conundrum and agree to entrust it in the undead dragon’s care. In return, the dragon will assist them in leaving the island.

Unable to exit the city by the same route that they entered, the undead dragon takes them on its back and flies up through a vent in the ceiling of the cavern to the night air above. They soar across the island in style before returning to the peak of the mountain where Ganyelt resides. The ancient vampire is happy for their return and Anton is returned to their care. He is true to his word and agrees to answer one question in recognition of the fine work the companions completed on his behalf. Lando takes out the octagonal disc that the group found in Deep Scar Keep and asks Ganyelt what is it. The vampire druid turns the disc over several times before advising that it is essentially an immobilization trap. Although it exists across all planes, it can only be used in hell. It represents one item in a set of eight that was crafted by the great Ironjack himself.

The companions thank Ganyelt for the information and prepare for their journey off of the island.

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Heart of Gold

Before the companions can move to engage the fire elemental, a cloud of hideous spoors rains down from above. A flying demon, appearing to be kin to both vulture and human, circles ominously. Lando recognizes the creature as a vrock demon. Besides a wailing shriek that threatens to stun the group, the spoors of the demon are likely to sprout thick green vines that will need to be addressed at some point, although for the time being are not dangerous.

Skin tingling from the spoors, Maydrane charges the fire elemental to provide her companions some time to regroup. Sensing her vulnerability, the vrock descends for a vicious attack. Lando creates an illusion of a linnorm diving from above to rake at the vrock’s exposed flank. The feint allows Romica and Magus the opportunity to engage the flying creature opportunistically, while Freight calls upon Besmara to summon an ally. With the additional support, the fire elemental and vrock are bested, although both managed to inflict significant damage to the group.

After taking a few minutes to recover from the battle, the companions continue their journey. Following a large avenue originating from the intersection, the companions track the arc of the wall until interrupted by a second canal. Fortunately, a second covered bridge is located, which is also guarded by a golem. Learning from their first encounter, the companions quickly dispatch of the guardian.

Gaining the other side of the canal, a gate can be seen in the distance. The companions along the avenue which leads in that general direction, until sounds of combat can be heard. Approaching with stealth, the group observes a group of cultists attacking several hulking skeletons, while their colleagues use the diversion to travel through the gate. Not wishing to risk the wrath of the skeletal champions, Lando cloaks the group in an invisibility sphere and they bypass the melee to continue their pursuit of the lead cultist party.

The gateway opens into a separate district, one that feels different in terms of both look and feel. Whereas the prior area had the appearance of a warzone, the ancient buildings in this district are largely intact, with the exception of two citadels that abut the walls. The keeps were likely the home of the resident army, as the walls are adorned with the bones of many long dead soldiers. Of note, many of the stone structures in this area represent multi-storied buildings, with the upper floors free and clear of gold plating.

After a minor mishap with a trapped mound of treasure, the companions push on in the general direction of the central keep. The avenue they follow opens into a central plaza bordered by several buildings. A commanding voice halts their progress upon entering the square. “Halt! You are surrounded, lay down your weapons and your lives will be spared.” Lando casts invisibility on Maydrane, and they follow the voice into an adjoining building as Freight and Magus attempt to delay the inevitable through clever conversation with the ambushers.

Given sufficient time, Maydrane and Lando are able to sneak up and gain advantage on one group of cultists, while Magus and Freight hightail into a separate building to engage a second group. The surgical strike proves successful, allowing the companions the time needed to withdraw while the cultists regroup. On the run, the companions easily follow the cultist’s tracks to the next gate that leads to the inner district.

Although not apparent to this point, the companions learn that the floor of the cavern has sloped slightly upward for some time – as they exit the gateway to the interior segment of the city, they note that it resides about 40 feet above the prior section. Ahead, a small tabernacle sits on a stone island surrounded by a moat of molten gold. The isle is accessible only by a stone bridge that spans the canal. The structure appears hazy given the heat rising from the free flowing golden lava. The distant temple sports a gold tiled roof. A massive skeletal dragon sits motionless at the crown of the peaked parapet.

Despite the burgeoning heat, the bridge is easily traversed, providing entry to the small island. The door to the holy building is slightly ajar, hinting of the cultists recent entry. Inside, the structure opens into a vaulted room. A small platform looks across at a separate platform above a pit filled with gold coins. A single rope spans the distance, daring the group to cross. A ladder leads down to the gold coins below

Seeking other alternatives, Lando magically imbues Maydrane with elite climbing skills. The centaur saunters up the adjacent wall like a spider, traversing to the roof. Freight takes a hold of a rope dropped by Maydrane and attempts to swing across the pit. As she gains the centre of the room, a magical web impedes her swing. Understanding a wizard threatens their advancement, Magus Mike tosses a magical hook across the gap, pulling himself across to the adjacent ledge where he comes face to face with a cultist caster. Before he can engage, however, the mage is able to use a wand to send a fireball into the room. The ensuing explosion sends Magus, Romica, and Freight into the pit of gold coins. As this occurs, a giant worm with the a snake body, human face, and large fins rises from the trench to arch over the fallen companions. The companions steel themselves for battle.

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The City of Golden Death
There's gold in them there hills

With the sounds of the storm fading in the distance, the companions exit the cavern. Grey clouds hang ominously low overhead. In the early morning light, their guide, Goezen, takes the crew up a hidden trail adjacent to the thundering waterfalls. The laborious climb ends at the top of an escarpment where the Whispering River rushes swiftly before cascading over the cliff. Goezen provides a brief overview of the geography of the area – to the right lays the Shadow’s Heart, a dismal place that he does not recommend visiting; to the left is the White Wood, a better place, if only because it is white; and straight ahead, the desired destination, the fabled city of Zindafar.

The group pushes on through the morning, passing discarded equipment – spent candles, incense, the leftovers of food and drink – along the way. After examination, Maydrane advises that the cultists are about half a day or so ahead. The pace is increased through the afternoon.

As the sun descends toward the horizon, the companions crest a hill and receive their first glimpse of the gates to Zindafar. Two enormous doors, intricately carved with vertical wavy lines, are supported by a massive stone frame. The doors, standing almost 30 feet in height, stand slightly ajar. The remnants of a campsite are situated near the doorway. Two shallow graves, recently dug, lie adjacent.

The coals of the fire still smoldering, Maydrane confirms that they have gained ground on the cultists. Invigorated by the news, the companions decide to push on immediately. Goezen is, understandably, not interested in entering the Golden City again and wishes the companions adieu. The stone gates open into a sloping tunnel that leads underground. The companions journey through endless switchbacks, constantly working farther down. Finally, before them, the tunnel opens into a large rectangular room, an entrance chamber perhaps, with a sandy floor. Many footsteps can be seen in the sand. The ceiling is lined with a fungus that floods the room in an eerie light.

The walls are decorated with murals which Lando, fascinated, examines in detail. The south wall is covered with a representation of a vibrant market place, many citizens mill around various stalls trading for goods from livestock to construction materials. Upon the north wall, a picture of row upon row of buildings disappear in the distance, a golden sun rises above the horizon. The picture on the west wall appears militaristic, a leader crowned by a golden sun speaks before a crowd adorned in togas. Finally, the east wall contains a map of the city. Three concentric circles emanate from a large central building, with the separate districts connected by canals. All in all, the murals depict a progressive ancient city with a healthy economy. A city where a civilization at the peak of its existence resided, a city before the Whispering Tyrant arrived.

Several lines of symbols below the map draw the companion’s attention. With magical assistance from Freight, the companions are able to comprehend the scrawled notes. They represent mathematical equations and appear to calculate the volume of molten gold that would be required to fill the canals and flood the city, along with an approximation of how much time it would take. Their curiosity piqued, the companions continue on through an archway to the north.

It does not take long for the companions to understand the scribbles. The archway leads into a massive chamber, a cavern so large as to house an entire city. The ceiling of the chamber is covered with fungus, casting a fluorescent green light over the ruins of the once great city. The beautiful buildings shown in the murals have been reduced to ash and rubble. Everything – the stone ruins, the roadways, water fountains, statues etc. – is covered with a gold coating. Ahead, the walls separating the outer city from the inner district appear to reach all the way to the ceiling. Some distance away, canals are visible to either side, molten gold flowing freely down the former waterways. Flashes of fire light the chamber and intense heat arises from the golden lava.

Given their understanding of the layout of Zindafar, the companions will need to travel to one of several gates that lead to the inner districts. To do so, they will need to cross at least one of the canals, a difficult task now that they are filled with molten gold. With the buildings reduced to their foundations, it proves an easy task to locate a way to cross the canal. A bridge, which appears to be in working order, spans the gap in the distance. The companions head to the overpass to investigate further.

As they near the bridge, the companions see a gold-plated statue that stands motionless in the centre of the structure. Although the outside of the covered bridge is coated in gold, the inside is relatively unadorned showcasing the original stonework. Wishing to cross the span without incident, Lando attempts to speak with the golem, introducing the companions and their benevolent purpose for coming to the city. The address falls upon deaf ears. Further, the golem activates and takes a combative stance, spewing forth smoke and cinders that engulf the group. Peaceful intentions parked for the time being, the companions reduce the golem to gears and scrap-metal. Lando sheepishly apologizes for putting the group in an awkward situation.

The guardian overcome, the companions cross the bridge to the other side of the canal and follow the roadway to an intersection. Interestingly, the granite pavement can be seen in a 50-foot or so arc that centres on the intersection. Lando and Freight investigate and confirm that the non-gold plated area corresponds with a rune inscription that circles the intersection. Believing it a summoning circle, the companions skirt the intersection and continue on their way.

Wishing to locate the gate as quickly as possible, the group attempts to circumnavigate the wall until they are able to find the entrance way to the inner districts. Along the way, the companions are challenged by a group of skeletons that take shape from the rubble. The undead are quickly returned to their resting place and the group continues.

The companions near a second intersection that, similar to the first, seems to have been protected from the golden death that coats the remainder of the city. Before they can skirt the intersection, Freight is pushed from behind by a hidden creature causing her to break the unseen barrier of the summoning circle. The runes alight, and for a brief moment, nothing happens, making it feel like perhaps the ancient trap has seen better days. The serenity of that moment is quickly destroyed, however, by a cyclone of flames that shoots up from the centre of the intersection. The spinning flames take on a humanoid form that attempts to engulf the hapless cleric as a hideous shriek from above shakes the companions to their core.

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Bog Stomp
On the trail to Zindafar

Summary

  • Goezen, a local that can lead them to the ruins of Zindafar where the artefact is buried, must be located
  • the companions are ambushed by lizard folk in a small clearing
  • Goezen is found and happy to lead the group to Zindafar
  • the companions seek shelter from a negative energy storm in a cave behind a massive waterfall
  • resident centipedes are overcome

Details

The companions discuss the offer and come to the conclusion that they have no choice – the proposal is accepted. Ganyelt advises that the cultists have a head start. There is a more direct path that would cut the lead time significantly, but a guide would be required to traverse the challenging route. He recommends that the companions locate Goezen, a local denizen with superior knowledge of the island’s geography.

Although it is pitch black, the companions set off immediately to trudge through the night. As the first light of the early dawn crests the horizon, the woodland trail they are following passes by a large bog, the tangled vines of mangroves and inky black swamp water press almost to the path itself. From a clearing ahead, a flock of birds is disturbed into the air, movement can be seen among many glinting rocks or logs that line the forest floor.

As they near the clearing, the scene before them transforms into that of a battle. Lifeless forms in cultist robes are strewn about haphazardly, blood pools on the forest floor. Black candles frame the small clearings borders, incense lingers with dust in the air. A scraggly hunched over form scrambles away from the carnage and attempts to climb a steep gravely slope. The unkempt creature, dressed sparsely in rags, is unsuccessful in its escape and instead turns a shocked face towards the companions. Leaves and detritus mix with tangled hair, vines encircle the creature’s chest, and a terrible smell, almost visible, wafts forward on unseen currents.

“Identify yourself.” The dishevelled man again attempts to ascend the steep slope on his hands and knees in a crab like crawl. A scared but excited look crosses his features, “I found you!” Confused by the response and appalled by the man’s appearance, Maydrane begins a charge towards the slope.

Splashing sounds draw the companions attention to the bog where reptilian creatures slosh their way from the dark water. The massive lizard folk, who bear signs of recent battle, brandish huge trident-grafted morningstars as they quickly engage the companions in close combat. The creatures deal out heave damage to Freight before the her allies can come to her aid. As Maydrane joins the melee, the tide of battle is turned and several of the reptilian creatures are felled. From the slopes, the dirt smeared man screams “Stop!” to no avail. The lizard folk are whipped into a frenzy and continue their assault, falling one by one until they are no more.

The creatures vanquished, the companions dress their wounds and refocus on the scruffy man. Although he still appears shocked, he is more forthcoming this time, “Venture Captain Treeroot sent us here. We swam for days and days, we swam like fish, we swam with the fish. And then we found the island. We went inside to the very heart, the dark heart, where blackness consumes. We were consumed. We died, but we didn’t die. I was dead, then I was alive. I am alive. And now I found you.” When asked his name, the untidy man confirms himself as Goezen. Visibly excited, he advises that he can lead the group to the city of golden death, “Oh yes, I can take you there. Where the robes are going, where they go through the many doors in the river. Past Linderwall Swamp, over the Basalt Falls, around Whispering Lake, through the mountains, to Zindafar.” Most other questions are met with frantic flipping through a tangled pad of paper and a look of confusion. Freight notes an arrow sticking out of his calf, but decides against it given that the man shows no indication that it is bothering him.

Skirting the swamp, the group regains the woodland trail on their way to Basalt Falls. With another large black cloud looming on the horizon, the companions pick up the pace understanding that a cave resides beneath the falls. The roar of the waterfall can be heard well before they sight the majestic feat of nature – black water falls from an incredible height before crashing into a small lake that has formed at the bottom of the structure. A dark mist hangs in the air around the pool.

Large inky rain drops begin to fall as the storm clouds arrive overhead. The companions enter the misty haze, which clings to their skin and is accompanied by a burning sensation. Lando is able to transport the majority of the group magically into the interior of the cave while Maydrane is forced to gallop through the dark mist. The sounds of thunder claps can be heard from outside.

Regrouping at the mouth of the cave, the companions affix lights to their weapons and step into the cavern. They are not alone, the walls of the cave are covered with thousands of milling centipedes. The creatures are attracted to the light and begin to move en masse towards the companions. With little time to plan, Magus Mike sends a fireball into the cavern ahead, scouring the walls clean of the tiny creatures. The companions hold their weapons before them in an attempt to push back the darkness as they take a moment to catch their breath. Alone for the time being, the group beds down to wait out the storm.

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Lost and Found
The companions are reunited

Summary

  • distant rumbles announce another negative energy storm on the way
  • the companions seek shelter in a nearby cave
  • ghoulish shadow wolves ambush the group
  • wolves vanquished, the companions are visited by Ganyelt, a druid vampire
  • he advises the brotherhood of the yellow sign is excavating nearby ruins in hopes of locating an ancient artefact
  • they must be stopped or the island may be destroyed
  • as payment, Ganyelt will provide them the means to leave the island

Details

The animals of the jungle mill about in confusion, unsure of the sound emanating from all around them. The high-pitched screech, if it could be called such, borders the gap between awe-inspiring and death-defying, complete with an element of joyful elation and clear panic. The soprano timbre was soon joined by a rhythmic bass that shook the ground. The cacophonous episode was over as quickly as it began, as a deformed quadruped creature thunders past. Years later, the animals of the jungle would swear it was a demon dromedary from the plane of shadow that visited the island that day.

No camel was present, instead the galloping creature was the centaur Maydrane Vox and the demon hump an ebullient Lando. That said, not one of the many descriptors used to qualify the sound originating from Lando would have been incorrect as the old gnome hung on for dear life. Suffice to say, the two quickly covered the distance to arrive well-announced to the signal fire.

With a gorgeous sunset providing its fading light, Maydrane and Lando investigate the evidence of a battle at the signal fire. Soon thereafter, three Hellknight officers return. They advise that they were scouring the area for a band of orcs that had attacked a patrol. Perhaps they had double-backed to kill the remaining Hellknights in camp. On guard, commands are given to collect more wood to build the fire.

The distant rumble of thunder and flash of lightning draws the attention of the group. A coal black haze blocks out the horizon, massive clouds stream down from the mountain tops. Lando advises that the ominous clouds are unnatural and recommends that shelter be found before the negative energy storm hits. One of the Hellknights mentions a natural cavern not far from the beach and the Hellknight contingent, with Lando in tow, set out for the cave. Freight and Anton, who witness the exchange from the subterfuge of the jungle, follow cautiously.

As the group nears the cave, a hairy dwarf barrels out of the entrance intent on the lead Hellknight. Recognizing Romica, Lando steps into his path, forcing him to halt his charge. Magus Mike and his serpent folk companion Steve, who were also on their way to the cave for shelter, also step out of the jungle. Tensions on the rise, Lando steps into the middle of the fray before the situation escalates. In his most diplomatic tone, the gnome lays out the situation, “You all know this deep down, you can feel it in your souls, but I will voice it anyway – this island does not want us here. We are in hostile territory, one that will likely be the deaths of us. To survive the predicament currently faced, we will need every advantage, every resource at our disposal. I understand this is not a popular sentiment, but prior events need to be forgotten for the time being. If we wish to leave this island, we will need to join forces and work together.” To the surprise of her Hellknight company, Maydrane agrees and proposes a temporary truce. A begrudging peace is forged.

With rain as black as ink falling around them, Freight and Anton take stock of the situation. As they do, flashes of lightning provide a temporary glimpse of the surrounding hillside and the fleeting shapes of large predatory creatures quickly converging on the group. They bolt out of the jungle in time to warn the Hellknights and their companions of the impending attack.

An unnatural darkness descends as the hideously deformed creatures, reminiscent of shadowy wolves with misshapen protrusions, engage the group in melee. Maydrane charges a group of the ghoulish wolves, while others engage Magus Mike and Steve, the Hellknight company, and Freight and Anton. With a vicious snapping sound, one of the wolves wrestles Steve to the ground. The wolf shreds the body of the serpent person despite a furious counter attack by the magus. A group of wolves ravage the Hellknight contingent, eventually slaughtering all three officers. Freight and Anton manage to cripple the beast before them as they move to support Magus Mike. Together they overcome another wolf through force of numbers. Romica drops several creatures as he carves a path to Maydrane, believing her surrounded. Hasted by her travelling companion Lando, the centaur is ringed by near-death wolves, with several more bodies at her feet.

A booming voice, sounding similar to that of a lightning strike, announces “Enough!”. The surviving wolves blend effortlessly into the jungle. A shape appears from the black haze, a humanoid figure floating several feet off of the ground. A purplish glow emanates from the alien being’s black leather armour. A massive beard and wild hair rings it’s face, a small set of coal black eyes contrasts the creatures bone white skin. The storm subsides around the group, although it continues to rage just outside of their immediate vicinity.

A deep voice that croaks from disuse addresses the group. “A mediocre effort, but you have survived the test. And for that I, Ganyelt, resident ruler of the Isle of Terror, may allow you to live yet. By stepping on to this island, my island, your life is forfeit. But I have need for you, so listen well.” The companions learn that:

  • There are others on the island that bear the symbol of the cult of the yellow sign – they are attempting to excavate a buried artefact
  • Should they succeed, the island’s delicate balance, and its very existence, would be threatened
  • The island was home to the Whispering Tyrant, a powerful and long forgotten despot, several millennia ago
  • The artefact is buried beneath the ruins of his ancient city – Zindafar, the city of golden death
  • The Whispering Tyrant, also known as the Wizard King, built a trap to lure and kill Aroden, the last Azlanti
  • The ploy was unsuccessful and ultimately resulted in the death of the Wizard King
  • The trap relied on a portal to the negative energy plane which remains active to this day, and is the cause of the negative energy storms that ravage the region
  • If the companions are able to stop the cultists from excavating the artefact, Ganyelt will provide them the means to leave the island
  • Given that Lando treasures knowledge above all else, he also negotiates for the vampire druid to answer one question as recompense

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Shipwrecked
Welcome to the jungle

Summary

  • Lake Encarthen must be traversed to get to Everstand
  • a supernatural storm brews, the epicenter lies above a large island
  • the movement of ice flows indicate criss-crossing currents – it will be challenging to navigate the lake
  • the Hellknight contingent appears and behind them the dreadful wendigo
  • the companions attempt to use the island’s current to propel them across the lake
  • an ice flow scuttles the ships, the Hellknights attack
  • a negative energy storm descends, destroying the ships
  • the companions wash up on shore on the mysterious island

Details

Exiting the river, the ships sail into a large diamond-shaped lake. The morning light reveals a dark grey overcast sky. An island dominates the middle of the landlocked sea, a swirling black mass hanging ominously above it. The lake itself appears partially frozen, large ice flows criss-cross its surface.

The group learns from Wes that the region’s main economic driver is trade. There are several town sites around the lake, the closest of which is Kerse, an opulent merchant town that resides a short distance to the east. To get to Everstand, however, the companions must sail north across the lake. The city lies a short journey up the Path River, which empties into Lake Encarthen near the town of Caliphas.

With some time to acclimatize themselves to their new surroundings, the companions perceive that something beyond natural means is influencing the climate. The region is known for its storms; this is not surprising given the massive black clouds that sit above what is known as the Isle of Terror. The clouds spiral violently, wreaking havoc on the waterways near the island. The companions note several other supernatural storm fronts in the area, creating separate and distinct weather patterns. Further, it is clear from the way the ice flows clash and collide that the underwater currents do not align with the weather. All in all, navigating the lake is likely to prove difficult.

As the companions consider a brief stop in Kerse to resupply, a shout from the crow’s nest draws their attention to port – seven Hellknight long-boats are in hot pursuit. Their hand forced, the companions set course for the eastern side of the island in hopes of using the currents to speed the ships progress and slingshot them well beyond the island’s pull.

Their course set, it dawns on the companions that local craft – fisherman and merchant vessels – have headed for shore. In the distance, a horn sounds. Behind the Hellknights, a fast moving grey and white cloud appears, much lower than the others. The cloud follows the ice packs, avoiding open water. The wind pick up noticeably and dark clouds form on the horizon.

The ships course takes them close to the island, revealing several landmarks on land. Forming the southern tip of the island, a dilapidated fort is seen with ancient stone wharves that extend into the churning waters. A ship is docked at one of the moors. The land quickly rises behind the old fort, with exposed cliff bordering the lake to the south-east before tapering into a natural half-moon harbor. A stone jetty pushes into the harbor, creating a small peninsula. In between the two points of interest lies a stone tower.

The ships’ crews are pushed to their limits as the companions attempt to navigate the constantly shifting ice flows. Despite the crews efforts, the Hellknight long-boats slowly close the gap. A low-lying storm front drifts overhead, causing a preternatural darkness. With limited visibility, the ships are vulnerable to the ice flows and are soon broad-sided. All momentum lost, the Bloody Vengeance and Kraken’s Spite prepare to defend themselves from the Hellnights advance.

The ships are able to launch a successful opening salvo, their ballistae fire sinking one of the Hellknight vessels. Before the artillery can be reloaded, however, the enemy has closed the distance and has commenced boarding protocol. The Hellknight contingent, led by the champion Madron Vox, stream onboard the ships to engage the crew in combat. The intensity of the battle is only exceeded by the rising fury of the storm. Waterspouts materialize from the clouds, picking up crew-members from both sides into the air and pitching them violently into the water. Darkness descends, reducing already limited visibility. The wind howls incessantly, the timbre reaching a cadence sounding eerily similar to whispered voices. The building cacophony stops, a ripple cascading across the water negating all sounds, and everything goes black.

Eyes open to a calm, serene scene – the companions have washed up on the shore of the mysterious island along with the wreckage of various ships. The golden sun sits low on the horizon. The storm appears to have moved on, the sky is calm, a surreal image after the intensity of the storm. A tropical jungle invites investigation.

Magus Mike

A low, raspy voice invades the Magus’ slumber, beseeching him to return to consciousness. Inspired, the magus awakes to find himself splayed across a figurehead about 20 feet off of land. On a collision course with a rocky abutment, the magus manages to untangle himself from the wreckage and successfully swim to shore.

Attempting to orient himself, the magus believes he has washed up close to the ruined fort at the southern tip of the island. The sounds that one would identify with a small settlement – people in conversation, animals being tended – can be heard nearby.

A serpent person suddenly crashes through the brush and slumps down next to the magus. The out-of-breath creature is burdened with riding gear. Whispered introductions are made – the magus learns that he, Steve, is attempting to steal a horse and make for the coast. He is tired of serving the “masters”, those that enslave marooned sailors and force them to help excavate nearby ruins.

The sounds of several pursuers follow shortly thereafter. Magus Mike uses a ghost-sound incantation to produce scrambling sounds on the other side of the trail in hopes of confusing the search party. As this occurs, the magus and serpent person leave stealthily along the coastline.

As they put some distance between them and their pursuers, Magus Mike engages the new acquaintance in conversation. The serpent person hints that the mining operation is well-resourced, that many shipwreck survivors find their way to the island. It is rumoured that the masters are searching for an ancient artefact, a glowing purple shard of some kind. The Magus, with Steve in tow, sets off to find his colleagues.

Romica

A swaying motion wakes Romica from a fitful slumber. The dwarf quickly ascertains that he is tightly bound and being dragged by several reptilian creatures. They speak to each other in hushed discourse in a language unknown to Romica.

In a feat of strength, the dwarf rolls violently against his ties and manages to dislocate himself from the travois. Hands and feet still bound, Romica gains his feet in time to parry multiple attacks as two serpent folk engage him in close combat. A third stands slightly away making arcane motions.

As Romica does his best to dodge and feint, a large tentacle extends from the jungle to grapple the caster. The tentacle squeezes viciously and the serpent person’s body explodes under the pressure. The remains of the corpse disappear with the vine-line apparition into the underbrush.

The two attackers glance at each other, uncertain how to proceed. Romica takes advantage of their hesitation to wrench one of the creature’s weapons from its possession. The tentacle reaches out again, lashing around the calf of one of the serpent folk. The creature attempts to flee, unsuccessfully, causing it to fall the ground. It is pulled unceremoniously into the jungle, leaving deep gouge-marks in the dirt track. The last serpent person throws down its weapon and sprints down the trail. A subtle thrashing in the undergrowth follows.

Alone for the time being, Romica dons his gear and drinks a healing elixir. Unsure of where he is, he sets off down the path, pursuing his would-be assailant. The lush jungle suddenly opens up, revealing a large mountain framing the horizon. Dark clouds ring its peaks, as lightening flashes provide brief glimpses of the surroundings. In the distance, Romica spots the entrance to a cave, a suitable retreat to wait out the storm.

Freight & Anton

The sound of crashing waves shakes Anton from his slumber. The halfling has washed up on a rock outcropping, the extension of a promontory that abuts a natural harbour. Freight lays face down in the sand several feet away, unmoving. Anton attends to her and she regains consciousness.

From their vantage, they spy six or so Hellknight soldiers on the beach. Several are collecting wood while others assemble the debris into a signal fire. Understanding that the fire will assist the Hellknights in mustering their companions, Anton and Freight set out to stop them from achieving their objective.

Using the rock wall as cover, they skirt the beach and reach a well used path that runs parallel to the water. A patrol of two Hellknights approaches, forcing the two to blend into their surroundings. With the assistance of the chime of silence, Anton and Freight take the two soldiers by surprise. Their uniforms and armor stripped, the two bodies are disposed of in the dense underbrush of the jungle.

Wishing to assume the guise of Hellknights, Anton and Freight dress in their spiky armor and splash themselves in blood. Rushing into the small encampment, they relate that they were ambushed by several orcs. Three officers leave the camp to pursue, while the other three continue to tend to the fire. Anton and Freight again use the element of surprise to subdue two unsuspecting officers, before overcoming the third in melee combat. The signal fire is scuttled before it can be lit.

Lando

Giggling profusely, the ticklish gnome is awaken by the tip of a lance to the ribs. Lifting his head, the outline of a centaur can be seen in perfect profile with the setting sun. “My, what good fortune this day! I thank you for saving this old bag of bones. I would have assuredly drown in those rough waters without your help.” The centaur’s steely gaze transforms into an inquisitive mien.

Introductions are made and Maydrane Vox, champion of Citadel Vraid, and Lando, bookish scribe, engage in small talk. With open honesty and good manners (and an understanding that the wizened gnome could not possibly pose a threat), Lando manages to temporarily appease the centaur’s need to skewer him on sight. An allegiance of convenience soon blossoms.

Their civil conversation is cut short by the appearance of several massive crabs at the water’s edge. Maydrane wheels around the small gnome and hefts him onto her back effortlessly as they gallop south along an inland trail.

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