USD Scales of War

Session Sixteen: Testing the Mind, Body, and Soul

Having traveled from Brindol carrying the platinum longsword, the heroes find themselves at the entrance to Fortress Graystone. Against a cliff face, a massive stone staircase rises, narrowing as it reaches a set of double stone doors set into the rock wall. Four large statues, each depicting a githzerai warrior in full combat regalia, stand on pedestals watching over the entrance to the fortress. A small waterfall flows down the side of the mountain, causing half of the staircase to be slick and treacherous. As the party moves up the stairs, several gnoll guards and a near-translucent spirit prepare to attack. The gnolls and the spirit-a stonewalker that possesses the statues-provide stiff resistance, but the party is inevitably victorious.

After the battle, the heroes move carefully into the fortress. Stepping inside, the party can immediately detect the influence of the mysterious githzerai. They glimpse a wide octagonal chamber with five portals glowing and pulsing with arcane energy on five of the walls. Further, the far side of the room appears to be made of extremely thick glass, revealing a second chamber beyond with four portals on its walls. Occupying these rooms are a small band of gnolls looking confused and frustrated. Seeing objects to release their frustration upon, they quickly advance on the heroes to do battle. This encounter presents a unique challenge. As the gnolls hurl party members through the portals and vice versa, creatures are haphazardly transported to differing portals in one of three corresponding rooms. This results in a constantly shifting three-room battle that nearly leaves the Pelorian cleric Erik dead on the floor; the githzerai mind trap is not easily overcome, but fortunately, quick thinking by the other party members is able to save the day before it is too late.

Moving further into the fortress, the heroes enter a training chamber of some kind. The ceiling of this huge chamber rises some 60 feet overhead, and a waterfall descends from an opening in the ceiling to a pool set within a raised platform. Two stone gutters carry water down from the pool into channels in the floor, creating small rivers that flow through circuitous paths in the ground with great speed. Every few seconds, the noise of stone on stone sounds as these aqueducts in the floor shift to follow a new path. Horridly disfigured gnolls and their demonized hyena mounts occupy this room, and they are tough foes on any terrain. This terrain, however, provides a unique challenge that requires balance and grace. Fortunately for the heroes, they possess the greater skill and emerge victorious.

Seeing an exit from this room, Modyom quickly advances. The door, though, has been jammed shut with the broken shaft of a spear. Scrawled across its face are warnings written in three languages: “DANGER! HAUNTED! STAY OUT!” Paying this warning no mind, the dwarf quickly opens the door.

This huge chamber is divided into two zones. To the south is a wide hall with sweeping curved symmetrical walls. TO the north is a rough-edged cavern full of odd angles and irregular ridges across the floor. The walls of this second chamber have been painted in chaotic and clashing colors, three pits along its edges falling off into darkness. A wade wall separates these two areas, cut by a circular platform that rises fifteen feet high. When the heroes move into this chamber, it is empty. But as Theren steps on the pedestal, three githzerai spirits silently appear. They wield no weapons and begin to question the elven warrior about his mind and body. Quickly, the elf is challenged to a test of combat. Apparently, this chamber represented a test for those trained in the martial arts: one must master balance and tame the chaos. Theren faces off against the three spirits acting as one, and then fights the chaotic and dangerous psionic warriors in the southern chamber. He emerges victorious with the help of the party (a test of any warrior is also a test of his companions). As the spirits end their combat, they bequeath a prize to Theren. A wall slides inward, revealing a secret chamber containing a small Ki Focus.

The party has yet to find the dangerous gnoll Fangren, who seeks to make himself an exarch of Yeenoghu. Nor have they found the portal to the Elemental Chaos that could awaken the imprisoned Amyria. To find this, the heroes must journey deeper into the Den of the Destroyer!

Notes: Theren finds a Ki Focus, and Vimak constantly tries to explain that the party is simply trying to make a delivery.

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Session Fifteen: Finding Those Who Are Lost

Cliff Notes:

  • Vimak gets a message from Immerstal the Red, goes to see him with Erik. They receive a prophecy that Vimak believes pertains to the party.
  • Theren and Modyom go to meet Megan Swiftblade. She warns them that someone has placed a bounty on the party members’ heads.
  • Kalad informs the heroes that a messenger from Brindol was looking for them. After investigating, they discover that the woman was Jalissa and that she has been kidnapped by the Lost Ones.
  • The heroes begin to scour the city looking for acolyte of Ioun, eventually turning to their friend and informant Darius Finch. He points them to the Nine Bells district and an abandoned temple of Pelor.
  • Outside the temple, the heroes meet the Elf with an eyepatch—a mercenary named Gilgathorn (“Thorn to my friends”). He warns them of the bloodlust of the Lost Ones.
  • After rescuing Jalissa (sort of), they party heads back to Brindol to meet with Sertanian, the castellan of the Hall of Great Valor.
  • On the way back, the heroes meet a patrol of guards looking for raiding and kidnapping brigands. (Gnolls, apparently).
  • Sertanian shows them the platinum longsword they rescued from Sinruth’s band; it is holding the spirit of a woman named Amyria and she needs the heroes help to be freed.
  • Additionally, Amyria knows that a gnoll named Fangren is trying to become an exarch of Yeenoghu, the demon god of the gnolls, and that he is nearly complete in opening a rift to the Elemental Chaos.
  • While meeting with Sertanian, some Bounty Hunters attack, and afterwards, the heroes see Thorn again.
  • The party travels to Fortress Graystone and realize they are being hindered in their progress by someone shadowing them.
  • Eventually, they arrive and see the fortress before them.

Notes: Jalissa was maimed; but survived. Fargrim is missing. Immerstal the Red gave Vimak a prophecy

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Session Fourteen: In the Presence of a Queen

Go through the Fortress, meet the mysterious Birdman, Fight the Queen of the Drylands (and Dryads), and nearly die. Discover a note linking the Queen to Sarshan.

Notes: Vimak’s axe now has Chaos Elementium

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Session Twelve: South to the Sea of Sand

Safely back in Overlook following their ordeal in the Shadowfell, the heroes rest for a week or so, assisting in the clean up following the discovery of the Shadowfell gate and teleportation portals beneath the Happy Beggar. They raid numerous warehouses, close down the portals, and generally investigate the expansive network of Sarshan’s operations.

Very quickly in their investigations, the heroes are sent a message requesting a meeting. Modyom’s acquaintance and friend Bram Ironfell, a major representative of the Elsir Consortium wants to meet.

Traveling quickly to meet the dwarf, the group meets Bram Ironfell in his lavish office in one of the nicer areas of Overlook. Getting to the point quickly, the dwarf offers the party a job. In one of the raids of the shadar-kai’s warehouses and transit points, the watch uncovered documents connected to Sarshan’s operations, including an ancient fragment of parchment. On this delicate piece of paper was written a list of landmarks and bearings for a journey, along with the name of Clan Ironfell. After some research, Bram believes he has found directions to the ancient Karak Lode. This lost mine in the lands of ancient Karak has a mythical and storied past. According to legend, the Karak Lode was a legendary sourche of wealth as its folk pulled rich deposits of hold, silver, and other mysterious precious metals from beneath the desert sands far to the south. The location of this mine was a closely guarded secret, and its secrecy eventually became its downfall. Rather abruptly, all contact with the mine ceased, and those that knew of the mine’s location never returned or passed on the information.

Bram Ironfell asks the heroes of Brindol to seek out this old mine, undertaking the arduous journey across the wasteland of the Thornwastes and the desert to discover its ancient secrets. More importantly, this mine could be a source of strong metal that would make fine weapons in the defense of Overlook; the metal of Karak was legendary in its strength and unique powers. Should the invasion the heroes believe to be coming actually reach fruition, strong weapons and stout shields will most certainly be needed.

Prepared to leave immediately, the heroes set off in search of the Lost Mines of Karak. They travel south through the Thornwastes, where they are promptly ambushed by a group of rival dwarven clansmen—the Hammerfist clan. The Hammerfists have long been bitter rivals of the Ironfells, and after defeating them, the heroes discover one of the dwarfs possessed a journal hinting at the clan’s hunger to claim the lost Karak Lode in defiance of Clan Ironfell. It also notes “the secret route to the mine” being discovered months before, but makes no mention of who did so.

Continuing through the Thorny Wastes, the party has some trouble successfully navigating the dangerous area. Fortunately, aid comes to them in the form of Mag Blackthorn, the mysterious guardian of the Thornwastes. He guides them through the treacherous terrain all the way to the settlement of Dunesend, a small village on the frontier of two equally desolate lands—the forbidding Thornwastes to the north, and the endless Sea of Sand to the south.

As the heroes approach the village, however, they find a menacing gnoll named “the Warden” in the process of collecting the village’s tribute.

They defeat the Warden, and travel through the desert to Fortress Ironfell.

Notes: Erik is still being courted by the representatives of the various faiths in Overlook to renovate and reopen the old temple of Pelor, and Modyom is again offered a job by Bram Ironfell to produce weapons, armor, and armaments for the Elsir Consortium.

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Session Eleven: Sarshan's Tower

After thwarting Modra’s plans to sabotage Sarshan’s operation, the heroes take a short break to recover. From the foundry, the heroes make their way to the lower level of the tower by way of Sarshan’s private tunnel access. Entering quietly, the group finds itself in an expansive library, filled with shadar-kai researching various topics. As they work to defeat these thugs, one of the shadar-kai flees to an adjoining chamber, causing reinforcements to come quickly. The fight is long, hard, and brutal, but the heroes are eventually victorious.

The reinforcements were apparently arguing with a dark one and his shadow wraith bodyguard. Also, Sarshan’s tower is centered around a levitation lift of some kind, creating an awkward but quick way to ascend or descend levels.

As they investigate the first floor, they hear hushed barking in another room. Listening at the door, the party hears a group of gnolls discussing their alliance with Sarshan. They mention the purchase of weapons and support, as well as something called “Wicked Fang.” After negotiations with the hyena-like people break down, a fight breaks down and they are easily defeated.

Ascending to the upper levels of the tower, the heroes discover a plush garden. On one side of the garden, an inactive teleportation portal sits. As they look around the garden, they are ambushed by swarms of shadow scarabs and a bullete: Sarshan’s personal pet. The fight is a quick one, but before they can catch their breath, the tower gets much more crowded. As the last of the scarabs is squished, the thunder of boots and the shouts of many voices echo up to the ears of the group. It is not long before they are surrounded by shadar-kai on all sides, blocking every exit. These soldiers are led by a grizzled captain, Thannu, with two shadow hounds Fang and Rudy.

Thannu orders the heroes to stand down, or they will be massacred. Suddenly, the garden is illuminated by a pulse of white light. The archway to the south flares as it reveals the black shrine, and a familiar figure steps from that chamber to this. It is the old veteran the heroes spoke to in the Happy Beggar, but he is no longer stooped with the appearance of age and his scarred skin turns gray before their eyes. The guards around them salute the shadar-kai, who doesn’t hide his surprise at seeing the heroes. He identifies himself as Sarshan and demands an explanation.

The heroes have finally come face to face with the shadar-kai. Thannu quickly explains the damage the heroes have done, eager to kill the group. Even as the captain finishes, a warrior enters at a run, calling to his master. As he approaches to whisper in Sarshan’s ear, the shadar-kai looks surprised. He speaks: “The charges leveled by my captain warrant torture and death. However, I am told that an episode of sabotage in my foundry appears to have been thwarted, and that the traitorous Modra has been executed by persons unknown. What might you know of this?”

After the group readily explains their part in the dark creeper’s death, Sarshan nods thoughtfully. “As far as you’ve managed to infiltrate my operations, I can only assume you know a little of who I am. My wealth and reputation turn largely on honor, obligation, and secrecy. When I spoke to you of Modra in the Happy Beggar, I hoped you would kill him and save me the risk of more exposure than he had already caused. The fact that you journeyed here to do the job is a surprise, but for your part in ending his threat to me and whatever he meant to do in the foundry, I am in your debt. However, for your role in the death of my personal guards, you are more greatly in mine. Here is a bargain that balances the obligation for all of us. Join me.”

After extending the offer, the arms dealer elaborates by explaining that only in his service will they live long enough to enjoy the fruits of their bravery. “In a month, or six, or a year, your world will be a place you will not want to live. Join me here instead.”

After the heroes inquire, he admits that he cannot reveal much of the plan for professional reasons, but assures the group that they do not want to know what will happen to Overlook.

The party quickly deliberates, and determines to play along with the shadar-kai. Unfortunately, the shadar-kai sees through their lies. The party feels a familiar shaking beneath their feet as another tremor rises and falls quickly. The shadar-kai’s dark eyes blaze, but he smiles as he shakes his head. “Your conviction is to be commended. A pity it failed you in the end.”

Then suddenly, an ear-splitting explosion shakes the tower. Near the eastern side of the chamber, one of Sarshan’s guards shouts out: “My lord! The foundry is in flames!” The guards are in motion, Sarshan all but ignoring you as he barks orders. One group is sent to the foundry, and another receives orders to keep the mercenary camps under control. Sarshan takes a last squad of chainfighters with him as he moves for the lift. Thannu and his panthers are the only ones left with you.

“If I was as cruel as my reputation implies, I would send you back to watch your world die,” Sarshan calls. “Be thankful that I am merciful.” Then to Thannu: “Kill them.”

The shadar-kai sergeant is a well-trained battle champioin, and his two hounds are vicious in their attacks. The fight is a brutal one, but the heroes are eventually victorious. Unfortunately, the tower is coming down around them as the shadow rift of Umbraforge is erupting out of control!

Reconfiguring the teleportation portal as quickly as possible, the heroes rush to escape the crumbling building. The party is just fast enough to make it through the portal, and back to the Shadowfell gate as Umbraforge is swallowed in chaotic shadow. Without a second glance, the heroes of Overlook arrive back in the World exhausted. Prashant and Asanna rush into the secret chambers beneath their almshouse to find the heroes battered and bloody. The two retired paladins quickly call for the city watch to clean up and investigate the mess. The heroes are eagerly thanked by all involved and earn a well-deserved rest.

Were Sarshan’s threats real? If so, how long before another invasion threatens the Vale? What consequences will result from the heroes defying the shadar-kai? Only time will tell!

Notes:

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Session Ten: Into the Shadowfell
Over the Mountains of the Moon, down the valley of the Shadow

After stepping through the portal into the Shadowfell, the heroes find themselves in a new and foreign place. Hoping to catch Modra, the group rushes outside, only to find themselves standing before a great encampment. Challenged by some Dark One sentries, the heroes pretend to be merely mercenaries and proceed towards the sprawling camp spread out before them. Beneath patched canvas tents stands open-air taverns, market stalls, apothecaries and herbalists, weaponsmiths and armorers, butchers and greengrocers—all doing roaring trade. Shortly after their arrival, the heroes experience a series of tremors. The ground shakes violently apparently due to the existence of the Shadow Rift at the center of Umbraforge.

Training grounds rest between the various camps, and soldiers of different races clash against each other with sword and shield. In the quieter corners, combat casters train—the flare of arcane fire dancing between them. But as the party approaches, they notice with surprise that these are not Shadowfell mercenaries for the most part. Though shadar-kai and dark ones are well represented, the fields and camps are packed with orcs and hobgoblins, ogres and trolls, lizardfolk and kobolds and a dozen other monstrous races of the world.

Making their way through the market, the team immediately begins their search for Modra. Spreading out, the group asks around and hears some very interesting rumors. * Apparently, this mercenary camp is called Umbraforge, under the dominion of Sarshan, a shadar-kai trader of great reputation and even greater wealth. He resides in a large tower, and utilizes a foundry, and many forges. The camps are those of the mercenaries and slaves whose services he sells across the Shadowfell and the world.

  • Sarshan is an outcast who made a name for himself as the leader of a legendary mercenary band known as the Black Arrows. At their height, the Arrow put so much fear in generals and kings alike that Sarshan could take payment to fight for one group, then take a bigger payment from their foe to stand down.
  • Modra is known well in Umbraforge, but for all the wrong reasons now. He was one of Sarshan’s trusted lieutenants before he brokered a weapons deal that Sarshan had already turned down. That job was to supply Tusk’s army with weapons, supplies, and information. People know that Modra sold the orc his weapons, and word on the street is that Sarshan wants him dead. Sarshan is a careful businessman and never makes a sale if it has a chance of coming back to him.
  • The foundry is the new jewel of Sarshan’s operations. Its power comes from the fire and shadow driving its furnaces. Sarshan’s sages create beasts of battle there, born killers with magic in their blood.
  • It used to be that Sarshan brokered mercenaries mostly within the Shadowfell, but that’s changing. Dark ones and shadar-kai are still his elite troops, but more and more, he brings creatures from the world to Umbraforge for training, then marches them off to places unknown.
  • Sarshan’s slave bazaar is about more than just servants and soldiers. His experiments in the foundry only begin with dumb beasts. He’s building new soldier races there, born from the slaves he traffics.
  • Sarshan’s mercenary operations have tripled in size in months past, but it’s not the Shadowfell they’re fighting in. When his forces are bought and sent on the march, they’re bound for portals to the world. Shadar-kai, dark ones, undead, giants, ogres, trolls, gnolls, orcs— Sarshan has the armies of two planes on the march. War is brewing in the world, but the forces that will fight it are moving into position in the Shadowfell, unseen.

In the course of the investigation, Modyom accidentally reveals the existence of the portal nearby leading to Overlook to a Dark One tavern patron. This Dark One is helpful in answering questions, but is much more interested in the location of the portal. Apparently, most of the troops gathered in Umbraforge have to travel overland to reach Sarshan’s camp, and knowing a closer portal could be greatly beneficial. Unfortunately, the Dark One is eager to learn the location of the portal and points a small group of ogres from the Bonecrusher clan to the party, causing an ad-hoc brawl in the mud. The mud is a little slick to fight in but not a significant challenge.

After the fight, a mysterious shadar-kai witch approaches the team. She wears a black cloak edged with adamantine beads, and she keeps her long hair plaited to hang down her back. Gold piercings line her ears and lower lip, and a black starburst tattoo encloses her right eye. She introduces herself as Leena and quickly explains that she used to work with Modra. After he elected to go behind Sarshan’s back, though, she told him they were no longer friends. “I heard word of him in the camps even before you started asking around. He has a plan to disrupt Sarshan’s operations by destroying the foundry, and then the tower.” According to Leena, Sarshan has a private tunnel connecting the foundry to the tower, and Modra is planning on venting the foundry’s destructive energy there, using a mass of mercenaries moving out as cover.

After Leena departs, the party prepares to rest for the evening. As they search for a place to rest, an extremely violent tremor shakes the ground. Before the party knows what is happening, the ground splits open. Raw Elemental Chaos spills out, and with it comes several elementals formed from the chaotic lava-like energy. The Heroes act quickly to end the threat posed by the elemental creatures, and then find a place to rest.

That night, the party moves stealthily to the Foundry, sneaking in to stop Modra. After ambushing the saboteurs, the heroes glimpse what goes on in the Foundry. Lined with vats filled to their brims with green sludge, the Foundry straddles the Shadow Rift river of energy with steaming hot pipes siphoning off shadow lava from the river to fill the vats. Modra quickly dumps a goblin henchman into a vat, and then releases the mutated goblin golem creature onto the heroes. Though the fight is difficult, Modra and his hired gang of thugs are eventually defeated.

The heroes now prepare to move through the secret door to investigate Sarshan’s tower. To what purpose has he harnessed the power of The Shadow Rift of Umbraforge? Only Sarshan himself knows the answer.

NOTES: The party leveled up.

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Session Eight: Rushing in and Flooding Out
Splashed with red carnage and the power of fist

After navigating the labyrinth of tunnels and caves of the Vents and quickly eliminating several orcs, the Heroes entered the Gauntlet. A wide corridor ending in a pair of double doors, this passageway is more dangerous than it seemed. Lined with statues made of iron and stone, the hallway comes alive as the party moves down it. Crossbow bolts fly out of the mouths of the stone statues; the iron defenders move to intercept the heroes; and an arbalester disguised as spitting cobra peppers the party with arrows. Eventually, the heroes are able to deactivate the constructs, and move ahead to the double doors.

Kicking in the doors, Modyom leads the group into the fray. This is a large boiler room occupied by a rather large contingent of orcs. Iron tubes as tall as a man run across the room, holding boiling water that can flood the Vents and prevent the orc army from coming through. The fight is fast, hard, and brutal. A Dark Creeper named Iranda surrenders and barters information for his life. Apparently, he was hired by a shadar-kai witch named Myrissa (the party later discovers she is Tusk’s lover)to provide both arms for the orc army, and information regarding a passageway beneath the mountains. Modyom took his equipment, including a strange brass tube. This tube, according to Iranda is a key to the Shadowfell. The party is unsuccessful in finding out where this portal is, but they let the dark creeper live, despite Kalad’s warnings. In addition, the party finds a body of one of the Freeriders; a half-elf warlock. She is clutching a sending stone in her hand. No one answers the calls put out by the heroes through the stone.

The party enters some chambers with the door ajar; they can hear orcs talking. The dwarves that built this hidden place guarding the Vents were devout followers of Moradin and in between shifts of both guarding and expanding the tunnels, they stayed underground. These chambers once billeted the dwarf miners, warriors, and priests, but little of their presence remains with the orc infestation. Orc soldiers are exploring these rooms in search of plunder and the party can hear them growing frustrated by the spartan rooms. Unfortunately, a Cavern Choker has been biding his time, waiting to escape, and uses the entrance of the heroes as his opportunity. Unfortunately, after making short work of the orcs, the group does not allow the Choker to leave.

Across the hall, the party finds another room, this one a shrine to Moradin. The workers probably came here to receive the blessings and protections of their priests. Unfortunately, now the site is the lair of a ravenous cave troll and its handlers, and the heroes can almost hear the desecrated shrine calling out to be purified. Though the Cave Troll is vicious and brutal, the group makes short work of it.

Now, the heroes enter the final room. In case the tunnels are compromised by enemy forces, the dwarves built the Nexus to seal off access by activating a complex trap that causes the doors to seal the tunnels shut and the room to fill with boiling water. However, with the dwarves largely wiped out, the orcs are free to enter this chamber, and open the gates of Bordrin’s Watch for the waiting orc army unless the heroes can stop them. Waves of enemies rush at the group; Tusk, the warchief of the orc army and his adviser Myrissa do their best to prevent the party from successfully closing off the tunnels. Fortunately, Vimak is able to climb the middle column and prevent the whole group from being held back. Only after Tusk is defeated is the group able to start flooding the chamber. After an epic battle, with serious hits taken on both sides, the heroes emerge victorious and climb out of the chamber and seal the door, locking in the few remaining orcs to drown, and washing away the hopes of the invading orc army.

After sealing the Nexus and returning to Overlook, the heroes serve in the defense of Bordrin’s Watch, fighting on the walls. Led by Durkik Forgeheart, the fighting lasts five long days. It isa long and hard-fought battle, but civilization is victorious. After receiving badges of honor (the Heroes of OVERLOOK!), the personal thank of the council (Elder Cadrick is thankful for the heroes’ bravery and skill.), and a hefty reward, the party is able to relax and enjoy the city. Though the Siege of Bordrin’s Watch has been lifted, the heroes victorious, and Overlook saved, the group feels as if they are being watched. There are many questions that loom over the city and the party, and only the heroes can search for those answers. Notes: Vimak’s axe revealed some of its power—the goliath turns insubstantial when charging. The party possesses a strange Brass tube that is apparently a key to a portal leading to the Shadowfell. The party possesses the sending stone found on the half-elf warlock’s body. Kalad lives and his future is uncertain.

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Session Seven Interlude: Casting the Ritual

As the party rested, Erik read over the scroll’s contents carefully. His brow was furrowed as his blue eyes scanned the pages. “This isn’t going to be easy, Vimak. I’m not really used to this sort of thing.”

The goliath shrugged. “I’m not asking you to work a miracle, here; just follow the damn directions.” For emphasis, the barbarian jabbed his finger towards the rolled up parchment in Erik’s hands. “I have questions and that scroll is the only way I can get them answered. It can’t be that hard.”

“Shouldn’t we wait until we have more time? Or at least some less-stressful conditions?”

Unslinging his weapon, Vimak presented the axe to Erik. “This is the key to everything. I know next to nothing about my past, and this is all I have that links me to it.”

The cleric smiled. He understood Vimak’s point; he wished he could just ask an object to tell him who he was. Erik took the axe and went back to reading. “I’ll need a bit of time to make this work, but I think I can get it done. According to this, though, you can only ask a limited number of questions; based on my limited experience and lack of knowledge regarding the magic involved, you may only get a couple.”

“That’ll have to do. One answer is better than what I have now.”

It was another hour before the cleric felt comfortable enough to begin the ritual. Though the scroll made sure the prep time was significantly shorter, he was not taking any chances. The actual casting only took a number of minutes, but the magic involved was complex.

Moving off to a more secluded area, Vimak and Erik began the incantations. Laying the axe on a relatively flat rock, Erik practiced a few more times as Vimak arranged the necessary consumables around the weapon. As he did so, he glanced at the elaborate chiseled design in the blade of the axe: he could have sworn it had been glowing a split-second earlier. Vimak backed away, and tried to focus on his questions, and then nodded to Erik.

As Erik’s mouth formed the complicated syllables, the scroll began to glow. Brighter and brighter it became, until Erik spoke the final words. In that instant, the scroll erupted in a flash as it disintegrated. The small fire they had set up seemed to dim significantly. A quiet chilling whisper echoed through the small cavern, raising the hairs on the backs of their necks. “Ask your questions of this object…”

Erik nodded towards Vimak.

“I wish to know who crafted this weapon!”

The voice was raspy and calm. “Very well.” Both Erik and Vimak involuntarily shivered from the sound.

Everything around them disappeared as if it were a mist. Before their very eyes, things swirled, shifted, and changed. Suddenly, the pair stood inside a dark smithy. They could feel the heat from the forge behind them, and hear the constant clang of a hammer on steel. As their vision cleared, both Vimak and Erik could see their surroundings clearly. In front of them stood a dwarf; his arms were corded and thick, and his hair and beard long, black, and tied back. Vimak felt a sense of familiarity from the long hours he’d spent in Modyom’s forge working the bellows and trying out new weapons.

The dwarf’s arm pumped in a hypnotic cadence as the loud ring echoed through their whole bodies. The weaponsmith’s black hair was streaked with white. His face was old, yet somehow familiar. The dwarf stopped his hammering, and held the weapon up in front of him. “You shall be a fine weapon; one of the best an Ogreender has ever made.” Moving to a small workbench, the dwarf drew out a small chisel and minute hammer. Carefully, the craftsman set to carving out an intricate pattern into the axe’s face. After a few minutes the dwarf stopped and picked up a dusty book; he flipped it open to a marked page and began to read complicated and incomprehensible words. The glyphs carved into the axe began to glow. As his incantation came to a close, the dwarf walked over to the axe and held it up once again. “You are henceforth known as Talon, may you serve your master well.”

Their sight blurred and Erik and Vimak were back in the cave.

“Ask your question…”

Vimak called out his second question. “I wish to see a significant event in this axe’s lifetime!” Immediately, everything around the pair changed again. This time they were immediately chilled by the coolness in the air.

A petite human female with alabaster skin, emerald green eyes, and a head crowned with ringlets the color of flame, stands at the top of a stairway. She wore an exquisite russet gown and a supremely haughty, sneering expression.

Directly in front of her, two muscular, savage, seven-foot-tall humanoids stood menacingly. They watched with undisguised hatred and loathing as a hulking goliath stepped forward. Coarse hair covered their bodies, and they carried vicious-looking morningstars. The goliath moved carefully towards the beasts. The female stared at the male goliath. She uttered only two syllables. “Kill him.”

The bugbears rushed ahead. It was over nearly faster than Vimak and Erik could see. After a quick step and two hard slashes, the heads of both monsters had been removed from their respective bodies with a sickening sound. The goliath stood between the bodies as they crumpled to the floor. The axe in his hands was dripping blood; it was Vimak’s axe.

“Well done, Magnir Stormcrow. You honor your clan with your prowess. Unfortunately, your physical strength will not save you.”

The goliath’s voice called out. “I’ve come to stop you. The very primal spirits of the cosmos demand that you stop these experiments, witch.”

“You demand?” The woman chuckled. “You come alone, and that is foolish of you.” The woman turned her back to the barbarian. “Come, young warrior. I have something to show you.”

The goliath began to climb the stairs cautiously, axe at the ready.

The woman’s voice echoed over her shoulder back to the goliath. “Do you know what it is I’ve been experimenting with? No? Let me show you.” As Magnir reached the top of the stairs, he saw horror for the first time in his life. What must have been nearly a hundred bodies lay each on their own separate table in a huge expansive area. The woman was walking towards a table covered in books, reagents, and various other items. “I’ve been trying to discover how transferable the soul is. You can understand the concept of a soul, can’t you Magnir?” The witch paused slightly. “The soul is a funny thing; it is so very hard to grasp.” The woman turned suddenly, eyes locking with the goliath’s. “And I mean that literally.”

Magnir stopped short. “What have you done to my captured warriors? Have you killed them?”

The witch’s laugh was shrill and evil. “I was not the one to have killed them. You, my friend, had that honor.” She nodded her head towards the staircase and the slain bugbears. The woman turned back to the table and quickly did something.

The barbarian looked shocked. “You transformed them…?!”

“No, you idiot. Think bigger! I took their every being and MOVED it.”

“You’re a monster.”

“Think of how powerful that could be! Kings could be replaced; spies could easily infiltrate enemy camps. Don’t you see what I’ve uncovered?” The woman turned to face Magnir once again. She held something barely noticeable in her left hand. “Unfortunately, I had one last test I needed to perform before I perfected my ritual. That is, before you came barging in here.”

Magnir was confident, but a small amount of fear came through in his voice. “Your vile acts of desecration end here, witch.”

“Kill me and be done with it, then.” The woman had seemingly given up; her were shoulders slumped and her head was down. The goliath, let out a vengeful cry and rushed ahead to attack. Just before his axe sliced through her neck, the woman’s right hand lashed out, and caught the haft of the axe in mid swing. Magnir’s eyes grew wide in surprise. The witch’s left hand threw a kind of dust in the goliath’s face.

Immediately he began to cough. “Yes, fight it! Fight hard, you stone-skinned fool! You are the last piece of my puzzle, my dear Magnir. I think you will be my most enjoyable specimen yet. I’ll be curious to see how you take to your new home: I can’t imagine an axe being a very comfortable way to exist.”

As Magnir choked, he sputtered, “You may kill me, but my rage will live forever.”

The witch smiled. “Yes, my dear. Of that, we can both agree.”

The images around Erik and Vimak vanished once again, and they were back standing in the cave. The fire was low and the party was snoring. Erik looked at Vimak. The goliath was staring at his axe. The axe’s blade was glowing a soft red color. Erik couldn’t tell it, but inside Vimak’s head was a cacophony of screams.

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Session Seven: Hot Blooded
And agony that, flame-like, bites and sears.

After resting for a few minutes, the Heroes move towards the open end of the large Hall of Heroes. There, they stand at high up in a massive cavern, a long series of staircases and landings leading down to the cavern floor nearly 100 feet below. The only problem is a group of orcs climbing the stairs to intercept them.

Descending into the depths of the mountains, the party faces heavy resistance from the orc band. They are tenacious fighters, and traversing the staircases are harder than expected; the terrain is rather difficult, slowing the party’s movement somewhat. Thankfully, the group is able to jump down and move relatively quickly, defeating the orcs.

Next, the party enters the final chamber beneath the Monastery, the Chamber of Works. Inside a fearsome blaze rages on one side of the natural cavern, making silhouettes of the orcs gathered there. An hulking orog warrior named Og is mercilessly beating a dwarf, demanding in broken Common that he open the tunnel. Theren recognizes the dwarf as Kalad, a dwarf paladin. The party rushes in, catching the orcs completely by surprise. It is not long, however, before the orcs begin to give as good as they get. To make matters worse, the flames begin to spread outward and attack the combatants (and threaten Kalad). Eventually, the battle ends up with a delicate hostage situation: an orc Eye of Gruumsh is threatening to kill Kalad if any of the heroes move against him. Fortunately, the group acts quickly and kills the orc with a lightning fast attack before he can coup de grace the paladin.

Moving quickly, the Heroes drag the unconscious dwarf out of the room as it is engulfed in flames. Erik immediately begins to work on the dwarf, who begins to heal slightly thanks to Erik’s skilled healing. He informs the party that he collapsed two of the three possible routes through the mountain. There is only one route left, he warns, and that is the route most dangerous—The Nexus. The Farstriders were to have closed it, but Kalad is insistent that the party double-check to ensure their success. He insists on accompanying the party (“I’ve got a score to settle with with these monsters, and none of you can stop me from coming along.”)

Traveling back to where they fought the orc scouting band earlier, the party finds the Vents. These fissures are visible for quite some distance because of the steam rising high into the air. Upon arrival, the group finds five horses tied up with empty feedbags hanging from their heads; the Farstriders, it seems, have not been back in several days.

Entering the labyrinth that is the Vents, the group moves cautiously. They get turned around a few times, but eventually make their way through successfully. Listening carefully, the group hears some orcs arguing about what to do now; apparently they have just faced some unexpected resistance. The heroes surprise them and eliminate the orcs before they even have a chance to get their weapons up: the battle was over before it even began.

Now, the heroes stand at the entrance to the secret Dwarven passage beneath Bordrin’s Watch. If the orc army gets through before the heroes can seal the Nexus, Overlook and the entire Elsir Vale will be overrun and everything will face certain doom! Notes: Kalad is alive and has joined the party; he defeated some heavy Orc resistance. The Farstriders (the ass-hole adventuring group) are dead. New quest to close the Nexus, before orcs are able to get through and open the way for the entire army. (Updated Quests). Vimak uses the Object Reading ritual on his axe (see [[Episode Seven Interlude: Casting the Ritual | Episode Seven Interlude: Casting the Ritual]]).

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