Arulia

Showdown at the OK Brewery
Whose Tower Is It Anyway?

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Returning to Humantown, the party immediately went to check in with their contacts. Kismet went to her new underworld contacts, and Priya went to check on the chapterhouse of the Hand of Sleadren. Both locations were empty of people. The buzz in the street was all about the pillar of light that came from the watchtower down the mountain from Humantown. After a burst of light flared up into the night sky, a force of knights and leather-clad fighters descended on the tower, approximately 25 in all. The party went out to investigate.

They ran to the tower as fast as they could. They saw the Paladins of the Hand of Sleadren emerging and healing one another as well as some of the rogues who had gone in with them to fight. After the flare, both groups had raided the tower simultaneously. Arriving together but not united, they decided to put aside their differences to investigate the possible emergency.

When the party caught up to the alliance of paladins and rogues, they were dividing up loot from the raid. They found some amazingly wonderful magic items that could have belonged to the party, but instead were now firmly in the possession of the paladin sect and the thieves’ guild. All of these items were wonderful and would have been perfect for the various party members, but oh well.

This, of course, was unacceptable to Priya. The Hand of Sleadren had abandoned all of their principles in her eyes, by associating with these wicked rogues. In fact, some of them were noticeably evil with a simple observation. Two rogues had died in the raid, and one was converted to the side of good and was planning to atone, but Priya was having none of it. She turned her back on these apostates once and for all.

Turning to matters of more immediate import, the party used some of the quintessence they believed had come from the missing boy or his captors, they purchased a scrying spell, and learned that the kidnappers were holed up in a brewery in Humantown. The party raiding the brewery and fought a great battle, during which a mysterious creature emerged from one of their fallen foes — a brain on four legs. Apparently, it had dominated one of the villains and was secreted inside him. After that monster emerged, the party killed it with great difficulty.

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Going Off The Rails on This Crazy Train
This Campaign is Beginning to Feel Railroaded

As the party was preparing to go about town, they learned of a dwarven man and his child who were kidnapped by the evil alien-infested cult.

They wandered around Ilgard, trying to rescue the kidnapped dwarf, who got on the train back to Humantown before they could catch them. They left by train the next morning knowing the captors had a 12-hour start. Ahead, they saw a warning lantern telling the cart drivers that there was a cart wreck ahead, and to stop. Although the evil cultists had prepared an abush, Karl’s psionic senses alerted them to danger, and Kismet leapt off the cart just in time to separate the evil sorcerer from his group.

The lantern-bearer attempted to cast spells but Kismet stopped him from casting, so he stepped back and became invisible. Karl was able to see the invisible caster psionically, and grant that same ability to Kismet. In retaliation, the caster threw up a Darkness spell. Karl was able to see through it with his Darkvision.

Because of their advantages and abilities, the party made short work of their attackers.

According to the journals of Chance Oskew:

Somewhere before the train, Chance pulled Bron aside for a conversation. Unfortunately, you weren’t there, so we didn’t get to play it out! In the interest of continuity, I’ll just write out here what would have been in that conversation, so you’ll be ready for next time. Your part will be played by one of the adults from the Charlie Brown cartoons.

C: Bron! I need to speak with you a moment, away from the others. It’s, uh, somewhat related to your priestly duties.
B: Wah waah wah, wah wahh.
C: As you may recall, back in Humantown, we were attacked by a group of shadowy creatures. They were Aundine’s children, loyalists to her cause known as Anzili. The leader of that small band was an Anzili Xi, and his shadelings were mere aspects of his power. I am fairly certain they were scouting for me, and they found me. Unfortunately, I doubt it will stop with that.
B: Waah wah, wahh wah wah.
C: You are absolutely right, and I regret that anyone in our group was injured by their actions. Normally I would handle it myself, but I believe that with your help we can make this into an unprecedented opportunity. A five-square leap in the upcoming war against the Coveter and the Discordant One. It will be dangerous, but if you and I are prepared, we can handle it.
B: Wah wah wah? Wahh wah-wah wah wahhh.
C: No, I need the others to seem genuinely surprised when the time comes. Let me explain: The children of Aundine appear to be hunting me because of some innocuous experiment I conducted awhile back. That testing phase is over, but I suppose they are worried it might resume, and head in a direction that is dangerous to their kind. The Xi’s shadelings found us in Humantown, but they cannot pass the ancient wards shielding Ilgard against their kind. When they saw where we were headed, the Xi acted precipitously to stop us before we could escape. There were no survivors of that battle to warn them what happened, but they will know we somehow bested their scout. Other Xi will be looking for us, and eventually one will find us.
B: Wah wah wahh, wah-wah wah?
C: No, if we wait, they will be more careful, and may spring upon us when we are weakened, or in the midst of another battle, or worse, bring something more powerful to their aid like a Pulgrah or even a Dream Dragon. Those would be too much for us without more preparation, and they would not give us much warning. We must act first.
B: Wah?
C: The Xi are immortal. In the Collegium’s classes on martial spellcraft, we sometimes discuss strategies for dealing with immortal creatures. The price of immortality is that they tend to repeat themselves. I believe the scout who finds us next will be slightly more wary, but will think the same way, and that is what gives us this opportunity. When we return to Humantown, I will make sure they can find me, by triggering more of the sort of magics that called their attention to begin with. They will already be scouting the area, so it should make it easy for them. Once we see or sense the shadelings looking for us in town, we’ll know we’ve been found. Then, we’ll convince everyone to come with us – ostensibly to bring the warped goliath’s body to the carts, to ship to Ilgard. As before, the shadelings will report we are headed towards the carts to Ilgard, and I believe that will push the Anzili Xi to ambush us before we can escape, just as his predecessor did.
B: Wah wah wah wah wah? Wah-wah wah?
C: No, he won’t know what happened before, there were no survivors. He will also likely be more powerful than his predecessor, and thus even more likely to think himself our equal. That is where you will come in.
B: Wah wah?
C: Simple, just prepare yourself for that sort of attack. We know what we will be facing, and your holy wrath seemed to terrify them the most last time. They are devotees of Aundine, and her holy mother’s power seems especially fearsome to them. A priest of Anrahd might work better, but you were sufficiently terrifying last time, and I believe it will work again. You will simply turn the full of your powers against the shadelings. I think their master will head directly for me again, and just as his predecessor did, he will want to pull me into the shadow realm, where earthly attacks will not effect him, and where he believes he will be more powerful than I. Once I am there, the trap will be sprung, and I can stop the attack, all future attacks, and demand another favor besides. It will be one of the greatest bits of wizardry ever devised… I plan to call it Dandulus’s Lever.
B: Wah wahh wah wah-wah-wah?
C: No, no, nothing you would disapprove of. Nothing your goddess would disapprove of – and I daresay it may yet realize her fondest dreams, if all goes well. Even if it doesn’t, I think it has a very high chance of stopping any future ambushes by the Anzili.
B: Wah wah wah-wah?
C: Well, I’ll go through with it either way, so best to be prepared, I suppose.
B: Wah-wah wah wah?
C: I wish you wouldn’t. Priya would no doubt think me playing with fire and would certainly oppose the trickery involved in a counter-ambush. She would insist on a more blunt approach, which I don’t believe would yield the result we want. As for the others – I don’t think it would particularly help them to know, and I worry that it might make them react differently, and tip off the Anzili Xi. Besides, if anyone discusses this once we leave Ilgard, then one of the shadelings might hear and warn their master. We need things to appear to them as close to the way they appeared the last time as possible, since that will help assure the same reaction from the Xi.
B: Wah wah, skull-crushing wah!
C: That’s the spirit!

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I Hope This Duke Doesn't Punch Me In the Face
(spoiler -- he does)

Chance and Kismet spent most of their day vying to be the first to get an invitation to an audience with Archduke Torgemar. Eventually, secret machinations and connections enabled the party to speak with the single most important dwarven noble alive.

Assembling before the Duke, the party bowed in respect and then stood before him. His eyes widened, and he got up from his seat, walked to Jay and punched him squarely in the face. “Jacob Wyvern, I warned you never to show your face here again!” he shouted. Then ordered his guards “Arrest this miserable excuse for a man and throw him in a cell we can forget about for the rest of his life!” Guards dragged the stunned Jay off to prison as the party looked on helplessly.

“We’re not with him,” they seemed to say, as they cautiously tried to win the Archduke’s favor and persuade him that the recent starfall had brought a threat to Arul that must be dealt with.

After the audience, the Duke seemed to grant the party that they might be right, and he would look into the dangers they described. The party was also able to talk to the Duke about Jay, and perhaps convince Torgemar that it was a case of mistaken identity.

The party returned to their inn and some time late in the dark of morning, Jay returned to them, having been unceremoniously dumped out on the street outside the gaol. Some time later, a mysterious dwarven woman came to their room, and handed Jay a package, then she left. Within the wrappings of cloth, Jay found a whetstone with the symbol of the Wyvern on it. He was unsure what to make of it and put it in his back. He was confused by the fact that the symbol on the whetstone looked exactly like the symbol on the pommel of his dagger, which was the only thing he had from his absentee father.

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Onward to Illgard
Ill guarded in Illgard

Attacked on the rail platform, the party bravely fought off some dark agents of the alien force. Creatures bathed in shadow, and linked to that realm by some mysical means.

The party then boarded the dwarves’ massive achievement of mechanical engineering and infrastructure: the Vurin rail system.

They arrived in the capital city of Illgard. After getting the lay of the land, they found an acceptable upscale inn at which to stay, and put forth some effort to getting an audience with the Archduke.

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Humantown Ho!
And other things you should never say to a dwarf.

The party arrives in Humantown, and immediately seeks out the local militia. They share Korbinen’s observations of the tower, which the guards dismiss as Korbinen involving tourists in his delusions.

However, the party learns that their home country of Venn has been invaded by an army commanded by the prince of Orden, Ilrael, who is also the husband of King Athrimas’s daughter.

The party splits up in various ways. Priya makes contact with the local branch of the Hand of Sleadren, then goes off to see the sights, and begins collecting spoons. She fails to get into a fight.

Chance slips off to his own errands, vaguely shadowed by Karl, who observes him disappearing into the offices of a Dwarven trading cartel, the G’Mel Trading House, for purposes of his own which are not disclosed.

Braun searches the local temples of Nyan for new and interesting prayers.

Jay wanders off to the trade district to get gems appraised and sell unused treasure that the party had gathered in their adventures. He also found a temple of the Kai and looked into becoming a Heart of the Kai, a specially appointed devotee with special abilities and a mystical connection to the god and goddess.

Kismet walks through Humantown and observes the interesting architecture and cultural fashions of the area. She gathers information from the locals about what happened the night the stars fell from the sky.

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Wait, Why Would We Do That?

Spying the mixture of stone and wood homes a few miles away on the mountainside, Chance stopped the party’s invasion plan at once.

“Wait! Why are we going in there? One of us could get hurt. Let’s go tell the authorities in that town over there.” He pointed to the settlement.

“That’s Humantown,” said Korbinen. “I told them that there was something strange going on. They told me to stop making up stories and get off to some real work defending the homeland.”

“Oh… Well, they’ll believe us – we’ll corroborate your story.”

And so it was that the party passed by the occupied watch tower to travel on to Humantown, the border between the surface world, and the vast underground dwarven duchy of Vurin.

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Illithid With a Spear Oh No

Kismet immediately took shelter from the direct line of sight of the dwarf hidden in the trees. She called to Karl to get down. She snuck up on their observer invisibly and subdued him. He was there to observe the people going in and out of the hut, because he suspected dark forces were at work.

The dwarf struck the party as being very young to be out away from the Dwarven settlements. His name was Korbinen, and he was a ranger, with his trusty wolf companion Lorga. Korbinen told the party that he had seen some communications between the fishing hut and a watch tower just outside of the dwarven city. He noticed strange behavior and some cloaked shadowy beings going in and out of the tower at night.

The party decided to follow Korbinen to the tower, and at sunset along the way they were confronted by a horror from their worst nightmares. A figure in a cloak, carrying a spear, leapt up high into the air and came down in a fighting stance just before the party. They were fixated by the sight of its great milky white eyes, the glistening slimy purple skin, the tentacles surrounding its mouth… Then the party felt a wave of psychic energy erupt from the creature. Half the party stood stunned, unable to move as the creature streaked among them, slashing and attacking, its spear flaring with flame with its strikes.

The remaining party members, those who were not stunned, managed to slay the creature before it could do lasting damage to them, but they were still shaken. Chance knew this creature from his studies of the horrors of adventurers’ logs in the Collegium. It was an illithid, a mind flayer, but using abilities unheard of in the stories he’d read before. What was its connection to the strange goings on of the tower and the fishing hut?

Before they could fully resolve these issues they discovered the tower. They observed its goings on with Korbinen. He explained his observations and the party settled down to develop a strategy to attack it. Kismet flew overhead invisibly to see what was on the roof, and saw its defenders. The party reasoned that surprising the rooftop defenders and going down through the tower was the best strategy, and they began to prepare to attack….

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Last of the Hut

After defeating the last defenders of the hut, the party discovered a room that contained ovoid globes containing a green viscous fluid. One had been shattered in the fight and the fluid covered Priya. She felt the eerie touch of another spirit upon her own. They also discovered a couple of pendants with a green gem, which glowed in the presence of the green fluid, and also in the presence of some of the party members (Kismet, Bella, and Jay).

They determined that this green fluid was quintessence, and had been distilled from the victims of this den of aberrant spies.

Brahn found a suit of armor that fit him so well it was like it was made for him. Bella found another construct in a supply closet and she dispatched it with her magic.

Everyone felt like they had learned valuable lessons in this encounter, and they were confindent they could take their abilities to the next level.

After sweeping the hut for more threats and ensuring the area was clear, they emerged into the sunlight once again. Kismet and Karl felt they were being watched, and saw a dwarf mostly hidden in the nearby trees, watching them intently.

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You've Got Halfing On You

After the fight in the room with the firepit, the party continued to explore the fishing hut, albeit far more cautiously.

They encountered a number of constructs hidden within the hut, as well as other dwarves, halflings, and even a goblin, which had been dominated by some sort of monstrosity, which caused some of them to sprout green tentacles or fire poison darts from their mouths. They fought past these foes and found hidden within the fishing hut the strangest of arcane equipment.

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The Fishing Hut

After traveling upstream for two more days, the party reached an area where the ground leveled out and the river widened into a natural pond. Beside the pond, on a leaf-covered slope of ground, the outline of a stone doorway was seen. A dwarf emerged from the semi-buried hut and introduced himself as Morn Bodroggon. He invited the party in.

Beyond the doorway was a fairly extensive hut, with a firepit, kitchen, storage, work room, and quarters for several dwarves. The party began to become suspicious when Morn reacted, in their opinion, strangely to the news of the constructs. When taken into the supply room, the party noticed that the fishing equipment in this fishing hut hadn’t been used in weeks. They soon realized they were being maneuvered into being surrounded by the residents of the hut, and a fight broke out.

In the fight, one halfling seemed to take a wound, but after the wound healed, the place where the flesh sealed continued to grow, and the halfling’s body expanded, as the halfling fought on, and eventually exploded, blasting nearby party members with ash and gore. Chance determined to study Exploding Halfling Syndrome in the future.

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