RPG@QUT Matt's D&D

DM log-- Fallcrest 3-5

To be revealed…

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DM log-- Fallcrest 3-4

The mob outside Sandercot Provisioners welcomed the newly exonerated town guards and started excitedly planning with them about a raid on Hightown—something the heroes agreed was the next step to take. But then a new force came on the scene. In a column of impressive fighters plus Trabek, two wizards, and a cleric, a palanquin was borne by two beautiful women in dresses. {Give 1 Plot Point to Bastian for remembering that Trabek can summon his armour.} Out of the palanquin stepped Nimozeran, the septarch of Fallcrest, charged with its magical defence. The people were excited: apparently he was a popular figure, though not often seen in the streets. Some in the party knew quite a lot about Nimozeran {which the players can record on his wiki page} but in short, though he was an underling of Lord Warden Farren Markelhay, he had independent power in his own right, and lately had been increasingly outspoken about the eladrin elite’s takeover of Fallcrest. The revolution leaders in particular saw him as a powerful potential ally.

Nimozeran hailed the heroes as saviours of Fallcrest, and then introduced his companion from the palanquin: Azrea, shockingly eladrin, but extraordinarily beautiful. To answer the crowd’s rising anger about this, Nimozeran demonstrated Azrea’s total compliance: on his command she knelt, then lay prostrate on the stage. She did this with a blissfully happy and placid smile on her face, apparently very content to follow these commands. The crowd returned to wonder, but Zepher found this objectionable, because with keen eyes they saw that Azrea had a tight collar, disguised as jewellery, but in fact much like Lilliana had. {Give 1 Plot Point each to Scott and Callum for remembering the connection between this collar, Lilliana’s collar, and the way that Trabek recognized the freezing female slave in the red mirror.} Zepher saw this as slavery and objected loudly to this form of subjugation. Nimozeran stopped cold as the crowd murmured, and fiercely whispered to Zepher a warning that this was a chance to unify the crowd against the elites in Hightown. He assured Zepher that Azrea was no slave; she sincerely wished to serve his command. The rest of the heroes convinced Zepher to cease his objection, because though they conceded Nimozeran may be doing something objectionable with Azrea, he was a useful force to harness to overthrow Hightown for the greater good, and could be dealt with later.

Nimozeran’s speech continued as he glossed over the disagreement with Zepher, again praising him and the heroes as saviours, albeit overstressed from recent events. He knelt and offered fealty to our heroes, and so did his retinue. This was accepted, and then Nimozeran went on to rally the crowd against Hightown by progressively whipping up their hatred of the eladrin, whose infiltration of Hightown society in recent years was coincident with the raising of taxes, the increase in decadence, and the withdrawal of Farren Markelhay from the common people. Zepher again objected to this racial vilification, and though the other heroes conceded this was pretty bad, again the wise course was to let him go for now, and they would attack Nimozeran later after he had served the purpose of uniting the revolution. While the heroes argued in fierce whispers on one end of the stage, Nimozeran continued with his rant—something about just as he and the townspeople swore fealty to the heroes, the eladrin should show fealty to the townspeople, and these confused, foreign creatures would be happiest and most placid when, like Azrea, they gave themselves over utterly to the command of the true citizens of Fallcrest. To make a vivid point of this, he bid Azrea prostrate herself again, which she did happily, and he placed his foot on her neck. The crowd went wild. Zepher turned and saw this, and it was the last straw. He loudly declared to the people that this was wrong, it was slavery. Nimozeran was astonished and asked Azrea, are you a slave? For the first time she spoke and it was like music: “No, master, I am happy to serve you.” This did not make Zepher feel better. Also he objected to the racial aspect of Nimozeran’s speech, wondering, who is next after the eladrin? Will he come after halflings next? Elves? Dwarves? The heroes were still divided about this outburst but the die was now cast, and more of them now felt that Nimozeran had gone too far. Jayne added to the screed, and now the crowd was divided in its loyalties, with arguments and shoving matches breaking out in the mob. {Zepher, Jayne, and later Bastian made extraordinarily high Diplomacy rolls in this scene, boosted with bonuses from excellent speechmaking and use of good reasoning to convince the crowd.} Bastian, who up till now was lurking in a cloak unrevealed, jumped up on stage throwing back his hood to reveal his scarred eladrin features—and his keen ears heard a few gasp, “the scarred eladrin!” and the name “Jorn” (this being in relation to the accusation of Immil’s murder). Bastian declared he was one of those who freed Fallcrest, and that he would not stand for this vilification of his race. With all this, the crowd swung mostly to the side of the heroes, and the smaller mob that supported Nimozeran had retreated to the palanquin, which by now was being marched away from the wagon the heroes were standing on. Nimozeran was standing on the palanquin, with Azrea, and continuing his screed against the Eladrin and Hightown, whipping his supporters into a frenzy. Suddenly the palanquin and the mob moved purposefully, led by Dale who had a raised fist, and some in the mob were picking up paving stones from the street (much to Jaine’s disapproval). A quick assessment of the situation {with Streetwise} made the heroes certain that the mob was headed toward a nearby street noted for its eladrin-owned shops. Bidding their own mob follow them but not fight, the heroes pressed through the crowded streets to follow Dale’s mob.

Soon they arrived at the street. The palanquin had moved ahead of Dale’s mob and soon left the scene. Dale, two other town guards, and about a dozen angry townspeople remained behind. The street had several shops, all of them eladrin owned. It was still in business because traders from the south often got good bargains here on eladrin-made fine art, not having been taxed yet by the passage to Hightown. It also lately catered to slumming eladrin elites who toured Lowtown for a taste of excitement—from these shops they bought, as souvenirs, twee little models of human shops and farms, done in an eladrin style, inlaid with silver and gold, to make saccharine pastoral scenes. These shops had large picture windows to show off the goods within. The mob was pounding on the glass with fists and shoulders, and one of them had already cracked. They were starting to raise paving stones and some were getting hold of other things for the assault; they eventually used a piece of a wheelbarrow and a crowbar. The guards used the butts of their weapons to greater effect, but stopped their assault to engage with our heroes in the street. A large crowd had followed from the inn, nearly all of them opposed to Nimozeran and the anti-eladrin raid. The heroes told the crowd to stay back, but some of the more enthusiastic ones ignored this directive and rushed ahead, grappling members of the opposing mob. In the fracas, a guard killed one of them. The guards and Dale were no match for the Shadowfell-hardened adventurers, but in the time it took to knock the guards out, some of the mob had broken into a few of the shops. A woman was sweeping shelf-fulls of little eladrin sculptures into a pouch made from lifting her dress, but was knocked out before making off with them. Another woman confronted a terrified eladrin shopkeeper, screaming, “Kneel! Kneel!” but was incapacitated before any harm could come of it. In a third shop, a tavern with a fey theme, two men had broken through. From the back of the shop, a burst of light blinded one and froze him in place: one of the eladrin guards who had slinked away from Sandercot had come here to defend his kin. Enraged, the other man raised a heavy cooking pot over the head of the eladrin proprietor, who was cowering at his feet. Just before the pot came smashing down, the heroes blasted him into unconsciousness. In the end, nothing was stolen and no eladrin were killed by the angry mob who sympathized with Nimozeran. However, the townsperson killed by the guard was taken up by the angry crowd, who bayed for revenge.

Nimozeran, Trabek, Azrea, their several guards, and the others in the retinue were far down the street, but moving slowly enough to be caught. Someone with deep knowledge of Nimozeran and the [[Septarch’s Tower]] recalled that in times of strife, a secret “arcane elevator” was used to travel up and down from the top of the tower to the base, which stood in the eastern part of Lowtown. However, this was no good way to sneak in: it was only activated as needed, and made you rise up from the ground in plain sight. The group know that Nimozeran is now their enemy, and his force will only be greater in his tower. The time to engage him is now, in the street…

{For general adventuring and a successful fight, give 350XP to each in the group.}

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DM log-- Fallcrest 3-3

Our heroes woke up after one of the hardest days in their lives. It was the morning of 15 Sunsebb {see timeline}. They woke to a Fallcrest still roiling with discontent, but the distribution of the trade goods had prevented things from boiling over for the moment. Jorn, the trader bound for Vlekstaad, was still among the wreckage of his winter festival shipment, refusing to go south, and having hired Brad to provide security. He was frantic about opening the trade route as the only viable way to Vlekstaad was through Fallcrest—the surrounding area south of the cliff had overnight become overrun by gnolls, making travel any direction but quickly downstream extremely dangerous. Jorn revealed the nature of his panic: he had taken a lot of money from Vlekstaad trade heavies with which to buy all the festival goods from the south. As insurance of timely delivery, Jorn had agreed for his wife and children to stay in Vlekstaad as a special guest of his lenders—hostages. Jorn knew that for every day he was late—and this deadline was in three days, barely enough time to travel there even in good weather—his lenders would start to cut parts off of their collateral. He hoped that if he got to a place called Fallingwater, the proprietor there, himself from Vlekstaad, would send a message to assure that Jorn was on his way, buying an extra day or two. Our heroes considered him a fool, but in honest distress, and added this to their reasons to open the trade route as soon as possible. But first they needed to investigate the [[Drake’s Tail Inn]].

They returned to the scene of the slaughter. To make a long story short, their investigation led them to conclude that in fact, the “guards” who did the slaughter, and who the heroes fought, were in fact residents of Hightown, who went to very rich schools there and had recently been living there. They had been long addicted to chaos shard. They had been smuggled there in an eladrin-style carriage, then snuck inside the inn while the real town guards (paid off with Hightown money via a thin halfling), boarded up the Drake, and slipped away. {A series of skill checks uncovered many individual bits of evidence too laborious to list here—but hopefully others have taken notes! The players linked this evidence to other aspects known from previous adventuring, resulting in lots of Plot Point awards. To Callum and Scott: 1 PP for remembering that chaos shards have a kind of consciousness, explaining the dual-soul nature of the deceased fake guards. To Darcy: 1 PP for recalling the demons’ interests in the chaos shards, and how this related to the extraplanar nature of the fake guards. To Rachael and Scott: 1 PP for remembering that the gnoll boss in the Moon Hills mine forced people to fight each other, and ate the organs, in an echo of the Cannibal’s behaviour.} Between this and the confirmation that The Cannibal was an eladrin elite, the logical conclusion was that this was a false flag operation: powers in Hightown wanted it to look like the town guards were to blame for the slaughter, apparently in order to drive a wedge between the Lowtown residents and the guards. It would fit a divide-and-conquer strategy, and from the hostage situation at Sandercot Provisioners, it was working. The heroes gathered evidence to make their case, and headed to Sandercot to present it to the mob.

The hostage situation at Sandercot Provisioners was as intractable as ever, with hundreds of Lowtown residents mobbed outside and baying for the blood of the guards who had taken the hostages. The guards, led by Dale, were more certain than ever that safe passage out of town was impossible, so it was a deadlock. The heroes stepped onto a cart in front of the building to address the crowd, and presented the evidence. {This was a skill challenge in which they used skills and persuasion checks to make the evidence stick.} They convinced the crowd, whose mood turned dramatically. They were no longer angry at the guards, who had been framed. They were now very, very angry at Hightown. Far beyond the taxation, disruption of trade, and galling inequality of wealth, now the crowd blamed Hightown elites for outright slaughter, The Cannibal being a tool of Hightown to wage actual war on the Lowtown poor. The mob called for the guards to come out to be welcomed as Lowtown’s best chance to raid and overthrow the Hightown elites, and to take Fallcrest back. The guards did emerge to great adulation and the hostages returned to tearful families. Only later did our heroes realise that the eladrin guards did not emerge. Like Bastian, they sensed a racial hatred underneath the crowd’s anger at Hightown, and decided to quietly slip away before it got worse.

At this moment, the crowd parted as a new arrival came on the scene—the subject of the next adventure log!

{For general adventuring, quest advancement, and a low-risk skill challenge, give 300XP to each in the group}

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DM log-- Fallcrest 3-2

The rout continued as the party defeated somewhat tougher duergar, dark dwarves that used to be nearly unheard of in Fallcrest. Zepher and Amos speculated that Trabek, being himself a duergar, might have something to do with this. {Give 1 Plot Point each to Darcy and Callum for making this connection.}

The resistance broken, the heroes had to quickly decide what to do with the bounty of stopped trade shipments that surrounded them. The rabble was starting to realise the dwarven resistance was broken and bolder types were starting to climb the barricades just a few blocks away, the River Rats reported. The traders wanted their goods back, and safe passage back south. The revolutionary leaders, the first on the scene following Jaine and Poe, demanded that they be given the goods to distribute among the people and rebellion forces fairly. Or they could just let the rabble take it and distribute it as they would. Our heroes decided that the traders would give up 20% of their goods, much less than the old tax rate, and the rebel leaders would distribute this. The rest the traders could take back home, and the rebel leaders were sworn to make this passage safe. Poe suggested commandeering the trade boats at the docks to move all the goods and wagons farther south to get them clear of the rabble, which was a good idea {give 1 Plot Point to Scott for using world knowledge}. This made nobody happy but balanced the grievances well.

One particularly unhappy camper was a dwarven trader named Jorn, well known to Poe. His was the cargo that was on the way up the portage lift when it was cast down, and its contents now were scattered at the base of the cliff. He was especially desperate to get his shipment through to Vlekstaad. Amos {thanks to a couple 20s} knew a great deal about Vlekstaad and the reason for the shipment—his wolf family loved to tell tales of the battles between the wolves and the hard snow-dwelling folk of that northern port town across the mountains. Jorn’s shipment was intended to get to get there in time for Needfest celebrations in Vlekstaad. Up north they had a strange custom revolving around a mythic character known as Sinter Kraus. This was a portly man wearing white armor trimmed in red, who rode a sled pulled by giant wolves (“flying wolves?” asked Poe, to which Amos replied with a wolfy snort, “Of course not, everyone knows wolves can’t fly. Don’t be stupid”). Sinter Kraus lived in a castle high up on a mountain, which Amos had personally visited with his family and could attest was quite empty, but the myth was more powerful than fact. Sinter Craus would visit all the homes in Vlekstaad on Needfest Eve, the longest night of the year before the festival. The rare child who was very very good and obedient all year would get a treat in his shoe, such as a pomegranate or some rock sugar. All other children were pulled out of bed, blindfolded, and beaten with thorny branches on the snow while a booming voice (presumably Sinter Craus) recited all the bad things they had done all year. This tradition is credited for giving Vlekstaadians their well-developed moral rigor. Anyway, the shipment that crashed to the ground was full of amazing things: spices, fruits and nuts, casks of wine, parcels of smelly fish, candles, cakes, wreaths of fragrant branches, whole trees, and many statues of a glowering Sinter Kraus, which Amos recognised as laughable knockoffs of the traditional statuary which should be made of whale bone, not this other kind of bone. This loot was also parcelled out to give a share to the rabble over the objections of Jorn, who seemed terrified of not getting his shipment through, and who insisted on staying at the docks with his remaining goods until the trade route opened again as soon as possible. Brad {spending 1 Plot Point to get this honour} took charge of distributing the holiday loot, though he took it upon himself to improvise the mythology for gentler not-so-far-northern sensibilities. As he drank spiced wine (his own invention, using different elements from the crates) he started slurring his words a bit, so Sinter Kraus and other parts of the legend may have gotten mispronounced and messed up a bit along the way… who knows what Fallcrest’s celebrating citizens will make of it in the years to come?

Zepher, Amos, Poe, and Jaine came to the Drake’s Tail Inn. Its upper floor was ringed by a balcony with all the doors and windows hastily boarded up. They did not know much of what happened {and this will be further explored in the log following the next session} but that in that upper floor was where the massacre happened, with the town guards supposedly boarding the place up before entering and conducting the slaughter along with The Cannibal. As they got closer they could hear moans and screams from inside. The lower floor had been hastily evacuated and the interior stairway to the upper floor barricaded with furniture. This obstruction Jaine sundered with a stomp of her foot, and the heroes rushed upward into the darkness of the entirely closed-up room. Soon they were under assault. The light revealed many bodies here, and in the corner a huge pool of blood and bits of flesh. Humans in town guard attire were here but they were insane, gibbering, and violent, each with a rectangular burn mark across his eyes. Zepher recognised their behaviour as the same as those miners they saw in the Moon Hills. {Give 1 Plot Point to Callum for recognising this, and 1 Plot Point to Scott for earlier theorising that it was because they had cleared out that mine that there was so much more shard flowing into Fallcrest now.} The attacks were devastating blasts of elemental energy that the wretches seemed to be able to summon by tearing open the fabric of reality. Behind the sweeping bar were crouched other human guards who could do terrible damage at a distance, including area blasts of fire that stunned foes. This was a terrible fight, and our heroes barely prevailed. One remaining guard opened a door to a room contained by the bar and a new foe emerged: The Cannibal. He was dressed like a fine eladrin elite, all in silvery white fabric and an ornate wig. He wielded, however, a crude weapon made from a table leg into which were bound dozens of teeth—freshly bloody human teeth, it seemed. He had a raw red burned look around his eyes, and around his neck hung a silver visor that the party knew was used to consume chaos shard. He fought for a few devastating moments, letting loose a guttural animal howl that motivated his allies. This pounded some of the heroes into unconsciousness and it looked like death for all was at hand. But then a woman’s voice rang out from the room that The Cannibal had emerged from. She spoke in a tongue they all now knew as Abyssal. The Cannibal looked enraged but he turned back towards the voice. Then the room filled with a thick, sulphuric smoke that blocked all vision and made reactions slow. They heard a window shatter and an argument in Common, the Cannibal saying “I want it now” and the woman saying “If you do, then follow and obey.” When the smoke cleared, The Cannibal was gone.

Our heroes crawled out of the Drake’s Tail on the brink of death. Taking the nearest offered shelter they collapsed into bed, their very long day having started in jail in the Shadowfell, continuing through a battle with a desiccated sorceress, then a trip on a flying pirate ship, ending with a near-death experience at the hands of a ravaging murderer. Sleep well, adventurers.

{For good adventuring followed by this very tough battle, take 420 XP each.}

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DM log-- Fallcrest 3-1

Soon our heroes realised that things in Fallcrest were bad indeed. Particularly disorienting is that a lot of time had passed in the natural world. It was now 14 Sunsebb, about 30 days after leaving Fallcrest (see timeline). They gathered amid the chaos that a rise in taxes to 90%, even greater decadence by the eladrin of Hightown, and a series of gruesome murders (see Fallcrest murders) in Lowtown had brought the town to the brink of revolt. This revolt was now in full swing.

Our heroes despaired of seeing Theren and DTIS anytime soon; the ship had vanished with no sign of return. Heading into the fray, they soon met de facto leaders of the uprising: a halfling named Poe who had recently re-animated a long-lost icon of Fallcrest’s fortitude, Jaine, a woman made of living stone. {These being Scott and Rachael’s new characters}

Together they went to a scene that needed leadership: a number of town guards, many of whom were posted at the now-collapsed Great Stairway, had taken refuge in Sandercot Provisioners, a large store. There they had taken hostages and demanded safe passage out of the city, since the rabble was calling for the death of every town guard in the service of the eladrin elite. The rabble was especially agitated because of the recent massacre at the Drake’s Tail, to which town guards were accomplices. The heroes tried to negotiate with a human guard named Dale, who led the hostage-takers, but this irascible man wanted nothing less than clear and open passage, which was impossible—dozens of angry townspeople were calling for blood. So they went off to investigate at the Drake’s Tail in hopes of finding some way to placate the crowd, or at least narrow down the targets of their rage.

Unfortunately the inn was behind a newly erected fortification. The dwarves who ran the docks at Fallcrest had quickly put up barriers to block off the part of town which contained the ruin of the portage lift and many shipments backed up waiting for the lift to take trade northward. Knowing the town was soon going to plunge into privation, the dwarves selfishly hoarded most of the provisions in this way for themselves. A few townspeople were lying dead with dwarven arrows in their bodies outside the wall of crates and carts blocking the streets. Our heroes tried to negotiate to no avail, then raided the fortification. They realised how much more powerful they had become since they last got into a conflict in Fallcrest: they swept through their foes like a hot knife through butter. They knocked out the dwarves instead of killing them, and soon had a rout. The halfling guttersnipes, members of the River Rats gang, who were helping out the dwarves, quickly changed sides. One of the urchins, Billy, recognised Zepher as the man who had paid gold coin to another Rat to buy protection many days ago. With another coin, the kid became a fast ally and spread the word to the other River Rats to stop helping the dwarves.

{Give everyone standard 250 XP each for good adventuring with unthreatening combat.}

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DM log-- Gloomwrought 10

The fight on the ghost ship Blanche-Nef continued.

The heroes were determined to give peace to these ghosts, but it was going to be a very hard fight. They used all their cunning and tactics to move the fight to the glowing artifacts that advanced the story. They went down one level to the main deck. In one of the rooms was a glow under one of the corpses rotting there. When a ghost was dispatched nearby, the corpse spewed water from its rotten lungs and a key clinked to the deck. She said, “Tell Captain Thomas to beware the rocks! The kelp beds hide them. My brother took me there fishing once. He stood on the rocks to make me believe he could stand on the kelp…” She expired again. The corpse’s feet clomped flat on the floor in a strange way and DTIS saw she had Boarding Boots. He took the boots and the key. The bit of information about the danger of the rocks spread throughout the ship, with even the hostile ghosts hissing it to each other to tell the captain, as they still looked at the heroes with their faces clouded by hate and fear.

Down they went to the lower deck. Now the light was dim and there were many more corpses here among the junk strewn everywhere. The party was feeling weak, getting savaged by the psychic attacks by William and Thomas, and the slashing ghostly swords of the pirate nobles. When a ghost was dispatched near one glowing corpse, it animated. Marie appeared. She said “Benson. He was in the water near me. He saw William approaching in the skiff. He pulled at my skirts and swam right over the top of me.” She raised her hand, on which was another ring. Lightning jumped from the first ring to the second, making it glow and solidify. She walked toward the corpse and said, “He’s my brother. He’s trying to save ME.” The corpse grabbed her skirts and pulled her down. She raised her hand with the ring. “He came for ME!” The corpse grabbed her around the waist. She put her hand the face of the corpse pulling her down and there was a flash of white light. The corpse was frozen solid. She squirmed away and swam through the air, calling, “I’m coming for you William!” She got behind her brother and stayed close to him for the rest of the battle.

Success was on the edge of a knife. The heroes jumped down into the hold, which was pitch black and awash knee-deep in bilge and corpses. When a ghost was dispatched, near a glowing spot, corpses all around you grabbed our heroes, all climbing on top. One corpse, especially well dressed in rotting robes, climbed higher than the others and from his legs came a surge of water which put the everyone underwater. (These were later discovered to be Surfsurge Shoes which Brad claimed.) Underneath the pile was a chest. DTIS used the key on chest to get a sea chart which showed the old king’s route.

Our heroes showed the chart to William and Thomas, who had ceased their attacks and came to them in wonder. William said: “It’s all my fault. It’s my fault we all died.” Thomas: “No, my lord Aethling, the fault is mine, I should never have steered us close to the rocks. I forgive you.. William. I can’t lay the blame on you anymore.” William: “Good Thomas, I have hated you for centuries. I am sorry. The drink, the silly nobility, the haste… I am so sorry. If we have to spend eternity cursed like this, at least we can do it with peace between us.” Thomas: “My Lord, I know what can bring you peace. (He held up the chart.) Let’s catch up to your father.” William’s eyes go wide: “Can we, Thomas?” Thomas: “The drink has gone overboard, as I should have done myself so long ago. We can find our homeland again with this. We know where the rocks are. We can do it, William.” William looks at Thomas with admiration: “Yes. We can. Let’s do it. Let’s catch my father.” William turned to Theren and looked at the hat. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a large, flashy pushpin. William: “You’re wearing that hat completely wrong. It flops around like a dying fish. You need to pin the brim to the crown with this.” He gave Theren the pin and his staff. He said: “Once we catch my father, you can choose where to sail next. I am not sure what will happen to us.”

Our heroes collected the loot from above—the elemental damage and feather fall rings, the two sets of boots, and the staff. As for that last, it was ghostly, impossible to hold onto. It had a ghostly gem on it. Zepher used a magic missile to knock it off. When he put Malik’s gem on the staff, it fell through. Zepher set the ghostly end of Malik’s gem into the socket. It fused in place, and the whole staff became nearly fully solid, enough to hold. It was now a very powerful magic staff.

The ship began to heave from side to side and they could hear the wind even this deep inside the ship. The crew scrambled to stations. The heroes freed a few of the slaves after one said, “Get me out of these manacles and let me work. I’m the best sailor on this ship, and I know a few others.”

They went abovedecks to see that they were being drawn toward a towering, swirling purple-black cloud flashing with lightning. They could see down to the land below— Gloomwrought was in the distance, on the other side of a low mountain range, and they were cruising high above the land.

The sailor said, “If we are pulled into that twister, we’ll be pounded to matchsticks! We need to get low and drop anchor!” He looked overboard and cursed: “There’s nothing for the bloody anchor to latch onto, it’s all hills with nothing for purchase. We need to tack toward the river and follow it— there’s a bridge downstream we can catch!” All agreed, and set to work. {They did a mini skill challenge to see how much they could help.}

They dropped in altitude and followed the river. Downstream they saw in the distance the bridge over the river and an apparent waterfall, with a few small buildings on either side. The sailor said, “Lower the anchor and tack to port!”

They entered the cloudy outer fringe of the storm and were beset with pounding rain and a black fog that seemed to come from nowhere, whipped up by the wind. They lost all visibility. A look of dread came over the sailor and he said to the heroes: “No matter what happens to me or the ship, you have to lower that anchor and head for the bridge. I’ll try to get to the wheel.” After the confusion settled and the heroes lowered the anchor, the fog rapidly cleared. The towering column of cloud was still ahead, not far, and the wind was rushing them towards it, looking just as dangerous as ever. They realised everyone else was gone and the ship was different: it was no longer mouldering and rotten but rather new and ship-shape. The corpses were gone and there was a full set of sails now. Up ahead they could see the bridge over the waterfall, but the latter was just an edge that the river dropped off; they couldn’t see beyond. Now it’s clear that this was not just a few small buildings; they were mistaken. There was a strong wall around the city to the left side of the river and several substantial buildings. Over the middle of the city hovered a strange glowing cloud, a vivid magenta that was disorienting to look at, with streams of shades of purple and red streaming down from it like rain. Beyond the edge, thick clouds of black smoke rose, as if a part of the city beyond the cliff edge was on fire.

As they got closer, they could see on the near side of the city was a long line of wagons and caravans, lined up to the gate, and many boats tied up in the river. There were many people down there and it looked like a scene of great agitation: they were foaming and rebelling against a contingent of guards who manned the wall over a gate, firing arrows into the crowd. The ship was low and some of the people saw it, pointed, and screamed.

The anchor was hanging low enough to catch but the winds were changeable and the ship veered to the left, and was destined to miss the bridge. They all tried to change the sails but without any crew, it was hopeless—they were out of control. They peered over the edge as they started to pass over the city. The anchor smashed right into the gate and pulled it free as it breached the wall! A big iron portcullis was hanging off the anchor. The chain of the anchor snapped back behind the ship. They passed over an inner wall of the city with very fine-looking towers inside, bathed in the glowing magenta light from above. Inside a few of the towers were pulsing lights and throngs of partygoers in the courtyard and on the balconies. Wham, the anchor and portcullis hit one tower. It smashed the side open and people fell out. A few people were crushed by the impact and fell lifeless. One figure, a man in a peacock costume, was holding onto the portcullis, screaming. The heroes watched as the anchor smashed right into a gleaming white dome of a large, grand building, cracking it open like an egg. The man in the costume was left as a red smear on the white pieces of dome falling inward, along with the portcullis.

They were now over a cliff edge that divided the city; to the right was the waterfall and bridge the ship missed. To the left was some parkland and a tall tower. Pulled by the anchor snagging on the dome, the ship angled sharply down and they all had to hold on for dear life. They saw off the prow of the ship now the rest of the city at the base of the cliff, full of simple buildings. Several of these were on fire and thick smoke was pouring out. People in the streets were rioting in the glow of the flames, fighting with town guards and other armed people at barricades in the streets. Some of them were looking up at the ship and cheering. The anchor bit at several rooftops, pulling them off. The ship slowed a bit with each snag. Up ahead there was another wall as they passed over the far edge of the city. Guards were on this wall and also seemed to be fighting off a mob: a sea of people was on the other side of the wall, rioting, taking shelter from the arrows being shot by the guards. The anchor hit a stone tower in the wall and sank deep into it and the ship jerked to a stop. But the wind was very high and the towering funnel cloud ahead was very close now, trying to suck in the ship. The sails ripped away but the pull was still very strong. The anchor on its chain dragged the tower against the city wall, catching it up and pulling it down in stages— one section collapsing, freeing the anchor and tower, which then caught the next section. Guards on the wall were being thrown down and the mobs of people were starting to stream through where the wall was. Up ahead there was nothing but river and plains— there was going to be nothing for the anchor to grab once it got free of this wall. It was time to go, and the best way was down the chain.

Theren considered flight for only a moment. He was the new commander of a floating pirate ship, and damned if he would give it up. He clapped his fine hat to his head, gripped the wheel, and stared resolutely at the dark funnel ahead. DTIS, loyal to a fault, stood by his side with equal resolve. The others, not even realising that their companions had decided to stay behind, scrambled down the chain. Of the mobs of people below, many were looking up at the heroes and cheering with fists raised. The others were swarming through the rubble of the wall being pulled down by the anchor. The last of the heroes dropped off the anchor chain to the ground, their fall caught and broken by the mobs. They looked up at the ship, pulled at a steep angle toward the towering funnel cloud in the high wind, and saw Theren and DTIS at the helm. Then the anchor broke free of the tower it was stuck into as it rolled along the open ground. People scrambled out of the way as it dug a furrow in the muddy ground. The ship started to accelerate again in the high wind, pulled toward the funnel cloud. The heroes on the ground couldn’t look away as it rapidly shrank into the distance. In less than a minute it turned over on its side as it was pulled into the cloud wall of the funnel and vanished from sight. Immediately the funnel started to pull up from the ground, and soon it vanished up into the thick clouds above.

The mobs surrounded the adventurers and carried them on their shoulders, cheering. “You pulled down the wall! You killed the guards! You broke open the dome!” This last as they pointed up. Peeking up above the cliff edge was a white building that used to have a beautiful dome, now cracked open. They recognised it: the Nentir Temple. They realised they were back in Fallcrest. Somewhere in the storm, they crossed the thin borderline of the Shadowfell back to the natural world.

There was a loud boom and a flash of orange fire. The mobs that broke through the wall had filtered through the streets and overwhelmed the grand stairs leading up the cliff wall, the stairs that required the tax to ascend. The stairway was thronged with these masses. The explosion at the top of the stairs sent wood flying, and the stairs broke free from the cliff face. Screams reached the ears from a distance. The stairs were so huge it looked like slow motion as they fell away, people falling off. It plunged out of sight, eclipsed by the burning rooftops.

In the distance against the face of the cliff on the river side, the portage lift was hauling up a platform filled with crates and several people. The dwarven dock workers that operated the lift frantically hauled on the chains that moved the lift with its system of pulleys. The platform rose slowly. A minute later, when it was most of the way up the cliff face, there was another explosion above it. The overhanging crane from which the platform was hanging cracked from the explosion. The platform fell, the figures floating off of it in freefall. It vanished from sight and there was a terrible crash.

Bastian sensed a dangerous mood in the crowd before the others did. Though at first he was basking in the general glow of admiration, he saw hostile glares directed at him in particular and muttering from one commoner to the other. His keen ears caught nasty anti-eladrin epithets. He remembered that last time they were in Fallcrest, anti-eladrin sentiment was already running high as the people blamed the eladrin elite in Hightown for enforcing the taxes and shifting the power of the city away from serving the common folk and toward the decadent lifestyle in inner Hightown. Now it seemed that things were much worse—the people were poorer and the fight between the guards (the best of them eladrin) and the people must have inflamed tensions far more. He sensed that this crowd, whipped into a violent frenzy, could turn on him at any moment. When the other heroes were picked up onto shoulders, Bastian was excluded from this honour, and he took advantage of it: he slipped away into the fawning crowd, pulling his hood over his scarred face, and vanished into the smoky streets. {Aerro will miss the next few sessions while on holiday.}

{For great success in this harrowing combat with much on the line and the goal achieved, a big windfall of XP—give 500XP to each.}

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DM log-- Gloomwrought 9

The battle with the semiprofessional pirates on the Blanche-Nef was joined. Our heroes quickly discovered that since all the inhabitants were ghostly, they took less damage than usual from nearly all of their attacks, and they could move down through the floor of the ship at will, making them difficult to pin down. The party was at first bunched up in the aft, but William fired a ballista at them equipped with a huge net that wrapped around Brad and Amos and yanked them toward the prow. Brad grabbed the masthead by the nude fishy bottom to stop from going over the edge into the clouds. There he discovered something interesting: set into the mermaid’s back were two square holes which he realised were the exact size and spacing of the prongs on the shield grip he found in the sunken chest. He strapped on the grip and fit it into the back of the mermaid. She came in two, leaving her fishy half behind. Lightning struck the shield and it crackled with electricity, but Brad was not harmed. The torso collapsed inwards from the back, quickly becoming concave. It was just as heavy as before so now it was extremely dense and hard wood, and a classic curved shield shape. From the front it still looked like a nude woman, down to the belly button, with a hard glossy surface. {This was a Storm Shield, which confers resistance to lightning and thunder damage, and can strike back against enemies with a similar kind of blast.} Brad and Amos tried to fight William, but the fallen nobles were good with their swords and formed a protective phalanx for their master. Aft, the rest of the party fought a similar phalanx protecting Thomas. Both of these bosses had a terrible power: they could manipulate the mind of an enemy, making both him and his friends see the target as a bloated, waterlogged corpse. This was so horrid a transformation it attacked the psyche of all concerned very strongly.

Amos dispatched one of the minor ghosts and something strange happened. Its life force went into a nearby corpse, which animated horribly. The corpse was clutching a barrel and, after spewing out seawater, said in a horrid voice, “The drink! The drink! It undid us all, just as my mother said it would.” Then appeared a new ghost, one of a once-beautiful woman, but also ghostly and drowned-looking, with voluminous, sopping wet skirts. They recognised this as Marie, the drowned sister of William. She seemed to intend no harm. She said, “You have suffered long enough, Jacob. Maybe at last we can undo what has been done, break the cycle, and give ourselves to the Raven Queen as we should”. She raised her hand on which she had a ring. (This was of great interest to the more acquisitive members of the party.) Lightning struck the ring and it glowed with power, becoming substantial. Marie said, “Fear not, Jacob. We’ll go down light as a feather…” and helped the corpse heave the barrel. They both went over the edge of the ship with it, but then let go and the two figures fell downward as slowly as a feather, Marie holding the corpse tight to her chest.

At this point the heroes had an insight: instead of defeating the ghosts, which was of dubious worth since the one that Amos dispatched soon reappeared to fight again, they could give them restful peace by dispelling their torment from the past. They could help the ghosts re-create the tragic events that killed them, and allow them to make different choices, to get them out of the endless loop of despair and recrimination the kept their spirits from leaving the Shadowfell. {The DM explained this in meta terms. The players could end the encounter one of three ways. If the heroes were all cut down, they would be enslaved on the pirate ship, joining the miserable wretches they saw scrubbing the decks with desperate fervour. If either William or Thomas were dispatched, the morale of the other ghosts would break, and the heroes could escape the ship before they rallied again. However, if they kept hitting objectives like the last one with the wine barrel, they could advance the story and eventually resolve it, giving peace to the ghosts and great rewards as a result. They soon discovered that each deck of the ship had an objective, which was satisfied by dispatching a ghost near a faintly glowing object that was significant to the story.}

{The XP from this combat will be tallied in the next log.}

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DM log-- Gloomwrought 8

We last left our heroes in the tomb, about to fight Tal Lorvas. The battle broke out again. As feared, Tal Lorvas drained every bit of energy from Malik, dispatching him to who knows where. In Zepher’s father’s face was a look of shock and betrayal, but just before dissolving, it changed to one of confusion, perhaps realisation.

The battle was tough, as Tal used the revival to stun everyone and get into a defensible position behind the huge zombie. Zepher recognised that she spoke to the zombie and skeletons in a guttural tongue that matched what he had heard from the demons: Abyssal. {Give 1 Plot Point to Zepher for tying world facts into the story.} Soon the nasty revenant was destroyed, and the ring containing her life force went dark.

Left behind were Malik’s things but aside from spell components, nothing significant—it seemed that Malik did not move here intentionally but was adventuring here when he was trapped by Tal. However, though Malik’s staff cracked irreparably as he vanished, the gem atop it may have been salvageable—it was half-ghostly, with one side being insubstantial, the other side solid, with a gradient in between. Zepher kept it.

Getting out of the tomb was itself dangerous. The necrotic energy there drained them of life as they struggled to raise the door. Zepher cast Wizard’s Escape on them all to get out from under the crack they were able to create by lifting the heavy door a bit. They worked their way out of the tomb.

They backtracked on the path that Zepher and Brad took to get to the tomb {give 1 Plot Point to Brad and Zepher for recalling the details}, but when they got to the sewer channel, they continued to follow it downstream to seek an outlet. Everyone was feeling the effects of the various maladies from the Shadowfell’s gloom. {Give 1 Plot Point to each for fun roleplaying of these afflictions.} Theren was fearful of the water and clambered onto Brad’s back. They reached the end: the sewer opened onto the sea, several meters down. The climb up the cliff seemed difficult and slimy. A short distance out in the water, a boat was tied up and apparently empty. Theren fearfully recalled the sea was probably full of hags and otyughs. {Give 1 Plot Point to Theren for using world knowledge.} As they considered their options, Brad gave into his impulsiveness and jumped in, taking Theren by surprise {with an initiative contest}. Brad manfully swam to the boat and hauled it back, making use of his newly discovered rope skills. The rest of the party decided to jump in. Bastian, overcome by malaise, slumped and fell sideways into the water, vanishing under the waves. It took some swimming and a bit of drowning to resolve this crisis, and they all ended up on the boat more or less intact. {Give another 1 Plot Point to Brad and Bastian for extensive RP of afflictions to the point of self-endangerment.} The boat was in fact empty, but a puddle of stinky, ash-strewn bilge implied that someone was here not too long ago.

As they tried to pretend they knew how to set sail, they heard a familiar wheezing cough. In the corner was a black birdlike figure— the Dark One that they last saw on the raft. He was thankfully not bitter about the theft and subsequent destruction of his family heirloom raft, and offered to pilot the boat. He eyed the compass, the gems of which now were now glowing. The more intelligent members of the party figured out how to read the compass to know not only the dead reckoning direction of the ship but also, thanks to the added bit they found in the sunken chest, the direction and speed of the ship, making it possible to intercept. The Dark One was not told about the pirate ship, and navigated as asked. At one point, far out to sea with the lights of Gloomwrought barely visible on the horizon, the Dark One said that this part of the sea was ruled by an angry god who demanded a show of faith in the calm seas, or else the seas would storm. Put out gold and other wealth on the deck of the boat, he said, and Zepher complied with his illusory pile of gold, making a great show. On they went.

First a dot in the gloomy distance, then growing fast, a ship appeared, sailing through the air. It seemed to sight them and head in their direction. Soon it descended and landed with a splash close to them. It was a magnificent ship, made of an odd mix of materials: solid-looking timber but slightly transparent sails and cannons on the deck. The sea formed a shallow bowl all around them, water pouring in, making it impossible to leave. The Dark One cackled nastily: “At last. I hope the stories are true about the crew of the Blanche-Nef. Being buggered by a gang of waterlogged ghosts would serve you right.” He vanished in a puff of dark mist.

Our heroes were a captive audience as they watched an amateurish but hearty stage play. First a pier faded into view with a gangway connecting the ship to a ghostly shore. Barrels of wine were loaded on by human workers singing a work song in a foreign tongue. Then a stream of royal youth proceeded down the pier and boarded the ship. The insightful members of the party realised these youth were the same people they saw before as the workers, in different costumes. The royals began to drink and dance, increasingly drunkenly. Then entered a young, human, clean-shaven man in a long yellow silken coat, with a large cane, but a strangely rustic hat. He had piercing blue eyes and athletic frame, rapier at his side, high heeled boots with curled-up toes. He was flamboyant, decadent, and a bit catty. He did a kind of introductory monologue on the gangway, addressing our heroes as the audience. He was glad to be leaving this country for home, though he expected to come back soon to enjoy his inheritance. He lamented that his royal father, the king, left hours ago but he had not set off yet— the wine and guests were so late arriving.

Then entered a captain in a heavy woollen blue coat, short and a bit chubby, with a grand beard and moustache. He seemed ambitious, driven, eager to please. The man in the yellow coat called the new arrival Captain Thomas, who greeted him back as “My lord Aetheling” rejoined by “Call me William my good man, on this ship YOU are of a rank equal to mine”, and after an exaggerated show of trying to let the other board the ship first, they walked toward the prow arm in arm. William praised Thomas’ skill, but all this had an edge of bitter sarcasm. William wanted to catch his father’s ship and Thomas agreed with a similar sarcastic edge: how can he refuse the son of the king? Thomas said this is the better ship, and she’ll be especially lively since we’re about to take her maidenhead (slapping the masthead—a carved wooden nude mermaid—on the painted bum). William said lay to rowing at all speed then. Thomas ordered the crew, again played by the same company of people in new outfits while others still played the part of the now very drunken nobles. William drank with the partying nobles and commanded the crew join in: wine would make them row faster.

Clerics of an unknown order came down the pier to bless the ship’s maiden voyage, but were turned away by William and the royals with jeers. Clerics accused them all of buggery and cursed them. The ship cast off from the pier, which pulled away as ghostly waves streamed down the side of the ship, though it was not really moving through the water— again all this looking like a stage set. But far above, real clouds were starting to form. This grand play continued with much rowing, carousing, dancing, and fornicating. An argument broke out between William and Thomas about the course to take—it was safer to go one way but shorter to go another way. William cajoled Thomas into taking the short cut. Suddenly the ship hit a submerged rock and rapidly sank as the crew panicked. William was loaded onto a skiff by a servant, and rowed away, calling for the others to swim to shore, it is still within sight, follow him. William and his ghostly skiff came close to our heroes’ boat. Desperately William looked back and pointed out a woman in the water, triggering a hammy performance of how he could not leave his dear sister Marie, “though she is by another mother” (this with a leer by William). He ordered the skiff back with a great show of bravery, calling to Marie. But the others in the water swam to the skiff faster and despite William’s protest, clambered onto the skiff in droves until it sank, taking all down with it. The very real rain was now pouring down and the wind was whipping up great waves. Thomas came into view, holding a broken part of mast. Another survivor told him that William drowned. Thomas said “I cannot face the king to deliver this tragic news”, let go, and sank. There was a moment of silence with nothing but the heaving waves under the flashes of lightning. Our heroes applauded uncertainly.

Then the sea swelled as the ship arose again, right under them. Their boat was scooped up onto a platform off the aft of the ship which held the skiff, so as the ship rose, the heroes’ boat rose with it. It kept rising up out of the water. The ship was now a ruin, a mass of rotting wood and tattered sails tied with fouled ropes. Bloated corpses and seaweed were strewn on the deck. Several ghostly figures stood with swords in hand, wearing wet and torn clothes that once were fit for royalty. Standing on each upper deck of the ship were two figures. Near them was a bloated, translucent figure shaped like a balloon about to pop, with a rotting and wet blue coat and captain’s cap. He was gripping the wheel of the ship with bony knuckles and kept his back turned but it must have been Thomas. On the far deck stood William, also ghostly pale and translucent. His cheeks were hollow and his eyes ravaged with rage and death. His magnificent yellow coat hung wet and stained and tattered. He pointed at the heroes, helpless in their little boat hanging off the aft of the great ship. They were all rising very fast now through thick stormclouds, lightning striking all around them. William bared his teeth and intoned: “Yo ho. Yo ho. A pirate’s life for you.” His eyes narrowed as he saw Theren and screamed: “THERE’S my fucking hat!”

{The XP from the combat with Tal Lorvas, the zombie, and 4 skeletons was 1050 XP for 175 each , and subsequent good adventuring gives another 100 each, so give 275 XP each.}

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DM log-- Gloomwrought 7

Our stalwart adventures (now including Bastian, who fell through the portal again, trading places with Brad, bits of tentacle stuck to his armor, and his feytamer still around his neck but apparently disabled) crept through a heavy door and corridor reeking of the undead. Ahead and to the side were more heavy doors, firmly shut, against which were piled many rotting skeletons, with their arms against the door as if trying to escape when they died. DTIS tried to sneak a peek around a corner, made a lot of noise, and found a man staring at him from the middle of a large room. He was a tall human in his late forties, wearing wizard robes, with straight black hair of medium length and a short black beard, both of which were beginning to show flecks of grey. There was something else strange about him, but DTIS could not figure it. The man said, impatiently, “Is my son with you?” It was Malik, and his son Zepher came around the corner anticipating a tearful reunion, what he got was, in a nagging tone, “So you don’t want to use Prismatic Burst? Why not? It’s the perfect spell.” Zepher stuttered and the father shook his head with weary disappointment. He continued, “Fight well and finish off this thing quickly. I need to show her you are capable. That last fight did not go as well as I expected of you, son. Don’t let me down.” With that he receded into the darkness shrouding the back of the room. Into the dim flickering light of the braziers came a new shape. With a cracking of bone and wet slap of feet, a huge zombie hulk waddled into view. Skeletons rose from the piles of bodies behind them. And the battle was joined.

Theren ran into the darkness and into a pillar, and heard something dragging along the ground. That thing emerged from the darkness. At first it looked like a floating white china-doll mask. Then in the gloom they could see that hanging from the mask was a desiccated, thin body. It used to be a female, and its shrivelled nakedness shocked the senses. It looked like nearly all the life and fluid had been sucked out of it. It hung and swayed from the mask like so many sausages that had been left in the sun too long. The mask turned to them and from the leathery chest a black ball of smoke emerged, splatting on the ground. This hurt several heroes with necrotic energy, and revived the zombie. The figure receded into the darkness again. From there she commanded the undead in an unclean language that Zepher recognised as similar to the demon speech many days before—Abyssal. {Give 1 Plot Point to Zepher for this connection.}

When Theren realised their foes could see in the dark, he dropped a sunrod to reveal the rest of the room. An altar was in the back wall, in resplendent ancient tiefling style. Pillars, carved like tieflings, held up the tall ceiling. In a corner was a cot and desk with wizard research piled onto it. Malik was there. And moving among the pillars was the hideous creature. Malik later called her Tal Lorvas. The wizard did not fight the heroes, and once when he started to cast a spell that seemed intended to protect Zepher, Tal hissed for him to stop, in a cold, nasty female voice, saying, “Malik! Don’t help him. You’ve told me for years how great and powerful he is. Well now I will see if you were right.” A few moments later, when her wave of dark energy pushed Zepher and the others back into the corner, she commanded Malik to pull a lever on one of the pillars. Wincing, he obeyed, and one of the the braziers in the corner dumped its coals in a wide swath, burning Zepher badly. Apparently she was testing our heroes, and making Malik help, and was mocking in her disappointment: “Your son falls somewhat short of your fawning description, Malik. How pathetic. He can’t do the job.” Malik replied, “He can… my darling. I know he can do it.” As they fought on, Malik said in an aggravated tone, “How many times have I told you, Zepher, use your prismatic burst!” When Zepher angrily replied he did not know that spell, as it was very far advanced, Malik muttered, “I told you to learn it, I knew you would, why didn’t you learn it? We always talked about learning that one together…” Later he chided, “At least your friends are as strong as you are. Son, you need to work WITH them. They act like they don’t trust you, why is that?” Meanwhile Tal Lorvas heaped scorn on all as her skeletons and zombie kept landing blows: “Years I waited for someone to come help me, to take care of me. Then years with you waiting for your son to come. All for nothing. You disgust me.” And then: “You had best hope that your darling Shia is as patient as I am for you to pull up your trousers and be a man for change.”

The combat was hard but the adventurers fought with brilliant tactics. Tal was boxed in and vulnerable. A blow that should have brought her down, however, had a surprising effect: a bright mist was yanked from Malik and streamed into Tal, who revived somewhat. Apparently, Tal was not undead—she was a living human on the verge of death, nearly all life gone from her husk, animated with the help of powerful arcane magic. This transfer left Malik weak and somewhat transparent. They realised that Malik was a ghost. The man had died in the natural world—Zepher saw it happen—and apparently reformed in the Shadowfell, as many unquiet spirits do. Now, Tal drew what little energy he had into her, and if she did it again, it seemed that Malik might disappear entirely. So when DTIS heaved a last blow toward her to cut her apart, Malik pleaded him to spare her. DTIS pulled his swing to leave her on the verge of dissolution, but intact. The zombie and skeletons fell to the ground inert, and the battle was finished.

Tal Lorvas was acidic in her contempt, however. She hissed to stop Malik from embracing his son, and dominated the room with her horrid presence. Malik looked woefully at Zepher and said, “I am sorry, my son. I made my choice long ago. It’s the only way I can find her.” Tal hissed again. Malik cringed but with a flash of defiance said, “I mean your mother, Shia.” Tal screamed, a hideous sound that made everyone’s heads feel like they were going to collapse. Malik crumpled. Tal said, very calmly, “I’m sorry. Of course, my dear Malik. You will find her, I promised you I would make that happen. Restore my power, we will escape from here together, and… all three of us will live together very happily. You, me, and…" (with badly hidden venom) "…her. I am so looking forward to finding her. You obviously love her so much. It is so touching.”

Malik said: “Zepher… Tal Lorvas is right. She will be very powerful and can find… your mother. All you need to do is help Tal Lorvas. I know you can do it. You are… not as powerful as I hoped you’d be by now. I still don’t know why you came to the Shadowfell at this point in your development. And without Prismatic Burst, I just don’t understand that.” Zepher realised that his father was going in circles with this. There was something about him very much lost, like his mind was stuck in a labyrinth. Such is the pain of a ghost. Malik continued: “I have to say, it is disappointing. At least you have some friends. They seem kind of capable. You need to lead them, though, Zepher. Remember what you saw me do with the troupe. We had many odd characters in that bunch…" (he looked at the others, especially DTIS) "…but I managed to keep them all together. I get a little feeling you’re not doing that the way you should, son. It’s not so good.”

Tal Lorvas muttered venomously, “ANYway, back to the important matter of the RING…” Malik hastened to add: “So, Zepher, all of you, here is what you must do. There is a ring here that contains most of the life energy of my dear one," as he patted Tal Lorvas on her withered waist. "From this tomb you can make your way up underneath and into a mansion on the surface. You have seen that mansion… I saw you looking through its gate. That’s how I knew you had finally come to find me. You know the one—the one with the ruined gates, across from the dwarven place—” Theren piped up helpfully, “Fellwroth! Across from the house of Treyvan!” Tal repeated, acidly: “Yes, Treyvan.” Malik cringed and watched Tal warily but with a long hiss, Tal seemed to regain her poise. Malik continued: “In that mansion is the last one from that family. His name is.. is…” He looked at Tal with dread, terrified to say the next word. DTIS helped out by happily suggesting, “Vargas?” Tal, with hatred so thick it felt like the room was filling with black tar, said it again: “Vargassss”. {Give 1 Plot Point each to DTIS and Theren for putting these pieces together.} Malik: “Yes. Yes. Vargas. He is a very, very bad man. He did this to Tal Lorvas… to my dear one here…” He reached out with a shaking hand and caressed the withered, limp, hanging arm. “Made it so when she came to get this ring here in this tomb, it did not give her power… it took it all away. Trapping it. In here.” He reaches under his shirt and pulled out, with trembling fingers, a ring on a chain. It had a dark, dark blue gemstone with a light flickering in it. DTIS’ arcane examination saw in it the screaming face of a beautiful woman, presumably Tal Lorvas. “Bring this ring to the domain of Vargas. There must be a way to dispel the magic trapping her life force here. I could not release it. I failed. But I know you can do it, son. Do what she needs and then… then she can help you and me find your mother.” Tal Lorvas cut in, with a withering contempt that revealed she knew Malik did not mean a word of all the supposed devotion he professed for his captor: “And more importantly, restore me to my former beauty. That’s what you said, remember, Malik? How beautiful I must be? And how wonderful it will be to finally hold me in your arms as this mask falls away and at last you can kiss me like you love me…” Malik was quivering and putting up an almost convincing display of emotion, saying: “Yes, yes my love. I cannot wait to hold you, and kiss you, to show how much I love you…” Tal, bitterly: “If you truly loved me, you’d be a man. You’d have made a son who could do this thing. He is far too weak.” The mask turned to Zepher, and he felt a crushing wave of contempt. He got some sense of what Malik has undergone for years now. But Zepher also sensed that in a way she was right. Somewhere in his gut, Zepher knew he was not ready for this task.

So this was all feeling a bit awkward. With this and more conversation, the heroes determined Tal probably did know enough to find Shia, but were not at all certain of her motives. Bastian remembered to mention Eleka Fellwroth {give 1 Plot Point to Bastian for this connection}, but Tal was withering in her disregard for this minor heir. The historians in the party knew that Tal Lorvas was supposed to inherit the Fellwroth estate, as she was in line long before Vargas. It was thought she died in The Sever, the fight in which Prince Rolan put down Fellwroth’s rebellion. Apparently not.

Our heroes also realised there was no way out of the tomb—the door they came through had slammed shut at the start of combat. Though they could eventually break through, they already felt like their life force was slowly bleeding out of them, feeding into Tal Lorvas. They would not survive long enough to escape. Tal promised to let them out, if Zepher put on the ring. It would bind to him. Zepher could then only get rid of it by dispelling its magic, restoring Tal to full life. They also knew they could instead choose to destroy the ring and its life force instead. But at what cost to Malik when Tal realised their betrayal? Then again, could Tal be counted on to keep her promise? They decided that was foolish. This woman was evil and vengeful to the core and would not find Shia, unless to kill her. But attacking her now would probably destroy Malik, sending his ghost into the great beyond, or elsewhere in the Shadowfell, with even more torment. It was a terrible dilemma.

Zepher heeded his father’s admonition and asked the group to help him decide, as equals. Most of them agreed and the decision was cast: they would attack Tal Lorvas now, even though it probably meant Malik would be lost. Malik was already far gone and dissolution may be a mercy. He would never give up his hope of Tal finding Shia, even though it was plain to them that Tal would do no such thing. They resolved to gain strength, then come back to the Shadowfell to find Malik, and if Malik’s desperate hopes were right, also find Shia.

The grim band caught their breath and readied for a new assault on Tal Lorvas in the hopes they would emerge from this sad tale alive and ready to right the many wrongs they have seen…

{For the battle so far, give 1650XP for the foes and traps, split 5 ways, so 330 XP for each. The next battle will count as a new one, so spend your surges, reset those encounter powers, and add an action points!}

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DM log-- Gloomwrought 6

The dark portal again appeared. Brad fell out of it, covered with sucker marks. The black tentacle he had been wrestling seemed to feel around for its intended target and grabbed Bastian. {Aerro was missing and Kat returned.}

Our heroes continued deeper into Nemeia’s tomb. A corridor sloped sharply down and a breath of icy air wafted up from the darkness. On the wall was written something in Malik’s handwriting: “Zepher, use Prismatic Burst!” This was written in expensive inks of the kind used to write scrolls, and a lot of time had been put into it, but it was not magical or a kind of scroll. It seemed to just be a message that was written with an unnecessary amount of neatness and care. Zepher felt a surge of emotion to know his father was here, and expecting Zepher to have followed him into these depths.

Zepher had been feeling dangerously reckless since he awoke that morning {he had a Shadowfell card that made him so}, so in a moment of abandon he leapt onto the sloping corridor and slid into the cold darkness. Inspired, the naturally reckless Amos and Brad followed suit. {Give 1 Plot Point to Zepher, Amos, and Brad for this self-inflicted complication, in the name of role-playing.} They, and soon the rest of the party, found themselves battling a corridor full of undead, who drew power from a nasty symbol of Zehir painted onto the stone with blood. Blazing skeletons and chillborn zombies combined their hot and cold auras to devastating effect. However, the clever party pushed them close together so the foes hurt each other with their mere presence. It was a damaging battle but our heroes prevailed. They erased the snake sigil, managed to navigate and disarm a tricky trap that made the floor very slippery, and went deeper into the tomb.

{For the foes and trap, give 1550XP, divided by the 4 combatants for 388 XP each.}

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