Shadow of the Tribunal

Death in the Cornfields (Session 11)
Secrets and Violence in the enchanted forest...

The party arose and spent their morning setting their affairs in order before their journey to Farfeld Monastery. Sergeant Faerlassel picked up her new Wolfshead shield from the smith Dutani and went to visit her partner, Baldo Buskwacker. She found him confined to desk duty, still healing from the petrification of his previous case. He had a message from Itarad asking specifically for her to investigate disappearences of displace people in the Pit. She asked Bushwacker to help deal with it and helped heal him as much as possible.

Meanwhile, Brother Dewfall and Lord Matthias attempted to get information from Tigarill, Lord Loradie’s butler, with little luck. The Old Elf told them he’d already told the tribunal everything, and shut the door in their faces; the two decided not to waste any breath on him and headed for the Tribunal headquarters.

They found the Lieutenant outside the Tribunal Headquarters, talking to a nervous-looking human with a spell-book clutched under one arm, standing alongside a long armoured carriage pulled by half-a-dozen horses. The Lieutenant, seeing them arrive, dismissed the man, telling him they’d rendezvous at the western gate. He then led the party to the Roq, the fortress in the centre of Charoq city. here they met up with Kina, who was unbound but confined to a prison carriage. The Lieutenant seemed to be taking almost a paternalistic attitude towards her. The party found this odd, but didn’t press to hard after Kina brushed them off.

The Deepwood Motte

Escorted inside the teleportation tower, they were transported to the Deepwood Motte on the outer edges of the flowing forest. There was evidence of the storm that had assailed them the previous night. They were escorted into a meeting with Emin li Accion, an icily reserved man, the Warden of the Motte and Faerlassel’s Uncle. He resented what he saw as increased Tribunal interference in his work, and made no indication that he knew Faerlassel at all. Faerlassel, for her part, remained quiet, terrified of the Warden’s legendary temper. Emin told the party they’d be relieving Captain Taroli in Westloch. He had been assigned to accompany a barge of Tribunal supplies to a research tower at the tributary of the River Senefen known as Varro’s Run. The party were to relieve him so that he could hunt the remainders of the Heralds of Chaos while they escorted the barge in his stead.

Around this time, Emin’s wife, Teria, the First Captain of the Deepwoods Rangers, returned from a hunting party. A fiery study in contrast to Warden Emin, she burst in, ‘outed’ Faerlassel’s relationship, also revealed the strained circumstances of their family’s relationship, and generally carted the party away on a river of dialogue. Aside from flirting with Matthias, she also informed them of hazards to watch out for in the Deepwoods. Apparently there had been an increase in fey activity. She also advised them to watch out for her youngest daughter, the legitimised bastard Halfling Setta, out on an expedition with her own ranging party.

The party commandeered a river skiff from the dock and set off to Westloch. On the way, Brother Dewfall experimented with a new power that gave him Truesight while Sabi steered. Kina rebuffed any attempts made by Matthias to talk.

Death in the Cornfields

As evening drew in and they passed through a more isolated area of the countryside, the party heard a low cry for help from ahead of them, carried on the wind. On a hill, they saw what looked like two scarecrows, except one of them was moving. Faerlassel, Dewfall & Sabi stayed with the skiff while Kina and Matthias went to investigate. The scarecrows turned out to be two teenagers, siblings. The younger brother, Elias, was on the edge of a coma, while his sister, Abina, was completely out of it. Kina & Matthias helped them down and brought them back to the skiff. After laying them in the skiff, which was the only dry surface on the storm-damp bank, Faerlassel & Sabi’s carried out a medical inspection. This revealed the siblings to be physically exhausted, and each had blunt force trauma to the back of the head, along with assorted rope burns and the like.

Elias was awake enough to question, though bleary and traumatised. He said that he and his sister had been celebrating her engagement to someone called Edwin while the storm raged outside last night. The next morning, their parents set upon them, killed Edwin, beat them senseless and strung them up like scarecrows.

Faerlassel stayed with the children while Sabi ran off to investigate the fiance’s house and the others headed towards the parent’s farmhouse. Sabi found Edwin’s house silent. There was a headless body on the floor of the bedroom, and a lot of blood. A short search found a patch of newly disturbed earth, which the Dwarf decided not to waste time digging up – this looked too much like vampires for her taste.

The other three found the farmhouse locked and shuttered. Matthias swiftly sprung them inside and they saw light from the living room. They stormed in and found Abner & Milena, the parents of Elias & Abina, apparently in mourning. Abner jumped up to challenge them, drawing a sword from above the fireplace, but Dewfall’s perky counterchallenge of “hello! Have you had any crucifixions lately?” stopped him in his tracks, and he started urgently asking whether the sun had cut through the clouds at all that day. taking the hint, the three booked it back to the boat, with Abner in tow.

Around this time, Elias lapsed back into unconsciousness and Abina stopped breathing. Sabi returned at a run and relayed her suspicions. The two holy women pushed the boat out into the narrow stream just as sunset hit, at which point the siblings awoke, manifesting as vampire spawns, and dragged Faerlassel onto the boat with them.

It wasn’t even a contest. Being new-born, the two vampires were still vulnerable to radiant damage, so Faerlassel carved through them both, pushing Elias into the water and decapitating him as he scrambled for the shore, before shooting a dinner-plate sized hole in the fleeing Abina with her crossbow.

In the aftermath, a tearful and hoarse Abner told them the full story. The three young ones had indeed gone to celebrate the engagement of Abina and Edwin, but they had welcomed a stranger into their new home to shelter from the storm. The newcomer, a vampire, had fed off them and left early the next morning. Elias, bleary and amnesiac in his weakened state, had gone home. There Abner, a former Ranger at the Motte, had recognised the signs of infection. He had taken Elias to check up on Abina and Edwin in their new home. He beheaded Edwin and buried the head, but, unable to face killing his own children, had knocked them out and strung them up on the scarecrow posts so that the sunlight would take them. As luck would have it, the sky had remained overcast that day so that no direct sunlight fell on the siblings, leaving them there for the party to find.

They buried the three on the hill beneath the scarecrows, where they used to sit and watch for passing boats. Abner offered them his and Milena’s wedding rings, which would have passed to their children. The party declined, saying the rings should be buried with the bodies instead.

Strangers on a Strange Road

As the players pitched camp for the night they were met by another quartet of travellers. The obvious leader said his name was Ernost, and requested to share the campfire. Over the course of conversation the human fell into talking about his journey for stories, specifically stories of revenge. Brother Dewfall stood to one side, and through his true-sight ability, Through A Mirror Clearly, saw that the four travellers appeared to be shapeshifters. The Party bedded down, their new companions off to one side, and decided to set a watch in case Ernost and his followers tried something.

Later that night, they tried something. The party was woken by Kina blasting one of Ernost’s followers – a Jackalwere, who had tried to compel her to fall asleep. The fight was brief, the party quickly dispatching the other two Jackalweres and Ernost, who revealed himself to be an Oni, an Ogre mage. During the fight, Kina was hit by the Ogre’s Cone of Cold ability, and the glamour she’d been wearing flatered for a moment – only Sabi was looking though, and was too pre-occupied with violence to try anything. The party gathered the bodies into a pyre and turned in for the rest of the night.

Aftermath - Session 10

The early hours of the 20th of High Summer

The underground chamber smelt of spilled blood, cooked flesh and damp, burned wood, but that wasn’t what worried Father Marius Urbano. What sent spikes of dread through his stomach was the completely neutral expression on the face of the Halfling next to him, the Pale Lady, Tribune Morella Pharess, as she surveyed the wreckage of the Nexus.

Of the eleven former mages who had comprised the project, only one had survived. The Halfling had been in communion at the time of the attack, but his mind had been fried as the constituent parts of the collective succumbed to heat and smoke they couldn’t feel, the interwoven scaffold of the ethereal nexus collapsing even as the flesh of its mortal vessels melted like cheap tallow. The Tribune had established this in a moment of silent communication with the poor, wrecked creature sitting on the floor, before wordlessly tapping her staff to its bandaged temple. The blast snapped the Halfling’s head around like an owl’s, and it crumpled to the floor. Marius couldn’t help but feel envious.

The Tribune then turned her attention to him; she didn’t move a muscle, but something in the quality of the air shifted, or maybe it was just the priest’s whisky-addled survival instinct finally sitting up and taking note. Marius’ mind went blank with panic for a moment, and a twinge of pain like a cramp or a mosquito sting flared in his arm, before a warm calm overcame him. He could trust the Tribune if he was honest. She was a fair, just commander.

“The armours reported that the infiltrators dropped a body out of the door in the western wall. I’ll need your help in retrieving it. Can you do that for me?”

“Of course, my lady.” Marius had not felt so sure of an answer in years.

Morella looked at him then, and an odd expression flickered across her face. It looked almost like pity. While the priest considered this briefly before dismissing it as ridiculous, she turned and walked to the yawning aperture in the western wall. Leaning out into the darkness, she took what looked like a coin from a pouch round her waist, muttered the words for a light cantrip, and dropped the glowing object into the brackish water below, where it was met by a chorus of chittering from the skeletal inhabitants.

Suddenly she uttered a curse in a language Marius didn’t recognise and, setting her staff aside, held her other hand out towards him. Her meaning was clear; I can see the Lieutenant in the water. The Skeletons aren’t attacking, but they aren’t letting him go either. I need you to take my hand so I can lean out into the void and neutralize the others so he can climb up.

Ignoring the twinge of pain in his neck and the doubting voice in the back of his head, Marius stepped forward to obey. The Tribune’s Halfling body was light enough that the wizened priest had no issue counter-balancing her as she leant her whole body out over the darkness. Proffering the gold-threaded trinity knot she kept looped in her belt, the Tribune whispered a short prayer to the crone, She Who Lays All to Rest, and a deep thrum of energy filled the waterlogged room below her. The chattering of dozens of skeletons reached a crescendo and was replaced by splashes and clatters as the necromantic energy holding the creatures together was unmade in an instant.

It took them another minute of wordless commands from the Tribune to retrieve the Lieutenant from the water. Finally, with the help of two of the animated armours, they were able to haul him over the threshold and into the room. The man’s flesh was cold to the touch, and slick with brackish water. His armour and clothing were buckled and burned, rent with great cuts, stained with blood and edged with ash. The skin of his right shoulder, arm, and the right side of his face were seared red and black from the fire that had claimed him, and the salt-and-pepper hair on the right side of his face had been almost completely burned off. Though he didn’t move, his eyes burned with a feverish light.

The Tribune considered the body of her bodyguard for a moment, before hauling him onto his side, sending Marius to retrieve two long nails from the well in the corridor, and driving them into the Lieutenant’s side, just between the lowest two ribs. Watery blood, black the room’s dim light, spilled out onto the flagstones. The Pale Lady rolled the Lieutenant back onto his back, stood, picked up her staff, gathered herself, muttered an incantation, and drove it into the human’s body. Marius heard the cracking of the man’s breastbone, and a burst of electrical energy filled the room. The lieutenant’s body arched upwards and fell back. There were a few moments of deathly silence before he gave a watery gurgling sound, rolled over onto his front and vomited up the remnants of the liquid in his lungs.

Marius couldn’t help shake the feeling that he should be more disturbed by this than he was. No matter, though; he trusted the Tribune, and felt sure that whatever she was doing she was doing for a righteous purpose.

“Welcome back, Lieutenant”. The Tribune’s voice was low, but Marius thought he could hear just the tiniest hint of relief.

“How long was I out?” The Lieutenant sounded ragged, like the old priest did after a night of hard drinking. He pulled himself into a sitting position against the south wall, seemingly completely untroubled by his injuries.

“About an hour. It’s a little after midnight. Somehow you were able to cling on to this world. What happened?”

At this, the Lieutenant glared at Marius, but the Tribune cut in.

“The Priest is… sympathetic to our cause. He will do nothing to compromise us; I have seen to it. Don’t you trust me, Marius?”

The priest jumped at being addressed like this.

“With my life, Tribune.” Again, it surprised him how certain he was.

“Very well.” The Lieutenant settled himself.

“There were a half-dozen of them – the Tiefling and the Splinter-kin Human with the black mandolin I told you about, accompanied by four others: a Semarqiuan Human brute with a halberd; another Human, Vachiran, I think, a duelist-type – I killed that one; and a human-looking woman with a giant wolf companion. There was something odd about her, but I didn’t quite catch what. The Tielfing seemed to be some kind of Warlock; the Human with the mandolin acted like a Bard, and the Human woman had some kind of minor natural spellcasting.

“They came for the pickpocket you had marked for the next component of the Nexus – the one Agent Igino brought in a few days ago. They interrogated the good father here, snuck in with his help, killed the ghoul pack, circumvented the arcane lock, and freed the prisoner. I got here about then with the Ghast, but even with the help of the spare Nexus components, they overpowered us. The armours didn’t get here in time, and I think the human with the mandolin was able to disguise himself as me to send them away anyhow.”

“Were any of them marked?”

“Aside from the pickpocket? The brute and the wolf, I think. It’s any guess how well they’ll fare, though.”

The Tribune considered this in silence for a moment.

“I want to follow them, my lady.” The Lieutenant’s tone was beseeching, but twisted with an almost feral hunger as he continued. “They took my sword. And I want that demon-kin fuck to burn like I did.”

“And you’ll get your chance, my friend. But first we’ll need to find them. We can trace your sword easily enough; but in a couple of days they may well reveal themselves to us. The pickpocket should fully manifest in a couple of days, and the thug and the wolf not long after, with any luck. We should focus our efforts on rebuilding this nexus so we can easily find them once the colonies are fully established.”

“Forgive me, milady, but I never trust in luck like that. We don’t want three new-borns together in the wild like that, especially if they have friends who can observe manifestation. We’re too close to start taking risks like that now.”

The Tribune chuckled.

“You’re right, of course, my friend. I suppose I’m pre-occupied with the loss of contact with the rest of the network.”

Marius listened passively as the two bounced ideas between each other for a few more minutes, never entirely being able to dismiss the notion that he really shouldn’t be listening to this. It was eventually decided that they would approach the problem from both angles. Someone called Thiessen would hurry progression of his prototypes who would accompany the Lieutenant as a kill team once they had traced the sword. Meanwhile, the Tribune would supervise the creation of a new Nexus from the prison population, which would be able to co-ordinate a wider search with the rest of the network.

Finally, the lieutenant turned to Marius.

“And what about this one, Tribune? I trust you, but he knows entirely too much now.”

“Well, the new Nexus has to start somewhere.”

A wave of fear swept over the priest, but was supressed by the surety of the Tribune’s gaze. A twinge of pain flashed in Marius’ neck. She would do what was best for him. He knew this, as deeply as he had known anything before.

“You’ve disappointed me, Marius. Letting those people in here could compromise our entire operation. Why would you betray Church of the Threefold Path like this?”

“I lost my faith a long time ago, my lady. I don’t entirely understand what you’re doing here, but I know it’s evil. When those people came to my house a few hours ago, I thought I could stand a chance at redemption. I’d do it again if I could.”

There was no rancour or passion to his statement. It was simply that, a statement of truth. He knew the Tribune would appreciate that.

The Pale Lady seemed to exchange a wordless conversation with the Lieutenant for a few moments. The Father could see it in their faces, even if they didn’t speak. Finally, the Lieutenant hauled himself to his feet, the grinding of his broken bones audible even if he didn’t seem to notice, and picked up his longsword where it had been discarded in the fight.
The Tribune turned back to the old priest.

“Father Marius, would you be so kind as to strap yourself into the chair in the other room, please?”

+ + +

Father Marius Urbano died several days later, in his sleep, wracked with the bodily pain of Sanctioning and the mental pain of knowing what his charges had experienced in their final days. His body, of course, remained useful for significantly longer.

An Elemental Tango (Session 09)
Dancing with infernoes and intruige...

With a few hours to kill before the meeting of the Dark Fire Cult, Faerlassel went into town and commissioned a shield from the Dwarven Blacksmith, Dutani, who had supplied Sabi’s new armour, to arrive the next day and include a Wolf’s Head, the Accion family crest, in the design. Meanwhile, Brother Dewfall took three pinches of the dust of dryness, converted them into pellets, and distributed them among the team.

About an hour before sundown, the storm-clouds that had been lowering over the city broke and sent sheets of rain hammering into the summer-bleached earth. The party, carrying only the most unobtrusive pieces of gear, travelled to the Sorailla house in Matthias’ carriage. Their cover was simple – Matthias was to introduce Faerlassel and Sabi as prospective new members, with Dewfall posing as “Derrick”, Faerlassel’s bodyguard. Upon arrival, the party were introduced to Vivius Sorailla, an arrogant young brat happily in his element at this kind of gathering. He had a special guest with him; a Fire Genasi by the name of Cindra, accompanied by her half-orc bodyguard, Voros.

The party mingled and learned what they could about the gathering. The Cult seemed entirely comprised of young, bored nobles, most of them with minor spellcasting for utility or defense. Cindra, under gentle questioning by Faerlassel, claimed to be on a tour of the Two Continents as a simple excursion away from her home, the Floating City of Marakis. Faerlassel sensed that she was not telling the entire truth, but decided not to press the matter. At a later point, Cindra approached Brother Dewfall and attempted to talk to him in a language he didn’t recognise, seeming to look on him pityingly before moving away. Voros remained in the shadows, but made no attempt to conceal either the sword on his back, or the brass circlet seemingly fused to his flesh.

Vivius revealed in idle conversation that his father, Favius Sorialla, was out of town presently meeting with “some friends in the country”. It was also revealed that Cindra’s father, Masabi, was a genie slaver, one of a group of elemental lords who plied their trade along the Blighted Coast between the two continents. In the heated discussion that followed this revelation, with many of the cultists seeming ambivalent about the notion of slavery, Matthias found an opportunity to sneak into a secret room behind the bar and locate what looked like a sheaf of letters hurriedly dumped there.

As the evening progressed, Matthias was also able to sneak upstairs and find a small vanity mirror in Favius’ dressing room with a note laid alongside it: “With your side of the deal complete, a Wish of mine shall be yours to command. Consider it carefully. Maybe this can give you some ideas”. When viewed, the mirror presented an image of Matthias’ deepest desires.

Eventually Vivius called the Cult to meet in the first-floor drawing room for the initiation of Faerlassel and Sabi. This quickly proved to be a sham; Vivius created an illusion that his hand was on fire and shoved it into Faerlassel’s face to provoke a reaction. He also dropped something into the fireplace that seemed to glow with a whit heat. Only Brother Dewfall noticed this. Vivius then started rabble-rousing, speaking about something lost on the half-orc as he focused on the fire and tried to communicate to the rest of the party that something was up.

The elemental gem that Vivius had dropped in the fire detonated, and instead of the expected fire elemental, a swarm of tiny burning blue skulls shrieked out of the fireplace and started to attack. Vivius and most of the party were set ablaze as it travelled through them, but quick thinking by Matthias and some judicious application of some of the pellets of dryness allowed the party to overcome the creature without too much difficulty.
By this time, of course, the rest of the cult was in complete disarray. The young nobles had fled at the first sign of trouble, with Voros pulling Cindra away from danger, and only Vivus was left behind, charred and whimpering beneath the leg of a piano.

The party took this opportunity to find Cindra and interrogate her about her real purpose here – Voros offered to fight them off, but Cindra agreed to answer their questions. The Genasi revealed that she had come to broker a deal with Favius and elements of the noble contingent of Semarqian society. The nobles would try to push legislation through the assembly that would allow slaves to be traded openly in Semarq, in return for a Wish.

The party vowed to deliver news of this plot to the Tribunal, who had the resources to stop them. At this knowledge that the players had powerful allies who could oppose her Father’s designs, Cindra revealed her gambit; she had come here to sabotage the plans of her father, Masabi, Lord of a Thousand Chains. The party decided to bring her to Lord Rankin rather than the Tribune. They covered up their presence at the house by knocking out Vivius, dousing him in alcohol so that people would assume he was drunk. Rankin, after hearing this story, decided to help their efforts by modifying the memory of the now-sleeping noble to erase any record of their conversation from his mind.

One tale ends... (Session 08)
debriefing and deception

The party, its mission now apparently complete, made its way up to the surface, after five days underground. They stopped by the place where they had seen ghostly light previously, and found about half-a-dozen humanoid bodies. They seemed to be members of the Cascade, the gang that focused on smuggling, and all seemed to have been killed by spectres. They had left behind a small haul of treasure.

Emerging into a back alley in the south of the city of Charoq, they were greeted by the Tribune’s Lieutenant and a small, mixed squad of guards and tribunal agents, who escorted them to the Tribunal Headquarters for immediate debriefing. Along the way, the party learnt that resentment in the city had spilled over into riots and looting. The guard and tribunal, pooling their resources, had managed to protect civic buildings and guild-houses, but a lot of independent arcane practices had been torched.

The party arrived at the Tribunal headquarters, with Sabi and Kina extremely nervous. Kina was taken away in chains, Dewfall going with her and handing Loradie’s journal to Faerlassel. Haisal, Sabi and Faerlassel then reported to the Tribune. They were completely candid about Loradie’s apparent goal, his effect on Monna, the fate of the Heralds, and the fate of the casket. They also vouched for Kina’s conduct. The Tribune seemed to accept this, pending her own investigation. She promised them her own evaluation at dawn the next day, along with analysis of Loradie’s journal and examination of the portal. She seemed to see through Faerlassel’s assertion that Haisal was working for the City Watch and not Lord Rankin.

The party left Kina in her tribunal cell, with Dewfall personally vouching for her protection. Over the rest of the day, Dewfall and Sabi went separately shopping, while Faerlassel cleaned herself up and wrote a report, and Haisal de-briefed with Lord Rankin. After sharing a full account of their exploits and recommending the other members of the party, Haisal was given a couple of days to unwind before being sent on a new mission at the Cork, the fortress overlooking the entrance to the Blight at the south of the country.
Shopping produced a nice new set of armour and a near-mugging for Sabi, a visit to Ylahona’s shop in the dark warrens (untouched by the riots) and a few magic items for Brother Dewfall, and

That evening, Faerlassel received a sending message from Lord Rankin, requesting an audience for her and her companions. Convening at the house, they were ushered in to a meeting with Rankin and another human male – a young, rakish noble by the name of Matthias Staghare. Lord Rankin had a mission for them. He had received information from Matthias that a collection of young nobles had formed a cult known as the Dark Fire Cult, which had been summoning fire creatures and doing other things that unnerved the young noble.

This presented a perfect opportunity for Rankin. The ringleader of the Cult, one Vivius Favius Sorailla, was the son of one Favius Duetonius Sorialla, a minor lord associated with various nefarious factions in Semarquian politics. Sorailla senior was out of town in relation to some new, undisclosed scheme. Rankin presented two objectives to the party. Firstly, to scope out the cult at their gathering the next day, see if there were any sinister designs behind their activities, and report back. Secondly, to find out what the elder Sorailla was up to, before reporting back. They would be going in undercover, under Matthias’ guidance. Discretion was of the essence; violence a last resort; and on no condition was anyone to die. In order to help with this, Rankin provided the party with a couple of items from his personal collection – a relic of his adventuring days.

The party met at Matthias’ manor the next day (Faerlassel noting that his was smaller than hers) to discuss the plan to get them in the door. Matthias’ plan was simple – they were to pose as his companions for the evening. He had spent the night procuring suitable wear for them – Faerlassel, having anticipated this, went ahead and bought an evening gown ahead of time.

The heroes now have a few hours to kill before their infiltration of the cult.

Third Party Interference (Session 07)
new faces, old enemies

While recuperating and getting ready to plan their second assault on the temple, the party were met by a pair of individuals. One, a Halfling Wizard named Julio, introduced himself as the guide to an emaciated-looking fellow in a long, concealing coat and hat, who spoke through a stone that translated his words into whatever language the listeners were most familiar with.

This person, dubbed “Mr Irrelevant” by the party, claimed to be a traveller hunting down the casket the party had left on Hernando’s body, along with whoever had stolen it from its proper resting place. Something about the temple interfered with his awareness of the casket’s location. He was prepared to not kill the party if they would offer him help in reclaiming it. Over the course of this conversation, he also revealed himself to be undead – a “raptor” from an ancient empire, brought to unlife to return the casket to its rightful resting place.

The party agreed to these terms, and, along with their new companions, sailed back across the water to assault the temple. They were spotted by Specs, the spectator, who had been sent to watch the entrance, but were able to chase him down and kill him, with the raptor revealing himself to be a spell-sword of some kind, using both a rapier and minor spell-casting.

They found Monna and the Slaad apparently packing to leave in the main temple complex. They attacked, and quickly did away with the Slaad, with Sabi striking the killing blow with a firebolt that drilled through the back of the toad-creature’s skull. Monna fell to a shatter spell from Kina after attempting to dominate Dewfall. Of extreme help in this fight was the Raptor’s thunderstave, an antique weapon that ripped chunks of flesh from the Slaad with thunderous detonations. This fight also reinforced Sabi’s conclusion that Monna was not a normal spell-caster – she was using spell-like effects without having to use verbal or somatic components.

Their enemies defeated, the party collected themselves and their loot and investigated the portal at the other end of the room. It seemed to have its energies contained by a series of gems laid out in adjoining rooms, and any attempts to break it failed. Julio was able to establish that the wards were containing the portal, crippling it and preventing it from fully manifesting. During this time the Raptor located the satchel with the casket inside. There was a flooded stairwell at the back of the main temple room, and the party decided to investigate to see if they could find where the rest of the Heralds had gone. The raptor decided to follow them so that he could safely teleport out back home, from out of the range of the temple’s chaotic influence.

The underwater tunnel emerged on the south side of the temple, in the lower portion of the great underground lake. Emerging from the water, the fore-runners of the party were greeted by a figure, an exceedingly generic-looking human, on the southern shore who floated across the water to them. He promised to show them, via telepathy, a goodwill gift, in the hopes that they would reciprocate in kind. Dewfall heard the

At this point Faerlassel, Kina and the Raptor broke the surface. Faerlassel, using her divine sense, identified the figure as a powerful fiend. The Raptor appeared to recognise him, and seemed terrified. A fierce telepathic conversation took place between the demon and the Raptor as the party headed for the shore. There they found the remains of the Heralds of Chaos. The humanoids had been butchered on the shore; burned, chopped, and ripped apart by main strength. Along with them was the remainder of the Chuul’s body.

The Raptor and the Demon seemed to reach an agreement. The undead hunter pulled a candle from his coat, and teleported out, but not before Julio grabbed on to the satchel with the casket inside. The two vanished, leaving the party to face the Demon, which now revealed its name, Rixelnask, and its true form; a grey-skinned, robed creature known as an Ultraloth, a mercenary demon general. Alongside it appeared three large gargoyle-like creatures – Daerith, Ezerith, & Azerith. Rixelnask addressed the party via Haisal. He told them that the four had located their quarry and sated themselves in the fight with the Heralds. As such, the party simply had to prove themselves worthy opponents, not worth the trouble of mopping up, and he’d leave them be, this time. With that, he sent his bodyguard Daerith to attack them while the others looked on.

Daerith proved a terrifying opponent, almost eviscerating Sabi in a single strike with an Axe-blade almost the size of their Gnomish companion, before teleporting away for another pass. Most attacks from the rest of the party proved ineffective; until Sabi was able to trap the demon in a Bead of Force she’d taken from the temple, effectively turning the thing into a giant beach-ball. Rixelnask and his other two bodyguards found this hilarious, leaving the party and carrying their simmering compatriot away with them into the darkness.

Maiden's Folly (Session 06)
In which aggressive negotiations are a tad too aggressive.

The group proceeded swiftly towards their final destination, the central chamber in this abandoned temple. Investigation of the two remaining rooms revealed sleeping quarters for the heralds, and a graveyard where a number of claw-marked bodies had been stashed and left to rot. In investigating the two rooms, the party also found the possessions and remains of the Hereson siblings, the two Dwarven members of Loradie’s party. They looked like they’d died violently, no more than two days ago.

Investigation of the pile of bodies revealed about eighteen bodies, varying in age from a couple of days to over a month old. Faerlassel and Dewfall decided to burn the bodies and say a few prayers over them. Over the course of trying to find combustible material, Haisal and Kina tipped over a bookshelf that sent a large crashing sound ringing out through the complex.

After lighting the pyre and resting for a bit, the party proceeded down the darkened stairwell, emerging in what looked like the former nave of the temple. The room was pitch black, illuminated only by the creepy, fluctuating light of the mounted wall-gems in the stairwell, the distant glow of the portal, looking like a crack in space and set against the far wall, and the flicker of reflected light off a shallow pool of water seeming to come from a side room opposite the stairwell.

The light was also enough to reveal the hulking figure of the Slaad; a great frog-like creature standing twelve feet tall, with the proportions of a great ape. The light was too dim to tell what colour its hide was. As the party stepped forward, it warned them not to come forward and challenged them in deep rasping voice, “who speaks for you?

Both Haisal and Faerlassel nominated themselves, but Haisal got there first, so he was the one to whom another voice came, telepathically and directly inside his own head, such that the others couldn’t hear. Haisal tried to set up a dialogue, intuiting that the Slaad was not the one speaking telepathically; that this was a second interlocutor, going by the name of Specs, who seemed easily distracted and not entirely happy he was being bossed around by someone called Monna.

At this point Faerlassel stepped forward in defiance of the Slaad’s apparent instruction and tried to take control of the situation by appealing to her authority as a member of the Charoq city watch. The situation rapidly devolved into anarchy. Monna (who was co-ordinating the Slaad and Specs telepathically so she could remain hidden), speaking throught the Slaad, ordered them to leave and let her live – she kept repeating that she was “not born to die”, and calling the party “grandmother’s tools”. Specs started rambling off on his own, first to Haisal then to Dewfall, about how he wanted to be left alone. Haisal and Dewfall tried to carry on the parley while also attempting to reign their Paladin in, who resisted this.

Eventually Monna got sufficiently pissed off to order the attack, revealing her own spellcasting potential and rogue-ish nature as she hexed and ambushed Faerlassel, yelling for the party to LEAVE!”. At this point the temple-dwellers revealed their strengths. The Slaad surged forward and mauled everything in range with its huge claws and maw. Monna proved capable of both sneaking attacks from the shadows, and creepy spellcasting. The entity known as specs revealed itself to be a Spectator, a small floating entity with a great eyeball dominating its spherical form, and with four smaller eyeballs attached to it via stalked appendages. This bizzarre creature attacked with a variety of discombobulating rays, parlysing, terrorising and confusing the party.

Under this onslaught the party first retreated, then out and out fled, scrambling up the stairs and down the passageway. They used abilities and spells like shatter spells, Dewfall’s Ring of the Ram and his Shape the Flowing River ability to obstruct and delay pursuit, with the help of Faerlassel’s Command spell, which set the Slaad running the other way. However, in the scrum to get out, Hernando, Haisal’s faithful badger companion, was caught by the Slaad and rendered unconscious, with one hind leg hamstrung. Rather than see him mauled any more, Haisal mercy killed his companion there and then.

The party fled the temple, regrouping on the ice boat Brother Dewfall had crafted. There they commiserated for a brief time, before heading back the camp where they had met Dali, the Bullywug shaman. There they made camp, to regroup, re-plan, and have their vengeance the next morning.

Whispers of Chaos (Session 05)
In which lakes are crossed and exposition is dumped.

Aggressive Negotiations

After their fight with the Lizardfolk, the party rested up and waited for their prisoner to come to. Haisal passed the time by interrogating their new companion, Sabi, about her origins and purpose. This turned into a brief debate about religion; the gnome of the opinion that he’d seen too much of the work of demons to believe in the gods; the dwarf maintaining that those who made acts of faith would see their devotion reciprocated. Kina also expressed doubts about their purpose down here, but was placated by Faerlassel’s assurance that their pursuit of Lord Loradie would lead to closure and vengeance on the Tribunal for the Warlock.

The Lizardfolk eventually came to and the interrogation was begun. They were able to understand the creature via Sabi’s High Draconic, just about. It demanded that they give it an honourable death in return for information. This information was that the Lizardfolk’s hunting party had in fact met Lord Loradie several days ago; he had promised them aid in their endeavour and they had taken him back to their base of operations, a camp in a great underground cavern by the shore of a lake, under the fields to the south of the city. When pressed about what this endeavour was, the captive only responded with the phrase “Chaos Rising”. This seemed to conclude the interrogation.

At this point Haisal took out a dagger and moved to try and slit the Lizardfolk’s throat; this almost turned into an all-out inter-party brawl before the gnome was talked down. The captive was set free and given the opportunity to duel Faerlassel to the death; Faerlassel gave him her guard scimitar and wielded the longsword of the dead Lizardfolk captain, which had in turn been taken from Eogeg. The fight was predictably one-sided.

Caverns Below

The party rested for a couple more hours and headed south, following the Lizardfolk’s information. As they trekked this final leg of the sewers, they noticed a faint shimmering light off in a side passage. Careful watching suggested the light might belong to spectres, such as those they’d confronted in the Pit a couple days previously. It was decided that they had better things to do, since they needed to find the source of this Chaos Rising.

Finally, the party emerged from the south of the sewers to find the underground cavern, which stretched for hundreds of yards off into the darkness. Most of this space was covered by a great and still lake. A forest of phosphorescent fungi off to their left provided a source of light. Two other points of light shone; one looking like a campfire on the right-hand shore, and a single point of torchlight directly opposite them, fixed to some kind of hill visible only as a greater darkness in the cavern.

The party decided that the stealthy ones (Dewfall and Haisal) would investigate the cavern, while the unstealthy ones (Kina, Sabi, Faerlassel & Hernando) would hang back. The guys investigated and found a camp big enough for about fifty people; almost completely deserted, looking like it had been left in a hurry. They also found the seeming last remaining occupant of the camp; a weird frog-like creature, warming its hands by the fire, covered in tattoos and tribal clothing, with three badly-healed scars across its chest. The creature spotted them in the darkness despite their best efforts, but offered no aggression. He introduced himself as Dali, and said he wanted to know what kinds of people were pursuing his flock.

The subsequent conversation (which the ladies & Hernando joined partway through), though oblique, revealed a few things key things: that Dali was one of the leaders of a group of lesser humanoids who called themselves the Heralds of Chaos; that they had come to this place because the hill contained an old temple of a forgotten god, who left a useful legacy for their purposes; that those who came as supplicants had to travel across the lake under their own power, over the course of which they would be “judged worthy” by the guardian in the lake; and that Loradie’s party had done this, though the two dwarves had done so less readily than the two humans.

Dali went on his way as the party discussed the next course of action amongst themselves. They decided that they should brave the frigid waters of the lake; Sabi and Faerlassel swam, in an attempt to not anger the mysterious guardian;, while the others took a boat Dewfall crafted with his water-bending. About halfway across the lake they were attacked by the guardian – a chuul that had made its home in the temple the Heralds were using, and that latched on to the strongest source of magic it could detect. In this case, it was the magical box being carried on Hernando’s back. Over the course of the fight they managed to wound it enough that it fled into the deep blackness of the lake. The party carried on towards the distant torchlight and found that they would have to swim underwater to pass further. They did so and emerged in a cave, with distant chromatic light shining through from their left-hand side.

Aggressive Negotiations II: Chaotic Boogaloo

Haisal, Dewfall and Kina crept forward, and saw that the natural caves gave way to some kind of constructed hallway. This was most likely the entrance to the temple. Here they were spotted and hailed by a strange cyclopean creature with slash-marks on its chest known as a Nothic, and a gaunt-looking humanoid. It attacked after a brief exchange with Brother Dewfall, in which it referred to him as a “Son of Gruumsh”. It was supported in this by a quartet of Kenku, who struck from the shadows, grievously wounding the half-orc before being picked off by Haisal’s arrows and Kina’s magic. The gaunt human turned into a rat and summoned help from within the temple; a trio of scarred lizardfolk, and a strange, scarred, top-knotted figure in flowing robes who wielded no weapons. All of them fell with help from Haisal’s spike growth and sharpshooter abilities. The exception was the robed-figure, who plane-shifted out on the last vestiges of his health.

The guards defeated, the party seemingly had the run of the temple. And what a bizarre place it was – lit every twenty feet or so by rough-set crystals in the walls that changed colour every few seconds, and with a distant echo of muttering or chanting coming from deeper within the complex. The adventurers immediately inspected the hallway the reinforcements had come from, finding a series of cloisters and a side-chapel. Here they found an altar to an unrecognisable god, and the body of Lord Aventus Loradie. He had been laid in state, his throat cut – he seemed no more than a day dead.

Some searching by Kina found his journal, which was present in two halves. One was written in Imperial, and was a translation of the Travelogue of Limbo they had found on his desk. This in particular provided details of the Spawning Stone, a great monument built by the lord of order, Mechanus, in imitation of the legendary Pillars of Creations, and cast into the plane of Limbo as an attempt to tame its chaotic energies. However, in its passage through the plane it had become corrupted, and now existed as the spawning point of the race of toad-like entities known as the Slaad. These monstrosities reproduce by infecting humanoids with a spore-like tadpole, which hatches after a few months, and progresses in ever more bizarre and horrific stages from there.

The other half was written in Celestial, and proved to be a more conventional diary. This had been started by Lord Loradie after he came away from a meeting with the Tribune in which she had seemingly locked him in place with magic, but without a gesture or word spoken, and lectured him about the dangers of uncontrolled magic. Over the next few days, he had found himself afflicted by headaches and blank spots in his memory. He would wake up at his desk with the Travelogue of Limbo open beside him, and he found translating Celestial a lot easier than he would otherwise expect. He had also felt an increasing urge to check on the Alms-house. He felt worried, given that it was built into the side of the quarry and so backed on to the Sewers, what kind of horrors might rise up from below. Eventually he found himself mounting an expedition, constantly wracked by nightmares and strange sparks of knowledge.

Around this point there was a break of a few days in the journal, and when it picked up the syntax and writing style were different. The journal told how he had made contact with the Lizardfolk, and bartered safe passage for aid in constructing a stable portal for the Heralds in their temple. It told how he had “turned” the human, Monna Gundia, in a fit of pique a couple days earlier, but now looked forward to her full “manifestation” since he had lost contact with his “hive-mother” and looked forward to the company. After a couple of updates in which he commented on how he had sabotaged some mechanism in the portal so that it could not open properly, the final entry noted how Monna had finally manifested, but that he was having trouble getting her to understand the necessity of their situation. The last couple of statements showed that Monna seemed to be resentful towards Loradie, and the Lord wondered if he had miscalculated.

There was one more thing. On the last page of the journal was written an entry in Celestial, in a different set of handwriting; one that Dewfall recognised as belonging to the Pilgrim, the author of the Travelogues:

“When two chaotic elements interact, who knows how calamitous the result? Spirals in planes, plainly spiralling; order in chaos, chaos in order; shards of stone in flesh.
Mind this well, Pilgrim; an anchor is needed to moor a ship.”

Still digesting this knowledge, the companions moved on and found a side chamber with what appeared to be the nest of the Chuul, though the Aberrant entity was nowhere in sight. Instead they found a veritable treasure trove of magical items the creature had recovered over the years, including magic rings, armour, potions, and utility items. They parcelled the items out and prepared to face the next (and hopefully final) step of their journey into the depths of the Temple of Chaos.

Hark! A Vagrant. (Session 04)
A new character joins the party. Also, violence.

Their ongoing crawl through the sewer took the party to a great, stagnant cesspit inhabited by a dozen strange creatures known as Mud Mephits, who promised to guide them across via the only safe path in exchange for “shinies”. Before this could happen, though, the party were set upon by a trio of Phase Spiders. In the ensuing scuffle, Haisal was seriously wounded, and Brother Dewfall was almost killed outright. He was brought back from the brink by Sergeant Faerlassel, but promptly told to go take a hike for the rest of his healing.

The spiders were seen off, and the party rested up in a guard post a few minutes walk beyond the mephit’s lair. There they were met by a wandering Dwarf known as Sabi Fireforge, who claimed to have been led there in a dream. Before more than a cursory introduction to the rest of the party, the group disturbed a wandering party of Lizardfolk, who attacked with blinding ferocity. The leader, a tough-looking fellow with old slash-marks across his chest and wielding a longsword with a red tassel, was slain by Dewfall, and the rest broken, but not without inflicting some more serious wounds on the rest of the party.

Sabi revealed herself to be a Pyromancer of considerable strength, and managed to capture one of the Lizardfolk, who they dragged in for interrogation. Two of the hunting party got away, though.

A Dark Road (Session 03)
A half-dozen things you never thought you'd find in a medieval sewer.

After a brief bout of planning and some odder plans involving a wild badger chase, it was decided the party would try to find entry into the Sewers. Haisal and Hernando took point, and soon found a slum market stall, packed down for the night, with what looked like a disused sewer-pipe behind it. The party jumped down and blasted in through the bars.

They doubled back around to the secret tunnel the almshouse sometimes used to escort some of its more explosive patients out discreetly. There they found a satchel of fine leather with a bundle of red cloth and a list of Lord Loradie’s party members. They had each taken samples of red cloth and adorned their bodies with them as identifying marks.

The listed members of Loradie’s party were:

  • Monna Gundia (Human), red neckerchief.
  • Eogeg “the Exile” (Elf), red cloak.
  • Kheili Amun (Gnome), red sash.
  • Rinarv & Naga Hereson (Dwarves), red armbands.
  • Lord Aventus Loradie (Human), red belt.

Hernando was able to pick up the trail, and he led them east and south. The party quickly found themselves travelling along the Deep River, the main sewer channel/underground river that runs underneath the city of Charoq. They stopped off at a section of wall which was noticeably looser than the rest. Peering through a couple of loose bricks, they saw a lock-box on top of an old desk with some kind of fuzzy material growing on it. Haisal investigated and set off a cloud of poisonous Yellow Mould, which caused a moderate amount of chaos amongst the group.

Dusting themselves off, they followed the trail through a stagnant and blocked side-sewer onto another secondary thoroughfare which headed due south. Eventually they came across a side-channel with an odd noise coming from within. This turned out to be a wave of rats surging down the passage, so many the water seemed to be boiling. Behind it moved a huge Gelatinous Tube, so large it completely filled the passage. Inside it was suspended a skeletal figure wearing a red sash. After killing the creature, with Brother Dewfall scoring the killing blow, they discovered that this was, in fact, the body of Kheili Amun, a Cleric of the Crone.

Further investigation produced her journal, in which she had recorded both her waspish sentiments towards the rest of her group, and reservations about their employer. It seemed that Lord Loradie, far from the bumbling and spoilt oaf she’d come to expect from hearsay, turned out to be a driven, cruel man with no concern for either his own well-being or that of his group. The only one who seemed to get on well with him was the human, Monna, who seemed to spot someone of similarly surly temperament. He also seemed drawn and haggard, though the cleric was rebuffed angrily when she offered to look at him.

The party rested up in a dry side-chamber, and continued on their journey the next morning. Not fifteen minutes passed before they emerged in a wide chamber with a sluice gate dumping water into a pool. On the far corner was a figure in the tattered remnants of a red cloak, being hounded by Ice Mephits. Brother Dewfall went to speak to them, and held their attention for long enough that the Mephits were blasted by the sluice gate. They retreated, grumbling, to lick their wounds.

The party managed to retrieve the figure, who turned out to be alive – it was Eogeg, the elf. He was exhausted and heavily wounded, so the party took him back to the side-chamber, and Faerlassel led his healing and interrogation. He revealed that the party had stumbled upon some kind of Lizardfolk hunting party to the south, who had surprised them and badly injured Eogeg. Rather than fight or flee, Lord Loradie had conversed with them and cut some kind of deal – Eogeg couldn’t tell exactly what, because he didn’t understand the language they were speaking in. Loradie ordered Eogeg be left behind. That had been five days ago.

He also mentioned that Lord Loradie seemed to be some kind of a spell-caster. Apparently, Monna attempted to steal something from him, to which he responded by locking her body in place as a demonstration. After that she seemed very muted.

The party received this information and, leaving the elf with some supplies, headed back out to the south to find their quarry.

Things fall apart (Session 02)
Cowboy builders cause delays to commute.

Deciding to bury the bodies of the Pit-dwellers from the previous encounter in the wall of their hovel, the group recuperated. Over the course of this time, Brother Dewfall looked around for something to serve as a quarter-staff. With some co-operation from Faerlassel as a fencing partner/hitting post, and a couple of false tries, he was eventually successful.

They set out to find Lord Loradie as the evening began to descend. However, after about half an hour of searching, they felt the ground beneath their feet begin to shudder. Ahead of them, the ground seemed to lump a few inches to the left as a hundred-by-hundred-by-sixty foot section of the amassed scaffolding/shanty town seemed to come away from its moorings, with who knows how many people now trapped inside.

The group jumped in to action, first trying to find the broken supporting beams of the structure. After Brother Dewfall’s shape the flowing river seemingly did nothing to halt the collapse of the structure, they focused on instead getting as many people out as possible. Though they saved about a dozen people, Kina was forced to leave behind a panicking Dwarven woman and her two children. The structure eventually came down with Faerlassel still inside. However, the Maiden smiled upon her and she was able to leap to safety with the last remnants of her strength.

The collapsing section of the Pit spilled into the bottom of the disused quarry, and the party, which had been split in half over the course of the encounter, found their way down to the bottom to meet up and perhaps search for survivors. While Faerlassel and Kina met up and got thoroughly lost (night having fallen by this point), Haisal and Brother Dewfall made their way down and started combing through the rubble for survivors. They were briefly interrupted by a Dwarf named Itarad, who saw a Half-Orc combing through the rubble and jumped to conclusions, but some diplomacy from Haisal and an impassioned speech from Brother Dewfall brought him round, and they were able to organise a search-and-rescue team from the nearby Pit-dwellers.

After a while the Half-Elf ladies joined them, during which time Haisal and Hernando were able to recover and save a young human man. Dewfall and Faerlassel briefly questioned Itarad about Lord Loradie, but were able to discover little about him. However, Itarad was able to direct them to the Almshouse, a healing house and place of peace, run by a Halfling named Decca Lindenbrook and patronised by the upper city Lord. The party went there along with the wounded who had been extracted from the rubble.

They came to the almshouse and, after brief moment of inter-party conflict after Haisal accidentally insulted one of the over-worked acolytes who helped run the establishment, set themselves in beds to heal and waited for Decca. Once she arrived, they tried to interrogate her as to Lord Loradie’s whereabouts, but she proved evasive. Though they worked out she was lying about not having seen him, they couldn’t ascertain the truth, and eventually had to leave. However, Kina managed to disguise herself in order to not be noticed, and was able to extract the relevant information from an unsuspecting acolyte.

She found out that Lord Loradie had passed into the sewers through a secret tunnel in the back of the Almshouse; that he had been accompanied by a pair of Dwarves, an Elf, a Gnome and a Human, and that he looked sickly – pale and with red eyes. The party mused that this might be possession, but Haisal, with his experience hunting Fiends, reckoned that it didn’t sound like that.

Now the party faces the prospect of a delve through the city sewers in an attempt to find the errant Lord.


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