Karameikos

The big reveal
whither the arrow points

Ozzie examined the eleven moon-metal arrow carefully as he carried out the ritual object reading. Around him all parties waited impatiently.

He thought carefully “I am able to see 3 images of what this arrow saw. They must be worded carefully and without ambiguity.”

1st question: Show me in detail what the creature that carried you to this area and caused you to end in the grass here, looked like.

There seems to be some confusion over this request. Never-the-less, you eventually get a vision of an elf (rather like the ones you have met around here) carefully stalking through the woods. Although he seems to have a quiver of arrows, he also carries a small bundle of them, amongst which is the object you are questioning.

“Malodorous feces,” thinks Ozzie, “this could go really badly.” as he looks around the area where the arrows were found. He sees what he believes to be a scuffle

2nd question. Show me the creatures you saw that captured the were beasts (the ones you are designed to kill,) especially any that are different to your makers, in any way (speech, language, looks, gait, movement).

You see a thin, hunched young man, near him is a slender woman. Both are dressed in rough clothes and seem to care little about their personal appearance. The man has darting beady eyes whilst the woman seems lithe and supple. Behind them you can see a small group of the now familiar elves, though how they are connected with the couple you can not tell.

3rd question. Did you see the hunched young man and the slender woman talking with the elves after they captured one of the were beasts?

_The elves carry off a large cloth wrapped bundle into the forest; as they do so one of them turns and addresses the couple who then scamper and slither back into the village.

Ozzie, completes his object reading and turns to the parties, his now almost permanent scowl, if anything looking slightly deeper than usual.

“It would appear as I suspected. Some of your people have been coerced in some way to break the treaty. The kidnap of Mazan has been orchestrated by beings on each side…. And I am prepared to bet that the same has been done to Qerwellian. Now one of the perpetrators is very distinctive, and if we can find her we will be well on the way to returning both your leaders. But I’ll not reveal what she looks like until I have some form of agreement from both sides to put aside your differences and work together for the sake of this realm…. Reinstate the treaty of the pelt, as this third party seeks to divide and conquer.”

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The Barrows

Tol persuades the surviving Elves to return to the Winter Court, to try and halt the attack on Shatterstone Vale.

Back at the Vale, Switch (his existence still unknown to the villagers) scouts about, discovering tracks of many people crossing the river. He informs Ozzy, who in turn tells Memnon.

In the village, Jorath has assumed the role of village leader in Mazan’s absence. Jorath explains to the heroes that the mysterious female dwarf has gone to the barrows with Jorath’s on. The Barrows are the resting place of an Elf Lord, slain in the First War of the Pelt. Jorath is impatient to be sat around waiting for an attack, but Memnon manages to persuade most the villagers to sit tight, fortifying themselves in the tavern. Others leave, heading into the woods.

In the woods, Estaroth and Tol follow the rat-like tracks to said barrows. The place has a melancholy air about it and as they enter the clearing, a shimmering humanoid shape appears –a female elf. The spirit is Emfara, who demands to know why she has been disturbed. Estaroth and Tol are able to placate her, discovering that Emfara is/was Qerwellian’s mate and that her spirit will only be able to rest when he has avenged her against the shape shifters.

Qerwellian visited the Barrow three nights ago and Emfara senses that he is still alive. There are sudden sounds of movement and a female dwarf and young male human enter the clearing. Estaroth challenges them both, but the dwarf looks beyond her at the Ranger and says “Hello, Tol!”

The Dwarf introduces herself as Kara, sister of Kathra. The young man is Aja, son of Jorath – bodyguard and assistant in her search for Mazan. Kara knows that when Mazan vanished, Tuss (one of the rat-like shifters) followed him out of the tavern, then returned after a commotion, saying that Mazan had been taken. Kara persuaded Jorath stop the villagers going after the elves, avoiding bloodshed. Her words carried weight as Mazan is her father (and Kathra’s)!! In her investigations, Kara has found gold hidden in Tusss’ dwelling…

Emfara’s spirit manifests again, looking more fearsome and demanding that the blood of Mazan leave. Less than an hour remains before dawn and the possible Elf attack.

Back at the village, Elves are taking up positions around the perimeter. Tol, Estaroth, Kara and Aja emerge from the treeline and re-enter the village. An Elf Lord steps forwards too and is met by Ozzy. The wizard speaks well and Lord Sheshtorian agrees to a parlay, thrusting a spear into the ground to mark its location.

Memnon gathers the Shatterstone delegation (missing being introduced to Kara as a result) and the parlay begins. Elven arrows found at the scene of Mazan’s disappearance are brought forwards and Ozzy conducts object readings…

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The Shapeshifters of Shatterstone

The adventurers find themselves in a wooded glade. Sans Althea… (Tol wonders if she may have drowned in her own tears at the harm inflicted to the party in the keep). There is no sign of the Warden, so hoping for the best, the bag of items given by the Shadarkai is examined. It contains thousands of old, worn coins (placed on the eyes of the dead?), an Onyx statuette of the Veiled Lady (1500gp), a dark gem (1000gp), three more gems (500gp each), a platinum box (1000gp), soul cage and bits of lab equipment (9000gp!), several vials of residium and three potions of vitality (taken by Switch, Ozzy and Tol).

Scouting about – in one direction there are dark mountains, in the opposite a shapely white tower. The plant life is very active with suppressed energy. Tol thinks the group is not in the Feywild equivalent of Karameikos.

The party heads for the tower. After an hour or so of travel, it is dusk – odd, since the heroes arrived around midday… Shortly after, the party finds itself surrounded by figures accusing them of trespassing in the lands of the Winter Court. Elves. Diplomacy strikes up a conversation, which reveals that the Elven lord, Qerwellian, has been take by the foul and degenerate ‘Shapeshifters of Shatterstone’ and their own Lord; Mazan. As a result, a new ‘War of the Pelt’ looms.

The combined knowledge of the party establishes that the Shatterstone has links to the Shadow realm, but not much else. Could Kathra be found in this village of shapeshifters. Eager to avoid the elves planned bloody attack on the village, the Heroes of Dymrak strike a deal; agreeing to provide a provide a distraction, entering the village to find Qerwellian whilst the elves assault the village. (whilst hopefully finding a solution that avoids much bloodshed.

A female archer, Eshtaroth, accompanies the adventurers, and gives Tol several silver-tipped arrows.

Approaching Shatterstone, the village lies on the other side of a 30 foot wide river, accessible by a ford. The village is comprised of 15 to 20 huts and lean-to buildings, none with a second storey. There is a lot of activity on the far bank, with argument and distress. As the heroes wait in cover , a party of six young and angry looking men leave the village, heading off the way the adventurers came.

Whilst Tol and Eshtaroth take cover in the tree line and Switch conceals himself amongst rocks, Ozzy and Tol begin to ford the river, hailing the village in friendly tones….

Partway across, Ozzy notices a different ‘feel’ to the atmosphere around him. Something has changed. The villagers are immediately suspicious and hostile but Ozzy intimidates them (Natural 20!) into not attacking. Memnon’s diplomacy helps to further settle the atmosphere and in the following dialogue the villagers reveal that ‘Tuss’ has gone off to cause trouble and that their Lord, Mazan, has been taken by the Elves. A she dwarf visited recently (she doesn’t match Kathra’s description), talking the villagers down from attacking before ‘returning to her barrow’ (Memnon identifies where this is located so it can be investigated).

Ozzy and Memnon speak of the imminent Elf assault and the elvish belief that their Lord has been taken by the Shifters. Clearly a third party is behind matters. The villagers agree to a parley with the elves and in after a hurried update with Tol and Switch, Tol just about manages to persuade Eshtaroth of the wisdom in giving peace a chance. The two set off for the winter court, to explain things and try to have the assault called off.

Switch stays in concealment, Ozzy waits in the river, examining the strange change he felt whilst fording the river and Memnon buys drinks at the village tavern. Whilst ramshackle, the village has a level of civilisation that the Elves are either unaware of, or have chosen to ignore.

Memnon talks with a man named Howler, finding out that the female dwarf mentioned before ‘smells like him’. The cleric inadvertently offends Howler, who leaves the tavern. Villagers there either seem to be more burly and thick set, or thinner faced and slight.

In the woods, Tol and Eshtaroth encounter dead elves in a clearing, with obvious signs of battle. The bodies have not been looted and bear bite marks and crush injuries. As they both gather elven arrows with varying tips, Eshtaroth is enraged, her natural prejudice against the Shifters coming to the fore as she darts off to find and slay those responsible.

Tol follows and within minutes, they find the body of a Shifter, slain by an elven arrow. Sounds of battle ring form a nearby clearing and in seconds, Elf and half-elf have joined the fray – several wolfen and rodent shifters in combat with elves. A wolf shifter is swiftly slain and two rodent shifters soon retreat.

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Clash with the Titan

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Memnon stands defiant, issuing a divine challenge to the Titan, blasting it with a Lance of Faith and running past it, trying to lure it away. The Titan responds with a terrific double attack, sweeping its gigantic axe first into Memnon and then with a backstroke, onto Switch’s prone form – almost splitting him in two. With a gesture, the then Titan levitates Switch’s broken body and seems to rip his very soul from it!

Aghast, Ozzie and Tol continue to try and depower the Titan as Althea combats the remaining Fiend. Tol ascends to its dais, feeling some benefit from being bathed in the emerald light. Memnon joins him there and the two focus on drawing energy back. Ozzie manages to slow the Titan with horrid whispers, giving them more time to syphon away power.

Altheas faces off against both the colossus and the Fiend, striking the latter before burrowing through the earth to Memnon’s side and using her abilities to restore his second wind. The cleric hurries over to what’s left of Switch, to see if anything can be done.

With pounding footsteps, the Titan crosses the chamber and looms over Tol Flemin. Its terrible axe descends, crushing the valiant ranger to the chamber floor – stone cold dead. (-96hp). It then pauses, taking a handful of the souls swirling about it and consuming them, drawing on their power. As Ozzie and Memnon continue to syphon energy, the Titan levitates Tol’s corpse and rips out his soul. The Titan turn its attention to Ozzie and it crosses over to him, swatting hi aside with its axe. Althea moves into place on the pedestal the titan just vacated and Memnon furiously draws power and Ozzie crawls away from the titan, still counter chanting from the book.

Hardly any soul energy now wreathes the Titan as it stands over Ozzie and its terrible axes falls to deliver the killing blow – only for Ozzie to shield it, with one upraised hand!!! The moment of triumph is short lived as the Fiend flaps across to Ozzie and cuts him down with its claws.

Only Memnon and Althea Remain. Bathed in green energy, Althea’s brow furrows as she focuses her will on draining the Titan. The colossus takes another step forwards and then falters..! It’s ‘flesh’ sags, then begins to run like water and within seconds, its empty armour crashes to the chamber floor. The winged Fiend also vanishes and what is left of the souls that wreathed the Titan begin drift apart. Althea and Memnon stand in hollow victory amongst the broken bodies of their fallen comrades.

But they are not given any time to celebrate or mourn, as the souls begin to draw together and coalesce! A humanoid shape begins to form, and is soon that of a woman, wreathed in cloth and heavily veiled…

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The Veiled lady gives her thanks. If the Death Titan had reached full strength and been unleashed as Kalarel planned, little could have stopped it from rampaging across three planes. Memnon respectfully asks if the Lady will show her appreciation by restoring the fallen heroes, to which she agrees. The sound of footsteps from the stairwell heralds the arrival of the Shadarkai crew the adventurers sailed her with. They carry hastily wrapped bundles (items and equipment taken from the bodies of those cut down by the heroes on their advance), which they present to the two Heroes before falling to their knees before their Lady.

As Tol, Switch and Ozzie are resurrected, Memnon asks after Kathra. The Veiled Lady replies that her soul has been and gone back to the material world. But not to the Hero’s plane, nor the Veiled Lady’s. The Lady offers to grant the adventurers one last boon and take them to where they may find Kathra. After exchanging thanks and farewells with the Shadarkai, the Veiled Lady begins to grow in size, smashing through the green crystalline roof of the chamber and scooping the Heroes of Dymrak into her arms. They rush upwards, up and then down, down to a verdant forest floor. The Realm of the Fey.

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The Ritual

Where a giant humanoid figure stands atop a raised dais, surrounded by four truncated pyramids. Soul energy streams into it from the workshop above. A portal on a wall facing it channels blue light into the titan too and arcs of arcane energy coruscate about it. Robed figures around the chamber chant, heads lowered, arms raised. Most startling of all is the figure stood on a raised platform at the far end of the chamber, leading the chant by reading from an ancient tome – Kalarel!

Word is sent up to Ozzie, who throws a final spanner in the machine’s workings and joins his companions at the foot of the stairs. Agreement is quickly made – Kalarel must be taken down as quickly as possible. The assault begins.

Switch darts forwards, cutting down a robed celebrant as Tol fires an arrow down the length of the chamber, a spectacular shot that sinks home into Kalarel. The madman looks up and with an angry gesture, shades appear on top of the pyramids – two winged fiends and two knights. Memnon blasts one fiend with Lance of Faith (Natural 20!) before it hops down from its perch and plunges part of the chamber, including Switch, into darkness.

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Undeterred, Switch rushes out of the zone, cutting down another celebrant. Tol is staggered by a mind blade attack from a Shade Knight, but advance through the zone of darkness, slaying another Celebrant. The other robed figures continue chanting – and the Death Titan moves slightly!

The darkness vanishes and the Heroes of Dymrak advance further into the chamber, cutting down celebrants and assaulting the Shades. Ozzie teleports Memnon ahead, with Hammerfall step. Kalarel zaps Ozzie in return with a skull-topped wand as Switch makes it to the foot of the altar, below the madman. Ozzie engages again, teleporting Kalarel down alongside Switch. Switch and Kalarel exchange blows and Memnon strides into the fray, burning Kalarel with divine radiant energy.

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(No I can’t get the drokking thing the right way up…)__

Althea is flanked by the two fiends, who claw at her, Undeterred, she pulverizes them in return and advances into the blue light emanating from the wall –where she stops abruptly. Tol slays another celebrant and uses the blood of the fallen to heal himself.

The two Fiends and a Shade Knight come to their master’s aid, surrounding Ozzie and savaging him. Memnon and Switch flank Kalarel. Pressing their combat advantage Switch stabs Kalarel in the back twice (80damage!) before Memnon breaks off to go to Ozzie’s aid. The wizard dazzles his opponents with a prismatic spell, triggering his fireburst armour. Memnon’s divine powers cure the wizard’s remaining serious wounds.

Althea shakes off the whatever stupor momentarily affected her and advances to Memnon and Ozzie’s side, shaking the earth to slay the last celebrants and further damage the Shades. Tol’s advance is announced by arrows thudding home into Kalarel. Ozzie dashes towards the altar and the book Kalarel was reading. The evil Cleric bellows in rage, sickly black tentacles emerging from his midriff to lash at Switch, before he rushes after Ozzie.

Switch glugs a healing potion as his companions engage the Shades and slay a fiend. Ozzie snatches the book from the altar, provoking a scream of rage from Kalarel, closely followed by a blast of black energy which the Wizard’s cloak of distortion narrowly diverts. The cloak is not so effective against the claws of a fiend, which knock Ozzie to the ground, barely clinging to consciousness. Kalarel pauses at his altar to taunt the party about his “Dark Masters” (not Orcus anymore..?) but the smirk is wiped from his face as switch backstabs him yet again.

Memnon rushes to Ozzie’s side once more, taking a brutal clawing from the Fiend as he passes by and consecrating the ground around the fallen Wizard. Althea’s iron resurgence allows the Cleric to blaze back to health.

Another zone of darkness falls. Tol is slashed by a shade (Natural 20) and staggers into the darkness, somehow avoiding four attacks of opportunity as he goes. Memnon activates his shield’s protective abilities, ensuring both he and the fallen Ozzie are safe from most harm for a few seconds, long enough for darkness to vanish.

The savage battle begins to take its toll, as Switch too is felled by a shade. With Ozzie conscious again, hurried shouts establish a new plan of action to stop the flow of energy to the Titan. Ozzie sets up a counter chant from Kalarel’s book, Tol is swiftly able to shut down the energies streaming from the blue light and Althea focuses on the emerald energy coming from the ceiling.

Kalarel leaps down from the altar, blasting Ozzie almost to death. With a roar, Memnon engages his evil counterpart. Tol exalts Switch back to health and runs to join Memnon in battling Kalarel, but both adventurers are knocked to the floor by the mad man’s tentacles. The zone of consecrated ground brings Ozzie back from the brink of death and with a dark chuckle, he rises to his feet and blasts Kalarel with a colour orb (Natural 20!).

A whirling battle begins in the corner of the chamber, with the Shades and Kalarel exchanging blows and magics with the Adventurers. Another Shade is destroyed. Switch falls again, too weak for even magic to help him. Tol fights on, despite being close to blacking out (1 hp). Memnon blasts another Shade apart with a lance of faith. Ozzie tears chunks from Kalarel with a winged horde, Kalarel does the same to Althea with his skull wand, before the elf brings the weight of the earth down on him in return.

As Memnon draws on his mother’s teachings to help stabilize switch without divine power (Natural 20!), the battle reaches a crescendo as Tol bloodies the last remain shade with a twin strike (natural 20!) and Althea attempts to bring the weight of the earth down on Kalarel twice, both attempts narrowly missing. However, attention focused on Althea’s attack, perhaps Kalarel does not notice memo running up to him, hefting back his mace, ready to strike. The blow crunches home and with a terrible scream, Kalarel’s tentacles extend and wrap around him, tightening and crushing.

Kalarel has just enough time to reach out, gesturing at the death Titan, before he is folded in upon himself, bones splintering, before vanishing completely. The Death Titan turns to look at where its creator fell, then takes a jerky, booming step down from the dais, wreathed in crackling soul energy and advancing on the battered Heroes of Dymrak…

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Blades in the Dark

The party advances through the darkness, Althea spying a 20 foot drop at the edge of the Keep, leading down to a wooden floor. A lift of some kind..? To is suddenly dragged off into the darkness. Memnon and Switch dash after him, and Althea is plunged into darkness and stabbed. Ozzie creates a vision of avarice and as Tol stabs at the Hound that has seized him, it lets go, drawn by a big pile of Hound Kibbles. Memnon bloodies it with a Lance of Faith and a strike form switch and winged horde from Ozzie slays the beast.

More knives stab or hurtle through the darkness at Althea. She shakes the earth and then dives into it, burrowing through the floor and emerging next to Memnon. Steps descend into yet more darkness close by. More knives fly. Memnon, Switch and Tol are all wounded as more Shadowtwa are fleetingly glimpsed. Ozzie’s magicks are obviously successful in slaying at least one Shadowtwa close by, as both the wizard and Switch are blinded. Guided by Memnon’s voice, the adventurers gather at the top of the stairs and descend.

Those with sight remaining see a large area, with no columns. Large vats, wooden boxes full of sand, bottles with liquids, magic circles – the décor screams ‘mad wizard’s workshop.’ Ozzie senses a meshing of different energies – something powerful. More powerful than anything else he’s ever known, even Trinklar.

Perhaps worryingly, the Shadowtwa don’t follow. As party members regain their sight, it’s swiftly reasoned that the sand has been used as a mold, creating a huge, humanoid statue. Soul energy has been used in whatever rituals have been performed.

Althea boost switch up to peer inside one of the vats – and a shiny, black pseudopod lashes at him from within. The ooze moves over the top of the vat, another one emerging from the other vat. The heroes swiftly assault the oozes with thorns, winged hordes, blade and fire and they are swiftly dispatched.

Examining the room, there’s a machine of some kind, channeling soul energy downstairs. More steps at the far end of the workshop lead down and a book lies open on concerning the creation of artificial beings that can then be animated lies open on a bench. (Cue nervous glances at the size of the molds elsewhere in the chamber). Annotations in a spidery scrawl refer to a ‘Death Titan’.

What transpires downstairs…?

Advancing to the stairs, Tol can hear chanting, some form of ritual is underway down below. Memnon looks a little paler than usual. Were a death titan to be unleashed, it could wreak havoc across not only this plane, but several others

Whilst Ozzie works to disrupt and dismantle the machinery channeling soul energy Switch picks the lock on the door at the foot of the stairs. Easing it open, the rest of the party enters the room beyond…

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Knives in the Darkness

After a short rest, the adventurers descend steps at the far end of the keep, into a dark undercroft – a maze comprising many columns supporting the keep overhead. Lit by Memnon’s flaming mace and light spells on Switch’s blade and some carefully thrown stones, the party advances…

Ambush! Several Shadowtwã shimmer into sight out of the darkness (“Balls, balls, balls…”) and a dark hound flickers into sight beside Tol.

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A well placed disruptive strike (Natural20!) saves the ranger from a savaging before Ozzie pushes the beast away into the darkness. Althea clobbers one of the Shadowtwã and just as the last time they were encountered, the shrunken creature explodes, blinding Althea and Switch with darkness. The hound attacks Ozzie, more Shadowtwã fall to Memnon’s radiant powers and Tol’s exaltation restores Switch’s sight, even as Althea shakes off the effect herself.

The battle is not easy. Every foe felled blinds another member of the party and the hound manages to drag Tol away into the dark, before he returns, swinging Aecris with deadly precision (Natural 20!). Divine glows and a winged horde help the adventurers to hold their own before what little light there is suddenly goes out for half the party, and they are lost in inky blackness that snuffs out even the light from Ozzie’s spell and which the wizard cannot dispel.

Memnon stalks forwards until he exits the zone of darkness and calling out to his companions, the whole party is soon back in the near darkness of the undercroft. Althea darts ahead, finding some form of lift to a lower level at one side of the croft and more steps down at another.

Blades fly or are thrust out of the shadows, wounding Althea. Behind her, the hound continues its hit and run attacks, until it’s drawn into the open by a vision of avarice and swiftly bloodied. The beast snaps its jaws at Ozzie, who steps back and coolly gesture a winged horde into existence that rips the hound apart. Althea avoids the enemy’s blades by burrowing through the earth to the top of the steps.

In the darkness all around he adventurers, there is the sound of furtive movement and cruel giggling…

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The Dark Tower

The party is quickly reunited and after the soggy Tiefling has donned his armour and equipment, the group head through the dunes and scrubland towards the tower. The emerald light has now gone and drawing closer, the tower is seen to be jagged, ruined. Also, it is part of a fortified structure with battlements – more of a castle than a tower.

Tracks lead to and from the keep, some appearing normal, bound in cloth, others cloven. The keep appears similar than the one where the party defeated Kalarel. Ozzie senses the group is at a nexus of the planes…

A decision is swiftly made for a multi-pronged approach into the structure (the Horns of the Tiefling..?). Althea, Ozzie and Switch scale the walls, Tol sneaks in through a breach. Inside, a trio of figures are visible – Shadarkai and Shadow Dwarfs. Tol can also see another trio on the far side of the structure.

As his companions have taken position, Memnon strolls into the structure, approaching the first trio and asking if he can share their fire, he’s just been ship wrecked. Both trios advance menacingly, snarling, foaming and with weapons drawn.

Ozzie delays hostilities by creating an illusory wall, blocking the second trio’s advance, whilst Memnon shrugs at his potential guest’s lack of hospitality and burns them with solar wrath, felling two Shadarkai zealots. Tol is attacked, and manages to turn failure into hilarity before being hacked at by a foaming dwarf.

Althea shoots with perfect precision (Natural 20!) wounding the dwarf attacking Tol, before recoiling as a vision of hell canters into view – a robed and hooded figure armed with a scythe sat astride a strange skeletal Hellsteed that strikes sparks and fire from its hooves! Both then vanish from sight…

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And reappears beside Tol, slashing at him! Up close, Tol can see the rider is not skeletal himself, instead appearing to be a humanoid wearing a mask. He bellows that the heroes’ souls will served to Thanatos. Switch offers fire support to Memnon from his vantage point on the battlements as Ozzie pushes the rider and his Hellsteed away from Tol with beguiling strands. More zealots and dwarfs find their way past Ozzie’s wall and enter the fray as the Hellsteed charges forward, leaving flames in its wake.

Tol and Ozzie pick off a dwarf each as Memnon swings his flaming mace in wide arc fending off three attackers at once (AKA “doing a Sauron”). Althea strides through the flames, slaying another Zealot but the Hellsteed again vanishes, reappearing beside Ozzie. Switch leaps to the ground, felling a Zealot with a well placed bolt, as Tol takes to higher ground, pursued by a foaming dwarf. Ozzie’s magicks raise foes into the air, dashing them to the stone floor.

Having created some room to maneuver, Memnon strides through the flames, centres himself amongst the party and evokes a shield of faith.

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Under divine protection, the heroes trade savage blows with their shadow foe. After another minute of battle, the Hellsteed rider is bloodied, despite being able to draw succor from his Shadarkai allies. After more furious combat, as Switch and Althea finish off the last of the zealots and dwarfs, the Hellsteed rider disengages from melee with a now-diabolic Memnon and bounds towards Ozzie only to pulled back by Althea’s Warden’s Grasp. Tol sinks an arrow into the rider and Switch leaps off a wall, skewering the robed figure with his blade and slaying him (Natural 20!).

As silence falls, the party searches the bodies of the fallen, finding iron scythe pendants (the symbol of Thanatos) on all of their opponents. The Hellrider has a small key. Small, crudely built soul cages are also found.

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Storm !

Setting sail to the west towards the Dark Keep, the Heroes of Dymrak and Shadarkai crew muse over who might have freed the Hydra, as it had been bound at the bottom of the lake. It’s possible some new occupant of the Dark Keep may be responsible. Although not dedicated to an evil entity like Orcus, the very old Keep has attracted all kinds of unpleasantness over the years.

Spending time with the Shadarkai reveals them to be more than a little ‘Emo’. They seem prone to drift off into deep thought, grounding themselves by tugging on ornate body piercings, cutting themselves or smoking a form of dark pipeweed. Captain Dalgar is in charge of the ship, with Neera and her second in command Lt. Thoris in charge of the actual operation. Dalgar seems a bit more relaxed than his kin and is openly disparaging about Neera.

Three smaller fishing vessels are encountered, nets raised in the air to catch souls. Their crew (Hinn like creatures) report that their catch has been poor for some time. There appear to be no souls coming from the West and there is something amiss/nasty in the lake.

“Land Ho!” A shore becomes visible, with something white/illuminated white on it. It’ll be hours before the ship reaches land so the party and crew rest, with rota leaving one person at the tiller and two on watch throughout the night. Taking second watch, Memnon and witch think that they see a tower emitting an emerald light. Souls are travelling overhead towards it – as if drawn like moths to a flame, something Neera hasn’t seen before.

During the next watch, a large soul storm begins to form to starboard. The water begins to churn and the boat is rocked savagely. Everybody is woken and soon all hands are on deck trying to keep the ship away from the large whirlpool that has formed.

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For several long minutes, the ship is battered, holed and take on water. Heroes and Shardarkai are battered, gored by broken wood and in Memnon’s case – washed overboard, until as suddenly as it appeared, the storm abates and vanishes. The ship limps on, but Memnon is lost…

Drawing closer to the shore a slender white tower is visible, lit by moonlight. Moonlight is very rare here and considered bad omen. The Heroes prepare to head ashore, traveling to the tower, seeing what’s there, stopping anything bad and then returning to the ship. The party is given a brass sphere (a mobile stone..?) to communicate with Thoris, but are warned that utilising the sphere will require something of the user.

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Elsewhere, a groggy Tiefling regains consciousness, finding himself washed ashore….

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Hydra Attack

As the Hydra heads attack, the party retaliates. Ozzy’s magics daze it, Memnon’s radiant energy burns it, Tol’s arrows sink home and Althea and Switch land injurious blows. Yet as the boat surges on, the attack continues. Crewmen die, other turning intangible to escape the Hydra’s fury. As bodies splash into the water, it boils and churns with frightful activity.

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Switch and Tol both fire some amazing shots (Natural 20s!) but even coupled with Ozzy, Althea and Memnon’s powerful arcane and divine energies, the Hydra still threatens to overwhelm the craft. More crewmen, including the ship’s Captain, are seized and hurled overboard and before long, Althea and Memnon are snatched up and hurled into the sea too.

There, the Elf and Tiefling discover what lurks beneath the surface – hungry bonefish! With the Captain overboard and nobody at the tiller, the ship veers off to starboard. Althea easily swims back to the boat and begins to climb aboard. Tol grabs the tiller but Memnon struggles to stay afloat, his shield of protection ironically playing a key role in him spluttering and floundering.

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All the while, the soul storm hovers close by, as if observing…

Ozzie plays out some rope using Mage Hand as the remaining crewmen scramble to take the tiller from Tol and assist others. The Captain teleports himself back aboard and despite being further bitten and poisoned, Althea and Memnon both manage to climb aboard too.

The Hydra continues to savagely attack and Tol and Memnon are both seized and thrown into the water. The ship regains its course but speeds ahead, leaving Ranger and Cleric behind! Tol swims over to a struggling Memnon but is savaged by the Hydra. Both utter healing words (glub in Memnon’s case) to keep Tol conscious. Althea ties a rope about her waist, fixes it to the ship and dives in (!) to rescue Tol and Memnon.

As she closes in on the struggling duo, Ozzie unleashes a devastating fireball that finally makes the Hydra turn tail and depart. The boat slows and, fighting off the snapping Bonefish, all the party are soon back aboard. Off to port, the soul storm gradually dissipates.

Tending to their wounds in the ensuing calm, the party have time to notice just how strange the environment of this realm is, each being privately affected in ways that remain unspoken, for now…

With so many crew slain by the Hydra’s attack, the Heroes of Dymrak pitch in as best they can with the running of the ship until the Captain receives new orders that supersede taking the party to Umbra. Followers of Thanatos/Orcus are at large. The captain is ordered to find out what they’re doing and put a stop to it. The heroes of Dymrak (albeit left with little choice) agree to help.

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