Karameikos

Return to the Natural Realm

The party plans its next steps:

• Spend circa 4 more days in the fey Wild, for the earning of rituals, exploration and acquiring items
• Travel via Ozzie’s gatestone to the Island of Lost Dreams and meet with the Seer
• Split the party for some individual time which will include:
• Travel to Specularum to retrieve Kathra’s body
• Travel to the Villa to see Duvenstahl and retrieve Kathra’s arms and armour
• Visiting Eltan’s spring
• Visiting Ozworts at Knosht
• Checking on the pipeweed trade
• Hugging trees
• Rendezvous at Duvenstahl’s Villa to travel to Thyatis to search for an ancient text about the ‘Far Realm’ and by association, the ‘Lost Library’ and Ozzie’s father.

The winter Court allows Eshtaroth to accompany the party to essentially ‘see how we do it on the other side’. This could be the start of a valuable alliance with the Fey Realm (something we must remember to tell /keep secret from Duke Stefan).

Ozzie and Memnon learn rituals, Switch takes samples of some pipeweedish plants and soon wants to leave asap after doing some mysterious thing he shouldn’t have (see separate entry). Kara/Kathra spends time with Mazan at Shatterstone. Tol explores, noting that the land here seems… spread thin out at the edges, almost dull. As if it had been lumped in from somewhere else. (Any parallels with Kara/Kathra’s conglomerate stone..?)

Gating back to the natural realm and meeting with Fyodor the seer (Ozzie’s gatestone crumbles to dust after use) the adventurers are a little shocked to discover that they have been away for a whole year (one day in the Fey Realm = 1 month in the Natural).

During the following catch up, it’s learnt that:
• Not much has changed in Dymrak re news from the watchers
• There has been increasing tensions between Glantri and Alphatia, centered on the Isle of Dawn.
• The Thyatians are becoming increasingly belligerent too.
• Alphatian wizards have been travelling the land, seeking duels with local wizards
• Duvenstahl has (as requested ) established a network of informants (dubbed ‘The Irregulars’)

The party splits, agreeing to rendezvous at Duvenstahl’s Villa in XXX days’/weeks’ time.
Notable occurrences during this time include:
• Knosht: An Alphatian wizard came to Ozworts to challenge Ozzie, but finding him absent, left with relatively little trouble.
• Eltan’s Spring: The Temple to Halav has been completed. Memnon’s mother, Gorgo, has moved from Eltan’s Spring to Eagle’s Gate.
• Switch’s pipeweed trade is doing moderately well. The number of wagons involved has doubled to 8, although the quality of the weed has dropped slightly. Switch’s Radu friends are well and truly involved.
• Tol’s beau reappears, having travelled to “get away from ze ‘orrible events in Glantri.” There are allegations of forbidden magics being used in glantri and trade between it and Alphatia has all but ceased. The Clerics of Alphatia, who have until recently acted peacefully; are becoming increasingly jingoistic.

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Battle at the Shrine
(Switch & the Black cloud of Crap)

The combat ebbs and flows. The Gods seem to hate Switch (2 Natural 20s against him) and Drathu equally (a lance of faith from Memnon burns her with a Natural 19). The twisted Dryad uses the tree around the shrine to manouever, stepping into one and out of another, especially after being intimidated by Ozzie (42!).

For several minutes arcane energies, divine powers, claws, steel and bowfire rage around the shrine. Dark shapes stumble out of the treeline and into the fray– more animated enemy. And one Howler.

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The enigmatic howler unsheathes fearsome claws and hacks his way to Drathu, seeming to have some particular hatred for her as he pursues her relentlessly. Switch is felled and saved by Memnon rushing forwards to cure the rogue’s serious wounds. Kara piles in against Drathu dealing crushing blows, drawing on her reserves and felling the Dryad!

As the rotting wood and vegetation that comprised her form come undone and drop to the ground in sickening clumps, Drathu manages to utter “I will win in the end. you have but won this round…”. Qerwellian collpases and Emfara begins to gradually fade.

In the immediate aftermath of battle Mazan is unconscious but stable. Qerwellian seems to regain most of his sanity. Howler leaves almost as suddenly as he appeared, but not before Memnon makes an attempt to reverse any offence he caused back at Shatterstone tavern. A quick recce of the ruined shrine and analysis from Ozzie determines that the purple light (which has now ceased it’s roaming and shines in one constant place) emits from a shattered window with a strange design that hurts the eyes to try and follow. There is no visible source for the light, it seems to be generated by the window itself. The design is not in the book Ozzie gained in the encounter with the death titan and is therefore is not of either the Natural, Fey or Shadow realms…

The wizard senses something older and more powerful than he has ever known before, as he runs his hand through the glow. Ozzie thinks that the light is both a gate and the key to the gate (Iä Yog Sothoth!!! *in-joke for the DM there) Concerned that Ozzie is becoming too fascinated by the purple light, not without irritation on Ozzie’s part, Memnon gently steers him away.

Kara’s keen eyes (Natural 20!) spy broken pieces of greenish, purple veined stone, that after some gathering, present what was a 5 foot diameter shallow bowl, previously situated where the purple light now constantly falls. The bowl looks repairable.

Under questioning, Qerwellian reveals that the shrine was built to guard a weak point between the worlds, shoring it up. If it were to fail, then “things” could come through. With Drathu gone (returned to her ‘Soul Tree’, which will need promptly locating and destroying) the shrine needs a new guardian. Emfara agrees to this role and her skull is buried there in a brief ceremony. She calls for elven stonemasons to be sent to once again make the shrine whole.

Qerwellian wishes to make amends for his actions by hunting down and destroying Drathu’s Soul Tree. Eshtaroth and the heroes of Dymrak agree to both help and supervise him in this quest, but not before a return to Shatterstone, so that the Shifters and Elves may know what has befallen their leaders.

Back at Shatterstone an audience is held and a mostly recovered Mazan and shamed Qerwellian address the combined audience of their people. Qerwellian admits his part in things and that he was misled and wrong. After destroying Drathu’s Soul Tree he intends to join Emfara in guarding the Shrine. Sheshtarian is named as his replacement at the Winter Court. Mazan asks that the actions of the Heroes of Dymrak be recognised by all. Peace, albeit fragile, is once more.

The heroes rest and the following day, accompany Kara to an audience with Mazan. There, secrets are revealed as Kara explains that she is in fact Kathra, residing in the body of her recently deceased sister!!! (a fact she revealed to Memnon in confidence when the two went to search Tuss’ lair at shatterstone village).

Kara had passed away with her grandmother present, who performed last rites over her body, perhaps a deal was struck with the Veiled Lady as part of this, for when Kathra too died, she recall meeting her Grandmother and then awakening in the body of Kara. After surprise and joy have run their course between the party, Mazan gifts Kathra a conglomerate stone that belonged to her mother.

Shortly after, the quest to find Drathu’s Soul Tree begins. Qerwellian keeps his word and after four days a twisted Beech tree is discovered and burnt, with an echoing unearthly scream. Qerwellian is escorted to the Shrine of the gate and left to be watched by the elves. The adventurers sat farewell to Shatterstone and travel to The Winter Court, where they are welcomed by Prince Regent Sheshtarian and at a ceremony to honur them presented with a casket of diamonds (22k worth whoot!)

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The Shrine of the Gate

Vegetation knots together and humanoid forms stalk (see what I did there?) over to Tol, Eshtaroth and Ozzy. The Dryads are swiftly defeated, Kara turning two into compost and Ozzy’s beguiling strands removing the rest. Hit and run attacks from the gnomes quickly take their toll, with Tol, Eshtaroth and Ozzy bloodied.

There is a shimmering in a corner of the keep and a finely armoured elf appears, with a smaller figure bound in silver chains at his feet. The figure speaks to Eshtaroth and then disappears the female Elf’s cry identifies the mystery figure as Qerwellian!

Ozzy call out to the hidden Gnome spell caster, who agrees from hiding that this game isn’t as much fun as Qerwellian said it would be and the attacks cease. Eshtaroth becomes aggressive, aiming her weapon at the heroes and fearing that they have betrayed her, but Memnon is able to calm her down.

Tol consults with the skull of Emfara. After berating him for not showing her remains to Qerwellian, she muses that Qerwellian may be at the ‘Shrine of the Gate’. This shrine was built to control a flaw between the realms, with a guardian posted there: Drathu.
Pausing to examine the sacks and crates and finding some fine food and wines (fit for an elven Lord..?) ,the party sets off for the Shrine. Getting closer, the vegetation becomes more decayed, trees have dead branches. A sickly purple glow is visible before the shrine comes into view, the glow emanating from it.

As the party draw closer Qerwellian steps out of the shadows, a bound Mazan at his feet. as his companion stake up positions, Memnon tries to reason with Qerwellian, but it’s obvious he is a changed Elf, speaking of wars to start and a realm to topple. Tol produces Emfara’s skull and Qerwellian rants about how he will do anything to bring her back, even using “the power of this place”. Drathu has shown him things and Shatterstone must be “expunged from the realm”.

Even Eshtaroth sees that all is not right with her lord. As party close in, there is a whirling in the leaves and a female Elven form takes shape, composed of briars, dried and cracked twigs and worm-ridden soil; Drathu. Memnon engages her in conversation but it’s instantly obvious that this dryad is now exhibiting signs of death, rather than life; even before she begins to her rant about how it was foolish to block off the powers at this place and how they have shown her sooo much.

The mounting tension is broken by a cry, as Aja leaps forwards, shifting into wolf form. The Elf Lord ducks to one side and as Eshtaroth berates him for going to the dark side; a gesture from the mad Elf sees her seized by vines and dragged across the clearing. Kara charges through the sick purple light and engages Qerwellian, her sword clanging off his armour. Missing her with a swing of his blade, the Elf Lord turns the missed stroke into a savage strike at the helpless Mazan.

As Memnon’s Shield of Faith protects his companions, Ozzy screens the entrance to the shrine with a hypnotic pattern and switch attacks Drathu. Emfara’s spirit manifests from her skull and with a howl, launches itself at the Dryad. Drathu is knocked flat by switch before she is dragged into the hypnotic pattern and set alight by Memnon’s flaming mace.
As the battle begins to rage, Aja shifts back to human form and begins to work as the barbed silver bindings restraining Mazan…

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White Thorn Keep

A parley is agreed. Tuss is thought to be alive, but his supple female companion dead (Tol & Eshtaroth slew a weresnake earlier). Memnon is introduced to Kara and the two go to Tuss’ nest in case he has returned, but find no trace of him there.

Ozzy muses that the possible third party behind the current situation is acting because they want something from or of the strange ‘shift’ he has detected, partway across the river. The possibility that Qerwellian is behind his own abduction, giving an excuse for the pact to be broken and the slaughter of shifters to begin that will avenge Emfara.

It’s agreed that both Aja and Eshtaroth will accompany the heroes of Dymrak in the search to uncover the truth. The party tracks Tuss to the ford, losing his trail there. It’s decided to head for a ruined elven guard tower; White Thorn keep, which could be a good hiding place via the barrows.

The Barrows still feel mournful and seems more fey than the surrounding woods. As the party enters the clearing Emfara appears. Conversation with her brings the revelation and an offer. Qerwellian visited her three nights ago – which is after he was supposedly kidnapped. If the heroes can entertain Emfara by fighting her champions to first blood, she will give loan of a magical sword, powerful against the shifters and of an artefact that contains a portion of her soul.

After a quick debate, the combat is agreed to and as Tol Memnon Ozzy and switch step forwards ready to do battle, Quicklings dart from the treeline, attacking the heroes, even as the very vegetation rises up against them.

Two Quicklings are swiftly bloodied and withdraw (sulking) from combat, closely followed by Memnon and Ozzy. Switch bloodies the final two Quicklings and Emfara keeps her word, offering a mithril scale shirt, sword with a Moonstone built into the pommel and her skull; on the understanding all three will be returned (we’re looking at you here, Gabriel Windchime..!) when the quest is complete.

Leaving for White Thorn keep, the vegetation becomes more luxurious. As twilight falls, odd bits or worked stone and paving become visible on and around the trail. Eshtaroth ruefully note that since the end of the War of the Pelt, the influence of Winter has become less.
The Keep loom ahead and Tol and switch set off to circle around it. Tol encounters a bloody pelt nailed to a tree, taken from something smaller than a human but bigger than a Halfling. Night has now fallen, with starlight but no moon. As the party creeps forward, they see sacks and barrels placed against interior walls of the keep. There is a feeling that there is something more than an Elf/Shifter alliance at work here.

Switch (noisily) scales the far wall of the keep. Memnon takes his usual direct approach and strides into the centre of the keep, igniting his flaming mace and boldly announcing the presence of a servant of Halav, seeking both Qerwellian and Mazan. The very floor of the keep seems to grab the Cleric and he is hurled across the courtyard. Ozzy senses elemental magic and various enchantments as he casts a light spell over the area.

Grey, Gnome-like creatures emerge from the stone and attack-one slashing at Memnon with a pick and the other, older, more wizened looking; striking the ground with his staff. The earth shakes, both Kara and Ozzy falling to the ground. Kara gets back to her feet and charges the wizened gnome, attacking with the short sword loaned to her by switch. Tol shoots at the other gnome attaching Memnon
To be continued…

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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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