Bollock's Inquisitives

S01E01 - The Mark of Prophecy, Part 1 (Pilot)
For different reasons, five people converge on a ruined tower near the Cyran border during the battle of Saerun Road. While facing off against agents of the Emerald Claw, they witness the Mourning. Four years later, they meet again.

Olarune 20, 994 YK. The Brelish and Thrane forces have besieged the Cyran forces at Saerun Road. This battle is critical as a loss for the Cyran Army would open the door to southern Cyre for their most bitter enemies.

The nearby Tower of Scars, an abandonned ruin, is identified by the Cyran commander as a key position. He tasks two of his soldiers, Karnak d’Vadalis and Rampart with scouting the tower to see if it would be possible to establish a position there.

Meanwhile, a small Aundarian force sent to reinforce their Cyran allies is taking stock of the battle. Deciding that the Cyran are doomed, their commander tasks his scouts to look for a inconspicuous way away from the battlefield. One of these scouts, Basil Tulsi, is sent to ascertain the potential of the route passing near the Tower of Scars.

House Orien has learned that the Tower harbors a draconic prophecy mark that it wishes to acquire. They have given the job to their agent Connor d’Orien, who has in turn delegated it to one of his partners, Zair. Equipped with a specially crafted dragonshard, the young changeling makes her way towards the tower while avoiding the military patrols.

Finally, Dhurnam Korkeron’s group of bounty hunters have tracked a group of Emerald Claw terrorists to a nearby Brelish town. Picking rumors about kidnappings in the area, he tasks his pupil Maathezar with the investigation of the nearby Tower of Scars.

That early afternoon, five different people simultaneously make their way for the ruined tower, unaware of the coming doom of Cyre and that this is the first step of their common destiny.

The Aundarian scout arrives at the Tower of Scars first, quietly surveying its outside. Hearing noise nearby, he hides in the underbrush and spies Karnak d’Vadalis and Rampart making their way towards the Tower from the east. Meanwhile, Zair arrives from the northwest and approaches a gap in the Tower’s western wall. She hears a noise and turns to see Maathezar approaching from the west. When he notices her, he adopts a defensive position. Zair, having taken the appearance of a buxom human redhead throws her arms up. A tense moment and a few whispered words allows them to understand that they are not enemies. They decide to continue into the Tower together, hoping to find strength in numbers. While the kalashtar and the changeling inch into the Tower of Scars, Karnak d’Vadalis and Rampart approach it carefully. Inside the Tower, Zair is ambushed by a group a kruthik. Another group of the beasts burrow up from the ground and assault Basil, Karnak and Rampart. Maathezar is kept from assisting his new ally by two kruthik who block his path into the tower. While fighting outside, Rampart comes face to face with Basil. Despite the Warforged‘s doubts about the Shifter’s claim that they are on the same side, the urgency of the situation forces them into an uneasy alliance. While Karnak and his lioness, Themba, make their way into the Tower and assist the damsel in distress, they hear the sound of a man screaming for help from deeper inside the ruins. As the kruthik fall and the battle seems to be on the verge of being won, two deformed humanoids attack those inside the Tower. Quick and vicious, they nonetheless prove no match for the unlikely allies who make short work of the monsters identified by Karnak as Dolgrims.

As soon as the monsters are dispatched, chaos unsues as Karnak and Rampart try to ascertain whether any of the others are enemy soldiers. They all move into the rear of the Tower to find a catatonic man chained into a draconic prophecy mark and an armored half-elf chained to the far wall. Recognizing the half-elf as a Breland soldier, Karnak goes to execute him until he notices the man’s rank: Lord Major, making him a potentially very useful prisonner. Basil undoes the bindings holding the catatonic man in the mark and pulls him out of it. After a quick examination he finds that the man can move, but that he can’t speak and needs to be prodded forward, otherwise he simply curls into a ball on the floor. Having found her objective, Zair records it with her dragonshard. While undergoing the process, she translates its meaning: “Five at the brink of desolation stand as one against the tempest’s roar”.

Having accomplished their objectives, the group goes to leave the Tower, prionners in tow. However, they are no longer alone. Outside the Tower, a group of zombies, backed by two Emerald Claw soldiers and a necromancer wait for them. “Give us the half-elf and you can leave with your lives!” While, Basil argues for turning over the Brelish officer, the Cyrans are unwilling to part with their prize. They turn down the necromancer’s offer, who in turn replies “Very well, then you shall go towards bolstering our forces!”

As the zombies shamble forward to attack, the necromancer unleashes her magic on the group and Rampart teleports next to the witch to engage her in melee. The two Emerald Claw soldiers move to assist their leader in fighting off the Warforged. Basil, unhappy about being involved in a fight that is not his own nonetheless fires at the Emerald Claw, unleashing a swarm of bats that hinder their movements and leaves them open to attack. Maathezar moves to engage the zombies outside the wall on the west side of the Tower, while Karnak and Themba charge the ones near the entrance. Zair uses her arcane power to engage the undead from afar. Bren ir’Gadden gets his sword from Maathezar and moves to assist him on the west side.

While the fight goes on, strange lights can be seen in the sky to the northeast over Cyre. It seems to catch on fire and lighting rolls in the clouds. A gray mist extends from the heart of Cyre and quickly covers the armies fighting below. Harrowing screams can be heard from inside. When the battle at the Tower comes to a conclusion, not a sound can be heard from below. The Mourning has consumed Cyre.

Olarune 20, 998 YK. Four years after the tragedy that brought the Last War to an end, the five who made their way to the Tower of Scars on that fateful day meet again for the first time since they parted ways after their first encounter. All of them are still haunted by what they witnessed four years before. Their dreams are punctuated by nightmares in which they see it all again, hearing strange words: “Five at the brink of desolation stand as one against the tempest’s roar”. Even those who do not dreams sometimes hear these words when they recall that day, unaware of their origin in their memories.

Each has received a letter from Bren ir’Gadden inviting them to Sharn for a commemoration of the Day of Mourning. The ceremony takes place in the upper towers in the university district. While taking part in the ceremony, the door to the balcony suddenly bursts open and a grey mist flows into the room, consuming those who stand in its way. Maathezar notices that inside the fog stands a hairy, humanoid form. The five draw their weapons and engage it, but the fog makes their foe difficult to find. When they fire at it from away, they have to guess at its position, while when fighting it up close it vanishes, only to reappear in a more advantageous position. The fight is ardous, but slowly the group start working together, finding strategies that seem effective against the beast. When they hurt it enought, the fog dissipates, revealing the hideous ape-like figure of a Mourning Haunt, a demon that sometimes leaves the boundaries of the dead-gray mist enveloping what was once Cyre. When they finally dispatch it, its body dissolves into a mist that shapes itself after the draconic prophecy mark they had found in the Tower of Scars four years before.

Help arrives, of course, once the coast is clear. A human races up the stairs with sword drawn, only to find the group glaring at him. “Its about fucking time!” snarls Maathezar, the kalashtar’s madness bubbling to the surface. “Excuse me,” he answers tersely, “but I came here as fast as I could”. He is followed by a gnome who introduces himself as Orryn Bollock. As the group tries to make sense of the attack, he offers them his card and asks them to come to him if they do solve the mystery, as he would love to hear what they found. He also suggests he might very well pay for the priviledge.

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S01E02 - The Mark of Prophecy, Part 2
The PCs track down the origin of the Mourning Haunt that attacked them, stop a destructive terrorist plot and face off against an old acquaintance.

Zair, who knows a bit about Mourning Haunts, informs the rest of her companions that its a kind of demon that doesn’t last long outside the dead-grey mists of the Mournland. As such, it must have been summoned from somewhere inside the city. The group then splits off, Basil, Karnak and Rampart heading off to track down the Mourning Haunt’s origin, while Zair and Maathezar stay to question the witnesses. From the survivors, the pair learns that Bren ir’Gadden, who had apparently invited them to the event, but had failed to show, was not scheduled to be present as he is now serving on Argonth, Breland’s last remaining flying fortress. From this, Maathezar reaches the conclusion that either he planned for their deaths from a hundred miles away, or, more likely, that someone used his name to get them here. Having extracted as much information as they can from the survivors of the attack, they head down to meet up with the other three. Meanwhile, Rampart climbs down Dalannan Tower, retracing the Haunt’s steps and helping the other two in finding traces of its passage. Although Basil’s skills seem ill-suited for tracking in the city, Karnak manages to find bits of fur that dissolves into mist when touched that confirms they are on the right track. They cross the mid-levels and keep going down. When they reach the lower levels, they find a body tossed in an alley whose life seems to have been sucked from him, just like the victims of the Haunt on the top of the tower. Rampart decides to question nearby people, so it grabs a random passerby, lifts it off the ground and asks it with drill sergeant like courtesy what he has seen. Four goons walk out of the shadows and one of them says “tin can, you really picked the wrong guy to fuck with”, and then picks up his greataxe.

The goons lunge at the trio, but Basil is quicker. He pushes the nearby ones away from him, giving himself room to shoot a fiery arrow at the leader. Karnak and Themba lunge at a goon, quickly overwhelming him and knocking him unconscious. The ringleader swings his axe at Rampart, severely denting its armor. Zair and Maathezar come down a nearby staircase to find their allies in a fight. A ring of red energy appears around Maathezar‘s head as he swings his halberd at a nearby goon, but the mook seems it coming and clumsily dodges the attack. Zair launches a psychic attack against one of the thugs, who clutches his head and collapses to the floor. Rampart fights back against the leader, but the hits the warforged lands only seem to make him angrier. The group quickly dispatch the leader’s thugs and concentrate their attacks on him. Rampart takes a few hits, but Zair‘s magic keeps the warforged going, and they finally bring down the berserker. Karnak disarms him, taking the greataxe and the two hand axes he carried. They leave the mooks with their clubs and head back to trying to find the Haunts’ origin.

They reach the bottom of Dalannan Tower and there lose the creature’s tracks, but a more moderate questioning of potential witnesses by Maathezar gets them a lead: a dilapidated house from which strange noises and lights are sometimes perceived. The group spreads out and quickly locate the building. It is in pretty bad shape, but the windows seem to have been recently boarded up and bars have been installed on them to prevent entrance. The front door seems to be the only way in.

When Basil tries, he finds it locked. He takes out his thieves tools and lockpicks it. He opens the door and inches into the lobby. 10 feet ahead is another door, this one unlocked. He moves to it silently, opening it an inch to glance inside. Before seeing anything, he is hit by the inside’s smell; a mix of animal musk, dust, decay and rot. Basil sees that the room ahead is a living room with moldy couches in it. He also spots a guard drake near the door. The drake sniffs the air, then hisses in alarm as he suddenly turns to the door.

Basil barges into the room, firing at the drake. He spots another one farther into the room out of the corner of his eyes. The drakes lunge at him, snapping at his legs to bring him down. Maathezar, Karnak, Themba and Rampart rush into the building, while Zair hangs back. Four goblins come to check out the commotion. One of them yells “they’re here!”. A door at the far end of the living room bursts open and two shifters with dyed red fur charge out of the room with scimitars drawn. They lunge at the intruders, knocking Basil and Rampart with the strength of their attacks. Surrounded on all sides by the drakes, goblins and shifters, Basil is knocked out. Zair unleashes her magic on the shifters, knocking one back and giving an opening for Karnak to strike. A cloaked half-orc comes out at the end of one of the hallways leading out of the living room. He stays well back of the fight and fires at the members of the group who stray away from the clump near the door. The fight is grueling, but eventually the drakes are brought down as are the shifters. Seeing the fight turning against his troops, the half-orc rushes for the door. While Karnak and his tigress stay back to finish the remaining goblins, the others run after their fleeing enemy. They chase him down the street, and Basil brings him down with a carefully placed shot meant to keep him alive for questioning. The half-orc falls to the ground hard and is knocked unconscious. Once the live capture is confirmed, Karnak executes the remaining surviving goblins, his hatred for the species apparent to his companions for the first time.

They drag the half-orc’s unconscious form back inside the house and close the door behind them. They tie him up. After having taken time to catch their breath, they search the house’s lower level, finding stairs to the second. They search the shifters’ room, finding rotting animal carcasses and other vile things. The half-orc’s room is cleaner and in a pouch under the bed they find 60 gold pieces. As they get ready to head upstairs, a loud noise, not unlike the crack of thunder is heard from upstairs and the whole house is shaken by a quake. They hear someone shout from upstairs “What’s happening? Check those over there!”

The group rushes up the stairs. When they get up, they find another unlocked door. Basil quietly peeks in. Next to the door he seems a strange machine with dark lightning crackling on it. Next to the machine is a deformed humanoid creature with two long tentacles nervously inspecting the machine. He also hears voices coming from further down the halls.

Opening the door in one swift movement, the group rushes in. The tentacled creature, which Karnak identifies as some sort of foulspawn, strikes at them while threatening to eat their faces. Two humans rush from the sides of similar machines, drawing rapiers and moving against the intruders. Rampart and Karnak engage the foulspawn in melee and Basil peppers it with arrows. The human thugs move in and flank him, feinting before stabbing with their rapiers. One of the machines seems to gain power and unleashes a bolt of dark lightning that hits the machine near the door, sending sparks flying around, hitting all nearby combatants. The house rumbles again and the ground shakes under their feet. The two humans seem to hesitate, glancing nervously towards the door. Maathezar realizes they’re not committed to the fight and decides to try to talk them down. Zair helps him and the humans’ hesitation seem more palpable as the machines unleash more lightning strikes at each other. Basil dodges away from the fight and moves to one of the machines down one of the halls. Inspecting it, he figures out how to disable it and moves quickly to neutralize it. Zair moves to the machine near the door and manages to drain some of the magic energy powering it, weakening it. Maathezar continues talking with the human thugs, emboldened by their growing unease. When Rampart and Karnak bring down the foulspawn, the two humans duck for the door, hoping to escape. Karnak and Themba run after them, unwilling to let any of their enemies escape. The tigress quickly overtakes them and blocks the way down the stairs.

“Surrender and we’ll let you go”, Maathezar tells them.
Karnak adds “or I can always feed you to my tiger. Please, make my day”.
The two humans look at each other, then they put away their rapiers and turn to Maathezar. “Fine, but the psycho with his cat waits downstairs.”
“Fine by me”, says Karnak, and he makes his way down.

Basil finishes disabling all the machines and then the group, minus Karnak and Themba, gathers to question the two captives.

“I’m Maathezar, what are your names?”
“I am Albert and this is my buddy, Alphonse.”
“What are those machines for?”
The two thugs shrug.
“From what I’ve seen, they were to power up and then would have exploded, bringing the whole tower down”, says Basil.
“Wait a minute,” answers Albert while frowning, “we would have died! Motherfucker!”
“Now perhaps you see why you should help us”, says Maathezar. “Why were you here?”
“We were hired to guard the machines, paid good coin too. Of course, we didn’t know what for. You find an easy job like this in Sharn, you don’t ask, you know?” says Alphonse.
“Who hired you?”
“Guy wanted us to call him Mourner, obviously a fake name, but we followed him once, make sure he could pay, and one of his guards called him Aric.”
Maathezar turns to his companions, “Blacktree, the aide.”
“You know him? Anyway, we saw he had gold and left it at that.”
“See anything else? Did he meet with anyone?”
“He ate with some bald guy dressed in black at an inn.”
Maathezar takes two gold coins out of his coin purse. “Think you could find him again?”
Their eyes light up. “We could definitely try. Know a few people who could help.”
Maathezar flings them the coins. “Do it, their will be more if you find something good.”
“You got it!”

Albert and Alphonse leave the house. The group finishes inspecting the rooms and find residuum in the machines. Also, a pile of drained magic items on the floor, one of which a wand which still seems to resonate with arcane power. Zair claims it and the group head off.

They decide to head to Orryn‘s to regroup and plan their next move. They hire a skycoach to save a couple hours of walking. The trip is peaceful and the view magnificent. As they lazily weave through the towers, a flash of blue light catches most of the group’s attention. As they turn towards it they spot a group of goblins standing on blue disks of energy flying towards them. The goblins aim their short bows at them. Behind them, the group sees another figure, dressed in black. Standing on his own blue disk is Aric Blacktree.

Basil acts first, drawing his longbow. He shoots an arrow towards Aric which morphs in-flight into a cloud of bats, striking at Basil‘s target and the nearby goblin archers. The archers move out the the cloud and unleash a volley of arrows at the skiff. One of the arrows takes out the skycoach’s pilot. Karnak throws one of his handaxes at the goblins, but his prey weaves out of the way. Maathezar moves to the back of the coach and takes over the controls. Zair, using her new wand, starts hurling insults at their foes, enhancing them with her spells. Rampart jumps off the skycoach and lands on one of the goblins’ disk, knocking its occupant down. After a brief struggle, the warforged ejects the goblin, sending it screaming to its doom. It then turns its attention to the others. Aric lifts his hand, revealing a dragonmark he didn’t have four years ago. It flashes with necrotic energy and his goblin allies grit their teeth in pain. Empowered by the mark’s dark magic, they send another volley of arrows at the group. Karnak throws another handaxe, this time hitting home, while Rampart moves on its disk to engage the goblins in melee. When it gets to one, it jumps over onto its disk and pushes it off. Basil answers the goblins arrows with his own, Zair keeps flinging spells at them as Maathezar keeps their skycoach from crashing. Aric fires bolts of lightning and necrotic energy at his foes, weakening them. The fight is grueling and brutal. As the goblins go down, so do Karnak and Zair. When the last of the archers goes down, Rampart goes after the mage. The warforged jumps onto Aric‘s disk, but the human proves more difficult to jettison than the goblins. The two struggle with each other for too long and the disk promptly crashes onto a walkway some forty feet below. Already barely holding together after its fight with the goblins, Rampart breaks apart as it collides with the hard stone of the bridge, sending pieces of warforged flying through the air. Aric, amazingly, still manages to get up. Maathezar brings the skycoach to a stop over the walkway and he and Basil jump off to engage their last remaining foe. Weakened and desperate, they flank him, Basil drawing one of his daggers. After dodging a blow from Aric’s mace, Maathezar lands one of his own with his halberd, killing the human. The two quickly load his body into the skycoach and pick up as many of the warforged’s pieces as they can, and head off towards Orryn’s to get help for their wounded friends.

As they rise above the walkway, they can see oglers starting to gather at the scene of their final battle, but there is still no sign of the watch, as is to be expected in the lower levels of Sharn.

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S01E03 - By The Family Jewels
The PCs investigate the activities of Aric Blacktree. In doing so, they face the mad mage's extended family.

Olarune 20, 998 YK. As the group leaves the scene of their battle with Aric Blacktree, Basil Tulsi takes the task of piloting the skycoach as Maathezar tends to his fallen comrades. Once he’s got them back on their feet, they cover the pilot’s and their foe‘s corpses and head towards the address on Orryn Bollock’s business card.

They find his shop in the Deathsgate district of Middle Tavick’s landing. The district is bustling with activity. Unwilling to draw further attention to themselves, they moor their skycoach near the shop and Maathezar steps out to go knock on the door. After about a minute’s wait, Darius opens the door.

“Hi”, he says, “come in.”
“Err, we need some help first”, answers the kalashtar.
Basil lifts the cloak covering the body of Aric.
“Oh… wait here a minute”
Darius leaves and then comes back with large red blankets. He helps them wrap the bodies and together they quickly carry them inside.

They go down a long hallway and walk into a side door. Inside is the gnome’s magewright workshop. All sorts of equipment and scrap metal is piled on the multiple tables and on parts of the floor. The place is dusty and smells like heated metal and burnt rubber. Behind a mostly cleared desk is sitting, the young tiefling called Leucis, bent over a notebook. He looks up when they come in.

“Orryn, we’ve got some guests.”
The gnome, sitting at a workbench with his back to the door answers tersely. “I’m busy, tell them to go away.”
“Well, considering you wanted us to come, you might want to make an exception. After all, we got it done in less than a day”, says Zair.
The gnome pivots on his bench. Looks at the people entering his shop, then at the body they’re carrying. He sighs, gets up, walks to one of the larger tables and pushes all the stuff on it to the ground.
“You can put it down here. And then perhaps tell me why you’re bringing dead bodies into my workplace.”
“He’s the one responsible for it”, says Maathezar.
“For what?”
“For trying to destroy part of the city with some sort of machine.”
“Huh, that must be what those localized earthquakes were. Tell me, but first, Darius, get us some tea will you?”
“Sure”, he leaves.
The gnome then turns to his adopted son, “go help your master.”
“Aww man, but I wanna hear about the bad guy.”
“Go. Now.”
Leucis sighs loudly and walks out of the room dragging his feet. He slams the door, hard, behind him.
Orryn rolls his eyes, shakes his head. “Go ahead.”

And so, the group recount the events of the day. When they finish, Orryn is stroking his beard thoughtfully.

“Interesting. I’d like to see that machine.”
“We brought back part of it”, answers Karnak.
“Do you think you can do something for our dead comrade?” asks Zair.
“Destroyed, or disassembled, would be more accurate I think. We found about 500 gps’ worth of residuum, if it can help”, says Maathezar.
“Which makes it dead…”
“I’d say dead. But yes. It’ll take a few days and a Raise Dead ritual. I should be able to replace the missing pieces with what I have here.”
“Raise Dead works on warforged?”
“Yes. Reassembling them is not sufficient once the spark has gone.”
“They have a soul then?”
“Spare me the theology”, says the gnome. “Matter of fact is, I’ll get it back on its feet. Might not be as streamlined as it was, but it’ll work. So, what’s your next move?”
“We’re waiting on information from those rogues we let go”, says Maathezar.
“Alright, in the mean time, if you want to rest I have a room downstairs you can use. It also has a bathroom.”
“We were wondering if you can make the dead talk. We have some questions for our dead foe here.”
“No, I’m sorry, you’d need a priest for that.”
“Do you know any?”
“That would come at night to someone’s house to perform Speak with Dead on a corpse from a dubious origin? No, I do not.”
“I do!” says a muffled voice from the other side of the closed door.
Orryn sighs once more. “Come in, Leucis.”
“Call me Omen”, says the grinning teenager as he steps in casually. “So, thought I couldn’t contribute, huh?”
“Spare us the snarky comments and go get your morally ambiguous priest. When you have chosen a course of action, don’t hesitate. Hesitation reaps only failure.”
“Yes, dad!
The young tiefling leaves.
“You’ll have to turn yourselves and those bodies in to the authorities”, says Orryn. “I have some contacts in the Watch I can lean on to delay the investigation into your deeds, but by tomorrow morning, you need to get this done.”

Leucis comes back two hours later with a hobgoblin in rough-spun robes, wearing a symbol of the Sovereign Host around his neck.
“This is Olaakki, the priest who can help you.”
The priest smiles at them, either not noticing or choosing to ignore the open look of disgust on Karnak‘s face.
“Hello. Omen tells me you need a particular ritual cast, is that right?”
“Yes, we need to have a few words with a corpse,” says Maathezar.
Olaakki nods. "I’ve a Speak with Dead scroll here, it’s worth 340 gold pieces. If you need me to cast it, I’ll require another 20 gold pieces. I’m sorry to have to ask for so much, but I need the money to help the less fortunate."
The group takes inventory of their funds and realize they’re short by quite a lot of money.
“Would it be possible to pay part of it with residuum or perhaps future services rendered?”, asks Zair.
“If we do that we won’t have enough residuum to bring back Rampart!”, objects Karnak.
“Well, there is a job I need to get done. If you all agree to do it, I could cast the ritual for you for free.”
“What’s the job?”, asks Zair.
“Kruthiks have been attacking people in the lower reaches of Sharn. It seems they’ve built a hive there. I’d need you to go kill them. They’ve already killed few people, and more will be maimed or killed if nothing’s done.”
“Kruthiks?”, asks Karnak, “aren’t those the creatures we fought in the Tower four years ago?”
“Yes, but they’re rather common on Khorvaire, like ants, but worse”, says Basil.
“So, then”, asks Olaakki, “are you in?”
The four adventurers quickly confer with each other, then turn back to the priest.
“We are”, answers Zair.
Olaakki nods, then spits into his palm and extends his hand to them. Reluctantly, some more than others, they each shake it.
“Good, let’s get this over with then. You should know that at most you’ll only get three questions.”
“Only three? Give us a minute.”
The group examine their different options, and once they’re ready they set themselves up around the table. Olaakki retrieves his scroll for his pack. Then, they remove the sheet covering Aric‘s corpse. A look of surprise and recognition, cross Olaakki’s face.
“You know him?”, asks Maathezar.
“Yes, I saw him with a member of my flock.”
“Where?”
“In Malleon’s Gate, in Lower Dura. The man I know what working for this man.”
“I see… well, let’s cast this ritual now.”
Olaakki nods. He unrolls the scroll and starts recite the incantations. Ten minutes later, the corpse takes a sudden deep breath.
“You can ask your questions now”, says Olaakki.
“Why did you try to kill us?”
The corpse answers in a low, ragged voice. “So you would not take my gift away from me again.”
“What is your role in the grand scheme of things.”
“I am doing my part to bring about the world’s fate.”
“Who are your associates?”
“I work alone.”
The corpse lets out one last sigh.
“Well, my part here is done. When you finish with this, you can contact me for that job you agreed to do.”
Olaakki bows and leaves. Maathezar turns to Orryn.
“I think Aric may have been under the influence of the Dreaming Dark. Is there any way you could check if he was under external influence?”
“I could do an autopsy, but I don’t know if it will yield any results. It will take the rest of the night though.”
“Very well. The rest of you can rest, I’ll stay and assist our host.”

While Orryn and Maathezar perform the autopsy, the rest of the group move to the empty room downstairs and set up their bedrolls on the floor for a much needed night’s sleep.

Olarune 21, 998 YK. The next morning, the whole crew gathers the get the results. The only thing odd with Aric‘s body was some necrotic flesh near his dragonmark and afflicting some of his internal organs. After gathering up the bodies of Aric and the skycoach pilot, the four get back in the skycoach as Orryn gets to work on Rampart’s body. The group flies to the nearest Watch Tower and turn themselves in.

For the next four hours, they are questioned and the Watch sends a patrol to check out the house in which the remains of the machine could be found. After their accounts are corroborated by witnesses, the group is tersely thanked for its service to Breland and released by the Watch.

They head back, on foot, to Orryn‘s workshop. When they arrive, they find Leucis in conversation with two familiar faces: Albert and Alphonse.
“Hey! It’s the guys who pay! I didn’t know you all knew Omen", says Albert.
“Didn’t know you knew Albert and Alphonse.”
“How do you know each other?”, asks Maathezar.
“I know most of the scoundrels around here”, answers Leucis proudly.
Albert and Alphonse both chuckle.
“We found some info for you, is there anywhere we can talk?”, asks Alphonse.
The group, with Albert and Alphonse in tow head to the room downstairs. Once there, they shut the door.
“You found the man we’re looking for?”, asks Maathezar.
“Not exactly; we found someone who knows him. His name is Cane, he runs an establishment called Cane’s Diamonds in the Dragoneyes district. When we showed him what the man looked like he said he recognized him, but he wants to talk to you guys directly.”
“Showed him?”
“Yeah”, says Albert, and his features change into that of a balding, overweight man. “Like so.” He changes back. “So… can we get paid now?”
Maathezar obliges. The two changelings thank him and leave.
Leucis is in the hallway when the group exists the room.
“I can take you there if you want.”
Still unfamiliar with Sharn, they agree.

The Dragoneyes, in Lower Tavick’s Landing, is a lively place, even in mid-afternoon. A red light district, it has services for every type of desires. From more traditional courtesans, to modified warforged and changelings able to cater their appearance to their client’s wishes. The establishment have luminous signs, some of which are animated through magwrights’ works. The group can’t move five feet without being groped, propositioned or almost dragged into an establishment.
Cane’s Diamonds is an ostentatiously decorated bordello, to the point of being gaudy. The group is taken to a mezzanine, where a large chair, akin to a throne is set up. Framed by two gorgeous elven women sits a warforged wearing a large hat, a cape, and holding a cane with a large jewel on top. Karnak‘s bigotry shows itself again as he stares dejectedly at the elves.
“You’re Cane?"
“The one and only. It’s an honor to welcome the heroes who saved Sharn to my establishment. Can I get you anything?”
“We were told you have some information for us.”
“Yes, I do. But first, I’d like to hear of your exploits.”
Zair launches into a lyrical retelling of their previous day, from their arrival at the Commemoration ceremony to their battle in the skies.
“Very nice! Well, then, the man you’re looking for is called Dorian something, he runs a jeweler’s shop in Redstone in Upper Dura. His last name was smoething like Redoak, or maybe Browncedar? Anyway, he’s the one who set these.” Cane shows his right hand. It is abnormally large, twice the size of the one holding his cane, and has diamond-tipped spikes on it.
“Could his name have been Blacktree?”
“Yes, that’s it, Dorian Blacktree”, confirms Cane.
“Thank you, if you’ll excuse us.”
“Of course! Come back anytime, but keep in mind, this bit of information was free, but next time won’t be.”
“First taste is always free kind of thing?”, asks Maathezar.
“No, but this case is of interest to me. I guess you could call me a patriot. I don’t like it when someone endangers my city.”

The group takes the public elevators up to the Upper Levels and walks from Tavick’s Landing to Dura. It takes then a few hours. They get to Dorian Blacktree‘s shop in the early evening. Dura is considered one of the least appealing districts of Sharn, but on the Upper Levels is is as respectable as the other wealthy areas of the city.
Questioning the clerk at the shop, they learn that Dorian Blacktree hasn’t been in for a few days, but that they can probably find him at his home in the nearby Overlook district.
The Blacktree household is a luxury townhouse among a row of similar lodgings. Light can be seen through the windows, hinting at someone’s presence inside.
Maathezar walks to the door and knocks. After a minute, he hears footsteps from inside and a well-groomed and finely dressed hobgoblin opens the door slightly. His eyes quickly scans the people outside and rests on their weapons a moment.
“Can I help you?”, he asks.
“Yes”, answers Maathezar, “we’d like to talk to Mister Dorian Blacktree. It’s about his brother.”
“Just a moment, I’ll see if he’s available.”
He shuts the door. The hobgoblin returns a minute later and opens the door, fully this time, and stands aside to let the group through.
“If you’ll please come with me.”
They follow him through a dark and sparsely decorated hallway, spying some stairs heading up, a living room and a small library along the way. He leads them to a dining room with a large oak table. At the far end is sitting Dorian Blacktree, almost the same as he was portrayed by Albert. His shoulders are hunched, and his eyes are a little red. He looks up as they come in.
“Please, have a seat. Brackett said you were here about my brother? Did you know him?”
“We did, we first met him a few years ago. Could we ask you a few questions about him?”
“Of course… wait… you’re the ones who killed him, aren’t you?”, asks Dorian Blacktree.
The four stare uncomfortably at each other.
“Yes, you fit the description the watchmen gave me. Don’t worry, I don’t begrudge you the act. I’m told he was trying to bring down one the of the city’s towers with some sort of machine. You must be here to get some sort of closure, right? Ask me and I’ll answer as best I can.”
The butler, Brackett, brings some tea for his master and the guests. As they sip their drinks, the group listens as Dorian Blacktree shares with them his brother‘s troubled past. He tells them how Aric was always strange and how he mostly kept to himself. They learn that he was admitted into a Jorasco mental health facility as a teenager after claiming he was hearing voices, but was released after a few months of therapy seemingly better. Then, he had finished his studies gotten a job as an aide to Bren ir’Gadden, but had returned from the war traumatized and nearly catatonic. He was once again admitted to the Jorasco mental hospital and had again made a recovery. However, upon his release, which was a year and a half before today, Aric had vanished. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of the family had told Dorian he had seen Aric in town. Dorian had then hired a group of inquisitives to find his brother. The investigators had succeeded, and Dorian had sent a message to his brother asking for a meeting. Aric agreed and they met at an inn. Over the course of the short conversation, Dorian realized his brother’s madness had overtaken him and that the brother he loved was gone. He kept rambling about those who were coming to take his gift away, about the fate of the world and how he would be great and powerful. When Dorian had suggested Aric needed helped, the madman had just laughed and left. That was the last time he had seen his brother alive.
After taking all of this in, the group confers with each other.
“This adds to my suspicions. I think he may have been possessed by the Dreaming Dark”, says Maathezar.
The others stare at him blankly.
“An ancient enemy of my people”, explains the kalashtar. He then turns to their host. “Might we perhaps have a look at his room?”
“Sure, if you think it might help you.”
They climb the stairs to the second floor. When they get to the top they are greeted by an angry looking old lady.
“Aric!”, she yells, “I told you not to bring any friends home! Go play outside!”
“This isn’t Aric, mother. Go back to your room.”
“You may be my husband but you can’t tell me what to do! I’m going back to my room, leave me alone!”
Dorian sighs. “Madness, it seems, runs in the family. Thankfully I’ve been spared so far.”
He shows them to Aric‘s room.
“Take the time you need, I’ll be downstairs if you need anything."
A quick search of the room reveals little of interest except a small hidden hole in the floor under the bed. It is empty, but there are traces of old dried blood. Maathezar examines the library and finds a few texts on magic and unusual creatures, one of which is about Quoris. He takes it with him when they leave.

As the group start walking away from the Blacktree residence, Zair suddenly remembers something Dorian had said. She stops.
“Dorian said he had hired inquisitives to find his brother and that they had. He must still have some information we could use!”
And so they make their way back. They speak with Brackett once more and Dorian Blacktree agrees to give them the file he had gotten from the inquisitives. In it, the group finds directions to a small house in Malleon’s Gate, the goblin slum where Olaakki had said he had seen Aric Blacktree. And so they make their way down to Lower Dura.

Finding the house proves to be of little difficulty, especially with two seasoned scouts and a former bounty hunter in the group. The windows are barred and shuttered and the door is locked. Basil leans against the door to listen inside, but all he can hear is a steady tock tock tock sound, like metal hitting wood at a regular interval. After conferring briefly, the group decides to simply knock on the door, hoping whoever’s inside will be as helpful as Aric’s brother. When they do, the sound stops for a minute before resuming. No one comes to the door. Basil uses his tools to get the door unlocked quietly. When they push it open, they hear the ringing of chimes attaches to the door’s other side.
They then hear a woman’s voice “Come in, honey. Supper’s almost ready”.

They walk into the apartment. Past a small entrance, they step into a living room furnished by a moldy couch and carpet. On a small table rests three candles lighting the room. On their left is an opening large enough for double doors that leads into a large kitchen. Behind a counter and facing another, a woman in a simple peasant dress and with long straw-colored hair stands with her back to them, chopping at a carcass with a large meat cleaver. She stops.
“You’re not my husband”, she says.
“No, we are not. Is your husband Aric Blacktree?” asks Maathezar.
“He is. Kids!” she yells, “we have guests, be polite come say hi”.
A door on the kitchen’s right wall, close to the counter, opens with a bang and two small creatures emerge through it, followed by a third. The first two creatures are hideous and have four arms and two mouths each. They are dressed in children’s cute sailor outfits and wear wigs of golden curls. They are each clutching a club in a hand. The third creature is some sort of animal, looking to be part reptile and part bat. The woman whirls around as her “children” come in. She, too, is hideously deformed. Two large tentacles snake out from under her dress as she charges towards the group.

Karnak d’Vadalis, his wolf Frostbite and Maathezar rush forward as the dolgaunt “mother” lashes at them with her tentacles. The two dolgrim lurk forward and try to get into flanking position. Basil looses an arrow that turns into a swarm of bats, filling half the kitchen with the flying mammals and hampering his foes’ movements. The flying monstrosity pounces across the room at Maathezar, biting him and retreating back to its perch on the far counter top. Zair fights back by using her magic to create a sharp sound staggering the creatures and giving opening to her allies. When the “mother” is brought down by the group’s combined efforts, the two “children” snarl and yell obscenities at them, decrying the death of their mum. They too, soon join their mothers in death. Their “pet” falls last as the melee attackers finally pin it into a corner.

A search of the lodgings reveal a strangely normal looking apartment, despite the monsters who inhabited it. In one of the rooms they find a desk in which are Aric Blacktree’s journals. In a small room is a chalk-drawn replica of the Prophecy Mark the group had found at the Tower of Scars four years earlier.
A quick read of the journals show that they seem to start relatively coherent and gradually slip into the mad discourse of a diseased mind. References to them are increasingly frequent as Aric had grown to blame them from keeping him from his “gift”. The group surmises that four years ago he had hoped to develop a dragonmark by exposing himself to the Prophecy Mark and that their intervention had foiled his plans.

They leave the apartment and travel back to Bollock’s workshop to relay their findings. The gnome listens to the story of their day and how they have come to the conclusion that the Blacktree investigation is, for the time being, over. Orryn then offers them to stay on as he was hoping to start a secondary business venture in the empty locale below his workshop: an inquisitive agency. Having no better prospects a head of them, the four conscious members of the group agree.

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S01E04 - Bug Hunt, Part 1: Hell Goes With Him
While fulfilling their promise to clear out a nest of kruthiks in the Depths of Sharn, the group discovers an ancient Dhakaani tomb.

Olarune 24, 998 YK. This morning, when Zair, Karnak d’Vadalis, Basil Tulsi and Maathezar get to Orryn Bollock’s workshop, and their office to be, they have the pleasure of seeing their fallen comrade Rampart back on its feet. The gnome explains that he finished the reconstruction the night before and performed the Raise Dead ritual. He concludes by urging them to go fulfill their promise to Olaakki so the warforged body can be field-tested and because he needs them out of their office that day so he can have it furnished. The group concurs and they head out.

When they step outside, Rampart is hit in the face by a ball. A group of children stare at them nervously. Zair picks up the ball and tosses it clumsily back to the kids who take it and run. One stays behind and the group recognize Orryn’s adopted son, Leucis. He walks up to them casually and asks them if they’d like to make a few bucks for the job they are about to do for free. He explains that word on the street is that there are flying kruthiks among the beasts that have attacked people in the Cogs and that a Morgrave professor would like to get a sample for study, as flying kruthiks are unheard of. They agree to look into it and move on.

Even though it is late winter, the weather in Sharn is still warm and humid. While winter winds make it bearable in the upper levels, the Cogs, where the city’s foundries are, are staggeringly hot. All of them except for the warforged are soaking in sweat by the time they reach the Tain Foundry, where they are to meet Olaakki. They are greeted at the door by a group of guards. One of them leads them inside the cacophonous workshop where it is hotter, but drier. The guard makes them wait while he goes to get the foreman. He comes back with Olaakki and a scarred and surly-looking dwarf. Olaakki greets them warmly, obviously relieved and glad to see them, and introduces the dwarf as Molric Torranol, foreman of the Tain Foundry. The dwarf is sour and unpleasant, clearly more perturbed by the effect the lost of his employees will have on his bottom line than by their injuries. He explains the circumstances of the attacks and hands the group a crudely drawn map that will lead them to the nest’s entrance. Throughout the exchange, Olaakki‘s exasperation is clearly visible, as is his concern with the well-being of his flock and Torranol’s employees. Eager to be rid of the rude dwarf’s presence, they leave quickly.

As they head further into the depths, the air gets blessedly cooler. In the stacked and crumbled ruins of Sharn’s foundations, travel is difficult and it takes them a few hours to get to the area indicated on the map. There they find a large tunnel. Karnak examines its wall and concludes it was dug from the outside. It is also much larger than a normal nest’s entrance. They light a few torches and head in.

A couple of hundred meters in, they come to a wider opening. The floor ahead is paved with stone tiles. The eastern and western walls are lined with alcoves and the other two show worn murals depicting scenes of battles between groups of humanoids. White light fills the room in a pale glow from floating motes of light. A pile of dusty skulls rests at the center of the room. Black arrows, goblin arrows, according to Karnak, are strewn across the floor and dark blood stains tell of a recent battle. A faint smell of vinegar, kruthik blood, hangs in the air. Basil and Rampart move closer to the skulls and see that they are of goblinoids, gnomes, halflings, orcs and monsters. On the eastern wall is a iron wrought gate blocking the access to a set of stairs heading down. On the barrier is a sign on which is written in goblin “Ashurta, slayer of these weaklings, keeper of the Blade of the Ashen Crown. Even in death, he is stoic and strong. The might of Xoriat has not bested him, and Hell goes with him”. As they read this, kruthiks come pouring out of tunnels in the walls.

They quickly surround the group. The rumors of flying kruthiks are proven when two of the beasts deploy wings and launch themselves at Rampart and Maathezar. Basil, who had gone the furthest into the room, finds himself in a tough spot, with enemies on all sides. Calling upon the spirits of the wild, he pushes his enemies away from him and falls back, loosing an arrow at one of the bigger kruthiks. Rampart moves forward, taking the front line against the beasts. Karnak and Frostbite move to flank one of the bugs attacking their rear. As Maathezar covers their flank, Zair works her magic to move the enemies away from her more vulnerable allies into strategically advantageous positions. The fight is quick and brutal. Though the kruthiks had the advantage of numbers and surprise, they are quickly dispatched by the group’s combined efforts. Karnak picks up both of the flying kruthiks’ corpses, explaining he intends to bring the extra one to the Vadalis enclave for study.

After taking a few minutes to catch their breath, they search the room more thoroughly. On the eastern side of the skull pile they find a torn leather bag containing a journal, a few Darguun coins and a potion of healing. The journal belonged to a member of the Kech Volaar tribe, a large dhakaani tribe of Darguun. His group came to Sharn looking a magical blade. The journal also contains a key and a piece of leather with a hand and a downward pointing arrow drawn on it. They try the key on the iron barrier and find that it fits. Karnak argues they should ignore the tomb and squeeze into the tunnels to find the nest. Maathezar objects, stating that would leave them in a dangerous position should kruthiks fall upon them inside the tunnels. He suggests travelling into the tomb, as the kruthiks might have made their nest inside. Perhaps, also, there are wider tunnels leading off from deeper in. After a brief argument, they decide to go into the tomb.

They make their way downstairs and emerge into a large room lit by three everlasting braziers. In the middle of the southern wall is a large statue of a demon with rubies for eyes. It holds one of the braziers in its right hand. The other two braziers are in the corners of the northern wall. Both the southern and northern walls are lined with alcoves. In the center of the room, in a lower level surrounded by shallow stairs, is a matrix of tiles with runes on them. The shallow portion of the room has hobgoblin statues at its corners. There is a pair of solid-looking doors on the far wall. A faint grinding sound can be heard coming from the other side of the door. Expecting traps, the group makes their way carefully into the room. When it becomes clear they are in no immediate danger, they move to examine the runes. The tiles appear to be raised and can be pressed down. Stepping onto one of them is insufficient to lower, but jumping on them seems to work. Guessing that the piece of leather is clue, they try different combinations that include the Hand and Down runes. A few tries lets them see the full combination requires four tiles, but their few tries have failed to provide any change except a resetting of the tiles into an upraised position.

Zair examines the demon statue and feels an aura of magic coming from it. She concludes that it is trapped, most likely against theft, and advises her colleagues to steer clear of it. Basil moves to the far door and opens it, revealing a flight of stairs heading down. The small room below appears to have raised and runed tiles on its floor also. He heads down to investigate. That room has only four raised tiles as opposed to the sixteen in the one above. The group suggest the hypothesis that the tiles with the same runes, when pressed in both rooms, might bright forth the outcome that has so far eluded them. They decide to try Open and Down in both rooms at the same time. The tiles in the lower room slide effortlessly down when Basil steps on them. As he steps on the second one, they all learn how mistaken their guess was.

The doors slam shut and the stairs collapse into steep ramps. The rune tiles in the lower room begin to shake violently and half of the remaining floor collapses. An agile fellow, Basil manages to keep his balance on the rocking tiles, but kruthiks come pouring out of the holes in the floor. The rest of the group run to the door and try to get it open, but it proves even more solid than they thought and they can’t seem to have any effect on it. Basil fights off the kruthiks as best he can, but not being a melee combatant, he struggles. Rampart heads off into one of the kruthik tunnels, hoping to find another way into the room below, but only finds small and seemingly endless tunnels. Basil steps off the rocking tiles onto one of the remaining parts of the floor, briefly glimpsing a large stone ball grinding into the room below. A large spike falls from the ceiling, but he dodges it. He pushes one of the kruthiks down and it gets turned into mush. Then, as suddenly as it had started, the whole thing stops, the floor closes up again and the ramps turn back into stairs.

Maathezar throws the doors open and rushes down to help. Basil runs back up into the top room. The kruthiks turn towards the newcomer and head towards him, stepping onto the trapped tiles. With no time for him to come back up before it is triggered, Zair takes drastic action. She turns her magic on Karnak, hitting him with a force attack, but enabling her to teleport her endangered comrade back into the top room. Just as she does so, the kruthiks step onto a second tile and the doors shut themselves again. Karnak is furious at having suffered for what he sees as Basil and Maathezar’s careless actions. An argument breaks out between the three as tensions within the group bubble to the surface.

Zair goes back to the tiles and, out of ideas, begins pressing the four middle ones. When she hits the Fire plate, one humanoid creature made of flame and molten rock appears in each of the three braziers. The creatures rush forward, one of them depressing the Hell plate, which summons an imp into the demon statue’s brazier. The other two each press on the fire plate once, summoning two wisps of animated flame. They then do it again, summoning two more. The fire humanoids, magma runners according to Zair, rush between the ranks of the group, flailing their fiery “arms” at them. The imp turns invisible, using surprise to attack with its poison dart. The wisps of flame move towards the outliers, burning them with their heat. The group jumps into battle resignedly. Karnak finds himself the center of attention for the magma runners and, still hurt from Zair’s desperate gamble, is quickly brought down. When he is healed by her, he gets up, cussing the tomb and lashing out at his foes with unleashed fury. The wisps of animated flame are quickly put out, but the imp proves cagey and is the last to fall.

Once the battle is over, the group finds that the tiles will not reset anymore. Whatever secret they held, they will get to keep it to themselves. The group decides to take a short rest as they ponder their next move.

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S01E05 - Bug Hunt, Part 2: Mucus and Blood
The group finds the main nest and battles its Hive Lord. They then push deeper into Ashurta's tomb, facing off against its guardians, wanting to make sure no eggs have escaped their purge.

Olarune 24, 998 YK. The fight with the imp and the fire creatures left Karnak and Basil drained. Unsure of how they’d get along should they go through another battle, the five group members decide to take a rest. They head back to the first room, place the kruthik bodies close to the tunnels and settle down to rest for a few hours.

About six hours later, they set off again. Unwilling to try to go through the trapped room again, they decide to try the kruthik tunnels. They are cramped and the group finds their progress through them to be slow and difficult. Leaving from the room with the puzzle and statues, they head east and then south in the tunnels, heading for a larger room glimpsed by Rampart when Basil was stuck in the trapped room.

When they get closer to the opening, they see it leads to the ruined foundation of an ancient tower. Basil takes the lead and exits the tunnel into the room. Rubble lines the walls and two large support beams come out of the walls about fifteen over the floor. A young kruthik hisses at him. Rampart steps into the room. When it does, it and the shifter get struck by large chitinous spikes dripping with poison. More kruthiks, two of which about the size of wolves, come into view, standing atop the support beams. Basil looses an arrow at the oncoming beasts, taking out a hatchling while Rampart takes point. Maathezar, Karnak and his wolf squeeze out of the tunnel and move to help Rampart. Zair stays safely behind them, just inside the tunnel. Basil moves under one of the beams to escape the raining spikes, but the kruthik adults climb down to engage him in melee. He retreats back to his allies as they finish off the young kruthiks and they move forward to engage the adults. Together, they make short work of the last two beasts.

Four tunnels lead out of the room, one of which is large enough for a medium creature to go through without squeezing. The group decides to go for the safer option and head down that one.

The tunnel leads to another tower foundation, but this one if filled with mucus membranes and round, metallic eggs: they have found the hive. As they carefully step forward they see small kruthiks tending the eggs. They look up and hiss in unison when they spot the intruders. Deeper in the cave, they can hear a larger creature’s roar. The kruthiks charge forward and the group takes a defensive formation at the tunnel’s entrance. A much larger kruthik comes into view, passing through the mucus membranes with ease and carefully avoiding the eggs. As it gets closer, it spits at the intruders, coating them in a slimy fluid that burns their skin like acid. The group concentrate their fire on the groups of small, fresh-hatched kruthiks who swarm them. As their numbers dwindle, Basil dodges away from the group, getting out of the Hive Lord’s reach and starts breaking eggs, hoping to draw it away from his allies. Surrounded by foes, the Lord roars in outrage and fury, but is unable to escape the tide of steel closing in around him. It tries to maneuver away, still spitting acid, but keeps getting surrounded. Under the rain of blows coming from the group, it falls with a whimper.

The group picks up a few eggs to bring to the Morgrave University professor and destroy the rest. They find that about one in five eggs contain a winged kruthik, and that these are mixed randomly with the other eggs, suggesting it came as much as a surprise to the beasts as to their victims. Among the refuse, they find a few items belonging to the creatures’ previous meals: a few coins, a couple of potions and a silver magical amulet. The latter is claimed by Basil. Maathezar and Karnak each take one of the potions. Karnak and Basil find that the Hive Lord was rather small compared to how big they can get. This means either this hive was young, or else it is the offshoot of a larger one. The group decides to explore the rest of the tunnels, hoping to confirm they’ve completed their job.

Progress is slow and difficult as the other tunnels are rather narrow. After a few hours of scrapes and uncomfortable crawling, they find a single tunnel they can’t get to the end of. That tunnel seems to lead deeper into the tomb than they’ve gone. They thus backtrack and end up in the trapped room.

Basil leads them carefully around the trapped tiles and moves to examine the door up the stairs on the far end. The door is trapped, but can be opened by taking out its hinges. The shifter takes out his tools and gets to work. It takes him a couple of minutes to make the door safe. Rampart and Karnak then carefully take it off its hinges and put it down.

In front of them is another large room lined with alcoves. The smell of decay in it hits them like a physical force. In the middle is a large metal grate with statues of stylized felines with six legs and two long tentacles at its corners. On the grate stands a humanoid and two bipedal creatures. Water falls on them from a crack in the ceiling and they are blurry. Zair says magic is coming from the statues and that that is what is making the creatures blurry: it is some sort of magical defensive effect. The creatures do not react to the door being open. The room is lighted by floating globes near the room’s single support pillar. Basil sneaks into the room, walking along the wall. The alcoves are filled with rotted remains, bits of bone and putrid flesh. He notices that some of them seem to be moving on their own. As he steps next to an alcove containing such remains, they shape themselves into a tiny, vaguely humanoid form and lunge at him.

Rampart charges forward to engage the creatures on the grate. It swings its sword at one of the placid drakes, who doesn’t even try to dodge… but the attack misses, as if the creature wasn’t where it seemed to be. Basil falls back towards his comrades, followed by three small bone and flesh animates nipping at his heels. Karnak, Frostbite and Maathezar move to crush the creatures in melee. They are quickly shattered and the group moves into the room. The humanoid creature under the falling water reaches into its chests, pulling out bits of rotted flesh and bones which it throws at Basil, the smell alone enough to make him gag uncontrollably. The grave drakes snap at Rampart, biting down on it and then grinding their teeth into its frame. A winged kruthik flies out of the hole in the ceiling and latches on the warforged. Amplifying her voice to a deafening roar, Zair pushes one of the drakes off of Rampart and away from the statues. The drake suddenly becomes clear and the bard suddenly understands. She shouts at her companions to move the creatures away from the statues which are causing Rampart’s attacks to continually miss. As the humanoid corpse pelts them with more bits of its rotted flesh, they take on the drakes, keeping them away from their defensive enchantment and showering them with blows. They kill the kruthik and then move on to the corpse, which is in turn brought down. When it dies, it explodes, showering them in rot and maggots.

The adventurers take a few minutes to clean themselves in the falling water and to take the four statues’ eyes, which are made of amethysts. They then head through the only other set of doors in the room.

They follow a small hallway, go down a short flight of stairs and end up in front of another set of double doors. They examine the doors and see they are neither trapped nor locked. From the other side they can hear a sound like bubbling water. Carefully, they pull the doors open.

Wisps of mist float lazily in the air of the room in front of them. Four pillars hold up a flat ceiling. In the middle of the room is a pool shaped like a bowl held in four claws. Goblin runes line its base spelling out “The blood of my enemies slakes my thirst and that of my servants and sword siblings, now and for all time”. The pool is filled with a red liquid which, as the runes state, seems to be blood. It bubbles to the surface, seemingly coming from the bottom. On the far eastern walls are two large alcoves with an upright sarcophagus in each. The floor near them are littered with old bones. There are four sets of double doors, two on the southern wall and two on the western wall.

Rampart is the first to move into the room, inching close to the pool. Maathezar follows closely behind as backup. Closer inspection confirms that the pool is indeed filled with blood, humanoid blood. As they stand next to the pool, both the warforged and the kalashtar feel the uncontrollable urge to drink from it. They plunge their hands into it, cupping some of the blood into them. They bring it up to their lips and drink avidly, finding it tastes great, and severely grossing out their comrades. The others observe them with horror, but the two seem to suffer no ill effect from their strange behavior. Basil and Zair enter the room and, walking along the wall, move to the sarcophagi at the eastern end of the room. They make sure they aren’t trapped, and then pry one open. Bones burst out of it, knocking them to them ground. They brush them up and get back up, slightly annoyed. The sarcophagus is otherwise empty so they move to the other one. They pry it open as well, only to end up in a similar situation. Meanwhile, Karnak and his wolf move in to examine the doors on the western wall. He can hear nothing behind them, but from the second one he can feel a small breeze coming through the crack. Rampart moves to the southern doors, Maathezar still in tow. It is silent behind both doors and there are no breezes coming from either of them. The warforged tries to open one of them, and things go downhill from there.

The doors on the southern wall and the northernmost doors on the western wall suddenly fly open, revealing small rooms each hosting a sarcophagus. Out of the ones in the southern room two undead creatures rise from their rest, one an armored skeleton with a large falchion, the other a pale hobgoblin corpse in rags with wild hair, wicked claws and eyes burning with hate. At the same time, the bones littering the eastern alcoves get up as skeletons with vicious looking claws. Zair identifies the pale hobgoblin corpse as a wight and warns her comrades to bring it down fast, as it drains life force with its attacks.

The blood pool starts to boil, turning the mist around blood red. Basil lets an arrow loose at one of the skeletons. It strikes it with such force it shatters the brittle bones of its torso and sends it crashing to the floor. Rampart moves into the crypt holding the skeleton with a falchion, slashing at it with its longsword, but the creature parries the strike. The wight lunges at Karnak, drawing blood with its claws and then dancing away from its prey. The ranger goes after it, Frostbite leading the charge. Zair takes out one of the decrepit skeletons with a blast of sonic energy. Maathezar moves to help against the armed skeleton. An up-to-now unseen attacker appears amid the melee near the southern wall, letting out a shrieking wail and sending its foes tumbling to the ground in agony. The battle rages on with Rampart pinning down the skeleton with a falchion as the others bring down the other skeletons and then the wight. The blood mist keeps expanding, granting the undead creatures some degree of concealment. When it reaches Maathezar, he notices he sees the undead clearly through the mist and understanding dawns on him. He yells at his comrades to drink the blood as it counteracts the mist’s effects. Ever the adventurous spirit, Zair tries first and confirms the kalashtar‘s hypothesis. Emboldened by the undead’s disappearing advantage, the adventurers soon dispatch the last of them.

The fight has been costly however, as Karnak was subjected to many attacks by the wight before it was brought down. One door remains unopened, but they are uncertain of how well they’d do in another fight. The group takes a short rest as they ponder their next move.

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S01E06 - Ashurta's Blade
In which an ancient goblin artifact is found and the group is asked to serve its host country.

Olarune 25, 998 YK. Finally, the group decides to rest for a few hours. They are undisturbed and set off a few hours later through the only unopened door in the crypt. They follow a wide hallway, go up a flight of stairs and stop in front of another locked set of double doors. Basil opens them easily with his thief’s tools. Rampart opens the door slowly.

The room ahead is by far the largest they’ve been in yet. Its ceiling is supported by six large pillars of stone. In its center is a large statue of a hobgoblin warrior making some sort of salute. The statue has four faces, all the same, one facing in each cardinal directions. On its base, goblin script spell out a single word “Ashurta”. The room is bathed in white light coming from the statue’s eyes. Its northern and southern walls are lined with alcoves filled with old, dusty bones. At the far end of the room is a dais on which rests a large sarcophagus, two chests and two statues of hobgoblins in armor, each wielding a scimitar. Two smaller dais occupy the closer corners of the room, each bearing a statue of a hobgoblin with a spiked chain in its hands. All four statues are saluting the big statue in the middle of the room.

Rampart and Basil carefully make their way into the room. Seeing no immediate threat, the rest of the group follows suit. Rampart makes a quick salute, mimicking the statues’ posture, but nothing happens, so the warforged makes its was to the dais. Karnak follows it closely, his wolf at his heels. Basil and Zair go to investigate the statues with the spiked chains, while Rampart pokes at the chests on the dais. The moment its sword touches one of the chest, the four-sided statue at the center of the room starts rotating on its base and a voice resonates through the room “The honorable among you should have guided the others”, it says, “weak and ignorant as they are. Now you must all pay the blood price for your folly! Perhaps some will claim the blade of the Ashen Crown, a painful lesson learned.” The sarcophagus flies open and the statues, except for the one in the center of the room, crumble to the floor, leaving four shriveled undead creatures in their place.

The two creatures wielding spiked chains move to surround Basil. Out of the sarcophagus, an armored wight rises, a bastard sword in its hand. Its jumps out of its coffin and moves to engage Rampart. One of the zombies replacing the scimitar wielding statues charges, swinging its sword at the warforged, but it parries the blow with its shield. The other zombie charges Karnak, landing a solid blow. Basil summons spirits who pull the chainfighters away from him. He moves closer to his comrades and fires at the lead wight. The chainfighters quickly move to surround him again, using the distraction provided by the other to drain the shifter’s life force. Zair realizes that unlike normal wights, these ones need to have their quarry at a disadvantage to drain them. She passes the information on the her companions, but they ignore her. Rampart decides to hold its position, though it is flanked by one of the zombies and Ashurta, the lead wight. The focused assault takes its toll. Karnak, Frostbite and Maathezar bring down one of the zombies, but it gets back up a few seconds later, although with some difficulty. They decide to concentrate their attacks on Ashurta, hoping bringing it down will weaken the others, but the strategy proves ill advised. Harried from behind by the chainfighter wights, Basil falls to their attacks. As they move to engage the others, Zair gets him back up on his feet. Karnak finds himself surrounded by a wight and a zombie and in turn falls to their assault. Drained and battered, Rampart soon follows, hitting the ground with a dull thud. Maathezar gets taken down as well, but Zair intervenes, getting him back into a fighting posture. With their hope dwindling, Basil falls again. However, the attacks finally breach Ashurta’s defenses, and the creature is destroyed. One of the zombies is taken apart by Frostbite before the wolf succumbs to the chainfighters. With only Zair and Maathezar still standing and facing three undead, the fight seems lost for the group, until, through sheer force of will, Basil picks himself off the ground. The fight rages on, 3 against 3, but the living ultimately manage to send the undead to their final rest.

Zair and Maathezar go around administering first aid to their fallen, but through Olladra’s luck still breathing, comrades while Basil stands guard. The group picks itself up and searches the room. The find that Ashurta’s bastard sword has changed into a dagger. A bit of time studying the blade reveals it is protean, capable of changing its form. Rampart takes it, changing it into a longsword. The two chests each contain a magic item: an enchanted skull mask and brooch of shielding.

Finally certain the complex is cleared of kruthiks, and undead, the group makes it way back out of the depths and up to Malleon’s Gate, to Olaakki‘s chapel. They inform him of their success and inquire as to the nature of the tomb they uncovered. The Priest is unable to tell them much. He has heard stories of the Ashen Crown, but nothing very specific other than it is a powerful and long lost artifact of goblin origin. The group mentions the diary they found at the tomb’s entrance and the fresh goblin corpses. The diary claimed they were from the Wordbearer tribe. Olaakki informs them that these Wordbearers are one of the largest Dhakaani clans, but knows little else. He recommends they go to Morgrave University and speak to Professor Gydd Nephret, an archaeologist and expert on the ancient Dhakaani empire.

They arrange a meeting for the next day and spend the rest of this one drinking, to numb the pain of the last few days’ battles and to celebrate the fact they, against unfavorable odds, are still alive.

Olarune 26, 998 YK. The group makes its way to Morgrave University for their meeting with Professor Gydd Nephret. They find the archaeologist waiting for them in one of the campus’ public parks. She seems nervous when they first approach her. Maathezar first suspects trickery, but quickly realizes the Professor is simply intimidated. A group of armed and armored adventurer is not, it seems, a common sight this far up the towers of Sharn. The group does its best to ease the Khoravar Professor’s fears, except for Karnak who refuses to shake her hand due to her elven blood. Thankfully, he keeps quiet and they quickly coax her into helping them find out more about the blade they recovered. Once passed her initial discomfort, the Professor is very friendly and obviously impassioned about her field of study. She is truly awed when they show her Ashurta’s Blade. She fills them in on what she knows of the Ashen Crown, that legend has it that it is a powerful goblin artifact that could be separated into multiple parts and was used in the Dhakaani empire’s war against the daelkyr, and agrees to look into finding more information. The discovery of Ashurta’s Tomb is, she claims, the greatest find in over a century. However, she knows very little about the Wordbearers. The group leaves her to her research and return to their office.

Olarune 27, 998 YK When the PCs get to their office, Leucis informs them that they’ve been summoned to the King’s Citadel Tower by a Captain Saj Kalaes. The messenger didn’t say why. With a collective sigh, the group heads back out the door and to their meeting.

The Citadel’s Sharn headquarters are in the Ambassador Towers district of Middle Central Plateau. The building’s front is drab and free of the architectural splendor of the surrounding facades. A banner with Breland’s national seal is its only ornament. Large double doors open into a circular antechamber with a marble floor bearing the same seal. Three arrow slits flank the doors on each side and a low desk separates the main chamber from a smaller room with two dark doors. A young gnome with blond hair and a pointed beard greets the group with a smile. “Welcome to the King’s Citadel, citizens. How may I help you?”
“We are here to see Captain Kalaes,” says Zair.
“Ah, yes, just a moment.” The gnome puts his hand on a stone on his desk that lights up at his touch. “Captain, your appointment has arrived.” He turns back to the group. “The Captain will be with you in a minute.”

A minute later, Captain Kalaes takes them to a conference room. They seat themselves on the high-backed wooden chairs. He tells them of the precarious political situation in the neighboring goblin nation of Darguun. The Wordbearers, a clan of dhakaani goblins, seek to gain dominance by acquiring ancient goblin artifacts. Being a more moderate clan, the Citadel believes they should support this ascension. Since Breland cannot be seen to be involved, Captain Kalaes asks the PCs for their help, as they have recently acquired Ashurta’s Blade. He wants them to help a band of Wordbearers who are seeking the Ashen Crown.
“So, what’s in it for us?”
“Service to Breland is its own reward”, says Kalaes, “however, I’m sure people in your particular circumstances can see the intangible benefits of earning the Citadel’s, and thus the Crown’s, gratitude.”
“So, nothing?” asks Rampart. “What if we say no?”
“Then we’ll ask you to relinquish the blade and we’ll find someone else.”
“Can we have some time to discuss this? Alone. Say, thirty minutes?” asks Zair
“Of course.” Kalaes stands. “I’ll be back in thirty minutes.”
The group ultimately takes an hour to discuss their situation: do the Citadel’s bidding, lose the blade and earn their gratitude or lose the blade now and earn the Citadel’s ire. While Zair and Maathezar both see the potential of the King’s Citadel’s favor, Rampart and Basil both feel cheated and want to refuse on principle. In the end, they agree. They chafe as Captain Kalaes has them swear a brief oath. He then briefs them further.

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S01E07 - Complications
A new player enters the race for the Ashen Crown: the Emerald Claw. The PCs get under way, but the road from Ardev to Six Kings proves to be challenging.

Olarune 27, 998 YK. As they leave the Citadel Tower, the resentment is palpable. Karnak sums up the general sentiment. “I was beginning to like one of the nations”, he says, “but that’s done for”.

Later that day, a messenger comes by their office carrying a message from Gydd Nephret inviting them to meet her the next day at Shava House on Morgrave’s campus.

Olarune 28, 998 YK. The Professor meets them in the lobby of Shava House and brings them to a communal sitting room. Two elves are waiting for them there. The man bears a stylized skull tattoo on his face and his loose shirt shows glimpses of his withered chest. The woman stands gracefully, bowing to the group as they enter. She wears fine robes, some ostentatious jewelry and an ornate Aereni funerary mask.

“This is Lady Dannae Ulyan, from Aerenal, and her servant Jaenus”, says Gydd.
“It is not my wish to intrude, but I would be honored to stay. I can tell you much of the Crown’s elven origins.”
For the next hour, the group discusses the Ashen Crown, known as the Crown of Remembrance by the elves, and its origins in Aerenal. During the conversation, Lady Ulyan offers to buy Ashurta’s Blade from the group for 3000 gp. They refuse and the elf politely takes back her offer.

Therendor 1, 998 YK. Late in the morning, a messenger comes to the group’s office with a package from the Professor. In it is a letter and a brass key. The letter explains that Nephret has found out that Lady Dannae Ulyan is not who she pretends to be, but could in fact prove to be a danger to them. Gydd is leaving town, the key in the package is to a wall panel behind her bed where she left all her notes on the Ashen Crown. She asks that the group come see her at 8 bells that night so she can fill them in. Afraid for her safety, the group decides to head there straight away.

When they get to her apartment, the door is locked. They knock, but get no answer. They head for her office. They get in, but she is not there. A colleague tells them Professor Nephret didn’t show up for her class that morning. They head back to her apartment.

They find the apartment’s door ajar. Basil slips inside. As he quietly scouts out the apartment, Dannae walks out from the kitchen, her eyes locking on him despite his attempt at remaining unseen. Her form flickers as she speaks “the professor isn’t here, she is with my mistress now, but that need not concern you for long!”

From a mezzanine two zombies with grafted bat-like wings spring into the air and dive at Basil. He rolls out of one’s path, but the other careens into him, shoving him through a door and into the Professor’s home office. In it are two other zombies lying in wait. They charge at the scout, reaching hungrily with their rotting arms.
Hearing the racket of the fight, the rest of the group move in to engage the undead. Zair hangs back outside the door, using the cover of its frame to unleash her spells from relative safety. The Dannae reveals itself to be a wight using an illusion to conceal its true nature. It drops the spell as the group charges in, sending Karnak stumbling back in surprise. Rampart and Maathezar engage the flying creatures. Another zombie comes running down the stairs to the mezzanine to join the fray.
The fight lasts barely more than a minute, but it is a gruesome affair that leaves the apartment soiled with blood and rotten flesh.

After having dispatched the undead, the group search Gydd Nephret‘s lodgings thoroughly. Behind the bed’s head they find the hidden panel. Inside the small space it conceals are the Professor’s notes on the Ashen Crown and a leather bag. Attached to the bag is note from Gydd that reads: “the items herein could be of help to you in your quest for the Crown. -G”. Inside the bag is a trans-dimensional space holding five magic items that are quickly distributed among the adventurers. Maathezar also finds a crumpled piece of paper under the desk in the office. On it is written: “Dannae is Demise. Why Emerald Claw?” As they contemplate these dire tidings, they know one thing for sure: the competition for the Crown has just become stiffer.

Therendor 2, 998 YK. Before leaving Sharn, the group meets with Captain Kalaes one last time. As he gives them the mundane equipment they requested, he tells them about some new intelligence that has gotten to his desk. The Emerald Claw want the Ashen Crown. They’ve deployed forces to this end, led by a Skullborn elf named Demise. Though most of this information was discovered the day before by the group, Zair asks about the Skullborn. The Captain tells them the Skullborn are a group of Aereni terrorists obsessed with getting to immortality, at any cost. Though an alliance between them and the Emerald Claw seems to fit on paper, this is the first such collaboration known to the King’s Citadel.

After concluding their meeting, the group heads to the Lyrandar enclave, where they board the airship Eminence. Their trip to Ardev takes most of the day and is without any complications.

Therendor 3, 998 YK. The group leaves Ardev, travelling by the Orien trade route towards Droaam. Their first day of travel is difficult, but uneventful.

Therendor 4, 998 YK. On the second day of their long walk, as they are travelling on the side of a tall cliff, they hear raised voices from beyond a bend in the road ahead. Basil moves silently ahead to see what is going on. On the road are three humans in scouts’ clothing. They cloaks are held by brooches bearing the symbol of the Emerald Claw. The are questioning a goblin that is tied up. Basil also hears some movement from atop the cliff, suggesting additional foes. The Emerald Claw’s scouts’ demeanor suggest that their prisoner isn’t cooperating.

One of them draws a short sword and steps towards the goblin with a smile… and is hit in the back by an arrow. As Basil draws another one from his quiver, his allies move forward. The Emerald Claw turn towards the newcomers in surprise. Rampart picks up a rock and tosses it at the scouts, channeling its gloves’ magic into it. It hits one of the scouts like a boulder and the scout howls in pain. Two scouts charge the group, short swords in hand, while the one behind draws a strange looking arrow. He fires it in between Maathezar, Karnak and Frostbite. It explodes into a ball of fire, catching all three in the blast. Two more arrows like it come from the top of the cliff and the group sees two more archers standing atop it.
Despite their fanatic disregard for their safety, the scouts are quickly brought down by the concerted assault of the group.

The goblin looks at the warily as they approach him. He thanks them for the rescue and asks to be untied. They answer by asking who he is and why he was taken prisoner. He says his name is Govaan and that the scouts thought he knew some people they were looking for and didn’t believe him when he said he didn’t. Maathezar sense falsehood in that statement, but doesn’t feel any malice from him, so he agrees t untie him. The group pursues with their line of questioning, trying to find out if Govaan knows the Wordbearers. He claims he doesn’t, but Maathezar reads his body language and thinks he is lying. The group tries to convince them of their good intentions, but the goblin stubbornly sticks to his lies and half-truths. In a show of goodwill, hoping it will help them down the road, they decide to let him go.

Therendor 6, 998 YK. On the fourth day since they left Ardev on foot, the group hears the sound of horns in the distance. Zair recognizes them as Droaamite war horns. Though they are getting closer to the land of monsters, they are still too far to be hearing sounds coming in from Droaam itself. Whatever the source of the calls are, they are inside Breland.

The flat plains give way to forested badlands as they near the Graywall mountains. Late in the afternoon, Basil and Karnak spot a gnoll standing on a tall hoodoo, watching the road. He doesn’t seem to have seen the group, so they take cover to discuss their options. Basil moves ahead to scout, staying hidden in the dense foliage. He finds a camp near the gnoll, in which is resting a tall minotaur, two orcs and one more gnoll wearing a holy symbol around its neck. The holy symbol is unfamiliar to Basil, so he returns to his companions. Zair recalls having heard rumors in Ardev about raiding parties coming into Breland from Droaam. As they can be a danger to unwary travelers and trade caravans, she suggests taking them out. Basil objects, arguing they should try to avoid conflict as they know very little about the so-called raiders. Zair settles the matter by stating that the raiders hail from the forces of the warlord Rhesh Turakbar, a demon-worshiper that likes to sacrifice the prisoners his raiders take to the Horned King, Baphomet. With this new information, Basil changes his mind and the group moves on to discussing strategy.

The group sneaks as close as they can to the raiders’ camp and then charge the rest of the way. By the time the gnoll on the vantage point has alerted his comrades, the adventurers have reached the base of his stone spire. The minotaur roars and charges forward. Rampart raises its shield and stands its ground, blocking the raider’s path. The collision is brutal, but the warforged stands its ground. Maathezar, Karnak d’Vadalis and Frostbite move to surround the minotaur before his allies comes to his help. The two orcs charge ahead, engaging the group’s melee fighters. The gnoll priest stays back, calling upon his Demon Lord to strike at his foes, flaying Maathezar‘s skin with his magic. Basil and Zair focus their fire on the minotaur as well. Through their combined attacks, the group quickly brings down the raider captain, despite the fire from the gnoll archer on the hoodoo and the orcs ferocity. When their leader falls, the priest and the orcs flee through the underbrush. The gnoll archer is not as lucky. Stranded on its vantage point, it puts up a good fight, but is brought down by the group’s attacks.

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S01E08 - The Seekers of the Ashen Crown
The PCs fight their way out of a poorly executed ambush by the Emerald Claw, face off against a Kech Shaarat unit and finally reach the Wordbearers.

Therendor 8, 998 YK. As they reach the bottom of the Graywall mountains, the badlands give way to a rocky woodland. Neglected in the recent years, the undergrowth has crept closer to the road where it was once kept clear.

Towards midday, Rampart and Karnak both spot the glint of metal in the heavy foliage next to the road ahead of them. A little over half a dozen humanoids seem to be hidden, waiting. The two adventurers quickly inform their comrades and the group comes to a halt under the pretense of stopping for lunch. Using Maathezar’s telepathy, they consider how to deal with the ambush. After a minute, the matter is settled when the armored warriors step out of their hiding spots. Many of them wear tabards with the symbol of the Emerald Claw. Their leader, a bearded man in chainmail wielding a nasty-looking halberd, yells “Leave none alive! For the glory of the Emerald Claw!”

The warriors charge ahead while two archers hidden in trees send a volley of arrows at their quarries. A necromancer steps out from the underbrush and sends a bolt of necrotic energy at Rampart. The warforged takes the hit and moves to engage the leader in melee. Karnak and Frostbite engage the lesser warriors, cutting them down with their coordinated attacks. Zair uses the distractions to channel her magic to push the Claw fighters into disadvantageous positions and thus giving openings to her allies. Maathezar stands with his back to Rampart, striking at the enemies trying to flank his allies. Basil stays back, helping his companions with well-placed shots to keep them off-balance. The Claw unit is disciplined and well organised. They put up a good fight, but they lack the adventurers’ skill, and soon only the captain and the necromancer remain. The group makes sure to take the captain alive, but show no mercy is shown to the mage.

They loot their foes’ corpses and remove the captain’s weapons and armor. They tie him up and then wake him. They try to press him for information. He talks, but more to gloat about their inevitable defeat than to answer the group’s questions. They threaten him with all manners of gruesome deaths, but he laughs in their face. Maathezar realizes that it is not because he doesn’t believe them, but because he truly has no fear of death. With the religious fanatic’s certainty, only actual torture could pierce his bravado, something the kalashtar is unwilling to even suggest. Without any more use for him, Karnak gives him a quick death.

After actually having lunch, the group gets under way again. The reach the mountains and enter the pass that should lead them to Six Kings. As they emerge from a narrow chasm, the mountain opens in front of them and they see a large lake. On the lake’s other bank are the Six Kings. Taller the Sharn’s towers, carved out of the mountainside, the six gigantic hobgoblins look to the horizon. The group takes a moment to take in the sight. It is a wonder that thousands of year after their construction, the Kings still stand as proud as the day they were completed.

They continue and the path takes them back into the mountains. As they travel through a pass flanked by tall cliffs, they find their path blocked by a group of hobgoblins. The one in the lead is wearing leather and carries two scimitars. The others are wearing chainmail and carrying shields and longswords. From the blade shaped marks on their bodies, the group deduces they are Bladebearers, the Wordbearers’ rivals. The leader says in common: “I am Chib Naersaar. Saw your fight with Claw. Not bad for weak paleskins. Claw not Kech Shaarat, though. You leave blade, maps and all notes on Arkantaash. Crawl back home with your small lives or lose them here.”

The adventurers scoff at the Bladebearer’s proposal and draw their weapons. The hobgoblins surge forward. Three of them charge head on while the others go up to the low plateaus on the group’s sides to try and surround them. Despite Naersaar’s confidence in his martial superiority, the Bladebearers end up proving less of a challenge than the Emerald Claw. Only one of them gets away by fleeing towards the battle’s end. As proof of their victory, Karnak takes the leader’s scimitars, hoping this will help them convince the Wordbearers to accept them as allies.

As Captain Kalaes had told them, they find an outcropping of withe stone at the base of the third king. Near it is a path to a clearing beyond which lies the entrance to a dark cavern. As they approach, a group of 6 hobgoblins and 2 goblins, one of which they recognize as Govaan, emerge from the shadows. From the description the Citadel had given, this group must be the Wordbearers. Their leader, a female with a two-handed sword strapped to her back, steps forward. Just behind her is a male with facial tattoos and a bejeweled longsword; the Citadel agent Tikulti.

The leader speaks with a deep feminine voice. “I am Yeraa, leader of these Kech Volaar seekers. Arkantaash belongs to goblinkind. Six Kings belongs to goblinkind. Name your price for Ashurta’s Blade, which I believe you have acquired. Then leave this place, and if you desire peace, do not return.”
Zair speaks first. “We did not come as rivals or foes. We simply wish to help you in your quest for the Ashen Crown. We have come a long way to meet with you and we believe we could be of great help.”
“We have fought off a band of your enemies, the Kech Sharaat, and also a few groups of the Emerald Claw. You have many enemies, some friends wouldn’t hurt,” adds Maathezar.
“It is true”, says Govaan, “they freed me from the Emerald Claw”.
“Yeah, you sure don’t need more enemies, better take us as allies, keep from that happening”, says Rampart.
“Your threats won’t serve your cause here”, says Yeraa, but she seems to have softened her tone somewhat. “If you’re not after the Crown, what’s in it for you in this?”
“We were hired by a professor at Morgrave University to research Dhakaani ruins”, says Zair, “we’d be content with archaeological finds, mapping the tombs, documents and such other minor artifacts.”
“I’ve been in many an underground complex and know my way around the different hazards that can be found there. I assure you, we won’t slow you down”, adds Karnak.
Rampart glares at the Kech Volaar warriors, hoping to weaken their resolve in opposing the alliance. As it does so, it finds the goblin female is glaring back intensely. Dressed in loose hide armor and wearing a wolfskin cloak, the goblin’s knuckles are turning white as she grips her waraxe. The two lock eyes and start to grumble. “You looking for a fight?” asks the warforged.
“Always”, answers the berserker.
“Enough!” orders Yeraa. “You can fight after this matter is resolved!”
After carefully examining the Kech Volaar’s leader, Maathezar realizes she is hesitating in part because she doesn’t want to seem weak by accepting outside help. “With all the forces arrayed against you, it would be foolish to refuse help given in good faith. There is wisdom and strength to be found in negotiating an alliance. We can follow your leadership if you should decide it would be the best course of action.”
“You seem sincere…” says Yeraa.
Tikulti steps forward and puts his hand on her shoulder. “It is written that the destiny of Arkantaash is bound to those who seek and find its scattered fragments. These folks have claimed Ashurta’s Blade, and they have shown courage, honor, and forthrightness in their actions and in dealing with us. Before we join in this quest, let bus bond in spirit with the amalorkar.”
“Yes!” agrees the goblin warrior, “I would love to test these would-be allies!”
The rest of the group nod their assent.

The goblinoids show the group how to properly pad their weapons for nonlethal combat. As they get ready, Tikulti comes to them alone. “Well done”, he whispers, “I’m glad to see you’re professionals.” He resumes at a normal volume. “Now, to the business at hand, the amalorkar is a honor fight in which two groups of warriors bond through battle.” He points at Yeraa, who is pouring ash in a rough circle. “Two combatants, one from each side, enter the ring. You can win in three ways: knocking your opponent out, pushing him out of the circle or hitting him and not being hit within the next few seconds.”

When Yeraa finishes the circle, the ash ignites and gives off a ring of thin smoke. She then steps inside the circle as the first combatant. Karnak d’Vadalis steps forward for the first round. The two begin circling each other. Counting on his superior reach, Karnak tries to keep obstacles between Yeraa and himself. She moves forward, steel clashes against steel and she retreats. They circle again. She moves again and he slashes with his glaive, landing a solid blow, but she uses the momentum to her advantage, slipping into his defense and landing a blow of her own. Karnak pushes her away and retreats to a better position. Yeraa comes in for another attack, but he fights her off. As she moves in for another strike, he catches her with a thrust and then dives behind a boulder and rolls away. He gets back up quickly and manages to stay away long enough to avoid getting hit, thus giving the first round to his team.

In the second round, Akitani, the wolf warrior, steps forward. “Come on tin man. Let’s see what you can do!” Rampart chuckles as it steps into the ring. “Bring it on, little one!” The goblin roars and charges forward, holding her axe high above her head. Rampart stands its ground, blocking the goblin’s downward strike with its shield. It then slashes low with its longsword, catching the berserker in the ribs. She rolls with the blow then charges again, hitting the warforged in the leg, but the construct takes the blow without flinching. It thrusts at the goblin, landing a glancing blow. She moves in close, grabs its arm and bites down on it. Rampart shakes its arm, trying to dislodge the gnawing goblin, but she holds on, so it brings her close to its chest and lets itself fall, crushing her under its bulk. The force of the blow knocks Akitani out for a minute, granting a second win to the PCs’ team.

The round puts Govaan against Maathezar. The kalashtar moves to the middle of the ring and kneels down, closing his eyes. Sensing a trap, the scout advances slowly in a low stance. As he moves to strike, Maathezar swings at him with his halberd. Govaan dodges and retreats, circling around as his foe kneels back down. Hiding behind boulders and then moving silently ahead, Govaan moves in for another attack, but as soon as he gets close, Maathezar thrusts in his direction landing a solid blow. Govaan staggers back, caught off guard. He recovers too slowly from his surprise, and the victory is given to Maathezar’s team.

Zair steps forward as the fourth fighter. A young hobgoblin warrior steps into the ring for the Kech Volaar. “I am Jezirpa. I was hoping I’d fight the warforged, or perhaps the human with the glaive. You don’t look like a warrior…”
“I’m not”, says Zair. “So try not to hurt me too much.”
Jezirpa scoffs, “Aye, I’ll make it quick.” And with that, he charges forward. Zair blacks the first strikes with her shield, falling back with every hit. As she nears the edge of the circle, she stumbles and falls.
“Pathetic”, says Jezirpa. “I hope I get another round.”
He raises his sword to put an end to the match… and Zair grins and kicks at his legs as she conjures a bolt of force. The bolt strikes Jezirpa in the back, sending him staggering out of the circle.
When he recovers, he his red with fury. “You cheated!” he yells, moving menacingly towards the Zair. Another hobgoblin warrior, older and with only one eye, steps in front of him.
“Place the blame with yourself for not seeing through her deception. You must be prepared for anything the enemy can throw at you. Now, stand down before you bring shame to our clan.”
For a second it looks like it might come to blows, but Jezirpa heeds his elder’s advice and sits down on a boulder, muttering to himself. Four wins for the newcomers.

The fifth and possibly last battle pits Basil Tulsi against Murdaak, a hobgoblin mage. The mage uses his magic to try and force Basil out of the circle, but the shifter proves to cagey. Dodging among the boulders, he stays behind cover and pelts the hobgoblin with padded arrows. Ultimately, he lands a few arrows and then stays out of sight until his victory is confirmed.

When the battle ends, the Wordbearers cheer their new allies’ victory. To them, the Six Kings have blessed their alliance.

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S01E09 - Horrors Under Six Kings
The Wordbearers and the PCs split up to recover the two fragments of the Ashen Crown hidden under Six Kings. As they descend into the depths, the seekers face the legacy of the daelkyr war.

Therendor 9, 998 YK The next morning, the two groups have breakfast together to discuss their strategy for their delve under Six Kings. Yeraa tells them the goblins will be taking a portal to a room deeper into the vaults to recover Lurtaan’s Cord, while the adventurers will be travelling on foot to recover Zaarani’s Solitaire. She hands them a stone, saying it is linked magically to to one she holds. These sending stones will allow two-way communication between them. She instructs them to check in periodically, as they will do the same.

The two groups make their way into the cave at the base of the third King. After an uneventful walk down a few winding corridors, they emerge into a large tomb. An obelisk stands in the middle of the room and four broken sarcophagi, doubtless robbed centuries ago, lie nearby. The floor is littered with broken bones and rubble. The goblins quickly surround the obelisk. Yeraa tells the adventurers that it is the portal they’ll be taking. Without further examination, she says “Saa’atcha”, and the goblins vanish in a flash. As they do, shadow pools across the floor and the bones rise from their rest. A dozen or so skeletons get to their feet and charge at the remaining intruders.

The skeletons mob Rampart and Karnak quickly, except for one wreathed in shadow who hangs back. Basil draws quickly and, calling upon his bow’s power, unleashes a bolt of lightning at a nearby goblin skeleton. The bolt explodes upon impact, sending sparks to the others nearby. Five skeletons crumble to dust. Karnak and Frostbite go after a bigger, tougher looking hobgoblin skeleton wielding a rusty scimitar. Rampart swings in an arc around itself and the floor rises up, engulfing the feet of the skeletons surrounding it and shattering two of them in the process. The shadow skeletons summons a bolt of necrotic energy and launches it at Karnak, but his armor softens the blow, enchanted as it is to provide protection against that foul type of attack. Maathezar slips forward and engages the shadow skeletons. Having learned from their past experiences with the undead, the group makes short work of their foes.

Double doors stand on the tomb’s southern wall, their lock having been broken long ago. The group pushes them open and heads deeper into Six Kings.

They find the next room is partially collapsed. Dark spots on the ground are identified by Karnak as shadowseed, a plant that grows in Dolurrh manifest zones. In the rubble in the lower portion, they spot a shiny surface reflecting their light. From afar, it looks like a dagger or spearhead. When Rampart climbs down to investigate, the group is ambushed by three wraiths who come out of the walls. One pins the warforged down in the room’s lower part and the other two attack the rest of the group, pushing them into the shadowseed. Though the room is soon obscured by the plant’s spores and Zair is pushed from the ledge down to the lower part, the group manages to destroy the undead creatures. The shiny surface turns out to be a magically enhanced spear. Maathezar claims it and the group continues its delve.

Farther into the caves, they come face to face with a translucent goblin. The ghost hisses at them and vanishes into the floor. They continue cautiously and emerge into a room that sends shivers down their spines. Large stalactites with byeshk veins fill the room. Inside them are goblins trapped in their final moment of agony. Their twisted expressions betraying the fear and utter horror of their deaths. Some of the shapes begin to move and goblin ghosts move to attack the adventurers. From deeper into the room, twisted dolgaunts join the fray. Their rotting flesh and open wounds betray their undead nature. The battle drags on as the creatures maneuver to use the stalactites for cover, but the group proves their mettle and dispatches the abominations.

As they travel deep under Six Kings, the air grows strangely warmer and humid. They eventually emerge in a large cave where a boiling river flows inside a 40 feet wide and 30 feet deep rend in the stone. Two large rusted cables span the gap, the wooden bridge having rotted away long ago. The group ponders how best to get across. They can’t swim across without suffering serious burns. They test the water’s depth with a weighted rope and find it’s about 5 feet deep. Basil nimbly walks on one of the cables and makes it to the other side without slipping. Karnak secures Frostbite to his back and tries to cross by climbing the chamber’s wet walls, but they prove too slippery for him and he falls into the river. He manages to get to the other bank and to scale it, but suffers some manageable burns for his troubles. Rampart takes Maathezar onto its back and tries to cross on walls like Karnak. Its grip proves better and the two make it to the other side. Basil and Zair secure another rope spanning the river so she can use it to zip across. However, during the attempt her harness gives and she falls into the boiling waters. She gets to the other side with some difficulty, but manages to get up there with only superficial burns.

They follow a long hallway to an old barrack. It is empty, the furniture long gone. The metal doors, though rusted, still stand. They secure the room and stop to sleep for a few hours.

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S01E10 - Dark Betrayal
The Seekers find the pieces of the Crown under Six Kings. They move on to Graywall, where they are betrayed.

Therendor 10, 998 YK. After touching base with the Wordbearers through the sending stone Yeraa gave them, the group gets under way.

As they travel trough the ruins, they come across a group of foulspawn scouts. At first they spot two dolgrims and one hulking foulspawn that Karnak identifies as a Dolgarr, but as soon as the fighting starts, one more dolgrim and a dolgaunt emerge from a nearby room to join the battle. The monsters are killed except for one dolgrim that escapes when it sees its companions fall. Rather than pursuing the quick-moving creature, the adventurers decide to continue on their way.

They follow a few corridors and find themselves in a large cavern. A small river flows through it, this one thankfully not boiling. On the river’s other bank, they spot a pale goblin in rags drinking from it. When it spots their light source, it hisses at them, drawing stone knives and backing up into the darkness. When the group moves closer to the river, a volley of arrows is shot into it. A roar fills the cavern as a dozen or so voices start yelling all at once. It stops suddenly and a high-pitched voice resonates through the cavern, speaking in broken goblin.
“This is stone blades territory. You no look like bad things or bad dead things, so we give you chance. Leave here and no come back and you live.”
Basil translates for his companions. Maathezar says that negotiation might be possible. As Basil is the only one fluent in goblin, the task falls upon him despite his lack of diplomatic skill. Maathezar and Zair guide him through it as Rampart and Karnak use their observations to give him leads. Through concerted effort, they convince the goblins that they can be allies and are welcomed by the tribe. The tribe’s shaman tells them of the Moon Pool and the bad dead things, undead foulspawn, who live around it. He tells them they are welcome to Zaarani’s solitaire if they can return the pool to his tribe’s hands.

After bidding their farewells, a scout of the tribe leads them to the entrance of the Pool’s chamber, but refuses to go any further. He wishes them luck and leaves.

Inside the room is a dozen of the undead creatures, standing around the Pool, being led into some sort of ceremony by one of them. The Priest wears a large gem around its neck; the adventurers’ prize. Seeing no sense in delaying the inevitable, the group engages the creatures, using a ledge’s higher ground to give themselves an advantage. The battle is bloody and vicious and the higher ground proves less of an advantage than was hoped as some of the foulspawn can fire bone spines from the backs, but ultimately it doesn’t prove enough to stop the five experienced warriors and the wolf. The group claims the solitaire and are soon joined by the Wordbearers who emerge from a passage leading further down into the complex. One of them, however, is missing. The old warrior Ulkuuz has died during one of their fights. Saddened by the loss, but emboldened by their success, the two bands make their way back out of Six Kings, stopping along the way to tell the Stone Blades of their victory.

When the caves under Six Kings, Yeraa asks to speak to the group privately. She sends her Seekers on ahead to the airship. Zair, eager to see it, goes with them. Once they are alone, the hobgoblin apologizes for her earlier mistrust. She thanks them for their help and for having proven themselves true friends of the Wordbearers. Maathezar warns her that now that they have most of the pieces, they should be careful as the Emerald Claw will no doubt try to seize them. He also tells her that he is worried that one among either the Wordbearers or the airship‘s crew might be working for their enemy, keeping an eye on them. Yeraa objects to the notion, saying she trusts her seekers more than them. She cannot, however, be certain of the airship’s crew. She promises to be careful.

As they go to leave, they hear noise coming from the valley’s entrance. The Bladebearers are back, but not as they once were: they have been reanimated by the Emerald Claw’s necromancers. They draw their weapons and engage the undead creatures. The zombies are quickly dispatched, but the necromancers are nowhere to be seen. Thinking the ship might be the other target, they rush off.

They climb up the steep slope and a dilapidated airship comes into view, faded black letters spelling out Kordanga on its hull. Zombie cadavers and a few dead Emerald Claw warriors are lying on the ground as the Seekers and Zair greet the others. They too were attacked, archers trying to set the airship on fire with alchemist’s fire arrows.

Closer inspection of their targets show, however, that the attack was meant to damage and not destroy the ship. The group is introduced to Delan, the Kordanga’s captain. He tells them his crew will need a few hours to complete repairs before they can get under way. Once it is done, they do.

Graywall comes into view a few hours after their departure. The small town is bustling with activity. As the entrance to Droaam, the town is in a phase of expansion, and commerce is flourishing within its walls. The ship comes to rest over the Orien enclave, where the captain has friends.

As the Wordbearers go reconnoiter the city, the group tries to find some information on the Emerald Claw’s activities in the town. They find a group of Znir pact gnolls who, for a few coins, tell them they have seen emerald Claw warriors in the company of an elven woman in the city. From the woman’s description, they ascertain that it is Demise. Since the day before, however, they haven’t been seen.

The Wordbearers return, saying they found the spot they need to go. They will need to dig under the Roar, Graywall’s most popular marketplace. Their plan is simple: they will dig and then enter the ruins they find to retrieve the last piece of the Crown will the adventurers run interference for them, ensuring they are not disturbed by the local authorities.

Early in the evening, they leave for the Roar, finding a good spot and setting a merchant’s stall, which they stock with trinkets picked up during their previous delves and from the Kordanga. While the Wordbearers dig, the others distract the passersby. Basil and Rampart work together to put on show, attracting attention. Karnak and Frostbite do the same in another spot. Meanwhile, Zair and Maathezar tend the stall, turning attention away from the work happening behind its draperies. Soon, the goblins reach a large stone slab that they remove using crowbars, revealing a deep shaft. They climb down and head off in search of the Ashen Crown’s last piece.

After about half an hour, Tikulti contacts the group through the sending stone, telling them they got it, and that they’re heading up. That’s when the adventurers spot her. Demise is standing across the market from them, grinning. She is flanked by three gnoll mercenaries wielding vicious looking flails. They howl and charge forward, one at Karnak and the other two at Rampart. As Karnak dodges the flail’s sweep, he feels something cold at his back. A wraith appears behind him. Another one appears next to the warforged. The fight rages as some bystanders run for cover, and others cheer on the fighters. When Karnak tries to call on Zaarani’s Solitaire’s magic, he finds it is no longer in his possession. He warns the others, but they can do nothing but keep on fighting. Eventually, their foes are brought down. Demise falls last, but as she does, her appearance changes to that of a changeling; another of the real Demise’s pawns.

As they recover from the attack, they hear noise coming from their stall. The Wordbearers emerged. “Friends”, says Yeraa, “we have returned”. They are grinning, but something is off about them. Barely concealed are still-opened wounds and stains on their skin. A feral look of hunger in their eyes, they charge the group, claws extending from their fingers. The adventurers are forced to fight, as the undead Wordbearers taunt them. One by one, they are brought down, every one who falls an icy dagger through the hearts of their new friends. When the fight is over, the group finds that all the Crown’s pieces in the Wordbearers’ possession are gone, as is Tikulti. Maathezar‘s worst fears have come to pass. Only Ashurta’s blade remains, clutched tightly by Rampart.

As a Tharashk patrol comes into the square, the group picks up the fallen Wordbearers and flee the scene. They make their way back to the ship, where they have to explain to the crew the terrible events that have come to pass. As they ponder their next move, the sending stone comes alive. Tikulti‘s glib voice comes on and he says "The endgame approaches and you still have something I need. I’ll take what I have to my comrades in Sharn. I think you’ve met my lady friend and her Karrnathi pawns? Anyway, play along and chase me if you have the guts. It should be interesting, at least, since I’ll be able to talk to Kalaes first. I wonder which one of us he’ll believe in the end? I suppose you’ll have to find me and force me to confess. That should be fun. Of course, you could just hand over the blade. We’ll contact you when you get to Sharn." Resolute, they leave Graywall behind, heading to their final confrontation with grim thoughts of vengeance.

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