Dwarf on Back

Nineteenth Adventure: Death Deferred

Episode 1 – Unexpected Awakenings

The Friends of Dwarf on Back had passed on. The fate of Faerun seemed set – the Realms were doomed.

Eventually, each member awoke in Hades Manor. Everyone appeared to be accounted for. Samuel remained unconscious, and sadly, Embergrace and Lanharath were dead, their forms lying on the ground, twisted and broken. The remaining members checked their persons and found all was relatively well – except they felt strangely oppressed, and they all featured rotted patches of skin.

It was a strange occurrence that all of them had reappeared back in Hades Manor. Each member described their experiences so far…

Neil had slowly become aware of mist, and realized he was back in the befogged woods. He began wandering through, and began following sounds in the distance. The sounds of battle revealed to Neil a tribe of gnolls, desperately fighting off waves of undead. It was clear that this was the tribe which had torched his village.

Neil was unsure of what to do. It was clear that he was brought here for a reason – but what do the tenets of Melora have to say? As Neil took a step, the image faded away.

Nicolae was surrounded by darkness. He heard a voice, which asked a question – Do you desire power? and was confronted with a vision of the heart contained within Osterneth entering his own chest. The voice in Nicolae’s head offered him Osterneth’s position as Vecna’s primary lieutenant in the Realms – but Nicolae turned it down, and all remained dark.

Shortly afterward, a light appeared in the distance. Upon Nicolae’s approach, it appeared to be an angel restrained with chains. It seemed to see Nicolae, and mouthed – “Help me!” Nicolae was unable to do anything to assist the being, and then awoke as if from a dream.

Yellga and little Duvan Jr. safely floated away from the battle against Angelus and Necrosis. They arrived in a brightly-lit glade with an absolutely gorgeous woman. "Yellga, my dear and loyal follower. You have served me well, but alas – you have fallen in battle.

“You are welcome to your reward in Mount Celestia – but we would ask of you a favor. Should Vecna enter the Realms, he will end all life. None can stop him but you and the Friends of Dwarf on Back – but know that should we return you to Vecna’s realm, you are dead. If you fail, then you are lost for eternity.

“What is your choice?”

Yellga hesitated not at all, and chose to return to the Realms – for a realm without beauty is a terrible place, after all.

Nox described waking up in a pitch-black room with stone floor and walls. She was unable to escape, and started becoming hungry. As she gave up, she could hear a sultry, female voice – This is your final resting place. This is your fate for your betrayal.

Nox screamed back. “What did you expect me to do? What do you want?” …But there was no response. She continued to check along the walls, but found nothing.

As Nox began to lapse into despair, she heard the voice again. It’s not too late. Agree to serve us again, and we will save you from this fate.

Nox was very torn, and the temptation was great, but in the end she turned Vecna down.

As she sat in the dark, images began to play across Nox’s vision. They started to take form, and she could see her old mentor – but he looked different – he was human, and alive! “Nox. You have resisted the darkness, and have the opportunity to find your eternal rest. You and the Friends of Dwarf on Back must stop Vecna from entering the realms. It is your destiny!”

Eredon awoke surrounded by a bright glow. In front of him was a table with two chairs, which was set up for tea. Eredon sat down and refreshed himself.

Toward the end of his repast, Eredon noted a dragonborn who had come to be in the chair across from him. “Greetings, fellow Bahamutian. Do you know who I am?”

“No,” responded Eredon.

“I am Kuyutha, Exarch of Bahamut, and you are Eredon Silmanar, an icon of justice and honor who has fallen in the line of duty to Bahamut.

“Your service is impeccable, and you have earned your reward in Celestia – but we would ask your indulgence for but a moment. The Realms from which you have come are in dire peril, as you know. Vecna may soon make his entrance – if he does, it will be as a deity unbound by the restraints upon the rest of the pantheon. He would be free to wreak havoc unfettered.

“Vecna and his dread lieutenant think you dead. You are – and if we return you to Vecna’s realm, you will continue to remain dead. Should you choose to return, you must stop him, or you are consigned to spend eternity wandering endlessly in his realm.

“Which do you choose?”

Eredon chose as only a true follower of Bahamut would.

“Fare well on your journey, and be wary – treachery is around every corner.”

Belgerath awoke to find himself in a dark, shadowy realm, easily recognizable to one such as him as the Plane of Shadow. As he wandered, Belgerath sought a way to return, and announced his intent to the realm directly around him.

A great, shadowed being of immense power accosted him. “I can give you life again – but someone must come here in your stead. You must make a sacrifice.”

Belgarath agreed, and was returned to Hades Manor with greater power and a new, dark purpose.

Titanius awoke to find himself in a brightly-lit and cheerful store with a wide selection of merchandise, particularly furniture. After wandering for a bit in a daze, he chose a few items which were emblazoned with the symbol of Bahamut and sought to make a purchase. A friendly customer service associate pointed Titanius to the basement.

Upon arriving, Titanius found himself in a box-filled dungeon. Checkout stands were at the front, and long lines weaved their way away. Whenever Titanius stood in one line, others would move forward; whenever he would switch lines, the new line would stop moving while the others inched forward.

The waiting was too much for Titanius, and he broke protocol and rushed to the front of the line! Store security detained him and placed him in a room made entirely of cardboard boxes. A famliar, female voice laughed in his head – This is the hell you face when you worship a deity and go against his tenets!

The voice continued in his head, making sweet, whispered offerings which, perhaps, he could not refuse…

Each member of the Friends of Dwarf on Back investigated the manor. It had been long since they had seen it, and it was unknown what may have happened.

The front door was open, and fog was slowly rolling in. The FoDoB closed the door, halting its progress, and checked the rest of the mansion for open portals. The passage to the basement displayed some fog. Interestingly, the mist coating the ballroom was gone, and the holes in the ceiling were repaired (albeit inexpertly). In addition, the mirror displayed the party as being alive.

Having fully explored the mansion, Eredon tied rope about his waist and ventured out into the fog. As he reached the end of the rope and turned back, a disgusting vine dislodged from the ground and wrapped itself around his leg!

An enormous monstrosity raised itself from the ground and menaced Eredon. It was the same horror which had dragged Damaia into the undergrowth when the Friends had first approached Shadowdale. Quickly, they approached the creature in an effort to get Eredon away from it. The mist was thick, but Belgerath saved the day with a great power that prevented the creature from attacking. Instead, it dragged itself underground, allowing the party to quickly flee indoors.

Samuel had awoken, and approached them at their position. “What has happened?” The Friends quickly filled him in on the events leading up to that point. “Hmm… this thing sounds familiar. It is the sort of result which occurs when ancient forests meet mighty necrotic magic. I must research this further.” Samuel headed to the library, leaving the party to lick their wounds and wonder what fate will bring them next…

Episode 2 – Unexpected Tenancy

Having fully explored the ground upper floors of Hades Manor, and having determined that the fog itself appears to be of no danger, the Friends of Dwarf on Back accessed the trapdoor in the master bedroom which led to the lab in the basement.

On their approach, they could hear some shuffling sounds – there was definitely something moving down there! The party continued clanking noisily down the stairs, readily alerting the occupant. When they rounded the corner and came face-to-face with the mysterious figure, it turned to face them – revealing the cloaked and hooded figure of a female eladrin – who then dashed for a portal in the doorway of the entrance to the larger portion of the lab. The Friends of Dwarf on Back quickly followed.

Inside, the party found a magic-laden room with orbs of magical wisps floating in seemingly random places throughout. As they attempted to walk around, strategically-placed invisible fields of energy would flash, causing harm to anyone caught in them, and teleport them back to the entrance. The eladrin could be seen disappearing into the next room, and shortly afterward flashes of light emitting from that area caused a rippling effect across the room with the teleporters.

After spending a short time determining where the teleporters are most likely to be found, the party succeeded in traversing the area and entered the next room. It was a summoning chamber, with magical circles of power on each side. The hooded eladrin stood in the circle, clearly finishing a ritual. Monstrous construct-looking figures sprung from the circles of power, and the eladrin turned toward the party with a look of determination on her face.

Episode 3 – Unexpected Allies

“Vecna won’t have me, alive or dead!” the eladrin challenged.

“We don’t work for Vecna…” replied Nicolae.

TRICKERY!” she exploded, weaving intricate patterns in the air.

Reluctantly, the Friends of Dwarf on Back commenced battle. Neil Mennar engaged the summoned constructs – and found that with barely a touch, they dissipated into a haze which clouded the mind. Nicolae lay low a couple of the summoned creatures, which dissipated into clouds similar to the ones Neil attacked. Nox attempted to make the eladrin believe that she didn’t want to hurt her – and it seemed to calm the eladrin down a little, but she continued the assault. When Nox approached within a certain distance of the eladrin, self-doubt began to cloud her mind.

Eredon approached, sword sheathed, hands in the air, and took no harmful actions. Nox made an attack – but the eladrin seemed ready for it, reacting by teleporting to the other side of Eredon and sweeping his feet out from under him, then doing the same to Nox.

Before too long, the party was able to convince the eladrin that they meant her no harm. She introduced herself as Ellaera, a Harper scout, and filled the party in on what has happened as best she knew.

Ellaera had watched the party emerge from the fog into Shadowdale, then disappear into the Temple of Bahamut – never to emerge. Following that, she retreated to Hades Manor, where the fog slowly crept up. Figuring that she may be there until the end of her life, Ellaera cleared the ballroom of mist and fixed the holes in its ceiling.

The Friends of Dwarf on Back brought Ellaera back into the Manor and up to the library in order to meet Samuel. Upon meeting, the two eyed each other suspiciously and with familiarity. A short back-and-forth interchange happened between them, revealing a few details:

- The rotvine’s nature is such that it merely hunts down life, not specific beings. - Samuel is able to distract it for long enough that the party can make its escape from the vicinity.

With that in mind, the FoDoB waited until Samuel grabbed the attention of the rotvine, and darted off in the fog toward Shadowdale. Unfortunately, they promptly became lost – but Neil had a flash of memory, and recalled this area from a vision he’d had just after the party’s fateful battle with the angelic statues.

Neil led them through the fog until they heard the distant sounds of battle. Shrouded in stealth by the aid of Nox, the party crept closer until the combat was within sight. A beleaguered band of gnolls fought a horde of undead in what seemed their final desperate bid. Neil, to his horror, recognized the band from his vision though they were now much reduced in number. It was the same clan of gnolls responsible for burning down his village, killing his family, over forty years ago.

Neil began to argue for the gnolls’ destruction. It was as the druids had promised him – join this band of adventurers and they would lead him to his destiny, which surely was to avenge his people. Yellga and Eredon both stood against him, arguing the greater good. The world threatened to be swallowed by the undead, and the adventurers were committed to defend any life which battled the forces of Vecna. As if to prove the point they watched a gnoll fall, releasing a black cloud of energy which seemed to make the world around them a little bit darker.

Neil reluctantly bowed his head and conceded the argument. Then, with their path decided, the heroes swept down on the undead with a dreadful fury, saving the remaining gnolls. Following the demise of the rotted horrors, each gnoll dropped their weapons and fell to their knees, throwing themselves upon the mercy of their saviors.

The Friends of Dwarf on Back took pity on the gnolls and spared their lives. They asked for directions to Shadowdale. The gnoll shaman said that the fog is unnatural, and that traversing it requires special knowledge. He was willing to teach such a traversal to the party, but in exchange they must grant his people sanctuary, for they cannot survive in the fog on their own.

The party agreed to give them asylum at the Manor. In exchange, the gnoll shaman taught Yellga and Neil Mennar the secret of the fog.

Unexpected Demise

Having saved the gnolls from a fate worse than death, the Friends of Dwarf on Back struck out for Shadowdale. Yellga attuned herself to the leylines of the land, and Neil closed his eyes and allowed the whisperings of the forest to guide them. Samuel agreed to distract the Rotvine Defiler, as before.

The gnoll shaman had taught them true; as they wandered through the fog, the scenery around them (as much as they could see) took on different forms, whereas before it appeared that they wandered between the same trees over and over.

As they walked away from Hades Manor, Samuel let out a yell and was suddenly, ominously silent. The FoDoB could hear him no more, even when they yelled out in order to check on his well-being.

Before too long, the ground started to rumble in a familiar sense – the dreaded plant was upon them again! Bravely, the party turned to fight even as they continued to make their way toward the dubitable safety of Shadowdale.

Many of the Friends attempted to take down the great beast, but their attacks appeared to have little effect. Belgarath bedeviled the creature with his ever-useful ability to confound the enemy into a state of inaction, causing the mass of rotted vines to withdraw momentarily, but return with a vengeance. Eredon and Yellga were caught by the creature, and found themselves unable to move or make particularly effective attacks. Nox inhabited its shadow, and made attacks against the vile thing from a safe distance. One by one, the Friends withdrew from the battle.

Out of all of the members of the Friends of Dwarf on Back, only Nicolae argued in favor of attempting to slay the great beast. He stood his ground and pounded the defiler with the most powerful of his spells. In the end, he was able to wound the great beast – but at great cost. The maw of the great beast had him in its grasp, and as Nicolae unleashed a great volley, it reared back, clearly wounded – but the vines released a putrescent explosion, finally bringing Nicolae low. Before anyone was able to get back to him, Nicolae’s body was sucked away, presumably consumed by the vile monstrosity.

Stunned by the loss of their beloved sorcerer, the remaining Friends of Dwarf on Back had no choice but to continue onward to Shadowdale without him.

Return of the Unibrow

As the remainder of the Friends broke through the mists surrounding Shadowdale, the festering marks of undeath upon their bodies began inflicting great pain! The wounds hampered their ability to move, making the party shuffle a little more slowly and affecting their proficiency.

As they approached the town, it was clear that the undead who inhabited it during their last visit were still present. Without the presence of the Puppetmaster, they seemed to be going about their business as they normally would – albeit with a more rotted countenance.

In the town center, various vendors hawked their wares. Some of the town’s leaders stood upon a raised platform seated a short distance before the doors of the Temple of Bahamut, overseeing the town proper’s daily operations.

A commotion broke out. The undead townspeople were escorting a clearly living figure toward the town jail. It was a figure who the party hadn’t seen since their first introduction to Cardinal Dragonheart and her subsequent banishment to the Jungle of Bones and Lice, in Chult – none other than Mother Malaffection herself! Cries of “Necromancer!” and “Traitor!” were heard among the crowd.

Swiftly, the party realized that the townspeople did not seem to realize that they were, themselves, not quite living. As they escorted Malaffection away, the Friends attempted to gather information from the townspeople in an attempt to discover what had happened. They learned that Malaffection was accused of bringing the plague of undeath to the Dalelands, and that she would stand trial on the morrow.

Nox, true to her nature, hid in the shadows and stealthily made her way around to the window of the jail cell in which Malaffection resided. Quickly, she was able to discern who Malaffection was and what her purpose in Shadowdale was – she had finished her missionary work and returned to help the people she had grown, over time, to love.

In a brilliant moment of bluffery, Nox attempted to trick Ashull by disguising herself as a member of a local constable. Though her outfit was quite convincing, Ashull eyed her with great suspicion and would not give in to her demands. Nox, undeterred, continued to unleash verbal rage on Ashull, promising great punishment for his transgression against the law.

As this avenue proved fruitless, Nox attempted to kill two of the townsfolk in order to cause a distraction, but to no avail. Each released a black cloud from their bodies, causing the world to appear just a shade darker.

Before long, the FoDoB revisited the Temple of Bahamut. Cardinal Dragonheart’s body rested in the same place as it did before. The party attempted to reattach his head once again – and found their attempt to be successful. Slowly, quietly, Dragonheart came back to life, and with the assistance of the Friends, was able to make his way to a nearby table and take in some nourishment, but for a time was unable to do more than acknowledge any party member who might ask after his well-being.

The party reconnoitered throughout the town. They found that the townspeople had differing views about Malaffection’s innocence. One person, Dukel, used to work with Malaffection in the Temple before her banishment, and said that he believed her to be innocent – but nobody in the town seemed willing to step up and defend her. Nicolae agreed to represent Malaffection in trial, and the party retired to the Temple for the evening.

During their hiatus, Dragonheart approached them and thanked the Friends for their assistance in bringing him back to the world of the living – such as it was. He listened to their recounting of events since their return to Shadowdale, and enjoined the party to save Malaffection as well. During the evening, Dragonheart approached Eredon and bequeathed to him a goblet embossed with the Platinum Dragon’s image, and said that while its original use was lost to time, the goblet was said to purify any liquid which was poured into it and that it had been passed on from cardinal to cardinal for centuries. Eredon recognized this goblet as the one from his vision, some time ago.

The next day, the Friends returned to the town and obtained some character witnesses for Mother Malaffection. Three honest, steadfast young men stepped up and said that they would vouch for her. They also gathered some evidence of necromantic activity and sauntered among the townsfolk and attempted to sway their opinions to Mother Malaffection’s side. Nicolae prepared his defense, and the party awaited the beginning of the trial.

Trial of the Damned

During the trial, the prosecution called two witnesses who could only make claims pertaining to circumstantial evidence of Malaffection’s involvement with necromancy. Nicolae called the first two character witnesses, then called upon Cardinal Dragonheart, Mother Malaffection, and the final character witness.

Ashull gave his closing statement, but to the Arcana-trained eye it was clear he was enchanting the jury in an attempt to lull them to his side. Yellga recognized this and quickly dispelled the charm.

The jury filed out, but remained in deliberation for a very short period of time. When they reported back to the court, Kimyr asked them for their verdict.

Just before the jury could deliver, Ashull interrupted – “Your honor, I call for a mistrial!” – eliciting a gasp from the crowd and cries of dismay from the Friends of Dwarf on Back. “The guards found two bodies on the outskirts of the town. They did not appear here until this group found their way to our town. They called undead to the stand, and clearly protected them with their necromancy from the holy power of our priest! They…”

Belgerath detected more magics weaved into Ashull’s words. “He’s casting a spell!” Belgarath shouted – but the townsfolk were quickly succumbing. Belgerath unleashed an attack, catching Ashull by surprise and throwing the scene into utter chaos.

The bodies rose from the ground, turned black and started chanting Nox’s name. As they approached, Nox lashed out with an attack – knocking down both bodies, but unleashing a powerful curse upon her. Nox succumbed to Vecna’s hold even further than before, at times finding herself subject to his whims!

The battle raged on briefly, ending with Belgerath sensing an opportunity and unleashing a mighty spell designed to subdue at least one of the Friends of Dwarf on Back, true to his promise to the mysterious, shadowed figure who claimed to be the source of his power. Belgerath failed and was subdued by the remaining Friends, who finished off Ashull and his allies and turned their attention to the wayward wizard.

“You see, I’m so bored with this Vecna thing…” Belgarath said, upon questioning, which promptly led to Nox ending his life prematurely. Belgarath passed on with a sinister laugh.

With Ashull’s death, the townspeople began returning to their senses, discovering to their horror that they were dead and rotted. Cardinal Dragonheart and Mother Malaffection, along with the assistance of the Friends of Dwarf on Back, calmed the townspeople and began helping them return to their natural, pre-diseased status. The Friends of Dwarf on Back had reclaimed the City of Putrescence, turning it back to the City of Shadowdale and releasing it from Vecna’s clutches.

Eighteenth Adventure: Twilight of Champions

Episode 1 – Herald the Call

The Friends of Dwarf on Back celebrated and feasted for a week following their victory over the forces of Vecna arrayed against them over the past season. Bards sung of their deeds; wenches tended to their needs; the bartenders served plenty of meads.

During such a feast, one of the town’s guard approached the table of the FoDoB. “Package!” A parcel was delivered by courier. No return information was conveyed.

Belgerath accepted the package. At his touch, words written in a strange, archaic script appeared on top of the box:

Long ago, in the flowering kingdom of Haluraa, there were five houses of nobillity. The kingdom was threatened by legendary creatures.

Each house, eager to prove their prowess, sent their most valorous knights to slay the beasts; which monster did House Iskengrad destroy, and what weapon did that knight employ?

This most esoteric knowledge was beyond anyone’s common knowledge; moreover, the guard had no information as to who handed him the package or where that courier may have gone. The Friends of Dwarf on Back resolved to answer this intricacy.

Yellga and Titanius headed for the theater, hoping that the answer to this historic mystery might have survived through the fog of time through the arts. By great happenstance, Yellga discovered that the local actors were rehearsing for a play about the very same five royal families mentioned on the box!

While Yellga engaged the performers, Titanius had ample opportunity to sneak into their quarters and look for books or manuscripts about the kingdom of Halruaa. He was very successful, and found a plethora of information about the five noble houses. Others were highly successful in consulting the local blacksmith, the pet shop owner and a few other townsfolk. Over the course of a few days, the Friend of DoB were able to amass enough information about Halruaa’s history to ascertain the deeds of the house Iskengrad of legend:

  • House Agrah’s knight killed the lich.
  • Neither the knight from House Uldrich nor the knight using the bow attacked the illithid or the dragon. Both lived by a code of honor which also prevented them from striking for the heart – preventing them from attacking that creature, as well.
  • The knight of House Elsin used a lance.
  • The knight who attacked the dragon did not strike it in the throat.
  • The knight of House Iskengrad did not wield the morningstar.
  • the knight who used the morningstar either attacked a monster in the heart or the rear.
  • The knght using the bow came form a lower-ranked house than the knight who struck a monster in the heart.
  • Of the knight who wielded the crescent axe and the knight who mortally wounded a creature in the heart, one came from House Elsin and hte other attacked the balor.
  • The knight who wielded the greatsword came from a higher-ranked house than the knight who struck the monster in the eye.
  • The knight who wielded the greatsword came from a lower-ranked house than the knight who struck for the belly of the beast.

After puzzling over the clues their searches turned up, Nicolae was able to correctly answer the question posed by the box; utilizing her dark gifts, Damaia was also able to decipher the rest of the houses and their legacies.

More words written in that same strange script appeared on the box:

Dearest friends,

Humblers of goblin hordes; repressors of the Red Hand; destroyers of the Demonoids and the drow sisters; masters of the Manor Hades; transformers of Tilverton; defenders of the Dales; saviors of Samuel the Sacred; overseers of Ormpetarrian justice; conquerors of the Chondalwood; rectifiers of wrongs; foilers of divine fourberie; watchers of the world, who withstand the Whispered One:

I wish to congratulate you personally. Please accept this invitation – our tryst is long overdue.

The box opened, revealing the severed head of the kindly old Cardinal Dragonheart – along with a blood-stained note:

I look forward to greeting you again.


Episode 2 – Jeopardous Jaunts; Fearful Haunts

The loss of Cardinal Dragonheart came as a terrible blow to the Friends of Dwarf on Back. It was through his blessing that the FoDoB was able to recover and use the Scepter of Bahamut. Without Dragonheart’s guidance, it would have been impossible to stop and eventually save Samuel from his enslavement to Vecna’s will.

The Friends of Dwarf on Back spent time considering the identity of the enigmatic “O” who signed the note. Samuel suggested that perhaps it was Osterneth – Vecna’s top and most trusted lieutenant in the Realms. The FoDoB resolved to return to Shadowdale in order to seek out “O” and to return Cardinal Dragonheart’s head to the Dalelands, where it belongs.

The new leadership of Ormpetarr employed the skill of “wild” mages – wizards who harness the power of the Spellscarred Lands – and create a portal leading to Sapra, where their borrowed junk was docked. The FoDoB bravely headed through the portal, with mostly expected results – except Yellga arrived in Sapra with her newborn baby!

The Sapra Temple of Bahamut’s clergy greeted the FoDoB and informed them of the situation regarding the recently-pirate-infested waters of the Sea of Fallen Stars. No ship could get through, but the clergy members contacted other Bahamutian agencies and pulled together a fleet of ships from nearby areas. Meanwhile, the party managed to convince many of the local townspeople to help clear the waters of pirates.

Upon setting out, the party and its accompanying fleet were beset by the pirates, as they had expected. An epic battle ensued! Pirates and allies sank left and right. At times, things looked grim – some of the FoDoB’s boats even took too many hits, and sank. In the end, though, the party pulled through, and all was well.

…Until a massive ship parted the waves and made its way toward the party! It raised a white flag of parley. Bravely, Nicolae, Eredon, Garth, Nox and Samuel boarded the ship and engaged in negotiations with Darshak, the captain of the Jewel of the Fallen Stars. <please> The remaining party members – Belgarath, Neil, and Titanius stayed on the party’s ships and enacted repairs. After negotiations failed and combat broke out, an impressive number of crewmen swarmed the decks at Darshak’s command, and he politely asked the party to leave. They did so.

While not all of the remaining ships could be repaired, Belgarath formulated a plan to ram the ship. Samuel, Embergrace, Lanharath and the party members who originally boarded the Jewel for negotiations rode the damaged ship toward the Jewel. At the last moment before impact, Embergrace teleported the party into nullspace for just enough time for the damaged boat to smash into the side of the ghost ship. The party reappeared. Samuel, Embergrace and Lanharath set up a magic circle against undead, sealing the lesser undead belowdeck. A battle ensued.

The FoDoB’s remaining ships and a small host of elven warships engaged the remaining pirate ships and the Jewel in a raging battle on the seas. The ships commanded by Titanius and Neil were sunk almost immediately, but they were rescued by Belgarath, who took evasive action and lured the ghost ship to a small cluster of islands in order to take advantage of it for superior cover.

The FoDoB aboard the Jewel defeated the Captain, his first mate and his second mate handily. Belgarath, Neil and Titanius were able to come up with a plan to destroy the Jewel while preserving their remaining ship. After the battles were over, the FoDoB spotted Second Mate Seaslash Wildwind apparently in the midst of an argument with himself on one of the islands. Mutterings of “Fool!” and “They were too powerful” reached the ears of the party.

When Seaslash spotted the FoDoB, his expression changed. In a female voice, he asked, “Have you figured out where I am?”

“Oh, yeah. We’re well on our way,” responded Nicolae.

Seaslash smiled. “Don’t think you’ve won. This is just the beginning,” he said, as he melted into mist and was carried away on the wind.

Episode 3 – Where Even Doom is Fraught with Peril

The remainder of the party’s journey across the Sea of Fallen Stars was uneventful. Morning arrived right around the same time that the Friends of Dwarf on Back docked in Selgaunt. A middle-aged halfling featuring fairly impressive regalia and no small amount of poise, along with an entourage of guards, were searching the docks. One of the guards spotted the party and pointed them out to the halfling. He beckoned them over, and greeted them in a friendly, but rushed manner. “Hail, Friends of Dwarf on Back! Forgive us for this inadequate reception, but there is no time – we must brief you on what has happened.”

Without further introduction, the halfling turned and walked off the dock and onto the street, the FoDoB in tow. The halfling led you past the dock’s warehouses and onto a street lined with residences. At the end was a slightly more prominent building. Judging by the markings on the outside, it was one of Aumanator’s temples.

The halfling led the party straight through the open doors. Just inside, a modest repast rested atop several tables. Acolytes waited to serve wine from silver carafes. The halfling moved to the head of the table and gestured for the party to take seats.

As the FoDoB began to dig in, the halfling spoke rapidly. “I am the Vicar Aylesbury, at yours and Aumanator’s service. The local Aumanatorian chapter – “ he gestures around – “is entrusted to my care.

“As I’ve alluded, great events are transpiring. Before we get to that, please tell me – what is your quest, and where are you headed?”

Aylesbury listened to the party’s brief rundown of their travels and current destination, nodding occasionally and perking up a little at the mention of Shadowdale. “This is excellent. Our normal lines of communication have proven unreliable over the past couple of weeks. We had hoped your plans would take you that direction. Let me tell you what has transpired.

“Since you departed Selgaunt for the southern side of the Sea of Fallen Stars, the number of undead in the Dalelands have increased a hundredfold. Particularly dangerous varieties have started making appearances. Before too long, we lost contact with a few of the Dales – Tilverton, Scardale, and Shadowdale. We’re unable to scry into the areas – even our most powerful seers can see naught but mist and fog. Even more worrying than this is the scouts we’ve sent in – none have returned.

“We have no idea what has transpired in these cities, and no way of knowing what may have happened to their citizens or to our scouts. We’ve no further resources to tap in order to brave these new, unknown dangers – but word of your prowess and might has reached even the furthest corners of the surrounding kingdoms.

“You have already done so much for the Realms that we hesitate to ask you for more – but it seems that the Friends of Dwarf on Back are our only hope. Perhaps you could find a way to assist the townspeople of the Dales, and perhaps – if at all possible – you could find the scouts we’ve sent forth?” Aylesbury seemed quite hopeful, such that Eredon questioned his motives. “I’ve… One of the scouts is my son. His name is Frederick Aylesbury. If he’s… if you find that he is unable to return home, please bring me proof of his fate. His signet ring would do."

As it was yet morning, the party set off for Scardale. As they began to approach the Dalelands, the sun was well on its way up past the horizon line, and the air was clear and crisp. As the morning went on, wisps of mist begin to gather – not unusual for the Dalelands, really. Nobody was around, and the Dales were still and silent.

The party marched on. The noon sun reaches its zenith, and began its slow descent. Soon, the mist began to thicken, prohibiting vision more than a few hundred yards down the path. Belgarath tapped into his mystic training, and identified an aura of transmutation suffusing the area.

The day went on, eliciting no sounds or other persons from the Dalelands. Soon it became early afternoon, and the roads through the Dalelands saw varying amounts of mist as the paths rose and fell in and out of the valleys. Belgarath and other party members continued to check the magical auras surrounding the Friends of Dwarf on Back, but could discover nothing new, and certainly no threatening overtures.

The day wore on. The party could no longer see the sun, but the color shining through from the sky told them that it was late afternoon. It was beginning to become difficult to find the correct way – once or twice, the FoDoB wandered off the main path. The Dalelands around them remain silent, but it was now accompanied by an oppressive feel.

The mist had become so thick that the party was unable to move at full speed and maintain the path. Neil brought his natural instincts to the fore and trailblazed through, but as the light receded even he began walking headlong into trees and doubled-back along the path a couple of times. Nox flew high in the air and Titanius climbed to the top of the highest trees in order to try to see the way, but to no avail – even from dozens of feet in the air, the fog was too thick and prevented seeing more than treetops for a short distance.

It became twilight. The party had wandered off the main path, and were lost somewhere in the woods of the Dalelands. The mists had thickened to nearly the same level of discomfort as the silence itself. There seemed no end as the party wandered through.

The night dragged on, longer than anyone might expect. Slowly, ahead of the party, the mist appeared to brighten a little. As they approached, sunlight began breaking through up ahead – but when the party first spotted it, a tearing, roaring sound rumbled behind them!

The ground began breaking up as a mound of earth upturned, then began expanding into a long tunnel. Quickly, the party realized that something immense below the surface of the earth was tunneling rapidly toward them!

Most of the Friends of Dwarf on Back were able to get away handily. Yellga stumbled on her way; Eredon attempted to hack at the vines, but found that five replaced every one he broke; Damaia tripped and fell, making her vulnerable for the vines to begin dragging her under! Despite Yellga’s best efforts and her handy 10-foot pole, Damaia was unable to struggle free, and was sucked down into the earth. Yellga became the sole target of the vines, but she was able to break away and sailed past the party to safety.

As the party escaped the mysterious vine-beast, sunlight suddenly broke through the mist. The familiar, rural southern entrance to Shadowdale stretched out before them. The ripping and tearing sounds quickly receded. In the fields, some figures worked on the seasonal harvest. The Shadowdale Temple of Bahamut rose slightly above the trees a few hundred feet inside the town.

As the FoDoB approached the town proper, they could see that it was splayed in its usual, sprawled fashion, much as they remembered it before the first whispers of the plague. No townspeople were there.

The party approached the Shadowdale Temple of Bahamut. When they entered, they could see that there were a pair of booted feet protruding from behind the altar.

As the party approached the altar in order to investigate the feet, a sudden flash of light dazed them for a moment. When the spots cleared away, Damaia was standing there. She looked as confused as everyone felt.

The party discovered that the feet definitely signified a body. It was clear, by the regalia and the fact that it was headless, that it was Dragonheart. Before anyone could react, the body stood up and began flailing wildly!

Dragonheart’s body swung without a real target, almost pitifully. It was clear that it could do no real damage. Eredon quickly subdued and tied the body down. Nox grabbed the silver box containing Dragonheart’s head and gave it to the body. It jumped to attention, and groped out blindly in renewed frenzy. Upon grasping its head, the body of Cardinal Dragonheart placed it on the stump of its neck – at first attaching it backward almost comically, but then twisting it around, causing a grotesque squelch and a series of hideous popping noises. When his head was in place, Dragonheart held the position for a moment; then he fell to his knees, wailing piteously in clear pain! “You… must… stop… !” he said, before his head toppled off again, rolled away and became silent. The body began groping around in search of it.

Movement sounded outside of the temple. Upon investigating, the party beheld a chilling sight. While the sun was still in its position, it cast a wan, pale light. The sky had darkened. Townsfolk wandered the streets, but in a slow, shuffling fashion. Many featured patches of stretched and rotted flesh on their faces and hands. The figures were performing the tasks of their everyday lives, but in a sick, dread mockery. Some vendors occupied food stalls, but their wares were foul: a baker sold molded bread; fruit shops offered rotted produce; maggoty strips of flesh of questionable origin hung in the butcher’s window; a fishmonger’s catch was absolutely rank. A blacksmith hammered on a chunk of metal using a femur featuring a suspiciously-humanoid shape. A milkmaid tugged at the decayed udder of an almost-skeletal cow, releasing a thick, lumpy sludge into a bucket with each pull. The figures in the fields appeared to be hacking at the grain, destroying their crops bit by bit. Some children were playing kickball – but the ‘ball’ was the severed head of a kitten, still mewling in a thin, high-pitched tone. Inside a window, a family sat down to a meal of ribs pulled from a dismembered child’s torso.

The apothecary’s assistant walked toward the Temple in an almost stilted fashion. After a quick discussion, the party let him in and shut the door soundly. “M-m-make you a potion?” he stuttered, before slitting his wrist with a scalpel and filling a vial with brackish-brown blood. He dropped the vial suddenly, almost as if he were surprised to be holding it, before taking a stumbling step forward. “They’re playing with you…” he whispered, then began laughing, terror clear in his eyes, before he stabbed himself in the chest and fell to the ground.

All of the townspeople suddenly ceased moving. Slowly, each one stood at attention and stared at the party – including the apothecary’s assistant, blood spurting from his chest in rhythm to his rapidly-slowing heart. Interestingly, Damaia was also affected. Together, they turned, raised their arms, and pointed off toward the hills outside of Shadowdale. Hades Manor loomed above the cemetery in the distance, eerily lit by a mysterious, purple glow.

The Friends of Dwarf on Back formulated a plan to reach the Manor. Belgarath summoned arcane knowledge; Neil (or was it Yellga?) tapped into natural ley lines; Embergrace summoned pious fervor. Together, the three of them gripped the Scepter of Bahamut and paved the way through the undead crowd toward the manner. Strangely, the undead continued to point the way – indicating that perhaps their intent was not to threaten the party.

The front door to Hades Manor was slightly ajar. Everything inside appears as the party remembered it, except that the chandelier was fixed and there was an opening in the middle of the foyer floor. A voice emanated from below.

While the addition to the foyer was of great curiosity to the Friends of Dwarf on Back, they felt in their hearts it was best to try to communicate with Cardinal Dragonheart in order to try to assist him. They held his head in front of the Mirror of Souls on the second floor, and saw that he appeared alive – but he was unable to speak with the party. While the remainder of the party appeared to be dead in the mirror, Damaia’s visage was as alive and alluring as was customary.

With this information in hand, the FoDoB ventured down the spiral staircase. At the bottom, the staircase opened up into a small room. On the walls to the sides hung posters featuring a show titled ‘The Puppeteer’, and displayed a picture of a tall, handsome man with a pale visage and strikingly sharp features. On the far side was a doorway covered by a black curtain. A podium stood to the side, behind which stood a glassy-eyed attendant dressed in a ragged, bright red usher uniform. He stiffly raised his hand, in which he was holding several tickets. The voice was louder here, and seemed to be coming from beyond the curtain. The party members, slightly daunted but hardly deterred, each took a ticket and moved beyond the curtain.

Inside the curtain was a theater. The audience appeared to be more undead. On the stage was the man featured in the posters. He was gesticulating wildly and giving an oration: “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit! Curabitur justo turpis, consectetur dictum faucibus at, ullamcorper a TORTOR!”

As Damaia approached the stage, The Puppeteer turned toward the party. “Ah, you have arrived! Let the main act… BEGIN!” The Puppeteer raised his arms dramatically above his head and disappeared. All of the undead in the audience changed appearance – they all looked exactly like The Puppeteer!

Battle ensued. Each copy engaged the closest party member with a fervor, engaging with surprising grace and busting a move! Clones at a distance whipped whoever was in reach with costume ribbons magically enhanced to rot the flesh where touched and bedazzle the senses.

Nobody was sure which of the undead was the Puppeteer, and began striking every target they could. As they struck the fearsome copies, each slumped over awkwardly and no longer attacked, but still ambled forward. As the numbers of untouched puppets became fewer, Nicolae struck a lucky blow and damaged the real Puppeteer, revealing him to the rest of the party!

Things were looking up for the Friends of Dwarf on Back, but the Puppeteer snarled and began preparing another casting. Wisps of ghostly music began building. The FoDoB were still in for the fight of their lives…

Episode 4 – Repose

As the Puppeteer finished, his puppets each took up a dance pose and pressed the attack! Strategically box-stepping aside of weapon swings, each puppet engaged a nearby party member in a flurry of ribbons and snazzy moves. Unearthly music swelled to a crescendo, and several party members caught the fever and began dancing uncontrollably to the music!

Together, The Puppeteer and each of his puppets disappeared in a flash. The lights dimmed, then brightened again, revealing The Puppeteer and his cadre of puppets-turned-backup-dancers moonwalking their way across the stage.

(Which party members?) had become unwitting thralls, and began assaulting other Friends of Dwarf on Back. The puppets all stood upright again, and each disappeared and reappeared in places around the battlefield in order to press their advantage.

Eredon called upon Bahamut’s guidance to dispel the haze from the minds of the other FoDoB. A faint, golden glow emanated in all directions from the holy warrior, bringing clarify to confusion.

The Friends of Dwarf on Back had latched onto The Puppeteer’s style. Yellga began examining nearby puppets, looking for telltale signs that one was the Puppeteer. Nox, Belgerath, Nicolae and Damaia continued to lay nearby puppets low, slowly sniffing out The Puppeteer’s hidden identity.

A bit of extra sweat on the brow of one of the copies gave The Puppeteer away, and the party focused on him – raining hell and divine fury down upon the necromancer, not giving him even a moment to gather himself. Before long, he teleported back to the stage, gasping for breath and struggling to strike the stage villain’s form of repose. A black fog issued from his mouth as his last, gutteral gasp passed his lips.

The Friends of Dwarf on Back, exhausted but victorious, took a moment to gather themselves. A quick search of the pockets of The Puppeteer revealed a handful of marionette strings, some strips of zombie flesh, and more of the mysterious potions which the party had claimed from the invitation delivered to them in Sapra.

Back in the foyer, a faint, mocking, female laughter echoed in from outside. It seemed to come from the direction of the temple.

The Friends of Dwarf on Back cautiously approached the town again. The undead were still there, but seemed to shrink away from the party, almost as if they were afraid.

A purple light shone from an inner door within the temple. The party followed the light past the door and up a flight of stairs which ended at another door – intricately carved with an image of the Platinum Dragon – which was slightly ajar.

Almost nervous with anticipation, each of the FoDoB crept past the door, one at a time.

The doorway opened into a grand chamber used by temple clergy for major rituals. At the center of the room was a massive altar guarded by two gargantuan, angelic statues. Much else could not be seen, but shuffled movement and the flipping of pages revealed the presence of someone inside.

Behind the altar stood a tall figure resembling a desiccated corpse. It pored over stacks of the temple’s books and scrolls of ancient history and guarded secrets. Both its left hand and eye were missing, replaced by an orb and a claw comprised of purple energy.

The figure looked up and directed a hideous, rictus grin at the Friends of Dwarf on Back – but didn’t say anything. It seemed to be waiting.

Samuel gasped, and choked out “That is… We must… Vecna..!” as he hastily threw up a shield of divine energy.

Vecna spoke with a gutteral hiss. “Do you not like my perfect world?”

“Perfect? This place is despicable!” spat Embergrace.

At this, Vecna chuckled. “Unlike your world, this one is painless and absolute.”

“Nonsense!” said Yellga. “What of the Cardinal Dragonheart?”

“All in this world must follow my bidding. It was my will that the…” Vecna’s lip turned upward in a sneer – “good cardinal remained in repose. It was you who defied my will. His anguish…” Vecna’s tone became thinly-veiled mockery. “…was your doing.”

“Noo…” moaned Yellga, stricken and pale of face.

Provoked to action, the party unleashed powerful attacks against the decrepit deity. Vecna made no move to deflect or dodge. Each attack directed his way was absorbed by his form, his grin remaining frozen in place.

Nox, seeing an opportunity to flee, began backing out toward the hallway from which the FoDoB came. As she approached, a haze of purple energy formed over the doorway. It was a trap!

Vecna gestured and unleashed a wave of divine energy from his hand, snapping outward in crackling tangles of light. Each party member was able to dodge or deflect the bolts, but Embergrace and Lanharath were caught in the blast! Their forms were flung across the room to slam against a wall, and lie still. The bolt pushed Samuel back a step, but his shield held. The figure disappeared in a flash of crackling purple energy.

The mocking laughter returned, and a tall, aristocratic, and very attractive woman appeared in a sudden puff of smoke. “You’ve been playing with dolls, I see.”

Samuel: “Osterneth!”

Osterneth: “You are fools to have come here. Now, you are dead fools.”

The two angelic statues began grinding to life. Osterneth gave a small object to one of them, then walked through a door in the back. The door closed with a distinctive ‘click’ sound, and a purplish haze covered it – similar to the entryway behind the FoDoB. The angels flew up into the air, unsheathing weapons engraved with the names Angelus and Necrosis.

Tired from their long trek through the fog, drained from their battle against The Puppeteer, and haunted and sickened by the sight of Shadowdale and its people, the Friends saw before them another battle – and nevertheless geared up for another long fight.

The angels were swift to the attack – but Belgerath was quicker! Reacting quickly to the situation, Belgarath was able to entrap Necrosis in a prison borne of shadow. Angelus glowed with a blue light. It swooped through the party, taking advantage of their proximity to each other. As it swept by, Angelus’s stone wings glowed with unholy radiance as they chilled the very air. Their touch brought an agonizing, bone-deep chill which quickly numbed the flesh.

Angelus succeeded in quickly subduing Yellga, laying her low. As she fell to the ground, the altar released a crackle of purple energy which streaked for Yellga’s prone form – and was repulsed by a sudden, blinding burst of energy which exploded outward from Duvan Jr.! When the light faded, Yellga and her baby were gone.

The altar began releasing wild energies, exacerbating wounds which the party had received. Belgerath was quickly subdued, as he was nearly spent from the prior battle. As he stumbled around, his shadow stopped moving along with him. Its hands reached toward Belgerath’s feet. It grabbed ahold of his ankles and yanked Belgarath through itself. Both of them disappeared.

One by one, the Friends of Dwarf on Back succumbed to the two angelic monstrosities. Titanius crumpled to the ground and was enveloped by a bolt of energy from the altar – and disappeared. As Eredon’s powers wore down, a golden nimbus formed above him. A massive, platinum dragon’s claw manifested in the cloud, reached down and scooped Eredon up, pulling him into the cloud. The nimbus quickly dissipated. Neil Mennar’s body began splintering into chunks, then into smaller pieces – which were carried away on the winds.

Finally, Nox bloodied Angelus – but this proved fruitless, as the twin angels merged together and formed into a gargantuan amalgamation, a twisted mockery of angels. It struck back against Nox, scoring a critical blow!

Nox fell to her knees. The lights around her sputtered, and shadows began moving of their own accord. Hands rose from them and latched onto her form, wrenching her in multiple directions, but always downward. Screaming, she vanished into the darkness.

Angelus and Necrosis returned to their positions. Faint echoes of mocking laughter echoed through the now otherwise-silent grand chamber again.

Seventeenth Adventure (by Mark)

Episode 1

Played on January 6th, 2012

Our adventure began in Lady Tier’s hideout where the Copper Guard were stationed. They discovered that Duvan was drawing a sketch of Yellga, making the two of them indisposed. The party then heard rumors from three of Lady Tier’s scouts: a surly Dwarven ranger told them that a second tower in the shape of a hand had appeared outside of town; a werewolf scout told them that he’d heard of (and smelled) a large cave way up in the mountains that was full of undead; lastly a penguin (a were-penguin? an animagus? someone with a very good disguise?) told them that he’d just come from the center of town and heard a lot of rabble-rousing from a crowd who were looking to lynch someone.

Not wanting to make a rash decision, the party decided to ask around town for some more information. They learned that the lynch mob was closest, that they were looking for a group of people who had gone mucking about in the sacred forest south of Ornpetar, and wanted to catch them because they had committed various crimes against the Order of the Blue Flame. They also learned that the hand tower was the second closest, could be found in the forest southwest of town, and that it was rumored to house more of the servants of Vecna. Lastly, they learned that the undead cave was the farthest distance away, that it contained hundreds of undead, and that they were protecting a source of evil energy that was keeping them alive (so to speak). Eventually, Embergrace used the Hand of Fate ritual to help them decide; it directed them to the hand tower.

The party trudged through the wilderness until they eventually found the hand tower jutting out of the ground. They located a door at the base through which they could enter. They entered a room with three levers on the floor and three coffins hanging on the wall (like paintings might). Pulling the levers opened various secret doors, triggered various traps (including a flame jet at one point), and opened the various coffins (one of which was filled with a swarm of stirges). Eventually, they were able to raise some secret stairs to the center coffin, and with some canny thievery from [Heidi’s character whose name I can’t recall and there is no record of her on here], they got through the coffin and out of the room.

They then crossed through a blurry curtain that made a few party members vomit, and found themselves in a familiar room: a central platform with pillars at the forefront, numerous floating platforms surrounding it like an amphitheater, and sinister looking clouds above and below where a ceiling and floor might be. There they met the FoDI, who told them his story…

In a flashback, they saw a young Samuel as an acolyte of Aumanator living in the town of Tilverton (which appeared as the Tilverton of old that the party had seen in a much earlier adventure). A huge army of undead, driven by members of the Order of the Blue Flame were marching to the town to pillage and destroy. The town citizens were panic-stricken. Samuel informed them that there was something he could do, but it was almost as terrible as the doom that marched toward them. At the urging of some of the townsfolk, Samuel opened a necromantic tome and reanimated the now-dead citizens of Tilverton who were interred in the cemetary. The two undead armies fought, and ultimately the Tilverton army was victorious. The townsfolk were relieved that they were saved, but at the same time grief-striken to see their long-dead loved ones now revivified in such a horrific state. The head priest of Aumanator in the village sharply reprimanded Samuel for what he had done, scarring his holy symbol and banishing him from Tilverton. Samuel traveled for many miles, following a path similar to that taken by the adventurers. He came all the way down to Ornpetar, possibly looking for members of the Order of the Blue Flame, but eventually found a great fortress shaped like a head. Significantly, the head was missing one eye and matched the stonework of the two hand towers the party had found. The flashback ended with a lich woman emerging from the “mouth” of the fortress and telling Samuel that his service to the Lord of Whispers was about to begin…

The flashback was cut short as two challenges faced the adventurers: there was a dastardly puzzle they had to solve to free Samuel from his chains, and there was a squad of Githyanki mounted on a red dragon coming to attack them! After much diligent puzzle-solving on the Colorku board by half the party, they released Samuel. The other half of the party battled the dragon and the Githyanki. The greatest moment of the combat had to be when the Necromancer temporarily turned the red dragon into a toad — with the caveat that any damage done to the toad would cause it to instantly revert to a red dragon — and then the Paladin (Eradon) gingerly picked up the toad and dropped it into the clouds below, where it was destroyed.

Samuel then explained that, in order to free him completely from his punishment, and to destroy the evil source of magic powering the undead plague, they would need to go to the undead cave they had heard about and use the Scepter of Bahamut to purify Aumanator’s lament. Samuel’s fate, the party’s fate, and perhaps the fate of the whole world were all bound to this one doom.

Episode 2

Played on January 20th, 2012

The party continued onward to the foothills of the Westerly mountains. Along the way, [Heidi’s Rogue character] killed a small boy and took his all-day sucker from him. When the boy’s mother came looking for him, she too was cut down. Eventually, they arrived at a cave. No sooner had they entered when they discovered that they were surrounded by zombies! A quick battle ensued, fortunately with few / no losses. Post battle, [Heidi’s Rogue character] scouted around the room and found a treasure chest full of goodies.

They continued on down the hallway, eventually discovering that it opened into a large, cavernous room with many cave features: stalagmites, stalactites, columns, mesas, pits, ledges, climbing walls, and an underground stream. The most significant feature, however, was the floor, which was filled wall-to-wall with zombies. At the far side of the cavern, a mysterious green glow could be seen, emanating from behind a column of rock. Using their skills and spells, the party leapt from column to column, climbed the walls, swam the river (when needed), and occasionally teleported / flew from mesa to mesa. Eventually, they arrived at the green-glowing alcove.

Inside the alcove was a sinister fountain that endlessly spewed a column of green, arcane light up toward the ceiling. Embergrace tried to approach, but was halted by a wall of force. After a malevolent cackling noise was heard, three matchstick puzzles appeared. Using their combined intellects, the party members solved the puzzles and the wall of force dropped. They then activated the Scepter of Bahamut, wrestled a protesting Aumanator’s Lament into the arcane stream, and beheld as a transformation occurred: the gemstone at the center of Aumanator’s Lament shattered; a dark, wailing shadow departed from the amulet; the stream of green, arcane light turned to a bright white (tinted with platinum); the zombies in the cave disintegrated to powder; and lastly, the blackened walls & ceiling of the cavern cracked and fell to the ground, revealing crystal walls just beneath.

Back in Ormpetarr, the FoDI (Samuel) was being served tea by Yellga & Duvon. Samuel looked up and gasped. The grey streaks in his hair disappeared, his skin changed from a sallow pale color to healthy pink, and the scarred holy symbol of Aumanator which he had worn as a reminder of his misdeedss… was now whole and unscarred, good as the day it was made.

Episode 3

Played on January 27th, 2012

The party traversed back across the (now vacant) crystal cavern and made for the exit. Arriving there, they discovered that Vecna (or his minions) had left one last obstacle to try to trap them in: another wall of force that could only be unlocked by solving a puzzle. But solve it they did, and so they left the cave.

Outside, they heard the call of a strange bird. A few party members recognized that it wasn’t a bird at all, but rather a call used by Rangers to signal each other. After some searching, they discovered the Dwarven ranger they’d first met in Lady Tier’s courtroom; he was hiding behind a pile of rocks. The Dwarf produced a rough sketch of the city in it’s current state and suggested three possible points of entry: the front gates, which would doubtless be closely watched and guarded; the slums, which leaked out of a break in the city walls; and the secret tunnel which they’d used previously, but was now guarded by Order of the Blue Flame members who had gotten wise to their shenanegains!

The party opted to go through the slums. Numerous trials awaited them therein, with a few especially notable moments. [Zane’s character] nearly fell while traversing a clothesline, but bounced away from the jumping / biting hobos, and then sent a rain of clean clothing down on them which they hastily snatched up. Embergrace got held up at a fruit & vegetable cart where she attempted to win political favor from the various produce (the plantains & mangoes went in her favor, while the tubers & legumes went the other way). Lastly, several of the party members [Zane’s, Gingell’s & George’s characters] were unsuccessful at getting past an angry drunk, and ended up joining him for some boisterous drinking songs.

Eventually, they made it back to Lady Tier’s courtroom. Lady Tier urged them to confront the Order of the Blue Flame leadership at the lynching rally they were holding in the town square. Eradon wanted some assurance that they would be able to escape by some means if things went pear-shaped. Lady Tier told them they could contact members of the Ormpetarr thieve’s guild (whom they had met earlier in the slums) who could guide them to one of many entrances to the network of tunnels that ran under the city.

So, the party went to the town square. Those whose faces were on wanted posters went cloaked & cowled, while those who were unidentifiable walked right up toward the stage where Jørl Hånsberg (a balding, hawk-nosed northernman) and Tudse Llyffant (a broad-mouthed, skinny-legged fellow with a monacle) read a list of charges against the party. Party members who could walk openly began to challenge some of the list charges brought against the party. Soon, wanted party members revealed themselves and told of the goings-on that had transpired. Finally, a surprise witness, in the form of Samuel Augustus Hyde, revealed himself and produced an Order of the Blue Flame sigil taken from the uniform of one of the OBF members who had driven the undead into his fair city of Tilverton many years ago. Revealed for who they are, the citizens grabbed pitchforks, lit torches, and began to storm the stage. The party regrouped, confident that the city would see new leadership soon, as they saw Lady Tier emerge from a shadowy corner with a knowing smile.

Sixteenth Adventure (by Vivi)

Episode 1

The black dust from the tower’s explosion slowly settled over the ruins surrounding the party. For a moment, an eerie feeling hung in the air. It dawned on the party that the woods were completely silent for the first time since entering, as if the entire area was holding its breath.

Suddenly, two figures emerged in to the edges of the ruin at different places. Our heroes, ready for anything, prepared to fight. All at once they realized that the figures were Embergrace and Neera! As the two stepped toward the group, the forest noise quickly resumed, and the treetops in all directions began writhing angrily. Unnatural screams and moans could be heard from all around. The phylactery pulsed coldly.

Embergrace and Neera quickly approached the party and began asking what had happened. Neera related that the party had the attention of many forces, not the least of which included her people and the spirits and creatures of the wood. She requested help from Lethe to commune with any benevolent spirits nearby for protection. Being relatively new to this type of spell, Lethe asked the party to contribute in garnering the spirits’ attention.

As Lethe and Neera focused their energies, our champions began a skill challenge. They performed various feats to attract the spirits, including shows of strength, agility, and power. Soon, they had gathered a cadre of benign essences.

The most powerful of the well-disposed beings began to speak, “What would you ask of us?”

Neera asked, “How long until my people arrive?”

In a voice that crackled with elemental and arcane energy, the spirit methodically replied, “The elven ones will arrive on the morrow.”

Belgerath stepped up and asked where the party must go next to eliminate the undead plague. The spirit informed him that they had already done so, at least insofar as the being’s realm of influence was concerned.

Lethe, obviously bothered and internally struggling, suddenly blurted out, “What of my people?”

The spirit slowly turned to Lethe and studied her for a moment with its piercing gaze. Then, coldly, “Your time has come. That which you would call home is in grave danger.”

Lethe looked pale and distant, “I… I should be there… this is my trial.” She trailed off, lost in her thoughts.

Neera turned to the heroes and spoke once more, “I have an idea. Lethe and I can hold the denizens of the wood at bay while your party rests, but I cannot openly oppose my people. In the morning, I will take Lethe and escape to the North, while you set off back towards the plaguelands.”

Our heroes agreed, and Neera began channeling again. The spirits quickly created a magical barrier around the ruin, which crackled with energy as the malevolent ghosts of the wood rushed in to crash against it.

The party awoke to the same sounds, and an exhausted-looking Neera and Lethe. Neera warned them, “When the shield drops, the full wrath of the forest will bear down upon you. I will no longer be able to help you.”

After saying their goodbyes to Lethe and Neera, the party expressed that they were ready. In a moment, the barrier had dissipated and an enraged miasma of spiritual energy began assaulting our heroes’ minds. They found that if they kept moving, it was more difficult for the angry spirits to latch on, so they immediately began their journey back towards Ormpetarr.

On re-entering the woods, our champions noticed that the area had changed completely. Previously taken paths had been swallowed up, and new ones had formed that twisted and wound in strange directions. The very trees seemed to have rearranged themselves in to new and unfamiliar configurations.

Within just a few steps in to the wood, the party was attacked! They were beset upon by a group of pod demons; shamblers; and giant, mutated elves, all of which had been twisted and disfigured by years of exposure to their spellplagued environs. The pod demons and shamblers spawned additional creatures from pustules and discarded vines in an attempt to overwhelm the group, but it was no use.

The winds of fate themselves seemed to urge our heroes on, and each decisive stroke bolstered their strength. As quickly as it had began, the battle was over, and the party resumed their trek in to the dark and foreboding woods…

Episode 2

Navigating the woods was not an easy task. While the wood continued to twist around the party, the light and shadows of the forest seemed to mix and mesh together. Days and nights would sometimes last for only a few hours, sometimes only a few minutes, and it became impossible to accurately track time.

Our champions continually pushed forward by orienting themselves, listening for nearby noises, moving, and repeating.

Near the beginning of the journey, hushed arguing could be heard in one direction, and rushing water in the other. The party chose the arguing, and quickly encountered a group of bickering centaur! Fortunately, Nicolae was able to communicate and convince them that fighting would end badly for the horsemen, and the group was allowed to pass.

Next, they journeyed towards an area of extremely agitated foliage. As they entered the area, vines lashed out and grabbed on to their ankles, holding them fast. (How did we get out of this? Was it the teleport?)

To ease their traveling, Belgerath attempted to part the magical wood with arcane energy, and though the trees themselves were not affected, he did manage to create a temporary barrier against the spirits. Given the choice of using the barrier to move forward or to take a 5-minute rest, the group chose some much-needed rest. They healed up and regained the use of several powers before moving on.

From there, the party heard metal creaking, and soon encountered a huge iron “fence”, comprised of a thick bramble of thorny metal vines. Titanius agilely made his way up the wall, though he took a few scrapes and jabs on the way up. Knowing that he could lead them over the same path, the group decided to follow, with each sacrificing a little blood to the thorns in order to reach the other side.

Ahead, they spotted a large hole in the forest canopy, a huge fog bank, and a patch of seemingly normal trees. They made for the innocuous patch, but as they were trekking through, several of the party members began to go mad with hallucinations ranging from accusatory dead relatives to friends attempting to kill them. Luckily, several party members retained their sanity, and divined that the visions were induced by a magical fungus surrounding them. Knowing this, they were able to supress the spores and heal the afflicted minds before continuing on.

In the areas a head, they heard groaning from one direction, and saw a shimmering energy hanging in the air in the other direction. They made for the groaning, and sure enough, encountered a huge pack of roving undead! Although there were many zombies, they were relatively weak, and Embergrace was able to cast a powerful spell which destroyed two-thirds of the horde. The remaining undead were easily pushed aside or felled.

The next scouting attempts revealed smoke and floating branches. Our heroes made their way to the smoke, which turned out to be originating from a cottage fireplace attended by a powerful witch! Belgerath took a long shot and attempted to charm her with a spell, which succeeded! He bluffed her in to believing that he was a long-lost relative. She seemed embarrassed that she wasn’t able to remember him, but tried her best to keep up appearances. She informed the party that the wood had warned her of a group of encroaching adventurers, which she was to kill and eat. Under Belgerath’s sway, the witch was easily convinced that “These are not the adventurers you’re looking for.” After some light conversation, the party waved a cheery goodbye and wished her good luck in catching those nasty intruders.

The single path from the witch hut took them straight in to the floating twigs, which they discovered were only the tip of the weird iceberg. Along with the twigs, entire trees and landmasses floated about. Occasionally the motes crashed together, causing lightning storms which shot upward in to the sky. The ground undulated under their feet, and gouts of flame shot past in random directions. Embergrace understood that the chaos was a manifestation of planar tears caused by the Spellplague. After a moment of concentration, she tuned herself to the seemingly chaotic energies, and became able to predict each danger moments before it happened. This proved to be enough, and she led the party safely through the area.

Given a final choice between a piercing banshee-like wail and an area of even denser spiritual energy, our heroes chose to brave the spirits. Though their minds were constantly assaulted, they managed to hold the essences at bay and push through, and found themselves at the entrance to the secret elvish settlement!

The entrance itself was a wide wooden bridge over a bubbling river, guarded by elvish archers, woads, and dryads. The defending force seemed relatively small, and the party realized that the rest of the elves must still be out searching.

As the group approached, their minds were suddenly rent in two! Each member could see dual worlds in the same place, with one imposed on the other. The first was the real world, with bridge and elves and town. The second was a twisted landscape which looked as though small chunks of the widely varying terrain of the wood had been smashed together to form a single jagged grove. Surrounding the landmass was a pitch black abyss. At the center of the ground, a huge reddish-brown stone rhythmically pulsed. This was an incarnation of the will of the wood, a figurative “heart of the forest”.

Each adventurer was forced to focus in on one world. Knowing that they’d need to defeat both the forest and the elves to escape, the party split, with Garth, Nicolae, and Titanius entering the world of the heart. These heroes found that the stone could be damaged, and that it did not fight back directly, but two things happened after each round of the party’s actions. First, any section of land they had been previously standing on disintegrated, forcing the heroes to plan ahead and move quickly over the rough terrain while fighting. Second, the heart would release a mind-shattering pulse which affected both those in the real world and the heart realm.

As the heart-slayers wore the stone down, large cracks appeared in the surface and oozed a saplike substance. The weaker the heart became, the weaker the pulses were that wrenched at everyone’s wills…

The adventurers back in the real world held their own against the guardians by swatting down the relatively weak dryads and focusing the woads with disabling enchantments. They were pelted by arrows from across the river, and some took a fair amount of damage from the heart pulses, but they managed to down about half the enemies and stay alive, until…

The cracks in the heart were widening, and thin shafts of light streamed out from the holes in all directions. With a final decisive blow, the heart violently shattered and exploded! The remaining ground quickly disintegrated, and the three adventurers began falling! As they tumbled, the world went black, and they abruptly awoke back in reality, ready and able to join the fray against the elves.

With the will of the wood broken and both groups reunited, they made quick work of the remaining monsters and forced the elves to surrender. They had won! Knowing that they could no longer hope for victory, the subdued elves stepped aside as our heroes strode proudly across the bridge and through the main street of the village. Some townspeople stared resentfully, but most hid. Children scurried inside, windows and doors slammed shut, and the town was quiet except for the heavy marching and loud bragging of our champions…

Fifteenth Adventure (by George)

Episode 1

The party left the docks and headed toward Ormpetarr. They knew that the city was founded shortly after the infamous Spellplague of a century ago. Its goal was to give the spellscarred a safe haven where people understand their needs, and to create a center for understanding the effects of the Spellplague – thus its location on the border of the Plaguewrought Lands.

The adventurers headed for Finara’s, a very popular local tavern. On their way, they passed a heavily-guarded cart stacked high with crates bearing the symbol of the Order of the Blue Fire. One of the crates fell off of the cart, breaking open and spilling vials everywhere. The party recognized these as the very same vials which were being distributed in Shadowdale.

This was a very important discovery. As such, the party immediately started investigating. The Order’s guards were polite but firm, and wouldn’t allow the party near the cart in order to assist with cleaning up.

As the guards cleaned up, the party was able to magically ascertain that the contents of the vials don’t settle on their own – they appeared to writhe as the guards utilized magical spells in order to clean up the spilled contents. The substance inside was unmistakably identical to the oils used in the tinctures distributed by Apothecary Johan.

Yellga browsed local stores in order to see where the Order of the Blue Fire had visited. One of them had a crate which came as a delivery from the Order’s recent shipment. Inside were hand-crafted statuettes of Falis, the ancient elven goddess of fertility. The party purchased one.

Neil sized up the guards and spotted one who didn’t seem to have such an adverse reaction to the party. Nicolae sauntered up and introduced himself, fooling the guard into thinking that Nicolae is one of the inner members of the Order of the Blue fire. The guard referred to the source of the shipment as “the wood,” but became suspicious at further questioning.

Several party members spoke with townsfolk. They discovered that the shipments come through frequently (about once a week), and always arrive out of the east. Furthermore, the only thing to the east is an elven encampment. Ormpetarrians believe that the elves only maintain the encampment in order to provide an outlet of trade, and actually live deep in the woods. Still, the entrance to their encampment is heavily guarded, and the elves will occasionally turn some traders back for seemingly unfathomable reasons.

The party also performed some research in the local library. They discovered that there are some ancient legends which tell of a keep in the middle of the depths of the Chondalwood which was in ruins even before the time of the Spellplague. The stories speak of disembodied terrors guarding its grounds, driving away any who would plumb its depths. There’s little else to know about it – the elves declare blood feud on any who would enter the heart of the wood.

One of the local townsfolk was watching the party’s investigation over the days with interest, but seemed hesitant to approach the party. Applying a little verbal force to the man caused him to reveal that he’d heard some travelers who head east to trade with the elves don’t seem to return. Why the man was hesitant to speak with the party remained a mystery.

Lethe realized that elves generally don’t export glass – so it was a mystery where such large shipments would come from. She also noticed a piece of parchment sticking out of the pocket of one of the guards’ pants. Yellga was able to slip up to the guard and grab the parchment, revealing most of a map to the center of the Chondalwood. It detailed how to avoid most of the inhabitants, but seemed to rely on the reader having a certain amount of knowledge already.

These revelations took a few days to gather. After consolidating this information, the party decided to strike out for the elven encampment. Upon arrival, they were accosted by guards, who demanded to know the party’s reason for travelling to the encampment. Thinking quickly, Belgarath charmed the pants off of the elf who addressed the party, and pressed him for information about the clues which the party had gathered over the last few days. Sadly, the guard had little useful information – but he did invite the adventurers to enter the camp.

The encampment featured stalls such as one might find in a market – and little else. The elves were selling quality crafted armaments and curios. The party was surprised to recognize one of the elves – Neera. She greeted the party in surprise, and asked what brought them there.

Yellga(?) offered a truthful explanation for the party’s presence. Neera, face graven, pulled the party to the side and said that the party was asking about territory which was sacred to the elves of the Chondalwood. They don’t allow outsiders to travel there – but this has to do with ancient history, when loggers were a problem to the surrounding woods. Elves are a long-lived race, and their traditions change slowly.

That said, Neera is much better-traveled and isn’t beholden to all of the beliefs of her people. She was happy to mark the location on the party’s map. Destination in hand, the adventurers struck back out along the path to the heart of the Chondalwood, intent on discovering its mysterious secrets.

Episode 2

The party set forth, striking a path deep into the Chondalwood. Even with the help of the map Yellga snatched from the Order of the Blue Fire’s guard, the nature of the Chondalwood coupled with the influences of the Spellplague made traversing the forest a difficult task – almost too difficult for our intrepid heroes, but slowly and surely they made their way forward.

Along the path, the adventurers stumbled across one of the forest’s guardians – a spellplagued treant. While the noble treeman was itself unaffected by the Spellplague, its actions reflected the nature of the changed forest – as such, it was more unfriendly than what the party may have expected, and attacked with no provocation.

The treant summoned mighty fungoid warriors and a disgusting, shambling mass of rotten flora, all of which proceeded to harangue and blast the party with poisons and dangerous spores. Eredon navigated the battlefield, smiting about him in a zealous frenzy. More than once, he barely escaped the clutches of the shambling mound. Belgarath attempted to entrap the treant and his allies in a powerful field of magic intended to topple and immobilize foes, but the treant’s roots proved too hardy, and its affinity with nature allowed it to teleport out of the danger zone.

The battle was fierce, but the adventurers came out the victors in the end. Exhausted, they made camp and rested for the remainder of the day.

Episode 3

The Chondalwood is a place of great mystery and hidden secrets. Perhaps it wasn’t too surprising that the adventurers should stumble upon one.

As the party rested following its battle against the dangers of the forest, a lone figure stole into camp and began rifling through pouches, satchels and whatever other containers were nearby. He was eventually detected and, following a brief series of introductions between he and a party of adventurers so jaded as to experience no surprise as this turn of events, joined the party. Finally, through Garth the half-orc monk, the formidable power of martial arts was at the party’s command!

Everyone went back to resting. The next morning, the party discovered that Yellga was gone!

Tracks nearby to Yellga’s resting site led to nearby trees, about which hung strands of webbing. It was clear that the culprits were arachnid in nature. Lethe quickly blazed a trail and led the party right into… a trap! Yellga was webbed to a tree, and called out gaily to the party upon spotting them. Several spiders dropped down from the dense overhead canopy, grabbed Nicolae, Eredon, Lethe and Belgarath, and hauled them upward and into the trees.

Another terrible battle broke out, but this time the party was divided. Both battles were desperate, as each group was working without the resources which other members provided, but sheer determination won the day. As the last spider’s legs curled inward in its death throes, the party took a short rest and carried on.

Presently, they came to the heart of the Chondalwood – ruins known as Magedoom. Little was known about this place other than the ancient legends alluded to in the library of Ormpetarr, and what the elves said – strange lights were coming from this area, and among the ruins stalk disembodied horrors who would defy any who wish to plumb the ruins’ depths. Most striking, though, was an intact structure rising above the rest – a tower in the shape of a hand.

Sensing that this was their destination, the party made their way toward the massive, stone limb. They passed by many a ruin denoting areas which would have been marketplaces, standard and upper-class housing. They performed a few searches through the ruins, discovering nothing of value.

As they got nearer the hand, they walked through what was left of a hanging garden. Rusted chains attached to fallen, crumbled stone basins were strewn about the area. One or two statues still stood atop stone plinths.

As the party passed through, one of the statues turned to regard them. It climbed down off of its pedestal, faced the party, opened its jaws impossibly wide – releasing an unearthly sound – and said to them, “Who are you to be foolish enough to come here accompanied by a wielder of the arcane who is not bound in chains?”

Episode 4

The cherub waited for an answer. Our heroes tried their best to intimidate, bluff and diplomacize it into believing that their presence was valid, but to no avail. The cherub opened a portal, trapping half of the party in a room. Four of the garden’s crumbled statues teleported to spots around the portal and began emitting noxious fumes into it.

The members inside the portal were in a 30-foot-by-30-foot room. Rectangles were delineated in the floor tiles, along with mysterious symbols: 7+, 30x, and other such mysterious markings. A pile of thirty-six blocks stood in the corner, numbered in six sets of one through six. Noxious gas began leaking into the room at a quick rate, and before too long the trapped adventurers began to feel the deleterious effects of the fumes.

Outside of the portal, the party jumped into combat. Eredon valiantly rose to the occasion, directing the party to attack the statues emitting the gases and attracting as much of the constructs’ ire as he could. Titanius and Morlak took turns swinging wildly at the horrors with varying degrees of success.

The trapped adventurers unlocked the secret of the puzzle, causing an exit to unlock and a spiral staircase to open, revealing a path back to the battlefield. With all members present and accounted for, the tide of the battle was quickly turned and the party defeated the constructs with great ease.

Episode 5

After the mighty battle against the sinister cherub and its cohorts, the party took an extensive rest and began searching the ruins for an entrance to the giant hand. Some members perceptively identified that the Hand may not have an entrance of its own – rather, perhaps it meshed with some of the local ruins upon its appearance, which would have created an entryway. After some searching, the party found a passageway through an old sewer entrance.

The path to the top of the hand was long and winding. At the top was a large fane, predictably furnished with (among other things) an altar. A cultist of Vecna stood over it, channeling divine and arcane energies into the cauldron.

When a party member attempted to sneak up behind the cultist, he cackled and invited the rest of the adventurers to “come out and play.” They did so, and the cultist continued what he was doing. When provoked, he turned and announced that he needs some “volunteers”; Lethe, Yellga and Nicolae did so, and were subjected to a fragment of Vecna’s mind. Meanwhile, the cultist summoned nefarious allies and attempted to overwhelm the remainder of the party.

A lengthy battle took place. Things looked dire for the adventurers until those trapped by Vecna’s mind broke free. The tides were quickly turned and the battle was won – but not before the lead cultist caused a chain reaction in the cauldron, causing the hand to tremble. The structure was collapsing!

Quickly, the adventurers dodged rubble and flew down the stairs, back toward safety. The sewer tunnels began collapsing, but the party pulled through just before the hand collapsed.

As the party collected themselves, Lethe felt the cold eyes of the forest staring at her. Clearly, the adventurers had the Chondalwood’s full attention.

Fourteenth Adventure (by George)

Episode 1

The party was back en route to Sapra in order to reach the Plaguewrought Lands. As they went, they noticed the phylactery in their guard would occasionally pulse with a cold, evil aura. As they traveled, their junk was overtaken by an extremely fast ship full of the living dead. Embergrace, worn thin by carrying the phylactery for too long and itching for some undead action, became excited by this turn of events. She teleported to the other ship, and began wreaking havoc on the undead crew. Meanwhile, the undead pirates catapulted their way over to the junk and reassembled into very swiftly-moving skeletons, of which the party disposed handily.

As the enemy’s ship veered away, listing to the side, the party could hear Embergrace’s assurance of her own safety with cries of “Aumanator provides!” and "I’ll meet you outside of the Plaguewrought Lands!”

The party docked at Sapra, in the country of Turmish; a land where the locals seemed gruff and impolite, but as it was a dock and a trading port, they were willing to deal with the adventurers.

An eladrin waited on the dock, bedecked in garb denoting him as a member of Bahamutian clergy. He seemed to recognize the party and hailed them immediately. The eladrin primarily addressed Eredon, but stated that he had received contact from Cardinal Dragonheart directing him to bring the party to the local Temple of Bahamut in order to speak with the Cardinal directly. The eladrin gave them directions to the temple, and went on his way.

Upon their arrival at the temple, the party was shown to a scrying pool. Two acolytes lit candles and muttered ritualistic words, and Dragonheart’s haggard, sleep-deprived figure appears. He stood in the Shadowdale Temple of Bahamut, back to the decorated front doors, now closed and barred.

Dragonheart looked relieved to see the party, and asked them what word they have. The party, having made little progress on their quest, encouraged the Cardinal to reveal what has happened since they last spoke. Cardinal Dragonheart did so – “Let me show you what has happened over the last few weeks…”

Dragonheart muttered words and waved his arms in incantation. The image in the pool faded away, then re-focused to a view of the city of Scardale. The undead threat had the city locked down. The guard was on high alert, and each member pulled double duty to ensure the safety of its citizens. Clergy members from all of the local faiths tended to their wounded. Behind the eyes of each guard lurked exhaustion; clearly, they couldn’t keep pace for long.

The view faded to Tilverton in the evening, where it was apparent that the heroes’ efforts to rebuild the town had profound effect. The city appeared heavily-fortified and the guards well-rested – but even as they patrolled the city walls, the sewer grates rose and were cast aside. A horde of small, nimble, undead figures flooded outward and began wreaking havoc on the city from the inside. The guard cleaned up the attack swiftly, but the damage wrought by the creatures was extensive.

The image in the pool swirled around and became still, and a view of a town overlooked by a large house appears. The town itself was in almost complete ruin, and the manor appeared infested with a number of undead. Dragonheart spoke again – “You now look at Shadowdale. A great evil took residence in the old Manor Hades, and routed the town. All remaining living citizens have either fled or seek sanctuary here in the temple.”

The pool revealed Dragonheart’s image again. “These are but a few of the towns, cities and settlements being assaulted. Many such places across the northern Realms suffer from a siege of undead.” He paused for a moment. “Slowly but surely, the living are being eradicated.”

“The few remaining in Shadowdale will evacuate and…” The cardinal was interrupted by a loud crash. The barred doors behind him fell inward, and a flood of ghouls tore into Bahamut’s sanctuary. The remaining guards inside the temple began fending off the assault. Meanwhile, a tall, handsome man with a pale visage and strikingly sharp figures stepped into the chapel, spotted the Cardinal, and pointed at him, issuing a silent challenge. The Cardinal, demonstrating surprising grace and agility for his age, leapt to the attack and called on Bahamut to dispel the figure; the man laughed, revealing pointed fangs. He appeared completely unaffected by the Cardinal’s banishment.

As the view in the scrying pool faded away for the last time, the Cardinal’s voice could be heard – “You must do what you can to stop the spread of the plague!”

The party was invited to take room and board at the Sapra Temple of Bahamut gratis while they figured out how to travel to Ormpetarr, the city on the edge of the Plaguewrought Lands.

In order to reach Ormpetarr, the adventurers could either travel through Turmish by road, or travel over water to the south of Sapra. As the party sought directions, they found that the locals weren’t particularly friendly – as it was, they were required to ingratiate themselves to the locals quite a bit in order to obtain any assistance from them whatsoever.

Slowlyl but surely, the residents of Sapra warmed up to the party. While going about the town meeting the wary folk of Sapra, the adventurers met a wild elf named Neera who, by happy coincidence, was attempting to return to the forest of Chondalwood, located just north of the Plaguewrought Lands. She was unable to make the trip alone, and was quite happy to lead the party to their destination in exchange for escort service along the way.

Episode 2

Neera advised the party that it would be a few days until she is ready to leave. As such, the adventurers spent some time at a local tavern, the Leaping Lizard. Inside, they noticed a wanted poster featuring the leader of a local band of ruffians, the Motley Mob. The figure featured most prominently was a female half-elf – but as no witnesses had seen her features, the poster was bereft of them.

Also in the tavern was a hooded figure wreathed in shadow; he approached the party, stated that he had been following them for some time in order to determine their motives, and decided that he wished to assist them. The adventurers and Belgarath joined forces.

The party devised a plan to lure the Mob out into the open. Lethe wandered along a path in the forest while the rest of the remainder of the party hid in the trees; most took refuge in Nicolae’s shroud, and Neil used his natural camouflage to hide amongst trees closer to Lethe herself. As the party hoped, the bandits approached Lethe and demanded a “toll” for their protection against the scum who walked the path; Lethe moved back toward the party in order to queue and attack. Neil snuck around behind one of the bandits in the trees and got a surprise attack, felling one of the foes before combat had started.

Belgarath pinned most of the mob into an illusive black hole of greed. Eredon marked a major target with holy power designed to damage the enemy and surrounding enemies. The half-elf raised her warriors from near-death, then disappeared and snuck around in order to attack the mages – but the rest of the party came quickly to their aid, and beat upon the half-elf until she surrendered. All in all, the bandits were no match for the party.

Belgarath attempted to question the half-elf, but she spat at him and merely gave haughty responses. The party turned her into the local constabulatory and claimed their reward.

Episode 3

Neera and the party made ready to depart. They traveled overland to the river inlet down which they would travel, boarded Neera’s rickety raft and went on their way.

The journey was long and arduous; members of the party were required to provide food for everyone as best they could along the way, and other members assisted in making sure that no person was too over-exposed to heat or other harsh weather conditions. The journey allowed little by way of rest; while the party could pull the raft to the side in order to take extensive rests, they were unable to fully refresh along the way.

Three days into the trip, the party came across two nereids who blocked the path by swaying the direction of the current. They wished only a sacrifice; either money, or a (male) adventurer. The party parleyed in an attempt to entice the nereids and convince them that they were friends; they were so successful that the nereids not only allowed the party passage without charge, but they also offered to follow as an escort.

Later in the day, the party along with their nereid escort came to a shoreline on which lived members of the hated kuo-toa, fishlike humanoids with a superiority complex and an unquenchable bloodthirst. Several of the lesser nereids were frightened by the presence of the kuo-toa, such that they swam about and disrupted the flow of the current, impeding the party’s progress to a standstill.

A confrontation ensued. Thinking quickly, Belgarath opened a dimensional gate from the raft to land in order to provide quicker access to the kuo-toa who were attacking from the shore. Eredon lay down holy marks to maintain the attention of the fish-men. With theirs and the combined efforts of the rest of the party, the enemy was quickly laid low.

A few more grueling days of travel on the river, and the adventurers’ raft exited the rapid flow of the river and into the wider, safer areas of a lake. Neera exclaimed cheerfully that they had made it, but as the party watched her face fell, she pointed forward and cried out, “Oh… oh no! It’s the…”

Episode 4


Sure enough, two large, subterranean beasts with alien features and many tentacles reared their ugly heads. The adventurers quickly realized the creatures exuded a hazy, slimy aura which created enough surface tension to walk on the water, but with extreme difficulty. Eredon took advantage of this by heading out to one of the creatures straightaway and marking it with the might of Bahamut’s holy grace. The party’s other melee fighters followed suit, the casters stuck to the rear, and before long the creatures were brought low.

The party docked at a harbor nearby to their destination, Ormpetarr. They were greeted by the harbormaster, who handed the party bag after bag of gold and exclaimed “Those critters have been giving us trouble for weeks! You’ve saved us a bundle of trouble. Here’s the reward we were offering!”

Twelfth Adventure (by Vivi)

Episode 1

The party continued their journey towards Selgaunt, where the Archbishop’s ship was said to be docked.

Episode 2

The party dragged a reluctant but subdued William and Penelope back to the Trade Baroness Salope’s Manor. Salope immediately had her guards escort Penelope to her room, and William to the dungeons. She then thanked our heroes, and informed them that she had already sent word to lift the lockdown on the docks. Trade Baroness Salope also informed the group that the sea was rife with pirates. As such, she proposed a mutually beneficial arrangement, wherein the junk would escort, and be escorted by, several of her own trade ships. The party agreed, then headed to pick up the junk’s navigator.

Yellga used her uncanny streetwise abilities to locate The Rusty Trap tavern, where the navigator was rumored to be. At the tavern, they quickly found the drunken but jovial navigator. Yellga once again proved her usefulness by ingratiating the man, and he agreed to go with the group if Neil could beat him at arm wrestling. Neil agreed, they found a suitable table, and locked arms. At first, the navigator held his own, but after a few tense moments, he suddenly passed out and lost. The party then dragged him to the docks.

As they approached the docks, they noticed many people bustling around the various ships, and received a few respectful nods as they made their way to the junk. At the junk they found Captain Winky, who introduced the captains of the escort ships. The group decided to split up, one to a ship, in order to make their talents widely available should pirates strike:

  • Morlak and Nicolae boarded the two ships with the most powerful armaments.
  • Embergrace and went aboard the fastest ship.
  • Yellga and Titanius took the sturdiest ships.
  • And Neil boarded the Junk, which was the most well-rounded of the ships.

The vessels shoved off together, and they sailed uneventfully in formation for a couple of days until suddenly (GASP!), a lookout spotted several pirate ships closing in! An epic ship-to-ship battle ensued between and around some nearby islands!

Our heroes took to sea combat like fish to water, and quickly began directing and bolstering the crew, augmenting the weapons, making repairs, anything they could do to (figuratively) turn the tide. Embergrace also offered strong tactical advice throughout the battle, which helped to keep the fleet organized and on target.

The pirates split their fleet, with three ships holding a bottleneck between two islands, while a second trio sped around a large island to flank our champions’ ships. Nicolae made some smart strikes, quickly darting behind a smaller island each time, to force the enemy ships in to the open. Our team strategically focused down a heavy-hitting enemy ship, and crippled another, which retreated and began circling around another island. Morlak was able to deal massive damage, but strayed a bit too close, and the pirates focus-fired his ship down.

Neil and Nicolae closed in around the retreating ship, but it managed to sink Nicolae’s boat before it was taken down. Embergrace raced between ships, simultaneously firing at enemies on both sides of her boat, and managed to finish off more than one pirate craft. Unfortunately for the pirates, the flanking ships arrived late. Though they were able to sink Yellga’s straggling hulk (the boat, not Yellga herself), our group was able to quickly refocus on them and bring them down.

All in all, three of six friendly ships were sunk by the time the last pirate went under, with the junk among the surviving ships. Each of our heroes was recovered, as well as most of the crew, and some of the cargo. With the waters temporarily safe, the party sailed on towards their destination.

Eleventh Adventure (by Mark)

Episode 1

14 Jan 2011

The party returned to Shadowdale where they confabbed with Cardinal Dragonheart about their recent adventures in and around Scardale. The Cardinal said “So, you helped the mayor of the town, the director of the theater, the ‘mining king’, and the captain of the guard?” Upon saying this, he produced the tile that Eradon had been given by the young, sickly oracle several adventures before, which featured four regal-looking statutes.

The Cardinal proceeded to tell of the coming of Archbishop Wyrmtooth, a man of no small importance in the clergy, and said that it is very, very important that you remember not to — but before he could finish, he was interrupted by a messenger clutching note. The messenger, a young acolyte of Bahamut, ran through the city market, screaming about intercepting some conspirators, but before he could arrive, a shooter on a rooftop hit the messenger, striking him down! Eradon quickly ran out and healed messenger, Embergrace took out shooter with a spell that slid him off the roof.

Embergrace, Neil, and Lethe ran to investigate the downed shooter. They discovered ritual scarifications on his face and arms that identified him as a member of the Demonoid gang. In addition, he was wearing a holy symbol of Aumanator. Embergrace inspected it more closely, and with her firm grasp of religious history, discovered that it was a counterfeit symbol, as it was missing the trademark ridges around the edges (such as one finds around the circumference of a quarter).

Back at the temple, the party tended to the young Acolyte’s wounds and inspected the message. The cryptic text read thusly:


After some experimentation, Embergrace cut the text into pieces after every eight characters (thinking that the leading ‘8’ might be a key) and stacked the rows on top of each other, thusly:


Reading the text downwards from left to right, and adding spaces in at all the right places produced the following:


The party understood this to mean that Vecna (“The Whispered One”) was planning to build a fortress on the sub-continent below the Sea of Fallen Stars near the epicenter of magical destruction following the death of Mystra at Cyric’s hand.

At this, Cardinal Dragonheart said “What luck! Archbishop has a boat you can use, docked at Selgaunt! He also has access to the Bahamutian treasorum, and can no doubt reward you handsomely. Ah, yes, but as for the very important thing I was going to tell you earlier, just don’t make any inappropriate comments around him! He’s a very ‘traditional’ man!”

At that, Archbishop Wyrmtooth arrived: a pleasant man around age 50, with a mat of greasy black hair upon his head and a big smile in the middle of his round, plump face. He proceeded to show them a painting of his boat — a Junk. The Cardinal’s cautionary advice proved harder to follow than expected, as a massive double-entendre-fest ensued.

The party then proceeded down the road, where they encountered some curious-looking cows that were pastured by a chest-high fence that produced electric shocks when touched. The party thought that these must be very special cows to be protected by such strong magics. Furthermore, they spotted the unmistakable glint of gold and jewels inadequately hidden amidst some hummocks of grass in the pasture. Leaping the fence, they found the fresh carcass of a horse. Upon investigation, they bumped into a giant, two-headed cow that had been not only invisible, but feeding upon the horse! A mighty combat ensued. The adventurers managed to down the cows and run off with the treasure.

Episode 2

21 Jan 2011

The party traveled southeast through the forests of the Daleleands until they finally arrived in the city of Highmoon. After looking at the map outside the city gates, the adventurers entered the city gates to The Rising Moon tavern. Their initial reception by the locals was rather chilly, with many doubting that this could be the party reputed to have rebuilt Tilverton, helped repair the town of Scardale, and helped to relieve the undead blight in Shadowdale. The group played a game of Lucky Squares with the locals, which helped the locals warm to them.

The party milled about town, learning some tidbits of information: some bandits had been terrorizing the town, many of them seemed to be marked with scarification on their faces, they were also observed bearing tattoos / symbols of Vecna, they were often seen in the vicinity of undead. It was also rumored that they were operating out of an old, ruined outpost south of Highmoon.

Their queries led them to the High Market where an obstacle course was being held. Apparently, this is an event the town plans for all year and draws contestants from miles away. With the encouragement of the locals, the party entered. The events were thus:

  1. Cargo Nets (Athletics)
  2. Taming a Roc at the top of the nets (Nature:Handle Animal)
  3. Rope swing (Acrobatics)
  4. Open a lock to escape a cage (Thievery)
  5. Get past a Golem guard (Arcana)
  6. Jump across the big, red Q-Tips (Athletics:Jump)
  7. Get past Sir Didymus (Diplomacy)
  8. Cross the bridge that spans a pool of magma (Endurance)
  9. Walk down a tightrope (Acrobatics)
  10. Sneak past Fluffy the Cerebus (Stealth)
  11. Cross a field of tentacles (Acrobatics or Athletics)
  12. Defeat a giant mousetrap at the end (Thievery)

The party did so well that they got… fourth place, losing only to seasoned veteran who had competed in years past. Having proven themselves, the locals now believed that they were responsible for the great city-building deeds they had heard of, and warmly offered to buy them a round at the Oak and Spear tavern just up the street.

Amidst the merry-making in the tavern, the party heard curious, dark chanting. Some investigation revealed that it was the rumored bandits! Using foul, necrotic magics, they summoned a horde of skeletons to terrorize the tavern! A mighty combat ensued, culminating with the fellowship putting down the skeletons, and ensuring that none of the innocents were harmed.

Episode 3

3 Feb 2011

After the fight in the tavern, the adventurers noticed that someone had aided them: a Goliath Barbarian by the name of Morlak. The party ws so pleased by his performance that they asked him to join them. They swapped life stories and before long they were fast friends.

Determined to pursue the Vecna-phillic bandits who had wreaked havoc on Highmoon, the adventurers slogged through the wilderness, finally arriving at an old, abandoned outpost. The tower-like structure presented three points of entry: a door at the base, a poorly-secured window 20 ft up, and a crenelated platform 40 ft up at the very top. The PC decided to head for the top, and with rope to aid their climbing, they all made it to the battlements.

A brief search revealed an unlocked trapdoor, so the party descended into the outpost. They discovered that the second floor consisted solely of a walkway that ringed the wall, leaving the center of the tower wide-open. The group began walking around the walkway to a staircase that led down to the 1st floor, when who should appear, but the bandits, now revealed as cultists! A great combat ensued, which included Neil leaping from the ledge into the fray, Nicolae getting pushed off onto the hard surface below, and Lethe getting slammed into the boarded windows by exploding zombies!

After the battle was ended, they found a statue in the middle of the ground floor which appeared to be in the likeness of Vecna as a warrior in his younger days. The adventurers discovered a set of nine numbered tiles near the plinth of the statue, along with a small depressed area in the floor that looked like it would hold the tiles in a 3×3 grid. Embergrace discovered that this was a magic square and with the help of her teammates, she soon configured the tiles correctly.

After the puzzle was solved, the statue moved back and revealed a square hole with a ladder descending. About 3 feet down, they saw a shimmering curtain, which they recognized from earlier encounters. They descended and found themselves in a familiar space: a platform with columns on one end, and many tiered balconies surrounding the platform, suspended in a cloudy atmosphere. The scene was a familiar one, but the party had not entered on this side before…

A shadowy figure appeared from the other side of the columns, none other than the FoDI. He appeared relieved as he exclaimed, “Oh good! You came!” Now at a closer distance, the party could see that he wore a holy symbol of Aumanator, albeit scarred and defaced. Some party members asked what was going on with him; why the strange appearances and disappearances? Great fatigue showed on his face as he told them his story.

Years ago his village was attacked by soldiers of Vecna. The battle was not going well and his people were about to be killed or taken as slaves. In desperation, he turned to the necromantic arts and raised dead villagers from the nearby cemetery. With these new, undead warriors, he saved the village, but at what cost? He was stripped of his office as an Invoker of Aumanator, and as a grim, ironic punishment, made to serve Vecna — the Lord of the Undead — for an undetermined time. The FoDI went on to say, “I miss seasons… I miss day and night… This punishment is more than I can bear. You’ve got to help me! Do you have Aumanator’s Lament?” Nicolae produced it from his bag of holding. Ominous creaking and scraping sounds were heard as he exclaimed “That’s it! That’s the key! That’s why I sought the Scepter of Bahamut, I thought the Scepter could cancel out Lament! But no, you’ve got to hurry, the dimensional fabric is too weak to hold it, we can’t find a place that’s strong enough. That’s why My Master is going to the Plaguewrought lands: only there are the negative magics strong enough to support it. But you’ve got to hurry!” As the FoDI spoke, the balconies were crushed, tier by tier, by some invisible force. As the platform was about to be destroyed, he exclaimed “Here, take these!” and summoned a treasure chest. The party took it with them and ascended the ladder, just as a huge explosion was heard below.

When they arrived back in the outpost, there was nothing but a two-foot square hole in the floor with a solid, stone bottom.

Tenth Adventure (by Vivi)

Episode 1

The party hung around in Scardale for a day or two, and took in some much needed rest and relaxation. Most of their leisure time was spent at the Seven Eels tavern, where they played a drinking game called Liar’s Dice.

At the beginning of the game, most of the contention was between Embergrace, Nicolae Grihmm, Jade, and Neil. Nicolae would make outrageous bets, then attempt to bluff his way out of them. Sometimes this would work, which would pass the bet to Jade; sometimes Neil or Embergrace would see through his bluffs, and Nicolae would be forced to drink two drinks. After several rounds of this, the booze proved to be too much for Nicolae, and he lost.

Neil took a semi-active role, and was forced to take a few drinks here and there, but they didn’t seem to affect him at all. Eredon, Jade, Embergrace, and Titanius managed to hold on for quite a while, but once they started losing, got quickly drunk and went out.

Yellga somehow stayed out of the challenges most of the game, other than cheating by subtly manipulating her dice against the other players. Thus, the final two players were Yellga and Neil. Yellga, having avoided any drinking, bluffed her way through most of Neil’s challenges. Though Neil’s continued resistance to the alchohol kept him up for longer than anyone expected, in the end he was simply no match for the viking’s wiles, and Yellga finally emerged as the sober victor. Our portly bard then took the opportunity to lighten the rest of the passed out party’s purses.

After the party came to, they decided to get back to business, and remembered that Regulus Blackwater, the captain of the Scardale guard, still needed help repairing the city walls.

Our heroes found Regulus at his usual post near one of the Scardale gates. He seemed relieved to see them, and explained that he needed help defending from a group of hounds that had been infiltrating the city on random nights and terrorizing the citizens. He described the hounds as gaunt, bony creatures with large tendril-like spines for manes. When they attacked, the creatures would often only kill one citizen, and would then leave without consuming the kill.

He also explained that, as a trading port, Scardale hadn’t had much need for heavy defenses in recent times, so the walls and equipment were all in varying states of disrepair. Our party agreed to help fix up the defenses, and to fend off the raiding beasts. The fortification took place as a skill challenge/montage.

First, they recruited some Scardale residents to help them with the heavy lifting, and had the recruits gather supplies. They also trained the citizens in basic combat. With the villagers’ help, Eredon and Titanius re-dug the dried up moat and refilled it with not just water, but snapping saltwater crocodiles from the nearby beaches. Yellga patched up the crumbling wall, and repaired the battlements, while Neil replaced the decayed gate. Neil and Embergrace then cleared the overgrown trees from the surrounding area, which would have provided cover for the attackers, and used the lumber to build a drawbridge. Nicolae created a deadly trap by spreading flammable oil between the moat and the remaining trees, and showed the villagers how to keep it replenished.

At some point during all these goings on, Nicolae and Embergrace got in to an argument over the proper workings of the universe, and a duel ensued. As they fought, a scout arrived and started jabbering excitedly to Yellga that attackers had been spotted about a day’s march away. The duel continued, while the other party members built a trebuchet atop one of the fort towers, placed bets on the outcome of the match, and swayed the fight with magical buffs for one side or the other. Finally, Nicolae emerged victorious, and the whole party used the remaining night to get some much needed rest.

The next morning, the entire group perched atop the outer wall and waited tensely for the raiders to arrive. When the attackers began emerging from the dense forests, our heroes could see that the hounds were joined by ravenous ghouls and dark cultists. They identified the hounds as howlers, evil quilled beasts which literally subsist by consuming fear.

As the attackers drew closer and closer, Neil, Eredon, and Naess decided to face the enemies head-on. Embergrace teleported them from the wall to the battlefield, and they bravely marched across their own oil trap to get in to the fray. The cultists happily siezed the opportunity and lit the oil patches, burning the melee champions (and a couple of hounds).

The trebuchet picked off the ghouls, while the archers rained arrows on the closer hounds. Embergrace, sensing a need to help the ground combatants, hit the mechanism for lowering the drawbridge, jumped over the wall’s edge, and deftly rode the falling bridge down.

The cultists used dark magics to continually knock our party in to the flames, while the burning hounds howled, chilling those in range and wracking their minds with psychic damage. When Neil nearly went down, Yellga became desperate to provide some healing, but realized that she was just out of range from the top of the wall. She quickly concocted a plan to ride the trebuchet’s swing-arm out over the wall, giving her just enough reach to help those burning below.

After some choice spells, Yellga decided to use the swing-arm’s momentum to leap over the moat. Unfortunately, she slipped, and dropped like a flabby rock in to the croc-infested drink. The green beasts greedily snapped at her legs, but she selflessly held her ground and withstood the pain in order to provide continual support to those fighting.

After two rounds, which felt like an eternity, the flames thankfully died out. Nicolae and Titanius then joined the ground forces, and began laying in to the remaining cultists. The bad guys would have probably run away at this point, except that our group blinded, dazed, and mercilessly beat them, until they were unable to tell which way was up, let alone out. Thus, they stood their ground and attempted to do as much damage as possible in the name of their god before finally expiring.

Embergrace identified the cultists as followers of Vecna, the evil god who was rumored to have strong connections to the undead plague which was presently rampant in the Dalelands. The party looted the bodies, then returned to Scardale for another night’s rest.

Episode 2

The party returned to Regulus Blackwater, who thanked them for defending the city, and requested further help. Regulus explained that Scardale normally kept guards patrolling the roads to nearby towns, to keep the way safe for trade caravans and such, but that their guards had been spread thin just protecting the city itself. To combat this, the city was sending mercenaries and adventurers to protect as many traveling caravans as possible. A recent caravan had made its way to Shadowdale, then headed back with an adventuring party escort, but never arrived back at Scardale. Regulus asked our heroes to search the road for signs of the caravan.

The group decided to travel at night and camp during the day, so as to be alert for any possible roving undead. Through a skill challenge, they searched the road for two nights before finding signs of the caravan having gone off the path and in to the forest. Following the trail, they eventually discovered a clearing strewn with splintered wood and the corpses of undead, which was likely the site of a battle involving the caravan.

As daylight approached, they made camp and rested once more. Near the end of the party’s rest, Neil and Embergrace, who were keeping watch at the time, heard rustling in the nearby forest, and immediately woke everyone else up. A party of spriggans (AKA redcaps) and their pet manticore (or perhaps the other way around?) had stumbled across the camp while on the hunt.

The party started by focusing down the manticore, and though the huge creature flitted around the battlefield making darting strikes, it was brought down too quickly to do any real damage. As the beast neared death, Naess made a deft strike to the base of its wing, and blood gushed forth. While it was stumbling in pain, the rogue quickly followed with a pinpoint strike directly to its heart, felling it almost instantly. With the manticore gone, the heroes turned to the nasty fae creatures amongst the trees, and picked them off one by one.

After looting the bodies and breaking camp, the group found a stone entryway almost entirely obscured by vines. Embergrace, searching her unparalleled knowledge of history, identified it as likely being the Crypt of the Twelve, a mysterious and ancient crypt from long-gone civilizations which was rumored to contain ancient treasures.

The adventurers descended along the musty crypt entrance passage, brushing vines and cobwebs aside, and arrived in a large chamber. At the other side of the chamber was a pitch-black chasm, with no bottom or opposite ledge in sight. To the left, they found an open archway, and to the right, a groove in the stone wall indicating a secret door. Nicolae managed to detect that the door was magically locked.

Yellga was searching her way around the perimeter of the room, when suddenly she heard voices calling for help from across the dark pit! Yellga replied, and spoke with at least two individuals, who said that they were trapped. The others explained that they had been escorting the caravan when they were attacked and driven off the road. They were forced to retreat from the ensuing battle and in to the crypt, but the caravaners had been lost in the fray.

When the others arrived in the main chamber, they found more undead, so they devised a strategy to push them off the cliffs and in to the pit. No sooner had this plan come to fruition than strange glowing spider cracks had formed in to magical platforms just off the dark ledge. They had stepped on to these, and were transported to the other side. Unfortunately, this was a one way trip, and they were apparently now in a similar room at least 50 feet across the gap, with the only other entrance/exit being a single magically locked door.

Our heroes told the others they’d try to help, then continued searching their surroundings. Through the archway, they followed a hallway to a much smaller room containing a dais against the back wall. Carved in to the top of the dais was an eight-by-eight grid. Behind the dais, on the wall, the group found a smaller secret door with a strange inscription on it:


Yellga took the lead in decoding the message, but soon the whole group had joined in, and each member contributed to the final solution:

Coexist, eight monarchs must;
Though each one shows a lack of trust.
Trade rocks for royals, board for stone;
But err, and your fate is sewn.

Yellga immediately realized that this referred to the classic “eight queens” problem, wherein eight chess queens must be placed on a standard chessboard in such a way that none of them can directly attack another in a single move. Yellga began eagerly placing stones on the dais’ grid. In her zeal, she made an occasional mistake, placing a queen where it was threatened by another. Each time this happened, the stone would leap off the board, and crossbow bolts would fire from holes in the wall, doing significant damage to anyone not quick enough to avoid them. Each time, Yellga dodged or simply took a bolt to the side, and diligently continued her work until all eight ‘queens’ were properly placed.

As the last rock was dropped, the stone slab behind the dais swung backwards to reveal a small alcove in the wall. Embedded in the bottom of the cabinet was a dark glassy stone, with purples, greens, and grays swirling almost imperceptibly just beneath the surface.

Naess (was it him?) immediately reached out to touch the stone, but the moment his finger brushed the polished surface, he slumped to the ground. Nicolae attempted to use his knowledge of arcane magics to determine what had happened, and discovered that the stone had affected Naess through magical means, not poison or physical damage. The magic used was obviously high level, and Nicolae was able to detect only that a transferrence of energy was involved. Guessing that Naess was in some sort of trance, the sorcerer decided that the best way to explore this mystery further was to follow suit, and touched the crystal. Just as Naess had, he dropped, unconscious, to the floor.

One by one, the rest of the party investigated the rock. Some would deliberately make contact; those who didn’t heard soft whispers saying “touch it!” Some would approach, intending only to visually inspect the device, when suddenly their hands would “slip” and brush against it. Within a few minutes, every party member had succumbed to the will of the thing and fallen asleep…

Episode 3

One by one, the party awoke together in a cold room, dimly lit in a soft blue glow. Their muscles felt stiff and awkward, as if they’d been laying on the stone floor for a very long time. Looking around, the room was obviously a burial chamber, with countless bodies laying stacked in alcoves along two walls. A third wall had completely caved in, and a fourth wall had an open doorway with a long hall. The faint blue glow seemed to be emanating from a phosphorescent cave fungus, which was clinging to the walls and corpses.

Yellga searched her pockets for a light source, and discovered that much of the party’s equipment was missing! Each person only had what they had been wearing or wielding when they touched the crystal. To combat the darkness, the bard coated an unused bone in the fungus, then set off down the dark hallway.

At the other end of the hall, the group found a small room with a pool of water covering the opposite half of the floor, and a locked door to the left. Nicolae attempted to open the door, and found that it was not only locked, but trapped! As he twisted the knob, a needle, glistening with poison, sprung from the keyhole and stabbed his outstretched hand. Yellga, donning the Gloves of Thieving, tried her hands at lockpicking, and dextrously avoided the needle until the door opened with a satisfying click.

Beyond the door was little more than a glorified closet, containing three sturdy-looking treasure chests. Wary of traps, the party examined the chests. They were able to determine that there were mimics among the chests, but in the darkness, they couldn’t tell which boxes were living and which weren’t.

Neil poked and prodded at the chests with his sword, but each one remained completely still. He attempted to drag one of the chests out in to the main room, but as he approached it, two of the containers sprang to life, seizing the opportunity (and Neil), and lashing at him with painfully acidic tentacles. Neil held his ground in close quarters, while the rest of the group gathered around to take shots. The ravenous shapeshifters were quickly dispatched, and the single real chest was looted.

Eighth Adventure (by George)

Episode 1

After spending a couple of weeks assisting the dwarves by building up their defenses and providing training against future incursions, the party headed back to Shadowdale. They discovered the place to be nearly bereft of activity. Eredon attempted to speak with the resident of one of the houses and found that people were dying left and right.

The party checked in with Cardinal Dragonheart at the Temple of Bahamut. He gave the sad news that a plague had arisen in Shadowdale. The temple had been kept busy with plague victims who required tending, so Embergrace volunteered her services. Meanwhile, Dragonheart requested that the party search the town for survivors while looking for the source of the undead and, if possible, putting a stop to it.

The party agreed and began by studying Patient Zero. While the only information that the clergy had on the plague was that it was transmittable by bite, this patient had no marks on him, though he had clearly been undead at one point. Eredon suggested that they search his house, so the party headed that direction.

On the way, the sky became overcast, and it started to rain. Though it was midday, it seemed too dark; Lethe identified this as a storm of unnatural origin. The adventurers also discovered that the swarms of undead figures in the streets were gathering in larger numbers and it was necessary to begin avoiding them. As time went on, this became increasingly difficult; it seemed as if more and more undead villagers were popping up from nowhere.

Episode 2

The party discovered that they could use the Scepter of Bahamut to avoid contact with the zombie hordes while traveling through the city streets. Using this newfound mobility, the adventurers went to the Apothecary’s house. They spoke with his attendant, who they learned was a relatively new hire (which aroused suspicion).

They then went upstairs and met the Apothecary himself. After a little chit-chat, a great noise was heard downstairs. Yellga feigned dropping her lyre and stayed behind, claiming that it needed to be re-tuned. The rest of the party went downstairs to find the assistant turning into a reaper! After the battle, they found a holy symbol of Vecna on the body, and learned that this poor fellow’s transformation must have been the work of one of Vecna’s minions.

Upon returning upstairs, the party discovered that both Yellga and the Apothecary were gone. The party members searched around the room and discovered a trap door. Going into it, they found that it led down to…

Episode 3

… A horrific underground lair! This one was complete with standard villainous decorations: mighty pillars, a miasma of mist that suggested they might be in (another) pocket dimension, glowy magic sigils on the floor with undead standing in them, and a bloody altar that held a bound and tethered Yellga! With plot-like timing, the adventurers arrived just in time to see the Apothecary raise his ceremonial dagger over Yellga. Eredon charged at him with paladinic righteous rage… and proceeded to miss him completely and stumble off behind him. This turned out to be for the best as a fearsome foursome of flaming skulls hurled volleys of fireballs onto the rest of the party. A mighty battle ensued which left the undead vanquished, Yellga freed, and the adventurers victorious. The only tarnish on the victory was that the nefarious Apothecary escaped down a tunnel.

The party finished off the undead horde, and began heading in the direction which the Apothecary fled. They found the way to be blocked by a closed door with no keyhole. Powerful magics held it shut.

Episode 4

Unable to pass through the door, and finding nothing else of interest downstairs, the party went back upstairs to the Apothecary’s lab to look for clues. A quick search revealed some of his notes, which referred to the downstairs lair as a “nexus” and alluded to some kind of mystical “gates” that could teleport people to and from the nexus and that said gates could be opened with a special kind of “key” (though certainly not the traditional, metal, handheld key with teeth on it). Some rumaging in the Shadowdale library revealed that one such location might be Myth Drannor, which was an ancient, magical city constructed by Elves and Dwarves. Some further research revealed that perhaps an Elf and a Dwarf would be required to open a gate, so the party procured a loudmouthed drunken Dwarf from the Temple of Bahamut that was seeking refuge there. The Dwarf spoke Common, but the party had grown so accustomed to Dwarves that were hard to communicate with, that they opted to trade it in for one that only spoke Dwarven. (The party did not need to procure an Elf as we discovered that their Eladrin Paladin would be a functional Elf equivalent.)

The party then journeyed back down to the nexus and found a conspicuous looking arch on one of the mausoleums outside the temple/altar area. Not wanting the Dwarf and Eladrin to get seperated, they lashed the Dwarf to the back of the Eladrin (using a cursed rope to make his removal that much more difficult), and sent them through the arch. A satisfyingly swirly portal appeared and without much further ado, the party leapt through.

They arrived at what can only be described as a zombie village. Numerous undead were milling about, pantomiming performing daily chores (such as planting imaginary potatoes) like they might have done when they were alive. The adventurers spoke with the village elder (the Paladin had a little difficulty being heard over the Dwarf) and explained the plight of the undead plague that had oer’run Shadowdale. The elder replied that some of the villagers here might be able to help. The party then proceeded to recruit some of the local undead denizens to return with them to help put things right back at Shadowdale.

Episode 5

On the party’s return to the sealed door, Nicholae pulled out Amaunator’s Lament and applied it to the door, causing it to open in an energetic manner. The party snuck into the next room, stirred the bones of a few sarcophagi, and happened upon the apothecary, who was sitting on a throne and appeared lost in thought.

The party attempted to surprise him, but were unsuccessful in their attempt. Combat ensued; three pillars of energy appeared as before, and in each a group of undead appeared. The inhabitants of the crypt assisted the party inasmuch as they were able. The battle was fierce, but as the last blow was struck against the apothecary, all of the undead disappeared – including the party’s allies, presumably because the reason for their uprising ceased to be an issue.

The apothecary begged for mercy; Kyle, in a fit of divine inspiration, managed to remove the cursed rope and dwarf from his person, disrobed both the dwarf and the apothecary, and attached the dwarf to the apothecary, face-to-face, utilizing the same cursed rope (in comical slap-bracelet fashion).

The party returned to the Temple of Bahamut. As they passed through Shadowdale, they found that it was still largely overrun; stopping the apothecary didn’t seem to help the situation. They delivered the news and the evidence (in the form of the apothecary’s journal) to Cardinal Dragonheart, who in turn informed the party that Shadowdale’s infestation is not an isolated incident – reports have come in of similar incidents across the continent.

Loose Ends:

  • The journal detailed a shipment of supplies, but didn’t go into much further detail beyond that. What is the true origin and nature of the undead plague? Was it contained in the dritzky (dropsy, rickets, scurvy) cure which the apothecary distributed, or was there more to it than that?
  • Is this tied to the Figure of Dubious Intent?
  • The party did not check with the authoritative figure in command of the “undead village” in the crypt. While his undead was satisfied, was he? Did he still have a reward for the party’s efforts? Why was he thrown in there, anyway? Seems like kind of an inconvenient plot devi-
  • When the party fought the undead in the crypt, they felt ill effects, but try as they might no member could fail a saving throw. What was the effect? (The party may never know.)

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