Ask Question, Receive Lies

In Which Armageddon is Avoided
Well! At Least The Backyard's Safe

Our heroes, fresh from a much-needed rest, travel ever onward with Elspeth to the site of the final ritual to stop and even reverse the damage her society has caused to this area. They find themselves on a rocky plinth overlooking a tall waterfall, which empties into one of the three main lakes of the region. At first glance, the plinth is not accessible, but Elspeth has an edge. She does the same shufflestep that the council searchers do, and just like that, our heroes are now in the ritual space.

Once there, Elspeth wastes no time getting her materials ready, and beginning the ritual preparations. Right about here is where everything goes straight to hell. Just as Elspeth gets going and can’t stop preparations, three portals open up, and start spewing corrupt councilors and little whirlwind elementals all over the place. The elementals are annoying as hell. They move everyone all over the place, and fling each other at the party. The councilors are more focused: they head straight for Elspeth, stopping only when the party demands their attention.

It becomes quickly apparent that our heroes will not only have to fight off the hordes, but contribute to Elspeth’s protection over the course of the fight. Kol conjures up a telekinetic shield. Keyleth calls down the wrath of Dol Arrah and burns a portal out with the angry sun. Cyricus beats things up and An-Eld figured out the general tactics in play. During the encounter, Kol sends out a mental challenge to one of the aggressors: “Why are you so determined to stop this ritual?” and receives the answer “This will certainly displease the Three. The consequences of their displeasure are always deadly. We must not fail here.”

It takes Elspeth some time to finish her ritual, but when she completes it, she summons a pillar of cold arcane light that is beautiful, powerful, and ultimately deadly to the aggressors. They are burned to dust in an instant, and even our heroes come close to being pushed right off the plinth. An-Eld gets an impromptu bath when he is thrown into the river.

Unfortunately, the ritual casting leaves Elspeth spent. She falls unconscious as soon as it’s all over, and while the crew decides what to do, An-Eld pitches a tent and goes to work lighting some fires, while Cyricus goes to pick Elspeth up to put her in a better spot.

Cyricus’ hands don’t even fully make contact with Elspeth before his soul is whisked away and he finds himself alone facing the Raven Queen. She tells him that his requirements in the bargain made for his soul have been met. He is free of the terrible demands she was forced to place on him. He no longer faces the prospect of eternal loneliness, and when he dies again, he will be returned to the Raven Queen’s embrace as if none of this had ever happened. He is now for all intents and purposes… free. When he regains himself, Cyricus has a lot of questions. He finds out that Elspeth has been completely attuned to the Star, and so has become an extension of it. This means that he has “placed his hands upon the Star” as the Raven Queen required. The Star is a shard of an ancient soul; in fact, the Star is a fraction of the soul of the most ancient being in the universe at large, and its whole purpose, insofar as the Raven Queen can tell, is to be at the right place in time to bring the right people together to correct an ancient wrong. Further, she warns that the corruption within the Council that our heroes have witnessed runs very very deep. The Raven Queen reassures Cyricus that Elspeth is trustworthy, and while perhaps naive and unrefined in her methods, she truly is working for what she believes to be the greater good.

After all this information, a fairly-shaken Cyricus asks for the Raven Queen’s patronage. She is more than happy to oblige. She promises to find a way to make her holy symbol come into his possession soon, and welcomes him into her service.

Once Cyricus returns to himself, the party hunkers down to wait for Elspeth to do the same.

In Which The Dark Arts Defend Against You
In soviet Raisbuit....

After finishing up in Graight-on-the Crater, the party decides to mount up and head somewhere to meet up with Elspeth…. somewhere. Maybe soon. Unfortunately, the party and Elspeth all neglected to hammer out details of that. Luckily, Cyricus finds he has a compulsion to head roughly northeast toward the center of the country. As the party mounts up and heads out, the troubles have visibly lessened in intensity and frequency. Whole hours pass without sight of fire or falling rocks.

Unfortunately, it isn’t long before the almost peaceful scene of the day is shattered when a whole squad of the creepy robed guys come silently out of the woods using their weird shuffling teleport-step. This squad of creepy guys has a recognizable leader, though, who introduces himself as Zanaver Bloodbane. He then explains that the party has been declared traitorous to the Council and was to be brought back to Council lands for trial and sentencing. He then invites them to surrender, explaining that surrendering would count as their pleading guilty and they would die humanely without pain.

The party politely decline this invitation, and Elspeth shows up just in the nick of time to join in the fray.

The fight is hard, and both Elspeth and Kol eat dirt a couple of times. The enemies seem to specialize in immobilizing the party, but they prevail in the end.

A look around the battlefield after the fight reveals some very unsettling details. The Council corpses are decaying far too quickly, and leaving behind vile black goo which is drying out into some unnatural dust faster than should be possible. The obvious necromantic leavings send Elspeth into a mild panic.

Elspeth’s panic is only intensified when the party recovers a strange locket on Zanaver’s former corpse that she can’t conclusively identify, even with her extensive experience. All she can tell is that it’s obviously an artificer’s invention, but is unimaginably ancient and of a quality not even the Council can recreate.

Kol, struck by a sudden inspiration, made a mental probe of the object. While it didn’t reveal the nature or use of the thing, he was seized by a vision showing how Zanaver got it. In the vision, Kol sees the world through Zanaver’s eyes. He sees a darkened circular room lit only by corrupted spirit candles, and a shrouded, hooded, concealed figure in front of him. The figure’s face is completely hidden from his view, but the figure holds up the locket in a hand that is horrific: it is gnarled, with bones that look to have been broken and badly set, leading to gruesome folded skin and tissue. The figure gives the locket to Zanaver, while an unknown voice whispers sibiliant words in Abyssal. Kol, who speaks Primordial, is able to pick out a word or two here and there. He gets words like “death” “knowledge” “pain” “truth” and “trial”. When Kol relays this vision to the rest of the party…. Elspeth goes into an even deeper panic.

Once she has had a chance to calm herself down and focus a little, she tells the party she will need some time to find out what she can, but says this hints at some deep corruption somewhere within Council society. She references a disbanded research group as well; the group was tasked with learning everything they could about the fundamental nature of evil, but then disbanded because the side effects of that research on the researchers were so extreme that they outweighed any measurable benefit.

A few more moments of thought from Elspeth have her return the Northman brooch that she had palmed from Kol before she left them the last time, and then sniffing out the signet the party… acquired from Thomas Spriten. When she sees the signet she visibly recoils from it. She explains that the variation of the standard Council icon on this ring is the symbol of the disbanded Committee for the Research of Evil, and shows her personal Council symbol as a contrast. That they are using the old symbol as their identifier to each other shows that they’re far more organized than a recently-activated group could be. And, she says, it’s broadcasting their position to anyone who happens to be able to listen for it.

She takes the signet, performs some ritualized magic on it, and shuts the broadcast down. Once all this is done, she admits to the party that she may need to ask more of them at a later time. Keyleth is unimpressed by this.

Our heroes wander off into the evening to find a safe place to make camp. The whole party is pretty beat up, it makes no sense to throw themselves into anything without it.

Wreckage 8-8: Your Sister HAS To Be In This One
In Which Our Heroes Make a Bunch of Duergar Their Pinatas

When we last left our heroes, they had manage to convince their dwarven contact, Gundren Draigha, that they were all completely insane, and earned a dwarven patroller to accompany them for their troubles. They’d been asked to find evidence of the patroller’s sister, and then stumbled across a Duergar raiding party.

The raiding party proves to be a greater challenge than any of the fights our heroes have encountered so far, which is to say, they did manage to bloody at least one of the party members before they got their skulls caved in. An-Eld manages to invoke the wrath of a rare subterranean squirrel in response to an old sin, while Kol spends most of the fight with his pants on fire. Granted as a Tiefling it mostly just means he had a pleasant warm sensation around his knees but hey, fire is technically fire.

After wrapping up the fight with the Duergar, the party quickly heads to their primary destination, which turns out to be some kind of ancient gazebo-like structure. It is hexagonal, and instead of plain ol’ pillars holding it up, there is a statue carved to look like one of the six members of the expedition that brought the dwarves here in the first place, and who founded Graight-On-The-Crater. Interestingly, the building was not built per se, but rather carved from the surrounding rock to make a housing for the second wondrous feature of the gazebo: the enormous, glowing, faceted crystal that Tommy the dwarven patrolman tells them was found in the roof of the original cavern, which was not nearly so high. The glow is hard to pinpoint: it’s hard to tell if it comes from the crystal itself or the luminescent lichen all over the place. However, when our heroes approach the gazebo, and place their warding glyph on the raised dais they find in the middle of it, the light quickly changes colour, mingles with the light in the glyph itself, and all of a sudden gains in intensity, lighting the entire city up with dim light.

This sudden surge of light causes the invading Duergar a lot of consternation. It’s unclear whether they’re being physically hurt by the light or just surprised and likely having troubles seeing in it, but they’re sure noisy when they’re mad. With that taken care of, they go to Tommy’s sister’s house on the north end of the park to see if they can find a little closure for poor Tommy, who’s convinced his sister is dead.

When they get to the house, An-Eld decides to scout the place out before barging in. He finds a burnt-out husk, with one room relatively intact in the lower floor. Seeing that things appear to be relatively safe, our heroes venture bravely in… to find Molly, Tommy’s sister in the midst of some improvised burial rites for her husband, accompanied by her son.

The two dwarf survivors are emaciated, badly hurt, and possibly ill. They’ve been cut off from help since the beginning of the troubles, and Molly’s husband died when he fell prey to a Duergar ambush during a desperate foray to find food. Our heroes decide that the best course of action is a hasty retreat, and so they start getting the refugees ready to get back to relative safety.

Unfortunately, just as the party is headed out the front door of the house, an ANGRY DUERGAR SWARM starts rolling in from the back! Reacting quickly, Kol convinces half of them through psychic trickery that they’re throwing themselves down a hole, which gets the gullible trampled by their eager fellows. Keyleth follows up with a lovely mote of sunlight, which blinds, confuses, and this time definitely hurts their little eyes. While all this is going on, the party is trying to quicktime it away from the house and the duergar. An-Eld and Cyricus try alternately shouting at and then picking up the refugees, while Kol gets the brilliant idea to pack a handful of the arcane residue the party has been collecting into a ball and throw it on Keyleth’s light. The resulting kaboom is bridge-shattering. As the party picks up more speed in their flight, they find the dwarves coming in as reinforcements, which ultimately allows our heroes to duck behind their lines and safely escort the refugees to camp.

After an action-packed, thrilling day of too many Duergar…. our heroes take advantage of the safe place to get some rest before facing off against anything else.

Adventures With the Undertall
In Which Old Clich├ęs Prove Too Easy to Give Up

Some uneventful travel leads our heroes to the dwarven capital of Graight-On-The-Crater in Raisbuit. The city has not been immune to the troubles, in fact in some cases, its enclosed nature has only amplified the effect when fire columns appear. This has left the city in a shambles. Most significantly to the dwarves, their stone roof over their city has cracked, allowing the sky to seep through, which causes deep anxiety in the citizens. Dwarves are quietly, but very deeply, agoraphobic.

Predictably, in the face of these events, the dwarves are mounting an expedition to find a new site to dig out another city in safer environs. They’ve left behind a skeleton crew to do the final cleanup and make one last sweep for survivors. This crew is headed up by Gundren Draigha, who conveniently happens to be the contact given to the party.

After a colourful conversation with a stressed-out Gundren, the party is given leave to go wherever they want and do whatever they need, since the dwarven crew is basically powerless to stop them anyway. During the conversation, Gundren begins to fear that the party is insane, and so sends one of the scouts along behind them to make sure they don’t do anything overtly self-destructive.

As our heroes crossed the line from the barely-secured territory of the remaining dwarves into the no-man’s-land in the city’s center, the scout informs them that the area is extremely dangerous and full of marauding duergar parties. To boot, the decorative glassed-in lava flows the dwarves have used for public lighting for centuries have, in places, broken through their glass, leaving open flows of lava. There’s also a new crevasse that has opened just to the east of the great central park in the middle of the city. The crevasse is unfathomably deep, at least thousands of feet into the earth. This has provided a convenient entry point for the duergar.

Once that’s covered, the scout then asks them to keep an eye out for his sister’s family, who lived in a house just north of the central park. They haven’t been seen since the devastation. He does not believe the party will find them alive, but would like to make sure one way or the other. The party agrees to look.

The dwarven scout is less interested in keeping up with the party as they pass into the unsecured zones. He is still there but is keeping himself safe first and foremost. As the party gets within sight of their ultimate destination within Graight-on-the-Crater, they stumble across one of those very duergar scouting parties. There are two duergar, and two enormous demon-lookin’ dog things. They are busily looking around, presumably for things worth stealing.

The party doesn’t manage to surprise them, but Cyricus does manage to get the closest to them before they notice what’s going on.

The Part Where They Fail to Kill You
Some secrets are just meant to be discovered

Our heroes find themselves facing the very same foes Keyleth faced with Randy so long ago. Two human…ish types with robes, hoods and a creepy shuffling walk that seems to teleport them short distances as they go. They try to fight their way to our heroes’ new-found companion, but find themselves quickly surrounded, bogged down in close-quarters combat, and blasted to smithereens. One resurrects the other, but they are both destroyed before it can happen a second time. The new “friend” of the party proves extremely useful in combat as well.

As the two figures are dispatched, they seem to disappear into the ether. However, they leave behind more of the arcane residue that An-eld has recently taken such a liking to, as well as some tiny orbs of pure arcane energy, that the party finds that each of the orbs seems to have attuned itself with a particular piece of their equipment. Each of the party gets something of theirs upgraded. An-Eld and Keyleth get new versions of their weapons, Cyricus gets a new belt, and Kol is the proud new owner of a Handy Haversack.

After fighting and getting their treasure, our heroes got down to the business of finding out a few things about their new “friend”. In that particular conversation, they find out that they’ve been defending Elspeth Uskar, a rogue councillor on the The Council of the Magi. She has abandoned her post and her life within the society of the council to try and reverse some of the unintentional damage her council compatriots have caused in the world around them while they work on their “penultimate project” to fix a pervasive infection of decay and instability in the universe as a whole. The other Councillors have become so focused on this project and the problem, and so insular and so disregarding of the world outside their borders, that they have failed to consider the short-to-medium term effects of their experimentation and interference on it. She has left them, taking her best power source with her, to begin the slow process of bringing this world back into balance, so that it doesn’t tear itself apart. This action has caused her to become pariah within the council society.

As the party explains what they have come for, how their mission has changed, grown and evolved, Elspeth proposes a deal. If the party will venture into Graight-on-the-Crater, and place one of Elspeth’s wards within the central cavern, she will take them to commune with the Star, and see if they can acquire one of its echoes.

See, the Star is quasi-conscious. There is a shred of soul in it, that seems to have been willingly sacrificed by a live donor. It is too large, heavy and powerful to carry the whole thing around to use its power. So if one were to ask the Star for an echo of it, and the Star believes this echo is made for a good reason, it will give the person who asks a replica of itself which serves as a conduit through which the power of the Star can be accessed.

Keyleth is not impressed with this idea. Her previous experiences have made her angry with and distrustful of the Council. However, since the rest of the party seems amenable, she decides to go along with it for the time being.

With this new plan in effect, the party sets out for Graight-on-the-Crater, with Elspeth’s ward in hand. She plans to place similar wards in other key locations throughout Raisbuit, and when all are placed, they will rendezvous somewhere for the final ritual.

There Are No Land Sharks in the Northern Forests
But there ARE eleph-ants

Some time after fleeing the bar tent in fear of reprisal for stuffing its owner in a beer barrel, our heroes made camp for the night. Confidentially speaking, they didn’t so much flee as mosey off, and in truth they weren’t so much fearing reprisal as a tad unsettled at their own sudden ferocity. But these are minor details.

Even though three of our four friends are city-dwelling folk, they wisely decided to guard the camp in shifts throughout the night. The first two guards, Cyricus and Keyleth managed to stay awake, even though they were quite tired. However, as the night wore on, the last two guards couldn’t keep awake. When the party awoke in the morning, there was a northern elf woman in their camp making breakfast, who seemed rather unimpressed with their woodland survival skills. In answer to the crew’s questions, she explained that her name was Papaly Mavel, and she had been sent by the few remaining northern elves in Duskswell to guide them to the source of the troubles. The northern elves are convinced that our heroes are completely insane, and hope that in showing them the source the crew is seeking, they can snap our heroes out of their crazy death wish.

While traveling to Duskswell, both An-eld and Kol become aware that the whole area is increasingly saturated with a power of a completely alien (to them) source. It seems to amplify their abilities, and they both find it something they would like to know more about. While all this is going on, Keyleth comes to a realization: if the “council” that little Randy was terrified of has stopped pursuing him so aggressively, it could be a piece of circumstantial evidence that those beings are from the same “council” as the crew has heard mentioned more than once since they left the south.

Not being able to send psychic messages herself, she approaches Kol to assist her, and by attuning their thoughts together and working a little bit of ritual into the affair, they manage to get Keyleth in contact with Randy. Randy is excited to have this contact. He is enjoying his time in the care of King Turiskel, has been given a job tending a horse in the stables, hes gotten taller, sees his parents quite regularly, likes his horse, doesn’t like shoveling poop although he only has to do it for his one special horse, hasn’t had any incidents with the men in the night, and feels quite safe. He would also like to hear from Keyleth more often, he likes that they can talk so far away and that he can still hear her, would like her to visit when she is done in the north, believes that while his special horse is supposed to be named Starblaze he’s really named Ned, and likes the chickens.

Once the talkative visitation has come to a close, our heroes find themselves approaching the northern elf settlement of Duskswell, which has sadly suffered a lot of ill effects of the troubles. There are not many buildings still standing, most of them having burned in the columns of fire that appear, grow, and then disappear. As well, rockfalls have caused a few buildings to stop existing. However, the last major structure in town is largely intact, and that is where the northern elves are concluding (slowly) their great ritual.

This ritual is the only reason any northern elves remain in Duskswell. They feel it is so important to finish this ritual a small handful of people have risk death to stay until it is complete. Interestingly, their ritual echoes a few of An-Eld’s cultural beliefs. There is some diversion from the Ir L’alde point of view, though. While An_eld believes the great story of the soul must ever continue unchanged, the northern elves seem to believe that the story must be bolstered and reinvigorated with periodic ritual songs, called the Great Song. In so doing the northern elves believe they can infuse new possibilities and new energy into the great story itself, allowing the future to become something new and different, rather than be damned to repeat history over and over without deviation or relief.

At first our heroes are rather disinterested in the ritual itself. With good reason, as “ground zero” is not far from where they are. As they approach the first scar left by a column of unnatural fire, they notice that the surrounding area has a sort of powdered residue splashed around it. When they collect this residue and do some quick field testing, they realize it is a very potent holdover from the unknown power they sensed from afar. They decide to harvest as much of it as they can in order to find out as much about it as they can, and when they show Papaly this residue, she is quite surprised and sends out a couple of the on-duty rangers to investigate other nearby scars to see if the same phenomenon is present there. While the two elves head one way, the crew and Papaly head in the opposite direction, checking out more scars.

Every one of the scars has the same residue in the same splash sort of pattern. When they return to Duskswell proper, and meet up with the rangers, they find themselves in possession of an enormous sack of powdered residue. During their investigations, An-Eld comes to a startling conclusion: the fire scars appear in an extremely complex, but mathematically explainable pattern. And in using that pattern, he can extrapolate that the “ground zero” scar must have a twin, about 6 hours’ travel to the north. To get to it, the crew must cross northman territory, and press further into the wilderness, but An-Eld is convinced they will find something of value there. This theory is further corroborated when Papaly asks a gifted cartographer left in the village to plot the rock falls on a map alongside the fire columns, and both are immediately recognizable as happening in a pattern, although the rock fall pattern is a little different than the flareup pattern.

Before heading out, though, Kol decides that for the sake of thorough investigation, he would like to see the people participating in this ritual of the northern elves’. His thought is to make sure the woman Thomas Spriten was told to lure into the bar is not a participant in the ritual. After some initial hesitation, the northern elves decide that as long as they are supervised and allowed to watch from a different room than the actual ritual chamber, there should be no harm. They are appropriately warned against interrupting the song, and the ritual is explained by a wizened old (and I mean ancient) northern elf.

The ritual is a whole lot of singing in chorus. However, interestingly, the song does not seem to be sung in any one language for long. Kol himself can only understand fragments of sentences in both common and primordial, but he vaguely recognizes a few snippets as being in Draconic, Halfling 1, Gnomish, Supernal, and so on, although he doesn’t recognize what any of them mean.

Satisfied, our heroes decide to press on and see what they can find in An-Eld’s spot. They are escorted by Papaly, who wishes them luck at the border between her territory and the Northmen’s, and explains to them that they expect to have finished their ritual in 3 days, and expect to be completely gone from the area no more than an hour after that.

In Northmen territory, the party is intercepted by a Northman at a trail crossing, who demands to know why Kol, who wears a macaroon identifying himself as an ally of the northmen, is traveling with 3 of the “damned elves”. After explaining that while Cyricus, Keyleth and An-Eld are all elves, they are not northern elves, and explaining that they have all taken an oath to find the source of the troubles and stop them, the Northman admonishes them to hide their elven natures as best they can, and throws them some cloth for hoods. He then leaves, with an assertion that he will tell the few Northmen left in the area about the party’s vow.

As the crew presses on, things go downhill. An unexpected convergence of both a column of the unnatural fire and an equally unnatural rockfall catches the party right in the middle of it all. With quick thinking, a lot of running, a little bit of psionic brainpower from Kol, and a little bit of luck, our heroes narrowly escape intact… for the most part. They were not the only ones affected by this flareup, though. As they hurry to leave the new devastation behind, they stumble across what looks like it might have been an ant at one point. Unfortunately, those selfsame troubles appear to have forced it to grow to the size of an elephant. It is seven or so feet tall, and has suffered damage to one of its legs. As Keyleth considers trying to heal it, it gets attacked by a timber wolf. It reacts swiftly, impaling the wolf with an enormous mandible and eating it whole. The party decides upon seeing this to maybe just leave it alone.

Eventually our heroes arrive at An-Eld’s predicted scar location. But, instead of another scar, they find a camp. The campfire is still going and through some more psionic searching augmented by the special residue, Kol finds not only a person who seems to be hunting for food, but two others. These others are approaching the camp in what seems to be an unhurried fashion, and are somehow exceptionally adept at either screening their minds from Kol’s thoughts, or are creepily empty of mind.

The party decides to hide An-Eld and Kol, while Cyricus and Keyleth sit near the fire, so they can both greet the person whose camp this and avoid scaring them into a confrontation that nobody really wants. When the camp’s owner comes back, though, she is terrified. She screams that Cyricus and Keyleth that they will not take her alive, and brandishes a staff. With some hurried improvised diplomacy, they manage to calm her down enough to explain what brought them to this place. An-Eld shows her the map they have, and they explain all the things that have happened to them on the trip between the edge of Northman territory and this point. When they mention that they were almost killed by a flareup and a rock fall that don’t fit at all into the patterns they’ve discerned, the woman reacts with despair and dismay.

Kol thinks it a good idea, when he realizes that the other two people he can sense seem to travel fairly slowly but suddenly and inexplicably slide forward, to mention that they’re on their way. This causes the woman to panic again and try to break camp quickly. Unfortunately, the two “slide” again, and she realizes that they will not be able to get out of their range in time anymore. When asked who these people are, she blurts out exasperatedly “the Council, you idiots, who did you think?!” as she finds a defensible postion.

Her last motions of preparations for the fight to come are to put her staff away, and brandish a very shiny stone the size of her fist and what our heroes think is some kind of tiny staff. Which strikes them as odd, since why would you use a tiny staff to fight someone when you could use a big one?

Nevertheless, our heroes follow suit and set up to defend themselves just in time for two people to arrive. They seem to step from nowhere into the camp, and are wearing loose robes with large sleeves. They have hoods, which are pulled forward and completely hide their faces. It’s not clear whether they are men, women, human or beast. And so, our heroes find themselves in a fight.

1 (Absolutely random bullshit I absolutely could not leave out: Do you think the Halfling language is called… Smalltalk?)

In Which Our Heroes Show Their True Colours, And Bust Some Gnomish Heads

Fed up with Thomas Spriten’s stubborn refusal to answer their questions, they party scared him sufficiently to start a fight between them, him, and four gnomish guards who appeared in the room from invisibility. The party took some heavy damage, as two guards using tiny gnome-sized spears smacked them around while two other guards with tiny gnome-sized rock throwers pelted them from afar. Interestingly, some spectacular fumbles happened, resulting in one guard being the proud new owner of an angry bear suit, and a revenge-seeking squirrel arriving on the scene to try to throw acorns at Cyricus. The bear nearly killed one of the melee guards before triumphantly running back into the woods, while the squirrel received a satisfying splat from a pissed-off Cyricus.

Midway through the fight, Spriten reappeared from his own invisibility to start wreaking havoc. He shot dome dazing arrows, slowed everyone, and generally caused havoc while turning invisible every time he got hit. However, eventually he started leaving bloody little footprints all over the place, allowing the party to hit him even while invisible.

After a hard battle, the guards were dispatched, and Spriten was tied up. He tried to stand strong in the face of renewed questioning, however the party found his papers, a signet ring and a few gems worth about 250gp. When confronted with a letter written to him with a sigil instead of a signature, Spriten panicked and let slip a few details about his newest employers. He mentions the Council, which Keyleth has heard of before. He informs the party that since they’ve taken his signet ring, they’re now marked by the Council and will cause them to follow the party until they’re found.

The party eventually decides that Spriten’s usefulness to them is over, so they stuff him in an empty ale barrel and put that barrel in among the unused barrels in the stands. They take his personal horse team for their own travel needs, as well as the letter and the signet ring for their own information.

Once Spriten has been dealt with to the party’s satisfaction, they head off back on the road toward the northern elvish village, Duskswell.

In Which Our Heroes Learn the Fine Arts of Diplomacy

After leaving the halfling camp with the 5th Fragment of the Lost Families of Aigle-on-the-Marsh, the party decided to go talk to the northern elves to get some insight on the violence between them and the northmen. They got more details of the devastation in the north, as well as some reference to ancient rivalries being revived in this time of anguish.

Finding the elves to be less helpful than they’d hoped, the party then cooked up a lovely plan to send the lone tiefling into the northmen camp while the elves in the party kept a nice safe distance. Kol Bara was rewarded for his daring with a map showing a northman-controlled trail through to the apparent center of the troubles, and a brooch that should garner the party safe travel through northmen-controlled lands. The northmen seemed to appreciated Kol’s gutsy comportment.

Kol also learned the source of the northmen’s renewed hostility toward the northern (and seemingly, all) elves, when the leader of the northmen camp explained it was the elves who brought the world’s anger upon them all. According to the northmen, the fires and earthquakes started in the northern elf village of Duskswell, not far from the northman capital. In fact, the gifts from the northmen were contingent on Kol being able to “bring justice” to all elvenkind for killing their world.

Unfortunately, as the party was leaving the northman camp, they were found by a group of three northmen returning from either work or something, who immediately attacked them. Sometimes having a party comprised of 3 elves and a tiefling isn’t the best idea. Regardless, once the unpleasantries of the day were over, the party decided to move onward.

After a few days of uneventful travel, our heroes happened upon a very odd thing, just across the border into Raisbuit. Set up along the road, in a place very traveler must cross to enter or leave the country, was a large tent mansion. It looked a little like a circus tent: it was huge, brightly coloured and has a little pennant at the top of it. There were smaller tents all around it, with temporary corrals and paddocks set up near it. There were people everywhere in varying states of sobriety. There was noise and music and chatter. A lone Dragonborn was guarding the “door”, which was really the largest tent flap. After a short conversation with the doorman, the party was directed to talk to the head barmaid to get an appointment with the owner of the place, Mr. Thomas Spriten.

While waiting for Mr. Spriten to finish with his current appointment and get to their appointment, the party noticed that the ale was really very good. Perhaps a little too good. The atmosphere around the tent-tavern was almost manic as well. Suspecting the ale has been tampered with somehow, the party tried to determine if there was poison in it. There doesn’t seem to be in any way.

The meeting with Mr. Spriten started out simply enough, with the party asking some pointed questions as to why this establishment exists, what makes the ale so good, and other questions. Mr. Spriten was forthcoming with a reason as to why he chose to make a tavern here; the location is perfect, since geography funnels all traffic through this point, and any traveler is surely happy to see a place for a rest and a mug of beer. However, Kol realized fairly quickly that this isn’t the only reason the establishment exists. With some pointed further questioning, they learned that Mr. Spriten had been told to establish the place to lure in a traveler carrying a jewel the size of a fist. When asked for more details, such as who had told him to do so or why the ale was so good, he stopped talking.

To convince Spriten to talk, Kol made a show of standing on a table, yelling for attention, and starting to tell everyone the beer was poisoned. This caused Spriten to finally say something. That something was “GUAAARDS” as he turned invisible, and his security retinue revealed themselves, landing the party in a fight.

How Does One Replace a Drunk?

The morning after our heroes’ interesting adventures with spies, they find Fie crumpled under his window after what appeared to be a nocturnal adventure gone horribly wrong. He is unfortunately out of commission for a while, as he took a massive blow to the head from the earth. Thankfully, he will be well taken care of while he recovers as best he can. King Turiskel has set up a hospital suite for him.

As the party hasn’t been given an option, they continue on without Fie, and happen across the remains of a caravan about halfway to Fort Akhalick, the nearest middling-to-large community in Quartenum. The remains are being combed over by an elf who claims to be performing a funeral for the fallen elves who belonged to the caravan. Upon further inspection, the elf recognizes a strangeness emanating from Cyricus. He introduces himself as An-eld and insists on joining their group to gain insight on Cyricus’ condition.

Upon arriving to Fort Akhalick, it’s immediately obvious there’s a lot of strange activity here: refugees from Raisbuit have arrived en masse. There is a tent city outside the east gate full of various races and communities living in refugee camp style accommodations. The local businesses are being asked to employ refugees as much as possible as well.

There have been assorted other problems, a local gnoll band has gotten overly brave as well.

In order to get a little more information, the party heads over to talk to a merchant named Bantril Lockt. Bantril had a fair bit of information, detailing the scale of evacuation of Raisbuit, and the fact that the Northmen, an isolated warrior society of humans who’ve traditionally been only in the extreme north, have actually fled their homes. This is important. It means that things are TERRIBLE.

After, the party moves on and talks to a friendly band of 10 halflings who share their early afternoon snack/lunch with the party, and explain a little bit of the nature of the disturbances in Raisbuit: Fire starting from nowhere and nothing, earthquakes, boulders flying through the air with no discernible explanation. Beasts have gotten bigger and meaner. Everything is getting REALLY hairy. Even Graight-on-the-Crater, the capital of Raisbuit, has taken extreme damage.

Once the party has gotten the warnings and information they were sent for, they went back to the inn to plan out their continued journey.

Well, The Fire's Out
In Which Our Heroes Prove Not to be Spycatchers

Shortly after their proof of combat competence, our heroes found themselves in a small eating area sharing their lunch with a new face: Fie. After some explanation of his tardiness (which involved a lot of booze, a few women and a hangover), the now-larger party was escorted to their second trial. They were to run an obstacle course. Cyricus had no trouble recognizing the course as a standard basic training obstacle course from his days in King Turiskel’s army, but there were a few minor additions. There were people who spoke fluent languages other than Common, to test the heroes’ abilities to translate things, and a few tests that obviously dealt with more than just physical capability.

Unfortunately, before the obstacle course could begin, a fire broke out in the southwest tower of the keep, started by a Parschaene spy!! Despite being caught unawares the party lept into action, calming panicked townspeople, channeling water through a drainpipe to the fire, and essentially kicking ass. Then, they saw the spy running away.

Unfortunately, while the party is adept in the ways of taming fire, spies and chasing them is not so much their strong point. It started so well, with everyone getting within feet of catching the spy, when a sadly doomed attempt to swing in on a rope left Fie tangled in a heap a few feet above ground while the spy stole a horse and managed to escape the city.

Undaunted, King Turiskel is more than satisfied with our heroes and their chances of success, so he sets them up with rooms for the evening, a carriage team to get them into the kingdom of Raisbuit, a lovely dinner, and the party’s first (DUNH DUNH DUNNNNNNN) Enhanced Items! Cyricus gets a lovely suit of armor and Kol gets a nice morningstar.

Otherwise, Fie decided to spend his afternoon between spy catching failure and dinner getting massively hammered. So instead of getting a dinner the same way as everyone else, he was hauled off to his room by a couple of guards (one of whom now has a helmet full of puke in his inventory) for a lovely visit from a nurse. After the healing, he was given a plate of food to eat, and then forced into a bath. He came out of the whole experience with a handmark on his face and feelings of love. Cyricus was nice enough to make sure he hadn’t died before heading to bed, which gained Cyricus a look at Fie’s newest love interest.


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